By Izunna Okafor, Awka
Anambra State Government has dethroned the traditional ruler of Umuona community in Aguata Local Government Area of the State, H.R.H. Igwe Humphrey Ejesieme.
The dethronement was announced on Tuesday in a statement issued by the State Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, Hon. Tonycollins Nwabunwanne, in which he also announced the withdrawal of the monarch’s Certificate of Recognition.
Hon. Nwabunwanne, in the statement, also announced that the community would have new Traditional Ruler in no distant time.
The statement read: “The Anambra State Government WITHDRAWS the Certificate of Recognition of Humphrey O. Ejesieme as the Traditional Ruler of Umuona Community.
“Umuona Community sets to have a new Traditional Ruler.
“Umuona Community is in Aguata Local Government Area in Anambra South Senatorial Zone, Anambra State.”
Although, the Commissioner did not state the reason behind the dethronement of the monarch, this reporter, Izunna Okafor, gathered that the dethronement might not be unconnected with the lingering leadership crisis, which has been rocking the community for about four years now.
Reports have it that the crisis dates back to December, 2020 during the COVID-19 era, when what many described as a ‘kangaroo’ Town Union election was held in the community, against the directive of the Traditional Ruler, Igwe Ejesieme and other stakeholders in the community who advised for the suspension of the election till when things would normalize, in compliance with the directive of the then government of former Governor Willie Obiano who warned against crowded public gatherings then and also issued some safety protocols against COVID-19 pandemic.
Howbeit, the election eventually held that day, which produced Chief Kenneth Okoli as the President- General of the Umuona Progressive Union, UPU. The election was said to have been supervised by the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters.
According to a source close to the community, Igwe Ejesieme and other stakeholders had during their year 2020 Annual General Assembly (A.G.A.) of U.P.U., which usually take place every December 28, advised that the town union election should be shelved as part of measures to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic, but they claimed that some opposition group in the area and the representatives of the Ministry of Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Matters conspired among themselves and allegedly elected Okoli and his co-executive members to pilot the affairs of the town union for the next three years spanning from December, 2020 to December, 2023.
The source, Chuks Eke revealed that, although, Igwe Ejesieme did not swear-in OKoli and his executive members as required by the Town Union constitution and again not considering that Okoli himself was not qualified to contest the election ab-initio because he did not belong to his village branch of U.P.U. and was indebted to the union; another breach of the union constitution, the Monarch and other stakeholders allowed Okoli to pilot the affairs of the town union for the next three years as required by the constitution, under cat-and-mouse uneasy relationship.
Furthermore, it was gathered that the crisis degenerated on December 28, 2022 during the 2022 Annual General Assembly (AGA) held at Umuona Civic Centre, which Igwe Ejesieme also attended as he usually did since his ten years on the throne.
The source said: “When Igwe Ejesieme arrived the venue and proceeded to sit down, Okoli became enraged and in anger publicly disparaged the Igwe before the community assembly.
“According to him, the Igwe ought to have informed him before his arrival, noting that the bell which his aid rang to announce the presence and arrival of the Igwe was not enough. He consequently, denied the Igwe his traditional role to break kola nut, pray for his community and pour libations for the good health and progress of the community.
“The anger of the President-General who queried why the Igwe and his cabinet members should distract the audience with the bell resulted to reactions from the Assembly and members of the community who travelled far and near to attend the General Meeting began to complain bitterly.
“All objections raised by some participants at the Civic Centre, venue of the general meeting as to why the President General should disgrace their monarch proved abortive and were rejected as Okoli was said to have at a stage, parked the Union’s documents, stood up, walked out on the audience and angrily vacated his seat unceremoniously with his executive.”
The President-General was said to have earlier cancelled the October month edition of the Umuona Progreive Union’s Meeting for that year, 2022.
Continuing, the source said “After leaving the venue with his executive members in such an unceremonious manner, half way into the meeting, the General Assembly noted such a behaviour as against the provisions of the constitution of the town and resolved immediately to fill the vacuum with immediate effect by asking each village to put their heads together to present those to be elected as Caretaker Committee and some were consequently selected by their respective villages, presented and sworn-in as the incumbent eight-man Caretaker Committee of the town union led by Mr. Okechukwu Akaneme, a one-time President of Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, ONICCIMA.
“Soon after their election and swearing-in, the Okoli-led executive wrote a petition to the state Ministry of Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Matters, which prompted the Commissioner, Hon. Collins Nwabunwanne to quickly invite both parties including the Akaneme-led Caretaker Committee, the traditional ruler of Umuona, Igwe Ejesieme and the former Okoli-led executive to his office where he allegedly rained abuses on them (the Caretaker Committee) before directing them to go back home and renounce their purported Caretaker Committee election and allow Mr. Okoli and his executive to complete their three year tenure which is remaining only one year tenure from now.
“Attempt made by Akaneme and Igwe Ejesieme to convince Hon. Nwabunwanne that they followed due process in selecting the new Caretaker Committee as enshrined in their town union constitution which states that there should be no vacuum in the leadership of the town union at any point in time, since Okoli and his executives had voluntarily vacated office, hence the hurried selection of the Caretaker Committee, Nwabunwanne allegedly asked Akaneme to leave his office.
“Upon asking him to leave his office, Nwabunwanne stood up and allegedly started pushing him physically out of his office. He equally involved his aides and staff who allegedly manhandled Akaneme, mangled his clothes and broke his Apple I-phone.
“As if that was not enough, Nwabunwanne allegedly dragged Akaneme and Igwe Ejesieme to nearby ‘B’ Division of the Nigerian Police Force using security personnel in his office and four policemen, where they were held until they made statements and were allowed to go after about five hours of delay. He was alleged to have equally threatened to suspend or dethrone Igwe Ejesieme if he goes ahead to support Akaneme’s Caretaker Committee leadership.
“But, in what looked like a compliance to the Commissioner’s directive, Akaneme convened a general meeting penultimate weekend and informed them about the government position rejecting the Caretaker Committee.
“In their swift reactions, some of the stakeholders in the area, including rejected the Commissioner’s directive that Akaneme and his fellow Committee members should renounce their position and vacate the office for the Okoli-led elected former executive to complete their remaining one year.
“Rejecting the directive, the stakeholders, namely Fidelis Okanume, Personal Assistant, PA to Igwe Ejesieme; Ebuka Okafor, Youth Leader; Chinedu Maduka, Village Chairman; Marcelinus Akaneme and Jerome Umeh, the traditional Prime Minister of Umuona, insisted that it is either the state government allow Akaneme and his executive to to stay for one year and exhaust Okoli’s tenure or conduct a fresh election of the town union executives as according to them, they would not want Okoli to come back to office again for any reason whatsoever because his administration was characterized by crisis, autocratic rule and above all non-performance.”
It was gathered that Akaneme, in his reaction then, told newsmen that he did not prepare himself for Town Union leadership but based on his unanimous selection to fill the vacant position that suddenly cropped up as an emergency, he accepted to take up the gauntlets.
“He decried the physical attack and assault he received from the Hon. Commissioner noting that town union crisis could be better managed and resolved especially when the government position was not backed by any known laws,” he said.
Mr. Okoli, on his own, was said to have pledged to stand on whatever Commissioner Nwabunwanne would said on the matter.
He was quoted as saying “I am aware that Akaneme has already signed an undertaking not to have a Caretaker Committee in the area, let alone parading himself as Chairman of a non-existent committee.”
He was also said to have accused Igwe Ejesieme of igniting and fueling the whole thing ab initio; even as he also described the purported selection of the Caretaker Committee as a charade. He further added that he ended the meeting abruptly with a formal closing prayer that day because of the failure of Igwe Ejesieme’s aides to inform the general assembly of Igwe’s arrival before he barged into the meeting venue.
Be it as it may, with what is currently on ground, speculations abound that Commissioner Nwabunwanne has just accomplished and perfected the threat to dethrone Igwe Ejesieme, as he earlier threatened to do if the crisis continued to linger.