Wednesday, 7th June 2023

Igweship election brews tension in Enugu community 

By Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
25 May 2023   |   3:41 am
A crisis has erupted in the Alor-Agu community, Igboeze-South Local Council of Enugu State, following moves by the State Ministry of Chieftaincy Matters to elect a new traditional ruler for the community.


A crisis has erupted in the Alor-Agu community, Igboeze-South Local Council of Enugu State, following moves by the State Ministry of Chieftaincy Matters to elect a new traditional ruler for the community.

The Guardian learnt that the problem started when one of the contestants, alleged that clergymen, who served as the returning officers, were assisting his opponent.

Based on the confusion, officials of the ministry abandoned the exercise, mounted their vehicle and left the venue.

Counting of votes for the various candidates had started when the alarm was raised.

The contestants to the throne left vacant following the death of His Highness, Simon Ameh, in 2018, were Christian Ugwuanyi and Okwu Omeke.

A member of the community, Emmanuel Jonathan, told newsmen shortly after the deadlock that officials of the Ministry refused entreaties by members of the community to continue with the exercise.

He alleged that one of the contestants, deliberately; instigated crisis on noticing that he would lose the election.

He said: “The target is to create an unhealthy atmosphere because he realised that he will lose the election given the mammoth crowd on his opponent’s side.

“Regrettably, the delegates from the ministry left the venue to the surprise of everybody without even informing the clergymen, who were still counting the votes or confirming his allegation.”

Jonathan said that the crisis arose following allegation by a constant that three clergymen serving as electoral officers were favouring his opponent.

“I do not see any good reason for the team from the Chieftaincy Ministry led by Deputy Director of Chieftaincy in the ministry, Ugochukwu Ozoagu, to jump into the bus and zoom off even with the heavy presence of security agencies at the venue made up of military, police, Civil Defence, Neighbourhood Watch, among others.

“They ignored pleadings from many stakeholders in the community urging the team to wait and conclude the election, so that the community will know the traditional ruler-elect,” he said.

He said it was because the community wanted the election to be free and fair that option A4 was used in its conduct, adding that members of the community queued at the back of candidates of their choice.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Okenyi, who spoke on behalf of the clergymen that acted as electoral officers said that they decided to assist in the election to ensure it was transparent, free and fair.

“This traditional ruler tussle has lasted over the past three years in this community and has immensely affected progress in the community since there is no traditional ruler to handle its affairs or to represent it outside,” he said.

Okenyi expressed disappointment on the allegation by one of the contestants that the priests manipulated the counting to favour one of the contestants, describing it as unfounded, baseless and false.

“We sacrificed our energy and time to participate in this exercise to ensure the election is free and fair since we are men of God who want the community to move forward.

“It’s unfortunate that the team from the ministry who allowed us to act as electoral officers left the venue of the election when counting was already in progress without even informing us,” he added.

One of the contestants, Christian Ugwuanyi, expressed concerns that a mere allegation from his opponent (Omeke) could disrupt the process already in progress.

“My opponent saw that he was losing, because majority of people queued behind me and decided to raise a false alarm

“Okwu disrupted the election and asked the team from ministry of Chieftaincy to go because he was afraid of losing.

“Enugu State Government should immediately intervene and come back to complete the election or issue me with a certificate of recognition as the traditional ruler of Alor-Agu,” he said.

But Omeke insisted that his allegation was true and expressed disappointment that clergymen acting as umpire in the election started manipulating the counting to favour his opponent (Ugwuanyi) to enable him to emerge as the winner.

“They know I am coasting to victory as many people are supporting me.

“I want the ministry to come back and conclude this election with unbiased electoral officers because I know I will win,” he said.

Efforts to get officials of the Ministry of Chieftaincy Matters to comment on the matter were not successful, as calls and text messages sent to the number of the Public Relations Officer, Emeka Nnabuife, were not answered.