By Chuks Ofurum
In the days ahead, the issue of who occupies the position of Chairman Ndieze Imo State will return to the front burner. Already, the tension is building up.
With the recent signing into law of the amendment of Law No. 15 of 2016, intrigues of who curries the governor’s favour will resurface. The amendment made to the law now empowers the governor of the state to determine and appoint the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the council of Traditional Rulers as against the usual practice of subjecting them to electoral process.
But the law or its originators are not the problem.
The problem is the ego, and affluence that had recently been accorded that position. Just like the political class, the royal fathers had engaged themselves in a royal rumble over who occupies the position.
With this Royal rumble comes the macabre dance that has seen the Royal fathers desecrate their royal thrones and “ofo”, the image of the traditional Institutions becoming an object of ridicule. Traditional rulers are now appointed on lottery, and sacked at the whims and emotions of their benefactors. It was that bad.
The tussle for the office of Chairman of the Imo Traditional Rulers manifested its ugly head when Governor Rochas Okorocha, fresh from the battle of wits and chicancery with Governor Ikedi Ohakim, removed HRM Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, the Obi of Obinugwu. Okorocha had accused Ilomuanya of actively participating in the politics of who occupies the Douglas house. Ilomuanya allegedly supported then incumbent governor Ohakim. Ilomuanya went to Court. Obtained various favourable Court judgements, but did not obtain Okorocha’s favour.
The ensuing battle of wits between Okorocha and Ilomuanya divided the royal fathers. Those in favour say ” Aye”, those not in favour say “Nay”. But the issue becomes whose ” Aye” or whose “Nay”. Each dug deep. While Ilomuanya ran to Abuja, Okorocha dethroned him and made him persona grata in his Obinugwu kingdom. Another Eze was enthroned. And another was enthroned as Chairman of Ndi Eze. Ilomuanya’s loss became HRH Eze Samuel Ohiri’s gain. Ohiri became Eze Imo and the battle expanded.
The two royal fathers exchanged dangerous ballistic missiles that nearly consumed all of Imo State. And Okorocha danced. He has finally found an antidote to the belligerent Cletus. And so it was until Okorocha left ” Peoples House “in 2019. Then came Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and the battle resumed. This time, Ihedioha, like the wise man he is, chose to play the ostrich. As far as he was concerned, the two royal fathers could tear each other apart. Or they could be a veritable pawn in his hands.
But while he inwardly detest Ohiri, because my friend is your friend, and my enemy is your enemy, Ihedioha nevertheless view Ilomuanya as an opportunist who dances to the tune of any piper. Keeping Ohiri at arms length and subtly encouraging Ilomuanya, it became an issue of amusement, let the future take care of itself. Ihedioha wisely refused to endorse either of the warring royal fathers.
He couldn’t take a stand, and it was counted for him as weakness. Because divide and rule is a fools game. And this is one of the nagging issues Governor Hope Uzodinma inherited. But will his idea of ” Continuity” in governance play in this tricky one.
Fortunately, both royal fathers were far from him during the electioneering process. While he may have an axe to grind against Ilomuanya, on the way the later allegedly treated him, Uzodinma sees Ohiri as “tainted” politically. So, what to do with them, discard them and move forward. After all, both had enjoyed the perks of the office of Chairman of Ndi Eze Imo. What, they were only fighting is ego. And ego has no place in the Imo of Uzodinma’s dreams. But due process backed by law must be followed to hang a naughty dog.
And so, the Imo State House of Assembly came up with a brilliant idea. Amend the law and free the governor. But while many Imolites are opposed to giving the governor express power to appoint the Chairman of Imo Traditional Rulers, critical observers believe that it was the wisest idea of discarding the two royal combatants if Uzodinma or any other future governor can come out intact, politically.
With this law, Uzodinma can select a neutral Eze without infringing on the Court judgements or risking his limb in this gruelling battle. Having said that, I believe that both Ilomuanya and Ohiri, royal fathers, are matured enough to accept any decision by the governor. It is stating the obvious that Imolites are tired of their unending pigery.
The duo have not only demeaned the Imo traditional Institution, but reduced their royal thrones to a Bongo stool. This is unacceptable. Just as the amended law stipulates, the royal fathers must return to their communities and tend to their people.
Flirting with politicians as it is currently unfolding in the Okigwe Senate contest, belittles the royal stool. Royalty is a thing to be desired. More than politicians, royal fathers have a eerie thing about them.
They communicate with the gods of the land. All the rituals that accompany their coronation are sacred. Their selection, although bastardized, remains the most intense, and in many instances curiously go through spiritual scrutiny.
They are special people. We may not all agree with Governor Uzodinma’s programmes, but at least from what is on ground, the governor has been fair to all. He has not shown unnecessary bias to any of the Zones.
Agreed that politics is all about interest, Governor Uzodinma has however spread his appointments and projects across the three Zones.
The royal fathers must key in to this vision of considering the people first. They are there because of the people.
If they are not comfortable with the new arrangement, they should please resign and let another take.