Oko communal crisis deepens as youths threaten to dethrone monarch

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…Town union exco insists on removal of poly rector

BY NWABUEZE OKONKWO

ONITSHA—The communal crisis currently rocking Oko in Orumba-North Local Government Area of Anambra State appears to have deepened, with the two warring factions involved still threatening hell and brimstone against each other.

At the centre of the crisis are the traditional ruler of the area, Igwe Laz Ekwueme, executive members of Oko Peoples Union, OPU, on one hand, and the rector of Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Prof. Godwin Onu, and some concerned youths of the area on the other.

According to sources, the crux of the matter is that while the royal father and his subjects are calling for the removal of Prof. Onu as rector of the institution for allegedly sponsoring crisis in the area and at the same time allegedly making secret moves to relocate the institution to his hometown, Ezira, in the neighbouring Orumba-South Local Government Area, Onu and his loyalists among the youths are gunning for the dethronement of Ekwueme for allegedly standing against Onu’s second term bid as rector.

Although the state police command has just issued a warning against any group embarking on any form of protest in the area without police permit, tension still pervades the entire community at the moment.

A recent visit to the area showed that the atmosphere was calm, since after the April 19 invasion of the palace of the traditional ruler of Oko, Igwe Laz Ekwueme, and setting ablaze of his vehicles by some irate youths but the next line of action from both parties cannot be predicted for now.

However, investigations showed that the crisis may no longer take the shape of violence, rather, it may be restricted to petition writing, accusations and counter-accusation by both parties.

Speaking on the development, the National President of OPU, Mr. Cyprian Nwammuo, and Legal Adviser, Uchenna Okonkwo-Okom, insisted that Onu’s tenure expired on March 4, 2014, adding that any renewal of his tenure for second term would be regarded as a nullity.

Also in a petition to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State, signed on their behalf by Nwammuo and Igwe Ekwueme, the community called on the authorities concerned not to renew Onu’s appointment for a second term because he had failed woefully to manage himself peacefully and operate harmoniously within his work environment.

They said their grudge against Onu started in 2011 when they stumbled on his promise to his Ezira kinsmen that he would not leave Oko until he brought a campus of the polytechnic to his village, adding that they discovered that he had already procured the management’s approval for the Ezira offer.

They, therefore, urged the state government to set up a judicial commission of inquiry to be headed by a high court judge, serving or retired, with men and women of proven integrity, traditional institution as members to unravel the whole truth about what was happening in Oko.

But in his own reaction, the Public Relations Officer, PRO of the polytechnic, Onuchukwu Obini, told newsmen that the relocation of a federal institution like Oko Polytechnic was a legislative matter, which was instituted by law and must be changed or adjusted through the same process.

He said:   “In other words, Prof. Onu, as the rector, does not have the constitutional empowerment to relocate the institution, and besides, does it make sense that the Rector wants to relocate it from Oko to Ezira, which is less than 10 kilometer distance?

“If he is relocating the institution, he asked, why would he be interested in developing the campus by erecting no fewer than 17 different structures of not less than two floors each?”
He said Oko indigenes constituted about 60 percent of the entire work force in the institution, contrary to allegations that they were being marginalized, adding that at all times, they were given concession at both employments and admissions.

On the second term bid, Obini noted that Onu had already commenced the implementation of his second term agenda with last week’s flag off of a two-storey building project for the Wing ‘B’ of institution’s medical center.

He therefore appealed to the community to sheath their sword and close ranks with the institution to encourage further development of the area, even as he described Onu as a selfless person who not only just determined to develop the area, but to make a name and his career because peace and development go pari-pasu. He added:”we shal continue to respect the traditional institution, our founder and mentor, Dr. Alex Ekwueme.

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