…After embarrassing governor publicly, two monarchs trade insults
By Vincent Ujumadu, Awka
AFTER the Aguleri-Umuleri war that claimed many lives and property in 2000 over land, another one is brewing in the area, this time, over the breaking of kolanut. Kolanut is celebrated by the Igbo so much so that enormous time is spent doing so in any gathering.
Such was the occasion at Otuocha, the headquarters of Anambra East local government area, during the visit of Governor Willie Obiano to the area.
Kolanut had been passed around as usual and, when it was time for breaking it, the traditional rulers present disagreed over who should break it.
In the moments that followed, two monarchs, Igwe Benneth Izuchukwu Emeka of Umuleri and Igwe Alex Edozieuno of Aguleri Otu, who is the Chairman of Anambra East Traditional Rulers Council, exchanged hot words over the breaking of the kolanut. It was gathered that the disagreement embarrassed Obiano such that his protocol officers had to shelve the breaking of kolanut on that occasion.
Days after, Edozieuno announced the suspension of Emeka from the council for one year during which period he would not attend any meeting organized by the body. The Umuleri monarch reacted, saying it was improper for one person to suspend a monarch without approval from other members of the council. This altercation has led to mounting tension in the area and there are fears that it might result to public disturbance if not properly handled.
In a letter he addressed to Edozieuno and copied to all security agencies, the Chairman of Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council, the Commissioner for Chieftaincy Matters, the Chief of Staff to Governor Obiano, among others, Emeka said: “May we warn that this outright insult to the occupant of the traditional stool of Umueri Oke-Ebo shall not be tolerated subsequently.
“Igwe Benneth Emeka is a man of high level integrity and a gentleman par excellence. It is totally unacceptable to the traditional institution of Umueri that his person be debased in such untoward manner.
“Igwe Emeka only did the reasonable thing a man of integrity should do when some traditional leaders set out to distort culture, tradition and history. One of the commonest traditional practices surrounding the breaking of kolanut is the fact that it is the man of the house that breaks kolanut in his domain. A man’s domain remains his domain even if it has been inhabited by strangers or visitors.
“This is the reason the son of the soil is always sought to break kolanut in every formal gathering of the Igbo (even in weddings)! That the government, church or other institution is in possession of a portion of land does not deprive the traditional owner this right to break kolanut.
“We are convinced that this fact is very clear to you at least in your capacity as a traditional ruler, but you chose to distort this age long tradition for the reasons you have started exhibiting in your letter. May we notify you that Igwe Benneth Emeka breached no known traditional or customary practice; rather it was you who maliciously usurped his position and supplanted another in his stead. We see your so-called ‘suspension of Igwe Emeka’ as a sheer brazen daylight palace coup.
“We wish to inform you that it is of no consequence whatsoever since you do not possess any iota of authority to suspend any traditional ruler suo motu. We are still wondering whether the Anambra East Traditional Rulers’ Council is composed of a single member, ‘Igwe Alex Edozieuno’, to the extent that he alone will convene a meeting, draw up the agenda to suspend an Igwe from the council, draft the letter of suspension and serve same without the input of any other council member.
“On the age of Igwe Benneth Emeka on the traditional stool of Umueri; it is stunning that such shallow reasoning is coming from such hallowed quarters! That a man is over a hundred years of age does not accord him the right of the first son in another man’s house, neither does it translate to his headship of another household.
“Igwe Benneth Emeka’s young age on the traditional stool of Umueri does not and will never translate to the loss of his rights as the traditional ruler of Umueri. All privileges, authorities, powers and rights accruing to the occupant of that stool belong to him, unless he chooses to delegate such, just like the head of a family may choose to delegate the breaking of kolanut presented in his domain to his visitor.”
According to the royal father, the property, known as Anambra East local government secretariat, was donated to government by Umuleri and Aguleri, adding that Aguleri-Uno, Enugu-Aguleri, Eziagulu-Otu and Mkpunando-Out are all villages in the town known to the rest of the world as Aguleri.
He argued that the fact that accessibility to government warranted the cosmetic divisions for administrative purposes should not be thwarted into a historical fact.
Emeka added: “It is crystal clear that there was only one Aguleri in 1972 (when the land was donated to government). It is therefore instructive to note that only two towns, Umueri, Aguleri, and stranger elements were in existence when Otuocha Division was created. Umuoba Anam has never laid claim to any land in the hinterland because they know the proper history of Otuocha environs, not the concocted version Igwe Alex Edozieuno will like to confuse with. No land is ‘No Man’s Land’ even when such land has been given out to government for developmental purposes.
“On your directives to Umueri to overthrow their traditional ruler, we find that laughable knowing full well that Umueri is populated by peace-loving people. Umueri has no business with you, Igwe Edozieuno, neither have you any business with Umueri. We, therefore, advise that you concentrate in administering your community and desist from exporting restiveness to other communities.”
In a reply, Edozieuno said it was unfortunate that Emeka did not know the history of the ownership of Otuocha land he was laying claim to. His words, “It is an ignorance of history for one traditional ruler from all the communities to lay claim and right over the land because all the seven traditional rulers have equal right as sons of the soil to break kolanut in the vicinity of the secretariat complex”.