By Sammie Echi Agbo, Enugu
I recently perused the obviously staged-managed interview by Hon John Egbo, former president general (PG), Amechi Development Union, with his desperate intent on disparaging the reputations of former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo; Hon Monday Eneh, chairman, Enugu South Local Government Area, and indeed the entire people of Amechi Awkwunanaw. Egbo, in the outpouring, said Jim was ‘fighting dirty’ and causing disaffection in the community to convert a communal land to his personal property. He also said ‘Jim is not from Amechi Awkunanaw’.
I’m a bona fide indigene of Amechi Awkunanaw and head of media and publicity of Amechi Awkunanaw Development Union (ADU) with the responsibility to stand on the truth always. It is an aberration when people like Egbo orchestrate divisions threatening community peace.
The Land-Grab Claim Is Farce
Hon Egbo, in his interview, claimed Chief Jim Nwobodo has ‘an inordinate ambition to convert a community land to his personal property’. He also claimed the land was donated to his company, not him as a person, to create industries and employ people of the community. The land in question—from Ayo River to Nyaba river—belongs to Amagu Ugwu Amechi Awkwunanaw. It is true that the Amagu Ibite (Amagu Akegbe) Akegbe Ugwu had disputed the said land with the people of Amagu Ugwu, now known as Amechi Awkwunanaw. But the dispute over the land ownership was resolved by the Supreme Court of Nigeria on Friday, 2nd June, 1972, in the suit no. S.C. 235/1966 on appeal from the ruling of the High Court of the Enugu Judicial Division which was given on the 11th of May, 1964.
The ruling gave Amagu Ugwu Amechi Awkunanaw—now known as Amechi Awkunanaw—the ownership and title over the land. Having secured full ownership of the land, the people of Amagu Ugwu Amechi Awkunanaw gave the portion of the land to Senator Nwobodo after he pleaded with the community. The people of Amechi Awkunanaw willingly donated the land for development purposes in appreciation of his involvement in settling the land matter.
The part donated to Jim for the Satellite Publishing Company served this purpose well. It was conveyed through a Power of Attorney signed by Amechi Development Union. In 2012, the leadership of Chief Benjamin N. Edeh and Barr Chukwudi Nyia, both as president general and secretary general of Amechi Development Union, respectively, alluded to this in a response letter written to the Enugu State commissioner of police on the claimed ‘unlawful entry and building of an unauthorised banking complex by First Bank Plc’.
By implication, Chief Nwobodo has invariably been conveyed with the absolute ownership and title to the land. The same letter was copied to HRH Igwe Anthony Ogbodo Okorie. Apart from First Bank Plc, UBA and Enugu Electricity Distribution Company occupy the same land, and none of them writes to the community either through the traditional ruler or town union applying for the land. All correspondences go to Chief Jim Nwobodo.
I do not see where and why the issue of Jim ‘fighting’ to grab and convert community land to personal property arises, except that it is coming from a quarter desperate to malign an innocent man. It takes only a stupid man to fight for something that rightfully and legally belongs to him. And Jim is not stupid!
Hon Egbo further alleged that Senator Nwobodo colluded with Enugu State ministries of chieftaincy affairs and rural development to conduct a community election against the constitution of the community after receiving a petition from five individuals loyal to the elder statesman.
Egbo claimed, “Nwobodo gathered enough people. They started calling themselves Concerned Citizens of Amaechi Akwunanaw Community. The objective was first to remove the Igwe and second was for him to appoint a caretaker into the town union of Amaechi community; so that the land in question, which he had sold quite a few number of plots; he can find a way to create a crisis and find a way to take over the land.
“The ministry of rural development came and organized an electoral committee to organise an election in Ameachi against the constitution of Amechi Akwunanaw.”
Hon Egbo’s grudges are that of a disgruntled man seeking a means to assuage his soul. The Enugu State Ministry of Rural Development does not conduct elections in the state; the ministry’s statutory role is to monitor/supervise/observe community elections if and when invited, and this is her only involvement in the electoral process of any community, union or association in the state.
On December 11, 2017, the Amaechi Development Union invited the state commissioner for rural development to supervise the union’s election scheduled for 29th December, 2017. The letter was signed by HRH Igwe A. O. Okorie and the president, Amechi Development Union, Ozo Silas Ogbodo. It is the same election that brought Hon Egbo’s executive to power. It is now surprising that someone is aggrieved that the same ministry was present to monitor/supervise the election.
Hon Egbo claimed that the ministry ‘got involved’ in the community election ‘over frivolous allegations that the election was not conducted four months before the expiration of our tenure…’ But he refused to address whether it is true that he could not conduct election within the constitutional stipulated time before his tenure expired.
Egbo also alleged Chidiebere Nnamani and John Omedoaku Ngene, who wrote the petition that led to the eventual suspension of their elections, had both been ‘suspended since August 2015’. There was never a time that the persons mentioned were suspended or ostracised, as he alleged, by the community. The community has a sustained tradition of suspending or even ostracising any person, and none of them has ever experienced it.
Hon Egbo was the first vice president for four years of what is best described as an interim government of Ozo Silas Ogbodo, before he was later elected president of the union in 2017. During his stint, he cultivated enmity and orchestrated divisions in the community. He has over five court cases against individuals in the community, including Chief Nwobodo, the town union, Enugu South LG council, and the state. He could not set up a constitutional electoral committee before his tenure elapsed. The only logical reason to explain this is that he was more obsessed with his Ofalla festival which took place on December 27, 2019 while his tenure was to expire on the 29th of the same month. His goal was to pave his way to the local government chairmanship and secure a seat at the apex body of the town union presidents in the state as the ‘president of all presidents’.
In January 2020, he called a meeting at the Igwe’s palace where he gave himself a pass mark on his scorecard as the community’s PG after two years. He believes that the Ofalla festival is such a big achievement that he could count on as a milestone. Creative leaders devote more time and resources in creating platforms to develop their people. Ofalla festival couldn’t have been a priority for the community when she is desperately in need of peace, youth empowerment and other basic social amenities.
The Amechi Concerned Indigene
Egbo alleged Chief Nwobodo gathered ‘touts and people with bad records in the community’ who now called themselves Concerned Citizens of Amechi Awkunanaw. The allegation is typical of a man desperate to bring others down. It is regrettable that Hon Egbo does not recognize the untiring efforts of the Amechi Concerned Indigenes, and particularly people like Hon Harry Chuks Egbonnaji, Chief Bernard Onuigwe Orji, Chief John Ngene, Elder Daniel Agbo Nnamani, Theophilus Ani, and Emeka Nwobodo, who, for the past two years, have made Amechi Concerned Indigenes a viable pressure group in ensuring peace and justice in spite of all manner of intimidations and blackmail. We cannot but appreciate their efforts.
Is Jim From Amechi Awkunanaw?
Umah means surplus as the case may be. This is the pet name given to the last son born to Akegbe Ogwugwueze. The name was drawn from the fact that Akegbe Ogwugwueze and his wife were not expecting any more issues as at the time of his birth.
His real name is Ngwuta Ewae. Umah or Ngwuta Ewae settled in the present day Amechi Uno, where we currently have the shrine of Ani-Obeagu na Amechi at Ugwuagba. It was rich with fruits and crops, medicinal herbs and flowers: a great mass of savannah grass land and loamy soil for farming.
He bore two sons named Chi-ukwu and Ani-ukwu. Chi-ukwu Ngwuta Ewae being the first of the sons of Umah settled at the place that later became popular as Obodo – Chi-ukwu. His younger brother, Ani-ukwu, settled at Ahwo-akpu in the present day Amechi Uno community. Chi-ukwu Ngwuta Ewae got married to Anokwu Anem who bore him four sons: Chimengwu, Aniga, Nkwuochi and Onachi. Chi-ukwu Ngwuta Ewae and Ani-ukwu Ngwuta Ewae both occupied the expanse of land measuring from Amechi Uno, Uhu onyia ani (Obeagu-uno).
The brothers continued to expand to trans-Nyama river, Ayo and Afa eaghu. They have boundaries in the North with Ogui-Nike and in the South with Amodu and Umueze; in the East with Ugwuaji and in the West with Akegbe-Ugwu communities.
The tradition was that male children of the same father should expand and find a home either by inheritance from their father or by self-expedition. Nkwuo Chi-ukwu and Ona- Chi-ukwu propagated further to the shores of Nyama river, now Ndi uhbo Nyama. Nkwuo Chi-ukwu (i.e. Umu Nkwuochi) settled at Amagu-ugwu. Chimengwu, Aniga and Ona-Chi-ukwu moved further to settle at Amechi-Uwani. Ede-achi (Umu Ede-achi) by birth was originally the son of Nkwuo Chi-ukwu (Amagu-ugwu or the current Amechi Awkunanaw).
But due to some unresolved misunderstanding, he migrated to the present day Amechi-Uwani where Agayiba (Ndiaga, whose real names were Nshia Achiona) gave him a vast land area to settle. Umu-Edeachi is till date regarded as part of Amagu-ugwu.
Chime Ngwuta Ewae family, as well, still have a part of their siblings and descendants at Amechi Uno community. If the above history of Amechi Udewo, comprising now three autonomous communities, namely Amechi Uno, Amechi and Amechi Uwani Awkunanaw that are from the same womb and they share things in common, are anything to go by, how then can someone tell another from the same community that he doesn’t belong?
Chief Jim Nwobodo is from Umuogo kindred in Amechi Awkunanaw that makes up the 19 kindred as stated in Amechi Development Union Constitution. Only Hon Egbo can explain his assertion that ‘Jim is not from my (Egbo’s) community’. He also claimed (falsely as usual) to have resuscitated him after he was ‘ostracized’ from his family. How could Hon Egbo play that role he claimed if Chief Nwobodo is not from the community he served as president general? Amechi Uno is the ancestral home of all Amechi Awkunanaw people, including his (Hon Egbo) family and kindred.
What is Hon Monday Eneh’s Crime?
Hon Egbo is the spider that weaves its web and goes about looking for preys to drag into it. He sees Hon Eneh, chairman of Enugu South LGA, as a man that has claimed what he (Egbo) coveted. Hon Eneh is a man he could call his own brother from the same family (Umuadani). Hon Eneh is a reputable stakeholder in Amechi community, and has served them in various capacities as councillor, supervisor, and party chairman before his current position. He was also chairman of the electoral committee that brought Hon Egbo into power as PG in 2017. He also belongs to the Amechi Progressives, a group that worked tirelessly to bring peace to Amechi Awkunanaw, which Hon Egbo destroyed.
As the incumbent chairman of the Enugu South LGA, Hon Eneh is the chief security officer and shares similar constituted responsibilities with the ministry of rural development to supervise, monitor and observe the community’s election process. During Hon Egbo’s administration, he wrote letters to the ministry of rural development and overlooked the office of the council chairman. This is how much he derides and neglects the office of the chairman simply because he believes he, Hon Eneh, is occupying a position he thought would have been his. It is clear that Hon Egbo has a lot to learn in leadership.
The Jim We Know
Chief Jim Nwobodo has spent his years doing what is necessary. He has a decent upbringing with a career as an educationist, successful businessman, ex-governor, ex-federal minister, senator of the Federal Republic, and presidential hopeful. It is an error to examine Jim’s life without recognising him as a politician. At a very young age of 39, he ventured into politics. First, as a member of the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP) under the leadership of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe.
Jim’s dossier is a dictionary of its own. In brief, Jim is deservingly credited for establishing the first Nigerian university of technology – the then Anambra State University of Science and Technology (ASUTECH). The university was modelled after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The university was founded along the lines of a multi-campus system, and provided the infrastructural framework for the springing up of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka; Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Enugu, and Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki. These three universities had at one time or the other recognized Senator Nwobodo as ‘the man who saw tomorrow’.
Hon Egbo’s Accountability as PG
It remains a mirage what happened to the union’s funds after Egbo’s administration. After two years, he could not give a diligent account of how the commonwealth of Amechi Awkunanaw people was spent on an Ofalla festival during which millions of naira was realized. He invited members of the 19 kindred, entertained them and provided them with a receipt of plot of lands that till date, no one has an idea where the land is located. It was a ploy to entice them to support his bid for second term as PG of the community.
He never ran an inclusive government. Elder Dan Agbo Nnamani was the financial secretary and Okwudiri Nsude treasurer. But in Egbo’s two years as PG, these officials were never allowed to perform their constitutional functions. Egbo set a committee that he worked with, who were neither executive members nor trustees of the union, yet they handled the community funds, with Mr Dave Agbo and Mr Goddy Edeh as signatories to the account. Hon Egbo left an accountability status that is questionable.
He never accounted and has nothing to show for the N5m he received from the state government for community projects; same as funds gotten from other revenues. He did not call for Amechi Awkunanaw General Assembly meeting for the two years of his stint. There was virtually no meaningful development during his administration.
A People Betrayed
Hon Egbo received an overwhelming support from the people of Amechi Awkunanaw. But he grossly disappointed them. His divisive tendencies plunged the community into a thick mud. Hon Egbo’s leadership succeeded in dividing many families (Umu Edeani family is an example), groups and in particular the Amechi Awkunanaw Community Development Union, the youth wing of the community.
All these fed the people up, including Jim Nwobodo who took him like a son and gave him so much support to become the PG of the town union, the opportunity to serve as a board member in Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) Governing Council for four years. Through Jim, he was nominated to serve in various committees set up by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, including the DG, Gburugburu Campaign Organisation, Enugu South Local Government.
The Amechi Development Union Election
After all said and done, it is a relief that the Amechi Development Union on November 14, 2020 eventually elected her new leadership under the supervision of the state ministry of rural development. A certificate of return has since been given to the new executive. The General Assembly of Amechi Awkunanaw was on ground in their numbers to exercise their civic rights despite moves to sabotage the age-long peace in the union and community.
Chief Paul Nwobodo Agbo was elected president-general (PG) with 230 votes to defeat his rival, Pastor Olisaemeka John Nwobodo, who scored 32 votes. Other positions were also elected into the union.
Sammie Echi Agbo writes from Awkunaw, Enugu