By Okorohohi Michael
What started as a mere boundary dispute between two Udu Communities of Udu Local Government Area of Delta State has gradually snowballed into a major crisis that is now threatening the very fabric of Udu unity particularly at the traditional leadership level of the Udu people.
As things stand presently in Udu, the two topmost leaders of the Udu traditional leadership, HRM Barr E.B.O Delekpe JP, the Owhorhu 1, the Ovie of Udu Kingdom and the Traditional Prime Minister, that is the Otota of Udu Kingdom, High Chief Samuelson Esekomunu Odibo JP, a Knight of the Anglican Church are now at loggerhead over the Ovie’s insistence to adorn most Udu communities as either stranger elements or offspring of matriarchal families not qualified to assume the position of the Ovie of Udu Kingdom in clear variance to the letter and spirit of the Bendel State Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict of 1979 on which basis the present King was elected and enthroned as King over the Udu people.
The boundary dispute was between the people of Oghior and Ukpiovwin Communities which necessitated the setting up of a five-man panel comprising of the immediate past President General of the Union of Udu Communities, Chief Steve Sokoh as Chairman, Chief Isaac Lafua (now late), Chief Johnbull Onoherhe, Justice Iyasere, then Vice Chairman of Udu Local Government Council and Barr Moses Segba as Secretary.
The committee turned in their report after a comprehensive examination of all evidence and documents tendered by both communities and later submitted a report to the Udu Traditional Council recommending that the land in dispute substantially belonged to Oghior Community.
- No strangers in Udu, says monarch
- Tension in Udu over declaration of Oghior community as strangers
- Delta community threatens court action over tag as ‘strangers’
However, the Ovie of Udu Kingdom, in rejecting the report, made some disparaging remarks describing the Oghior community as ‘stranger elements’ not entitled to any inheritance in Udu and so could only enjoy what is given to them. He therefore unilaterally resolved the dispute in favour of Ukpiovwin thereby provoking another round of crisis from the Oghior people who questioned the position of the Ovie of Udu Kingdom in tagging them as strangers.
The people of Oghior launched a very well coordinated press war on the Ovie, describing him as a stranger too since, according to them, the father of the Ovie is from Ovwian Community, one of the communities referred to as strangers in Udu by the monarch.
Oghior made reference to many documents to disparage the monarch particularly a book on Udu history authored by the monarch wherein he maintained that all but one community in Udu Kingdom is not qualified to produce the Ovie of Udu Kingdom in sharp contrast to the provision of the 1979 Edict which regulate the order of succession to the throne of Udu Kingdom.
The only community qualified to be King, in the monarch estimation, is Aladja. Even at that, the Ovie maintained further that of the three quarters of Izagbo, Uloho and Owhorhu in Aladja, only Owhorhu is qualified to produce the Udu monarch.
The 1979 Edict had stipulated the equality of all Udu Communities and these were arranged into 7 ruling houses including Owhorhu, Okporua, Adadja, Uloho, Orhuwhorun, Owhrode and Ovwian ruling houses. But the Ovie had consistently maintained and documented the same in his book on Udu history, stressing that only his quarter in Aladja was qualified to produce the Ovie of Udu Kingdom, emphasizing that the 1979 Edict was a mistake he must correct in his lifetime.
Oghior people came up with serious media campaigns against the Ovie, pressing for either his dethronement or a separate Kingdom for the Oghior people. Oghior threw caution to the winds and provided many unprintable insights into the background of the Udu Monarch.
Worried by the sustained media war launched by the Oghior people, which was painting the monarch in bad light, the Otota of Udu Kingdom, Chief Sam Odibo summoned Oghior leaders for a meeting on Monday June 24, 2021 to broker peace on the raging storm. The meeting was attended by Oghior Leaders led by Chief Robert Balance, Chief Wisdom Ghaghara and others while the Udu Traditional Council was represented by Chief William Riebelle and Chief Luke Ogedegbe.
Chief Sam Odibo who presided over the meeting appealed to Oghior for a cease fire and a communiqué was issued wherein the Udu leaders explained that the Ovie never made any statements describing Oghior people as strangers. Oghior accepted the explanations and vowed to maintain the peace and live at peace with the Ovie thereafter.
But in a most embarrassing voice face by the Ovie after the communiqué has been signed and published by the Udu Traditional Council, the Ovie announced that he can never accept Oghior Community as indigenes, stressing that the peace document brokered by Chief Sam Odibo was his own making as that could not represent his position on the matter.
This pronouncement irked the people of Oghior who were at the palace to make peace with the monarch and they had no option but to return home to reactivate their war arsenals against the Ovie. Oghior Community wrote to the State Government demanding for a separate Kingdom for the community and the matter was referred to the Delta State Traditional Rulers Council, which in turn asked the Forum of Urhobo Traditional Rulers to wade in and report back to the State.
On Tuesday July 27, 2021 a peace meeting was brokered by the Forum of Urhobo Traditional Rulers between Oghior people and the Udu monarch at the palace of the Owhorode of Olomu. The 11 monarchs present took strong exception to the stranger tag placed on Oghior by the Udu monarch and that the book written by the Ovie profiling some Udu communities as strangers should be jettisoned.
The Communique from the meeting partly read that ‘’That the Stranger elements tag allegedly placed on Oghior Community which resulted in their (Oghior) succession threats for a separate Kingdom from the Udu Kingdom is not tenable, baseless and should be ignored and its use should be discontinued by any person or group of people in and outside Udu Kingdom.
‘’That Udu Kingdom is one and that all the Communities in Udu Kingdom should be united under the rulership of HRM Barr E.B.O Delekpe, Owhorhu 1, The Ovie of Udu Kingdom.
‘’That the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict of 1979 which regulates the order of succession to the title (Throne) of the Ovie of Udu Kingdom which was used in the selection process of HRM, Barr E.B.O Delekpe, Owhorhu 1, The Ovie of Udu Kingdom subsists.
‘’And that the seven ruling houses as stipulated in the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict of 1979 regulating the succession to the title (Throne) of Ovie of Udu as conceived and adopted by the founding fathers of Udu Kingdom should be strictly adhered to for peace in Udu Kingdom.
‘’That the Ovie of Udu Kingdom should properly constitute the Udu Traditional Committee in line with Section 8 of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict of 1979 before the end of December, 2021.
‘’That any book/books written by anyone making the rounds and being referred to with reference to the Stranger elements in Udu Kingdom should be totally discountenanced, discarded and of no use to Udu Kingdom, and indeed, Urhobo Nation.”
The Communique was signed by the Owhorode of Olomu, HRM R.L. Ogbon Ogoni Oghoro 1.
However, despite the Ovie’s perceived acceptance of the Traditional Rulers position, on his return home, he appealed to the Delta state Traditional Rulers Council that the Urhobo monarchs unfairly treated him and prayed that the verdict of the Urhobo monarchs be overturned. But that was not to be.
The Delta State Traditional Rulers Council, at their meeting of Wednesday September 22, 2021 upheld the verdict of the Urhobo Traditional rulers on the matter. Many people thought that would put paid to the entire saga. But surprisingly, at the Udu Leadership Summit which held the following day on Thursday September 23, 2021, the Ovie wrote to the summit, maintaining that the ‘’stranger elements’’ must not maintain equal stakes with those he maintained are special breeds in Udu.
That again sparked further reaction from Oghior people and in a bid to take a stand on the raging storm, the Udu Integrity Group, comprising of Chief Sam Odibo, the Otota of Udu Kingdom, Chief Godwin NOtoma, President General of Udu Kingdom, Chief Steve Sokoh, former President general of Udu, Chief William Riebelle, retired permanent secretary in the State Civil service and Engr Chief Mike Orugbo, an Industrialist and illustrious son of Udu decided to wade in and make their position known in writing to the Ovie.
Their letter got to the Ovie on Friday October 29, 2021, which insisted on the propriety of the 1979 Edict.
The letter from the Integrity Group, from all indications, was what has led to the present state of things when the Ovie is now planning to suspend the Otota of Udu Kingdom for not standing by him in his continued tag of Udu communities as strangers.
As if the Ovie knew what was coming, he recently gave chieftaincy titles to some young Udu indigenes mostly from areas where he could be sure of support for any action he intends taking. Sources have revealed that part of his survival plans is to suspend the Otota, the Traditional Prime Minister, though the 1979 Edict does not give him such powers, unilaterarily appoint one of the new Chiefs as Otota, dissolve the Udu Traditional Council and appoint the young Chiefs to take over from them so he could have full control of the palace.
The matter is currently breeding serious unrest in Udu as most of the Chiefs, particularly the older ones, are solidly behind the Otota in standing against the monarch’s plans to impose his family on Udu for a hereditary monarchy against the 1979 Edict.
The stand of the Udu Integrity Group is the stand of the Udu elite, most Udu leaders and the progressives amongst the Udu people. Already, over two third of Udu Communities Presidents have endorsed a letter to the Governor of Delta State, complaining of the behavior of the Monarch, asking that he be called to order or in the alternative be removed so a peaceful man could be enthroned to unite Udu.
How this struggle will end is not known but this sure looks like one long drawn battle that will do the once united Udu Kingdom no good. Many of the Ruling Houses are already warming up to break away from Udu so they could have their own Kingdom. The earlier the matter is resolved the better for the people.
Okorohohi Michael wrote in from Warri