When the Ojoto chieftaincy crisis erupted mid last year, record has it that the elders of the community led by an octogenarian, Chief Daniel Ilonze, the Ichie Isi Mmili Ojoto, and Chief Samuel Nwafor Ezimmo, the Ikenga Ojoto who also is the oldest palace Chief(Ichie) alive in the community today, minced no words to caution both the state government and those they referred to as “the young nouveau riche in Ojoto who are bent on causing chaos except everything was done their way.”
The rivalry had consciously and subconsciously tore the community into two.
Their contention was around the bitter disagreement over wether or not the operational constitution of the community and its Town Union leadership feature in the selection of the new monarch.
As elders, they had predicted the government’s big stick to tame the combatants.
For close watchers of the drama while it lasted have severally accused highly placed aides to the governor to have soiled their hands and could be consequently axed. That is if Gov Willie Obiano chooses to redeem his already battered image in no fewer than one hundred and twenty-five communities where it was alleged that his officials soiled their hands, perverted justice and compromised the peace of the citizens.
And the ugly trend which had been going on unchallenged, and polarizing almost all the 177 constituting communities of the state and heightening a progressive dent on the superlative image of the governor.
Because while Chiefs Ilonze, Ezimmo, and Efoagui, just like many other citizens of the community gave a clear narration of how Dennis Adindu Okafor emerged the Igwe-elect of Ojoto, Chief Gerrard Mbamalu and few others including Chief Rommy Anyisia insisted that no such thing had taken place.
Also on the side of the Igwe-elect was the President General of the community, Engr Edwin Umeghalu who admitted that Okafor had satisfied all the requirements for elevation to the exulted office of Igwe Ojoto and was so done in accordance with their constitution.
Umeghalu assured that he, in his position as the President General had presented Okafor to the Idemili Council chairman having been cleared by the Department of State too. So that he is anxiously awaiting his formal certification by the state government.
Then, the Governor’s Special Adviser on Chieftaincy and Local Government Matters, Chief Ikechukwu Onyeabor confided in this reporter then that his office was grappling with no fewer than 120 petitions bothering on Chieftaincy or leadership tussles in as many communities. Since then, things have really gone worse.
It was however curious that some citizens accused some named government officials of enjoying and reaping huge returns therefrom. Because at a time there were crises in Nanka, Uke, Awba Ofemmili, Oraukwu, Nkpor, Lilu, Okija, Awka, Ogidi to mention just a few.
So far, only few among these communities have resolved theirs, while others have since gone to courts; not particularly because of the intervention of the state government but because they chose to embrace peace.
According to Chief Ezimmo, “I was around when the late Igwe Augustine Obidiwe from Ojoto Uno which comprised Ezieke, Ojor, Ireh, and Umuchem villages was installed and later dethroned. The mantle consequently fell on the late Igwe Adirika from Ojoto Obofia comprising Enugo, Ndiabor, Umuezema and Ezema villages.
Adirika reigned in glory till he joined his ancestors and the lot historically fall on Obidiwe again, second time in his lifetime.
And now that Obidiwe (from Ojoto Uno)has joined his ancestors, the lot has now again shifted to Ojoto Obofia. According to the constitutional dictates, the most senior of the villages which was Enugo was mandated to present the next Igwe.
The selection process was enunciated in Article 26(1-3) of the community’s Constitution, without any ambiguity whatsoever, in concert with the Chieftaincy Laws of Anambra State.
As the 86-year old Chief Ilonze, Ichie Isimili Ojoto, a revered knight and highly respected community leader, who incidentally was the President General of the community when the operational Constitution was drafted and adopted in 1977, “it was same constitution that was used as grund num in the selection, installation and crowning of both the late Igwe Abel Adirika and Obidiwe. And was the same that was now used in the selection of the new Igwe-elect-Chief Dennis Adindu Okafor.
“This operational Constitution which we used in the selection and enthronement of Igwe Dennis Adindu Okafor was drawn in 1977 when I was the President General of this community. It became effective from 1979 till date without any problem whatsoever.
“It was this same Constitution that guided us in 1979 in the crowning of Igwe Adirika and it was the same we used to crown Igwe Obidiwe. So why should persons who were mere toddlers when these issues were extensively deliberated upon and agreed by their fathers then show up today to foment crisis where none actually exists.
“I forgive them, including those who have been calling me on the phone at ungodly hours of the day to threaten my life on this issue. I know such persons really have no good intentions for Ojoto and her people. Their sole aim is to invade the remaining communal lands and sell them off which has been their stock-in-trade. These are people who round-the-clock surround themselves with retinue of heavily armed policemen and soldiers. None of them feels free even in the midst of their own people here in Ojoto. Why? Of course the reasons are very obvious…”, Ilonze emphasized.
He viewed the tussle to be between the youthful bourgeoise and nouveau riche of the community on one side and the elders council of the community on the other. But, in all, Ilonze maintained that said abiding by the community’s constitution and established laws, custom and tradition remain the only way forward to peace. He therefore urged governor Obiano to be so guided.
He saw the Igweship stool to be about culture of the people, “…whereas those fomenting trouble have neither constitutional right or role in the community nor any traditional function. They are mere honorary Ichies(Chiefs) who were so honoured alongside some other Nigerians from across the Niger and even non-Nigerians including Hausas, Yorubas, Binis, etc by our late Igwes. They now arrogantly want to torpedo the stand of those with such rights and roles. That is impossible!”