•Rotational leadership will reduce agitation—Abia House Leader
•Struggle for leadership positions destroying Igboland—Anambra resident
•Neglect of traditional institutions/rules fuels crisis—Ebonyi monarch
•Republican nature of Igbo makes them liberal —ASETU
•Power rotation, inclusiveness, equity and fairness should be in the towns’ constitutions
•Igbo leadership no longer got by traditional norms of truth and justice—Prof. Igwe
By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Dennis Agbo, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Nwabueze Okonkwo, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chinedu Adonu, Chinonso Alozie, Emmanuel Iheaka & Uchenna Ali
Many Igbo communities are currently engrossed in protracted crises on account of disputes over Igweship election/selection, town union leadership elections, ward councillorship election and other leadership positions.
Reason for these crises revolves around lack of equity, inclusiveness and fairness, which are the veritable factors that engender peace and harmony in any community. And wherever these indices are absent, there’s bound to crisis, distrust among the people.
Therefore, to avoid witnessing these crises and put the communities on the path of peace and development, Ndigbo who aired their views on this issue advocate that these ingredients that ensure peace in communities be enshrined in the constitutions of Igbo communities and strictly adhered to.
According to the Majority Leader of the Abia State House of Assembly, Chief Solomon Akpulonu, rotation of leadership positions would reduce agitation and give a sense of belonging to all sections of communities.
Akpulonu explained that if there is a law on rotation in a given community or town, there will be less agitation on who occupies a particular leadership position at a given time. He further explained that there is no community, state or zone that doesn’t have competent hands that can efficiently man leadership positions at all levels.
Akpulonu who represents Obingwa East State Constituency, added that rotation would boost inclusiveness, peace, unity and harmony which he said, are essential ingredients for the development of society.
The Majority Leader, however, stated that there are exceptions in monarchical system of leadership in communities and nations where leadership cannot be rotated and remains a life-time affair.
In his words: “I think there is need for a law for rotational leadership in any community. It should be made a constitutional matter; you can only exempt communities and nations that operate monarchial system of leadership. Law on rotation will reduce the increasing level of agitation from all quarters which are now threatening to tear many communities, state and country apart.
“It will also boost inclusiveness, peace, harmony, love for one another and unity which are the essential ingredients for the development of our communities, state and nation. It will enthrone equity and justice.
“There will be less rancour because people are assured of a sense of belonging and a sense of ownership of the community. No section will feel cheated or marginalised by the dominant group. No section will dominate others as there will be respect for rights of the minority. Some people are saying that certain sections or zones lack competent hands to occupy leadership positions, but this is not true.
“Without rotation, some parts of the community will never produce the leader of a given community. And that won’t be good for the unity of the community. We must promote such ideals that will enhance our unity in diversity. One of such is inclusiveness. You don’t beat a child and expect him not to cry. This is why you see some of these agitations rising up daily.”
He called for the insertion of the law on rotation in the Nigerian Constitution to address the fear of domination of the minority by the majority groups.
“Nigeria needs a law on rotation of positions in her constitution. This will address the fear of domination of the minority by the majority groups. Such law will even address the kind of marginalization and second-class citizenship the Igbo people have been subjected to in Nigeria.”
In his contribution, the traditional ruler of Umuogudu Akpu autonomous community in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, Eze Godwin Ogba, affirmed that there are evident leadership crises among Igbo communities which he attributes to disobedience to existing traditional institutions/rules.
Eze Ogba pointed out that there are many prominent men and women in some communities who see themselves as kings, or kingmakers and who always gang up to allocate amenities of their communities when offered without prior knowledge of the traditional ruler in charge of the community.
“If the traditional ruler notices an error in his community and decides to speak against it or insists it has to be fairly done, owing to the fact that such amenities are owned by the people, those selfish individuals will oppose it thereby generating crisis.
“In the olden days, the ward councillors are answerable to their traditional rulers in which case they bring information and messages from government down to them and when that is done, the traditional ruler in conjunction with his cabinet, ward councillor and stakeholders, would call the attention of the community members to educate and possibly distribute the incentives or amenities to them. But these days, what obtains is the opposite and it has been causing a lot of conflicts in community leadership in Igbo land.
“If leadership positions are rotated and built into the constitution as the way to go, it will reduce the struggle for supremacy which is currently noticed in our various communities; it will make leadership positions rotate from kindred to kindred. With that, peace will reign. So for me, it will be a beautiful thing if Igbo communities make rotation of leadership positions a constitutional matter,” Eze Ogba suggested.
Also contributing, Hon. Eze Uchechukwu Izekwe, a former councillor of Umuogudu Akpu ward II, said that imposition of candidates is a serious factor that triggers conflicts in Igbo community leadership, owing to the lacuna created by lack of constitutional provisions.
Izekwe observed that in Igbo communities, there are cabals who call themselves godfathers and who are bent on imposing candidates of their choice on others rather than the choice of the masses owing to the fact that there are no existing constitutional provisions spelling out how positions should be assumed by stakeholders.
“Because it is not the wish of the masses, such leadership does not yield positive fruits to the people but few individuals, who are the beneficiaries of the arrangements. This means that such administration is crises-ridden from day one and would not engender development,” Izekwe said.
Suggesting the way forward out of Igbo community leadership crisis, a legal practitioner, Mr. Ugwoke Stephen pinned the root of the problem of Igbo leadership crisis on disobedience to constituted authorities and unwritten rule of law.
He maintained that the principle of rule of law, equity and fairness should be upheld to resolve the challenges of leadership in Igbo communities. He regretted that lack of constitutionality of rotation process was the major defect which had fanned the embers of crises in the communities especially when it is time to choose leaders.
He advocated that rotation of power or leadership be made a constitutional matter in various towns to engender peace, unity and harmony.
The legal practitioner condemned the issue of god-fatherism, imposition of candidates and election rigging among others in Igbo community leadership processes.
He advised that the leadership structure or system should engender accountability and transparency to the masses and advised that every other leader in the community should always collaborate with their traditional rulers for better insight and direction.
“Leadership is a call to service which requires the support of everybody. Therefore, leaders at all levels should try and carry their subjects along and ensure that equity and fairness are observed to the letter. With that, leadership crises and challenges in Igbo communities will be eliminated and the world will be a better place for us,” Ugwoke said.
Due to lack of these peace factors, the struggle for kingship and other leadership positions has turned many Igbo communities into battle grounds, with some involved in protracted court cases. In some communities, factions exist and the resultant effect is lack of the much needed unity to enable them embark on developmental projects for which Igbo people are known. Sometimes, the struggles for the Igwe position lead to death as diabolical means are often applied to advance the struggle.
In some communities, even members of a family struggle for crown to the consternation of the people. One example is Amanuke in Awka North Local Government Area where two blood relations from Ezebuilo family are in court for the Igweship of the town.
In Anambra State for instance, more than half of the 191 communities have issues with their Igweship because of the involvement of government and some well placed persons in the communities who engage in circumventing the laid down means of selection/election. Some people who do not even merit occupying the community’s throne in the Igbo traditional consideration are now forcing themselves into the exalted position, using their acquired wealth to buy support in their communities.
In fact, it has become a regular occurrence for communities to march to the Government House in Awka to complain either for or against their traditional rulers, thereby creating tension in most communities. Sometimes, traditional rulers lock horns with their president-general, making it difficult for government projects to be executed peacefully and properly in those communities.
In Awka, Chief Austin Ndigwe is parading himself as the Eze Uzu Awka, even when the recognised traditional ruler, Obi Gibson Nwosu, who has been on the throne for over 30 years, is still alive. Surprisingly, some people in the community are urging the man parading himself as the Igwe, to carry on.
A community leader in Umuoji, Idemili North Local Government Area of the state, Chief Tochukwu Mmodu, who recently led the people of the community on a protest to the Government House, wondered why the state government has refused to issue certificate of recognition to the person selected by the community as its traditional ruler. He said that although the community has selected Chief Anayo Okoye as the traditional ruler of the town, some individuals in the area have become stumbling blocks, thereby creating a leadership vacuum and stalemate in the town.
In Alor, Idemili South Council Area, which is the community of the Minster of Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige, there are two traditional rulers, one supported by the Minister and another who has the certificate of recognition from the state government. The Minister is supporting Igwe Collins Ebele Chukwumesili, while Igwe Mac Anthony Okonkwo is recognized by the state government. The Igweship tussle is also affecting the position of the President-General of Alor as two parallel groups emerged in the community.
Also, Nanka community in Orumba North Local Council Area, has been experiencing crisis as a result of the tussle for the throne of the town. There has not been total peace in the town since the coronation of Igwe Ezeilo following the death of the former traditional ruler of the community, Igwe Gilbert Oformata. Although Igwe Ezeilo has been on the throne for some years, a section of the community is still opposed to his kingship despite appeals by stakeholders in the town.
However, the National President of the Association of South-East Town Unions, ASETU, Chief Emeka Diwe, in his response on the issue of the usual tussle associated with the selection process in Igboland, attributed it to the republican nature of the Igbo.
While he agreed that rotation could be a way of reducing electoral tension in selection of leaders, it will still not be easy at the end of the day since those favoured by the rotation process will find among themselves so many qualified and potential leaders that arriving at a particular leader will still be a problem.
He nonetheless, preferred the Igbo republican system to the monarchy system of the South-West or the feudal system in Northern Nigeria where a supreme leader’s view or position in a matter overrides the integrated views of the entire citizens.
Diwe said: “Such tussles are reflections of the genetic republicanism of the Igbo man. The Igbo man is genetically republican, which means that administration is inclusive; governance in Igbo land is inclusive. Everybody is involved and it is not easy in such an inclusive system for a leader to emerge with different interests and different backgrounds.
“Unlike what is obtained in Igbo land, in the North the people are highly feudal, where the opinion of one person rides over others. It is the same thing in Yoruba land where there is a monarchical system that when the Oba says it, it is carried out.
“So, naturally, electing a leader in Igbo land will not be that easy. Also, even if you make it rotational, it is not also going to be easy. It is in the attempt to find a credible person, a worthy leader that is why some of these issues arise. Igbo are very skeptical and apprehensive of having the wrong person in a leadership position because of the inherent flaws and danger.
“So I will say it is one of the democratic processes but when it becomes too much, it will no longer be advisable. In essence, rotational leadership is also good and even if it is rotational, it doesn’t mean it will fall on one person directly because among the people whose turn it is to produce such a leader, there will also be a problem of choice because in Igbo land, a lot of people are qualified. So the process of selection is usually not very easy.”
In the opinion of an Owerri resident, Mazi Alloy Iwundu rotational leadership positions in Igbo communities should be encouraged and made a constitutional matter, saying that would largely reduce the crises that emanate from the struggle to take up leadership positions in the communities.
He, however, said that the issue of Ezeship position may not be so easy as there are communities where the Ezeship position is hereditary and others by election or what he called ‘political appointment.’
“Let me say this in brief, adding rotational leadership in the constitution for our communities is a brilliant idea. There will be fewer troubles. It will help all of us to achieve development.
“My worry is the Ezeship position, like we know majority of the Ezeship positions are hereditary and it is because some people out of greed, bastardized the system and today the trouble about Ezeship positions being contested has been causing serious problems. Let us allow Ezeship position be hereditary.”
Prof. Obasi Igwe, on his part, blamed the leadership crisis in all Igbo communities on political leaders who he said were bent on giving power to corrupt, malleable and least fit persons.
Prof. Igwe lamented that the election of Igwe, Obi, Oba, Eze, Onyendu and Onyeisi, is no more determined by the traditional norms of truth and justice, but by political, monetary and cultic connections.
“The leadership crisis could centre on related domestic issues of eligibility and rivalry, or related to meddlesomeness of some external interests.
“These contradictions could be positive and therefore promote, or negative and lead to the destruction of the commonwealth. Most crises in present-day Igbo communities arose from the political leaderships at the state and federal levels.
“The situation is made more complex by the inability of the timid youths and intelligentsia to question the mis-governance of society. Now, any position in any Igbo village is for the highest bidder in politics, money and the cults; sometimes culminating in unnecessary loss of precious lives.
“The Igbo, a highly democratic and republican people, should restore their elevated moral standards, condemn ill-acquired wealth, extol meritocratic competitive emulation and the excellence it produces, ensure that leaders give account of their stewardship, and refuse to be used to rig elections, kill or harm people, or steal monies.
“The Igbo are under a serious existential threat and unity is the only effective first step for a viable survival. But such unity is not possible with compromised leaderships sponsoring negative contradictions, and youthful populations with false consciousness aiding and abetting the evils of the political leadership.
“Without positive action now, you might complain and worry till eternity, with things only getting worse. Others elsewhere successfully did it, and it always works,” Igwe said.
For the former President- General, Ihiagwa Autonomous Community, Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State, Emeka Nkwoada, the best way to ensure equity, justice and peace is the adoption of rotational leadership which should be enshrined in the constitution.
“In Ihiagwa where I come from, the village that produces the monarch cannot at same time produce the President-General of the town union. When Eze J.O. Muruako who hailed from Umuelem, died the community asked Umuchima to give them another king. That was how Eze Lucky Ajoku came to the throne.
“When his reign comes to an end, the community knows the next village to produce the king and the one to produce the President-General. The arrangement has guaranteed peace and unity in Ihiagwa. If most communities where there are disputes can adopt this approach, such crisis will be a thing of the past.
“Such arrangement gives everyone a sense of belonging and maintains peace and unity. I propose such arrangement for elections into political offices, up to the presidency. In a democracy, everyone should have a fair share and there should be equity,” he stated.
Chief Ozoh Anaekwe, said crisis is stoked in Igbo communities by people who want to impose themselves or their cronies on the communities.
According to Chief Anaekwe, the reasons for leadership crisis in some Igbo communities are simply not because of lack of equity, fairness and inclusiveness, but imposition, greed and selfishness by occupiers of such seats.
For him, leadership is about service to the people and whoever is fighting, quarreling, disturbing or forcing himself on the community is not doing so to serve the community. He is doing that to enrich himself or to use the position to get what he wants. It is for selfish interest.
“You are also aware that Igbo contribute money to develop their communities. So, some people fighting to be President-General of their communities do that to access the money contributed by the communities for development. They can do anything to be president-general of their community. For instance, now that government is paying presidents-general and the traditional rulers, some people want to become emergency civil servants, because of the payment from the government that makes them now semi civil servants. And this is one of the factors that make them lack integrity. They do not have respect anymore, because he who pays the piper dictates the tune, government pays them and controls them.
“No responsible traditional ruler or president-general who knows what he is doing, will subject himself to the pains and disrespect of receiving money like civil servants from the government; a teacher will queue to receive his salary and a king will also queue to receive salary from the government, that is why the integrity of the king and the president-general is reduced.”
On the rotation of leadership positions in the communities, Chief Anaekwe said that it is good but it depends on the customs and traditions of the community. Communities must also stand their ground to reject people imposed on them by the government; you have your culture and traditions and must maintain it.
For Chief Tommy Ezeonwuka, the Ogilisi of Igboland, some of the factors, including lack of skills acquisition development, sports development, littering of corpses in mortuaries and bad leadership on the part of government, are responsible for disunity, insecurity and leadership in Igboland today.