Fear, indeed tension, has gripped Uzokwa community in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State over an alleged kidnap threat arising from the tussle for who occupies the Ezeala Dike stool which entitles the occupant to represent the community at the palace of His Royal Highness, Dr Cosmas I Okechukwu, Oluoha XVI of Ihiala. The tussle has pitched prominent sons of the community, including a former member of the House of Representatives, against each other.
Following the development, residents now claim that some stern-looking strange individuals have recently been seen patrolling the community in Sports Utility Vehicles, SUVs. Consequently, most of the prominent people in the community, including those in the race for the Ezeala Dike, are said to have gone into hiding for fear of being kidnapped. The community has, therefore, appealed to the state Governor, Chief Willie Obiano and the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, for protection of lives and property.
Uzoakwa Ihiala is made up ten kindred clans, namely: Umudike, Umummeri, Umuduru, Umuarugwu, Umuosobe, Umuezeotutu, Okpanugbo, Umuegorom, Umuogbunaofo and Umudumbiri. However, of all the ten kindred clans, only Umudike is deemed qualified by tradition to produce the Ezeala Dike to represent Uzoakwa at the palace of the traditional ruler.
Consequently four Umudike kindred clans contested for the seat, namely: Ojinkeya, Anabi, Eleke and Akwaozo, and they had each elected their candidate for this purpose. Crisis, however, erupted when two of the contestants were disqualified during the Umudike General Meeting held at Iba Okpara in Umudike, one from Anabi Clan, a former member of House of Representatives and the other from Ojinkeyeyeme. They were alleged to have emerged by proxy. In the event, only Chief Uchenna Nsofor from Eleke clan and Chief Eugene Izuora from Akwaozo clan were left in the race.
However, following the crisis, a meeting of the Umudike General Assembly, UGA, was convened for April 1 this year. At the meeting, Chief Nsofor was allegedly chosen as the Ezeala Dike, having been considered to be the longest Ozo title holder of all the contestants, while Chief Izuora was selected to handle Nzeobo of Uzoakwa, an assemblage of Ozo title holders in Uzoakwa, because he could not be left out, being the oldest man among the contestants.
The community was said to have arrived at the choice of Chief Nsofor based on the selection criteria which he was said to have met. The position of Ezeala Dike, according to Chief Nsofor, the Ezeala of Eleke, goes to the longest Ozo title holder, irrespective of his age, but on condition that he has no blemish, is straight forward, honest and not involved in any illicit activity.
“Being the longest Ozo title holder, I can give somebody white chalk (Nzu) to empower such person to run the race; we call that empowerment (Itunye Nzu Aja). Apart from that, in the olden days somebody can be empowered through divination, but the person will only be considered when other contestants have shown that they are not interested.
“However, some people wanted to politicise the race for Ezeala Dike by imposing those who are not qualified on the community; they want to hide under civilization to change the procedure of emerging to the prestigious seat, and if you prove to be an obstacle to them they come after you, including kidnapping you,” he said.
Chairman of UGA, Chief Augustine Okafor, said it took Umudike a long time to arrive at the decisions because the contestants are considered important in the community, adding that the contest was tough, which is unexpected because of the personalities involved.
“We could not have manipulated the process because there are laid down rules and regulations. If anybody tries to cut corners, such person can be killed by Aladike. People used to go to shrine in the olden days to swear an oath on who is the longest Ozo title holder. But we stopped that aspect to avert endangering the lives of the contestants,” he said.
When Vanguard visited the community, the entrance gates into the homes of the contestants, the Chairman of UGA and other stakeholders who participated in the alleged selection of the Ezeala Dike, including those who served as witnesses, were under lock and key, with the occupants peeping fearfully through the slats before opening for visitors.
Chief Nsofor, whose selection as the Ezeala Dike is still a subject of disagreement, Chief Okafor, and other indigenes of the place, confirmed that their lives are in danger and, therefore, are hiding in their houses for fear of being kidnapped by the suspected fellows seen patrolling the community since the beginning and end of the selection process.
This may explain why though the Ezeala Dike has been selected, his installation slated for April 9 could not hold A visit to the house of the traditional ruler of Ihiala, Igwe Dr Okechukwu, to get his reaction to matter was abortive as he was said to have been sick and was having bed rest.