The last may not have been heard of the Iri Ji Mbaise, the annual New Yam Festival, held penultimate week in Mbaise, Imo State, and in which Uche Nwosu, the Chief of Staff to the Imo State Governor, Rochas Nwokocha, was conferred with a chieftaincy title, “Ugwumba Oha Nile of Mbaise” (the Pride of Mbaise Nation), by 11 traditional rulers of the clan, led by Eze Leo Nwokocha, Chairman of Mbaise Council of Traditional Rulers.
This is because Ezuruezu Mbaise, the apex socio-cultural organization of the clan, which had earlier, in a letter of petition said to have been signed by about 1,000 members and sent to the two main factions of Ndi Eze Mbaise, namely the HRH Eze Alex Ike led “Ndi Eze Mbaise Cultural Association” and the Leo Nwokocha-led “Mbaise Council of Traditional Rulers,” signifying its objection to the conferment, when it was in preparatory stage, by noting that Nwosu and his boss, Rochas, have done nothing for the clan worthy of the chieftaincy title, has not only disowned the title but also placed sanction on the traditional rulers who participated in the ceremony.
Reasons for the sanction
In a press statement of the Ezuruezu Mbaise Global arm of the association signed by the group’s Moderator, Prof. Eddie Oparaoji, Facilitator, Chief Alozie Aguwa, and one thousand other indigenes of Mbaise, from across the world, they argued that “the Mbaise Council of Traditional Rulers is a body neither recognized by statutory or civil law, and therefore falsely usurped its representation of the culture and values of the Mbaise nation, including the reserved powers to confer legitimate traditional titles. We hereby immediately cease all dealings, relationships with, and recognition of, this so-called Mbaise Council of Traditional Rulers as it is apparently illegal and fraudulently represents itself as an embodiment of Mbaise culture and values. We recommend that all other entities and individuals should do the same.
They further stated: “Henceforth we recommend to all entities and individuals to treat them as non-custodians of our culture, and not accord any requisite protocols and privileges to those members of Mbaise Council of Traditional Rulers who participated in the charade of conferring a sham chieftaincy title on Uche Nwosu.”
The only crime committed by the members, Oparaoji, pointed out in an answer to Saturday Sun inquiries is the fact that they claimed to have gotten the approval of the whole of Mbaise to confer a revered Mbaise chieftaincy title on Uche Nwosu. “That out of 91 autonomous communities, it appears only 11 greedy monarchs may have participated in the chieftaincy scam speaks volumes of what transpired,” he said. “Their claims of imaginary Okorocha’s developmental projects in Mbaise, is of no consequence, except that Rochas could be pissing on them publicly and they would claim it is raining.”
He accused them of crowd-renting and frittering away millions of naira on the “fake” chieftaincy title, declaring public holiday and deploying over ten thousand security agents and thugs to ensure they had their way. “In the words of US President, Ronald Reagan, when you are explaining, you have lost. We are not explaining. Mbaise has won and they lost, it’s that simple.”
Reactions to the development
Contacted for comment, the Chief Press Secretary to the Imo State Governor, Chief Sam Onwuemeodo, an Mbaise son who had earlier written an article published in one of the local newspapers, to chronicle the steps he and others took to effectively checkmate the plans made by Ezuruezu Mbaise to scuttle the crowning ceremony, declined. Though he is a holder of the clan’s traditional title, Okanga Oziri 1 of Mbutu Nwenkwo Autonomous Community, Aboh Mbaise, he, nevertheless, noted that he is not the leader of Mbaise.
But reacting on the development, in a chat with Saturday Sun, Nwokocha insisted that the socio-cultural organisation does not have the power to sanction him as they are not the government. The monarch also dismissed the allegation of receiving money said to be N100m from the state government for the purpose of the conferment of chieftaincy title on Nwosu, during the New Yam Festival.
He pointed out that the conferment of chieftaincy title on any deserving individual is the exclusive preserve of the traditional rulers and not that of members of Ezuruezu Mbaise. “Ezuruezu Mbaise does not have the power to sanction me because I am not their member neither are they members of the council of traditional rulers of Mbaise,” he said. “The Ezuruezu Mbaise is just a social club and therefore cannot decide for the traditional rulers who to confer chieftaincy title on. Besides, many sons and daughters of Mbaise have been conferred with chieftaincy titles by other traditional rulers outside Mbaise nation.”
He added that “those who are calling themselves members of Ezuruezu Mbaise are politicians but we the Ezes are not politicians but custodians of the tradition and culture of the people.” On the allegation of collecting N100m from the state government to confer the title on Uche Nwosu, he described it as “ridiculous” noting that “we don’t need money to confer a chieftaincy title on an illustrious son of the state and those who are saying that money was given should tell us who brought the money and who received it.”
He lamented that “it is quite unfortunate that members of the Ezuruezu Mbaise are just blackmailing the monarchs of Mbaise apparently to create disaffection. Some of those who call themselves Ezuruezu Mbaise Global have never visited Mbaise for forty years and most of them who worked for Shell company and retired after 35 years never facilitated the employment of any Mbaise son or daughter as a cleaner and they are the ones causing the problems in Mbaise. So, the Ezes of Mbaise are not under their supervision.”
He punctured the claims by the association that only 11 of the over 91 monarchs had participated in the chieftaincy title conferment ceremony. “It is not possible for all the Ezes to perform the ceremony at the same time, but what is important is that once they have agreed that six or seven can perform the chieftaincy title conferment ritual by placing the chieftaincy cap on the person,” he submitted.
The grounds for forgiveness
A source who does not want his name in print because he is not authorized to speak on behalf of the association hinged their opposition to the conferment of chieftaincy title on Nwosu on the non-performance of Okorocha-led government in Mbaise. “Some of the roofs of the primary and secondary schools in Mbaise have caved in,” he said. “Mbaise must take interest in the affairs of her children. Last week, it was a great pleasure watching a group of five girls from a secondary school in Anambra State receive first prize at the innovative technology contest held in San Francisco, California, USA. The girls developed an App for screening fake drugs in Nigeria. Subsequent review on the recipients showed that the school buildings in Anambra served as the hub of this great achievement. Children from Imo State, and in particular Mbaise, can do as well if given the opportunity to rise and shine. At the moment, most parts of Mbaise have no functioning public primary and secondary schools. If in doubt, pay a visit to a primary or secondary school in the so-called greater Imo State and watch yourself consumed in deep emotion and sadness. Snakes, rodents and other animals occupy the premises. The mere pictures will make any person sick. The ugly situation is true for many other places.”
On the charge about the socio-cultural organization being peopled by politicians (whom Onwuemeodo in the referred newspaper article had accused of belonging to People’s Democratic Party, PDP), the source said: “the leadership of Ezuruezu represented by our President General, Barrister CY Anyanwu, is non-partisan, as he has been continually interfacing with all our aspirants to have a level playing field for the best to emerge in all the parties they represent. We know all these are politically motivated. The way forward is for all our cultural and traditional institutions to be seen as apolitical in their views and decisions. They must be seen as the fathers of all Mbaise sons and daughters. They can serve as advisers to our political sons and daughters and must be seen as working only for the good of Mbaise.”
“Mbaise people are very religious and are forgiving by nature, and will forgive any sinner who genuinely shows contrition,” Oparaji said. “If these monarchs show genuine contrition and fulfill the penalty the community will impose on them, I would think forgiveness is possible.”