By Seun Johnson
The Idumuje Ugboko Development Union, IUDU, is highly respected. Both by the protagonists and the antagonists in the face-off. But the IUDU at the moment seems to be on a darkening plane. It is now a house divided against itself. The reason? The President General, PG, of the union, Okey Ifejiokwu, is facing a terrorism charge at a High Court in Abuja. He was fingered as one of the masterminds of the atrocious terrorism that devasted the picturesque hilly village called Idumuje- Ugboko, in Aniocha North Local Government Area, LGA, between 18th and 25th of May, 2017.
It was a mindless attack that claimed two lives, left many respectable men, women and young boys and girls dehumanised while properties, cars and valuable items were torched, vandalized or carted away. It was a tragic sight that confounded both the police and human rights bodies that visited the village for investigation.
But the chief antagonist in this dastardly act is alleged to be Prince Nonso Nwoko, a cousin to Prince Ned Nwoko, the man whose supporters were the victims of the monstrous brigandage.
But how did the IUDU react to this horrifying act of terrorism? For it is this singular act that now seems to bring about its looming nemesis.
The IUDU allegedly did not call the victims that were brutalized, men, women that lost their valuable items. They did not send a delegation to, at least, pay condolence visit to those that lost loved ones even if they were hypocritical. They did not consider it necessary to initiate a possible reconciliation meeting to resolve a major crisis that was widening the gulf of enmity in their much-cherished Idumuje- Ugbo. In short, if they did intervene, it was to support the perpetrators as Dr Gabriel Ogbechie delightfully narrated how ” the boy ” went after those they perceived as trouble makers in the village in his publication in Vanguard titled ” The Quest for Peace in Idumuje-Ugboko: My Perspectives “.
But the man at the receiving end of this crisis is Prince Ned Nwoko. He had legitimately acquired 90 hectares of land for the establishment of a university in Idumuje-Ugboko. This land was approved by the late king of Idumuje-Ugboko, His Royal Highness, Obi Albert Nwoko III and his council; it was approved by the Land Allocation Committee and the IUDU before the Aniocha North LGA finally issued a Customary Right of Occupancy based on the approval letter it received from the IUDU.
The crisis that climaxed in the horrific terrorism in Ugboko sprang from the naïve and ill-advised decision of Prince Nonso Nwoko to single-handedly reverse this approval given to Prince Ned for his STARS University.
Indeed, the Iyase, the Odogwu, Prince Daniel Odims Nwoko, many men and women of honour, Ugboko dignitaries that the terrorists attacked were those that refused to support Nonso’s retrogressive and mendacious propaganda that his late father denied ever approving any land for a university. It was propaganda for which he forged a letter purportedly signed by his father, the late king, but the police later unveiled the truth and charged him and his brother, Mbanefo Nwoko and their conspirators to court.
Those victims of terror, rustics folks knew the truth as they noted how Prince Nonso and his advisers’ quest to stop Prince Ned at different courts had failed woefully. And so, for standing for truth and justice, they were hounded and brutalised like animals.
The critical question being asked, however, was, ” what did IUDU do in the face of those barbaric acts? ” They didn’t visit these harmless victims. They were not even given any form of attention. But the seeming helpless victims were not going to live with despair. They didn’t possess arms like their tormentors. But they knew they could seek redress in a court of law. And, importantly, that the law could tame violence and illegal use of force.
So, they headed to the Abuja High Court to seek redress. And now the law is out on the streets to pick the perpetrators and to bring them to justice.
The President General of IUDU, Okey Ifejiokwu was indeed picked by the police on the streets of Issele Uku, Delta state and taken to Abuja to join a few already arrested to explain to the force of law their role in the Ugboko mayhem. Said one of the victims. “Those union people didn’t think we are human beings. They didn’t even ask of us. But now that they have arrested Okey Ifejiokwu, they are running all over the place to help him and the other bandits. We will fight for our right even if we have to go to Supreme Court”.
Indeed, the IUDU came alive as soon as some of the victims especially the PG, Ifejiokwu, were apprehended. The union sent messages to all its branches across states in Nigeria to raise N20million to hire a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, to fight for Ifejiokwu, their President and others.
But this levy, what some Ugboko people call “blood money”, has divided the IUDU and there seems to be a sword of Damocles dangling over the union. One of the members in Asaba who begged for anonymity asked, “why should I contribute money? Did I ask Okey Ifejiokwu to go and organize thugs against our people? I will never contribute to defend people that caused the death of fellow human beings. That amounts to defending wilful murder. Any money you put there is blood money. You are as guilty as the murderers”.
Another man in Abuja added, “I will not make any contribution because the levy is not for the development of Ugboko. That is what our union is supposed to be doing. But now, it looks like all we do is how to fight Prince Ned. I may not agree with him all the time. But we all know he is a good man and he is passionate about our village development. You must give him that credit. We, the elite shouldn’t be dragged into a needless fight because two or three of us have issues with Ned. I appreciate the attention and respect he has brought to our village with some of his achievements and programmes. I will not blindly follow anyone at my age”, he concluded.
Yet another woman in Port Harcourt but works in Asaba, an Ugboko indigene, lashed out at the IUDU. Hear her, “ I have told those that care to hear that I wouldn’t contribute a kobo. Since Okey Ifejiokwu became PG and Prince Nonso said he is king, it’s been one trouble after the other. This person is ostracized, that person is ostracized. What is it . I will not want anybody to come and carry me to court tomorrow that I sponsored terrorists or bandits because the case is already in court. I don’t want my name in any document. We could have handled this matter better and resolved it without getting to the terrible state we are now. Like a joke, some people including Prince Chukwunonso could be jailed tomorrow. The case looks so bad from what I hear but the lawyers wouldn’t tell you that. They just want to collect their pay. N20 million, can you imagine ……… Me, I am for peace in my village, not fight for Okey or anyone —–“. She lamented the deep enmity that now envelops Ugboko because of some people’s selfish interest and sheer envy and vowed to remain neutral.
The terrorism case between the alleged terrorists and the federal government which is in Charge No. FH/ABJ/!!/19, was instituted by the government through the Ministry of Justice. Four of the suspects including Okey Ifejiokwu have been arrested and granted bail under stringent conditions.
The IUDU could have done a lot to prevent this legal battle that has become a huge mountain to climb and now tearing them apart. But it failed abysmally in the needed practical demonstration of compassion and neutrality that should be its fundamental role in the circumstance. Some of the elite members were even alleged to sponsor the mayhem just because they want to be lyase and Odogwu even as the title holders are still alive.
But Prince Walters Ugochukwu Eziashi, a Great-Great-Grand son of Nwoko 1, the founder of Idumuje Ugboko had strong words for those determined to make Ugboko a battlefield, “Listen, my brother, let me tell you. There are only about seven or eight people encouraging this destruction of our village, those elites are less than two percent. They are the ones sponsoring attacks against people that stand for truth and justice, people that refuse to stop supporting Prince Ned’s university project because they know it’s good for Ugboko. Those horrible few are driven by ego and envy. But they will soon see the result because the law must go its full course and both the bandits and their sponsors will pay the price for their inhumanity against their fellow human beings. How could sane people rise against developmental projects with so much venom”, he asked.
“We shall see. None, I repeat, none of them will escape justice”.
The tragedy of the Ugboko union and the fate that awaits some of its members is that they had all the time in the world to explore amicable resolution of the dispute and possibly compensate those who lost loved ones or properties and valuables. But IUDU failed to do this because Okey Ifejiokwu, the PG, was perhaps pulling the strings. The horrific and murderous gangsterism happened between 18th and 25th May 2017. But the helpless victims did not seek redress until 8th February 2018 when M.A Abdulraman and Associates Chambers sent on their behalf an S.O.S to the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. Then they followed with another petition to the Human Rights Commission of Nigeria before the police moved to investigate the horrendous crime. Rather than oblige the police invitation and seek alternative dispute resolution, Prince Nonso and his gang ran to the Issele-Uku High Court to institute a case of fundamental human rights breach against the police IG in Suit No. HCI/4M/2018, all in a bid to escape the law and stab the soul of justice. But alas, on 10th October 2018, the case was dismissed and struck out by the no-nonsense Justice C.O Ogisi of Delta High Court, Issele-Uku.
The police then carried out their investigation patiently and meticulously and reported back to the office of the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation where a case of terrorism was established against Prince Nonso Justin Nwoko and 10 others in Charge No FHC/ABJ/CR/11/19.
” What is more shocking is that many of the union members knew that the PG is a character with many question marks” , said another Ugboko man in Lagos. According to him, “there is an interrupted text message in circulation where the PG was openly begging for more money to buy arms to strengthen the arsenal of his boys for the final onslaught against some people in Ugboko. He even included account details he wanted the monies paid.
I mean you should be a bit wary about defending such a man “, he cautioned.
But IUDU seemed clearly in cold complicity with their tainted PG and his troupe. Now, they have to sadly face the vengeance of the Law.
THE CURIOUS ROLE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF DELTA STATE
The fundamental cause of the turbulence and rupture of peace in Ugboko is undoubtedly Prince Nonso’s inordinate ambition to be king without due process.
This singular ambition is responsible for his strange opposition to the building of a university in Ugboko by his cousin, Prince Ned who has not spoken out in support or against his ambition till date. Today there are two other contestants to the throne, Prince Solomon Nwoko, Great Grandson of Obi Nwoko 1, and Prince Uche Nwoko, the son of late Obi Albert Nwoko III, whose mother is a native of Idumuje- Ugboko, and favoured by tradition above Prince Nonso whose mother is not from Ugboko.
Several meetings and consultations are still being held to find a possible resolution of the kingship tussle. The Aniocha North Traditional Rulers Committee has held several meetings trying to resolve the protracted issue of succession. But they are conscious of the law and so they suspended all plans and possible actions of recommending any of the contestants to the Governor of Delta State as the Obi-Designate until the courts rule on the Suit No. HCI/38/2017 now at the Akwukwu Igbo High Court.
This then is why the alleged actions and subtle manipulations by the Delta State Attorney-General, Peter Mrakpor have become a source of grave concern and calls for the governor’s attention.
The AG, it is alleged has been trying to intimidate the traditional rulers to compel them to recommend Prince Nonso Nwoko so that he could prepare a memo to the Executive for a Staff of Office to be given to Prince Nonso. Some of the traditional rulers and chiefs in Ugboko have condemned this despicable move by the AG, Mrakpor who has obvious ambition and is, in fact, desperate to succeed the current governor, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa. The Royal Fathers indeed have expressed their desire to appoint a Regent until the court processes are exhausted but the AG doesn’t seem to understand this civilised language and option.
Mrakpor’s acts are even more embarrassing because he is the Chief custodian of the law in the state after the governor. And worse still he has in his file a letter from the Directorate of Chieftaincy Affairs dated May 21st, 2020 and signed by Omonyeme Erute for the Permanent Secretary.
This letter carries a clear and articulate title – “RE: NOTIFICATION THAT THE ORDER RESTRAINING THE EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF DELTA STATE AND ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF DELTA STATE FROM ACCORDING ANY RECOGNITION TO PRINCE CHUKWUNONSO NWOKO AS KING OR OBI OF IDUMUJE-UGBOKO OR FROM HANDING OVER STAFF OF OFFICE OR SYMBOL OF AUTHORITY TO HIM STILL SUBSISTS AND HAVE NOT BEEN SET ASIDE”.
This letter notified Mrakpor “that the Delta State Government has noted its contents as further action on matter has been stalled pending the determination of the case in court”. So, you ask, why is the AG still trying to meddle with the Ugboko issues. Why has he been so desperate? Is he lending credence to the loud rumours that a whopping N10million was allegedly given to some government official to ensure Prince Nonso gets the Staff of Office, a symbol of authority? This allegation is contained in a letter by a bonafide prince of Idumuje-Ugboko, Prince Daniel Nwoko, to Dr Gabriel Ogbechie, a man he alleged to be Nonso’s financial muscle.
The Prince and notable Chiefs in Ugboko are therefore calling on Governor Okowa to admonish Mrakpor and caution him to desist from further meddling in the affairs of Ugboko especially as he has shown a jaundiced and injurious motive.
Ironically, in all these crisis, allegations and counter-allegations, Prince Ned remains silent, even when his mansion in the village was almost set ablaze. Despite being dragged to court several times, he has remained taciturn.
On IUDU’s biased role, he has said only in a few words that he had no issues with IUDU and therefore does not think they would have any reason to attack his person. ” But come to think of it, this is one legal toughie that fears nothing”, said John, a native of Ugboko as he commented on Ned’s silence. In his words, ” this was a man who was once the lawyer to almost all the Nigerian Embassies in Europe, a fierce legal combatant who took on some of the most powerful nations on earth under the Paris Club, fought them in court for 10 solid years, fought them to a standstill and defeated them, returning billions of dollars to his fatherland. So, you can see how formidable he is. I’m sure he must be quietly amused by all these attempts by his own flesh and bone, his blood brothers to wage legal battle against him. He must be shaking his head in pity, as he now understands why a prophet is not without honour except in his own home “.
But is it true that Prince Ned Munir Nwoko is facing these attacks partly because of his religion, Islam?
A respectable scion of Ugboko opened up on this troubling question and turbulent subject. We will be prying into this critical dimension. Soon!