Chieftaincy, communal and town union crises are contentions issues in a lot of communities today, been recurrent issues in most communities today. Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State was recently engulfed in one. Correspondent Isaac Ojo reports for The Authority…
All eyes are currently on Ihiala community, Anambra State, as the traditional ruler of the town, HRM, Igwe Dr. C.I Okechukwu, unveiled the personality that would occupy the royal stool of Ezeanadike of Uzoakwa. Thus, the residents of Uzoakwa village were living in anxiety and fear caused by a tussle over the chieftaincy title that had pitched their prominent sons against one another.
Sources claimed that Umudike was made up of clans, comprising Ojinkeme, Anabi, Eleke and Akwaozo which were originally descendants of the same father who was a very powerful warrior. Each of the four clans was headed by an Ezeana out of which the oldest Ozo title holder among them became the Ezeanadike who would then represent the community in the palace of the traditional ruler of Ihiala (Oluoha in council).
As simple as the process of selecting the Ezeanadike appeared, the community lost peace and tranquility temporarily, so that if something were not done urgently to call the principal actors to order, the community might be heading to very serious crisis as some people who were allegedly not qualified for the stool braced up to occupy the Ezeanadike royal stool.
In a desperate attempt to settle the matter as soon as possible, Umudike General Meeting was summoned on April 1, and in the meeting, a prominent son of the community, Chief Uchenna Nsofor, was chosen as the Ezeanadike because he was the oldest Ozo title holder among the three aspiring for the stool.
The meeting which was held at Mbaokpara, was attended by every section of the community except two clan leaders. The chairman of Umudike General Assembly, Chief Augustine Okafor, told The AUTHORITY South East Crew, that it took the community very long time to arrive at the conclusion of choosing the Ezeanadike because, the aspirants were all very influential and very useful to the community in various ways.
“The contest was fierce and tough; and, to handle it properly, we set certain criteria which include selecting the oldest Ozo title holder. We equally consider the personality and character of each aspirant and how useful each will be to the community.
“The two oldest Ozo title holders attended the meeting. The other two relatively younger Ozo title holders did not attend the meeting because they were disqualified in an earlier meeting held on March 28”, he said.
Chief Okafor, said that the two Ezeanas in attendance addressed the meeting and, at the end of the day, the Ezeanadike was selected based on general consensus. He noted that the second most senior Ozo title holder was equally given a specific responsibility by the community.
He, however, pointed out that the other two junior ranking Ozo title holders who were Ezeanas of their clans would also be called upon at appropriate time and be given certain responsibilities because, “we need all of them to move Uzoakwa forward”.
Chief Okafor recounted that the animosity and acrimony that preceded the emergence of the new Ezeanadike was monumental. He expressed satisfaction that the matter was handled peacefully at the end of the day.
“We cannot manipulate the process. There are laid down rules and regulations and I want to tell you that, if anybody gets to the throne through fraudulent way, such person can be killed by Aladike deity. People normally go to the shrine in the olden days to swear an oath that they were the oldest Ozo title holders but we removed that aspect of taking oath so as not endanger the lives of all the aspirants.
“I must also tell you that the Ezeana that emerged as the Ezeanadike cannot afford to misbehave so as not to attract the wrath of Aladike. This is part of the reasons why we had to be very careful about who mounts the royal stool of Ezeanadike’, he said.
Chief Uchenna Nsofor who got the nod of his people to be their Ezeanadike, told The
AUTHORITY South East Crew that he got the Ozo title in April, 1968, while some of the other aspirants got theirs in 2004. He noted that Ezeanadike must be clean within and without, and must also not have any case hanging on his neck; adding that “The process of selection is simple but the entire community was subjected to an unprecedented tension because some of the aspirants attempted to politicize cultural and traditional thing”.
Chief Nsofor alleged that the principal actor, a former member of the National Assembly, was struggling to take what did not belong to him “out of pride, sheer aggrandizement and ploy to manage the community’s vast and unique heritage”.
“The former member of House of Representatives, if I must say, is even an Ezeana by proxy and if he must contest for the position of Ezeanadike, he must wait until all the other nine villages in Uzoakwa say they are not interested in the stool”.
When The AUTHORITY visited the community, there was still so much tension in the air even after the selection of substantial Ezeanadike. There were allegations of threat to security, attempted kidnap and other evil plots against those who allegedly did not support the aspiration of the “strong politician” to become the Ezeanadike of Uzoakwa.
In attempt to hear his own side of the story, The AUTHORITY visited the residence of the former member of House of Representatives (names withheld) but was told that he just traveled out of the community. He, however, told our correspondent on phone that he was not residing in the village. He said emphatically that he did not contest for the disputed position. He also directed our correspondent to go round the village and ask townsfolk what they knew about the development.
When contacted on phone, one Chief Izuora Eugene said that he would not like to comment much on the matter until the paramount traditional ruler of Ihiala, Igwe Oluoha, announced the person who would occupy the stool of Ezeanadike. He recalled that two of the contending Ezeana were absent in the general meeting. Chief Eugene stressed that he took the Ozo title in 1968 and that, as at that time, Chief Uchenna Nsofor’s father had not even taken the Ozo title.
Speaking on the development, Onowu Cornel Ohaneri, said that the normal process was for the four Ezeanas to come together and choose the suitably qualified person among them to represent them at Oluoha’s Palace, noting that it was not something to struggle or campaign about because, the custom of the community was that whoever that struggled for the exalted stool would pay the supreme sacrifice. He said emphatically that the oldest Ozo title holder was expected to mount the stool of Ezeanadike no matter his age.
“If the people of Umudike agree on a candidate, we have no objection but in a situation where there is no agreement, other criteria will have to be explored”, he said.
When Sir Chuks Amangbo was contacted on phone, he gave his phone to a lady who desired to know how our reporter got the number and thereafter, switched off.
All the old men contacted for their comments passionately pleaded with our correspondent to be left alone for fear of what might happen to them. Some of them even threatened court action should their names appear on newspaper; but those who were courageous enough to speak out, spoke on the condition of anonymity and called on the Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Oniano, to intervene to avoid any breach of the peace in the community.
The AUTHORITY Newspaper visited the palace of Oluoha of Ihiala, Igwe Dr. C.I Okechukwu to hear what he had to say about the chieftaincy tussle in Uzoakwa, but learnt that the royal father was just discharged from an undisclosed hospital where he had gone for treatment and that he was not strong enough to grant any interview at the moment.
Palace sources claimed that the recent problem was the first in the history of Uzoakwa clan and, indeed, the entire Ihiala that attempt to choose Ezeanadike was generating so much tension.
Meanwhile, the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, in charge of Ihiala Police Division, Mr. Chris Aimionowane, had warned the people not to see the present selection of Ezeanadike as a do or die affair.