Nteje Crisis: One Community, Two Monarchs In Anambra
As rapes, killings, protests rock Nollywood icon, Pete Edochie's village
The years of rising tension within the sleepy community of Nteje, the headquarters of the Oyi Council of Anambra state and country home of popular Nollywood icon, Chief Pete Edochie, has erupted during the recent 2018 Ofala festival celebration by one of the two claimants to the traditional stool, Igwe Rowland Madukolu Odegbo.
Odegbo’s beautiful palace complex overlooking the Nteje-Otuocha highway was a beehive of activities at the weekend as men and women of all ages, highly placed government functionaries, national and state assemblies lawmakers, top politicians and gaily dressed men and women of all ages when the crisis erupted.
Hundreds of dancing protesters, made up mainly of youths had taken over the busy highway carrying a large white coffin and placards with unprintable inscriptions saying:
- “Odegbo is not our Igwe”,
- “Obiano respect the wishes of Nteje people. Odegbo is not our monarch”,
- “Odegbo this is illegal, you are in court”, ect.
They were also chanting songs critical of Odegbo and the Anambra State Government.
Though they had carried on without molesting anyone; even the armed security agents – soldiers, DSS, police, Road Safety Marshals, Civil Defence, OCHA brigade and state Vigilante officials were all there, but all watched the drama from the sidelines.
They marched and danced past peacefully, adding somewhat colour to the Ofala event.
Unfortunately, on their return journey some irate youths, who appeared sympathetic of Odegbo tried to wade them off the area and ignited the fury in them as it suddenly became a free-for-all at that point.
Cars were smashed, while some observers and guests to the Ofala were badly injured in the confusion that followed.
The lucky ones simply jumped into their vehicles and ran.
Even the natives took to their heels abandoning their homes for fear of reprisals and escalation of the crisis.
But because of the large number of security agents around, including those who had accompanied officials to the Ofala, situation was quickly brought under control.
Meanwhile, at least three of the suspects were arrested by the soldiers. Some persons were also reported missing.
When taken up on the ugly show, Odegboo blamed it all on his rival to the throne, who chose to address himself as the Igwe-elect, Chief Charles Aduaka.
He also fingered a national chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party from the community, Chief Mike Nwakalor for the disturbances including all the law suits he’s been heckled with since 2009.
A Taraba state based businessman Greg Aduaka, from the community who was on a brief visit to see his family while on his way to Onitsha from his base in the North traced the issue to July 25, 2009.
He said that four contestants to the Nteje Aborgu throne had emerged from Ikenga village whose turn it was to produce the new traditional ruler.
Ikenga village, according to the chieftaincy selection process presented the four to the community to chose from.
They consequently appeared before the community at Amana Square, and Charles Aduaka won.
But due to disagreement between the community’s political father, Nwakalor (PDP) and the then Gov Peter Obi (then of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA) the governor settled for Odegbo instead of the community’s popular choice, Aduaka.
Consequently the community went to court and won, thereby nullifying Obi’s recognition of Odegbo. He was consequently ordered to desist from parading as the monarch or presenting himself as one.
Odegbo appealed the judgement and lost again. He subsequently went to the Supreme Court where the suit is pending right now.
It was therefore a surprise to all that despite all these, he (Odegbo) was celebrating Ofala which culminated in more crisis within the community.
The young businessman therefore want the Federal Government to come in at this stage “since it was obvious the state government was biased.
“We really need peace, love, massive development and someone to co-ordinate us to become on family once more.
“Since Odegbo started his romance with the state government, he has not been able to attract any development or appointment to the community.
“It’s been about himself all along,” he noted.
Odegbo admitted to journalists on the pending suit he initiated at the Supreme Court, but was quick to observe that the Ofala did not in any way affect the it.
After all, he added, “… more than half of all monarchs in the state are currently facing legal actions. The state government approved my Ofala because they were convinced am not doing anything illegal or unlawful.
“Yes some people are challenging me and we are in courts. The substantive suit is still pending at the Otuocha High Court.
“My main opponent is a very rich man in Nteje, Chief Mike Nwakalor. We want him to use his wealth to develop and uplift the community”, he emphasized.
“I was the President General of Nteje for years, went to United States of America and on my return many years after, I was elevated as the Igwe”, Odegbo pointed out.
He described Ofala as period when the Igwe and his subjects meet face to face to celebrate.
That the choice of when to celebrate the festival differs based on personal choices, reasons and resources.
That while some more affluent monarchs may organize same annually, he, out of convenience chose to have his done once in four years around the Easter to share in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
He significantly rounded off this year’s celebrations with a thanksgiving mass the next day.
He used the Ofala to honour about seven persons who in his view have distinguished themselves in their chosen areas of endeavours with special chieftaincy titles which accord the rights and privileges to sit in the Nteje Aborgu palace at meetings.
But Aduaka who chose to be addressed as the Igwe-elect, blamed the situation on non-respect for rule of law by Odegbo.
He pointed out that Nteje like every other community and the state government have written laws on traditional institution that was carefully followed in his selection and emergence as the Igwe-elect.
That his installation and coronation was being delayed by the suits that followed the actions of the state government.
Aduaka noted that “when the state government under the former Peter Obi ignored his choice by the community in furtherance of a personal ego trip with Nwakalor, a political leader of the state’s North Senatorial zone and national chieftain of the PDP, the community went to court.
The High Court in its verdict of June 18, 2012 annulled the state government’s recognition for Odegbo.
“Odegbo then went to the Court of Appeal. He lost again. Right now he is in the Supreme Court.
“The courts had asked us to maintain the status quo but he ignored it and now went ahead with this charade he called ofala which has visibly infuriated the citizens into embarking on a peaceful protest.
“I learnt they were attacked thereby leading to fracas and total breakdown of law and order”, Aduaka an Enugu-based legal practitioner and lecturer disclosed.
He admitted he would have celebrated his Ofala too, but because he’s a servant of the law and would not go against the orders of court. “So I wait.”
Ahead the Saturday event, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice had in a letter dated April 12, 2018, who apparently sensed dangers, wrote the Inspector General of Police urging him to prevail on Odegbo to shelve the ofala, but to no avail.
The Minister had raised fears of tension and possible of breakdown of law and order if the Ofala was allowed to proceed as planned.
So despite intense efforts by the Anambra Police command to prevail on Odegbo to stop the event, he allegedly used the contacts of the state government to proceed with the “illegal event”, Aduaka stated.
He however urged citizens to remain law abiding and calm.
Curiously, citizens who sustained injuries in the fracas and families of the missing persons have threatened to go to court against Odegbo.
In his reaction, a member of the royal cabinet and ex-member of the Anambra state House of Assembly, who was also a former chairman of the Oyi Local Government Area, Chief Edwin Aghadinuno lamented that despite telltale signs that all is not well within the community, Odegbo still went ahead with the controversial ofala.
According to him it was Odegbo who lost at the lower courts and had gone to the Supreme Court, but could not wait for the verdict before jumping ahead to celebrate ofala.
“This is lawlessness and abuse of court process.
“Again, not long ago five natives were hacked to death over this matter, nothing was done or even said by Odegbo or even the state government till date.
“Then few days a woman was mercilessly raped and slaughtered on her farm in Amadiaba village by Fulani herdsmen without anyone saying or doing anything about it.
“How then can anyone talk of celebration in this atmosphere; celebrating what?” he asked rhetorically.
On what he thinks was way to return of peace to the once unfold and peaceful Nteje community, Chief Aghadinuno noted, “one thing has been proved, that all is not well with the community.”
Another member of the royal cabinet, Barrister Clement Nwoye described Odegbo’s action as executive lawlessness.
He believed the state government was not ready to obey any court order.
More so, he had no stay of the verdict that annulled his initial recognition by the state government.
Or did he assume that going to the Supreme Court amounts to a stay.
The state government should allow due process prevail, because if at the end of the day he wins, we will all join hands with him to move the community forward.
In the views of Emmanuel Obika, Nteje is bigger than all these combatants, hence must be preserved. Odegbo and Aduaka are our sons and brothers.
They must be called to order. At worst, we jettison both of them and choose a fresh face to lead the community.
While Nwakalor and other prominent sons are on the side of the choice of the masses, there was basically no one of repute in Nteje is on the side of Odegbo other than the state government.
Other communities are making progress and we are on the reverse gear engineered by outsiders.
Incidentally Obi who ignited this is now in the same political boat with Nwakalor, the man for whose sake he threw the community into a seeming everlasting turmoil.
Again, it’s not possible to have two monarchs in one community. Nteje cannot therefore be an exception.
It should not allow outsiders wreck our community further.
From Christian Chime, Awka