Indiscriminate display of power and weakening of traditional institution in Enugu

By AdvocateNews on 18/10/2021

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Senator Jim Nwobodo, former Governor of old Anambra State
Senator Jim Nwobodo, former Governor of old Anambra State

By Engr. Dr. Patrick C. Nnaji

The current government in Enugu State has been suspending traditional rulers indiscriminately in recent years.

The most recent is HRH, Igwe Anthony Ogbodo Okorie, the traditional ruler of Amechi Awkunanaw community in Enugu South LGA, who was suspended on October 5, 2021.

It would be recalled that the present administration had on the 21st day of September 2021, suspended HRH Igwe C.E. Okwor of Aku, in Igbo Etiti, LGA, due to alleged demolition of a residence belonging to a visually handicapped man.

Also, the earlier suspension of HRH Igwe Bernard Nwoye and Igwe Cyprian Ekwochi of Akwuke and Akwuke Uwani, respectively, on the 7th day of November 2019, scheduled for 30 days but still subsisting two years later, and that of HRH Igwe Onyefulu Ilomaonweya of Amaetiti Achi on 17th day of April 2018.

My concern is not so much with the suspension of these royal fathers as it is with the manner in which it was carried out without fair hearing, thorough investigation, and, in the case of HRH, Igwe Anthony Ogbodo Okorie, no due process.

This poses a risk, as this rash display of authority may damage the institution, give negative impression of democracy, and lead to future disruptions of peace and anarchy in communities where touts and government officials become demigods and misled the government of the people, by the people and for the people.

What exactly do I mean? Without a thorough investigation into the alleged offenses, many of the above traditional rulers were suspended. This is essential, given the importance of this great institution and the effect of weakening this institution on Enugu State’s peace and security.

The weakening of this institution will result in a disruption of peace and stability in the long run, rather than the maintenance of peace and stability asserted as the basis for the suspensions.

In their best-selling book ‘Why Nations Fail,’ Darron Acemoghu and James Robinson maintained that the difference between poverty and success of states or nations is determined by the institution driving decision-making.

During his visit to Ghana, Barack Obama, the former president of the United States of America, stated that Africa requires strong institutions rather than powerful men.

As a result, weakening our institution by rash displays of authority as in recent suspension leads to poverty rather than wealth. Poverty is not only a financial problem, but it is also a psychological issue.

As a result, the government of Enugu State should retool its process and manner it issues suspension to traditional rulers.

Igwe C.E. Okwor, for example, alleged that the said visually handicapped man was being used as a proxy to seize land from the community, albeit I am not defending him because I am not entirely aware of what happened.

Instead of a hasty suspension of the royal father, a proper investigating team, such as the State’s Disputes Resolution/Mediation if one exists and if one does not, a new one should be formed to conduct a thorough investigation into each incident and offer fair solutions without pandering to powerful figures in the community, as the government has been accused of doing.

The royal fathers of Akwuke and Akwuke Uwani, who were suspended for 30 days but have now been held for more than two years, are in the same boat. This results in the deterioration of our traditional institutions, which are unavailable in any other part of the country and leaves negative impression of our fledgling democracy especially in our state.

I felt compelled to write in response to HRH Igwe Anthony Ogbodo Okorie’s recent suspension, as he is the traditional ruler of my community, Amechi Awkunanaw.

The traditional ruler’s squabble began a few years ago when it was claimed that the former governor of old Anambra State, Sen. Jim Nwododo, (allegedly) requested him to sign and backdate a document claiming that the land where Satellite Press was previously sited was given to him (Jim Nwobodo) as a gift by the community rather than as an overriding interest for a place to build a company that would provide jobs for our people.

Igwe Anthony Ogbodo Okorie, suspended by Enugu state government 

When the royal father refused, the former governor took up arms against the royal family. If not for the tenacious position of Late Justice Eddy Onyia rtd., whose death was so terrible to the community, and Hon. John Ngene Egbo, former commissioner and the duly elected town union president, Sen. Nwobodo would have been able to discredit the inaugural Offala ceremony of the Royal father.

The Offala was a smash hit. As a result of this achievement, the former governor (allegedly) resorted to using the State government’s official apparatus to sow discord and instability in the community.

He began by assembling a group of concerned citizens, with whom he established a parallel town union in the community, with the help of the chairman of Enugu South LGA and the commissioner for Rural Development, to help him achieve his goal of acquiring Satellite land.

 By suspending the community constitution, they were able to do so. The governor had intervened but Sen. Nwobodo and his wife, feeling that they had the governor’s ear, refused to listen to sound advice on how to SHARE the land with the indigenous people.

After failing to bring Sen. Jim Nwobodo to the table for conversation, the indigenes of Amechi decided to take legal action. The case of the parallel town union and Satellite land is now being litigated in several Enugu state courts. In order to maintain peace and order, Amechi Awkunanaw, who was burdened by a law-abiding traditional ruler, chose the legal route.

When the parallel town union failed to produce the desired results, a strategy was devised to have the traditional ruler, Igwe Anthony Ogbodo Okorie, suspended.

This is because they attempted everything, they could to incite unrest in the community, but the royal father refused to give up and kept soothing down his citizens, begging them not to succumb to bloodshed.

They expected bloodshed when the parallel town union was formed, but the royal father and the duly chosen town union members chose to use legal means.

The Enugu South council chairman and the leadership of the parallel town union expected a reaction from the youths when they broke the keys to the civic center, but the royal father let them have their way in order for peace to reign. They were gathering there, but the duly elected members of the town union were patiently waiting for a judicial decision on the matter.

Despite the pending legal cases, the parallel union went ahead and started collecting development levies and spending the money without regard for the community bye-laws.

The community was also calm and law-abiding when the alternative town union, led by the LGA chairman, threw aside our constitution and suspended the Igwe, despite the fact that they lacked such powers and committing sub judice because its legitimacy is still pending in court.

The government accepted a suspension letter from them knowing fully well it was a result of an illegality and acted on it too.

It’s no surprise they acted quickly following the death of Late Justice Eddy Onyia rtd., a legal luminary who was on the side of truth and justice, and, had advocated for a legal approach as the best option.

However, it seems to me they were playing the script written for them.

The royal father was then suspended due to a security breach in the community, which was surprising because such breach does not exist in the community.

More unexpected is that it was previously alleged that the traditional ruler was told that if he does not comply and sign the document produced by Sen. Jim Nwobodo, he will lose his title as Igwe. This was underlined when, notwithstanding the presence of our Igwe, one John Ogbe Ngene was paraded as Igwe elect by the purported concerned citizens loyal to Sen. Jim Nwobodo violating traditional Rulers law of the State during the commissioning of Amechi Bailey Bridge by the Governor of the State.

The case is still being litigated in Enugu State Court. Also, the royal father was not served an invitation for a meeting with the commissioner of chieftaincy matters on the day of suspension; instead, the invitation was sent to WhatsApp groups and social media. The lack of a formal invitation to the traditional ruler, as well as the publication of the invitation and an alleged security breach through social media without investigation, is a parody of the ancient institution and an intimidation of the first order. This isn’t right.

The government’s use of social media to weep up sentiments before carrying out its predetermined cruel and selfish actions are slowly eroding our historic institution and democracy. Worse, the majority of government actions are aimed at appeasing an individual or group of persons at the expense of the citizens or general public. This is completely ridiculous.

Enugu state’s government has recently been accused of land grabbing, particularly in and around the Amechi Awkunanaw districts of Enugu South LGA.

The majority of the traditional rulers who have been suspended refer to suspected land grabs, particularly if the traditional ruler fails to join with the government machinery or its allies.

This appears to be the case, particularly in the case of Igwe Anthony Ogbodo Okorie’s suspension. The suspension is obviously linked to a land dispute between the community and Sen. Nwobodo, the former governor of old Anambra State.

This began when Sen. Jim Nwobodo, after erecting the Enugu State Housing Corporation’s signpost, began selling the community landed property that had been provided for the construction of a factory that would provide work for the community’s residents, against the overriding public interest for which the land was donated.

This is a terrible situation. Governments that were elected to serve the people as a whole are now acting against the people as a whole and serving an individual. This indicates that our communities are in jeopardy. I appeal to all well-meaning Enugu state indigenes, both at home and abroad, to intervene and redirect the government to do the right thing.

This is because the government’s dismantling of this wonderful institution in order to appease individuals’ spells disaster for us and our unborn children. Let the downtrodden masses’ cries be heard by God in heaven. God give people power to do good to all people rather than serving the interest of one man in a society.

Engr. Dr. Patrick C. Nnaji
An Academic / Community Leader from Amechi Awkunanaw writes from Enugu

Posted 18/10/2021 4:56:09 PM


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