On the fourth of January, 2017, the Eze Aro of Arochukwu, Mazi Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro (CFR), had issued his New Year message to Umu Aro. In the message, the items the Palace touched were (1) Royal greetings (2) Arochukwu roads (3) 5th All-Aro National Conference (4) Senator MAO Ohuabunwa, and (5) Nzuko Arochukwu.
For the purpose of this article, I will dwell on the last of the sub-titles listed above, and which bothers on the issues of the political wing of Arochukwu leadership, Nzuko Arochukwu.
Under this, Eze Aro VIII had written, inter alia:
- I commend Nzuko Arochukwu (Men’s Wing) for conducting a credible election and a successful inauguration
- In my 2015 New Year message, I declared the elections conducted by the two factions of the women’s wing null and void, and directed that a free and fair election be conducted
- I have been briefed by the National Patrons and Peace Committee that a successful election was held for the women’s wing. I endorse the national executive elected in December, 2015
- I observed with dismay the recent effort of Nzuko Arochukwu CEC to disobey my order by conducting a new election and inaugurating on 26 December 2017 a new executive for women’s wing in disobedience of my order.
- I view the demand of Mazi George Ezuma (President-General of Nzuko Arochukwu) to relieve Prince Oji Kanu Oji of his royal duties as disrespect to my authority as Eze Aro (of Arochukwu)
- I hereby declare as follows:
- That the election and the entire process culminating on 26 December 2016 purported inauguration of new executive for the women’s wing null and void, as it does not have my blessing; and I uphold the election of 31 December, 2015 as valid.
- I impose a fine of one cow, twenty tubers of yam, one box of whiskey, six jars of palm wine, twenty-four Igbo kola nuts, and twenty thousand naira on Mazi George Ezuma (President-General) and Anicho Okoro (Secretary-General). This will be accompanied with a letter of undertaking to be of good conduct on or before 30 January, 2017.
Then, on the 7 January, 2017, the Council of Ndi Ezeogo met at Aro Council Hall at Oror, analyzed and took a position (politically and traditionally) on the (belated) New Year message of the Eze Aro of Arochukwu, and went ahead to issue a communiqué.
First, the Ndi Ezeogo noted ‘that Mazi Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro (CFR), the Eze Aro of Arochukwu, has been governing the kingdom by proxy; through Royal Assistants due to ill-health. The present Royal Assistant, Mazi Oji Kanu Oji, has so far performed Eze Aro’s functions far below expectations. Arochukwu, currently, can be likened to a ship without rudder. This situation is no longer acceptable.’
The above was a preamble the Council of Ndi Ezeogo made; they went ahead to analyze the whole situation in Arochukwu (the New Year message of the Eze Aro) and, in the end, the council issued an eight-point resolution which included passing vote of no confidence on Mazi Oji Kanu Oji, the Eze Aro representative; they stated he would not sit with them in any forum Aro people are gathered; aligned themselves with Nzuko Aro’s letter to Eze Aro of 30 December, 2016, and passed a vote of confidence on the organisation. The council went ahead to say it stood by the election of the women’s wing of Nzuko Arochukwu of 29 October, 2016 that had produced Lady Bright Elekwa as the president. The council vehemently made it clear that Ndi Ezeogo disassociated themselves from the fines imposed on the leadership of Nzuko Arochukwu, indicating further that ‘it is obnoxious, wicked and self-centred; it is an action taken against the principle of fair hearing as the George Ezuma-led Nzuko Arochukwu was never queried for explanation before sentence of guilt was passed on it.’ Moreover, the council noted that in the New Year message of the Eze Aro on 01/01/2013, the Eze had written, under Fines and Cases, that ‘the fines in Aro must revert to the traditional setting in ngwa ato and ngwa isii (and, therefore, not on cows, yams, whisky, etc). Finally, the council indicated (in an advisory level) that Eze Aro should withdraw his New Year message (that they have noted could be an afterthought event.)
Then, on the sixteenth of the same month (January), Eze Aro of Arochukwu reacted to the position of the Council of Ndi Ezeogo’s communiqué. In his letter on the issue, the Palace had written, among other things, that the Council Ndi Ezeogo is a non-existent organisation in Arochukwu, and that the intemperate tone of that letter will be reprimanded accordingly. Thus, the situation became charged.
Again, the palace had written ‘that any resolution of Council of Ndi Ezeogo (that is non-existent) without the endorsement of Eze Aro as the chairman of the council (emphasis mine) does not have any authority.
Above all, the Palace had written in clear terms, that ‘the position of Grand Patron of Nzuko Arochukwu occupied by Eze Aro as in Article 3 (1) of Nzuko Arochukwu constitution, is not by appointment but as custodian of the union with authority to superintend the affairs of the union (again, emphasis mine)’ and I had always done so in the past.’ The palace insisted that the fines must be carried out.
I had taken time to read the documents from the feudalistic angles as made available. I went ahead to digest them in analytical thought politically, as someone who has been interested in Aro affairs since birth, and has gone ahead to train in politics and public administration.
In the first place, it is true that the Eze Aro has been away from Aro for years now because of ill-health and, therefore, might not be totally abreast of the things that have been happening in Arochukwu since he left for treatment hence Mazi Oji Kanu Oji has been deputising for him. But, really, Mazi Oji Kanu Oji is not the Eze Aro, in the end. As the Ndi Ezeogo had noted, some of the actions taken by the royal assistant might have been as a result of overzealously and other factors that might have been overbearing on him, though he might be meaning well for Ndi Aro.
Second, if there is a provision in Nzuko Arochukwu constitution that the Eze Aro should superintend over the activities the political wing of the town leadership structure, Nzuko Arochukwu, as explained by the letter of Eze Aro of 16 January 2017, then that provision should be expunged and amended forthwith. It shouldn’t be. A traditional ruler should not have the authority to superintend over the political arm of his autonomous community.
This, to me, is an abnormality, and should not obtain in today’s Arochukwu. Politically speaking, the Eze Aro owes his seat to Arochukwu local government and, by extension, Abia state government which had issued him with his staff of office and still has the power to depose any traditional ruler and withdraw his staff of office when it has the need to do so. The recent dethronement of a foremost traditional ruler in Ibeku land can readily come to mind on this.
In the new constitution of Nzuko Arochukwu, the Eze Aro should not have the power to nullify any election duly conducted by Nzuko Arochukwu itself (let me explain here that it is wrong to refer to Nzuko Arochukwu as Men’s Wing, politically speaking.) What we have is Nzuko Arochukwu, and any off-shoot of it could be described as such, hence Nzuko Arochukwu (Women’s Wing), Youth Wing, etc. So, there is nothing as Nzuko Arochukwu (Men’s Wing).
Again, the general tone of the letters from our Palace in the whole episode sounds belligerent and may as well be uncivil, autocratic, devoid of the friendliness it should have. Nearly every Aro person does have the highest regard for their traditional ruler and his palace, and goes ahead to respect the Eze Aro institution. But things should not be overstretched in this regard. We must be civil in choosing words that come out of our palace because it is our palace.
The Ezeogos of Arochukwu (the grassroots leaders of Arochukwu nineteen villages) have their constitutional rights to associate and unionise. My opinion is that no body can stop them in doing this politically. Their union does Arochukwu and the Palace good; we need their association really; I make bold to suggest to them that they should go ahead to decree that none of their members should live outside and rule his village from there! Arochukwu has continued to suffer in outside-living leadership. Every Ezeogo must live in his village. And, here, if the Council of Ndi Ezeogo carries out its threat to boycott the affairs involving the Palace and shuns the activities of the town of Arochukwu traditional leadership should the Palace insist in having her way, the consequences will be dire and most damaging to Arochukwu! So, all the feudists should sheathe their swords and allow peace to reign.
The fines shouldn’t have been imposed hastily. Time would have settled this problem naturally if it had lagged till now. Traditional leadership makes room for wide consultations and resort to age-long traditional heritage of ihe igba oso ali before verdicts are pronounced. The Palace had given 31 January, 2017 time frame within which the fines must be paid. Now, suppose the fines are not paid before then, what will happen (as it has not been paid really)? Will Mazi George Okoronkwo Ezuma and Mazi Anicho Sunday Okoro be martialled out to Ogo Obinkita and executed? Or will they cease to enter their respective palatial homes they have built for themselves in Aro respectively? The tone of the letter imposing the fines on them suggest any of the above treatments – when I can hazard to guess that as Nzuko Aro leaders, the duo must have been suffering for the betterment of Arochukwu and her citizens in bondage and sacrifice!
So, the ensuing feudal strings between Eze Aro palace, Nzuko Arochukwu and Arochukwu Council of Ndi Ezeogo is very much unnecessary. Arochukwu does not need it now. We do not want it to go on. We should dissipate our energy to repair Arochukwu-Ohafia road, finish the ‘unfinishable’ Abam-Amuvi road; restore pipe water in Arochukwu town, resuscitate Abia Hotel Arochukwu, ensure that our youths go to school and secure employments on graduation, and make our Palace thick and bubble in activities as what obtains in other ancient kingdoms in Nigeria. So, our Palace, Nzuko Arochukwu and Arochukwu Council of Ndi Ezeogo should synergise to develop Arochukwu and not to pull her down through the unnecessary, ego-centric, personalised dynastic feud, especially now Eze Aro rulers from outside Arochukwu.
Yes; the people deserve only peace in Arochukwu now as they are already saturated with hardship they experience in the town of Arochukwu from all angles.