‘Coup’ that denied Oba Ewuare 11 chairmanship of TROMPCOM
This year’s biennial national conference of Traditional Rulers Of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCOM) was held on August 24, 2017 in Eket, Akwa Ibom State. Present at the event were first class chiefs from the nine states that make up the Oil Mineral Producing States of Nigeria. They were in Eket to deliberate and conduct fresh elections into TROMPCOM’s national offices. Elected officials usually oversee the body’s affairs for two years.
TROMPCOM is made up of three zones. Zone 1 is made up of Edo, Delta and Ondo States, while Zone 2 comprises Imo, Rivers and Bayelsa States, and Abia, Cross River and Akwa Ibom States form zone 3.
Expectedly, TROMPCOM has an organogram that stipulates, among other things, how its chairmanship is to be rotated among first class chiefs of member states every two years. In strict adherence to this arrangement, the immediate past chairman, who was from Imo State, which is Zone 2, was expected to have vacated his position after expiration of his two-year tenure. He was supposed to have handed over to another first class chief from Zone 3, especially Cross River State.
Interestingly, at the expiration of his tenure, the ex-chairman was unable to relinquish power, as there was no first class traditional ruler from Cross River State, who was an active member of the TROMPCOM. The few traditional rulers from Cross River State were not first class chiefs and as such, the body’s enlarged National Executive Committee had to request the ex-chairman to continue in office for another two years. It was believed that within that period, the body would be able to shop for a state willing to host its conference, where new national officers will be elected.
This was the situation of things, until August 23, 2017, when in a dramatic move, traditional rulers from Cross River State, who had hitherto failed to fill the chairmanship position, decided to trade the position to Akwa Ibom State, which was ready to host the national conference of TROMPCOM.
On August 23, which was the arrival day for delegates, most of the traditional rulers had arrived Eket, preparatory to the conference proper, which began on August 24. It was while the traditional rulers were relaxing at the lobby of the guest house, where they were accommodated that one of them drew their attention to a major news item trending on the site of an online publication, which had as its caption: “Oba Of Benin Emerges As The New Chairman Of TROMPCOM.”
All the traditional rulers expressed shock, as the election for a new chairman for the body was expected to hold the following day. So, they immediately decided to investigate where the confusion was coming from. And after reading through the news, they discovered it was King Alfred Diete-Spiff that was quoted to have visited the Oba of Benin, and invited him to be the new chairman without due consultations with other members. But they all decided to wait till the following day, when King Spiff would arrive to query where he got the authority to unilaterally install Oba Ewuare II as the new chairman of TROMPCOM.
The following day, after the opening ceremonies, the members immediately went into an executive session and elected the current national chairman in the person of Owong Effiong Bassey Archianga, who also doubles as the chairman of Akwa Ibom State Council Of Traditional Rulers, based on the agreement already reached between Cross River and Akwa Ibom States. So, Owong Effiong Archianga was unanimously adopted as the new national Chairman of TROMPCOM, and other offices were also filled.
Thereafter, the house drew King Diete-Spiff’s attention to the publication. He was asked to give reason(s) why he decided to embark on that assignment without approval of the house. He was asked whether the TROMPCOM the Oba of Benin was supposed to assume its leadership was different from the one where deliberation was being held.
In his response, King Spiff reportedly said: “The position of the chairman was zoned by TROMPCOM to Cross River State from 2015 to 2017, and since Cross River State couldn’t produce anyone to fill the position, I felt it should now be the turn of Edo State to produce the next chairman. So, I travelled to Benin, where I met with the Oba of Benin to take up the responsibility and be the new TROMPCON chairman.”
And with this explanation, King Spiff insisted that as the body’s patron, he had not done anything wrong. He told them that what he did was right and proper.
At this juncture, he was again asked by the house under whose instruction he visited Oba Ewuare II. The house informed him that, if he had been mandated to embark on that journey, other kings would have been delegated to go with him.
While the newly elected TROMPCOM chairman was reading his acceptance speech, he pointedly asked Spiff to do a rejoinder to the story in some national dailies, and should state therein that what he did was done in error, as this is the only way he could be forgiven. But King Spiff pointedly stated that he would not do the rejoinder.
On August 27, when the news media published a detailed report of King Spiff’s visit to Oba Ewuare II in his Benin palace with pictures, TROMPCOM members were annoyed. They immediately summoned a National Executive meeting of the body, and resolved that King Alfred Diete-Spiff had no right to go on a solo mission to the Benin monarch without TROMPCOM’s approval. It was decided that he shouldn’t go unpunished, especially as Oba Ewuare II, whom he approached to assume chairmanship position was not even a financial member. So, TROMPCOM national executive members insisted that the hammer must fall on King Spiff, hence, his indefinite suspension.
But why is Oba Ewuare II not a financial member of TROMPCOM, when his father, the immediate past Oba of Benin, was an active member?
HRM King Pere S.P. Luke Kalanama VIII, The Pere of Akugbone-Mein Kingdom of Delta State, explained that TROMPCOM members regarded the late Oba Erediauwa as the grand patron. According to him, the late Oba was also a mentor to almost all the kings, who are members of TROMPCOM. He said whenever there was a conference in Benin City, members were expected to go to Benin palace during the time of the immediate past Oba for advice.
He explained that in spite of this, however, for any king to be recognised as a member of TROMPCOM, he must first register as a member in his state, after which the state chapter will now present him for registration by the national body. Once this is done, such a king automatically becomes a financial and bona-fide member of TROMPCOM.
King Pere said: “Without any iota of intention to disrespect the exalted throne of the great Benin Kingdom, members of TROMPCOM were all shocked and surprised at what King Diete-Spiff did, because since Oba Ewuare II ascended the throne, this was the first national conference the body was holding.
Secondly, the new Oba is yet to formally identify with the body, as he has not yet shown interest nor indicated his intention to become a member. So, as we speak, that conviviality and atmosphere have not yet been established between the new Oba and other TROMPCOM members. It was, therefore, wrong for King Spiff to have done what he did. This was what prompted the emergency meeting of the National Executive of TROMPCOM, who then decided to suspend King Spiff indefinitely.”
King Pere, who had an open altercation with Spiff at the venue of the conference, further said he was “pained by King Spiff’s actions, because as an Ijaw king, whose ancestry is traced to the great Benin Empire, any attempt to ridicule Oba Ewuare II or bring down the revered position of the Oba of Benin is a collective insult to all the kings that trace their ancestry to the Benin Kingdom.”
At that meeting, King Pere told Spiff, “Do you know the far-reaching import of your action? With your action, you have done incalculable damage to the reputation of Oba of Benin, and as such, you have brought his exalted throne into disrepute? What do you tell associates and subjects of the Oba of Benin, who were happy that their Oba has emerged the new chairman of TROMPCOM and in less than 24 hours are told again that he is no longer the chairman? How do you explain such a situation to the people wanting to know why the Oba of Benin, who was offered the position of chairmanship and in the same breath is again announced not to be, for no justifiable reason(s)? You might think your indiscretion was an attempt to promote Benin throne, but you have ended up causing so much pain and embarrassment to the monarch and his subjects. This will, therefore, not be tolerated by any of us. Hence, you must be sanctioned.”
While all this drama was going on, Chief Eduwu Ekhator, the Obasogie of Benin Kingdom, who represented Oba Ewuare II at the meeting, watched proceedings with keen interest. After the meeting, he walked up to King Pere and thanked him, saying: “The impression given to Oba Ewuare II by King Diete-Spiff is not exactly what we met on ground.”
When Palace Watch contacted King Spiff for his reaction, he said: “What happened in Eket was a coup.” He explained that, when he left Benin, where he went to prepare Oba Ewuare’s mind to assume TROMPCOM leadership, and before he arrived venue of the conference, where the Oba’s appointment was to have been ratified, some kings had successfully planned and executed a coup against his resolve to get the Oba of Benin to become the new chairman.He said he was not surprised at such antics, as this is typical of most Nigerians.
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