Inyom Aro election imbroglio…the true story

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Many followers of Aro affairs both at home and in the Diaspora have watched with consternation the scenarios that emerged since 2012, arising from the election of the women’s wing of the umbrella union, Nzuko Aro.

As the Nwada Igwe-led executive of Nzuko Inyom Aro prepared to organise an election that would have ushered in a new team in accordance with the constitution of the union, trouble reared its ugly head when the immediate past 1st Vice President General of the men’s wing, Barr. Steve Amaramiro, the immediate past Treasurer General, Mazi Chris Ogwuma, Mazi Okechukwu Ibe (Okey Unique) and others stormed the Obinkita Hall venue of the election in November 2012.

On enquiry about their mission , Barr. Amaramiro, who had a piece of paper in his hands requested for audience to address the women. Subsequently he announced that he came to interpret the constitution of Nzuko Aro to the women. This move was stoutly resisted by Nwada Igwe and her exco including the national patronesses led by Mrs. Eme Nwakanma Okoro (now late) who sought to know why he was intent on addressing the women. In the ensuing confusion, Nwada Igwe, her exco, the patronesses and all the women staged a walkout. The women wondered where the men got their powers to attend and address them as the constitution permits only the national patrons to play such roles.

A few hours later, series of announcements were made at the state owned Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State (BCA), to the effect that the tenure of the Nwada Igwe-led exco of Nzuko Inyom Aro had expired and a caretaker committee appointed to run the affairs of the women in the same November, 2012. Names of the caretaker committee members were also announced on radio.

Hitherto, Nzuko Inyom Aro had been fined one cow and other items by the trio of Mazi Oji Kanu Oji, Mazi Kanu Nwa Kanu and Mazi Okorafor Uro, their ‘crime’ being that they made ‘Linto’, Father of the Day at the 2012 women’s mass return. When the women were summoned to Eze Aro’s palace at Oror on the fine and the upcoming election, Mazi Kanu Nwa Kanu, Eze Ibom Isii and Mazi Okorafor Uro, Eze Ezeagwu openly asked the women to zone the position of the next President General to ‘onye Ime Aro, na Amuze achikariana’.

Peace initiative

Fallout of the impasse was a crucial meeting summoned on the 15th of March, 2103 at the residence of Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa at Baraki. At the parley, the national patrons summoned the leadership of both wings in a bid to douse the tension. After its deliberations, the caretaker committee was dissolved and the Nwada Igwe exco told to put its house in order and conduct a free and fair election. It also banned and condemned zoning of officers along kindred lines as it violated Nzuko Aro constitution.

Buoyed by this new development, the women returned to Obinkita Hall once again, this time on Saturday 29th June, 2013 to conduct their election. Midway into its meeting, security agents that were sent to keep the peace where withdrawn (till date no one has taken responsibility for that action), and the women left vulnerable. As if that was not enough, some women who claimed to be of the home branch stormed the venue insisting on being allowed to vote. Observing on that day were Prof. Okoro Ijoma, Mazi Ukwu Udonsi, while Madam Eme Nwakanma Okoro amongst other national patronesses were conducting proceedings. As the confusion reigned, Prof Okoro Ijoma, Chairman of Nzuko Aro Body of National Patrons, tried to calm frayed nerves and requested that they nominate one member each from the nineteen villages. That was rejected, and as the women forced their way into Obinkita Hall, damaging it in the process, the exco, patrons and patronesses and accredited women ran for their dear lives. It was said that an aspirant was later carried shoulder high and declared ‘winner’ of the election.

While the brouhaha was going on, His Majesty, the Eze Aro stepped in and directed the women to hold their election before a certain time or face sanctions. His address was distributed to Umu Aro at his residence in Enugu on the 2nd of August, 2013, a day to 3rd August, 2013 CEC hosted by Enugu branch. While the address was been distributed, it was alleged that the immediate past President General of Nzuko Aro, Nnamdi Udoh ordered it stopped, insisting that the proper place to distribute or read Eze Aro’s address was at the CEC proper. At the meeting the next day 3rd August, 2013 and to the surprise of many, Eze Aro’s speech was not read. It was disregarded. Rather, another interim committee headed by Barr. Joy Chiori was appointed. Other members of the committee were Mrs. Agaezichi Nwafor, Mrs. Philomena Okoro, Mrs. Fanny Nwafor Obasi, Mrs. Rose Egesi and all national patrons of the women’s wing.

Interference from men

Predictably, the women resisted the arrangement. They drew impetus for their stance on the directive of Eze Aro, who had written to ask them to conduct their elections or face sanctions.  The women thus resolved to hold their election in Enugu, as the two previous polls in Aro failed to hold, for security reasons. They chose Saturday, August 30, 2013 as the new date for the election. A venue – Dragon Hall – owned by a prominent Nwa Aro situated at the premises of 82 Division of the Nigerian Army was chosen, out of security concerns also. As the women sent out notices of the election, the leadership of the men’s wing kicked against it. They reasoned that the election could not hold outside Arochukwu, but the women sited insecurity as their main reason. The duo of Mazi Nnamdi Udoh and Mazi Ernie Onwumere (immediate past Secretary-General) wrote a petition to the GOC of 82 Division Enugu, requesting him to disallow the women from holding their election there .Thus the GOC summoned the proprietor of the venue for further explanation with the petition Udoh and Onwumere wrote before him. But satisfied with the explanations given to him, he instructed that adequate security be provided for the women to hold their election.

After the election, Mrs. Doris Green (now late) emerged the new President General. But in a swift reaction, a letter signed by Nnamdi Udoh and Ernie Onwumere (in their respective capacities as President-General and Secretary-General), threatened that all the women that participated in that election will face the full wrath of the law, subsequently punished.

On 20th of September 2013, Prof. Okoro Ijoma, Mazi Ukwu Udonsi, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa (OFR), Mazi Dave Imoko, Mazi Nnamdi Udoh, Mazi Ernie Onwumere and Prince Joshua Kanu Oji visited Eze Aro at Oror. Their mission was to ascertain if it was indeed His Majesty that signed the letter directing the women to go ahead with their election.

Eze Aro reportedly asked for a copy of the letter, but Mazi Nnamdi Udoh replied that he had it in soft copy, whereupon Prince Joshua Kanu Oji went to his house and brought out a printed copy of the letter. After scrutiny, His Majesty confirmed signing the letter.

Corruption allegation

While all these were going on, a group of the women made some unsubstantiated allegations bordering on financial impropriety against Nwada Igwe and her exco.

For example, they were alleged to have sold the Nzuko Inyom Aro Skills Acquisition Centre at Obinkita to the Ministry of Labour and Employment through the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), in the sum of N400million; that the account of a prominent Aro son was used to clear the money.

Sadly, some enlightened men who rose to the peak of their career in the civil service were among of the rumour peddlers. Investigations by Aro News have not confirmed the allegation.

The men’s wing rejected the outcome of the election that enthroned Madam Doris Green, while the women’s wing continued with its activities and even organized a successful mass return in 2015.

Meanwhile, the Barr Joy Chiori-led caretaker committee, which was described as ‘slow’ because it insisted on due process to avoid past mistakes, had been dissolved and Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa appointed at a CEC which took place in Arochukwu in 2014. The Doris Green faction rejected the choice of Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa and refused to attend its peace meetings even with some Eze Ogo as members. This faction accused Ohuabunwa of partisanship.

Yet another letter was said to have been written by His Majesty directing the conduct of a fresh election, this time in Arochukwu.

On the 31st of December 2015, an election was said to have held, which produced Mrs. Charity Achinivu as the President General of the women’s wing. The Doris Green faction described the election as illegal, insisting that a quorum was not formed and majority of the branches were not represented at the election as stipulated by the constitution. It stated that no national patroness was present at the election as enshrined in the constitution. The election was said to have been conducted by Mazi Ogbonnaya Udoagwu, a male National Patron, in violation of the constitution of the union.

It was alleged that some of the men promptly urged the Charity Achinivu faction to appoint patronesses from their group, to give credence to the election.

PG wields the hammer

On the 26th of March, 2016, Mazi George Okoronkwo Ezuma was elected the President General of the men’s wing in a landslide victory. All members of the immediate past administration that re-contested were defeated with a large margin while those that were not bold enough withdrew midway.

At its maiden CEC meeting which held in Lagos on the 18th of June 2016, the two factions of the women’s wing were dissolved. Delegates to the CEC were worried that two factions of the women’s wing attended the CEC. Majority of the people that contributed to the debate felt that the crisis had lingered for too long and had seemingly defied all efforts at peaceful resolution. Since the union is a democratic organisation, members felt that with the new exco of the men’s wing it was the right time to also resolve the issue of the women through a free and fair election that would be open to all the women. The CEC therefore resolved that both factions be dissolved and that a process for a free and fair election based on the constitution of Nzuko Aro be conducted and that whoever won the new election should lead the women and will have the support of all.

A warning was also issued that no attempt should be made by the officials of the men’s wing to influence the outcome of the election.

A committee headed by Prof (Mrs.) O.C Nwana was appointed with Lady Uzunma Imoko as secretary. Both factions of the women nominated two members each into the team.

Charity Achinivu goes to court

A few days after the dissolution, the Charity Achinivu-led faction sued Nzuko Aro in the High Court sitting at Arochukwu. She stated amongst others that her tenure of two years (Nzuko Aro constitution provides for three years reign) was yet to expire before the dissolution.

At the CEC meeting of the union held at Atani hall on the 24th of September, 2016, the interim committee of the women presented their report/guidelines based on the constitution; the CEC accepted the report, approved the guidelines and approved conduct of the election hold on the 29th of October 2016, at Atani Hall.

Election at last

The election eventually took place on the said date and Lady Bright Elekwa elected President General of the wing in an event attended by 18 out of its 21 branches.

Worthy of note is that some aggrieved persons made efforts to scuttle the election. They tried to drag the name of His Majesty into the women’s issue again and when their efforts failed, they resorted to peddling rumours.

On the 24th of December, 2016, Nzuko Aro attended Okpankpo Aro meeting at the Council Hall, Oror. The trio of Mazi Oji Kanu Oji, Mazi Kanu Nwa Kanu, Eze Ibom Isii and Mazi Okorafor Uro, Eze Ezeagwu requested the union to brief Eze Aro on its activities so far and its plans for Aro Day 2016, and the women inauguration.

The union’s delegation led by Mazi Nwosu Nwaka, 2nd Vice President General, took time to brief the august gathering.

On the 25th of December, 2016 the exco of Nzuko Aro led by Sir Dozie Udensi, 1st Vice President General, the Body of National Patrons of the union and other Aro stakeholders visited Eze Aro in his private sitting room. Also in attendance were Mazi Oji Kanu Oji and the wife of Eze Aro, Madam Nnennaya Okoro and some of their children. The union briefed the monarch on the journey so far and the decision reached at the CEC in Lagos which led to the dissolution of the women’s wing which was a decision of Umu Aro especially the women who attended the CEC, the nomination of members into the caretaker committee by both factions of the women, Aro Day 2016 celebration and the inauguration of the newly elected exco of the women’s wing.

They equally raised the issue of aggrieved members of Nzuko Aro rushing to report to the Eze Aro without first going through the conflict and resolution committee of the union, and that the stool of Eze Aro is a revered one as the present occupant is a Commander of the Order of Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFR) and therefore the stool must be respected.

Eze Aro washes hands off elections

After the union’s submission, Mazi Oji Kanu Oji read out a resolution that Eze Aro will henceforth not be involved in anything election in the kingdom; that any Nwa Aro interested in election should go to the field, and come to Eze Aro after, for his blessings; that Eze Aro was happy with the progress made by Nzuko Aro and thereafter gave his royal blessings to the team which Sir Dozie Udensi received on behalf of the union.

In the morning of the 26th of December 2016, it was alleged that a faction of the women led by a past leader of the men’s wing who has the ears of some people close to His Majesty stormed the palace of Eze Aro after his deliberation with Nzuko Aro the previous day. They reportedly tried to use Eze Aro’s name to stop the inauguration. The move, however, failed as the General Assembly of the 26th December 2016, accepted the result of the election and the women duly inaugurated. This was followed by Aro Day where the elected officials were presented to Aro.

Aro Day/Inauguration/Honours

At Aro Day, the inauguration of Lady Bright Elekwa went on successfully. The union also bestowed on Arc. Chima Chijioke its national patron ship while Drs. Ochi Achinivu and Okwu Joseph Nnanna were made advisers to the Body of National Patrons of the union.

The union was however shocked when Mazi Oji Kanu Oji attended an event organized by Charity Achinivu on the 29th of December, 2016, who laid claim to the President General seat of the women after the dissolution of factions, election and inauguration of a new team. The union, to say the least, was disappointed by the actions of Mazi Oji Kanu Oji who read Eze Aro’s resolution on the 25th of December, 2016.  This led to the letter the union wrote to His Majesty stating its disappointment with the role played by Mazi Oji Kanu Oji.

Too many letters

The polite letter by Nzuko Aro was however met with hostility as a letter purportedly written by His Majesty on the 4th of January 2017, imposed amongst other things a fine of one live cow and other items on the union personified by the President General, Mazi George Ezuma and its Secretary General, Mazi Anicho Okoro. The letter was however replied swiftly by the council of Nde Eze Ogo which pledged support to Nzuko Aro and called on Eze Aro to rescind his decision. Their letter was signed by fourteen Eze Ogo’s. The development led to series of letters purportedly written by Eze Aro with Nde Eze Ogo also replying.

Mazi Nnamdi Udoh during his tenure as the union’s PG had stated that Eze Aro speaks only once a year. Not a few have wondered how Eze Aro would write three letters in a space of one month?

Meanwhile, many associations have written to Eze Aro describing the conduct of Mazi Oji Kanu Oji as embarrassing. First to fire the salvo is the Umunna Okwaragwu kindred which in its letter of 19th September 2016 described Mazi Oji in unflattering terms. The Council of Nde Eze Ogo described him as clueless while Nzuko Aro, Utuhugwu Family Union and Ndi Ago Obinkita all asked His Majesty to replace Mazi Oji with a more competent person.

Nzuko Aro has since referred its issues with Eze Aro to the Body of National Patrons for deliberation and amicably settlement.

Court verdict

The judgment delivered at the Arochukwu High Court on Wednesday, the 15th of in favour of Nzuko Aro against Charity Acinivu may have finally brought peace to the kingdom. She was amongst others fined N30,000. The President General of the union, Mazi George Ezuma, described the judgment as no victor, no vanquished. He cautioned against celebrating the outcome of the matter, insisting that all parties in the suit are umu nne.

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Chris Enuma Ukabam

Chris Enuma Ukabam, financial consultant turned 57 on April 1. A native of Ndiakeme Uno, Arondizuogu, Onwelumadu attended Federal School of Arts and Science, Sokoto; ...