EVEREST EZIHE, Owerri
Since one week now Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State held his maiden meeting with the 645 members of the State Council of Traditional Rulers instead of happiness and peace gripping them, they are rather enmeshed in confusion and suspense as the Governor keep sealed lips on the authentic position of the leadership of the ancient traditional Institution given room for rumours, grapevine and gossips.
Months before the well attended meeting, rumours were highly paddled that the Governor has advanced plans to dissolve the 29 members constituted leadership of the Traditional Rulers Council headed by HRM Eze Samuel Ohiri as their 5 years constitutional tenure was less than 3 years to expire and another grapevine strongly has it that the Governor is unperturbed on who mounts the Leadership of the council considering enormity of great expectations from the populace and the way he was brought in by the Supreme Court.
At the Parliament Hall of the Traditional Rulers Secretariat being venue of the crucial meeting , tension and suspense enveloped the environment as the Governor who apologetically came 4 hours late doused the tension and suspense by immediately announcing that the essence of the meeting is not to dissolve the council and appoint another.
Governor Uzodimma said it point blank that the essence of the maiden meeting is to ensure sustainablity of security of lives and properties especially in the various Autonomous Communities and to streamlined roles to the newly inaugurated State Community Policing and Advisory Committee being Chaired by HRH Eze Emmanuel Okeke of Amaifeke Orlu as it affects the Local Government Areas, wards, autonomous.
Hence the Governor at the meeting issued guidelines to traditional rulers in the state on the implementation of a new proactive, effective, and efficient security architecture that will guarantee the security of lives and property in the respective communities in the state.
He told the gathering of the Monarchs that the arrangement of the Community Policing Initiative was conceived by the Federal Government and to be implemented by the state, ward, and communities in the state.
According to him, the Community Policing Initiative is a new comprehensive programme that seeks to uproot crimes from the grassroots, hence a burning passion of the State and Federal Governments to stamp out crimes in the country, particularly at the grassroots level.
“The arrangement is specifically to prevent crime, and abort criminal activities of all forms at the grassroot. The body will be established at each ward, community, LGA, Zonal level up to State,” the Governor explained.
He emphasized that the success of the initiative will depend completely on credible, suitable and reliable indigenes to man its operations, noting that the innovation is aimed at giving indigenes charge of security challenges in their communities with the guidance of the Nigerian Police. “Therefore such indigenes must be men and women of impeccable characters.”
The Governor, therefore, charged traditional rulers who are leaders of their respective communities to take responsibility as Chief Security Officers of their communities and get involved in the appointment of men and women of repute respected by other members of the community to be part of the arrangement.
He also enjoined Traditional Rulers to be involved in the selection and appointment of Town Union Presidents and members in their communities, tasking them to liaise with stakeholders and genuine leaders of their communities to conduct credible town union elections.
The Governor told them that henceforth that the Town Union President will be held accountable for the security of their communities and the traditional rulers will be solely responsible for the success or failure of same community as regards security and leadership.
He said also that traditional rulers will have no excuse for not nominating credible people, as the Community Policing Initiative is a well thought out programme aimed at eliminating crimes such as rape, banditry, burglary, armed robbery and kidnapping.
The Governor further warned that failure on the part of the Monarchs to do the right thing is as good as self resignation by the traditional rulers while advising them on the need to reside in their communities, insisting that “the era of Diaspora Eze has gone.”
Governor Uzodimma promised the monarchs a new welfare packages that will enhance their status and make them concentrate on their assigned roles as custodians of culture and tradition.
He charged them to carry the good news of prosperity government home, informing them that he has done his best to pay all verified civil servants and pensioners their allowances ,carried out some infrastructural projects and is making efforts to recover the destroyed original Owerri Master Plan.
On the position of the clamour by some over ambitious traditional rulers for the dissolution of the council the Governor vehemently stated that it’s his duty to dissolve the council and reconstitute them whenever he wanted but he will not do that now and before doing it he needs time to consult widely .dissolved Eze Imo Council, the Governor said.
The Governor then reiterated the need for peaceful coexistence among the traditional rulers and promised that at the end of the day the new Council, when put in place, will be to the benefit and satisfaction of all concerned.
He used the opportunity to inform the traditional rulers that the repeal of the CGC Law was for the benefit of the traditional institution in the state.
Some of the monarchs who spoke thanked the Governor for providing good leadership and for finding time to interface with the traditional rulers despite the COVID-19 challenge. They promised to work with the Governor to ensure that the security at the community is enhanced.
Present at the meeting were the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prof. Placid Njoku, the Speaker Imo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chiji Collins, Members of the State Executive Council and all recognized Traditional Rulers of the three Zones of the State.
Surprisingly barely 6 hours at exactly 9.37 pm after the meeting a press release emanating from the Government House and endorsed by Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku CPS/Media Adviser to the Governor of Imo State with a caption Uzodimma Dissolves Imo Traditional Council Tasks Imo Monarchs on Community Policing.
That night media men in the state went beserk with phone calls to Hon. Declean Emelumba, the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy as well as the Chief Press Secretary both claimed that the Governor said that at the meeting but the Journalists insisted that at no time did the Governor said that at the meeting.
They later changed the narrative that the Governor said that outside the venue when Journalists accosted him for clarifications which the Journalists bluntly refused to accept as the Governor never gave them an opportunity to talk to them immediately after the meeting as he was quickly guided to his car by security details and the convoy zoomed off immediately.
Following the scenario HRM Eze Samuel Ohiri, Eze Imo held a press conference in his palace and reiterated that the Governor did not announced the dissolution of the council.
He maintained that it’s the constitutional rights of the Governor to dissolve and reconstitute the council but must not be done in retrospect of the law and due process must be followed.
Since then the traditional rulers in the state have murdered sleep as they have been thrown into leadership dilemma and since then the Governor has bluntly kept mum over the issue.
Eze Ohiri passionately appealed to the Governor to punish Hon. Emelumba and other of his aides for allegedly dishing out tissues of lies and causing unnecessary embrassement to the state government.
However, some critics in the state are equally demanding for the Governor to be courageous enough and clarify issues noting that the sanctity of the traditional Institution will not be eroded.