Ikenga Akpim village in Okrika Nweke community in Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State was thrown into turmoil recently following the sudden death of the traditional ruler-elect of the community.
Mr Theophilus Onyegbula, as irate youths from the community descended on the perceived opponents of the late Eze-elect. In the melee, the house of Mr Paul Ogbonna, a former transitional council chairman of Ahiazu Mbaise, who the villagers allegedly accused of being responsible for the death of Theophilus Onyegbula, was burnt down. Also, one of the youths shot by the police was said to be in critical condition in an undisclosed hospital just as 14 persons were arrested by the police.
Investigations by Daily Sun revealed that the dispute over the traditional stool of the community started when Eze Aloy Alex Nwokekadikwa died in 2006 and it was said to be the turn of Ikenga Akpim village to produce the next king. But it was gathered that following the rotational principle enshrined in the constitution of the community since 1979, the second son of the late Eze, Prince Chibuzor with the backing of Mr Ogbonna allegedly seized the Ofo, the symbol of authority of the paramount ruler of the community, insisting that he must replace his late father as the traditional ruler.
This, Daily Sun learnt, was rejected by the entire community of Ikenga Akpim, which led to the protracted tussle for the stool. One of the community leaders, Dr Laz Anyanwu told Daily Sun that the Okirika Nweke constitution which was written in 1979 when it became an autonomous community clearly stipulated that the Ezeship position is going to be rotational and not hereditary.
He pointed out that the Ezeship stool was supposed to rotate between the Umuevo and Akpim villages that made up the community. Dr Anyanwu further stated that when Eze Nwokekadikwa died in 2006 one of his sons, Prince Chibuzor wanted to replace his father even when he knew that was not possible going by the constitution of the community which must be by seniority among the villages, adding that he also knew that it was the turn of Ikenga Akpim village to produce the next Eze.
However, Anyanwu said that the problem started because Mr Ogbonna who then was the transitional chairman of the Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government had allegedly supported Chibuzor to became the new Eze, even when Ogbonna, who is from Ikenga Akpim village, knows too well that it would be impossible to make Chibuzor the Eze of the community.
He said that the tussle for the Ezeship was finally resolved by the panel of five which was set up by Governor Rochas Okorocha and headed by Eze S.I. Iwu whose task it was to resolve all disputes relating to Ezeship in communities. He said that it was the panel that resolved the problem and the late Onyegbula was finally elected. Dr Anyanwu also told Daily Sun that those who have been opposing the election of the late Eze-elect did everything to ensure that he never sat on the stool, accusing Ogbonna as the major sponsor, saying that he used his position as the transitional chairman of Ahiazu Mbaise to cause confusion in the community.
He pointed out that the late Theophilus was supposed to receive his staff of office on a Monday when he suddenly died on Sunday. He told Daily Sun that before the death of Onyegbula, Ogbonna had instigated his arrest by the police on trumped up allegations of kidnapping for which the late Eze-elect was detained for over a month. He also pointed out that it was the refusal of the President-General of the community, Prof Chima Onuoha to support the evil being perpetrated by Ogbonna and his clique that nearly caused him his life, when he was trailed all the way from Ahiazu by hired assassins to Christ Church Junction where he was shot on June 22, 2012.
However, Mr Ogbonna who went to take refuge in Owerri when contacted by Daily Sun dismissed the claims of Dr Anyanwu, saying that the late Onyegbula was never the Eze-elect of the community, adding that the community had elected an Eze through a plebiscite on May 6, 2012. Ogbonna pointed out that when Onyegbula died that Sunday his supporters attacked him, accusing him of being responsible for his death when they had not found out what actually killed him.
The youths, he said, burnt down his house and would have burnt down that of Comrade Leo Ohakwe and that of Sylvester Onyegbula who was the real Eze-elect, but for the quick intervention of the police, adding that in the process one of the boys was shot. The Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Vitalis Onugu, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), confirmed the incident, but said that no one was killed as being speculated, adding that about 12 persons were being detained for the crisis.