By Covenant Oluchi Ikedinobi
Ogbunka, , a community in Orumba South Local government area of Anambra state has been on the spotlight following the kingship crisis that has engulfed the hitherto peaceful community.
Ogbunka community is one of the agrarian communities in Orumba South Local government area of Anambra state. The bobbling community is also blessed with rich human and material resources including iron ore, granite and clay deposits. The community also has other natural resources and prominently prides itself in agriculture, being one of the food baskets of Anambra state.
Ogbunka which comprised of five villages; Awuka, Isiokpu, Umunebo, Agbana and Akwaoba had before now engaged in inter-communal war with Owerre-Ezukala, their neighbouring community over land matters, though, the crisis did not in any way retard development as envisaged, given the number of people God blessed from the community.
However, the emergence of two factions as candidates for the traditional stool of the community divided the community into two separate segments and has pitched each other in loggerhead.
Dr Forster Ezenwa Ihejiofor was crowned monarch by the Community while Chief Johnmark Anyaoha was alleged to be crowned monarch by a handful.
While it was alleged that Chief Johnmark Anyoha was crowned surreptitiously with the aid of government officials, others said it was done at night by a fraction of people stoking crisis in the community; however, his rivalry, Dr. Forster Ihejiofor was said to be the preferred candidate by the stakeholders of the town and was crowned in the open and he performed all the rites needed by the Ogbunka people
They described Johnmark Anyaoha as a troublemaker who tried to impose himself selfishly on the community and also alleged that a faction of the community supporting his move is only trying to truncate the peace of the town.
Recall that Ogbunka had been without a traditional ruler for the past 12 years, after the demise of their late Igwe Esiobu.
It was alleged that on the second day of December 2020, Mr JohnMark Anyaoha, boycotted all laid down procedures and structures in Ogbunka, secretly gathered a few old men and purportedly crowned himself “king”! It was also alleged that he immediately rushed to Awka to deceive and hoodwink the authorities into legalizing the travesty of his emergence.
Some section of the community alleged that Anyaoha disregarded the titled chiefs and the input of the entire village, including the kingmakers, all traditional authority, Ogbunka Development Union and the entire Ogbunka kingdom.
However, it was gathered that on 5th of December 2020, the traditional leaders of the entire five villages of Ogbunka assembled in a general ceremony in the presence of Ogbunka Development Union to elect what they described as the true King of Ogbunka, HRH Igwe Ohazurume Chief Dr Forster Ihejiofor, Nka 1 of Ogbunka.
In addition, on the 7th of January 2021, the heads of all traditional authority in Ogbunka ancient Kingdom, the individual heads of all five villages in Ogbunka and holders of the village symbols of authority, also gathered to present HRH Igwe Dr Forster Ihejiofor, with a formal letter of recognition, as the Igwe of Ogbunka Kingdom.
Ogbunka Youth Association opens up their stand Following the crisis, the youths in a communique released by the executives of Ogbunka Youth Association after a general meeting at ogbunka civic center resolved that the people of the community accepted the candidacy of Chief Dr Forster Ezenwa Ihejiofor, who according to them has been duly elected by the people of Ogbunka, following laid down procedures and abiding by all constituted authority.
In the communique signed by the General President Ogbunka Youth Association, warned Mr Johnmark Anyaoha, who they said imposed kingship on himself to desist from parading himself as traditional ruler of the town. They claimed that Anyaoha defied all constituted authority in the town both traditional and executive, to impose himself on the people.
According to the statement also endorsed by over 500 youths of the community, Mr JohnMark Anyaoha and his cronies, had been harassing innocent and law abiding citizens of Ogbunka, and parading himself as a “self-elected Igwe”. They warned him to henceforth desist from such as he will never be recognized as the traditional ruler of the town.
The youths warned that they will no longer stand idly by, and be entertained by attempts to sabotage the elders and constituted authority in the community nor keep quiet while unity and peace of their town is disrupted.
They claimed that JohnMark Anyaoha is trying to reverse the community to idol worshipping by rebuilding the temples of idolatry and black magic that has hindered the spiritual progress of Ogbunka for years adding that the town began to experience light and progress, when idolatry, witchcraft, and black magic were resisted by people of God.
“While we respect freedom of worship, we as Ogbunka youths and the future of our generation, do not welcome anything that will draw us backward, or cage us in ignorance. This is the era of information and technology, and we need technocrats that will help our youths to harness and focus their talents for the development of our town, our state, and our nation.”
The youths vowed to resist attempts by Anayaoha and his allies to intimidate and harass instituted authorities in the town stating that ” Anyaoha has consistently fabricated many dangerous and malicious lies against elders and respected persons in the town while openly challenged the legitimacy of the current Ogbunka Development Union executives, who according to the statement were duly elected.
“We do not have any personal problem with Mr JohnMark Anyaoha, he has every right to contest the throne of Ogbunka Kingdom, following due process. Our problem is that Mr JohnMark Anyaoha crowned himself “King”!
That is NEVER done in Igboland! It is an abomnination, a travesty, “Nso ala”!
“If Mr JohnMark had interest in becoming King, he would have presented himself openly, and allowed Ogbunka people to make their own choice using option A4, as was previously agreed.
“It has come to our notice that Mr JohnMark Anyaoha has stubbornly refused to accept the general decision of Ogbunka home and abroad, Ogbunka Development Union, titled chiefs, red cap chiefs and kingmakers from all five villages.
“He has continued to sow seeds of discord and foment trouble amongst our people with blatant lies, intimidation, blackmail, manipulation and other vices, while still parading himself as a “self-crowned king.”
They warned alleged cronies of Anyaoha to desist from trying to intimidate Awuka Youths and their Leadership with threats of impeachment and incessant harassment. They stated further that Ogbunka Youth will no longer tolerate such acts of cowardice and brute abuse of power.
The youth who also directed their warnings to Mr. Bernard Eze added that they have resolved that if he (Mr. Bernard Eze) continues to harass Awuka Youth leadership, will face the wrath of the youths of the community.
While affirming their stand for justice and enthronement of Forster Ezenwa Ihejiofor as the rightful king, the youths warned legally instituted authorities in the state that they will not sit by, and allow one man truncate the will of the people of the community.
Having peacefully protested to the state government house on two occasions, the youths urge governor Willie Obiano to fulfil his promise of not imposing a ruler on the community but to allow the people make their choice. They also urged the state government to avert the looming crisis by calling Mr. JohnMark Anyaoha to order.
Obiano’s aide sues for peace, begs Governor Willie Obiano’s Special Adviser on Community Liaison, Owelle Godson Obi following the ensuing crisis appealed to the two factions in the Igweship tussle in Ogbunka to sheathe their sword and give peace a chance in the community.
Hon. Obi while stressing the need to exercise patience over the matter, however called on Governor Chief Willie Obiano to harken to the voices of Ogbunka people to avoid plunging the community into anarchy.
Obiano shocked by developments
Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra state was shocked that the Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy & Community Affairs, Chief Greg Obi will support the selection of a traditional ruler for a community like Ogbunka in Orumba South Local Government Area without the people of the community having a say.
Sources at the Governor’s lodge said Obiano was unhappy with the creation of crisis in different communities due to lack of due diligence by the ministry most times in electing or selecting traditional rulers for communities in the state.
The source said that Obiano vowed not to allow injustice to thrive in Ogbunka by not issuing a certificate to any of the two traditional rulers until a new election that will carry the people along is conducted.
Obiano as well as his wife, Chief Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano it was gathered wondered why Ogbunka would not be allowed to elect their own traditional ruler and present to the government for recognition but rather government agents were used to impose a monarch on the people against the popular demand.
Obiano and wife, it was gathered warned that no certificate should be written for Ogbunka community until the true picture of what is happening there is gathered and the community elects in an option 4 the traditional ruler they wanted.
Cabinet Chiefs trade words
The Chairman, Cabinet Chiefs of Ogbunka community, Orumba South Local government area, Anambra State and an elder statesman, Chief Chris Ifeanacho accused Chief Mathew Ezeabiakwa of betrayal and double speak over the kingship tussle in the town.
Chief Ifeanacho wondered why few individuals from Ogbunka would want to plunge the community into crisis by crowning one Johnmark Anyaoha as the monarch why majority of the town were against such move.
He alleged that Chief Mathew Ezeabiakwa who should be one of the custodians of Ogbunka customs, decided to go against Ogbunka traditional ruler’s constitution (1985) as amended by taking sides with an unpopular candidate and purportedly crowning him against the rules guiding the community.
Giving insight into the constitutional provisions of Ogbunka chieftaincy and traditional rulers’ constitution, Chief Iheanacho noted that Dr. Forster was installed by the representative Head of the most senior village which is Isiokpu in Ogbunka who incidentally is the custodian of Ogbunka traditional symbol of authority, the ofor Ogbunka, Chief Dr. Samuel Ikedi who he said convened the meeting for the installation on December 4th, 2020.
He added, “Our method of selecting a traditional ruler is enshrined in the Ogbunka Chieftaincy constitution of 1985 as amended. The constitution stated that Igweship in Ogbunka should be rotational, starting from Awuka village and in total obedience to this constitution, Ogbunka has given Awuka village the opportunity to select Igwe Ogbunka in line with what the constitution says .
“All the Ogbunka people, old and young, men and women, the youth, children were all present. The eldest family in Ogbunka, Umudiala, represented by Chief Felix Ike performed the installation ceremony. So we did not in any way derail from the constitution. We had another good person, Prof Promise Okpala who also indicated interest but stepped down for Dr. Foster.
When asked what informed their choice of Dr. Forster Ihejiofor, elder Chris Ifeanacho said, “The two are incompatible by all standards. Chief Johnmark, I know as a rich young man emerged from the blues. The only thing I know that Ogbunka has benefited from him was that he rebuilt one market stall out of over 10 market stalls for Awuka village in Ogbunka.
Reacting, Chief Mathew Ezeabiakwa who introduced himself as the traditional Prime Minister of the community, said Chief Ifeanacho connived with others to feed the public with lies about the community.
Chief Mathew Ezeabiakwa dispelled the allegations and claims, saying that Igwe Johnmark was selected according to the chieftaincy constitution of Ogbunka and the Anambra state traditional rulers law.
Referencing the backup from commissioner Obi, Ezeabiakwa said: “Chief Chris and his cohorts are bunch of lawless people. Ogbunka has a constitution and Anambra state has traditional rulers law. They are mere trouble makers. You can find out the truth from the Commissioner for Local government, Town Union and Chieftaincy matters or the Special Adviser to the Governor on Town Union Matters. They are all aware of what we did. So we followed the Anambra state law and the constitution of Ogbunka before crowning our king, Igwe Johnmark Anyaoha. They are the ones fuelling the crisis in the community.
“There is no problem in my community, they are just fermenting trouble. The Igwe’s cabinet crowned Igwe Johnmark according to the constitution of Ogbunka and the constitution of Anambra state law. The President General that crowned the second Igwe on the 5th after we crowned our Igwe on the second December, on which constitution did he rely on.
When asked how and why Chief Johnmark was selected for the Igweship stool, he said, “we wrote the village that supposed to produce the next Igwe and they sent two persons; Dr Forster Ihejiofor and Chief Johnmark Anyaoha and two of them completed forms before the Igwe’s cabinet. They paid N250,000 each. They appeared on 22 and 25th January, 2020 respectively.