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UKE Community Torn Apart By Throne And Constitution

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From all historical records, His Royal Highness, Igwe Godfrey Nwabufo Ezeude (the Eze Anyanwu Gbujiliku, Igwe Ozodimgba)had the best plans for Uke, his beloved community in Idemili North council of Anambra state.

He was dogged, very dogged and determined. Incidentally those glorious plans were derailed.

However, he still succeeded in restoring peace and unity in the community, funded some outstanding life-changing developmental projects like electricity, roads, security, enhanced healthcare and booming commercial activities to the community once again.

The once popular Eke Uke market, one of its kind in the area regained its first choice position within the annals of commerce in the region.

Perhaps his most outstanding gift to mankind  was in the area of poverty alleviation under which project he gave out more than five hundred motorcycles to indigent young men of the community.

Today the effects and gains of his contributions to the community has remained manifest and visible in the lives of citizens, including the neighbouring communities.

As their lives and general welfare received under him tremendous boost that up till today remained unequalled.

Unfortunately, as the well-thought out course he had chatted for the sleepy community continued to bear positive fruits in diverse sectors, his life was cut short ahead the Christmas celebration of 2011.

And the world stood still, shocked, stupefied, rattled and angry beyond measure.

More so because till date no formal report or findings had been made public on the circumstances of his demise. Sadly, that’s how the community lost her beloved monarch.

So the efforts to unravel the seeming complications lingered from the period of his unresolved unnatural death in 2011 till 2015 when moves for his final Ofala Festival became topical.

That was when the then President General of the community, Mr Emeka Enendu and his executive made to wind up that sad aspect of the community’s history.

It met some roadblocks when they failed to strike a balance with the Council of Elders,Uke Development Union Lagos Branch, Traditional Institutions, some Villages and family of the late monarch.

While the Ezeude family pulled out, along with the mentioned groups, leadership of Uke Development Union(UDU) led by Enendu went ahead and celebrated the traditional last Ofala celebration arrangements under the dictates of the community’s 2007 Constitution, that redefined Igweship arrangement to be by rotation and order of seniority among the six constituting villages.

They did so despite counter announcements and warnings, including legal suits, apparently believing there must be an end to crisis. So that the community would move on.

Shortly after that, the UDU declared the stool vacant and thereby commenced the process of installation of a new monarch, even contrary to series of other hanging issues.

However, Chief Charles Agbala, from Uruabor emerged and was enthroned contrary to the constitution that assigned igweship to Ezema/Ubulenu village(Most senior), and was consequently certified by the state government.

Buoyed by his certification by the state government, he has so far been presiding over the affairs of the community with multiplicity of crises and litigations, threatening the lives of ordinary indigenes of the town.

Ironically, a new twist came as the Ezeude family diligently followed on their lawsuit till verdict was recently entered, which invalidated the actions of Enendu’s outgone executive in conducting late Igwe Ezeude’s last ofala on Nov 14,2015 at the Ama Nduka Square and the consequent enthronement of Agbala as the new Igwe of Uke.

The last ofala which was without the participation of the late monarch’s family and other constitutionally empowered bodies brought in its wake further crises as it was voided by the High court judgement.

Thus Uke traditionally has no Igwe as no superior judgement exists.

Because, according to  the oldest Ozo title holder in Uke and chairman of Uke Elders Council-Chief Christopher Okafor Ekpechi(aka Ogbuefi Ezekwueche)from Oba village, there were pending knotty issues that needed sorting out to pave way for a smooth peaceful process.

Ekpechi told journalists that key part of the crisis began during the rebuilding of the Obi-Uke and Obiaja shrines that were alleged to have been destroyed by one Barrister S. Eze and his Pentecostal group. This was part of the processes required before Ezeude’s last ofala. The destruction of the shrines were what the late monarch was tackling before his sudden death.

Rebuilding the shrine was the precondition to enable proper spiritual “afa divinity” consultations on the sudden unnatural demise of the Igwe before the last Ofala could be held.

But the community’s Legal Adviser -Barr S.N.S Eze allegedly insisted on the payment of N10m by the Ezeude family for daring to sue the community in the first place.

This ignited a bitter disagreement which culminated in the eventual pulling out from the last ofala celebration arrangements by the family.

Consequently the Elder’s Council and the Ndi Odinana Uke outlined certain conditions for them to give their approval which included the rebuilding of Obi Obiaja shrine, consulting oracle on the demise of the late Igwe and the spiritual cleansing of the community at the shrine.

More so, Ekpechi noted, the Elders council turned down the scheduled date for the last Ofala in 2015 by the UDU, because it was an “Eke” market day which was against the customs and the application of 2007 Constitution written by the current igwe and others.

They had pointed out that custom forbade burying an Nze on an Eke day. But sadly they allegedly refused to change the date and the Elders stayed away.

Ozo Ekpechi pointed out that he as Chairman of Ozo Uke title holders and Council of Elders ought to have presided at the last ofala event and the enthronement of the new Igwe, but didn’t.

“So I think the proper thing is for the Igwe (Agbala) to retrace his steps for the entire process to commence now, since the last Ofala was legally and traditionally celebrated on 28th December 2017,” he said.

The new President General, Ikedi Obi, whose executive was sacked by the state government few days after this media briefing had noted that the UDU had at its Easter 2017 general assembly resolved to host the 2017 Uke Day celebration on December 29,2017.

But that Igwe Agbala later requested for it to be shifted to Dec 28, saying the visit of the Anglican Bishop on the Niger made it imperative.

This date, Obi stated incidentally clashed with the last ofala date set and advertised by the Ezeude family which they had earlier cleared with the UDU Secretary General who took the minutes that fixed Uke Day to be on 29th December 2017.

In addition, Mr Obi confirmed that in his pursuit for deep rooted peace, he already set up a peace and reconciliation committee to bring together all real and imagined factions in the community before the interference and purported dissolution of his executive by the State government which was announced and formally communicated through the Special Adviser to the Governor on Town Union Matters Mrs Veraqueen Okonkwo.

In all these the  Ezeude family who had strived to avoid this open confrontation, felt hugely betrayed, embarrassed and scandalized. Because it was believed that since sequel to their suit the court nullified the initial last ofala done by Enendu and his executive, as well as the processes leading to the selection and enthronement of Agbala as “Igwe”.

Hence everyone sees Enendu’s era as the real harbinger of the Uke crisis which had all along been cautiously managed.

To worsen the crises the Vice President General under Enendu -Mr Chuks Igboanua was recently appointed Caretaker Committee Chairman to preside over the affairs of the town and the crises he was alleged to be part of.

When confronted on way forward, a Lagos-based Uke son, Chief Chike Akubue who is alleged to nurse Igweship ambition said the 2007  constitution of the community recommended that the President General position should come from the youngest village up to the oldest, while the Igwe stool should move from the eldest village downwards.

But that Agbala contravened it and as a result he personally went to court seeking further interpretation, especially when Agbala was a key member of the 20-man panel that drafted the said constitution.

According to him, “to achieve peace is simple, let’s go back to the Constitution…”

Also, the Secretary General of the now dissolved Ikedi Obi town union executive, Mr Bon Onwubualili advised for the return and adherence to the 2007 Constitution. “What we are quarreling with is its serial violation….”

Another community leader and chairman of the Ezema Ubulenu village -Chief Victor Obinwa summed it up saying, “once lies and distortion of facts are eliminated in Uke affairs, peace and development would return…

But it should start with Agbala vacating the throne in line with the  2007 constitution and verdict of the suit by the Ezeude family.

Especially now that the late monarch’s family in keeping with the same verdict of the court, has traditionally and legally performed the last Ofala in accordance with the 2007 Uke Constitution.”

Ezema Ubulenu has also sued Gov Willie Obiano and the Anambra state government seeking order of mandamus to compel the governor to withdraw Igwe Agbala’s Certificate of Recognition, insisting that it is the turn of their village to produce the next Igwe.

However, Agbala whose comments and reaction to the issues raised came from Barrister Eze who spoke on his behalf said that in as much as he would have loved to speak, but that it would amount to contempt of court as the issues are before the court.

So it would be subjudice to discuss the matters outside the court.

But the worry now according to some locals was the dangerous implication of the towns vigilante. According to them the vigilante was said to be dangerously becoming private agents of intimidation in the hands of few privileged individuals in the community.

They alleged that community security group was on Sept 1, 2018 used their vehicle to make announcement for the Central Executive Committee meeting, during which the then President Genera Ikedi Obi made counter announcement.

Latest information from the community indicated that the leadership of UDU may be bracing up for a legal action against the state government over the dissolution of its executive, especially without any cogent reason.

In the information disclosed, they maintained that they were dazed by the sudden and unexpected action of the state government when they were already on the path of entrenching lasting peace in the community.

Already, an appeal has been initiated against the verdict obtained by the Ezeude family against the initial last ofala by UDU under Enendu and the eventual emergence and enthronement of Igwe Charles Agbala.

The sacked PG -Obi, according to allegations was accused of rendering all the UDU officers and committees ineffective as he had all along usurped all their offices.

So far, the whole income/revenue from the Eke Market as well as the community’s electricity bill/levy have been personalized by Obi who singlehandedly had been running the funds of the community without rendering account to anyone.

This was the reason along his refusal to sign application to join the town Union against Ezema/ Ubulenu village in a writ of Mandamus case on the State government that brought  about petition written against him to mandate him to render account.

From Chuks Collins, Awka

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