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Row in Anambra East Council over breaking of Kolanuts

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On January 29, 2019, Anambra State Governor, Willy Obianor and his wife paid a thank you visit to traditional rulers and people of Anambra East Local Government Area.

The governor and his entourage were received at Otuocha Stadium, built on a disputed parcel of land between the Aguleri and Umuleri people of Anambra State.

The Anambra State Government constructed the stadium to douse tension in the area after communal clashes over the parcel of land.

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The traditional rulers that received Obianor included Igwe Ntege, Igwe Igbariamun, Igwe Umuleri, Igwe Muoba, Igwe Edozeieuno Mkpundo, who is the chairman, Anambra East Local Government Area Council.

Traditional rulers, Igwe Ezegulotu, Igwe Nsunbe, Igwe Ekemiete and Igwe Nnado. Also present was Pius Iseaide, the Council chairman, Anambra East Local Council.

Events for the day went on as planned, until Iseaide, alongside the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Local Government Matters, brought kolanuts to be presented to the Governor and his entourage.

However, after the kolanut presentation rituals had been observed, there were squabbles between the two First class traditional rulers present at the event over who should have broken the kolanuts.

His Royal Highness Igwe, Sir Beneth Izuchukwu Emeka JP, Eke-Ebo II of Umuleri said: “I ascended my ancestral throne on February 28, 2017. We are descendants of Eri, and our culture is very important to us. Indeed, we do all within our power to protect our culture and tradition.

“If someone visits an Igbo community, the first thing tradition dictates we do to welcome him/her, is to present kolanuts. As the traditional ruler of the host community, it is, therefore, my business to break such kolanuts. No other person is permitted to do so, except I am not available, in which case any older person from my community can go ahead to perform the rites. This right is not negotiable, and this is how things are done generally in Igbo land.

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“With reference to this particular incident, I am from Umuleri and Otuocha Stadium, where the Governor was hosted belongs to Umuleri. Years ago, there was a protracted court case between Umuleri and Aguleri, which led to several communal wars.

“In a deliberate effort to put a permanent stop to this crisis, the then Anambra State Government decided to make Umuleri and Aguleri-Uno people living around the stadium to sign an agreement, to cede the land to the state government, pending determination of the case. And whichever community the judgment favours will become the rightful owner.

“But in its wisdom, the Supreme Court decided in 1984 that as far as the land was concerned “there was no victor no vanquished.”

So, it was decided that Umuleri and Aguleri-Uno people should cohabit in the place.

The two traditional rulers of Umuleri and Aguleri-Uno in the area have been respecting each another, especially when an event holds at the stadium.

“Common sense dictates that I defer to the immediate past Aguleri-Uno traditional ruler, who had long been on the throne before I became king. The traditional ruler I succeeded died in 1999, and it took quite a while before I was installed.

Unfortunately, in January 2019, the traditional ruler of Aguleri-Uno, His Royal Highness Igwe Christopher Idigo passed on.

So, after his passage, it is now my responsibility as the traditional ruler of Umuleri to break all kola nuts brought for any event held in that venue, just like I should perform any other function(s).

“The Governor’s visit was the very first high profile function to be held since Igwe Idigo’s death. When the Local Government Council Chairman presented kolanuts to the Governor, in accordance with Igbo tradition, the Governor asked the Chairman “to take the kolanuts to the traditional rulers to break them.”

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“So, they were bringing the kolanuts to me, knowing full well it was my right to break the kolanuts. Surprisingly, His Royal Majesty Igwe Alex Anakpulu Edozieuno Ezendo I, the traditional ruler of Mkpunando Community of Aguleri-Otu, a part of Aguleri, in fact, an autonomous community in Aguleri who happens to be the current chairman of Anambra
East Council of Traditional Rulers intercepted them.

“Mind you, this man’s place is about 200 kilometres from Otuocha. Initially, I was patient with him, as I asked the Local Government Council Chairman to give him the kolanuts, and let him bring the kolanuts back to me to break, as tradition demands.

“However, instead of returning the kolanuts to me, he said: “As the current Chairman Anambra East Council of Traditional Rulers, I will give the kolanuts to the eldest traditional ruler present, who is from Igabaramun, another community entirely, to perform the ritual of kola breaking.”

So, I said: “No. You have no such powers or right to give such an outrageous directive here in my domain. The land belongs to Umuleri and Aguleri-Uno and you are from Aguleri-Otu, over 200 kilometres away from here. Where do you derive your powers from to give this kind of directive?”

It was while this argument was going on that His Excellency, Governor Obianor asked that the kolanuts be returned to him. And so, there was no breaking of kolanuts at the event.

“Surprisingly, less than 48 hours after, I started reading in the newspapers and Internet that Igwe Alex Anakpulu Edozieuno said he has suspended me for one year, as traditional ruler and member of Anambra East Local Government Area Council of Traditional Rulers.

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“I told him he has no such power. Subsequently, I issued my own statement, suspending him for two years as traditional ruler and member of the Council of Traditional Rulers he claimed to head. I did that to make him realise he does not have the power to suspend another traditional ruler for whatsoever reasons.

“He acted unilaterally, without summoning a meeting of the Council of Traditional rulers, or consulting with any other traditional ruler.

“The Anamabra State Government and the Anambra East Local Government Area Council have decided to leave the matter for the traditional rulers to settle, and that is where we are now.

“Presently, efforts are being made to get the matter resolved. We have met twice in an effort to resolve the disagreement. I have written a petition to the Traditional Council of Traditional Rulers, a larger body, of which Anambra East Local Government Area Council is a part. That body is already handling the issue. On February 18, a meeting was again held to resolve the disagreement.”

ON his part, His Royal Majesty Igwe Alex Anakpulu Edozieuno Ezendo I said: “For no justifiable reason, the Igwe Umuleri tried to insult me at a function, where Governor Willy Obianor was present.

He is just one year on the throne as Igwe of his place, while I ascended the throne 16 years ago. I presume he is not aware that once he is confirmed an Igwe, he has to abide by the code of conduct of the Anambra East Council of Traditional Rulers, of which I am the chairman.

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“And our code of conduct says whenever kolanut is brought to where all the traditional rulers in that council area are present, the kola so presented must be blessed by the chairman of the council or any other person he so appointed.

“This was exactly what I attempted to do on that day, when he decided to raise hell in the presence of the state Governor and his officials and other top government functionaries.

“I was shocked. I don’t know why the Igwe of Umuleri decided to do what he did. Maybe because of the enormous wealth he flaunts all over the place, he thought he could get away with it. But despite whatsoever he thinks he has, he needs to abide by our rules and regulations.

But does he have the power to single handedly suspend another traditional ruler for one year? Does the Code of Conduct confer such power on him without consultation with other members of the Council of Traditional Rulers?

“Yes, I have the powers to punish him, because he erred. After administering the required punishment, I will now bring the matter before the Council for ratification. For emphasis sake, our Code of Conducts says “I as the Chairman can punish whosoever among us misbehaved.”

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“On that day, Igwe of Umuleri really misbehaved. He, therefore, needed to be punished, to deter any other traditional ruler that might harbour similar tendencies.

“Presently, we are in the process of getting the Council to ratify his suspension for one year, and once this is done by the larger body, he stands suspended. If at the meeting, the larger body says to pardon him, I will let him go.

“We have met twice, but we are yet to take the decision on him. Our patron, AkalagbeIkpariamand, one of the High Chiefs in our zone, Igwe of Utejaboh, attempted to mediate on the matter.

On February 18, we met to see how the matter could be resolved amicably. This is where we are now. At the meeting, they begged and asked me to allow him to attend our meetings. I told them I would first want the Council of Traditional Rulers of Anambra East Local Government Area Council to meet on the issue and take their decision before I know what line of action to take next.

Painfully, in spite of all these efforts, Igwe of Umuleri is still bragging that he is the right and proper person that was supposed to have broken the kolanuts, which shows he has not released the gravity of his offence.


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