Royal iumble in Obiano’s community over Aguleri Ofala Festival
• • • Rival Monarch Kicks
What would have turned into a bloody clash in Governor Willie Obiano’s ancient community of Aguleri in Anambra State, if the drums of war that roared weeks to the maiden Ofala (Ovala) Aguleri were beaten, was fortunately averted.
In Igbo land, Ofala is a personal traditional festival of a royal father to rejoice with his subjects and bless them, while they pay homage in return. The Ovala Aguleri is held by Eze Idigo to mark the end of all feasts and preparation of a new farming season.
Currently, two prominent sons of Idigo Royal Family of Iruokechi Dynasty— Michael Idigo and Chuka Idigo are in a royal rumble. Both men are claiming they were separately coronated to succeed the late traditional ruler, Eze Christopher Idigo, Agbogidi II, Eze Idigo IV of Aguleri.
The Guardian checks revealed that the process that allegedly threw up Chuka Idigo, an architect, as the Igwe-elect was thwarted, when Governor Obiano threw his weight behind Dr. Michael Idigo (Ezeudo), a civil servant, as the government-recognised traditional ruler of Aguleri, Eze Idigo V.
The 120th Ovala, which was to hold at Ama-igwe Aguleri (Aguleri Royal Square) on January 4, 2020, could not hold, as the ancestral palace was put under lock and key and barricaded with “Isabanka.”
According to Eze Chuka Idigo’s camp, the last Ofala ought to have held one year after the last monarch’s passage.
A press statement issued by the eldest male members of both Idigo Royal Family and Iruokechi Dynasty, Crown Prince Fidelis Idigo (Okpala Idigo) and Amb. Akunwata Ema Chiatula summed up the camp’s opposition to Ezeudo’s maiden Ofala Festival, likening it to a carnival.
It read in part: “Our attention has been drawn to the announcement signed by one Mr. James Eze, Press Secretary to the Governor of Anambra State, about a purported Ovala Festival celebration in Aguleri, planned for the 4th of January 2020…
“We want the general public to note that the Idigo Royal Dynasty and the extended Iruokechi Royal Family are not part of the so-called Ovala Festival.
“That traditionally, it is not up to one year the last Igwe joined our ancestors. Therefore, an Ovala ceremony cannot be held so soon.
“Additionally, the propriety of giving certificate of recognition to someone who is not the family’s choice as Igwe is a matter before the State high Court for determination.
“The Press Secretary to the Governor is not a member of the Royal Family nor an indigene of Aguleri. So, he has no business announcing the Ovala Festival for the Idigo Royal Dynasty …”
The statement concluded by frowning at a man’s act of playing God, while in a temporary office, alluding to the transient nature of public office.
But despite the threat, the maiden Ofala Festival of Dr. Michael Idigo Ezendu, the 5th Eze Aguleri, was held with pomp, although Obiano, a ranking cabinet member of Idigo Royal Council was absent.
The ceremony kicked off with the outing of Ocheze (the wife of the Eze Idigo V), accompanied by royal maidens, Iyom group, and other traditionally attired ladies in procession.
After marching round the field, the Ocheze returned to the palace to brief the royal father on the situation at the arena and the preparedness of guests and subjects to receive him.
Satisfied with his wife’s feedback, the monarch was led out to march in a procession with the sound of Okanga music heralding his first official public outing, accompanied by his cabinet members and other title holders in the community.
Addressing the mammoth crowd from his throne, Ezeudo said he never imagined being entrusted with the Eze Aguleri crown. He contended that divine province had reasonably equipped him for the role and made him stand out among other contenders.
Ezeudo said: “I have had a befitting historical knowledge and tutelage of listening and serving two great kings of Aguleri: Eze A.E. Idigo III (Ezennia) and Eze C.N. Idigo (Ogalagidi) for 24 years.
“Since I ascended the throne on March 29, 2019, I have been emboldened by the overwhelming support and camaraderie of eminent Ndi Aguleri and members of Iruokechi Idigo Royal Family.”
He expressed his appreciation to Ndichie, Ojiana Aguleri and Governor Obiano and wife for rallying behind him since his coronation.
While calling for peace and love, he assured the indigenes that he would build on the legacies of Igwe Ogalagidi II and on the transformational leadership model of Governor Obiano.
To prove his commitment to fostering peace, he promised to drive the process of resolving the age-long Aguleri and Olu/Ibaji boundary dispute.
The highpoint of the event was the conferment of chieftaincy title on former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Chukwuma Soludo as Odenjiji of Aguleri.
Also, the Chief Executive of MP Infrastructure, handling the state-of-the art Millennium City Project in Awka, Chief Clem Nwogbo was conferred with the title of Okuluouno of Aguleri, while the CEO of Rotech Energy, Chief Augustine Oguejiofor bagged the chieftaincy of Okutalukwe of Aguleri.
Speaking after the event, the Chief of Staff to Obiano and a member of Iruokechi Dynasty, Primus Odili described the outcome as a huge success, stressing that the stool occupied by Ezeudo has come to stay.
Odili eulogised the new monarch as a man of immense endowment and great wisdom, urging Aguleri people to rally behind him “because we will bring smiles to your faces.”
He dismissed insinuation that there is a royal rumble over the chieftaincy tussle, saying: “Aguleri is not at war.”
However, an impeccable source told The Guardian that the camp of the rival monarch, Chuka Idigo, is “bidding its time to mark its own festival at an appropriate time.”
A native dubbed the development a royal rumble, laden with political and security implications.
However, Chinedu Idigo is not sure why Obiano is against his brother’s choice. He dismissed insinuation that it was because of his political affiliation with former Governor Peter Obi, who is Obiano’s benefactor.
He said: “Dr. Mike is a pretender to the throne. He is a stranger to the crown. The compound where he (Dr Mike Idigo) trespassed to be crowned does not belong to him.
“He is from Igwekwuoba Idigo lineage, which does not have any right to rule. Their lineage has never ascended the throne. If Dr. Mike Idigo is interested in celebrating anything, he should leave our compound to do so. But he chose to trespass into our compound. I am surprised they descended so low to break the door and Isabanka, among others.”
In his reaction to the royal drama, a concerned member of Idigo Royal Family, Prince Chinedu Idigo, said: “The Idigo Royal dynasty and the Iruokechi Royal family express their disbelief and disgust at the armed invasion of Idigo-Eze Palace at Ama Igwe Aguleri under the watchful eyes of the Police from Otuocha Police station. We condemn the barbaric actions in its totality. Despite the provocation, however, we will never be forced to descend to that level of barbaric behaviour.
“As an ancient family that was among those in the forefront of modern civilization in Aguleri and the general Omambala area, we have been conducting ourselves with civility with regards to the Igweship crisis; from the time the body of our brother was forcefully taken away from where the family kept it, to the forced crowning of a person not chosen by Idigo Elders Ruling Council (according to tradition) to this present day…
“Let us use this opportunity to correct some misconceptions presently trending in the Social Media. It was reported that the reason the family is rejecting the Governor’s chosen person for the Igwe is because it is not his turn, and that there are factions in the family.
“We wish to clarify that the problem with the Governor’s Igwe is not just that it is not his turn, but that he was not chosen by the family according to custom.
“We wish to say that there are no factions in the family. It is always said that in every 12, there must be a Judas, and this is true with the family. Yes there are one or two dissidents in the family, but not factions. We wish to reiterate that the Idigo Royal Dynasty and Iruokechi Royal Family are still mourning their late Igwe and cannot be celebrating Ovala Idigo…”
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.