DAY MASSOB TOOK OVER NRI KINGDOM
On Saturday March 10, the Nri Kingdom shook to its foundation. It was the 1013th annual Igu Aro festival of the kingdom, which was usually held every February to mark the beginning of the new calendar year of the kingdom.
The kingdom had scheduled to hold this year's festival on February 18, but had to shelve it when the Ananbra State government said it had slated the day for its local government elections.
And when the new day, March 10 came, the kingdom had to contend with an unprecedented crowd, one that had never been seen in the history of the Igu Aro festival.
Before noon when the event was to commence, members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) had invaded the kingdom, leaving it with no space. They had come to honour their leader, Chief Ralph Uwazurike, who was on January 14 conferred with the Ijelle Ndigbo title by Eze Nri, His Majesty, Eze Obidiegwu Onyesoh, the Eze Nrienwelana 11, but the celebration was deferred to the March 10 date of Igu Aro festival.
On the appointed day, the entrance to the arena over-looking the palace of Eze Onyesoh was jam-packed with people as MASSOB members in all-black attire who were in charge of the security formed a ring round the field that could contain over 2,000 guests.
When the stage was set for the event to begin, the organizers had a hectic time controlling the MASSOB members who wanted the Biafran national anthem to be played instead of the Nigerian anthem.
Consequently, Eze Onyesoh took over and reminded the MASSOB members that they were still in one Nigeria, which had just accorded the Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu a state burial.
The traditional ruler promoted the MASSOB for putting up good attitude during the burial of Ojukwu, urging them to maintain the streak and remain non-violent.
But the members were resolute as they went ahead to sing the Biafran national anthem soon after the Nigerian anthem was sang.
The protocols over, Igwe Onyesoh took the stage and renewed the agitation for an additional state for the South-east geo-political zone for it to be in equal footing with the other five geo-political zones in the country.
The traditional ruler who also urged President Goodluck Jonathan to complete the Second Niger Bridge, thanked the President for giving the late Igbo leader, Dim Ojukwu a state burial with full military honours never seen in the history of the country.
He also urged MASSOB members to always organise themselves in a manner that would foster unity and peace in the country.
Onyesoh extolled the virtues of MASSOB members whom he said remained calm even in the face of wanton massacre of their brothers and sisters in the North and never resorted to violence or retaliation.
Hear him: 'I want to tell you that the future of this country, Nigeria, rests on your shoulders and I wish to thank you for the way and manner you respected the sanctity of human life even in the face of provocations from the killings of our people in the North, no northerner was touched in any part of Igbo land. I want to thank MASSOB for their maturity and discipline and also urge them to remain peaceful because what they are agitating for will be given to us without shedding of any blood'
Chief Uwazurike who the event was apparently staged to celebrate expressed happiness over the new role given to him by the entire Igbo nation even as he promised to put in his best in fighting for the cause of the Igbo.
The MASSOB leader also expressed his readiness to carry out the responsibilities entrusted on him, urging Ndigbo to be focused on the real essence of the struggle which he said was to address injustice and marginalization of the race.
He maintained that the new role of Igbo leader would encourage him to do more for the rest of Ndigbo, pointing out that the Igbo man has always been noted to have respect for human life, assuring that very soon Ndigbo would be free from all marginalization.
Also Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka who was installed Ogrisi Igbo, the second in command to Chief Uwazurike, said that the formal presentation and installation of the new Ijele Ndigbo by the ancient Nri Kingdom was apt, especially now that the entire Igbo nation was mourning Ojukwu.
He promised that they would carry out their duties in accordance with the tradition and culture of the Igbo, noting that the installation of Chief Uwazurike was not politically driven, but divinely ordained as he is to liberate Ndigbo from marginalization.
Earlier in his address, the President General of Nri Progressive Union, Chief Frank Okeke-Oraeki said the 1013th Iguaro festival was significant as it threw up Ndigbo in the better position to continue to push forward for their rightful share in the country.
Chief Okeke said Iguaro dated back to 1043 AD, adding that it was aimed at signaling the planting season in the Nri kingdom and indeed the rest of Igbo land just as he urged Ndigbo to go back to agriculture.
'The proclamation of Igbo Lunar calendar from year to year is the prerogative of Eze Nri, being the custodian of Igbo culture, custom and tradition, the keeper of Ofo Ndigbo in the ancestral homeland. The Nri lunar calendar starts in February, and it is determined by the celestial movement of the sun,' he said.
At about 3:00 p.m. when guests who attended the Igu Aro festival made to leave Nri, the community had been shut down as the road leading to Eze Onyesoh's palace had been blocked by vehicles that lines up to 1 kilometer to the major road.
Most of the dignitaries, as well as Chief Uwazurike and his entourage had to leave Nri through a footpath.