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Tension in Awka over monarch’s ‘dethronement’

  •Embattled royal father, parallel kingmakers draw battle line

From Obinna Odogwu, Ekwulobia

Awka, the capital of Anambra State, is in turmoil, as a leadership tussle continues to tear the town apart.

On Friday, April 14, 2017, the community’s Council of Kingmakers announced the dethronement of their traditional ruler, Obi Gibson Nwosu, Eze Uzu II of Awka.

The reported dethronement, according to the kingmakers, was necessitated by his alleged violation of the community’s amended constitution of 1986 and other cultural laws. The action, the group further said, was carried out in liaison with the Ndichie Awka.

The development has punctured the relative peace in the community. It came on the heels of an existing tussle between two eminent sons of the town, Tony Okechukwu, an engineer, and Chief Amobi Nwokafor.

Before now, the two had been at war over who should occupy the seat of president-general of Awka Development Union Nigeria (ADUN). While Okechukwu had been the president-general and enjoys the recognition and support of the Anambra State government, Nwokafor emerged through an election conducted by a caretaker committee set up by the community.

However, the reported dethronement of the first class monarch by the kingmakers, led by Ozo Obuora Essell, chairman, and Ozo Emmanuel C. G. Okechukwu, a lawyer and the kingmakers’ secretary, added a new twist to the leadership tussle.

The third issue was the emergence of another council of kingmakers loyal to the embattled monarch. In fact, its alleged creation by the traditional ruler formed part of the reasons he was dethroned.

Awka’s battle royal

According to the members of the Awka Council of Kingmakers, the monarch, Nwosu, had allegedly violated the community’s code of conduct that he signed on January 1, 2000, as a prerequisite to his coronation.

According to the statement, signed by the chairman of the council, Essell, and Okechukwu, which was obtained by the reporter, Nwosu had, before his alleged dethronement, been invited to defend himself over the allegations but he turned it down.

Some of the offences preferred against him, according to the statement, were denying and refusing to defend Awka custom and tradition as a traditional ruler, violating the grounds of his pardon by Awka people after he (allegedly) did “Osu-na-Nkiti” for his previous transgressions, formation of a splinter kingmakers’ council, formation of a splinter Ozo institution, which he called Ozo Ife, and awarding titles without the kingmakers’ clearance or knowledge.

Nwosu was also accused of admission and rustication of cabinet members without the kingmakers’ clearance or knowledge, violating the rights of Awka people over land matters, encouraging and fronting an erstwhile president-general of ADUN to continue parading himself as president-general even though another had been elected by Awka people, loitering around government offices seeking personal favours and thereby not according dignity to the exalted position of Eze Uzu Awka, abusing Awka daughters who go to him to use his office as Obi, Eze Uzu Awka, to advance their cause, selling admission quota for Awka indigenes to highest bidders who, more often, are not Awka indigenes and refusing to reply correspondence from Awka Council of Kingmakers, among others.

The group said that, by section 16 (d) of the Traditional Rulers’ Amended Constitution for Awka Town, 1986, the monarch admitted guilt of the allegations since he did not come to defend himself when he was invited by the kingmakers.

The statement added that: “In accordance with the provision of Section 17(e) of Traditional Rulers’ Amended Constitution for Awka Zone, 1986, the Head of Ozo Awka shall immediately assume office as Regent of Awka once the incumbent dies or is withdrawn.”

The group, therefore, directed the Head of Ozo Awka, Ozo Obuora Essell, to assume office immediately as the Regent of Awka, pending when the community would select the next Eze Uzu.

But the embattled monarch, Dr. Nwosu, has dismissed his purported dethronement, describing it as laughable. Speaking with journalists in his palace, Nwosu dismissed the group, pointing out that the group was not the authentic kingmakers of Awka. He said he had not committed any offence, because, if that were the case, the kingmakers, led by Ozo James Eze, would have brought that to his attention.

Nwosu later referred the newsmen to the president-general of the town, Engr. Tony Okechukwu, and his traditional prime minister loyal to him.

Okechukwu stated that members of the group were not authentic kingmakers. He described their action as complete “hogwash,” and declared that nobody could dethrone Eze Uzu apart from the kingmakers properly constituted by ADUN, under his leadership. 

“First of all, E. C. G. Okechukwu is not a member of the kingmakers let alone being its secretary. According to our record, the secretary of the kingmakers is Ogbuefi Christian Oyeude. And the present kingmakers constituted by the ADUN, as empowered by Awka constitution and tradition, have Ozo James Eze as chairman,” he said.

Similarly, the traditional prime minister of the town loyal to the embattled monarch, Chief Benjamin C. Okoye, said the purported removal was childish.

“It is very laughable that a group of people gathered together and claimed that they had removed a first class king, the Eze Uzu II of Awka. I wonder where an issue that has to do with the king is discussed and the traditional prime minister is not aware.

“If there is an issue of interest, people should be able to respect the rule of law. I am aware of the issue of who the authentic president-general is, which is pending in the court of law. And we were asked to maintain the status quo,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Ozo Awka Society has thrown its weight behind the alleged dethronement of the Awka monarch. Secretary of the society, Ozo (Dr.) Anaeze Chinwuba, told Daily Sun that the dethronement was acceptable.

“When you’re crowned a monarch, it is according to the law and if you start working against the law that made you traditional ruler, then you lose that crown.

“We all know that his reign has been a troublesome one because, at every point in time, he is out to disobey the rules and regulations. In Igboland, we say that the eagle has perched for it to be shot down and Awka people just did that,”  he said.

Asked what he and others in his group would do if government refuses to withdraw the monarch’s Certificate of Recognition, Chinwuba said: “The government cannot truncate this. The government did not create Awka. The deposed monarch was made traditional ruler by Awka people and not the government. They are free to do whatever they like, but they cannot decide for the people of Awka what we want. It will be foolishness on the part of the government to do that.”

Battle line drawn

The Anambra State Government has also reacted to the leadership tussle. In a paid advertorial published in Saturday Sun of April 22, 2017, signed by the Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs, Mr. Greg Obi, and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Chieftaincy and Town Union Matters, Mr. Ikechukwu Onyeabo, the state government dismissed the reported dethronement as a figment of the imagination of its promoters.

The government said Obi (Dr.) Gibson Nwosu and Engr. Tony Okechukwu remained the traditional ruler and president-general of Awka, respectively, warning that it would not watch some persons make a mess of the first class monarch.

However, in a paid advertorial jointly signed by the secretary of Awka Council of Kingmakers, Ozo Emmanuel C. G. Okechukwu and the secretary of Ozo Awka Society, Ozo (Dr.) Anaeze Chinwuba published in the Saturday Sun of May 13, 2017, on behalf of the two organisations, they said it was the duty of Awka people to choose who rules them as traditional ruler and not the other way round.

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