Forget the Eze Ndigbo title —Deji of Akure

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•Ohanaeze: Oba Aladelusi  is anti-Igbo

By Dayo Johnson,  Akure

THE stage is set for a showdown between the  Igbo across Ondo State and the Deji of Akureland, Oba Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi, over the ban of the title of Eze Ndigbo and replacing it with the title of “Leader”

Sir Gregory Iloheika who was unanimously elected by the Igbo across the state in 2011 is presently the holder of the Eze Ndigbo title..

The face-off between the traditional ruler and the leader of the Igbo in the state deepened, last week, after the Deji issued a month notice to Ilohehika to consider accept the title of “ Leader” .

He has been given up to February 28 to eat the humble pie.

Iloheika is required to write to the Oba to accept the new title.

The Deji, had, last year, banned the Eze Ndigbo title following a confrontation with the holder and the igbo across Ondo protested by closing their shops for weeks.

After intervention by stakeholders, including the state Council of Chiefs, the matter was resolved but the “fight “ continued underground until last week when the  hammer came hard on the Eze Ndigbo.

Aladelusi, in his letter of ultimatum to Ilohehika said:  “It should be noted that the Leader is the new approved traditional title for any Igbo leader within Akure and environ.

“In view of the possible rejection of the new title, the Igbo community shall produce another Leader from among them at the expiration of the ultimatum”.

Meanwhile, the Igbo in the state are rallying support for their leader.

•Eze Ndigbo, Gregory Iloheika and The Deji, Oba Aladelusi

They recalled that the Eze Ndigbo had mobilized all Igbo in Ondo in 2015 to support  the installation of the Deji who, according to them,  has now turned the heat on him for no just cause.

Indeed, a letter,  “Request for corporate donations towards the triumphant entry of the Deji of Akure Kingdom to the palace”,  dated 25, June 2015, by the committee saddled with the responsibility to make the installation a success, had been allegedly sent to Iloheika, among others. .

“It may interest you to note that exemplary leadership style of management of your enviable firm/institution/organization to the rapid development of Akure Kingdom cannot be over emphasized. Knowing fully well that your firm/institution/organization is ever ready to contribute to the progress of the kingdom, we wish to invite you to join us to in financing the epoch making event”, the letter read in part.

It was signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the Deji of Akureland Finance Committee , Olajide Adejuyigbe and Toyin Aladetoyinbo respectively.

On this score, the Igbo accused Aladelusi of paying back their good gesture by trying  to “run them out of the state”.

Separately, Iloheika wrote the Deji, citing the futility of his plan to rename the Eze Ndigbo title which, he stated, had been in existence in time immemorial not only in the state by all over the World.

The letter, written by the Nze Nsdigbo’s solicitors said: “Our client has instructed us to reply to your letter dated 1st February, 2017 as follows and all concerted efforts to get the letter served on you or the palace proved abortive, since you have instructed that no mail should be received by your chiefs or palace staff, hence we proffer this avenue.

“Your letter requesting our client to apply in writing within one month (between 1st -28h February 2017) for chieftaincy title in your palace as a  `Leader of the Igbo Akure land’ came as a surprise and total embarrassment to our client.

“This mode of recruitment of chiefs into the palace is strange and was never in any record of Yoruba palace, but rather chieftaincy title is bestowed on highly respected and honourable person in the society not minding the tribe or his colour.

“Kabiyesi, the issue of Eze Ndigbo has been settled when you invited all Igbos in Akure into your palace and there and then you were informed by the representative of the Igbo that no traditionally inclined Igbo man or woman would like to contest the position of Eze Ndigbo with Sir Gregory Iloheika having been installed by the Ohaneze/Ndigbo after he won validity and keenly contested poll among other Igbo contestants on the 10th of August 2011 which is purely an Igbo affair throughout Ondo State and has nothing to do with neither you nor the palace.

“Also, we need to inform kabiyesi that, at no time was our client installed by previous kabiyesi but rather introduced to the palace by the Ohaneze/Ndigbo just as he was introduced to Governor Olusegun Mimiko and at no time did the governor raise any complaint against him as you have found him guilty of contravening any existing law in Ondo State.

“Our client being the Eze Ndigbo of the entire Igbo in Ondo State which is not limited to Akure Kingdom alone sees the so-called `letter of request’ being directed to him as a means of wielding unnecessary sentiment, among other kabiyesis in Ondo State, and that whoever kabiyesi (the Deji of Akure) is installing now, for the facts that he or she is of an `Igbo extraction’ remains under the leadership of our client, sir Gregory Iloheika, who is Eze Ndigbo in Ondo State.

“Kabiyesi, the word “Leader” is an English name which is alien to the custom and tradition of Igbo communities both at home and in diaspora. It is also the belief of our client that, that same name is alien to Akure custom and dialect, Kabiyesi, since no English man will ever subscribe to Okechukwu or Olarotimi instead of Donald or George, the word Leader has no grammatical meaning neither to our client nor the Igbo anywhere around the world.

“Our client shall leave no stone unturned to see that peace reign in Akure Kingdom and Ondo State at large”. This is not the first time issues will be raised on the title of Eze Ndigbo of Ondo State.

In October 2013, when allegation of threat to peace and security was raised on the title, the then Deji, Oba Adebiyi Adesida decided in favour of Iloehika .

In his ruling, the late Oba Adesida had said: “After due consultation and thorough deliberation on the submissions of the two parties, Eze (Sir) Gregory Iloheika (KSJ), the Eze Ndigbo of Ondo State and Chief T.C. Umenkwe), vis-à-vis the recommendation of Deji’s Committee on Chieftaincy Matters & Land Disputes, I rule as follows: It is only one Eze Ndigbo that is recognized by HRM in Akure Kingdom in person of Eze (Sir) Gregory Iloheika (KSJ) as presented to the Deji of Akure Kingdom after their election by all the Igbo from the five south eastern states of Nigeria residing in Akure Kingdom.

“Henceforth, Chief T.C Umenweke should stop parading himself as Eze Imo or Eze Ndigbo of Akure”.

The President and Ondo State Secretary of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chiefs Okechukwu Okorie and Alloy I.K Anoliefo, respectively, also speaking on the Deji’s rejection of the Eze Igbo title said: “We have considered the title of Eze Ndigbo as adopted by the Igbo outside Igboland as sacrosanct and non-negotiable and that the title is widely recognized and used both within and outside Nigeria as approved by the association of Ndieze Ndigbo N’uzo Ije and Onaneze Ndigbo worldwide which are the parent bodies.

“It was unanimously agreed that the Igbo in Ondo State as a body is standing by the position of the parent bodies on the use of the title as adopted by the Igbo in diaspora, and that Sir Gregory Iloehika having been installed remain the only recognized Eze Ndigbo.”

They said the leadership of Iloehika as the Eze is not limited to Akure, the state capital but to all the 18 local government areas of the state as he was duly elected in keenly contested election by the entire Igbo across the state.

They said “the choice of the title was in conformity with the agreement reached by the Igbo in diaspora in order to preserve the culture and tradition of the people who are living outside the Igboland.

Many stakeholders are quick to submit that the latest move against the Eze Ndigbo title by the Deji was unnecessary, saying that the monarch should not act like he has a particular candidate he wants to impose on the Igbo community in Ondo, using his rejection.

And the dispute may be one of the challenges the incoming administration of Rotimi Akeredolu  would inherit.

Many Igbo resident in the state say, if the Oba after February 28 declares the position of Eze Ndigbo vacant, he would be challenged in court by all the Igbo across Ondo.

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