Imo Governor, Leave Traditional Rulers Alone
The great philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, once remarked that “the man who comes into the world with the notion that he is really going to instruct it in matters of the highest importance, may thank his stars if he escapes with a whole skin.”
The traditional rulers in African, in Igboland and Imo State in particular fall into this category of matters of the highest importance. Instructing them in manners of tolling invokes wraths from their lands unto the defiler’s individual and family lives. No matter the aberrations made on the institution by successive State Governors in the South East and Imo specifically, once made Ezes, traditional rulers belong to the realm of the taboos in the land that must not be tampered with.
One of the effects of colonisation in Igboland that thwarted the status of Traditional Rulers is the introduction of warrant chiefs, which made liaison between the Traditional Rulers or Paramount Chiefs and the people. By dint of liaising the federated clans and lineages in Igboland in the warrant chiefs’ roles, most ancestral monarchical clans lost their customary roles. And in loosing this, clever and more organised customary communities and kingdoms sort to have their paramount rulers recognised then by the government of the day. Many conglomerate or federated clans that formed communities opted too for separation, and thus kingdoms multiplied.
In this multiplication, ancestral kingdoms were split en guise dudevelopment.
Beside these, given the variegated myths of origins of milliards of clans and kindred in Igboland, each tend to see itself as worth separating from the ancestral kingdoms and thus form new autonomous community living, which in developmental reasons is also possible with the roles of the town unions than creation of Ezes as sole reasons for grass-root developments, and only to turn them into royal aprons in the Governor’s dustbin.
For close to a century now in Nigeria, traditional rulers in Igboland have passed through one government policy of humiliation and destruction of the traditional institution or the other. The most notable of these are the creation of multiple autonomous communities, which consequently implies the creation of traditional rulers/Ezes.
Subsequent governments in the five South Eastern states in Nigeria that are Igbos and Igbo communities spread in Delta, Edo, Rivers and Benue States, have subdued the Ezes and their kingdoms into their pockets. They create Ezes, make them Royal Highnesses” and thus reserve the sole rights to hire and fire them.
The worst that has happened in this line is in Imo State. Since the inception of nascent democracy in 1999, two new rules have been introduced into the traditional leadership. Though they limit and encase Ndieze Imo, none of them imprisoned and mesmerised Ezeship than this present administration.
Traditional Rulers have been strongly politicised in Imo State, while their customary roles have been humiliated into the reverie silhouettes of nouveau rules of Gov. Okorocha that come to him from the ideational world. Communities have been set ablaze by creations of previously inexistent autonomous communities, which is not tantamount to creation of Ezes. Communities that were previously without inter-rivalry have through this act turned into rival clans to each other.
Kingdoms have been split not for the reasons of development but as model for undermining the influence that Traditional Rulers from larger kingdoms enjoy, as Igbos say that “gidigid bu ugwu Eze”. One of such nascent wicked creations is the split of the ancestral Kingdom that the legend Majesty, Eze Damanze ruled. The split was nothing but for political reasons. Others are created as take away gifts to political plinths whose relations have one type of cordial affinity with the Imo State Governor as means of settling them.
Today, Imo State has 637 recognised autonomous communities, meaning same number of traditional rulers. These 637 Ezes are by their status considered as the properties of the Imo State Governor, who solely reserves the right to hire and fire any, to uplift or demote/suspend any.
The Ezes in Imo State are employees of Okorocha, who pays and treats them as company workers. They are what he wants them to be, must be in the sympathy and admiration of Okorocha’s political allies and party, and are not permitted to welcome any of the royal fathers’ sons and daughters from left and right, from across the multiparty system of the State. To do this is anathema for any Eze.
It is on this note that His Majesty, Eze Njamanze together with 9 other Ezes were suspended for paying homage to the then President of Nigeria, and thus father of the nation- Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan when he came to Owerri. Eze Njamanze as the Royal Father of the kingdom that harbours both Okorocha and the national father, Mr President, went to welcome him as he must and is obliged by customary practice, and was suspended. It is doubtful whether till death or during his internment, Eze Njamanze was restored by the creator of Ndieze, Gov Okorocha.
The Eze is the father of his community. The Governor is for the State, while the President is for the nation, which swallows both the State Governor and the Autonomous Communities Royal Fathers. Rochas did not welcome his President and Father of the nation, and compelled every employed and created Eze in Imo State not to welcome Mr President, any Eze that goes will be punished. But on the contrary, when Buhari, then an ordinary presidential aspirant came to Imo State, the whole Ezes were compelled to en masse themselves to welcome him, with no threat of suspension or firing.
Sometime passed, the Imo traditional rulers were propelled to nominate their State Chairman. A wicked act that solely aimed at projecting perpetual enmity between the eventual emergent Chairman and those that did not vote him as well as his co-contestants. This act is meant for internal politicisation of Ezes, after making the tenure of the former State Chairman of the Eze cut off as creator of Ndieze, and thus planted the man that followed his political party during the 2011 election, Eze Samuel Agunwa Ohiri, while the tenure of the former had not finished, who thereunto was considered as the property of the former Governor, Ikedi Ohakim.
This humiliation reaches its apex in the case of the CGC he planted, wherein they were compelled to play the roles of town union chairmen/presidents, while the latter played the roles of the town union secretary. Eye-saws have been the portion of Ezes. At times, Ndieze Imo would be called for a 9am meeting with logbooks recording time of entrance to meeting for the Ezes, while their Creator will come by 3pm, with no apology.
Of recent too, there is the injection of N3,000 taxation of adult males in each created autonomous communities to be collected by his employees- the Ezes, with the threat of merging none responding autonomous communities and demoting the created Eze.
These are mesmerisation that must stop. They are not mere aberrations but taboos in Igboland that must be cleansed and atoned for before Imo would be better. The anthem chanted on air at Okorocha’s booked intervals can never better Imo except when his unfair treatment on Ndieze Imo is cleansed. These are unending and thus Okorocha must leave Ndi Eze Imo alone.