SUCCESSION TUSSLE TEARS DELTA COMMUNITY APART
All is not well at themoment with Ubulu-Uku, an agrarian community in Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State. Until recently, the community enjoyed the peace and serenity of a river. Many believe that strangers and non-indigenes are easily attracted to the area because of the unconditional hospitality its people offer.
Daily Sun gathered that the community is well known for its two unique festivals – the Ine and the Iwu festivals. The Ine festival is used by the indigenes to thank the god of harvest for the rich harvest recorded each year and for exposing evildoers in the community. During the Ine fiesta, the indigenes compose songs with which they denounced evildoers in the town.
Through that, they checkmate evil activities in the community as criminals know they would be jeered at during the festival.
But the Iwu festival is more cherished by the indigenes,who they travel from far and near to mark it amid songs, dance, breathtaking displays, wrestling, among other spectacles. The weeks that precede the Iwu festival are regarded as sacred as none is permitted to disturb the peace of the community.
However, during this year's Iwu festival, Daily Sun gathered that things fell apart in the community. Anarchy had descended on the land as hoodlums unleashed terror on the community and in the process dispersed people, who gathered to mark the festival. As one resident feared, 'the community is now sitting on a keg of gun powder, which is ready to explode.'
Trouble started for the indigenes about five months ago, when a half-caste based in London, stormed the community to lay claim to the Obi stool. However, the sitting king of the community, His royal Highness, Agbogidi, Obi Akaeze Ofolue, did not take the threat to unseat him lightly as he is fighting back to hold on to the crown.
The Londoner, Edward Okechukwu Ofolue, claims he is the first born of the late King Edward Ofolue II, who passed on three years ago. He insists he has had come to unseat the present Obi Akaeze, who he regards as his younger brother, from a different mother.
Edward, who returned to Ubulu-Uku penultimate week to celebrate the Iwu festival, met more than what he could chew as some loyalists to the sitting king allegedly prevented him from performing the ritual.
The 55-year-old, born of a white mother, escaped death by the whiskers when some hoodlums, who cashed in on the crisis between him and the sitting king unleashed mayhem on visitors, who came to watch the fiesta.
Edward, in a chat with Daily Sun, said he had only come back to Nigeria to mark the annual Iwu festival, which the sitting king, who he insists is his younger brother had refused to perform.
'I am the king. My father died three years ago but before he passed on, he told me that whenever he returned to his ancestors, I would be called upon by the kingmakers (Umuozim) to mount the throne of our forefathers.
'He clearly said it was an unarguable fact that in Ubulu-Uku the first son should be the king. I wonder why my younger brother should take over the throne while I'm still alive?'
He told the reporter that he was legally born in London 55 years ago by the late king. 'We are five in number. When my father was returning to Nigeria, my mother refused to come with him. The sitting king is the number six in our family as four others followed me before him.' He said the culture of Ubulu-Uku demanded that the first son should be presented to the kingmakers (Umuozim). He came home in 1985 and his father presented him to the Umuozim, who anointed him as the successor of his father.
He said in April, this year, when the Umuozim called on him to return home and take over the kingship, he obeyed since his late father had assured him that the Umuozim would look for him.
'When I returned in April, I was highly welcomed by the Umuozim, who performed some rituals, and anointed me in preparation to ascend the throne.'
He said one of the instructions the Umuozim gave him was to return by October to celebrate the Iwu festival. This is why I am in Nigeria. The process of marking the Iwu had been completed. Rituals and dances had been performed but on the day of the celebration, my supporters and I were attacked. The Iwu was scuttled as everybody dispersed.'
Edward, who said he escaped death by divine intervention, promised to return to Ubulu-Uku during the next festival. 'But I will put security measures in place so that my people will no longer be attacked.'
The former journalist with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said he wanted to reconcile with Akaeze and other aggrieved indigenes. 'Reconciliation will be paramount in my mind; my people must come together and live peacefully as brothers and sisters. I have no wish to rule a divided kingdom.'
According to him, he was making moves to involve the Delta State Government in the reconciliatory move. 'I learnt the government was misled in giving the staff of office to my younger brother but now the government knows the truth, it has a very important role to play so that our land will not be divided against itself.'
He said as a human being, he understood it would not be easy for the sitting king to relinquish his stool. 'But he should understand that he is my younger brother and that I have been given a divine assignment, which I must fulfill. Kingship is a divine calling and I promised the Umuozim that I must fulfill it.'
Continuing, he said the Umuozim had also stated that: 'There is no controversy about my kingship as I am the first son. That it is the first son's responsibility and God-given right to succeed his father and so they have anointed me as the king's apparent heir since the tradition is by primogeniture.'
However, in a chat with the sitting king, Akaeze Ofulue, he acknowledged that Edward is his elder brother from a different mother, who happens to be a Briton.
According to him, his father did not marry Edward's mother legally and according to the custom and tradition of Ubulu-Uku people, and as such, 'my father and Edward's mother were boyfriend and girlfriend in London.'
He said: 'Edward knows the truth but was being misled by a powerful politician (names withheld), who has some issues to settle with the palace.'
A powerful chief in the community, who spoke on condition of anonymity collaborated Akaeze's claim, saying: 'The late king was not legally married to Edward's mother. It is too late for Edward to be crowned as Akaeze has been recognised as the king and the government has given him the staff of office.'
But the Head of Umuozim, Diokpa Pius Igbiki, told Daily Sun that as the culture stipulates, the first son succeeds the king. 'Edward is the first son. Whether he was born in London or not, he is our king. We have started the process of crowning him king.'
He confirmed that the London returnee had been fully initiated and would soon be crowned the king.
A member of Umuozim, who did not want his name in print, lamented the challenges facing Ubulu-Uku people. 'It has never be heard in the history of Ubulu-Uku that kingship should be struggled for. Right from time immemorial, it is the first son that succeeds the king but there was a serious mistake when the government gave the sixth child the staff of office.'
He predicted that 'danger looms in the land as kingship tussle is not a decade affair; it will take decades before the crisis clears. For one, the sitting king will find it difficult to relinquish his stool but the Londoner appears set to unseat him. We are sitting on a keg of gun powder that is ready to explode.'
He, however, made a passionate appeal to the Ofulue family to have a roundtable discussion with the Umuozim to decide what to do about the kingship tussle before the one time peaceful town would degenerate to a state of anarchy.
He also appealed to the State Governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan to wade into the matter.