By Nwabueze Okonkwo
ONITSHA — Awka, the ancient Igbo city whose blacksmiths produced local weapons for Ndigbo during the medieval ages is boiling. Awka, also the capital of Anambra State is boiling for no other reason that the king makers including all the Nze-na-Ozo title holders are insisting that their Traditional Ruler, His Royal Majesty, HRM, Igwe Gibson Nwabueze Nwosu (the Eze-Uzu Awka II), must vacate his throne for allegedly supporting spouses of dead couples to perform the from dust-to-dust ritual for the deceased.
The crises started on the Good Friday, April 14, 2017, when members of the Awka Council of Kingmakers, which is the highest authority as stipulated in the 1986 traditional rulers amended constitution for Awka town pronounced the dethronement of Igwe Nwosu, for supporting the dust to dust ritual, which was considered a sacrilege in Awka. The Kingmakers gave their reason for the dethronement of the Eze-Uzu as his failure to abide by the code of conduct and privileges of Awka royal throne which they said he signed into law as traditional ruler on January 1, 2000 in the presence of four witnesses.
They claimed that Eze Uzu was invited to defend himself before the king makers when it was discovered he was not obeying the code of conduct, which he reportedly signed but he failed to honour the invitation. The Secretary of Ozo Awka title holders, Dr. Aneze Chinwuba, told South East Voice that although Igwe Nwosu kicked against his dethronement and was being supported by the Anambra State government, “We informed the government, accordingly but the state Commissioner for Local Government and Community Matters and the Special Adviser to Governor Willie Obiano on Chieftaincy and Town Union Matters, Ikechukwu Onyeabo insulted us in that regard.”
According to Chinwuba, “In our meeting (Izu) of April 30, I was appointed the moderator by the kingmakers. On that same day, we picked Ozo Nwibe Nwosu from Umudioka village, Awka, a 116-year old man as the Otochalu Awka (oldest Awka man), while his deputy is Ozo Michael Nwume, 110, from Umunoke village. In Awka royal institution, the head of Ozo titled men serves as chairman of council of king makers. The present chairman of king makers and head of Ozo Awka is Ozo Obuora Esse ll.
“It is Ndi Ozo that has the constitutional responsibility to checkmate the activities of the traditional ruler and it is the responsibility of the king makers to approve or disapprove the list of those to be conferred with chieftaincy titles in Awka. So, it was in an effort to discharge our responsibilities as king makers that we discovered that Eze-Uzu disobeyed the law safe guarding the royal throne. The traditional ruler can be removed by the king makers if he goes insane or if he fails to comply with the code of conduct.
“He, himself signed this code of conduct and privileges in the presence of four witnesses, namely: the then chairman of Awka king makers, Sylvester Egwuonwu Onejeme, father of Ifeatu Onejeme, the incumbent Commissioner for Finance in the state. Sylvester qualified as a medical doctor in 1943 and became the Ozo title holder in Awka in 1961. Others who were present when he signed the code of conduct were the then secretary of Awka king makers, Prof. Kanayo Onyiliogwu of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN; the then President-General of Awka Development Union Nigeria, ADUN, Pat Ibe and the then Secretary-General of ADUN, Ifeanyi Obiakor.
“Now that the dethroned Nwosu is from Isiagu village in Amikwo quarters of Ezi Section in Awka, we have mandated Ifite chieftaincy section whose turn it is to present an Igweship candidate to be screened by the council of king makers to do so and if the candidate scales through, he will replace Nwosu as the next Eze-Uzu Awka. Such a candidate must, however, be an Ozo title- holder but if he has not yet taken the Ozo title, he will do so before coronation and we hope that both the presentation and coronation would have taken place by November, this year.
“Apart from the king makers, those who endorsed his dethronement were the Otochalu Awka and his deputy, with 10 representatives from each of the 33 villages in Awka.
Performing dust-to-dust ritual
“Also, the Secretary of Awka Kingmakers, Mr. Okechukwu, noted that Nwosu was not only being punished because he supported those who performed dust-to-dust ritual when their spouses died, but because he desecrated the traditional institution in many ways. Okechukwu said that Nwosu created a parallel Awka kingmakers association, the Ozo Awka Society and ADUN leadership among others.
“You see, performing dust-to-dust ritual is a sacrilege in Awka but Nwosu supports it in the name of being a Knight of the Catholic Church. For you to be a traditional ruler, you must respect the traditional institution, no matter how religious you are. If you know you can’t cope with the traditional institution, then you vacate the seat and allow others who are ready to respect the traditional institution to take charge…,” he said.
However, in his reaction, Igwe Nwosu told South East Voice that he had not violated any tradition or code of conduct of Awka and challenged his accusers to controvert his statement.
“I challenge them to produce one single evidence to prove that I violated the code of conduct and privileges or that I desecrated the traditional institution as they are accusing me of,” Nwosu added. Meanwhile, some top government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that Nwosu was still the traditional ruler of Awka as no other person had been recognized to replace him.