The elders and chiefs took a swipe at the Delta State Government, which they blamed for the death of their son, Obi Okolie II.
Paul Osuyi, Asaba
A new chapter has been opened in the kingship tussle rocking Egbudu-Akah Kingdom in Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State following the passing of Obi Paul Nzemeke Okolie II earlier in the year.
Obi Okolie II was presented with staff of office by the Delta State Government last March in controversial circumstance as his younger half brother, Prince Solomon Ogwuagwu was earlier said to have been proclaimed traditionally as king by a section of the kingmakers.
Crisis over the throne started between princes Paul and Solomon in 2016 following the demise of their father, Albert Okolie I, the Obi of Egbudu-Akah.
The town practices hereditary monarchy based on the principle of primogeniture where the eldest surviving son ascends the throne.
At the moment, tension in the community has been reignited as Obi Okolie II who passed on his late 60s, had a grown up son, Augustine who is expected to succeed him, all things being equal.
But his passage has emboldened Prince Solomon who believes the government deployed its security machinery to intimidate him to submission in order to present the staff of office to his elder half brother.
The sleepy agrarian community has once again been militarised with the heavy presence of uniformed security operatives, apparently to prevent breakdown of law and order.
Locals said movement of heavily armed security operatives has become a regular occurrence in the remote community since the death of Okolie II and subsequent attempts to have him buried within the precincts of the ancient palace.
According to community sources, the recent tension was caused by the resistance of some members of the community to have Okolie II interred in the royal palace, which was labelled a no go area since the initial crisis started in 2016.
Okolie II, it was gathered, was interred in his personal residence, as the elders, chiefs and the community leaders vowed that they will never allow his corpse to be interred at the palace, insisting that the deceased was not their king, even after government’s recognition.
The elders and chiefs took a swipe at the Delta State Government, which they blamed for the death of their son, Obi Okolie II. They also accused the state government of instigating insecurity and communal crises that have witnessed loss of lives and destruction of houses and properties worth millions of naira.
According to the community stakeholders, government deliberately undermined the customs and traditions of Egbudu-Akah on kingship process and installation by giving official recognition and encouragement to Okolie II to desecrate the sacred throne.
Speaking on the development, the Onishe (Kingmaker) of Egbudu-Akah, Stephen Osiegbu said after the death of the former king, Obi Alfred Okolie I, the palace chiefs and heads of the three quarters followed due customary and traditional processes to choose and install Solomon Ogwuagwu as the new Obi, who then sat on the throne to commence the burial rights of his father, as tradition demands.
“We were baffled to observe a rebellion from Paul and some of his brothers that the stool belongs to him as the first son and he went on to plan and did another funeral for the late king, claiming he had been installed king.
“While, we were finding amicable approach to resolve the tussle over the throne, the Delta State Government, through the Office of the Deputy Governor hurriedly and callously gave the staff of office to Prince Paul Okolie without consulting or clarifying from the elders who are custodians of our customs. Last time we saw him in this community was that same day of presentation of staff of office to him. Now where is he today?”, the Onishe wondered.
President General of Egbudu-Akah Development Union, Anthony Egbune who is also the Ojeami of Egbudu-Akah recalled that at the wake of the royal rumble, the State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa had personality invited one of the illustrious sons of the community, Major General Osahor (rtd) to wade into matter.
“He (Osahor) constituted a five-man mediation panel, including two indigenous Catholic priests, and a former council chairman, who consulted with all the stakeholders in the feud and did a report that was submitted to the governor. Till date, that report was not implemented,” Egbune fumed.
Also, the community youth president, Mr. Ojeh regretted the lingering crisis and the attendant losses, but noted that the youths have remained resolute on the cherished customs and traditions of their land even in the face of intimidation, harassments and death.
84 years old head of the Umu-Illoh ruling family, Elder Francis Enemokwu told journalists that he has the prerogative to announce and present the would-be king to the Onishe, kingmaker after thorough selection process.
“Aside being the head of the Umu-Illoh ruling house, I am the next direct family member in line to their father, the late king, Alfred Okolie I (JP). It is sacrilegious to fight for the stool. Any member of the family who struggles for the stool, when he is not the rightful person to ascend the throne will be met with mysterious calamity and the consequence is abominable death.
“I saw when all of them were born and so I am in a proper position to tell the circumstances of their birth. Our tradition is a variant of direct primogeniture. You may be indeed the son, but the circumstances of your birth could disqualify you from ascending the throne.
“Basically, our tradition disallows a male child born by an adopted wife like in the case of Paul, though he was the first son, but the mother was first married by their father’s elder brother who even had a son, Emmanuel an elder half brother of Paul, who is still alive.
“But in the case of Solomon, the mother was the virgin wife of their father, the late king. He was barely one year and six months old when he was removed from Egbudu-Akah community away from the king and the palace, to the palace of Idumuje-Ugboko, for royal tutelage and upbringing as Egbudu-Akah custom demands.
“So from birth he was being prepared as king and that is why I presented him to the kingmakers and the community on the demise of our late king,” head of Umu-Illoh ruling family recounted.
Another member of the Umu-Illoh ruling house, Patrick Wepuaka who said he was among the elders arrested and kept in police custody for over four months, defended the alleged divisive role of the ruling family.
Wepuaka added that they did their best to resolve the dispute but desperation, inordinate ambition and bad advisers allegedly pushed the late Paul Okolie II to contend for the stool.
Solomon Ogwuagwu who said he was traditionally installed on 20 October, 2016, said they woke up to a military siege since last week, with troops patrolling the length and breadth of the community to and fro Ekuku-Agbor, the neighbouring town in Ika South Local Government Area.
“We have been seeing trucks of army and the police in the community since the past three days and this has always created tension and forced indigenes to flee to their farms and bushes. We had summoned communal labour to maintain the only earth road leading to the community, but the current insecurity has driven our men into hiding as usual.
“Today is market day but our women cannot go to market because of fear, assault and harassments so we are afraid to move freely. We were not told why they besieged our town so I put a phone call to the DPO of Nsukwa Division, the Deputy Commissioner of Police and even our councillor but none of them told me the reason for the heavy security presence.
“The military usually come in as many as 17 trucks and anytime they invade, my people run into the bush. They keep interrupting economic and normal life of our people,” Ogwuagwu alleged.
He alleged that the people became apprehensive following the arrest and detention of scores of chiefs and elders, including himself in police custody for more than four months in 2017 over alleged charges of murder, conspiracy, arson and breach of peace and security.
He continued: “We later gathered that they came to bury my brother, Paul. We, the immediate family were not informed he was dead and to be buried. I believed because I saw the heavy security presence moved to his compound.
“They didn’t tell the community elders, chiefs and even the immediate family that he was dead and to be buried. We didn’t know when he died. The last time I heard of him was during the presentation of staff of office to him.”
On the rumoured installation of the late Paul Okolie’s son, Augustine as heir apparent to the throne, Ogwuagwu averred that it is not possible as the gods of the land have sounded in unambiguous note, adding that the death of his elder half brother was a lesson even the deaf could hear.
But counsel to late Obi Paul Okolie II, Afam Ochei asserted that Egbudu-Akah customary laws and tradition upholds primogeniture in the ascension to the community’s throne and therefore Prince Augustine Nzemeke Obiokolie had undergone installation rites precedent to his father’s burial and interment rites, adding that processes were underway to confer on him government’s recognition with staff of office.