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Tension in Awka as rival monarchs prepare to celebrate Ofala Festival

By Osiberoha Osibe, Awka
28 December 2019   |   4:13 am
Ahead of today’s annual traditional ruler’s festival in Awka, Anambra State, there are fears of clashes between two rival monarchs in the community.

Ahead of today’s annual traditional ruler’s festival in Awka, Anambra State, there are fears of clashes between two rival monarchs in the community.

Obi Gibson Nwosu, Eze Uzu II of Awka, who was crowned the traditional ruler and issued a certificate of recognition by the state government, but purportedly deposed, had fixed today for his dance of the blacksmith (Egwu-Uzu) at Awka Civic Centre.

Nwosu, who still enjoys the state government support, plans to honour some indigenes and non-indigenes for their services and contributions to the community.        

But his rival, Obi Austin Chukwuezugo Ndigwe, Obi Eze Uzu III (Eze ka Eze), has concluded arrangements to organise his own event on the same day.

Like Nwosu, he has an array of individuals to be honourees at the event, including Vice Chancellor of University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN); a past and a serving vice chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU), Awka, a Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) from the community; a senior officer of the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), a lawmaker and other indigenes of the community.

Ndigwe told The Guardian at the closing ceremony of Awka Art Exhibition by the Harris-Eze-initiated Zimife Foundation and Awka Museum Project that preliminary rituals for the event were on course.    

The Guardian learnt that the tussle has polarised the Awka Development Union, Nigeria (ADUN), with one faction led by Sir Tony Okechukwu and the other by Ozo Amobi Nwokoafor.

Even the Ozo title-holders are divided into Ozo Awka and Ozo five, each with its chairman and executive, while there are two different councils of kingmakers.

The rise in cult killings in the community has been linked to lack of political will to tame the factionalised youths, who engage in killing and bloodletting with bravado.  

Hours before the event, supporters of the two groups, were in high spirits and revving to go for the jugular of the opponents on the orders of their paymasters.

State Commissioner of Police (CP), John Abang, who spoke through the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Haruna Mohammed, dismissed claims of any security threat in the community, saying the command would perform its duties in the circumstance.                            

But in a statement titled, “Impending Threat to Security in the State,” issued ahead of today’s events by Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu, cautioned against any attempts to cause violence and breach the peace.

“The attention of the state government has been drawn to an impending danger and threat to security of lives and property in Awka, arising from a tussle over the traditional stool of the town. 

“The undercurrents of this so-called tussle has manifested in several negative ways over the last few months and is reasonably suspected to be one of the factors behind the incessant cult clashes and killings in the town.            

“It has, therefore, become necessary for government intervention to set the records straight and avert the looming crisis,” the statement reads.

The government affirmed that the authentic traditional ruler of Awka remains Igwe Gibson Nwosu, Eze Uzu Awka, who was crowned and subsequently recognised with a certificate to that effect on April 27, 1999 by Wing Commander Uwakwe Ukaegbu, then military administrator, in line with the Anambra State Traditional Rulers Act.