The recent misunderstanding between the Anambra State Government and the traditional institution in the state is needless. In a move that generated some controversies, the Anambra State Government suspended the traditional ruler of Neni in Anaocha Local Government Area (LGA) of the state, Igwe Damian Ezeani. According to the state Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy Affairs and Town Union Matters, Mr. Tony-Collins Nwabunwanne, the royal father conferred chieftaincy title on the Senator representing Anambra South in the Senate, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah.

In the letter suspending the monarch, the commissioner further noted that Igwe Ezeani breached the code of conduct for traditional rulers in Anambra State, which outlines the rules and regulations on the granting and revocation of chieftaincy titles. Part of the rules stipulates that no monarch can confer chieftaincy title on anyone from outside his domain without the permission of the traditional ruler of the recipient’s community.

The Commissioner wrote: “We have received confirmed reports that you, as traditional ruler of Neni, conferred such a phantom chieftaincy title on one Senator Ifeanyi Ubah in violation of the Code of Conduct and without clearance from the Ministry. Whether or not your action was for pecuniary reasons as being insinuated in many quarters is irrelevant. What is important is that your action is an affront to order and good governance.”

Not long after the suspension, Igwe Ezeani of Neni apologised for his action and withdrew the Odenjinji Neni title he conferred on Ubah. Meanwhile, Governor Chukwuma Soludo is Odenjinji Aguleri. Two other traditional rulers: Igwe Felix Ebelendu of Aguluezechukwu in Aguata LGA and Igwe Gerald Mbamalu of Ojoto in Idemili-South LGA also tendered apology to the state government for also conferring titles on Ubah. They withdrew the titles of Dike Eji Eje Ogu of Aguluezechukwu and Ikemba Ojoto respectively conferred on Ubah. 

In a rather scathing response to the commissioner, the chairman of the Anambra State Council of Traditional Rulers and Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, noted that the suspension letter to Igwe Ezeani smacked of disrespect, insult and the apogee of the progressive dehumanisation and dismantling of the traditional institution of Anambra State by the present administration. According to Igwe Achebe, the Professor Soludo government made sweeping statement about trading chieftaincy titles for money without providing evidence; hence, wittingly or not, indicted the entire traditional institution of the state.

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Achebe added: “The Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council, ASTRC, cannot yet take a view on the violation of the Code of Conduct until it receives a report from the ad-hoc committee it set up to meet with Igwe Neni. Nevertheless, it is very manifestly presented above that no written directives on the conferment of chieftaincy titles existed before January 8, 2024 when Igwe Neni was suspended.” Achebe also noted that “the severity of suspension and threat of withdrawal of Certificate of Recognition suggests that there may be other issues with either Igwe Neni or Distinguished Senator Ubah, which are being stealthily ventilated in this circumstance.”

This altercation was uncalled for. From the look of things, Igwe Neni and some other monarchs violated the Code of Conduct for traditional rulers in the state. Ordinarily, the state government reserves the right to punish them the way it deems fit. The apology the monarchs tendered is also in order. You cannot willingly break the law of the state and expect to be patted on the back for doing so. Ignorance of the law is also not an excuse.

Nevertheless, the action of the state government appeared to be politically motivated. In his letter, the commissioner referred to Senator Ubah as one Ifeanyi Ubah. This is the Senator representing Soludo’s constituency and is well known in Nigeria. The interpretation of the state government’s action in some quarters is that Ubah is being vilified because of his apparent interest in the 2025 governorship election in the state. He recently defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the Young Progressives Party (YPP).

Obviously, many other traditional rulers have fallen foul of the same offence and nothing happened. That is why some critics alluded to the chieftaincy title the traditional ruler of Ukpo in Dunukofia LGA, Igwe Robert Eze, conferred on the Vice-President, Kashim Shettima, when he visited Anambra in December 2023. The same Igwe Ukpo also conferred a chieftaincy title on the National Chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Ganduje. President Bola Tinubu’s son, Seyi, was also conferred with a chieftaincy title of Nwannedinamba by the Mbaukwu monarch, Igwe Peter Anugwu, in January 2023. Mbaukwu is in Awka-South LGA.

No doubt, a governor has authority over traditional rulers in his state. Former Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State exercised that authority during his tenure when he deposed the then Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, and banished him to Nassarawa State. But in exercising that authority, a governor has to be circumspect and avoid tainting it with political colouration. We commend Soludo for accepting the apology of the royal fathers and reinstating the suspended Neni monarch. The state needs to move forward, but that will not be possible with unnecessary quarrels. The governor, as the father of all, should divorce malice from his actions.