By Chuks Onwordi
Let me start by confessing that I am not from Idumuje-Ugboko. I am from Ubulu Uku, Aniocha South Local Government Area, which like Ugboko is part of the Anioma people of Delta state. And if you are familiar with Anioma, you will know we, Ubulu Uku indigenes share the same culture, tradition, rites and rituals with Ugboko.
But I’ve been living in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, in the last 27 years. Being so far away and for so long, I take special interest in events around my people back home. Though I work as an Attorney today, I was a journalist in Nigeria before leaving for US due to the crisis that followed the annulment of June 12, 1993, Presidential election evidently won by late Bashorun MKO Abiola.
So, how did I come across the Ugboko stories? What triggered my interest? And why did I decide to write? After all, Ugboko is not my village. Or am I just a busy body? Not quite.
It was all an accident. I stumbled on a Facebook write up about succession issues, land matter terrorism and accusations. But the part that concerns a University to be sited in Ugboko that excited me the most. I was over the moon just thinking that a scion of Anioma wanted to a University in Anioma land with his own money. Unbelievable, I exclaimed.
But the story was fragmented and incoherent. It was like the jabberings of an angry or even a half tipsy man. The issues, however, looked serious. Unfortunately, the writer was too personal in his writing, making it impossible for me to make sense of what the issue or issues were really about.
Because I am an avid reader of news from home, I got to my house that night and ‘googled’ Idumuje-Ugboko . and hurrah, I saw in Vanguard online and a few other papers some detailed writings including those by my contemporary, a most respected Nigeria Media Merit Award winner in journalism and an exceptional writer. His name is Zik Zulu Okafor. There were quite a few other writings. But I wanted to first peruse everything Zik had written because he was a hard, dispassionate but beautiful writer with a strong sense of fairness and justice.
And you can add that l love his prose, his amazing style of writing.
After reading Zik’s delightful and informative stories, I settled to read the others to give me more perspectives to the issues. Having read virtually everything, I couldn’t resist the urge to write.
However, my decision to write is for the purpose of helping to return peace to Ugboko because it is part of my Anioma Nation and because I just didn’t see why the issues should be allowed to degenerate to the ugly and sad leveI that is now. In searching for peace, I must make sure however that justice does not suffer, otherwise we will only have peace of the graveyard.
So, what did I find out in all my reading? First, I will say that there are just two issues here, what I may call two plots. These plots may have sub-plots.
The two plots are the succession tussle and the moves to stop Prince Ned Nwoko from building his University.
For the successor to late Obi Albert Nwoko, JP, OON, I haven’t stopped wondering why Prince Nonso Nwoko chose a very difficult road to travel. First, there is the argument that his mother is not from Ugboko and therefore it is against their culture for him to be king. I am not surprised by this argument because the same culture prevails in Ubulu Uku, my home town which is very close to Ugboko. If both parents of an Ubulu Uku Prince are not from the town, he cannot be king. That is a fact. I expected that with this major stumbling block, Prince Nonso, now an illegitimate king as things are would have used diplomacy and appeal to his people’s emotions to get a waiver, in which case they would probably perform some rituals and sacrifices to appease their ancestors and then crown him king. Possibly.
But Prince Nonso didn’t do that. Instead, he seemed to get some wrong advisers to back him. And for this, he has made his chance of becoming a legitimate king more complicated, if not almost impossible. And I will explain this.
One of his supporters and financial backbones is said to be Dr Gabriel Ogbechie. This supposedly educated businessman has been trying, it is alleged, to get the Delta state government to give Prince Nonso a Staff of Office. But need I tell him that this will remain an exercise in futility as long as that case remains in court. And if the state government even by some weird decision chooses to give that instrument of authority to Prince Nonso, it will be a nullity as long as the case is in court. And you know what? If Prince Nonso does not look quickly for an urgent way to peacefully resolve this tussle, he may never be a legitimate king in his entire life.
This is the hard truth because this legal battle may take the next 15years to 25 years to be finally resolved at the final court, the Supreme Court. What then will be left of Nonso even if by chance he wins the case. Unfortunately, he may even more serious issues to contend with beyond the crown.
My most useful advice, therefore, is to tell Prince Nonso to seek peace first and foremost with his accomplished ‘brother’, his cousin, Prince Ned Nwoko. In our area we actually call ourselves brothers, nothing like cousins.
Prince Nonso should break away quickly from those advising him wrongly. And he should that with the immediacy it demands. His cousin, Ned is unbelievably wealthy, he is influential and he is so kind from all that I have read. He is a global player, not even a Nigerian corporate player, not to mention Idumuje-Ugboko.
He has absolutely nothing to prove. I have read about Prince Ned Nwoko Foundation and its massive national scholarship programme, support and empowerment of people among other laudable strides. If he could do so much for other people, why wouldn’t he do much more for his own blood, help him to realise his kingship ambition and make him even one of the most affluent kings in Delta state if not the entire Southern part of Nigeria?
It is therefore foolhardy for him, Nonso, to suggest he is trying to stop the building of a University by his own cousin because they purportedly gave him some acres of land that he didn’t use for its purpose as Dr Ogbechie alleged.
Let me even assume that Prince Ned was given some hectares of land that he didn’t utilise, is that why Prince Nonso should stop the building of a University in Ugboko Kingdom. Does he even understand the educational and economic impact of such an institution? Does he know the job opportunities it will create for hundreds if not thousands of Ugboko people, his kingdom? Even if Prince Ned had squandered 100 hectares of land in the past, the thought of what the University can do for Ugboko people should be enough for Prince Nonso to quickly support it . The fact that Prince Ned even legitimately acquired the land for the University from all indications makes Prince Nonso’s case really pathetic. He seems completely out of touch with what the civilised world is doing today. And he must have, I guess, advisers with ill motives.
I think Prince Nonso needs to do some serious introspection. In the letter to Dr Ogbechie which Zik Zulu analysed with bruising frankness, Prince Daniel Nwoko told Nonso that he could still be king if he listens to him and takes steps to do a few things. I think one of them is that crucial reconciliation with his cousin, Prince Ned.
And this is not to say that Ned is fighting him. In all my reading, I didn’t see where Ned took him, Prince Nonso, to court. But he and his brother, Prince Mbanefo Nwoko have sued Ned at least five times from my calculation.
And the fact that they have lost most, if not all of these cases shows they are getting the wrong advice. I repeat, if anyone or group is telling Prince Nonso that he will become king while still trying to fight Ned or frustrate his University project, they are merely railroading him into a crucible, a raging fire that he may not survive. In fact as things stand today from what I read about the terrorism charges, he, Prince Nonso Nwoko, may end up inevitably in prison. It will take a rare miracle for him to escape. I have read text messages from the Ugboko Youths President asking for money to acquire firearms and bullets. I have read about the role of Idumuje Ugboko Development Union contributing money to defend acts of terrorism and other dangerous paths they are threading. It is obvious they have no legal advisers or they are not getting informed advice. I will be looking at some of those issues in my subsequent writings.
I will continue to also hope that Prince Nonso shall quickly find that turning point that he needs to reassess his chequered journey so far. For now, his aspiration to be a legitimate king of Ugboko and even to be a free man hangs in the balance. And to Prince Ned, I can only make an appeal to see how he could bend backwards to help his senior cousin, Prince Nonso out of the woods no matter his I’ll advise actions against him. It is a fact that a serious danger of long imprisonment dangles over Prince Nonso’s head. If care is not taken he may end up facing the greatest fight of his life and that will be his freedom rather than the crown. A terrorism charge? It is that serious.