Raymond Ozoji, Awka
It was a solemn declaration by the traditional ruler of Umueri ancient kingdom in Anambra-East local government area of Anambra state, His Royal Majesty Igwe Sir Ben Izuchukwu Emeka Okebo II at his 2nd Ovala festival on the throne that there is no more war between Aguleri and Umueri. According to him, they are brothers and they would live and co-exist in peace and harmony. He added that the ties of marriage, culture, farming and a host of other ancestral heritage would bind them together. The Ovala celebration attracted the cream of the society to Umueri community on 29th December, 2018. Governor Willie Obiano, Prince Arthur Eze and some other important personalities added glitz and glamour to the universal cultural event where His Royal Majesty Igwe Ben Izuchukwu Emeka made an open confession that Governor Willie Obiano is the only governor that has made conscious efforts to heal the wounds of the people of Umueri sustained during the communal war between Aguleri and Umueri.
The 2nd Ovala celebration of Ndi-Umueri was a veritable platform for the king to enumerate all that Governor Willie Obiano has done for his community and like Oliver Twist, ask for more practical developmental projects for Umueri kingdom to bring the community at par with other communities in the state. Igwe Ben Izuchukwu Emeka had in his welcome address on the occasion said that “since the creation of Anambra state we have never had a governor from this northern zone and as God may have it, some five years ago we now have a governor from this zone. He started working in Aguleri and Umueri, giving Aguleri and Umueri people appointments. He gave the Governor the traditional title of Ogbune-Chendo to further cement the relationship between Umueri and Aguleri. He has given approval for the design of about two roads in Umueri in addition to other ones he has built already. And as Oliver Twist, I further requested him to recommend qualified Umueri people to federal government for federal appointments in addition to other state appointments that he may wish to give Umueri people. However the governor’s statement that Umueri and Aguleri are brothers is not a mere political statement. It is a statement of fact. We are brothers. We will live in peace henceforth but you know the communal crisis that we have been having is not because of brotherly relationship. It is because of land dispute. That is why I told the governor that since he is on seat now, he has the power to do everything possible to see that this land dispute between Umueri and Aguleri is settled once and for all because if he leaves office without settling it, any other governor coming from the south or central senatorial district may not be interested in whatever we are doing here.. “
The traditional ruler equally explained the significance of Ovala festival. He said the cultural event was an annual festival and the reason it was being celebrated was because it was a period that all the sons and daughters of the community returned home from within and outside Nigeria to savour the richness of the countryside as well as appreciate native customs and traditions handed down to them by their forebears. Igwe Emeka also described Ovala festival as an occasion for the investiture and conferment of chieftaincy honours on deserving individuals adding that the celebration also helps the younger generation to think-home as well as provides conviviality and razzmatazz necessary to galvanise resources for community projects.
Responding to the requests made by the traditional ruler of Umueri on the occasion of his 2nd Ovala, shortly after his coronation as Ogbune-Chendo of Umueri, the Governor of Anambra state Chief Willie Obiano assured the people of Umueri community that Aguleri and Umueri would never be involved in any form of blood battle. He said that lasting peace has returned in the area and that both communities would maintain a healthy brotherly relationship going forward. Governor Obiano had said that they would live like brothers henceforth. The governor recalled that upon assumption of office he began his official assignment at Aguleri and Umueri working assiduously to revamp the area since they have been forlorned by successive governments. Governor Obiano said he didn’t discriminate against anyone but carried both communities along in his development agenda. He therefore told the people of Umueri community that wars were fought when most clans had not embraced civilisation; that in modern times, people sued for peace and peaceful co-existence emphasising that Aguleri and Umueri are communities renowned for their proficiency and propensity for farming, fishing, trading and a host of other lucrative ventures.
In the same vein, President-General Umueri General Assembly Chief Pius Ejimofor Okonkwo, the Akwudolueze of Umueri ancient kingdom, while admitting that Governor Willie Obiano’s assertion that Aguleri and Umueri are brothers, maintained that it was a well-deserved statement but expressed deep concern that it was not merely saying brotherhood on paper but acting it. Okonkwo said the history of Otuocha is clear starting from the Royal Niger Company of 1898. According to him, “if you take off from Onitsha the next agreement is Nsugbe. If you reach Nsugbe the next is Nnehi-Umueri. If you leave Umunnehi-Umueri the next is Umundezi-Umueri from Ako stream to Eri. Today check out the history and see who is the intruder. We are not talking about war now. We are talking about restoring peace. Agreement is clear. Court judgements are clear. He who wears the shoe knows where it pinches most. We want to involve external abitrators to come and look at what is on ground and see who is the aggressor. Being brothers is one thing. Being greedy is another thing. We are all visitors on earth and one way or the other we migrated from one point to the other. So political statements may or may not be allowed anymore …”
But comrade Chinedu Obidigwe a native of Aguleri and political juggernaut whose ambition is to represent the good people of Anambra-east and West federal constituency at the national assembly said shortly after paying homage to the traditional ruler of Umueri on the occasion of his 2nd Ovala festival that peace is priceless and there was need for Aguleri and Umueri to live in harmony. He stressed that peace begets progress and everything good for life. Obidigwe noted that they have witnessed peace in Omambala region especially between Aguleri and Umueri and there is no more war between both communities. He however assured Anambra-east and West that if given the mandate to represent them at the Green Chambers, he would not only consolidate the existing peace between Aguleri and Umueri people but also bring about more largese through practical representation. The 2nd Ovala festival of Igwe Sir Ben Izuchukwu Emeka Okebo II of Umueri community equally featured masquerade performances, various traditional dances and a host of other ceremonies.