While the kingmakers say they have dethroned EzeUzuAkwa, HRM Eze GibsonNwosu, the highly respected former Air Force officer, says it’s a joke taken too far, vowing never to allow himself to be frustrated out of office as the kingmakers had allegedly done to his predecessors.
IBE NWACHUKWU writes that the last is yet to be heard about the controversy.
Good Friday, April 14, 2017 may remain an indelible date in the history of Awka ancient kingdom. Awka is the capital territory of Anambra State and the administrative headquarters of Awka South Local Government Area of the State.
On every Good Friday, Christians all over the world celebrate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary. But, incidentally, during this year’s Good Friday, members of Awka Council of Kingmakers, an umbrella body of Nze n’ Ozo titled men in Awka and highest authority as stipulated in the 1986 Traditional Rulers Amended Constitution for Awka town pronounced the impeachment or better still the dethronement of the traditional ruler of Awka, His Royal Majesty (HRM), Igwe Gibson NwabuezeNwosu (the Eze-UzuAwka II).
The Kingmakers gave as reason for the ‘dethronement’ of the Eze-Uzualleged his failure to abide by the ‘code of conduct and privileges of Awka royal throne’, which they said he signed into law by himself on January 1, 2000 in the presence of four witnesses.
They also noted that when they discovered that the Eze-Uzu does not obey the code of conduct, they wrote to him to appear before them and explain the rationale behind his failure to obey the code of conduct but he failed to appear.
According to Dr.AnezeChinwuba, Secretary of OzoAwka Title Holders, Nwosu, after his dethronement, kicked against it and the State government supported him.
“We informed the government accordingly but the State Commissioner for Local Government and Community Matters and the Special Adviser to Governor Willie Obiano on Chieftaincy & Town Union Matters, IkechukwuOnyeabo insulted us in that regard,” Chinweuba explained.
“In our meeting (Izu) of April 30, I was appointed the moderator by NdiNze-na-Ozo (the kingmakers). On that same day, we pickedOzoNwibeNwosu from Umudioka Village, Awka, a 116-year old man as the OtochaluAwka (oldest Awka man), while his deputy is Ozo Michael Nwume from Umunoke village who is 110 years. In Awka royal institution, the head of Ozo titled men will serve as chairman of council of kingmakers. The present chairman of kingmakers and head of OzoAwka is OzoObuoraEssell.
“It is NdiOzo that have the constitutional responsibility to checkmate the activities of the traditional ruler and it is the responsibility of the king makers to approve or disapprove the list of those to be conferred with chieftaincy titles.
So, it was in the effort to discharge our responsibilities as kingmakers that we discovered that Eze-Uzu disobeyed the code of conduct and privileges of the royal throne. The traditional ruler can be removed by the kingmakers if he goes insane or if he fails to comply with the code of conduct.
“He, himself signed this code of conduct and privileges in the presence of four witnesses, namely: the then chairman of Awka kingmakers, Sylvester EgwuonwuOnejeme, father of IfeatuOnejeme, the incumbent Commissioner for Finance in the state. Sylvester qualified as a medical doctor in 1943 and became Ozo title-holder in Awka in 1961.
“Others who were present when he signed the code of conduct were the then secretary of Awka kingmakers, Prof.KanayoOnyiliogwu of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN); the then President-General of Awka Development Union Nigeria (ADUN), Engr. Pat NzekweIbe and the then Secretary-General of ADUN, Barrister IfeanyiObiakor.
“Now, that the dethroned Nwosu is from Isiagu village in Amikwo quarters of Ezi Section in Awka and he became the Eze-UzuAwka in 1999 and signed the code of conduct in 2000, we have mandated Ifite chieftaincy section whose turn it is to present an Igweship candidate to be screened by the Council of Kingmakers and if he scales through, he will replace Nwosu with him as the next Eze-UzuAwka.
“Such a candidate must be an Ozo titled man but if he has not yet taken the Ozo title, he has to do it before coronation and we hope that both the presentation and coronation would have taken place by November, this year.
“Apart from the kingmakers, those who endorsed his dethronement were the OtochaluAwka and his deputy, with 10 representatives from each of the 33 villages in Awka.
The Secretary of Awka Kingmakers, Barrister Okechukwu noted that it was not only because Nwosu supported those who perform dust-to-dust ritual when their spouse died, that led to his dethronement but because he ‘desecrated’ the traditional institution in many ways, apart from creating parallel Awka kingmakers, OzoAwka Society and ADUN leadership.
“You see, performing dust-to-dust ritual is a sacrilege inAwka but Nwosu supports it in the name of being a Knight of the Catholic Church,” Okechukwu charged.“For you to be a traditional ruler, you must respect the traditional institution, no matter how religious you are, but if you know you can’t cope with the traditional institution, then you vacate the seat and allow another who is ready to respect the traditional institution to take control of the tradition.”
However, in his reaction, Nwosu told newsmen in his palace that he was happy that it was only this reporter from a major newspaper that had bordered to approach him to get his own reaction, accusing most other journalists of “allowing themselves to be compromised by the opposition to write whatever they liked.”
He challenged the kingmakers to produce one single piece of “evidence that I violated the code of conduct and privileges or that I desecrated the traditional institution as they are accusing me of.”
Declared the Eze-Uzu: “Majority of the people in Awka have not really understood what is going on. Even members of our educated elite living in various parts of Nigeria and abroad do not know what is happening and do not care to know, as long as money exchanges hands.
This is a conflict between evil and good. By the time everybody who loves Awka knows which is good and which is bad, they would know that my restraint about not agreeing to wash dirty linens in the public is the best for our dear town.
“I carefully avoided any open confrontation with the so-called kingmakers for the period of 20 years I have been on the throne and this really upset the applecat and they intensified their drive to remove me from the throne.
“When they saw that they were not making any headway, they switched over the torchlight to the President-General of ADUN, Tony Okechukwu who also happens to be a Catholic, but has a time frame for his elective office. The father of the P-G who was a practicing Catholic died and his wife (P-G’s mother) performed the dust-to-dust ritual, as she agreed with her late husband when he was on a sick bed.
“The Secretary of Ozo Society in the person of Ozo Chief AnezeChinwuba stood up during the funeral and brazenly announced that Okechukwu, the P-G had been relieved of his post because his mother performed the dust-to-dust ritual, a declaration which he had no authority to make.
“Long after this declaration, the tenure of the P-G expired and he wrote me a letter, as the monarch of the town, that he was prepared to conduct a town union election and I notified the government in writing, as required by law, to send in officials from the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy matters to come and supervise the election.
“Then after the presidential election of 2015, the P-G, Okechukwu wrote me again that he was ready for the election and I wrote back to the State government to send in representatives as required by law but before we could get a reply from the government, Ozo Society organized through their proxy called AmobiNwokafor to get a court injunction stopping the election.
“We are waiting for their so-called new traditional ruler to emerge in November, as they said but I must emphasize that this kind of madness is not what I am expected to react to publicly without making more ridicule of our dear town, Awka. My education and exposure are higher than that of any Awka chicken farmer who may have gathered billions of naira through all sorts of means.
“Since all the actions being taken by OzoAwka and their cohorts are illegal, namely: (1) Election of P-G and town union. (2) Election of kingmakers, (3) Election of Otochalu-Awka (oldest man in Awka). (4) Notification of Ifite Section to start process of producing a new traditional ruler; since I know that all these are illegal, I don’t need to lose any sleep.
“There have been instances of reported presence of native doctors and witch-hunters being gathered and accommodated in a private farm on the outskirts of Awka to continue to cause havoc in town. It has never been known that the powers of darkness have ever overcome the powers of light.
“I leave everything in the hands of God whose decision is final. There is no dispute that cannot be settled. If this matter can be settled, may the wish of Almighty reign supreme. Who am I to reject amicable and justifiable settlement, which must not compromise the laws of the land?
“I can forgive these opposition members at the end of the day. If God can forgive human, who am I not to forgive them?”
However, a press statement issued by the State government and jointly signed by the Commissioner for Local Government and Community Matters, Greg Obi and Special Adviser to the Governor on Chieftaincy & Town Union Matters, IkechukwuOnyeabo said the attention of the State government had been drawn to the brewing crisis in Awka town being orchestrated by a group that goes by the name of Awka Council of Kingmakers who purported to have removed the traditional head/ruler of Awka Community, His Royal Majesty, Obi Gibson Nwosu, Eze-Uzu from the throne.
The statement quoted the government as noting that “for some time now,Awka community has been restive on account of the antics of some indigenes of Awka masquerading as members of this group in concert with a few misguided elements within the Ozo-Awka Society, giving rise to a situation in which government had to intervene in the management of the Awka Development Union Migeria (ADUN) on the side of the rule of law.”
The statement added: “Government notes that the traditional institution being a solid structure around which many of its programmes are hinged ought to be protected and must not be allowed to be desecrated. Government, therefore, affirms the status of HRM, Obi Gibson Nwosu as the traditional ruler of Awka community and in the same vein, government reaffirms its recognition of Engr. Anthony Okechukwu-led executive committee of ADUN, pending the outcome of the application lodged before the Court of Appeal.
“The State government, therefore, warns the Awka Council of Kingmakers and their collaborators in the OzoAwka Society to stop forthwith further attempts to embarrass the respected institution of Eze-UzuAwka and in view of the fore-going, the State government hereby advises all security agencies in the State to be on the alert to forestall any attempt to cause a breach of public peace.
But, in a reply to the government’s statement, the Kingmakers said it was utterly surprising that Chief Willie Obiano’s government has incongruously been collaborating with a few misguided, self-seeking and corrupt individuals within Awka community to create unwarranted crisis- firstly with town union administration with a view to having unchecked restriction in confiscating and selling the community land heritage – and lately with the dethronement of Gibson Nwosu as Obi Eze-Uzu II.
According to the statement jointly signed by Ozo/Barrister E.C.G. Okechukwu (JP), Secretary, Awka Council of Kingmakers and Ozo/Dr.AnezeChinweuba, Secretary, Ozo-Awka, “however, government cannot succeed to destroy the citadel of peace in Awka which has reigned from time immemorial…Awka must survive and outlive your administration.”
Reminding the state government that Awka people are law-abiding and peaceful, the Kingmakers declared: “We hereby reaffirm that Obi Gibson NwabuezeNwosu was irrevocably dethroned on April 14, this year as the traditional ruler of Awka, in accordance with the tenets of the constitution and code of conduct, which he had stubbornly and continuously and grossly violated since his installation, in spite of his previous sanctions by the community.
“As the sitting governor, we believe that the dictates of impartiality and concern for maintenance of peace in Awka as one of the vital communities in the State and more importantly the State capital would naturally have impelled you to seek prudent and amicable resolution of the issues, rather than inflaming them as your officers have carelessly done.
“Your Excellency, Awka people have noted with concern your order to the security agencies to crush us if we go against the unjust wishes of your administration. However, we wish to inform you that we can never be bullied or intimidated in exercising our fundamental right of choice in the selection of our leaders. The just struggle for our freedom must continue in Awka and other areas of the State facing the same instability created by your administration,” the kingmakers concluded.