By Hugo Odiogor & Evelyn Usman
Onicha Ugbo,located in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State, was, recently, in the news, following reports of alleged rape of women in the community by Hausa/Fulani herdsmen. Aside this was the report of rancor over the choice of one of its prominent sons as the Odogwu -designate( a traditional administrator).
But in this interview after the “Ida nzu” ceremony penultimate Saturday, in Onicha-Ugbo, where the Executive Vice Chairman of Exxon Mobil and publisher of Hints magazine, Mr Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, bagged the Odogwu title, the Obi of Onicha Ugbo, Agbogidi Chukwumalieze the first, bares his mind on the activities of Hausa/Fulani cattle rearers, saying they might have a motive than mere rearing of cattle in his community.
What is the celebration all about ?
Well, you call it celebration. But the celebration is yet to come. In any case, what is actually going on is that our last Odogwu, in the person of Justice Maido, passed on last November and, because of Christianity and modernization, the burial rites took place within a very short time otherwise, traditionally, it is supposed to be longer than that.
With his death, the seat became vacant and there was clamor for the Odogwu stool to be filled. But Odogwu is not a title anybody in Onicha Ugbo can take. There is a particular village that takes the title.
For instance, Onicha Ugbo is a community made up of five villages and each is entitled to a particular traditional title. Ogbobi village, for instance, has Esama title; Isepe has Odogwu title ; Obekenu has Iyese title; Unulu has Aza; while Agba has another type of culture because of certain things that happened in the past. Their own title is Iyese too.
Now, when the late Odogwu passed away, the stool became vacant. And it is only from Isepe that an Odogwu will emerge. It is not my duty to appoint one. It is the duty of the Isepe people to appoint. They are to come together and choose a particular person. When they started bringing different persons, I gave them eight market days to rub minds and decide to pick one particular person. I gave that order to the head of the Isepe people , in the person of Odafe, during one of the council meetings.
At the expiration o f that eight market days, he(Odafe) came and appealed that they had not been able to decide and asked for another four market days. Again, after the expiration of that four days,he came and told me that they were still unable to reach a consensus and begged me to give them more time. I said go ahead.
I was in Abeokuta for a meeting with other traditional rulers from Anioma, when they called to ask if they could come the next day that they have chosen somebody . I told him I would send for him at my arrival.
When I returned I sent for the Isepe heads.When they assembled, I asked Odafe ( their spokesman) who they had agreed to be their Odogwu and he gave the name as Dr. Ibe Kachukwu.
But the person in question was not in town. He was in the United States of America then. He was chosen in absentia. When he came back, we decided to chalk him (initiate him) and, today, he is at the palace to confirm his acceptance of the chalking(initiation ) as the Odogwu, that is to say, he has accepted . That is why I said it is not yet a ceremony but acceptance of the offer to be the Odugwu(warrior ) of this community.
It was in the news recently that your community had problem with Fulani cattle rearers. What actually happened?
The matter has been taken to the governor. We tabled it at a meeting in Warri. You see, the Hausa /Fulani are not rearing cattle here. They are looking for something. We are beginning to discover that they are here for something else.
Tell me, if you are rearing your cattle, won’t you take them to the bush to eat grass and drink water? Why will they rape women in their farms? Why do they eat people’s yams? Why do they take people’s property? Is that what they are expected to do? Eat grass and go if you are rearing cattle . But no! They will see a blossom farm and lead their cows to eat up farmers cassava , yam, corn and what have you. We have tolerated these people enough and have, therefore, shifted everything to the state government to look into it.
Kidnapping has assumed a worrisome dimension and it’s rampart in the eastern part of the country. What are you doing to secure your community against this scourge?
O nicha Ugbo has a very formidable vigilance group. The police has no power anymore. If you go to the police station in Onicha -Ugbo now , you will not see more than one or two persons; the Division’s officer and one other person. Police cannot cope with the issue of kidnapping at the moment and it is not their fault but that of government. This is because they are not well equipped . Go to Onicha Ugbo police station and see whether you will find policemen there..
What is the place of Onicha Ugbo in the Anioma kingdom?
I don’t think I have to blow my own trumpet. You know Iseluku, Onicha Ugbo and other towns around. It is you that will access Onicha Ugbo and know whether there is progress or not. I think you should give us the situation report of the community.
The only thing I can tell you is that we are never hostile to strangers. As for me, I grew up in Yoruba land and even schooled there and they never hurt me one day. . With that spirit , I protect the interest of strangers in this town. You can go and ask. Call any Yoruba man or Igbo man in this town and ask him how is Obi I treating him or her. If you ask three people, two will tell you that Obi Chukwumalieze is nice to strangers. But I do not know whether we are better than Iseluku and other communities around in terms of social lives and what have you.
When you read the report that Onitcha-Ugbo was boiling over the Odogwu issue, what was your reaction?
At first, I was taken aback. But when I read the report over , I discovered that the reporter did not put his name and concluded he could have been bought over. I am not a journalist but I know, for sure, that if a reporter did not put his name, then, he has betrayed the ethic of journalism and something needs to be done about that.
Back to the Odogwu stool, did you throw your weight behind the Odogwu designate? To make it milder, what has been his contribution to the progress of Onicha Ugbo as a community to warrant his nomination among others?
His contribution is enormous. I will only mention three. When I ascended the throne in 1999, Onitcha-Ugbo was the only town that had no access road to the expressway and that issue was like an arrow in my heart.
Everyday, I kept asking God what we could do? It was not something we could contribute money to construct. How much are you going to tell a market woman or a peasant farmer to contribute?.
But one day, I was driving to Iseluku when I saw people working on that access road. They did it from this road down to the expressway. I was surprised. I approached the present Iyese who was the contractor and asked , oga, who say make una come do this work? He said it was Dr Ibe Kachukwu.
The following morning, I went back to that road and discovered they had started taring it. So, I went to his house and asked if he was the person constructing the road. He said yes, that it was just part of his support to his community.
I came back and summoned my council chiefs and told them my opinion to give Dr Kachukwu a chieftaincy title, they agreed. We wrote to him but he came back and said he would not accept it except his father gave his consent but that it won’t stop him from helping his community.
But, at last, he took the title of Esaba of Ezechime. That is one.
He has given more than 900 people scholarship. Not only in Onitcha-Ugbo but in all Ezechime kingdom. And he is still doing it. . Again, you see, he bought motorbikes for most people ridding motorcycles in Onicha Ugbo.
He does that yearly.
Every year, he gives rice to women of this community. For women who can not afford a cup of rice, he gives them at least half a bag every Christmas. Go to Onicha Ugbo All Saints Catholic Church , he made it so. Last Christmas mass, they demanded for N10 million for a need ranging from construction and other vital things in the church, he gave a cheque of N4 million.
There is a Catholic nursery and primary school he is building there. Infact, he told all the Catholic churches to remove their hands that he will complete it. In addition, the Reverend Father’s residence was built by him.