By Clifford Ndujihe
THE sleepy town of Uke in Idemili North Local Council of Anambra State appears set for a turbulent time overs its constitution and succession. Igwe Charles Agbala, who is currently in his second year of reign is being challenged by a section of the community on account of a judgement on a suit initiated by the family of his predecessor, Igwe Godfrey Nwabufo Ezeude.The verdict in the suit by the immediate past President General (PG) of the community, Mr Emeka Enendu-led executive challenged late Igwe Ezeude’s ofala of November 14, 2015.
The Enendu executive saw through a process that produced Agbala as the incumbent Igwe of Uke.The move met some roadblocks when Enendu could not strike a balance with the Council of Elders and the family of the late monarch.Ezeude was said to have had good plans for Uke and had been a very dogged and determined man before his untimely death in 2011.He was said to have succeeded in instilling peace and unity, funded some outstanding life-changing developmental projects like electricity, roads, security and healthcare among others in the community. The once popular Eke Uke market regained its first choice position within the annals of commerce in the region.
One of the areas he made huge impact was in poverty alleviation. He gave out more than 500 motorcycles to indigent young men of the community. The impacts of his poverty alleviation projects are still being felt in the community and neighbouring communities. In 2015, while the Ezeude family pulled out, the UDU led by Enendu went ahead and celebrated the traditional last ofala celebration in line with the community’s 2007 Constitution that redefined Igweship arrangement to be by rotation and order of seniority among the six constituting villages.They did so despite counter announcements and warnings, including law suits, in what they said was in a bid to end the crisis so that the community could move on.
Shortly after that, the UDU declared the stool vacant and thereby commenced the process of installing a new monarch amid other vexing issues.Chief Charles Agbala, from Uruabor, emerged and was enthroned contrary to the constitution that assigned the igweship to Ezema/Ubulenu village (most senior), and was consequently certified by the state government.Buoyed by his certification by the state government, he has so far been presiding over the affairs of the community amid crisis and litigations.
Ironically, a new twist came as the Ezeude family diligently followed on their lawsuit till verdict was recently entered which invalidated the actions of the Enendu-led executive in conducting late Igwe Ezeude’s last ofala on November 14, 2015 at the Ama Nduka Square and the consequent enthronement of Agbala as the new Igwe of Uke. The last ofala which was without the participation of the late monarch’s family and other constitutionally empowered bodies brought in its wake further crisis as it was voided by the High Court.Thus, Uke, traditionally has no Igwe as no superior judgement exists.
The oldest Ozo title holder in Uke and Chairman of Uke Elders Council, Chief Christopher Okafor Ekpechi (aka Ogbuefi Ezekwueche) from Oba village, said there were pending knotty issues that needed sorting out to pave way for a smooth and peaceful process.Ekpechi told journalists that the key part of the crisis began during the rebuilding of the Obi-Uke and Obiaja shrines that were alleged to have been destroyed by a pentecostal group led by their lawyer. This was part of the processes required before Ezeude’s last ofala. The destruction of the shrines was what the late monarch was tackling before his sudden death.
Rebuilding the shrine was the precondition to enable proper spiritual “afa divinity” consultations on the sudden unnatural demise of the Igwe before the last ofala could be held but the community’s Legal Adviser, Barr S.N.S Eze allegedly insisted on the payment of N10m by the Ezeude family for daring to sue the community in the first place. This ignited a bitter disagreement which culminated in the eventual pulling out from the last ofala celebration arrangements by the family.
Asked the way forward, a Lagos-based Uke son, Chief Chike Akubue who is said to be nursing an Igweship ambition, said the 2007 constitution of the community recommended that the President General position should move from the youngest village up to the oldest, while the Igwe stool should move from the eldest village downwards.