By Chinedu Adonu
The monarch was stripped naked and beaten to death by some of his kinsmen at Amodu, Awkunanaw, while on their way to Enugu for a peace meeting at Government House.
His death caused the burning of about 20 houses belonging to those suspected to have masterminded his death.
Following the development, police detectives raided the community and arrested over 50 persons from the area. The community has long been deserted as police investigations continue.
However, the police had in a statement made available to the media declared one Chijioke Okenwa wanted, saying that he had “intensified manhunt for Okenwa, a.k.a Ona Plaza, over his alleged role with his cohorts in the gruesome murder of the monarch.”
The police further stated that a warrant of arrest had been issued against the suspects.
But, speaking for the first time since Igwe Nwatu was killed, his immediate family said that the monarch’s death was premeditated.
Speaking at a news conference over the issue in Enugu,the National President of Umunnam-Eji Family Union, Mr. Emeka Nnam, said the purpose was to bring the truth to light.
“We want to emphasize that the issue is not to defend the late Igwe, but to present the matter as it is. This thing is a family feud that predates the Igwe and Chijioke. Their fathers were at loggerheads with each other and it was just transferred to their children. Unfortunately, Igwe Nwatu thought the matter was over, he didn’t realise that Chijioke still bore a grudge.”
He recalled that though Igwe Nwatu was murdered on June 11, 2018, the events that led to his murder started much earlier and that all the principal actors were brothers.The Igwe and Chijioke Okenwa, he disclosed, were first cousins as their fathers were brothers.
According to him, the prime suspect was a radio mechanic in Enugu before his shop got burnt in the 90’s. “He was forced to run back to the village to avoid customers who were asking for their property. While he was in the village, his cousin, the late Igwe, then a young wealthy businessman, came back to the village from Lagos, so he went to him and pleaded for help to offset his debts.
“The Igwe reportedly told him to join him in Lagos, but Igwe’s father objected to the arrangement, reminding his son of the sour relationship between him (his father) and the boy’s father. But Igwe Nwatu resisted and took Chjioke to Lagos and made him the manager in his business at Alaba International Market.”
Nnam also recalled that Chijioke spent six years with Igwe Nwatu adding that he did not leave him, until sometime when Nwatu learned that Chijioke bought a shop at a cost of N3.2 million with his money at the Alaba International Market.
Igwe Stephen got angry and referred the matter to the police and he was arrested. The family reportedly intervened and pleaded with him to forgive his boy. He agreed on the condition that the shop be used then as his settlement by the Igwe and that was how they separated.
The duo were said to have reconciled later and when the Igwe buried one of his parents; Chijioke was there and helped in entertainment of some of the important guests.
“So everybody thought the issues had been rested not knowing that the suspect still allegedly bore grudges against the Igwe.
Build up to the crisis
An incident happened; Chijioke and his friends were returning to the community one night, (because the road from Amodu was insecure and robbers were operating there occasionally so the Igwe set up a vigilante group which was guarding the road. The rule then was that nobody came into the community after 10:00pm. So, that night, members of the vigilante group stopped Chijioke and his friends and told them to go back but they refused insisting that as full-fledged citizens, nobody could stop them from going home. He and his friends later went back and slept in Enugu. The next morning, he returned and complained to the Igwe who answered that it was the rule in the community. Chijioke took offence and that was the beginning of the problem as he went about complaining that the Igwe was using the vigilante group to intimidate members of the community. That was how the crisis deepened.
Later, Chijioke formed a group called Ogbozinne Progressive Union/Forum and used the platform as a vehicle to attack the traditional ruler. So he started inciting the people that even elderly women were being forced to pay levies. This matter went to our larger family, Ejigwe-Oyi, they tried to settle it in Lagos, but it was not successful.
Gang up against the Igwe
“They called a meeting. I was invited to the meeting and the Igwe was there, other traditional rulers were there. But before then, we had tried to intercede. We selected a committee before that meeting and tried to talk to Chjioke to stop that meeting but he insisted. Already, the Igwe himself had agreed to appear at the market square for which people felt he was ill-advised because their real motive was not the issue of illegal taxation and all that, it was just an opportunity to further turn the community against him.
That was what he did there. He started saying that Igwe was diabolical, that he was responsible for the murder of a lot of people in the community. Some people that even died before he became the Igwe, he was linked to their deaths. And Igwe was having a running issue with his younger brother, Nnajiofor so they co-opted him to come and accuse Igwe of rendering him useless through alleged occult practices.
“Based on that, we took the matter from the community and brought it to our family because all the major actors are from the same family including financiers of the crisis. At the family meeting, Chijioke denied calling the Igwe names including accusing him of killing people. The tape where he said it was played and confirmed by all after which the matter was referred to his inner family, having realised that the issue is a throw back.
So the matter continued; it kept getting worse. Chijioke now got his forum to resolve to remove the Igwe. I met him personally and tried to dissuade him but he refused. I told him that he is the wrong person to lead such a struggle and that some of the people will abandon him along the line. He said they would not abandon him because they had taken an oath and agreed not to abandon one another. He also told me that he has dedicated his life to the struggle. I asked which struggle, he said, the removal of the Igwe. He said he had never failed in any mission and would not fail in this one. At a point, I realised I wasn’t making headway so I decided to steer clear.
“There was a time I told the Igwe to reorganise his cabinet and bring in young people but given that he is a strict person, he refused. He, however, made some concessions when the issue of levy became so controversial. He stopped the levies and dissolved the vigilante group and collected their guns because he bought them.
“This same people wrote a petition to the Commissioner for Human Capital Development, that he dissolved the security outfit. The commissioner said he had no powers to disband the Neighbourhood Watch because it was a government’s creation; the security came back again.
“At a point, I told Igwe to call Chijioke as a brother and in my presence, he called him for them to discuss one-on-one. Chijioke asked for time to think about it; the next thing the news spread that Igwe was begging him.
“We were the people that were holding Igwe back because Chijioke was nobody to the Igwe. The traditional ruler was a fighter, he was very wealthy and did not beg to be Igwe. When the community was created, they invited him to be the Igwe.