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Igweship tussle tears Anambra community apart

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Tension is brewing in Ugbene community in Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State over allegations of conspiracy to impose a monarch on the people. The former Igwe, Simon Nnalue, died in 2014.  

In the beginning, Ugbene was a haven of peace, tranquility and safety.  Love, kindness and affection reigned in the community.

Indigenes were sensitive to the feelings of others and showed respect to one another. Agreements were kept, telling lies or bearing false witness was a taboo. In fact, Ugbene people were their brother’s keeper.

But things have changed, or so it seems. It could be said that things have fallen apart in Ugbene. The profound camaraderie prevalent in the community has waned.  The falcon cannot hear the falconer.

As someone noted, the unwritten law of “love for all, hatred for none” has been discarded. Now, the rights of people are being usurped even as hatred is spreading.

The current situation prevailing in the community indicates that if there is no immediate and positive intervention, “mere anarchy could be loosed upon the land.”

Battle for Igwe

Peace has departed the community because of the Igweship tussle following the death of Eze Ukwu  Ugbene Akodu,  His Royal Highness Simon Nnalue in 2014.

Following the rancour elicited in the attempt to select a new Eze-Ukwu of Ugbene-Akodu, some indigenes went to the High Court in Awka vide Suit No: A/427/2016. The applicants were Mr Jonas Okelue Urebe and Mr Emmanuel Ifesinachi Okoye, for themselves and on behalf of other indigenes of Umualor village, Ugbene town. The respondents were  Mr Albert Ibeh, President-General, Ugbene Akodu Progressive Union/member, committee of kingmakers, and Mr Fidelis Ozuah, Secretary General, Ugbene-Akodu Progressive Union/secretary, committee of kingmakers, for themselves and on behalf of other indigenes of Ugbene Town, Awka North LGA save the applicants.

On March 29, 2017, Justice D.A. Onyefulu held: “That Ugbene-Akodu is made up of six villages in order of seniority namely, Umualor, Umuagunwoke, Umuemem, Umunokwam, Ifiteora and Enuagu.

“That in accordance with the constitution of Ugbene-Akodu community finally read, adopted and sealed on 18/4/2006, it is the right of Umualor village as the oldest and most senior village to produce the next traditional ruler, “Ezu-Ukwu” of Ugbene-Akodu community.

“That the respondents are compelled to commence forthwith the process of selecting and installing a new “Ezu-Ukwu” of Ugbene-Akodu community in accordance with the Ugbene-Akodu community constitution finally read, adopted and sealed on 18/4/2006.”

Subsequently, four aspirants for the Eze-Ukwu stool emerged from Umualor village: Chief Clement Okey, Chief Jonas Okelue Urebe, Chief Onwelukwue Aaron and Chief Sampson Chimakwa.

It was gathered that on September 11, 2019, the four contestants, representatives from all the villages in Ugbene, the President General and Secretary of the town union, at the invitation of Vera Queen Okonkwo, the Special Adviser to Governor Willie Obianor, held a meeting at her office in Government House, Awka.

In a petition titled, “Illegal Igweship election in Ugbene on October 26, 2019, which was addressed to Obiano and others, Okoye said: “During the meeting (with the SA to Obiano), it was evident that Umualor had not agreed and concluded on the number of preferred candidates to transmit to Ugbene. At the conclusion of the meeting, the SA advised that Umualor village should resolve the issue of the number of contestants to present to Ugbene for selection.

“Prior to the September 11 meeting, the first scheduled election in May 2019 was suspended because of the security report to SA’s office. There was uneasy feeling in Ugbene against some of the kingmakers on their alleged compromise.

“On October, 2019 during Ugbene General Assembly meeting, the issue of the kingmakers was raised and discussed. It was resolved that the kingmakers be dissolved and the election date be suspended until the issue of kingmakers is resolved or to amend the 2006 constitution of Ugbene to allow every adult of Ugbene to vote. The PG had announced during the Ugbene General Assembly meeting on October 19 that October 26 may be a possible date for the election but he had not got approval. The Assembly agreed that the Igwe election be put on hold.

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“On Friday, October 25, 2019, at 2pm, I received a phone call from the PG, informing me that the election would hold on October 26, at 9am. I informed him that it was an abuse of process and that he should postpone it reasons. First, that Umualor has not presented the list of candidates to Ugbene. Second, the time, 9am, for the supposed election was still within the environmental sanitation in Anambra State. Third, there was no conclusion on who the the actual voters would be as the present kingmakers were dissolved on October 19 by the highest deciding-making body of Ugbene.

“On October 26, I came at 11.12am to the venue of the election for dialogue with election officers and intimate them on the issues in Ugbene, and why the election should not hold. I was stunned by what I saw. The officer had already concluded the election and was announcing the purported election result.”

In the petition dated October 29, 2019, Okoye requested Obiano to “adjudicate on this matter of illegality and use your good offices to cancel the illegal election. This will bring relief to majority of the sons and daughters of Ugbene who felt robbed by the actions of the PG and his co-travelers.”

Before the meeting with the SA to Obiano on Town Union and Chieftaincy Matters, a stakeholder  had written to her on May 21, 2019, saying they were “fundamental errors observed which needed to be corrected by Umualor village, Ugbene Kingmakers and Ugbene Progressive Union:

“The circumstances that brought in or threw up Sampson Chimakwa as one of the contestants should be looked into and resolved.

“To avoid likelihood of bias and because of conflict of interest, the chairman of Umualor village should not preside over the meeting when matters relating to Igwe are being discussed in Umualor general meetings till a new Igwe is selected or concluded. He is a contestant in the Ezu-Ukwu stool and is having undue advantage over other contestants.

“The contestants must submit their academic claims as enshrined in the constitution of Ugbene. The basic bein g WAEC or its equivalent. The certificate will be verified from the issuing body.

“The kingmakers should approach Umualor Development Union to verify the financial compliance of all the contestants.

“The money paid for purchasing the Igweship form should be returned to the contestants as agreed in the last meeting between the SA to the Governor on  Town Unions and Chieftaincy Matters and the PG and Secretary of Ugbene Progressive Union.

“The method of voting should be concluded,

“The feeling that some kingmakers are compromised should be looked into and if proven, such kingmakers should be advised to step down and the village he comes from will replace him.”

He said that none of these issues were addressed before the purported election.

Consequently, Umualor Development Union, Ugbene Akodo sent a save our souls to Obiano on what they termed rape of the traditional institution (Igweship) in Ugbene community.

The SOS reads: “Reference is hereby made to our joint meeting with the office of your Special Adviser on Town Unions and Chieftaincy Matters on the 11th day of September, 2019, where parties namely Ugbene Town Union Executives, Umualor village Executives and the four Igweship aspirants from Umualor – Chief Jonas Okolue Urebe, Chief Clement  Okey Okoye, chief Sampson Chimakwa and Chief Onwelukwue Aaron Chukwukadibia.

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“That after hearing from all the parties to the joint meeting, the Special Adviser advised all to go home and maintain peace and that it is through peace we can achieve the desired goal and the Igweship contest needs fervent prayrr for successful transition.

“Furthermore, she said that her office shall communicate us on the next line of action. As we were waiting for further directives from your Special Adviser’s office, the town union and some kingmakers went ahead and started extorting money from aspirants and undue influence in the process of the the selection of the Igwe, making it a cash and carry thing.

“Recall that the Special Adviser on Town Unions and Chieftaincy Matters had directed the town union and kingmakers to refund N150,000 they forced the Igweship aspirants to pay, which they have not refunded up till now.

“That we herein bring to your notice that some cabal members from other political parties were sponsoring their proxies and surrogates into Igweship contest in order to to discredit your people-oriented government by forcing failures to take over Ugbene community and cause mayhem and chaos.”

The SOS chronicled the alleged antics of some people to undermine the peaceful selection of Igwe in Ugbene for their selfish interests. One of the allegations was that the leadership of the town union had a preferred candidate, who they claimed was not even qualified to contest because of his past activities. It was alleged that the candidate and his cohort were declared persona non grata by the village sometime ago.

“Sir, we shall appreciate it more if your Excellency will introduce the same system of selection of Igwe used in Ihiala, Ojoto, Oraukwu and other communities for amicable resolution of the Igweship impasse in Ugbene.

“Odogwu Omabala, kindly cancel that purported kangaroo selection of Igwe on October 26 and revert to the judgment order of the High Court of Awka in Suit No. 427/2016, relief No. 2 for your information and necessary action,” they pleaded.

It was signed by Chief Willian Okoye Aniemene, vice chairman, Umualor village, Ugbene; Chief Jonas Okelue Urebe, Chairman, Umualor Development Union, Ugbene; Mr Ikechukwu Nweke, Secretary, Umualor village, Ugbene, Chief Clement Okey Okoye, Igwe aspirant, Umualor village, Ugbene  and Chief Onwelukwue Nnabuike Chukwukadibie, Igweship aspirant, Umualor village, Ugbene.

But Chimakwa said those opposing his selection as Igwe or Eze-Ukwu were crying wolf where there is none.

He told the reporter: “ Yes, I am the Igwe-elect. It’s a pure lie to say that nothing happened. The election went well. Government people came and they saw everything that happened. We have a constitution which said that if you are up to 35 years, you are eligible to contest for the stool. I am one of the contestants and I am eligible. I applied according to the constitution. Even some newspapers carried the result.”

Chimakwa noted that in Nigeria, people do not accept defeat in any contest. “You know that in Nigeria anybody who loses an election will go to court. Two of the defeated aspirants have gone to court,” he said.

But Urebe said:  “There was no election.  The purported election was conducted by kingmakers who had been dissolved on accusation of bribery. If not by the grace of God, there would have been mayhem. How can anyone claim to conduct an election without a policeman present?”

He said that there were petitions against the “kangaroo exercise” even as people protested at the Government House.

A source close to the PG said the allegations against him were unfounded.

Meanwhile, there is at least one case in court seeking the cancellation of any election/selection conducted by the committee of kingmakers on October 26, 2019, or any other date.

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