There are strong indications that the Council of Ndi Ezeogo of Arochukwu, an umbrella organization of the various village heads in Arochukwu, has issued a statement and threatened that if the representative of Eze Aro of Arochukwu, Mazi Oji Kanu Oji, appeared at Amaikpe Square, Obinkita, to represent Eze Aro during this year’s Eke Ekpe Day celebration (in company of the Eze Ezeagwu and Eze Ibom Isii (as usually what happens each year), the village heads would boycott the activities of the day in protest.
According to an insider in the Palace, who spoke to Aro News on condition of anonymity, the stand of the Arochukwu Council of Ndi Ezeogo was based on the goings-on in the Eze Aro Palace ever since the Eze Aro of Arochukwu, Mazi Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro (CFR) has been physically absent from his throne for some time now and which had prompted the use of Mazi Oji Kanu Oji, the former Arianzu, who had stood in and acted as Eze Aro during the trying period of the Palace (between 1988 and 1995), when the members of the royal family of Arochukwu and the heirs-apparent were immersed in the dynastic feud of who amongst them was the rightful person to ascend the throne of Eze Aro of Arochukwu (when the case was in the High Court of Ohafia Division).
During those days in Arochukwu, the vacant stool of Eze Aro was filled temporarily by Mazi Oji Kanu Oji, a pensioner and one of those who had (and still has) royalty in their blood. So he reigned! He served in place of the Eze Aro, and adjudicated cases and presided over the functions that involved Eze Aro, pending the determination and disposal of the court case on the Eze Aro stool. That was the case throughout those lengthy years the court case lasted at Ohafia High Court. It was real traumatising to the Aro at home and in the Diaspora, considering the place of Arochukwu in the traditional custodian and matters in Igbo land and Nigeria.
But the case naturally ended – as one of the contenders to the throne transited (may his soul rest in peace.) Following that development, Mazi Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro (CFR) was sworn-in at Umuahia in 1996 (during the military regime), and he started functioning as Eze Aro VIII of Arochukwu (even though opinions are still divided and expressed that Mazi Ogbonnaya Okoro is not the number eight in the line of Eze Aro in counting). After he was sworn-in, he started ruling, setting up one structure or the other to achieve success in office – including setting up committees, re structuring of the Okpamkpo Aro and, later, the appointment of the Enugu-based, Atani-born medic as ‘Okpamkpo Speaker’ that puzzled many Umu Aro, as that was the first time such a ‘traditional innovation’ was introduced in Aro trado-cultural practice.
The situation subsisted; and soon, Eze Aro took ill – and, with time, he had to leave to and come in from Enugu, from time to time, and as what obtains now has been ‘permanently away from the palace due to ill-health,’ according to a source from the palace.
Now, in the absence of Eze Aro physically performing the functions of his office as the traditional ruler of Arochukwu, he had appointed Mazi Oji Kanu Oji to be representing him and function in his absence as the Eze Aro; and Mazi Oji Kanu Oji has been acting as such.
But recently, Eze Aro had issued a New Year Message to his subjects, alongside other documents. In that message, Eze Aro, His Majesty, Mazi Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro, had dwelt on many issues ranging from his ill-health to the election of Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, to the affairs of the Council of Ndi Ezeogo, and to the election and emergence of the various factions of the Women’s Wing of Nzuko Arochukwu (the one led by Charity Achinivu and the other one led by Lady Bright Elekwa); and sundry issues, including the non-recognition of Council of Ndi Ezeogo of Arochukwu and the fine the Eze Aro had imposed on the overly-loved present Nzuko Arochukwu, as led by Mazi George Okoronkwo Ezuma.
The Council of Ndi Ezeogo analysed the tune and intent/tone of the letters/issues involved in the entire process. After that, they had re-acted, and churned out their own responses in writing. The end was that they questioned the reality, authenticity or otherwise of Eze Aro’s writings/documents, the New Year Message itself and some of the other documents and ‘decrees’ emanating from the Eze Aro’s Palace. In the end, the purported non-recognition of the Ndi Ezeogo council and the imposition of a hefty fine on the president-general and the secretary-general of Nzuko Arochukwu became contentious issues between the Ndi Ezeogo and the Eze Aro’s Palace. The atmosphere was, thus, charged.
The end of it now is that the Arochukwu Council of Ndi Ezeogo, in culmination, has threatened to boycott the 2017 Eke Ekpe Day activities if the representative of Eze Aro, Mazi Oji Kanu Oji, would attend the ceremony as the representative of Eze Aro of Arochukwu. This could be conceived as the end-result of the perceived and lingering bitterness and rancorous strife between the Arochukwu Council of Ndi Ezeogo and Mazi Oji Kanu Oji, as the representative of the Eze Aro of Arochukwu.
Now, suppose the Eze Aro fails to attend the occasion physically and sends Mazi Oji Kanu Oji to represent him, do you think that Ndi Ezeogo will carry out their threat of boycotting the event? On the other hand, if Eze Aro does not attend ditto his rep, Mazi Oji Kanu Oji, will the event still go on in their absence? Yet, if the Eze Aro continues to be absent from his throne and Mazi Oji Kanu Oji is constrained to represent him as he has been doing, what do you think will be the situation in Arochukwu?
Aro News went out to sample the opinions of some of concerned Aro men and women. In his contribution, an Ugwuakuma son and a socialite who does not want his name in print responded sarcastically ‘I don’t care about what happens in our palace. I am tired of the kind of leadership Aro has witnessed since Mazi Ogbonnaya Okoro ascended the throne. In my thinking, he has not been as effective as an Eze Aro should be. They say he has been ill. He has really disappointed Aro. But I wish him speedy recovery.’
John, from Amasu, responded that he was inclined to the Council of Ndi Ezeogo on the matter. ‘I support what Ndi Ezeogo members are doing. They should challenge the “atrocities” Mazi Oji Kanu Oji has been committing in the name of Eze Aro’s representation. After “snuffing,” he enters his room, writes and dishes out one “decree” or the other in the name of Eze Aro and Eze Aro’s palace. Ndi Ezeogo should deal with these excesses. They should boycott Eke Ekpe if he attends. I support them.’
At Ugbo village, a retired public servant responded that ‘I have not attended Eke Ekpe in the last ten years. So, I don’t care what happens there. Aro is no longer what it used to be in traditional leadership since the ill-health of the Eze Aro. Even, when he was here physically, I never liked his style of leadership. It was under him that the Eze Aro’s image started waning and losing its prestige, and this has continued till today. So, I no longer have interest in what goes on there in our palace.’
At Obinkita, one of the two persons Aro News had spoken to indicated he pitied the Eze Aro in the situation. ‘I pity the man, his ill-health has caused series of problems Aro has been having since his absence. He is a very kind-spirited and open-hearted man. But the man he chose to be acting in his stead has been immersed in one controversy or the other – either as Arianzu or Eze Aro’s representative. Remember, he was suspended once and disowned. It is unfortunate, really, that Aro has found herself in this quagmire in traditional leadership?’
Whatever be the case, there is the need for the Council of Ndi Ezeogo and Eze Aro’s rep to find a lasting solution to the rift between them. Eze Aro’s rep must always respect the opinions and actions of the Ezeogos, who are actually the ‘foot soldiers’ in Arochukwu today. Their activities must be recognised by our palace. They have always played very important roles in the traditional leadership of Arochukwu.
On the other hand, our Ezeogos should close ranks with our palace and move Aro forward. Eze Aro’s rep must never issue ‘decrees’ for the sake of that. If I were to suggest more, I would say that all ‘decrees’ emanating from the palace of Eze Aro should be with the consent and knowledge of Arochukwu Council Ndi Ezeogo to avoid further conflicts that we have been beholding between palace and the various village heads.