… From Igwe Neni Absurd Penance to Igwe Nawfia Tussle as a Metaphor for Succession by Assassination
By Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe, PhD
The then newly elected Governor of the newly created Delta State, the Urhobo-born Olorogun Felix Ibru had seated with all the prominent traditional rulers and political leaders of Delta across all ethnic divides at the famous Asaba Arcade for a special event—the first of such public meetings. Thereafter there came the time for the opening ritual of breaking Kola-nut in line with tradition.
Either by omission or commission, the Governor invited the Orodje of Okpe as the Chairman of the State Traditional Rulers Council to perform the ritual of breaking kola-nut, while the Asagba of Asaba, Obi (Prof) Chike Edozien as the custodian of the land, was seated present; an action that was contrary to the customs and tradition of every land in Delta State. What the most respected and revered Asagba did was to gracefully walk out of the Arcade while the Orodje was breaking the kola-nut in the fall view of the Governor and the entire audience. “Anya adia fu nti” (the eye does not see the ear), so says a popular adage among the West Niger Igbo.
The Governor thereafter announced his suspension. However, the same Governor was later compelled to tender unreserved apology to the people of Asaba, because his action raised a number of multi-faceted moral questions. Does the Orodje of Okpe know the revered ancestors of Asaba people? Do the revered ancestors of Asaba people know the Orodje of Okpe? Do the ancestors of Asaba understand Okpe language? It is true the State Governor has powers to suspend and dethrone a traditional ruler, but these must be done under the ambit of the law.
There must be a clear separation of roles and authority between the Governor of a State and the traditional rulers. The Governor operates within the ambit of the law as defined by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; while the traditional ruler operates within the framework of customary laws and tradition set out by his domain and sanctioned by the State Government under the relevant Edict.
The Delta State Governor has no authority under the Delta State Traditional Rulers, Council and Chiefs Law of 1998 to decide for a traditional ruler who he should associate with, or on who he decides to confer honorary chieftaincy title, as we have it in Anambra State today. The Governor of Delta State does not possess the express authority to blatantly disobey a court order in relation to a kingship or chieftaincy dispute, as in the case of Anambra State. Traditional rulers are neither politicians nor public servants, as such cannot be subjected to the selfish whims and caprices of power-drunken State Governors. But in Anambra State the reverse appears to be the case.
In Anambra State, traditional rulers in general, safe for the few founded on institutional customs and tradition with defined customary laws of succession, like the cases of Onitsha and Ogbaru Local Government Areas, are treated with ignominious traditional destitution by the State Government. In fact by socio-political ranking, the traditional ruler of an Anambra town comes below the President General of his Town’s Community Development Union, a monster dubiously created by the State Government to render their traditional rulers politically impotent and subservient to the selfish political interests of the Governor.
One reason for this despicable situation is that most of these traditional kingship institutions were created out of the British Warrant Chief system and thus lack the requisite institutional customary and traditional backgrounds, as well as prescribed customary authorities and roles. Most of these traditional rulers were also products of local elections presided over by their Presidents General of Community Development Union, who often look down on them as their making. Indeed this class of traditional rulers who form the bulk and domineering section of Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council lacks institutional customary immunity sanctioned by defined restrictive customary taboos and rituals of succession and office.
The second reason for their undermined regal values is the undue intervention of the Churches, particularly the Roman Catholic and Anglican Church leaders, who have contributed more in divesting Igbo cultural institutions of their much respected values and needed roles more than the European pioneers; creating devious schisms between the believers and non-believers in every Anambra State community. And as it is always the case with the outsider who creates crisis in a family, the priests soon become arbiters weirdly deciding the course of the communities’ socio-cultural and political mindsets.
In Delta State for instance, what business has the Roman Catholic or Anglican Bishop with the selection of a traditional ruler or the customs and tradition of a town? In the same vein, town development unions and their Presidents General cannot overstep their bounds to interfere with the selection of traditional rulers and Chiefs. Everyone knows his boundary. As the Odogwu of Ibusa, I cannot take any order or any form of instruction from the President General of Ibusa Community Development Union (ICDU), much more the Diokpa or Obuzo of Ibusa, as in the case of Anambra State.
Although this cannot be the case with the Obi of Onitsha and Atamanya of Atani, Osomala, Akiri-Ozizo, among other Ogbaru towns where there are time-honored customary paths to kingship succession with defined taboos and rituals of office. The cases of Eze-Nri of Nri and Oraeri might stand out apart from the above two extremes for obvious reasons which could form a separate account. Against this background, we notice therefore that most of the traditional rulers in Anambra State are treated as glorified civil servants by any power-drunken State Governor like Chukwuma Soludo.
It is instructive to note that Governor Willy Obiano had ignominiously suspended thirteen traditional rulers of Anambra State in August 2020 for travelling to Abuja with Prince Arthur Eze, a prominent son of the State, to visit President Muhammadu Buhari. The despicable conflicts generated by that fraudulent suspension are still raging in the associated communities. Indeed it was in the course of that awful suspension that one of the suspended traditional rulers, Igwe Alex Edozieuno of Mkpunando Aguleri in Anambra East Local Government Area, was assassinated. In the case of the popular traditional ruler of Igbariam in Anambra East Local Government Area, Igwe Nkeli Nzekwe, he died seven days after his suspension was lifted by Governor Obiano following his humiliating apology, which was similarly tendered by the traditional ruler of Alor in Idemili South Local Government Area, Igwe MacAnthony Okonkwo.
The case of Igwe Nawfia dispute deserves some details because as I subtitled this essay, it presents as a metaphor for succession by assassination, which is sacrilegious within the holistic realms of Igbo moral values. On February 15, 2000, assassins, probably sponsored by his Nawfia kinsmen haggling for his throne, entered the home of the traditional ruler of Nawfia, Igwe FPBC Nwankwo, the Osuofia of Nawfia, one of the then notable men of timbre and caliber of Igboland and murdered him in cold-blood. Both the Nigeria Police and Anambra State Government waded in and carried out their separate investigations and inquiries, the results of which are still in a state of coma today.
If it was not sacrilegious to the people of Anambra State that an Igwe was murdered in cold-blood in his palace, then nothing will be sacrilegious among the people, even the killing and eating of the sacred python. The assassination of Igwe FPBC Nwankwo reminds me of the callous assassination of Igwe Amobi III of Ogidi, Dr. Benedict Vincent Obiora Amobi in 1983 on the orders of the then Anambra State Commissioner of Police Mr. Bishop Eyitene with whom he had little altercations few days previously. There was no single Police investigation of the matter. The Igwe just went like that. In their reaction however, the people of Ogidi decided to install his successor from the same Amobi family.
That was exactly what the people of Nawfia did, against the expectation of those behind the assassination of their Igwe, when they insisted that a son of Igwe FPBC Nwankwo should succeed to the throne. That was how Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo emerged as the successor to his father’s throne, baring the fact that his immediate elder brother Dr. Chukwudi Nwankwo who is resident in the United States, was too devastated over the assassination of his father to engage in the tussle for succession to the throne.
Meanwhile those Nawfia elements that were behind the assassination of Igwe FPBC Nwankwo continued in their devious schemes to wrestle the throne from Igwe Nwankwo’s family. Their opportunity came when Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo came under the hammer of Governor Obiano’s suspension for being among the traditional rulers that accompanied Prince Arthur Eze to Abuja to meet President Muhammadu Buhari.
Led by the current Chief Protocol Officer and Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Chukwuma Soludo, Mr. Chinedu Nwoye, who also doubles as behind-the-scene traditional spiritual consultant to Governor Soludo, quickly enlisted the clandestine support of the current Roman Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha, His Grace Most Rev. Valerian Maduka Okeke, who convincingly instructed the gullible Governor Willy Obiano to quickly convert the suspension of Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo to dethronement and immediately install one of those behind the assassination of Igwe FPBC Nwankwo, Chief Daniel Ogochukwu Obelle as the new Igwe in place of Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo; an act that clearly validates the thesis of succession by assassination, and which by extension makes these usurpers accountable for the assassination of Igwe FPBC Nwankwo.
It is further instructive to note that Archbishop Valerian Okeke’s clandestine involvement in the removal of Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo was predicated on the mission of transferred aggression. Igwe Chijioke’s elder brother, the U.S-based medical doctor, Dr. Chukwudi Nwankwo who was of the same 1973 set at Christ the King College (CKC), Onitsha with Archbishop Okeke, has also been in the forefront of their Old Boys censoring Archbishop Okeke over his calculate ed mismanagement of their Old Boys Association fund for projects in CKC. It was in retaliation to this that the Archbishop readily offered himself as a tool to Anambra State political Devils, if only to use it as a means to cut his own pound of flesh from Dr. Chukwudi Nwankwo; an act that clearly deserves a formal petition to the Pope in Rome through the Papal Nuncio in Nigeria.
However, in his reaction Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo quickly ran to the High Court to seek justice, suing jointly and severally the Anambra State Government, the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, and the Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council. The attempt by Chief Daniel Obelle to be joined as a co-defendant was rejected by the court. In his ruling dated 21st June, 2022, Justice Peace Otti of Anambra State High Court 3, Awka set aside the installation of Chief Daniel Obelle as Igwe of Nawfia by Anambra State Government and subsequently ordered a return to status quo ante as at August 11, 2020, before the suspension. In other words, the ruling ordered the reinstatement of Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo.
Against the ruling of Justice Peace Otti however, the leader of the Nawfia clandestine group and current Chief Protocol Officer and Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Chukwuma Soludo, Mr. Chinedu Nwoye, boasted that the Anambra State Government under Governor Chukwuma Soludo, a Professor of Economics and former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, is not subject to the said court order by an Anambra State High Court and thus cannot abide by it. To buttress his crude deportment, with the order of the court still subsisting, Mr. Chinedu Nwoye personally sponsored with the backing of Governor Chukwuma Soludo the so-called maiden Ofala of Chief Daniel Obelle as Igwe of Neni on January 14, 2024.
This act of blatant disregard of Court order by a Professor-Governor can only come from Anambra State where anybody that becomes a Governor sees himself as next to God and above Jesus Christ. The question here is what lesson of democracy is Governor Soludo teaching people, particularly those who look up to Anambra State as a pace-setter among the five Southeast States, if he could encourage and protect the criminal disobedience of a lawful High Court order?
When Governor Chukwuma Soludo assumed the office of Governor one had expected that as a member of the intelligentsia, his administration should be intellectually-driven with profound sense of high moral judgment, calculated political policies, and prudent in the exercise of the powers and authority of his office. But having instinctively watched the devious trajectory of his policies and utterances so far, I have come to the conclusion that he is no more and no less a despotic democrat; in other words, a tyrant in the garb of democracy, driven by the mindset of Plato’s Philosopher-King, and attempting to run the Government of Anambra State like a corporate organization in the manner he ran the Central Bank of Nigeria.
This tyrannical pomposity soon became the political license for action by his officials. I watched with disgust the destruction of articles of trade and business outfits of petty traders in Awka by his agents, at the same moment the Igbo were protesting the destruction of similar property owned by the Igbo in Lagos State. I also watched right from my exile in the Philippines how the agents of Anambra State Government under his watch publicly assaulted the popular preacher Odumeje, who rushed to his Church to protest the demolition of his Church.
I watched with repulsion how Governor Soludo’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Awka Capital Territory Development Agency (ACTDA) Mr. Osy Onuko, applying his master’s tyrannical instinct ordered his guards to mercilessly brutalize the driver of GUO Transport Bus for overtaking his convoy on a Federal public road. Thank God for the laudable intervention of the Chairman of GUO Transport Company, Chief Godwin Ubaka Okeke who insisted on cutting his own pound of flesh; until emissaries began to pour into his quiet Onitsha residence.
It was in line with this trajectory of moral bankruptcy that Governor Soludo recently landed his despotic sledgehammer on the traditional ruler of Neni in Anaocha Local Government Area, Igwe Damian Ezeani, for the laughable reason of conferring an honorary chieftaincy title on his perceived political rival Senator Ifeanyi Ubah. Honorary chieftaincy titles everywhere are the prerogatives of traditional rulers and not subject to the permission or approval of the State Government.
Ironically, this is the same State where well-known fraudsters and scammers have ascended the thrones of their towns as traditional rulers. One does not therefore know what political gain Governor Soludo intends to derive from humiliating a traditional ruler of Neni first, by publicly suspending him, and second by forcing him to publicly apologize from his throne, apart from desecrating and bastardizing the traditional kingship institution of Anambra State and by extension Igbo customary values in general?
Those of us who have high regards for scholars in politics, particularly the like of Professor Chukwuma Soludo who exceedingly attained the pinnacle of his profession, had expected more from him than his predecessor, the alcoholic maniac Mr. Willy Obiano. But economic sense is not political sense. If Governor Soludo had political sense his first act should have been fence-mending and in-gathering of all the political and traditional flocks scattered by Willy Obiano. Unfortunately, as Eze Onye Agwanam (the self-conceited king), as a Professor, World Bank Consultant, and subsequently Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), he has not seen any qualified Anambra State indigene capable and intelligent enough to give him the needed useful advice.
Today the Willy Obiano of yesterday is facing a more devastating humiliation than he handed down to those traditional rulers. The question is, will Governor Soludo learn from the lessons of recent history through the experiences of other State Governors who occupied the same seat, especially his immediate predecessor Willy Obiano, and Yahaya Bello of Kogi State?
Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe, PhD
Odogwu of Ibusa Clan
Leader, International Coalition against Christian Genocide in Nigeria (ICAC-GEN)
Website: https://icac-gen.org Email: Nwaezeigwe.email@example.com
Date: February 9, 2024