From Maurice Okafor,Enugu.
The traditional institution in Achi, a town in Oji Oji River of Enugu state is currently divided over the installation of one of their members, His Royal Highness Igwe Godwin Madu, the king of Mbaogu kingdom ,to the throne of Ezeala 111, the most revered title in the town. The installation ceremony which took place on December 31st,2020, during the famous triennial cultural festival of the town known as ‘Oga Aga,Agwu Agwu'[literally meaning an unending cultural festival] has been rejected by seven prominent traditional rulers out of the twelve government recognised autonomous communities that make up Achi.
The Seven traditional rulers who are leaders in their respective autonomous communities described the installation and ascendancy of Igwe Godwin Madu to the throne of Ezeala 111 as illegal, illegitimate and unconstitutional to the laws of Enugu state. They are appealing to the state government, Oji River local government authority and other concerned citizens of Achi to disregard the proclamation of Igwe Godwin Madu as Ezeala 111 of Achi and should call him to order.
When contacted, Igwe Godwin Madu insisted that his installation was in order and in line with the ‘Achi Amended Constitution Chieftancy Constitution 1997. He said his installation enjoyed maximum support of the 12 autonomous communities in Achi under an atmosphere of peace and decorum during the ‘Oga Aga Agwu Agwu’ cultural festival. He faulted the claim that Seven traditional rulers from seven different autonomous communities were against him installation, pointing that Igwe Oliver Okefi belongs to Oji Urban community and is not part of the 12 traditional rulers of the twelve autonomous communities in Achi.
The Seven traditional rulers who have rejected the installation of Igwe Godwin Madu as Ezeala 111 of Achi as stated in their press statement dated Friday, February 5, made available to THE AUTHORITY are HRH Igwe Dr Chuks Mbaeriachi of Isikwe Achi autonomous community, HRH Igwe Sunday O Z Orah of Adu-Achi autonomous community and HRH, Igwe Johnson Ozoadibe of Agbadala Achi autonomous community,
Others include HRH, Igwe Victor Onuaguluchi of Ihe-Achi autnomous community ,HRH, Igwe Oliver Okehi of Oji-River Urban, HRH Igwe Timothy Gbugu of Amankpunato and HRH Igwe John Egwuatu of Ehuhe Achi autonomous community.
Their press statement reads in part:
‘We are Concerned Traditional Rulers from Achi in Oji River Local Government Area of Enugu State. We have watched with heightened concern the activities of some sons and daughters of Achi, aimed at sowing discord and rupturing the peace which has existed in Oji River.
‘Achi is made up of Twelve (12) Autonomous Communities as legally recognized by the Government of Enugu State and duly gazetted.
‘Pursuant to this development, over the years Enugu State Government has at different times recognized and enthroned or dethroned a Traditional Ruler as the case may be, for each of the Twelve (12) Autonomous Communities.
‘ It was then laughable mischief when on the 3Ist of December, 2020 at the sacred Oga Aga Agwu Agwu ceremony, some individuals against the laws of Enugu State and tradition of the people, conspired and hijacked the event and claimed they were installing a Traditional Ruler to be known as “Ezeala 111 of Achi” without recourse to the Government of Enugu State.
‘ On that fateful day we restrained from disrupting the charade because we did not want to scandalize, embarrass or bring disgrace to Achi. It took us this long to officially react because we thought that through consultation, superior argument and informed engagement we could convince the conspirators to retrace their steps.
‘ Unfortunately almost a month after, our patience continues to embolden them as they have continued to progress in error in pursuit of their selfish agenda
.’The purported installation of one Igwe Godwin Madu to the unknown throne, is not only null and void but ultra-vires.
‘ The “Fake News” being peddled by Igwe Chima Achiekwelu, that the respected Igwe Eugene Onyelu, Eze Ala 11, the last Igwe of Achi, transferred his official staff of office to him, has since been debunked by Prince Okey Onyelu, the first son of Late Igwe Eugene Onyelu who still has the staff of office in his family’s custody.
‘’It has since been discovered that the staff of office used for the disgraceful drama on the 3Ist of December, 2020 was fake’.
The traditional rulers also accused Igwe Godwin Madu to have been parading himself unconstitutional as permanent chairman of Achi council of traditional rulers and said they never met and agreed on such a position .
Their press statement stated further,
‘Unfortunately this same Igwe Godwin Madu has also continued to falsely parade himself as the “Permanent” Chairman of the Achi Council of Traditional Rulers. Not even at the State level is the position of Chairman of the Traditional Rulers Council “Permanent”.
‘At no time were the people and Traditional Rulers of Achi, consulted or agreed to be part of this illegality of “Eze Ala 111” or “Permanent Chairman”
‘ By this statement we are calling on His Excellency, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Chairman Oji River LGA and well meaning sons and daughters of Oji River LGA, to call Igwe Godwin Madu and his cohorts to order: To give peace a chance as their actions and activities are threatening the peace and security of Oji River Local Government Area. For Igwe Godwin Madu to stop parading himself as “Eze Ala 111” of a non existing Achi stool. For Igwe Godwin Madu to stop parading himself as the “Permanent Chairman” of Achi Traditional Rulers Council, as no such office exists.
‘’For Igwe Godwin Madu to stop interfering in the affairs of individual Autonomous Communities but mind the business of his Autonomous Community’
But in a swift reaction, Igwe Godwin Madu, who told THE AUTHORITY that he was overseas responded effectively through WhatsApp messages. He said that in as much as he never lobbied for the stool, but his installation was done in accordance with Achi amended chieftaincy constitution which provides for rotation of the Ezeeala stool between Achi Uno[six communities] and Achi Agu[six communities]
Igwe Madu stated in his Whatsaap message,’ My brother, I don’t know who merits what. That I am the King of Mbaogu Kingdom is Gods doing and that ACHI people sees it fit to hand me the Staff of Authority as the Ezeala 3 of Achi is equally God’s doing. The representatives of the 12 Autonomous Communities in ACHI ( PGs ) endorsed with all the Nze na Ozo societies before every eligible sons and daughters of Achi in the presence of all the Traditional Rulers of Achi and invited guests. For any body talk-less of a Traditional ruler of Achi to say that he or she wasn’t consulted is an insult on him or herself because the Traditional institution of Achi as it consigns Ezeala dynasty has a constitution written and signed by our forefathers in 1997. Good a thing that our forefathers covered the eventuality of Achi being divided into Autonomous communities in that said constitution. Some of My fellow Igwes of Achi are just afraid that I may start ruling their communities forgetting that there is an Enugu State law governing every traditional ruler of Enugu State’s activities and as I said before Ezeala traditional dynasty constitution covers those areas too. The purpose is for the development of Achi in all areas that concerns Achi as a whole. The ACHI traditional rulers before now made me their permanent chairman since more than 5years ago and I have not entered into their various communities, we have been holding meeting since then every last Friday of the month. Do you now think that this issue of Ezeala has never come up?’.
Commenting on the fact that the numerical strength of Achi traditional rulers who are against his installation, Igwe Godwin Madu stated,
‘The people who signed are six. Igwe Oliver Okefi is not Achi traditional rulers, he is from Oji Urban. Achi is made up of 12 traditional rulers. We are not 13’.
Outlining the historical cultural background of ‘Ezeala kingship in Achi, Igwe Godwin Madu stated,’Our forefathers graciously left the throne of Ezeala 1 to the father of Achi who is Ezeala. Nobody officially was crowned or handed the staff of Ezeala 1’
Igwe Madu stressed that the late Igwe Eugene Onyelu who during his lifetime was crowned Ezeala 11 of Achi belongs to Achi Uno clan and his coronation as Ezeala 111, years after the demise of Igwe Onyelu satisfied the provisions in the 1997 Achi Amended Chieftaincy constitution which stipulates that the position of Ezeala should be rotated between Achi -Uno and Achi- Agu clans, unless where one of the clans is in lack of men with proven integrity who are very much in tune with customs and culture of Achi town.
The 1997 Achi Amended Chieftaincy Constitution which he posted to the AUTHORITY was signed by the late Igwe Eugene Onyelu in his capacity as the Ezeala 11 of Achi, late Nze E.C.Nnadozie, in his capacity as Secretary, Ezeala in Council, late Major [Dr] Forster Mbaekwe ,National President of Achi Improvement Union and Dr E.N.Madu,National Secretary,Achi Improvement Union’