*It is worrisome, we should fashion a general rule to safeguard our cultural values — Ohanaeze
*Monarchs should scrutinize recipients — Eze Nwabeke
*Some monarchs debased titles by advertising them on social media — Ozo Anaekwe
*It is against natural justice to give chieftaincy titles to people of questionable character — Igwe Ukuta
By Anayo Okoli, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chinedu Adonu, Chinonso Alozie & Ikechukwu Odu – Enugu
Ab initio, in Igbo land, chieftaincy titles are conferred only on illustrious men and women who have distinguished themselves in one thing or the other.
Some of them through their philanthropic disposition built roads, schools, churches, industries, markets, instituted scholarships to the people and other commendable and developmental projects/activities. Then, chieftaincy titles had value and respect. They were not common because they were not gotten easily.
But today, the situation has changed for bad. Chieftaincy titles no longer carry weight; they have lost their respect and value as they are purchased from traditional rulers, some at ridiculous prices.
Monarchs now dish titles out to even men of questionable characters, including known fraudsters, just because they have the money to throw around. Today, the once prestigious titles meant for men of good heart and goodwill have been bastardized and almost made worthless.
This, no doubt is giving some Igbo people concern, including the apex Igbo body, Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Some Igbo leaders, traditional rulers inclusive attributed the problem to various issues.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in particular, regretted that the cultural values of Ndigbo have been badly eroded in every aspect to the extent that chieftaincy titles now go to people with very questionable characters.
According to Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, the national publicity secretary of the apex Igbo body, the bastardization of chieftaincy titles is part of the entire mess Igbo culture and tradition have gone through.
“The crux of the matter is that our cultural values have been ferociously eroded in all ramifications. The issue of chieftaincy titles does not exist in oblivion. It is part of the entire mess.
“Our young men, in the words of Prof Chinua Achebe, “…whose palm kernels were cracked by benevolent gods…” covet chieftaincy titles as if their lives are tied to it.
“They entice many of our traditional rulers, those who are easily swayed, with irresistible gifts and financial inducements in order to be conferred with one chieftaincy title or the other when they have not made any mark in their respective communities nor have any appreciable pedigree at all.
“In Ohanaeze, we have frowned and condemned this craze and frail-like conferment of chieftaincy titles. It was not like that earlier. Contributions to welfare, development and/or upliftment of a given society at local, national or international level were the criteria for conferment of chieftaincy titles to deserving members.
“This latest opprobrious and staccato match eclipsing the conferment of chieftaincy titles is disheartening and vastly washing away the good intentions and values originally conceived in the outset.
“Currently, we have kept studied contacts with our traditional rulers and stakeholders to form a synergy, fashion a general and standing procedures in order to safeguard the system from cascading into a precipitous peregrination,” Ohanaeze spokesman said.
Sharing his concern, the Chairman, Abia State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze James Nwabeke, urged traditional rulers to always conduct background checks before conferring chieftaincy titles on people.
According to Eze Nwabeke, the checks are necessary to confirm if the intending recipient of the title is worthy of such honour by the community.
Proper background checks, he explained, will help to weed out undeserving persons.
He explained, however, that there are set standards for conferring chieftaincy titles in Igbo land and warned monarchs against abuse of the standards.
He said that titles could be withdrawn if it is discovered that the holder didn’t merit the honour. The monarch added that chieftaincy titles could be awarded to deserving persons not minding the financial status of the individual.
“We have already set standards for conferring chieftaincy titles in Abia State. The traditional rulers must make background checks on those to be conferred with chieftaincy titles. I know it is the right and duty of the traditional ruler to award chieftaincy titles but such rights must be exercised with caution.
“Traditional rulers must also make it clear to those to be conferred with chieftaincy titles, that their certificates could be withdrawn if it is discovered that they have engaged in conducts likely to bring shame and disrepute to the community.
“Chieftaincy titles are mostly awarded to illustrious Igbo sons and daughters and people from outside the community who have made remarkable achievements and contributions including acts of philanthropy in the communities.
Traditional titles could be bestowed on illustrious sons or daughters and people outside the community who are adjudged to be honest and have worked hard for the progress and upliftment of the community not minding the financial status of such individual.
“The Igbo is a proud race, we don’t condone criminal activities, laziness and irresponsible behaviour. We value hard work and resourcefulness”.
But a knight of the Catholic Church, Friday Nwosu blamed the bastardisation on indiscriminate creation of autonomous communities.
According to Nwosu, the major solution to the bastardization of chieftaincy titles in Igbo land is for the state governments to set strict rules on conferment of chieftaincy titles and stop the indiscriminate creation of autonomous communities.
He lamented that the traditional rulership has become a tool of partisan considerations, as it is being awarded to all manners of people without regard to standard and culture.
Nwosu who regretted that the traditional institution has been politicized, leading to imposition of traditional rulers on communities and conferment of chieftaincy titles on undeserving persons.
“In the first place, how and from what point did we find ourselves where we are in the issue of Igbo traditional rulership and chieftaincy racketeering? In the olden days, chieftaincy titles were conferred on illustrious Igbo sons and daughters and even strangers who have distinguished themselves in different endeavours.
“Some of those who were conferred with chieftaincy titles were through their philanthropic activities like granting of scholarships to students, building of markets and sponsorship of communal developmental projects. But the situation has changed; money is the issue.
Today, chieftaincy title can be awarded to a known criminal if he can afford to pay money and buy gift items to the monarch and his cabinet. It seems that we got it wrong when politicians began to collect money from communities to grant them autonomous status and appoint traditional rulers some of whom were palm wine tappers and motor park touts.
Traditional rulership is now based on partisan affinity. There’s no regard for standards-”, Nwosu said.
As a way forward, he said: “If one should go back to the 1963 gazettes of Eastern Nigeria, grading and status of clans and chieftaincies or even the 1976 reform by the then military governments, there may be a starting point for tracing how and where we got it wrong in the Igbo traditional rulership system”.
He advised the five state governments in the South East to study the Eastern Nigeria gazette of 1963 as well as the 1976 reforms to restore the standard and tradition of the Igbo traditional rulership system.
Chief Ozoh Anaekwe, a prominent Igbo leader who was a former President General of Onitsha Markets Amalgamated Traders Association, AMATA, also decried the act.
Anaekwe, a high chief of Ifitedunu, Dunukofia Local Government Area, Anambra State, believes that the bastardization has irretrievably gone bad because most of the recipients never deserved the titles.
According to him, “ideally, no responsible traditional ruler ought to give chieftaincy to somebody who is not an Ozo title holder, but regrettably, some of the traditional rulers advertise chieftaincy title in social media platforms for recipients to apply.
“By right, no responsible traditional ruler will give you a title without you being an Ozo titled man but regrettably, some of the Igwes do advertise chieftaincy tittles on Facebook and WhatsApp platforms”.
Anaekwe doubts if the state lawmakers will have the capacity to stop it because most of them are not even qualified to be in the house but found themselves occupying their seats by chance.
“Who and who are the House of Assembly members that will regulate and pass the law preventing undeserving people from being conferred with chieftaincy titles. Many of the so called lawmakers are fraudsters who are not worthy to occupy the seats.
“When we get good governors and elect good leaders to lead Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Igbo socio-cultural organization, the people who shall not depend financially, mostly from politicians, then the Igbos will right the wrong of conferring such prestigious and respectable chieftaincy titles to undeserving people”.
For a foremost traditional ruler in Enugu State, Igwe Herbert Ukuta, it is against natural justice to give chieftaincy tittles to people with questionable characters.
According to Ukuta, the traditional ruler of Iggah ancient kingdom in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, indiscriminate conferring of chieftaincy titles to people with questionable characters in Igboland is against natural justice which would further diminish the value attached to the supposedly revered titles.
He said that integrity and community development drive should be the yardsticks for determining the candidates who would be given the titles and not monetary inducements as being witnessed in the present Igbo nation.
To restore the dignity of the titles, Igwe Ukuta suggested that the Ministry of Chieftaincy Affairs in each state should be made to screen the candidates for chieftaincy awards to ensure that they are impeccable in character to deserve such titles.
The monarch blamed religious bodies as part of the problem by allowing such titles to be given to members of their churches.
“If we want to restore the dignity of chieftaincy tittles in Igboland, let us channel the activities to Ministry of Chieftaincy Affairs in each state towards making the exercise credible.
“Before anyone should be installed as a chief by any traditional ruler, let the Commissioner for Chieftaincy Affairs screen the candidate to ensure that they don’t have questionable characters.
“The candidates should also be made to pay a compulsory sum of money as a way to indicate interest for the titles. It is not everybody that go to seminary schools that become reverend fathers at last. Some are screened out, the same should apply in giving chieftaincy titles.
“Let it be that the state recognizes anyone taking chieftaincy titles in Igboland. It should not be a child’s play where someone greases the palm of a traditional ruler and he is given the titles.
“It is against the law of the land and natural justice to give chieftaincy titles to someone because he has money. His character maybe questionable and he could use his money to arrogate undue powers to himself and intimidate people unnecessarily.
“If it is possible, let the state Houses of Assembly pass it as a law that the candidates must pass through the aforementioned conditions before being considered for the tittles. Let the lawmakers use National Orientation Agency and Ministry of Information to bring the message to everyone in the state.
“Churches are also responsible for the bastardization of the titles. Why should church authorities’ coronate igwes and allow them to wear red caps in churches?
“What traditional backup do they have? Why should they not ordain junior bishops and popes in that manner? Proliferation of red caps also contributes to this bastardization.
“Why should children be abusing these titles all in the name of religious activities? Let states Houses of Assembly make laws mandating only chiefs to wear red caps and enforce it with police to ensure adequate compliance”, Igwe Ukuta said.
Chief Emeka Diwe, the President General of the association of South East Town Unions, ASETU, regretted that the criteria and modalities for conferment of chieftaincy titles in Igbo land have been reduced to money, saying that it is part of erosion of the value system which his association is working hard to restore.
According to Diwe, the decay is in one sector of the society as “even religious blessings have become commercialized, academic grades purchase-able and political offices buyable, too. It is a malaise that has pervaded and afflicted the entire system.
“The refined values, namely integrity, credibility and pursuit of excellence have become endangered. To address this problem does not necessarily require any legislation. What needs to be done is holistic reorientation through those agents and institutions of socialization, the family, the school, the town union, the church,the mass media, among others.
“To end the bastardization of chieftaincy titles, our people need to be taught and re-taught that the essence of such titles is not to crown despicable vices but to celebrate and institutionalize lofty virtues”.
In his submission, the traditional ruler of Obudi/Agwa, in Oguta local government area, Eze Ignatius Asor said one way to stop this debasing of titles is by giving monarchs constitutional roles to help to checkmate their activities, especially in doing the right things in the society.
“Chieftaincy title is given to a person either in his community or from another community, may be because of what he has done or achieved for them. But the way it is going now, it has been commercialized.
“It is not only in Igboland. It is happening in the North, West and other parts of the country. We are now in the era when wealth is being celebrated above dignity and it has become part of us.
“Some people who have acquired money, thinking that they have arrived will go to the extent of saying that they need high chief not just a chieftaincy title but high chief. All this is to show that they have arrived.”
“To enact a law to control the process is possible. I want to tell you that this it depends on individual king. You see some traditional rulers that cannot afford three square meals those traditional rulers are the ones that fall for the influence of the people who come to buy chieftaincy title from them. For me, I give chieftaincy title on
merit,” Asor said.
On the way forward, he said that “there is need to give traditional rulers constitutional responsibility, categorize the traditional rulers. Like in those days when you have first class, second class and third class. Then they will be able to enact a law to checkmate those who are not up to standard and who indulge in doing the wrong thing
and give them appropriate sanctions.”
In his view, a community leader in Amechi autonomous community, Enugu South Local Government Area, Enugu State, Chief, Innocent Ogenyi Innocent blamed states governors for the problem.
According to him, the governors aid and abet this ugly situation through imposition of monarchs against the wishes of community.
“The state governments are not helping matters; they will select their cronies and friends and make them traditional rulers without recourse to the community feelings and they rule with impunity. Most of the monarchs we have today are friends of governors.
Before you know it they will go to government house and get certificate of Chieftaincy and come back to force himself on the people. It should be discouraged. Let the community chose who will lead them because they know the capabilities of everybody in their community”, he said.
“In Igbo land the chieftaincy title is a borrowed tradition. The system wasn’t chieftaincy abi-nitio; it was based on the elderst man (Onyeishi). The chieftaincy came in with the colonial masters. Our system of governance was by the oldest man in the community which is the man that is respected.
“These days, young men without even knowing sources of their income or livelihood will just come and take chieftaincy title. That is what is causing problems in our communities. It doesn’t matter whether you’re
traditionally inclined. What we see these days is once you made your money you come home and start pushing for chieftaincy title by dishing out cash, given bribes”, Ogennyi said.