By Tony Nwankwo
It is strange that Eze Atum Akwara, the Onyerubi I of Abam, a man with powerful friends across Nigeria, died over five years ago, yet Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State is allowing the remains of the first class King, a man, who at a stage was the 4th highest ranking traditional ruler in the state to waste at the Madona Catholic Hospital mortuary, located along Old Aba Road, Umuahia.
To add insult to injury, miscreants from the deceased’s home town of Idima Abam, Arochukwu LGA, determined to rubbish the King’s legacy in death, late last year, using forged affidavit, went to the hospital and successfully collected the king’s remains, which they paraded within the Abam area, preparatory to burying the king’s remains in the dead of night, before family members, alerted hospital authorities of the fraud, until a Madona mortuary vehicle was despatched to Idima to retrieve the corpse.
The miscreants had erected canopies and even printed mourning vests. The impostors had succeeded in selling the king’s prime farmlands, popularly called Wor Wor, so to clear themselves of the burden of guilt, chose to will the proceeds to the king’s burial arrangements. An abominable act in Abam, as anywhere in Igboland, were it not that corrupt elders want to profit therefrom.
Alive, the king was known for his wisdom. His love for people went beyond Abam. His achievements are legendary, until he collided with a local politician, who used government resources to destroy the man’s image at home, razing his palace to the ground and finally, sending the king on forced exile.
Eze Atum Akwara with his family, spent 12 years in forced exile at the palace of Eze Aro, Eze Ogbonnaya Okoro. According to Eze Atum Akwara, Eze Aro gave him sanctuary following the intervention of then Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, following the destruction of his palace.
Still in exile, Eze Atum Akwara, went to court and triumphed over his adversaries who, eventually, were ordered by the presiding justice at Umuahia to run round the court premises as punishment and thereafter beg for forgiveness for their wrongs against the king.
This they did. The king later returned home to his native Idima Abam, where he tried to pick up the pieces of his life before succumbing to the cold hands of death.
Yet, the enemies of the king have tried to bring his name to odium. The state government, expected to play a pivot role in his burial arrangements seems unconcerned. Meanwhile, some elders of the community, part of the clique responsible for the man’s exile in the first place, are trying to profit from his demise.
According to sources, during his days in exile, some palace servants masquerading as family members, tried to dispossess the king’s family, most of whom were in exile too, of their lands. Egged on by the politician, these touts tried to sell off prime lands belonging to the family.
So, on his return and as customs demanded, the king approached the community elders, soliciting that community government hold his lands in trust until the determination of the cases he filed against trespassers in court. He never asked them to release his estate to his enemies, or dispossess his family at his death. Now that he is dead, the elders are conniving with these touts to sell his lands to the same politician who was instrumental to sending the king on forced exile in the first place.
This is exactly what the elders have done. They allegedly connived with the politician to approve sales of the lands even while the matter is still pending at a High Court in Umuahia. Members of the king’s family who tried to protest were banished and are themselves currently in another exile, including the crown prince, Rev. Ngozi Atum Akwara. It is the same clique that went to the mortuary to steal the corpse of the king, an abomination, if not that it happened while the state government looks elsewhere.
The way it is, the insult is not only on the body of the dead king, but on the community where he was king throughout his adult life. It is also an insult to the government of Abia State, the Arochukwu Local Government, and the entire Abam clan.
How can the Abia State government sit idly by, while the remains of its first class traditional ruler, the Onyerubi 1 of Ohaeke Abam, a man who was king before Abia State was carved out of Imo State, a man who was king, during the regime of Governor Amadi Ikwecheghi, is berated and scorned by his enemies. If the truth be told, the remains of the late Onyerubi I, does not deserve to be treated with such ignominy.
The king was sent on forced exile on trumped up and unfounded charges which had been vacated by a court of competent jurisdiction at Umuahia. So, why could the state government be punishing the remains of the king by not stepping in and giving him a befitting burial. Is it lawful for Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to claim that the king did not reign during his term as governor, afterall governance is a continuum.
One understands there are Idima sons serving in the cabinet of this governor, are they not telling him that their king had died? Or is their interest only in acquiring the man’s property, instigating criminals to illegally smuggle the man’s remains and burying the king in the dead of night as they planned to do late last year before the intervention of legitimate family members. Sure, in Abia State, there must be laws against swearing false affidavits.
This is appealing to the government of Abia State, to intervene to ensure that the remains of a man who served his community and his state with such candour is laid to rest in dignity.
This cannot be asking for too much.
- Nwankwo is a staff of Vanguard Newspapers, Lagos.