Crisis In Anambra Community Over Traditional Stool   

Raymond Ozoji, Awka
There is the likelihood of a full-scale communal war in Ochuche community of Ogbaru local government area of Anambra state as the community is currently enmeshed in a cold war over the rightful candidate to the throne of the community.  Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra state had issued a certificate of recognition to one Osita Ijeoma who is now seen and known as the traditional ruler of the community following the death of His Royal Highness Igwe Paul Agaba. But Umuodu  section of the community felt the conferment of authority and recognition on Igwe Osita Ijeoma was a negation of the kingship rotational agreement among the three major villages in Ochuche community. As a result, they felt Dr. Steven Ibekaku Apati whom they said the community had in one accord chosen to be the king of Ochuche was denied his birthright by the Anambra State Government and as such they vowed to reclaim their right of ownership to the throne of Ochuche community when they staged a peaceful protest to the government house in Awka.
Bearing placards of various inscriptions and chanting war songs at the entrance gate of the government house, the people of Umuodu Ochuche chorused in unison that Igwe Osita Ijeoma cannot remain in office as the traditional ruler of Ochuche because he is of the same village and kindred with late Igwe Paul Agaba and that the traditional stool has to move to Umuodu where they had already produced Dr. Steven Ibekaku Apati as the next monarch of the community. Chief Aniche Isagba of Ochuche Umuodu said the people came to notify the state government that the charades which metamorphosed into the issuance of certificate of recognition to Igwe Osita Ijeoma was not in tandem with the customs and traditions of the people of Ochuche community in Ogbaru local government area and that they were not aware of any individual posing as the traditional ruler of the community.
The Isagba of Ochuche Umuodu said that “Osita Ijeoma and the late Igwe Paul Agaba are of the same kindred in Ochuche and the igweship in our community is rotatory between the three king making villages in Ochuche. So Agaba has served the turn of Umuokeligbo where Osita Ijeoma comes from. They are one kindred. Now the kingship has moved from Umuokeligbo to Umuoloko where the community unanimously selected Dr. Steven Ibekaku Apati to become the next king. The community has coronated him and sent the necessary documents to the state government but unknown to us, the state government did otherwise. So we decided to come and tell the state government that we did not accept Osita Ijeoma as our Igwe. And that if we go back to our community, we will do it our own way. We will not tolerate a desecration of our age-long ancestral heritage.” Another indigene of the area Chief Emeka Agaba who lent credence to the claims of the Isagba, alleged that since Igwe Osita Ijeoma was issued certificate of authority as traditional ruler of Ochuche, his boys had been allegedly terrorising the community and the chief security officer in Ogbaru local government compelling him to relinquish possession of the security patrol vehicle and guns in his custody whereas the state government has not officially informed him to do so. He stressed that government should call him to order to avoid possible breakdown of law and order in Ochuche community due to his nefarious activities since he came on the throne.
Meanwhile, a 98-year-old Ajie Francis Otogbolu who hails from Umuoloko village in Ogbaru corroborated the fact that their existed a constitution which spelt out the modus operandi for kingship rotation among the three villages in Ochuche community. He said government should do all within its powers to retrieve the kingship from Osita Ijeoma because according to him, he is not the rightful candidate for the throne of Ochuche community. Also Ejike Odua, Youth leader of Ochuche Umuodu said it has been hell since Osita Ijeoma became the traditional ruler of Ochuche community because he pointed out that the igwe’s thugs have been terrorising the community. The President-General of the community Dr. Emmanuel Azubuike Apati said the community would not tolerate anybody being imposed on them. He said the community wrote a letter to the state government notifying them that the community should be allowed the liberty to choose their traditional ruler only for the local government chairman to write a letter to the state government notifying them that they have found a suitable replacement for the late Igwe Paul Agaba. He said even though the state government set up a panel to look into the kingship tussle in Ochuche community, he accused the panel of prejudice judging from the way and manner it handled the kingship crisis in the area which eventually led to the emergence of Osita Ijeoma as the Igwe of Ochuche community. The Special Adviser to Governor Willie Obiano on Local Government Matters Hon. Gerald Akaeze who addressed the protesters on behalf of the Anambra State Government assured them that government would look into the matter and proffer lasting solutions while the demonstrators maintained that justice must prevail to avoid an escalation of the already brewing communal war in the area.

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