As a son of Idumuje Ugboko, I have watched with keen interest the events of the last couple of years and how a very simple matter has degenerated to so much crisis that has brought our small peaceful agrarian town to global limelight.
I have also done my own bit trying to preach for peace and asking all parties to sheath their sword and embrace meaningful dialogue as the real solution. I have said to all that have bothered to listen that even litigation would not be a solution to this matter and we can’t afford to waste valuable resources on years of litigation.
As the years have gone by, the situation has worsened to baseless arrests and dubious criminal allegations. As it stands, no one in the towns knows who next will be arrested, since the alleged offenses are often phantom and inexistent.
I was Secretary General of the Idumuje Ugboko Development Union(IUDU) when the initial 33 hectares was given to Prince Ned Nwoko supposedly for the purpose of a dairy farm. IUDU, then led by Uche Aligbe, resisted this allocation by then Obi Albert Nwoko of blessed memory.
This led to series of meetings with the then Obi, and we ultimately decided leave the matter having made our point since the palace was not willing to concede. This was done out of respect for the late monarch and in deference to the palace.
I do not want to go into the details of the present crisis which also borders on the additional land which Prince Ned Nwoko requires for his University. However, I just want to state a few clear positions.
- There is no real dispute as to the legitimacy of the claim of Obi Chukwunonso Justin Nwoko to the throne of Idumuje Ugboko. Everyone knows the crown prince of the town right from birth and as soon as his father takes the throne, the preparation for his ultimate take over of the position of his father takes off.
- 2. If there is any contrary claim to the throne, it should be channeled through the proper courts and no council of chiefs has the right to turn itself into a court and take a decision based on a claim which has obviously become time barred. If such a claim did exist, why was it not expressed in the several years that the town was in regency when Obi Albert was still working in the civil service of the erstwhile government of Bendel State.
- 3. I’m in full support of the building of a University in Idumuje Ugboko by Prince Ned Nwoko. He could have chosen any other place to site such a laudable project. However, a university remains private business and if you want to acquire land for such a project, it should be done properly. If there are questions about the process of obtaining such a land through community land support for development purpose which is not unknown to us, then he should acquire his land through a legitimate process by discussing with the various land owning families.
- 4. The matter of the ascension of the throne of our new Obi and the setting up of a University in Idumuje Ugboko are landmark events that should normally bring celebration to a town rather than attrition, rancour, harassment, arrests and destruction.
However, my main source of worry in this write up is the role of Gabriel Ogbechie which has led to the huge campaign of calumny and assault on his personality and character. In all my years that I have known Gabriel Ogbechie, his main focus has been running a top rate organization and building a reputable business empire.
He has in this process provided livelihood for thousand of persons either by direct or indirect employment.
He has also gone beyond that to provide support for numerous people and regularly spends huge resources in providing assistance to people.
Gabriel Ogbechie sees his business as a service to humanity and would always suggest that he can’t afford to run his business anyhow because of the large number of people who depend on the survival of the business for their livelihood and that accounts for why he is not given to wasteful and frivolous lifestyle.
Most importantly, Gabriel Ogbechie is a man of peace. In spite of his immense wealth, he would call you and apologize to you if he feels he has done anything that may have hurt you. I have known him to call me several times if he does not hear from me after a while and would chide me to ensure that I call him regularly.
He would always remind me that he’s my elder brother even though he’s older than me with just a few days.
The biggest crime that Gabriel Ogbechie may have committed is that he loves his hometown passionately. I know the reason why. We all have great memories of our Idumuje Ugboko where we spent wonderful times together as young people.
Wonderful Ogbanigbe celebrations and new yam. You could go to any household and partake in the celebrations. The beautiful celebration of Christmas and going to watch the beautiful acrobatic display of Egwugwu.
What can I say about those wonderful wrestling matches. Why would you not love Idumuje Ugboko? Who would not give anything for the return of those beautiful days and the return of absolute peace in the land?
I know Gabriel Ogbechie has provided direct employment for more Ugboko persons than anyone in the history of the town. I know that his scholarship scheme has affected so many young people in the town.
I know that he has empowered an amazing number of people in the town and has ensured their upliftment in life. He has been personally responsible for the political appointment of so many people in our town.
I know that Gabriel Ogbechie single handedly built the Atuma town hall. He also single handedly built the Atuma road which should have been named after his father, the biggest project ever embarked by any individual in Idumuje Ugboko. I also know that Gabriel Ogbechie facilitated the recent borehole project that was completed by the Benin Owena River Basin Authority.
He could have requested that it be given to him as a contract.
The list of his philanthropic gestures are endless.
Most importantly, the Gabriel Ogbechie I know is a man of peace. In all the years that I have known him, he has never been associated with violence or even restiveness. Gabriel Ogbechie in all these has never expressed any hateful comment against Prince Ned Nwoko and all he had required was for Ned to sheath his swords and embrace dialogue as the only solution offering to stand as his advocate before the people who have been greatly hurt.
Gabriel knows that he has the goodwill to ensure a smooth resolution of the matter and has offered to deploy same any time he is called upon. Gabriel knows the benefit that a university will bring to the town. He also knows that Ugboko has only one monarch, Obi Chukwunonso Justin Nwoko.
That is the Gabriel Ogbechie that I know. All these negative campaigns against him are completely uncalled for and unnecessary.
Finally, I acknowledge the tremendous work being done by the peace committee led by the esteemed Mr Uzo Uzor and call on all parties to sheath their sword and embrace this worthwhile program.
Rev Okechukwu Omezi