BY NWABUEZE OKONKWO
ONITSHA – Crisis is now brewing in Atani community in the Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State following an alleged selection and presentation of Mr. Anthony Ngodi of Umudaike Village to officials of the Local Government as the new Igwe-elect (traditional ruler-elect) of the community.
A section of the community known as Atani Group ‘B, led by the incumbent President-General of Atani Development Union, ADU, Dr. Nwike Okwuosa, was alleged to have visited the Local Government Secretariat in Atani a forth night ago and presented Ngodi to the Council officials as their new Igwe-elect.
But the visit and presentation of Ngodi did not go down well with another section of the community identified as Atani Group ‘A’.
Within one week of the presentation of Ngodi, their elders mobilised themselves and stormed the Local Government secretariat to protest what they described as an illegal selection.
During the counter visit, the placard-carrying elders and people of Group ‘A’, who were led by the Deputy President-General of ADU, Chief Okeluwa Amamchukwu and Sir Francis Ugbaja, accused Okwuosa and his B group of going contrary to the acceptable norms and procedure recently adopted by both groups on the election of the Igwe and town union leaders.
Some of the placards read: “Atani has no Igwe-elect”, “We say no to imposition of Igwe ton Atani people”, “It is the turn of Group ‘A’ to produce Igwe of Atani”, “Our P-G has betrayed Atani people”, “We urge Governor Peter Obi to intervene before Atani will be on fire”. The elders and people of Group ‘A’ numbering over 200, told the Council boss, Chief Victor Nwachukwu Agolue, to disregard any presentation made by Group ‘B.
They alleged that at a meeting held at the Central School Hall, Atani on November 2, 2009 and attended by chiefs, elders and youth from both groups, they resolved all the lingering disagreements over the town union amicably to the satisfaction of all. The meeting was allegedly presided over by Prof. Ben Nwabueze, SAN.
The group recalled that part of the resolution was that every leadership position in the community should be rotational among the A and B groups, adding that with the latest presentation of Ngodi as the new Igwe-elect, the President- General and his ‘B’ group have violated the arrangement.
They lamented that Group B is presenting the Igwe-elect from their own group without considering the fact that the past Igwe and incumbent P-G are from Group ‘B’.
In a six-page petition dated February 3, 2014 and entitled: “ Protest against the presentation/recommendation of Mr. Anthony Ngodi as Igwe-elect of Atani community” which was presented to the Council boss, the Group recalled that as far back as 1941, when crisis erupted in the community, the colonial masters set up a panel led by D.P.J. O’connor and the committee came up with a resolution that the town be divided into two groups namely Group ‘A’ and ‘B’.
In the petition jointly signed by Chiefs Joseph Ohanwuba, Nkodi Ojini, Ben Obi Ukadei, Emezina Umunna and Nwabunwanne Nwadukwe, they maintained that in present case, the community instead of taking laws into their hands, decided to openly register their dissatisfaction to the Council.
They told the Council chairman that the entire Atani community could be going into unimaginable crisis if the State government does not look into the current crisis brewing in the community.
Responding, the Council boss commended them for their peaceful protest instead of taking the laws into their hands. He pledged to invite both parties as soon as possible so that an amicable settlement could be brokered. He urged the protesters to return to their homes and wait for his invitation.
Reacting to the development in a telephone chat, Okwuosa who is the community’s president said he is neither the traditional primer minister of Atani nor a king maker.
He claimed that he was just invited by the stakeholders to accompany them to the Local Government secretariat for the presentation of the new Igwe-elect.
Also reacting, the President of Atani Aborigenes and Non-Aborigenes Resistance Frontiers, Comrade Arinze Awogu, said the Igweship issue should not arise in the community for now because there is no peace yet.
“How can a community presently enmeshed in crisis and is currently sitting on a keg of gun powder be talking of producing an Igwe? It wouldn’t work.
The best for now is for the State government to pursue peace first and thereafter, talk of having an Igwe,” he said .
He advised both parties to drop the issue of Igweship for now and begin the process of genuine reconciliation. after which the Igweship case can come up on a platter of peace and tranquility.
Efforts to contact Prof. Nwabueze who comes from the B Group proved failed.