Fear has gripped Anambra state government and residents following the planned parallel Ofala festivals by two rival traditional rulers in Awka kingdom on the same date.
The traditional ruler of Awka and former Chancellor of Othman Dan fodio University, Obi Gibson Nwosu and one time traditional prime minister of the Community, Chief Austin Ndigwe, who is contesting the position, are at loggerheads over who is the authentic monarch.
The duo had picked December 28 to celebrate their respective Ofala festival in the same Community.
Obi Nwosu had been the monarch of Awka for the past 20 years but Ndigwe, who declared himself the monarch of the Community over a year ago, is being backed by majority of the prominent names in the community claiming that Nwosu had been dethroned.
As a result, the situation has heightened tension in the state, prompting Governor Willie Obiano to issue a warning through the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) Prof Solo Chukwulobelu.
Obiano said: “Attention of Anambra State Government has been drawn to impending danger and serious threat to the security of lives and property in the State Capital, Awka occasioned by an apparent tussle over the kingship of Awka town.
“The undercurrents of this tussle had manifested in several negative manners over the last few months and is reasonably suspected to be one of the factors behind the incessant cult clashes and killings in the town”
“This unwarranted imbroglio is now reportedly set to climax in unprecedented violence on or before 28th December 2019, the date fixed for the traditional Ofala celebration of the EZE UZU of Awka, His Royal Highness, Igwe Gibson Nwosu.
“Information available to Government is to the effect that the latest threat is principally as a result of the activities of one Chief Austin Ndigwe (aka Uzu Awka), who in the past one year(or thereabout) laid claim to the Kingship of Awka town and has also fixed to hold a parallel Ofala festival in the guise of a birthday celebration on the same date (28th December 2019).
“This development has further degenerated the precarious security situation in Awka with critical stakeholders, traditional title holders, youth groups and other indigenous organisations in the town, torn on war paths on either side of the debacle and set to clash on the appointed date.
“It has therefore become necessary for Government intervention to set the records straight and avert the looming crisis”
Obiano declared the authentic traditional ruler of Awka town was Nwosu, Eze Uzu Awka, who, he said, was crowned and subsequently recognised with a Certificate to that effect presented to him on April 27 1999 by Wing Commander Uwakwe Ukaegbu, then Military Administrator in the state
The state government further warned that it would not fold its arms and allow anybody to truncate the existing peace being enjoyed in the state., adding that any one found taking laws into his hands would be dealt with.
Obiano said the only person empowered by extant laws as well as the ancient traditions of Igbo Land and Awka kingdom to hold, authorise or supervise the performance of traditional rites in his personal capacity or on behalf of the town including the performance of the annual Ofala festival was Nwosu.
“That Chief Austin Ndigwe (aka Uzu Awka) is NOT known to Anambra State Government in any capacity whatsoever associated with the Kingship of Awka town”
“That Chief Austin Ndigwe (aka Uzu Awka) has no rights to perform, authorise or supervise any traditional rites on behalf of Awka town or in his personal capacity attempt to undermine or undermine the performance of such rites”
“That the attempt to fix a parallel Ofala or other event on the date of the Ofala festival of the Eze Uzu Awka is a clear and deliberate attempt by Chief Austin Ndigwe to undermine the Awka traditional institution and create security instability in the town and will NOT be tolerated by Government”
“All concerned should therefore take note that Security Agencies in the State have been notified on the above position and empowered to decisively deal with anyone engaging in acts that threaten the Peace and security of the State Capital.”