How power tussle between S’East monarchs/Town Union Presidents obstructs devt
Some Igbo monarchs

By Anayo Okoli, Dennis Agbo, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Peter Okutu, Ugochukwu Alaribe & Chinoso Alozie

Town unions are vital administrative units in Igbo land. They are indeed the elected government at the grassroots. They are recognized by state governments in the South East as necessary channel for rural governance, maintenance of peace and security and a vehicle to drive and engender developments in the communities, working together with the traditional rulers.

But in many communities, the union leaders, particularly, the Presidents of the town unions are at loggerheads with the traditional rulers over power tussle. This had denied some of the communities government projects and other benefits.

Some traditional rulers and Igbo leaders have expressed worry over the issues even as they trade blames, with some accusing state governments of sowing the seed of rancour. Traditional rulers accuse the town union leaders of usurping their powers.

Town Unions PGs usurp our functions –Abia monarchs

In Abia State, the power tussle has manifested openly that some traditional rulers in Abia State have come out to accuse town union Presidents of usurping their roles as monarchs, leading to a clash of interests and confusion in the communities.

The monarchs under the aegis of Christian Royal Fathers of Nigeria, CRFN, have gone ahead to ask the state government to invoke relevant sections of the “Traditional Rulers Autonomous Communities Law of 1991”, to stop the alleged usurpation of powers of monarchs by Presidents of town unions.

According to the monarchs, the town unions Presidents are under the control of traditional rulers of their various communities, hence their authorities as monarchs should not be undermined by any of their subjects under any nomenclature.

Recognition of town union PGs is an aberration—Eze Ofoegbu

The national chairman of Christian Royal Fathers of Nigeria, Eze Nnamdi Ofegbu, who is the traditional ruler of Umudiawa, Ohuhu Clan, Umuahia North Council, see the recognition being accorded the leadership of town unions as an aberration of the law that should not be allowed.

“For us, it is unacceptable for town unions Presidents to arrogate to themselves, functions not prescribed for them by the law. They are not a law unto themselves, but are amongst the subjects of traditional rulers”, Eze Ofoegbu said.

According to him, “Article 19 (A) of Law No. 8 of 1991 as amended passed by the Abia State House of Assembly which is the

‘Traditional Rulers Autonomous Communities Law’ gives traditional rulers the function of assisting in the maintenance of law and order in their domains”.

Eze Ofoegbu further explained that the first term of reference under the law statutorily gives traditional rulers the status of chief executive officers of their various communities, insisting that at nowhere does the law give town unions Presidents power to superintend over the affairs of any community.

“The first term of reference under that law further states that an Eze (monarch) is the number one citizen and chief executive officer of his autonomous community; that he shall serve as the chairman, Eze-in-Council of the town as well as the custodian of the customs and traditions of the community”, the monarch further explained.

Struggle for community funds is the problem—former PG

However, a former President General of one of the autonomous communities in Abia State, Chief Ndubuisi Ezeji attributed the conflict between traditional rulers and Presidents General of most town unions in Igbo land to struggle for community funds. He explained that some monarchs seek to frustrate the efforts of the PGs and determine what happens at the town unions; leading to conflicts with the indigenes taking sides.

The former town union President General urged communities to ensure the election of men of integrity and identifiable means of livelihood as traditional rulers and PGs, stressing that such people would even deploy their resources for community development.

“Town Unions are important structures in the administration of Igbo communities. They help to drive and engender developments in the communities like building of markets, schools and town halls. They work together with the monarchs but some of the traditional rulers want the PGs to act as their personal aides who must run to them on how to run the town unions. A traditional ruler should complement the efforts of the town union to bring development, not antagonizing them because of his selfish interest.

“During my tenure as the PG of my community, my traditional ruler made several attempts to frustrate every effort to deploy community funds to execute developmental projects. We realized huge money from fundraisings but the monarch demanded some amount to settle debts he claimed the community owed some people. He always wanted any fund realized to be taken to his palace. I also opposed his attempts to levy the community on flimsy excuses.

“The community even lost the right to host a project brought by a multinational company because of the selfish interest of our monarch. When he realized that I was not ready to hand the community funds to him, he became antagonistic and accused my executive of disrespecting him. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was our decision to lodge any fund received in the bank within 24 hours without coming to his palace”, he said.

Governments create the confusion by imposition of leaders—Ozoh Anaekwe

In Anambra State, a prominent member of Nze na Oba Dunukofia and Nze na Oba Ifitedunu, in Dunukofia Local Government Area, Chief Ozoh Anaekwe attributed the power tussle in some communities to state governors, commissioners and their appointees on town union issues, saying that some of them do not even know the rudiments of the Igbo culture and tradition.

Chief Anaekwe said that some governors and their appointees on town union issues and welfare were not born in Igbo land and therefore, not grounded with the Igbo culture and tradition and therefore not capable to handle such issues.

“Some of the political office holders were not born and brought up in Nigeria and Igbo land in particular and therefore do not know what to do and how to do things that will bring peace and development in Igbo land.

“In Igbo land, we do not impose people on the communities, particularly the traditional ruler and the Presidents General of town unions on the people. The egalitarian nature of Igbo people and leadership in Igbo land allows for people to be part of the choice of who becomes their leaders, the traditional ruler and the Presidents of the towns. But some governors in Igbo land do not do that and that is why they have contributed to the crisis rocking the communities in the choice of these two leadership positions in towns in South East.

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“You know that dubious people like to forcefully occupy or be in the position of leadership anywhere they are found, while those who are good, honest and ready to serve are begged to take or accept positions of leadership unlike the dubious ones who struggle for it and are ready to kill in order secure such office.

“However, if governors, commissioners and Special Advisers to the governors on Local Government and Town Matters or Affairs, as the case may be, want to ensure peace in the communities and bring development, they should stop imposing people on communities, they should allow the people in the communities to chose their leaders because they know who is who.

“Governors should not depend on the traditional rulers, outgoing Presidents General, his close friends, his commissioners, advisers and assistants to chose who becomes the traditional ruler or the Presidents General in communities.

“If the governors and their government want to ensure peace and bring genuine and sustainably development in the communities, they should use chairmen and secretaries of the age grades, chairmen and secretaries of the Ichies, chairmen and secretaries of the Nze na Ozo, chairmen and secretaries of village councils, Igwe in council, chairmen and secretaries of the youths, then Igwe and the Presidents General, whoever they agree is what government should use to arrive at who becomes and who the government accepts as the President General.

“Using this method has become very imperative because some Igwes are money bags and they used money to hijack Igweship  positions in their communities.

“Some are Advance Fee Fraud kingpins, popularly known as 419 who took their positions through dubious means and intimidation and harassment of their people.

“Some Presidents General are also known 419 kingpins who use intimidation to occupy their present positions but whoever the community agrees on through the method I have suggested earlier, that is chairmen and secretaries of age grades, chairmen and secretaries of Ozo title holders,chairmen and secretaries of Ndi Ichie representing the kindred, chairmen of villages, with Igwe and President General, and whatever they tell the governor or government they do it.

“The governors and members of their government should not depend only on the President General or the traditional ruler, (the  Igwe) because some of them are fraudulent and used intimidation and harassment to take their positions.

“The culture and tradition of Igbo people do not accept or depend on one man in selecting or appointing who becomes the President General or the traditional ruler. It is not a one man monopoly thing. It is not in our culture and tradition that one man should monopolize community decision; we do not do it that way in Igbo land.

“The Igwe and President General positions are imposed on us by the British colonial masters, our culture is collective decision making and that is why we have town union meetings and village meetings; so the governors and their appointees and government entirely should consult with the people through these their representatives.

“And when government is disbursing money to these communities, it should not be through the account of the Igwe or President General, but through the Development Account whose signatories are appointed by the people in the communities. The people know those that are honest in their communities.

“They also supervise the developmental projects the government is executing in the communities. This is because some traditional rulers and Presidents- General are dubious and cannot handle community funds honestly.

“The groups I have mentioned can tell the government the honest people the government can involve in handling their money and affairs.

“Many traditional rulers and Presidents General know and are friends to the governors, commissioners and special advisers and therefore get their positions through imposition. The two positions of traditional ruler and President General are mostly gotten through imposition by the governor, government or the court and in most cases by the Police.

“Many traditional rulers and Presidents General in Anambra State are imposed on the people by successive governors and their predecessors. That is why there are crisis in the communities but the age grade chairmen and secretaries, chairmen of Nze na Ozo, chairmen and secretaries of Oji Ana are selected based on merit and integrity by the people and that is the real Igbo cultural and traditional way of selecting leaders”, Anaekwe explained.

Tussle unnecessary and counter-productive — Engr Emelobe

For Engineer and a community leader in Oba, from Idemili South Local Government Area, Anambra State, Augustine Emelobe, the tussle between the traditional rulers and Presidents General are unnecessary and
counterproductive.

According Emelobe, power supremacy tussle between the two important people in any town in Igbo land spells doom for such towns because they are the pivot on which development and progress of any communities rotate.

“Town Union leadership as led by President General is the grassroots organizations in the South East, necessary to galvanize the local populace with the monarchs.

“There should be minimal frictions between the traditional institutions and the elected executives of the town unions, particularly the Presidents General of the communities for meaningful economic and human development of the communities.

“The responsibilities of the two institutions, the traditional ruler and the President General are well defined in the community’s constitution and where there is friction, commonsense should be applied for the benefit of the community.

“I advocate separation of powers for the monarchs and the Presidents General in South East communities to avoid clashes and power struggle, to attract both government and community development projects, as such will reduce youth unemployment and poverty in our communities”, he said.

Both monarchs and PGs receive stipends from Enugu govt

The story is a bit different in Enugu State, where it was also noticed that one of the main issues leading to misunderstanding between Presidents General of town unions and their traditional rulers is the issue of funding for the community administration.

In realization of that, the Enugu State government in its wisdom decided to create room for separate monthly stipends to both the Presidents General and the monarchs.

Whereas the monarchs receive their stipends directly, through the local government councils, the town union leaders receive theirs via the ministry of Rural Development after the money is routed from the councils.

The problem, however, is that some town union leaders complain that the stipends don’t get to them even after the local governments have paid the ministry of Rural Development for disbursement. The PGs practically accused the ministry officials of embezzlement of their fund.

The community leaders said they had lodged complaints to the Commissioner for Rural Development, Prince Emeka Mamah, whom they said has failed to address the issue since December 2019.

The coordinating President General in Uzo-Uwani local government area, Chief Celestine Ozor and that of Igboeze North council, Chief Hillary Onah lamented that all efforts made to draw the attention of the commission and the permanent secretary of the Ministry have failed.

They said the ministry had invited them for a meeting where they were told that the cashier in the ministry tampered with their fund and urged them to show understanding.

According to Chief Ozor of Uzo-Uwani, “In the last meeting we had 17 local government coordinators, they told us that we should exercise some patients with them, that the person who took over from the cashier has equally been transferred because of the confusion created again”.

The commissioner, Prince Emeka Mamah said that the Permanent Secretary was in a position to speak on the issue since he had signed all the cheques. “My own is to give approval and I have given all the approvals. There is no approval that waits on my table.”

140 autonomous communities in Ebonyi are handling N10 million project each – VP, Association of South East Town Union

In Ebonyi State, the government seems to have carefully coordinated the functions of the community leaders.

According to the Vice President, Association of South East Town Union and State Chairman, Ebonyi State Association of Town Unions, Chief Ugochukwu Akpa, “Governor David Umahi has initiated developmental projects in communities through the town union leadership, traditional rulers and local government authorities, as a way of not only developing the localities but also for them to have a sense of belonging in the affairs of the state.”

He attributed the existing peace and harmony at the community level to the town union alignment with the Ministry of Border, Peace and Conflict Resolution alongside other security forces in the state.

“The contributions of the town union leadership in the autonomous communities of the state including the South East region cannot be overemphasized. They are too many. They help in maintaining peace and order and this they do, by aligning with the Ministry of Border, Peace and Conflict Resolution.

“For instance, we have been able to checkmate completely the farmers and herders skirmishes within the localities. The town unions in Ebonyi have always waded into this matter and that is why there is considerable peace and understanding in Ebonyi State.

“If not for the rare influence of the town union leadership at all levels in the state, it would have become a different ball game. We make sure that there is no fight with the herdsmen as land disputes are amicably resolved. In Ebonyi, we had few cases which had been settled without much stress. We work with government to ensure that such things are nipped in bud

“The traditional rulers are the fathers of the town union presidents. It might interest you to know that the town union swears in the traditional rulers and hand them over to the government, who in turn, gives them their Staff of Office. The town union is the administrative force within the communities while the traditional rulers make peace.

“They supervise projects and ensure even development across localities. For instance, the governor has doled out 10 million naira to each autonomous community to carry out projects of their choice like construction of boreholes, shopping malls, civic centres, among others. This is ongoing in Ebonyi State. This initiative makes us not only feel part of the state but also part of the administrative circle of governance. This administration, being sensitive to the need for security at all levels, has included town union leadership into the State Security Council Meeting, where other service chiefs are involved. Traditional rulers are also part of it.”

Problems in Imo communities started from Okorocha and was ended by Uzodinma – Imo monarch

In Imo State, the traditional ruler of Amaifeke in Orlu council, Eze Emmanuel Okeke blamed the tussle on the law that created Community Government Council, CGC, under Rochas Okorocha, but said the repeal of
the law by Governor Hope Uzodinma has ended the power tussle in Imo
communities.

According to Eze Okeke Okorocha’s CGC, law handed over the affairs of the communities to few individuals to protect their political interests and relegated monarchs to the background.

The royal father recalled that during the time of late Sam Mbakwe, Achike Udenwa and Ikedi Ohakim, communities were living in harmony but said that things went bad under Okorocha, “we thank God that Governor Hope Uzodinma repealed the CGC law and peace is gradually returning to the communities”.

“The problem between traditional rulers in Imo state and Presidents-General of community started from Rochas Okorocha, when he created the community Government Council, CGC, that it is the forth tier government, which he created by himself and not by the Federal government. Now that the law has been repealed by the current government of Governor Hope Uzodinma, we are to return back to normal status quo by using the President Generals which is acceptable by the communities.

“At that time Okorocha formed CGC, there was what I could call selfish interest, he introduced what he called the Community Liaison Officer, CLO, that they should manage the communities even when the traditional
rulers are there but thank God, all these have been scraped now we are going back to the mother union.

“Now, the traditional rulers should have the impetus to manage the communities and not an individual. I remember, during the time of Sam Mbakwe, Achike Udenwa and Ikedi Ohakim we did not have problems in the
communities over power tussle on who should be managing the communities not until Okorocha came and created what he called CGC and problems started.

“It was only when Rochas Okorocha, came that we have all these issues because he wanted to use it to put his son-in-law in power to be the governor of Imo state that was when problem of leadership in the communities started.

“As it is now communities are working together unlike what it used to be during Okorocha, very soon all the problems will be over”, the monarch said,

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