By John I. Mgbe
It is no longer a secret that the traditional ruler of Owerri, HRH EZE Emmanuel Emenyonu Njemanze, Ozuruigbo V, has since joined his ancestors. May his soul find eternal bliss in the Lord. In keeping with common courtesy as well as the culture of the Igbo, the former governor of Imo State, DR. Ikedi Ohakim, paid a courtesy visit on the family of the late monarch. Below is an excerpt of what DR.Ikedi Ohakim said during his condolence visit to the family of the late EZE as reported by a media professional, Collins Ughalaa:
“Former Governor Ikedi Ohakim on Thursday paid a condolence visit on the royal family of late HRH Eze Emmanuel Emenyonu Njemanze, Ozuruogbo V, who joined his ancestors recently.
Ohakim was accompanied to the Owerri residence of the late Royal Father by some leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some of his friends.
Addressing the press after he signed the condolence, Ohakim described the traditional ruler as a great man, saying that he fought for justice but did not experience it. He described him as a lover of peace and good father.
He observed that while he was the Governor of the state, he dignified the office of the Royal Father by bringing four presidents to visit the palace of the Royal Father.
He noted that the Royal Father died a day after his case challenging the injustice meted against him came up in court, stressing that while the Royal Father fought injustice he did not get the justice he deserves before he passed away.
The former Governor and leader of the Imo PDP said that the late First Class Eze had complained to him bitterly the Owerri Kingdom was Balkanized by the current government of Imo State under Governor Rochas Okorocha
Recall that GOV Okorocha government has divided the Owerri Kingdom into five different autonomous communities,thus weakening the hold of the traditional ruler in what was once one autonomous community.
Ohakim also said that his regret was that the traditional ruler was allowed to die in exile, as he was forced to leave his palace following the fire outbreak that engulfed his palace in 2014, with no effort from the government to renovate the revered palace.
“My regret is that Ozuruigbo died in exile. He died a day after his case against the injustice done to his Kingdom came up in court. You wanted justice but unfortunately it didn’t come. You fought for justice but you didn’t experience it.
“As a first class Igbo king, you were allowed to die in exile. You complained to me about the balkanization of your Kingdom. Your legitimate allowance was stopped without justification. You have paid the supreme price. Gaa ijegi j oma.
“It’s well. You are a philosopher king, a peacemaker, a man of few words. We shall continue to cherish your gentle nature, humility and leadership quality. Your soul will rest in peace.”
After perusing the comment made by the former governor, I started wondering why a former governor and top political chieftain, more so, a former governor who is in desperate search to do a second tenure, should be found politicising death and making inflammatory and incendiary outbursts on various occasions. As a former governor, one would have expected DR. Ohakim to guard against making unguarded outbursts and to talk with caution, moderation and circumspection. It is pertinent to recall that when two aides of the former governor died some years ago, the governor also paid a condolence visit on the family of the deceased. On that occasion, DR.Ohakim had wept inconsolably on the grounds that the late aides were not paid their severance allowances and related financial benefits prior to their death. The occasion referred here is in regard to what transpired during the death of Pini Jason and one other politician both of who hailed from Mbaise clan.
A critical appreciation of DR.Ohakim’s outbursts reveals some salient but critical points which I intend to broach in this analysis.These controversial issues include (1)the allegation that the late monarch died in exile; (2)The allegation that the late monarch died because his Owerri kingdom was balkanized by Governor Okorocha; (3) the allegation that he might have died out of frustration borne out of the fact that he did not get justice in the case he filed in the court;(4) Governor Okorocha wa wicked to the monarch hence he did not build a palace for the monarch prior to his demise. In this analysis, I intend to subject the above points to scrutiny in order to ascertain if they can stand the test of academic scrutiny.
Did the monarch die in exile?:The former governor ,Ikedi Ohakim, alleged that the late monarch died in exile.Is this true?Did Eze Njemanze the 5th die in exile?I am of the opinion that this is an overstatement which should not have come from a highly placed politician as DR.Ikedi Ohakim.The word exile has been defined by the online dictionary as “the state of being barred from one’s native country, typically for political or punitive reasons.”The BBC ENGLISH DICTIONARY says If someone lives in exile, they live in a foreigh country because they cannot live in their own country usually for political reasons.”The late monarch was a man of peace and tranquillity.He was very laconic and taciturn as he was not given to loquacity.Whatever controversy he was associated with was exclusively with some sections of his subjects in Owerri NCHI-ISE.Since it was a family affair, we cannot discuss it here.
So, I am not aware of any crimes he committed that would have made him to flee to a foreign land , perhaps, as a fugitive from justice.Most people on exile are fleeing from justice. So, it’s infradignitatem to say that a noble king who occupied the ancient throne of his kingdom of Owerri Royal dynasty was on exile. What offences did he commit that forced him into exile? Exile? What for? Above all, it is not part of our culture in Igbo land to force our monarchs into exile , even when they have breached any sections of the law or even committed abomination. That might have happened in the woe begotten years of colonial rule, but certainly not in this generation. So, if this statement that the monarch died in exile is not corrected, posterity may conclude that the monarch committed some abomination or breach of the statute and was fleeing from justice. So, I want to put it to whoever does not know that it is in bad fate to state that HRM EZE Emenyonu Njemanze V died in exile. This is a classic case of disinformation and distortion of history of the Owerri monarchy.It is our duty as media professionals to ensure that such cases of deliberate disinformation are nipped in the bud in order to ensure that political hagiographers do not use toxic data in the process of compiling the history of our traditional institution.
(2) The Issue of building Palace for the late Monarch:
According to DR. Ikedi Ohakim, the governor did not build a palace for the late EZE.
My opinion: While I am not against the building of palaces for our monarchs, I do not think there is any obligation on a state governor to so do. I am also aware that, as we speak, both the governor and Dr.Ohakim have each served one tenure. There is no record that any governor including DR. Ohakim ever built palaces for traditional rulers. It is also my opinion that as a result of the bloated number of monarchs in Imo State, it is not feasible for the government to build palaces for the monarchs. It is not advisable that Government should embark on building palaces for the over 600 EZEs in Imo State. I think that one of the conditions for autonomy should include a proviso that communities who ask for autonomy should have the capacity to build a befitting palace for their monarchs. In fact, hence forwards, communities that ask for autonomy should be able to pick the wage bill of their monarchs. Imo state economy can no longer absorb the spiralling cost of maintaining the 600 + autonomous communities.Are you aware that it costs the humongous amount of about N65 Million per month to settle the wage bill of the present 644 or so monarchs in Imo State. This comes to about N800 million in a year to maintain the monarchs. This is on a conservative estimate; yet there is no provision for that institution in the Constitution. So, on a conservative estimate, it costs over N1 billion to maintain the traditional institution in Imo State. This is why every TOM, DICK and HARRY wants to be a monarch in Imo State.
There is a need to emphasize the fact that the traditional institution is not known to the constitution. It is a creation of the state legislature at the behest of the state governor. So, it does not seem proper for our government to spend humongous amount in building palaces for a group that is not recognized by the Constitution. But if a state governor decides to do so, well and good. In fact Governor Okorocha has already developed a smart state-of-the-art royal complex for NDI EZE in Imo state.
Still on the Issue of Exile: A good example of an exiled monarch is the case of the former Sultan of Sokoto, Ibrahim Dasuki. He was dethroned/deposed in 1996 by the Abacha Administration.Speaking to the press, the then Military administrator of Sokoto,Yakubu Muazu said: “Dasuki was dethroned and exiled because of a multitude of sins of omission and commission. He was accused of insubordination and financial impropriety.” Dasuki was even dragged before the failed banks tribunal over a debt owed by a company whose directorship he gave up over eight years ago before his troubles with the government began. A Panel set up by the government to probe him failed to find him guilty. But the deed had been done.His throne another had already occupied. From all indications, Muazu merely carried out Abacha’s order to dethrone the Sultan.Aside his dethronement,Ibrahim Dasuki was exiled to Zing where he was held in solitary confinement; he was barred from receiving visitors.The then new Head of State,General Abdusalam Abubakar, released the sultan and sixteen others from detention and jail.But Dasuki cannot reclaim his throne.He cannot even go to his former domain. He now lives in Kaduna……” Please refer to Newswatch edition of JULY 13, 1998:6 for full details.
I am not aware that the Late monarch of Owerri was ever subjected to the above travails. So, it is unfair to infer that he died in exile. If the word exile was italicized or in inverted commas, perhaps, one may begin to decode the word from the connotation instead of the denotation.
On the issue of balkanizing Owerri kingdom and Okorocha’s role in rebuilding the palace of the Late monarch, please listen to
Prince Bob Njemanze as he breaks silence on this controversy.Bob Njemanze said that “ Monarchs are not made by fiat, but by law” Bob Njemanze is a prominent leader and senior citizen in Imo State. He is usually fearless and brutally frank when discussing contemporary issues, especially in the realm of politics. He hails from the Ancient Royal Family of the Njemanze Ruling Dynasty in Owerri .This is the family that has been producing all the royal fathers for Owerri Nchi-Ise autonomous community from time immemorial. A short while ago,in a chat with the press , Bob Njemanze bares his mind on the issue of proliferation of autonomous communities in Imo State with special emphasis on how it affects the Njemanze ruling dynasty of Owerri Nchi-Ise in Imo State of Nigeria.
Hear Bob Njemanze:(1)”When the Eze’s palace got burnt, the governor(i.e Gov.Okorocha) quickly came to rescue the situation but misguided by quest and avarice, the wife of the traditional ruler stopped the contractors believing that her brother,(mentions a PDP chieftain in Imo State) with Goodluck Jonathan will build for her a paradise on earth…….” Can you now see that Governor Okorocha did not turn a blind eye to the issue of rebuilding the palace as being alleged by some propagandists.
(2)”Traditional rulers are not made by fiat. He must be selected from his community and presented to the chairman of the local government for recognition and presentation of staff of office and certificate”;
(3)”The problem I envisage with this Okorocha’s arrangement is that you don’t appoint strangers in the community to superintend over traditional matters”;
(4)”The one appointed for Umuororonjo, the head village of Owerri Nchi-Ise ,is a grandson of that community from Egbu. The one for Umuoyima-Uba-the Uba’s are from Avu. Rochas may be misled into creating crisis in Owerri”;
(5) “Okorocha himself says to me that Eze Njemanze remains the paramount ruler of Owerri”;
(6)”I hear the one nominated as village head for Umuonyima community is a brother in- law to Eze Agunwa Ohiri, the present day EZE Imo”;
(7)On the suspension of EZE Njemanze by Gov Okorocha :”Yes, Eze Njemanze was among some other Ezes who flouted Government directives and government carried out a global action. Eze Njemanze was not singled out and suspended. In fact, I do not blame Rochas as much as I blame the occupant of Njemanze stool who allowed the influence of his wife from nowhere to affect his decisions that are in turn creating room for these ill-conceived reprisals from government”.
It is my opinion that nobody can love Njemanze ruling dynasty more than BOB NJEMANZE who himself is eminently qualified to be the next monarch of his community. If Bob Njemanze who is fearless, intrepid, brutally frank and an iconoclast can exonerate Governor Okorocha from the allegations made by Ikedi Ohakim, who else can love the Owerri monarchy more than Bob.
Observation: My investigation shows that the wife of EZE Njemanze hails from Mbaise. If you consider the unusual reference made about a top PDP chieftain(name withheld)and the reference to the wife of EZE Njemanze(an Mbaise woman) as a wife from nowhere. you come to the inescapable conclusion that Bob Njemanze has unwittingly declared a full scale war between Ndi Mbaise and Owerri. It is this bad feeling about NDI Mbaise that caused Owerri zone the Governorship of the state in the last poll. It is sad that while most unsuspecting persons from outside Owerri zone took risks to actualize the Imo Governor of Owerii extraction agenda, little did they know that NDI Owerri zone were fighting an undeclared war.
Such comments like “… believing that her brother … with Goodluck Jonathan will build for her a paradise on earth” should not have been made in this interview. Again, the reference to the wife of EZE Njemanze as:” his wife from nowhere” leaves a sour taste in the mouth, more so, considering the fact the she hails from Mbaise, a well known clan in Nigeria and Imo state. It is my opinion that the elders of Owerri zone should pursue peace if they are interested in producing a future governor from Owerri zone. The comments made by Prince Bob Njemanze about some persons in Mbaise clan are the same reasons that caused the failure of PDP in the last poll. It is pertinent to state that Owerri zone was very unfair to the Governorship candidate of the PDP in the 2015 poll. It was this hostility to HON Emeka Ihedioha in the 2015 governorship poll that impelled a former member of the House of Assembly, Hon Prince Barth Obi, who hails from Emekuku in Owerri North to condemn what Ndi Owerri did to Hon Emeka Ihedioha in that election.
Hear Prince Barth Obi: “ Had Owerri people voted massively for Emeka, he would have won. I am sure that if the PDP candidate was not from Mbaise, the Mbaise people would have voted for any other Owerri candidate in PDP, provided he is from Owerri zone. Now, because of that behaviour by the other parts of Owerri zone in not voting for an Mbaise man, if in the future an Owerri man comes out and Mbaise nation rejects him and refuse to vote for him, don’t blame them. I condemn what Owerri people did to Emeka Ihedioha.” The comment by Hon. Barth Obi who also is a PDP chieftain from Owerri zone is a food for thought to NDI Owerri if they are still interested in producing a governor of Owerri extraction in the future. It is provocative that rather than resolve their differences and put their house in order, some misguided ones among them will point fingers at Orlu zone or some individuals elsewhere as the source of their political travails. This angle to this analysis will be discussed extensively elsewhere.
Let us go back to the analysis on the comments made by Bob Njemanze in regard to the so-called balkanization of Owerri Kingdom. Bob Njemanzes says: ”Okorocha himself says to me that Eze Njemanze remains a paramount ruler of Owerri.” This statement is capable of raising eyebrows among those who are versed with the working of the traditional institution in Imo State. How can Governor Okorocha create four additional communities in Owerri and still confide in Bob Njemanze that EZE Njemanze remains the paramount ruler there. While I don’t condemn this arrangement, it is pertinent to ask whether the other new EZES in Owerri are aware of this template. Contrary to Bob Njemanze’s statement that what is happening in Owerri is a domestic affair, the truth is that this issue is a matter of public interest which should be a critical agenda for discussion in the state. Records show that there is no classification of traditional rulers in Imo state. All the over 600 traditional rulers in Imo State operate on the basis of parity/equality of status. Even the EZE Imo who also doubles as the Chairman of the Imo Council of Traditional Rulers is a mere primus inter pares(i.e first among equals). It is also worrisome that while the four new EZES in Owerri were given staffs- of- office and certificates as traditional rulers, BoB Njemanze refers to then as mere village heads. Bob Njemanze cannot approbate and reprobate in one fell swoop because this is an issue that is capable of igniting crisis in the future, if not properly managed now.
Another area of interest is Bob Nzemanze’s endorsement of the plan to relocate Eke Ukwu Owerri. Hear Bob:”On the removal of Eke-Ukwu Owerri, you may not be wrong if it is said that I am championing that course but as an indigene of Owerri and an Njemanze to whose family, by and large, Eke Ukwu Owerri belongs, I am talking about remodeling the real indigenous market and relocating the plaza which was originally a motor park and which is now creating nuisance on Douglas Road.”Bob Njemanze’s endorsement of Governor Okorocha’s plan to relocate the Eke Ukwu Owerri market casts a pall of doubt on the integrity of some indigenes of Owerri or Owerri municipality who have been protesting against the plan to relocate the market. If a prominent prince as BOB Njemanze is in full support of the relocation of Eke-Ukwu Owerri, who else can confront the state governor on his plan to actualize the relocation, more so, since the Land Use Act authorizes a state governor to acquire land for overriding public interest, provided adequate compensation has been paid? I advise that those Owerri indigenes who are still protesting against the relocation plan should reconcile their grouse with the EZE Owerri in order to reach a compromise.
On the incessant proliferation of autonomous communities by the Imo House of Assembly, Bob Njemanze says: ”House of Assembly does not make monarchs. Traditional rulers are not made by fiat.” He chides Governor Okorocha for appointing strangers to superintend over traditional matters. This is a weighty comment which the governor should revisit.
Bob Njemanze ended the explosive encounter with the response:”If this action (i.e. balkanization of Owerri) was intended to embarrass the Njemanzes-well one thing is certain-it can only hold as long as Okorocha is in Douglas House as Governor of Imo State. This is not the only and will not be the only action of the administration that would need to be revisited and remedied. The paramount stool of Njemanze shall ever so remain the stool of Owerri Nchi Ise.”
My advice to Governor Okorocha is to desist from indiscriminate proliferating of autonomous communities in Imo State.There is a need to emphasize that creation of autonomous communities is not a dividend of democracy. He should revisit the “Panel on Autonomous Communities and Traditional Rulers” which was headed by HON. Justice T. E. C. Chikeka. Even after the Justice Chikeka panel had submitted its findings, another panel headed by HON Justice Aboshi was set up to do further work on the HON Justice Chikeka panel. Governor Okorocha should release the report of those panels rather than proliferating autonomous communities. If Anambra state has 177 traditional rulers, I am unable to see the reason that Imo State has about 644 royal fathers now and with over 100 potential royal fathers still waiting on the pipeline. So, I am in support of BOB Njemanze’s comment which condemned the indiscriminate creation of autonomous communities in Imo state.
On the issue of balkanizing Owerri Community which was alleged by Chief Ikedi Ohakim to be part of the shock that precipitated the death of the monarch, I advise that political chieftains should talk with caution and moderation. I recall vividly that a few days to the end of his tenure on May 29th, 2011, Chief Ikedi Ohakim created 106 autonomous communities thus balkanizing the kingdoms of a large number of monarchs. I am not aware that any of the monarchs whose kingdoms were balkanized has died out of shock. Why is the case of Owerri community different? Must Imo State be interminably mired in the mode of electioneering even with human life, above all, that of a king of an Ancient Kingdom?
I do remember that a prominent monarch, HRH EZE Oliver Ohanwe, was also dethroned BY iKEDI oHAKIM on the grounds of romanticizing with a top political guru in Okigwe zone.The monarch did not die of shock. He was given back his stool a few days to the end of DR. Ohakim’s one-tenure administration.
I don’t want to discuss this issue further because I am not part of Governor Okorocha’s media crew. In fact, he has a sophisticated media crew that has more information to deal with this issue and several others. My reason for contributing this opinion is that as media professionals, we must not be part of the conspiracy of silence in our State of Imo. At a time when politicians must see every issue from political binoculars, the Fourth Estate is the only group that can call a spade a spade no matter whose ox is gored.
Finally, those who wish to read the full comment by BOB Njemanze in the aforementioned interview can read Nigeria Newspoint newspaper of Friday, January 8th,2016.Perhaps, the editor may wish to publish it again in order to throw more light on the issues raised.
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