By Anaso, Obiekwe Edwin
Good day ladies and gentlemen,
During the colonial era, the Igbos were seen by colonial masters as republican cum egalitarian society unlike their northern and southern counterparts. Decisions were taken by the general assembly (all taxable adults) usually presided over by the eldest one(s). In their quest to install a known leader in the federating communities in Igbo land, the colonial masters introduced indirect rule system. Then, individuals from different communities were made to be leaders. These leaders were called warrant chiefs. Within our vicinity, the likes of Nwokedi from Achalla, Chief Nweke Anaero from Mgbakwu Abogu, the Obidimmas from Okpuno and many others were crowned royal fathers.
In Mgbakwu, Chief Nweke was a known farmer and a man of impeccable character. He was in a faraway imeagu in his farm when the entire community choose him in his absence to be crowned Abogu Ide 1. He was adored by many as a result of his leadership style. He was a role model to ndi Mgbakwu as his leadership acumen are still inferred by many in case adjudication in Mgbakwu today.
After his death, Late HRH Stephen Egwu, after a fierce election battle with Late Prince Nwadiogbu Nweke (one of the sons of Chief Nweke Anaero), was elected as Abogu Ide the second. As always in anything that involves election in our society, there were a lot of ndikwe ma ndi ekweghi. Court cases after counter cases mana nwankwo mechere fuo ahia ozo, gbara owulu! Over two decades of the demise of Abogu Ide the second, Mgbakwu has been Igweless.
Today, the issue of Igweship has been politicized in many respects. We are yet to come to terms if the colonial masters’ introduction of warrant chiefs via indirect rule system is to our detriment or not (topic of next time). However, Mgbakwu has been at crossroad between the choices of communal crises and immeasurable loss of not taking the bull by the horn. This is largely due to the cold war that has been lingering between the political elites and the business moguls in Mgbakwu.
Mana anyi a ga-ano ka mmadu na-esi nmo nmo?🤷♂️
Why has no one never summoned the courage to ask the rationales the issue of Igwe has been of less important to our people? Why has it not been discussed even when there have been many fora to discuss this embarrassing leadership vacuum for over twenty years now and still counting?
The reason, we are where we are, is majorly due to communal crisis, at least to the best of my knowledge. The one I witnessed was the ill-advised dethronement of the then Mgbakwu PG by Anambra State government led by Mbadinuju and purportedly replaced him by one of his own kinsmen. Boom, Mgbakwu became a war zone between those who supported the government in power and those who saw this as ‘any injustice to one is injustice to all’. Mgbakwu became a place where brothers became enemies of their own brothers.
This lingered until it was the turn of the golden village to present a new PG. Amede, as expected, took a colourful dimension. The battle for PG became a fight to finish! At the end, Late Chief Isaac Ofoelo emerged as the acting PG. You know Amede is not a village one can toy with when internal politics is concerned. Consequently, the victory for the leadership of Mgbakwu Progressive Union was secured from A-Z to prevent mu shiri gi, mu gwara gi.
Also, this lead to internal crisis in Amede Village. As at today, all stakeholders, including Umu nwadiana Amede that are high court judges have intervened; court after court has passed judgement! Yet, the crisis still lingers. It has metamorphosed into ozu onye ocha. Take it up, no no no! Take it down, no no no! I am only waiting for Christ to descend from heaven to give the final judgement as those given by men are seen as political! We move🏃♀️
As all these were ongoing, we believed that this battle was not ordinary. Some said it is a battle to favour who might be crowned the Abogu Ide the third. As at today, I can say that those who said so were not far from the truth. Why? No one has given it the attention it deserved! Our leaders shy away from discussing it. Reason: they understand the magnitude and the uproar it will generate because the battle has been fought earlier.
PG after PG! The incumbent PG and his executive members are not even interested to say kpim talk more of Igwe discussion. I feel their fear! Not because they cannot but why will ‘trouble go dey sleep, Inyanga go wake am up’?
We continue to loss immeasurably because of the fear of another communal crisis. We are being regarded as those who cannot put their house in order just because no one wants to pay a price for his brother or sister. Not bribery! Not payment of bills! Not giving out your wife or daughter! Just to say it is time I will give peace a chance.
Other communal Igwes continue to gain from government and wealthy individuals while the share of our town became no man’s share! We created enemies by ourselves, for ourselves, from ourselves! What an irony! Where is Anambra State Igwe cars that were being distributed since Mr Peter Obi regime to all Igwes in Anambra state? Where is the one shared by Arthur Eze? Kedu nke Mgbakwu? What happened Igwe Ebenebe jiri waa oji na Mgbakwu? These questions and many more are begging for answers.
The way forward
I wish to state that this is a personal opinion though I am convinced that it will lay to rest our shameful act of not being able to deal with our differences.
First, there is need we do away with anything that might have led to all the crisis in the past. Those who were offended must be ready to forgive even if when those that offended them might not wish to apologize. It is time to forge ahead irrespective of how right or wrong any of us was. This is an unconditional price every one of us will have to pay.
Second, the PG and other leaders need to kick start the process, at least, by constituting all-inclusive Igwe steering committee made up of well-known sincere sons and daughters of Mgbakwu. Those who ‘might’ not compromise on this great mission. The committee members will design a template for Igwe emergence and succession plans. This must be holistic, well written and documented. The incumbent MPU leaders must know that we cannot continue to fear our shadows. Fear is the greatest enemy of man and we need to conquer it. Initiating such a cultural project is not a child’s play but for how long do we have to wait? It is a tough job but someone has to do it, for sure!
I wish to state that the issue of zoning or rotational tenure among the villages must be given priority. Many might argue that zoning gives rise to emergence of incompetent leadership. To a certain extent, yes! But zoning merits outweighs its demerits. We cannot discard baby with bath water. Zoning favours stability, inclusiveness, minimizes marginalization among other things. Anambra state government has adopted zoning; Nigeria presidency since return of democracy in 1999 has been between southern and northern Nigeria. If our state and country have adopted this leadership style, are we going to be omume di iche? Also, there is no perfect system of governance. Leadership, like other human spheres, evolves with time. When it becomes absolute necessary to amend, we will adapt to the new system. But it is imperative we look beyond a few demerits and bank on the numerous gains this leadership style offers.
As expected, there will be politics and politicking. Yes! It is expected but we must know that one person has to be the leader at a time. We must eschew violence of any kind. Leadership built on crisis will always yield crisis-related results. We need to see one another as brothers and sisters. Being a leader does not make others less human. After all, the royal fathers still dey pupuu!
Igwe Stephen Egwu died in December 1998, his Onowu and members of his cabinet have also all gone. Those who understand the rudiments of our culture and Igwe as traditional institution are fast exiting the planet and we are waiting to invite someone from Urum or Amanuke to teach us when we finally wake up from our slumber. God Forbid!
Ndi be anyi, remove 22years from your age when Abogu Ide the second died and meditate on how young you were the last time you were privileged to call someone from Mgbakwu His Royal Highness. Does it mean that no one from our generation will not be a member of Igwe’s cabinet if not Igwe? Who is losing? Who is gaining?
Those born after the death of Abogu Ide the second are all of marital age. Some are even mothers and fathers already. Are we waiting for them to tell us that they wish to be Igwe even when many of them do not understand what this traditional institution entails? It baffles me how we get to this level of commonness!
To the youths, don’t allow those who are not your gods to continue to decide your fate. Don’t follow the footsteps of those who claimed to know it all but know nothing. Those who are claiming to be enemies but dine with one another with champagne in luxurious bars and hotels at Awka and its environs with no intention to better your integration into our cultural values. We must know we are only defeated when we have accepted to be.
In conclusion, my mother gave birth to her first daughter and named her Ekwutosi. Few years later Ekwutosi died. She gave birth to the second daughter and named her Udogadi. Few years later, Udogadi died. She gave birth to the third child and named him OSITADIMMA (Ossy De boy). Today, the rest is history as you can see for yourself that na odibara mma gboo.
Ndi be anyi, it’s time to take the bull by the horn. It is time to amend our differences to achieve the restoration of our cultural values via the installation of a royal father, who will restore the dignity of our cultural heritage which is fast in extinction. It will be a taboo if we cannot settle our internal crisis and put our house in order before the general public.
A stich in time, they say, saves nine!
God bless Mgbakwu Abogu!