The Aro traditional system has its underpinnings in basic democratic values. The architects of Aro traditional institutions were at best democrats. At the helm are simultaneously the triumvirates: Eze Aro-the King and the overall head of government of the Kingdom; Eze Ibom Isii and Eze EzeAgwu. Each of these offices complement each other in the overall interest of Arochukwu.
The Eze Ogos are next in hierarchy.They constitute the nineteen federating traditional political authoritiesthat make up the town. The Okpamkpo is akin to the Council of State. It consists of all the principal officers in council. Enough has been written on the beauty and workability of Aro traditional political structure and system (See Perspectives on Aro History and Civilization-The Splendour of a Great Past.Volumes 1,2 & 3).
The concern of this article however, is simply to draw attention to the welfare of majority of our Ezes in all our villages and to explore the great need for us to reconsider our poor and lip-service attitude towards these custodians of our traditional institutions and cultural values.
This column has always drawn attention on the need for us all to do more in terms of taking care of our traditional institutions including the custodians of such institutions.That call has always not been met with sufficient action and urgency that it deserves.
Gidigidi bu ugwu Eze. The king derives its radiance and power from the support and love of his people. If a king suffers from gross lack of material support and care especially from his subjects, that king would hardly succeed or operate optimally in the delivery of efficient service to his people.
For instance, go to any part of the north or western part of Nigeria, less consequent chiefs such as Waziris, Sarikis or Baloguns enjoy mass solidarity and high standard of living simply as a result of sufficient attention and quality of care from both the states and local governments on one hand,and their people on the other. In some parts of the north, if an Emir is passing through a major road,the uninformed might think, the president or a governor is the one passing through. Succinctly put, the prestige of the office is enhanced by the pomp and pageantry surrounding the office.
Conversely, in our local milieu, most of our Ezes including first class chiefs to say the least live in abject poverty. Majority of them are socially and economically challenged and as such require relentless assistance and support in other to discharge the office which they occupy effectively.By the nature of most of these traditional offices, the Ezes are not expected to travel much or reside outside their domain. They resign from external engagements which could involve direct economic or financial transactions in order to focus on the enormous duty of traditional rule. If this is the true position, how do the subjects expect their traditional rulers (Ezeogos) to survive, when there is no well- articulated programme for their upkeep?
For instance, how can an Ezeogo whose total annual income is not up to 100,000 naira be expected to be honest, fair and just at all times in the administration of justice at the local level? Are their mediation or arbitration roles as Ezeogos not grievously hampered as a result of the obvious socio-economic challenges which they face?Is it realistic for the subjects to expect them to be fair and firm in the adjudication of customary laws and such ancillary issues? These leaders also face daily problems like any other individual such as putting food on the table, paying school fees for children, paying for medical fees,utility billsand so on. How can they do these effectively when they are encumbered by grossly unrewarding traditional and cultural duties?Are they truly excited performing their royal functions when most of their subjects remember them only when there is a role they must play? Then the subjects’ years of stone-hearted passivity and avoidance turn to lip-service after which the cold status quo is quickly reverted to and maintained till perhaps another season. Little wonder not much gets done in terms of rapid development all over the place.
The Way Forward:There is urgent need for most of us to change our poor attitude towards the maintenance of our Ezeogos and the institutions they represent.Every village through their village associations must take up the upkeep and welfare of their Ezeogo. At the central level, Nzuko Aro and Arochukwu Local Government council must also take up the responsibility of the maintenance of the Eze Aro throne. It is a sacred duty that nobody should shy away from.The assumption that the Eze-Aro, Eze Ibom Isii, Eze Agwu and the Eze Ogos are too comfortable and do not need our steady and collective financial and material attention and care is a fallacy.It is a position that stands reason on its head and can only come from people who are not discerning enough, and so do not wish the preservation of our traditional institutions well.
This column has over the years consistently called for the construction of a new palace for the Eze Aro throne. Aro Eze throne also requires a befitting Guest house, where the special guests of the Eze Aro who visit the kingdom can stay at the pleasure of the palace. Arochukwu kingdom must take up this challenge.It is the right thing to do.That palace when completed will be the official property of Arochukwu people. Successive Eze Aros will use it. It will have all the essential amenities deserving of a palace such as ours.
The Eze Aro throne is a first class institution.Lack of vision or poor taste should not be made to impact negatively on such very important aspect of our traditional and cultural existence as a people. In the interim, Nzuko Aro and the local government must take up the cost of upgrading all the physical facilities associated with the Eze Aro palace while envisioning the construction of a new one.
The nineteen villages should institute a clear procedure for the support and maintenance of their Eze Ogos majority of who live in penury and below acceptable social and economic standards. It is only by these methods could the role of the Ezes in the sustenance of peace and justice in our various villages be strengthened and assured.
Our Ezes are the standard bearers of our traditional and cultural institutions, mores and values. Their roles in the furtherance of peace, harmonious socio-cultural existence and human understanding within our villages and entire town cannot be over-estimated.
They must be supported by all in the conduct of their sacred duties, because without such support, it becomes impossible expecting much from them. They must have the moral constitution to stand firm at all times. Our collective support is crucial for them to withstand the ill wind that is blowing across the world eroding traditional socio-cultural values that have kept communities intact for centuries. They remain our last bastion of hope in that fight.
We must encourage them with well spelt out material and immaterial support for them to succeed. The current pervasive bad attitude of non-involvement and passivity by a large number of Umu Aro (both within Nigeria and in the diaspora) towards the well-being and support of Arochukwu’s developmental goals MUST change as it has only brought underdevelopment and general lack of progress in all ramifications to the town. Thus, we must rededicate our loyalty, total commitment and service to Arochukwu kingdom and the Ezes we have willingly chosen to lead the charge towards our collective progress.