By CHINYE DOBEOKWU
It is a rare phenomenon to see a news media practitioner move from the news room to the apogee of traditional political institution, unless he or she has a blue blood running in the vein. Even at that, Royals hardly fancy the hazards and hassles that go with hunting for news.
The Akran of Badagry, De Aholu Menu-Toyi I, The Oslo of Isolo, HRM Oba Kabiru Agbabiaka, the Obi of Idumuje Unor, HRM Charles Anyasi stand out here for mentioning.
We have another close case in Idumuje-Ugboko where the occupant of the next most powerful office to the monarch, the Iyase of Idumuje-Ugboko, Chief Chris Chukwuka Ogwu, is a veteran journalist of repute.
This year marks ten years of his being in the office of the Iyase, which is the traditional prime minister and he heads the Onotu, the traditional army that defends the kingdom against internal insurrection and external aggressive activities from neighbouring communities.
For a profession where public appreciation is hard to come by and hard working professionals shun the limelight, Chief Ogwu hardly wants to be seen shaving his own hair.
Idumuje-Ugboko is one of the towns in Anioma with one of the highest percentage of educated elites in every sphere of life. So, it is not a mean feat that a media person has been on this throne for the past ten years.
But since the demise of the king of Idumuje-Ugboko in February this year, the significance and function of his office has made him the gold fish that has no hiding place.
Chief Ogwu was Sports Editor at the Guardian newspaper from 1983 to 1990, Editor-in-Chief of Daily Telegraph, 1994 to 1996, Chairman, Editorial Board of Thisday newspaper from 1997 to 1999 all in Lagos and later, the pioneer Editor of Delta State owned “The Pointer” newspaper in Asaba.
He became the Iyase of his town five years ago but the passage of the Octogenarian Monarch of Idumuje-Ugboko Kingdom and the tussle for who becomes the next king has brought him in the eyes of history, customs and tradition of the people in contemporary circumstances.
Presiding Over the Rite of Passage
The culture of Idumuje-Ugboko Kingdom requires that a King must be interred within 24 hours of his passage but the rite must be initiated by the Iyase of the town who has the right to summon the Council of Chiefs consisting of the Iyase, the Odogwu, the Isama and the Uwolor.
These are four high ranking Chiefs who oversee their various four quarters of the town namely Atuma, Ogbe Ofu, Ogbe Obi and Onicha Uku respectively.
Making a New King
When the throne is vacant after the burial of a dead monarch, the administration of the Kingdom falls into the hands of the Iyase for three months, being the next most powerful chief after the monarch.
Traditionally, the Iyase is the first person to be contacted when the Obi, joins his ancestors. Thereafter, the Iyase will inform the Diokpas in the four quarters and invite them to the Palace to perform the necessary rites and respect.
The death of the Obi will then be made official to the town and his burial will take place within 24 hours.
A Period of Three (3) Months is set by the Iyase to Select a New King.
When the throne is vacant after the burial of a late monarch, the administration of the Kingdom falls into the hands of the Iyase for three months, being the next most powerful chief after the monarch.
The Iyase presides over all meetings in the Palace during these 3 months and after the formal announcement, he then directs the Onotu and/or the Omu to ensure that the town’s market is closed and the people shave their hair as a mark of respect to the departed Obi. These directives are to last until the king is buried traditionally.
It is only after the burial ceremonies of the departed Obi that the process for the coronation of a new Obi commences. This must be religiously followed as the culture and tradition clearly demand.
During this period, the Iyase, the Odogwu, the Isama and the Uwoloh take time to scrutinise the Crown Prince, once he scales through all the huddles, this Council will organise a one-man leadership training course for him where he will be coached by eminent scholars on traditional customs and leadership.
In the case of Idumuje-Ugboko, it is the duty of the Executive Council that has just been formed that will have the final say and advise Umu-Ologbo as the case may be.
It is not a fluke or accident that Prince Ned Nwoko is involved in this massive developmental project. Chief Sunday Edemodu, the chairman of the Land Allocation Committee (LAC), Chief Kennedy Illoh, who were alleged to be victims of the violence that was unleashed on some persons who opposed the move to banish Prince Ned Nwoko, a former federal lawmaker.
Some of the demands were presented by both sides but prominent among them were: withdrawal of about six cases pending at different courts in Issele-Uku and Asaba; reversal of the purported banishment of Prince Ned Nwoko from the town; rehabilitation of victims of the May 25 violence that rocked the town and disarming youths that were armed by both sides in the kingship tussle.
The task of the Congress could be arduous as some facts of the cases in court date back to four years ago and they border on felony, murder, stealing, forgery and rape.
The team left with a promise to study the proposal by the two camps.
The Iyase, Chief Ogwu, who was not ready to discuss the issue, confirmed that the prospect of peace in the community was extensively discussed as the Congress wants to settle the issues amicably.
The May 25 attack on the Iyase was very symbolic as it meant an attack on the person, the institution, who has a primary responsibility to defend the Kingdom as the Head of the Local Army. He cannot use the army to take the life of an indigene of the town. He cannot use the office to appropriate the land of the community for himself or friends. You must get his support to convene the process and traditional protocols to select a new king. Those who attacked the Iyase had a clear idea of their mission and the danger is not over.
Prince Ned Nwoko, the former representative of Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency, said that he has been vindicated as none of those arrested and put on trial are known to be his supporters, who were wrongfully said to be behind the mayhem that erupted on that day and resulted in mindless destruction of the homes and property.
He said the victims of the attack were people who opposed the unlawful Izu Ani (General Assembly) that was convened by persons whose agenda was to ostracise and banish him from Idumuje-Ugboko Kingdom.
Prince Nwoko said, “Some persons who want to circumvent the tradition and custom of Idumuje-Ugboko are raising all forms of vile propaganda against him and declared war on those they see as obstacles to their ambition.”
He said all matters concerning the acquisition of 90 hectares of land for the Star University project have been in Court for the past two years, even when the late monarch of Idumuje-Ugboko was still alive and nobody had been attacked for any reason adding that ” those who want me to support a process where the Iyase of Idumuje-Ugboko, the Odogwu, the Isama and Uwolor, to determine who becomes the next monarch are mobilising funds and raising cultists to attack indigenes of idumuje-Ugboko who are opposed to their unilateral proclamation of kingship in the town.
Prince Nwoko said: “I am not contesting to become the next king of Idumuje-Ugboko, but we have a tradition of ascension, which we must adhere to, if we want Delta State Government and Council of Traditional Rulers to recognise our king”.
The law maker challenged Delta State Police Command to separate the issues of the crimes that are being committed in Idumuje-Ugboko from the kingship tussle because the indigenes of Idumuje-Ugboko are living in fear of further attacks.
In response to a communiqué issued by Idumuju-Ugboko Development Union, (IUDU), a member of the Royal family, Prince Dan Odims Nwoko debunked the claims in the newspaper publication and petition circulated to Delta State Government, National Universities Commission that “there is currently no feasibility study available to IUDU”.
Prince of the royal family, Hon. Ned Nwoko who practiced law in England and Wales for many years and a former member of Federal House of Representative as a lawmaker and at different times Governorship and Senatorial aspirant in Delta State could spend over N90 million to prepare and produce documents in pursuit of the Star University Project without feasibility studies?
He said their claim is not only ridiculous but also degrading because two sets of all the documents as required by National Universities Commission were submitted to the last and current leadership of IUDU.
Documents submitted include: the University laws, the Academic brief Vol. I & II, the Environmental Impact Analysis Report, Draft University Law, Master Plan, and Geotechnical Investigation Report.
In fact, one of the two brothers leading the opposition against the Star University project applied to handle the drawing of the University Master plan but failed to secure the contract which the NUC nominated only consultants that are registered with the Commission. He felt bitter because Hon. Ned Nwoko did not exert his influence to ensure that an indigene of Idumuje-Ugboko was given the job.
In a detailed refutal of the claims made in the published communiqué and some of the signatories to the petition, a Royal who is fourth in the line, Prince Dan Odims Nwoko, said the assertion “that Ugboko community is fundamentally agrarian and it will be assault on people to welcome the Star University” is a display of spitefulness, hypocrisy and jealousy because “many of the authors of the communiqué are Doctors, Accountants, Engineers, Lawyers and top Banking Executives. Ironically, these are people who benefited from towns who allowed Universities to be established in their communities in preference to Agriculture”.
Communities like Abraka, Ogwashi Uku, Ozoro, Awka, Ekpoma, Ota, Okija, Oko and Okada, are among towns that have transformed because of the presence of academic infrastructure in their domain.
According to him, “the authors of the communiqué opposing the Star University ought to know that Idumuje-Ugboko will be well-off if the University is built in the town as it will bring tremendous development to the town and other surrounding towns and villages.
“It will provide employment opportunities for the youths who are being misled today to oppose the project, it will boost the commercial activities and real estate development to create housing for students, lecturers and visitors. We are surprised that learned sons and daughters of Idumuje-Ugboko, came out openly to attack the Star University project and declare Prince Ned Nwoko an enemy of the people when the reverse is the case.
“Those who are opposing the Star University are aware that a private university in the town will boost the local economy by up to two billion naira per annum, provide up to 500 well-paid permanent and more than 1000 temporary construction jobs to locals, bring in ancillary service providers like banks, real estate developers, hotels, restaurants, cybercafés etc., boost the value of land astronomically and advertise the name of the town nationally and even internationally and transform Idumuje-Ugboko overnight”.