…Tension in Oraukwu as 2 kinsmen battle for ancestral stool

From Obinna Odogwu, Ekwulobia

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There is palpable tension in Oraukwu community in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State as two kinsmen, Chief Pius Ezedigboo Okoye and Dr Emeka Onuora, are battling over the ancestral stool of the kingdom.
While some of the residents said that the former was elected and coronated in December 29, 2015 by the Caretaker Committee set up by the Anambra State government owing to the demise of their monarch, Igwe Emeka Ogbunude, some others said that the later was elected by a faction of the community’s 10th Congress led by its President-General, Chief Cyril Ejidike on May 16, 2016.
The tussle has also put the 10th congress and the cabinet in disarray as they now have factions supporting each of the candidates, now battling to mount the exalted throne.
After the demise of Ogbunude in 2011; the Oraukwu Congress informed the Ezennaja village that it was its turn to produce the next monarch of the town according to their constitution.
But rather than elect a new monarch amicably, it was gathered that some identified powerful persons in the community allegedly ignited the flame that is currently raging in Oraukwu.
Today, the tussle which started with four eminent sons of the community has whittled down to two as it got hotter.
Many have opined that if something is not done quickly to arrest the ugly situation, the six-year old leadership tussle may burst into an ear-twisting crisis that would leave a trail of agonies.
Already, a cross section of the residents who spoke to Daily Sun has threatened thunder and brimstone if the right thing was not done urgently.
Genesis of the tussle
Former Chairman of Ezennaja village, Oraukwu, Chief Jude Obiefuna, narrated the situation to our reporter.
Hear him: “In 2011, our former Igwe,  Emeka Ogbunude died. And as a result, according to Oraukwu’s constitution of 1987, the next village to produce the Igwe is Ezennaja village. So, after the burial of the late monarch, the congress led by Emeka Obodoeme wrote to our village that it is our turn to produce the next Igwe in 2012. Since that time we have been trying to produce the Igwe. Subsequently, the village called on interested candidates to apply. Initially, we had about four people in the persons of Chief Pius Ezedigboo Okoye, Chief Vincent Okechukwu, Chief Alfred Onuora and Chief Patrick Ojukwu. After these four people indicated their interests, along the line Chief Patrick Ojukwu was dropped. So, the remaining three wrote to the village indicating interest and their names were forwarded to the congress for screening.
“On the day the congress invited us for the screening, we were all in the congress office waiting for them and the head of cabinet to come and conduct the screening according to Oraukwu constitution. Towards the evening, the cabinet head did not show up. The congress then informed the people of Oraukwu that the screening had to be rescheduled. We went back that day waiting for another date to be released for the screening. Along the line, when the next day was given to us, the President-General then said that he was going to handpick the delegates from each village because according to our constitution, the composition of the screening committee is the executive of the congress, the cabinet, and one representative from each village. The then President-General then wanted to handpick from each of the villages; a move which met stiff opposition. As a result, the planned screening was aborted because the villages refused that he cannot come to the villages to handpick otherwise they’re no longer the representatives of the villages. Along the line, before they now gave us another date, one Prof. Okoji came out and indicated interest. On the second screening date, Prof. Okoji came to the hall from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. When he arrived,  he said  what he was seeing was not what they told him; that he was told that there would be no screening, no election, nothing at all. So, when he now came and found out that there was screening, he left in anger. After that, it remained three persons: Chief Pius Okoye, Chief Alfred Onuora, and Chief Vincent Okechukwu. Election was fixed. According to the letter addressed to the village from the cabinet, we should conduct the election and forward the names of the successful candidate to the cabinet. The village (Ezennaja) now wrote back to the cabinet, telling them that according to the constitution, there should be screening before the election. They now wrote another letter to the village, telling them that it is an insult to the cabinet; that if we fail to conduct an election within three weeks, the Igweship right will go to the next village which is Irukwelekor village. We had no option than to accept what they said in a letter copied to the congress.
“We then conducted the first election. After the first election, Chief Pius Ezedigboo Okoye got 305 votes; Chief Vincent Okechukwu got 17 votes; and Chief Vincent Onuora got 13 votes. After that, the President-General went on air to announce that the election was cancelled; that he was not part of the election; that the congress was not part of the election. But the truth was that members of the congress were at the election, the local government representatives were at the election. State government was not there although we paid for the election according to the Anambra State’s rule. On the eve of the election, the then Special Adviser to the Governor on Town Union and Chieftaincy Matters, Chief Motolu called me and told me that the President-General informed them that there was crisis in Oraukwu; that they should not come for that election and I told  him that there was no crisis in Oraukwu. I also told him that Oraukwu was not conducting any election; that it is my own village that was conducting election. I told him that if there was crisis in my village that I am the right person to inform him that there was such. PG cannot come to my village and tell me that there was crisis when there was none. He insisted that they won’t come. He said that they were working with the President-General. On the day of the election, we conducted the election and Chief Pius Ezedigboo Okoye won the election. After that, on Monday he (the PG) went on air to announce that the election was cancelled. After that , there was still about a week or two to the expiration of our right to produce the Igwe. The village had no option than to go to court to stop them from depriving us our right of producing the next Igwe. When the matter was reported to the court, the clergy of Anglican, Catholic and the Pentecostal churches in Oraukwu organised themselves and formed a peace committee. They went to the cabinet, congress and to me as the Chairman of Ezennaja village then. We all had a meeting at St. Anthony’s hall, Oraukwu. They told us that they want to mediate in the matter. But we told them that since the matter was already in court, the only option was to go to court and obtain permission. We all agreed.
“After that, they drew a new roadmap for a new election. They begged our village to accept a cancellation for the previous election in the interest of peace. Members of our village refused but few people pleaded that we should agree with the clergymen. We later agreed to go for another election. “In 2015, the government of Anambra State constituted a Caretaker Committee for the town and gave them mandate to come and resolve those issues concerning the PG, Igwe and other matters. They then went back to the roadmap of that second Oraukwu Peace Committee. They brought out timetable on which everything would follow but they couldn’t achieve what government sent them to do. They went back and obtained another three months which was to expire on December 31, 2015. According to the time-table they sent to the government, December 17 would be screening for the Igweship candidates; 18th December would be election for President-General; 19th would be election for Igwe; 26th would be inauguration of the Congress; then 30th would be the presentation of the elected Igwe to the local government, cabinet, and state government.
“But before the date of that screening on the 17th December, 2015, Chief Alfred Onuora withdrew from the race and his son, Dr Emeka Onuora replaced him. So on the date of the screening, Emeka Onuora and Chief Vincent Okechukwu were agitating that the election cannot hold on 19th December; that according to the constitution, it has to be after 14 days. So, after everything, in the presence of the Secretary to the State Government, people from SA on Town Union and Chieftaincy Matters office, officials of the Idemili Local Government Area; so all of them were present. So, after everything, all of them agreed that after the screening on that 17th, the election of the Igwe would then be on the 29th December, 2015. Presentation of the winner to the cabinet would then be on the 30th; presentation to the local and state governments would be on 31st December. There tenure was expiring on that 31st December, so they then agreed that the congress would also be inaugurated on that 31st December.
“However, they couldn’t complete the screening on 17th, so they completed it on the 18th. And according to the screening committee, the three candidates were qualified. So the election of the President-General was conducted on that 18th and Cyril Ejidike was returned unopposed. Other positions were, however, contested. Then, on 23rd December, members of the caretaker committee held a meeting on how to conduct the election on the 29th. The meeting was presided over by Aloysius Oganudo who is the Chairman of CTC with Chief Solomon Umeh as the secretary. They made arrangement and wrote to us on how they were preparing the election. Surprisingly, on the 24th morning we got information that Aloysius Ogabudo and Solomon Umeh went and inaugurated Chief Cyril Ejidike and Linus Arinze around 7:00a.m without the consent of the members of the caretaker committee and without also the consent of the newly elected 10th congress. So around, 9:00a.m the same day, members of the caretaker committee convoked an emergency meeting and disassociated themselves from the secret inauguration, disclosing that it negated the timetable they sent to the government. They said the inauguration of the 10th Congress was slated to hold on 31st, pointing out that the chairman and secretary alone had no right to inaugurate only the new chairman and secretary. They declared it illegal. When the election of the Igwe was conducted on the 29th December, 2015, after that, they decided to do the election peacefully in the presence of the Secretary to the State Government, people from SA on Town Union and Chieftaincy Matters Office, officials of the Idemili Local Government. But after the screening, the election of the Igwe would then be on the 29th December, 2015.
“ After the election which was conducted in the open place, the result was announced there and then. Chief Pius Ezedigboo Okoye got 535 votes; Chief Vincent Okechukwu got 20 votes, and Dr Emeka Onuora got 15 votes. Chief Pius Ezedigboo Okoye was declared the winner of the election there and then.
But the President-General of the community, Chief Cyril Ejidike described Obiefuna’s account as half-truth.
“The caretaker committee that elected the first man (Ezedigboo), they didn’t have the mandate to do so. Their terms of reference did not include chieftaincy. So, the election was illegal. As a result, the other party went to court. But my congress asked me to withdraw the matter from the court. That’s how Emeka Onuora emerged after every process to that effect,” he explained.
Corroborating Chief Ejidike, Dr Emeka Onuora told our reporter how he emerged.
His words: “Basically, we have a constitution, the President-General, Congress and the Regent-in-Council. The Regent-in-Council is the ones ruling the community in the past five years after the demise of our Igwe.
“I came out of the screening and they presented me to the Regent-in-Council. They did their own ceremony and then I was taken to the Ndi Isi-Ezeani. These things were followed according to what we have in the constitution. So, we went to the Ndi Isi-Ezeani that crowns the monarch. I’m the third person he crowned. It all happened in May 16, 2016.”
When contacted on the telephone, the regent, Chief Samson Chiedu said he would make no comments on the matter.
But Chief Pius Ezedigboo Okoye, who corroborated what Jude Obiefuna said, maintained that he was massively voted in by his people in December 2015; insisting that the constitution of Oraukwu community was followed strictly.