Anambra Traditional Rulers Deserve Respect, Not Public Bullying, Shame – Obi Of Onitsha To  Soludo

The Chairman of the Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council (ASTRC), Igwe Alfred Achebe, has faulted the Anambra State Government’s approach to sanctioning traditional rulers in the state for granting chieftaincy titles to certain individuals.

Achebe, who is the Obi of Onitsha, regretted the harsh action of the government regarding the suspension of the traditional ruler of Neni in the Anaocha Local Government Area of the state, lgwe Damian O. Ezeani, because he conferred a chieftaincy title on the Senator representing Anambra South, Ifeanyi Ubah.

He reminded Governor Chukwuma Soludo that the livelihood of traditional rulers in Anambra State does not depend on the selling of chieftaincy titles or the N175,000 monthly stipend the state government gives to monarchs but on their own hard-earned modest personal resources.

The chairman insisted that by their office, age, attainment and standing in society, traditional rulers in the state deserve far better respect and dignity and not bullying.

The state government through the Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, Tony Nwabunwanne, suspended the traditional ruler of Neni last week.

The commissioner in the suspension letter stated that “a minority of traditional rulers have demonstrated a penchant for trading chieftaincy titles for money thereby bringing the traditional institution to ridicule and disrepute”.

He further stated, “A vast majority of traditional rulers conduct their exalted office with dignity and integrity and stick to the Code of Conduct… However, a tiny few still act recklessly.”

Reacting to the suspension, Achebe urged the state government to respect the traditional institution, adding that the suspension appears to have more to do with Senator Ubah whom he described as a well-known philanthropist, who already had chieftaincy titles even from his community.

The 14-point letter, titled: “Notification for the suspension of HRH lgwe Damian O. Ezeani, the Traditional Ruler of Neni,” addressed to the commissioner and personally signed by Achebe, faulted the dimension that was taken by the state government in the suspension of Ezeani.

It read, “I am writing in response to your letter, Ref: MLGCCA/HC/2022/T/025/001/103, of the above caption to me dated 8th January, 2024. This response also provides a fuller context of other events relating to the suspension of H.R.H lgwe Damian O Ezeani, the traditional ruler of Neni. Your letter was hand-delivered to me at Onitsha at 6:55pm on Tuesday, 09 January, 2024.

“My suspicion that your letter was an afterthought was buttressed by the fact that your letter of suspension to lgwe Damian Ezeani of the same date, 8th January 2024, was already trending virally on social media for well over 24 hours prior to my receipt of your letter.

“I was embarrassingly inundated with phone calls and messages from traditional rulers and other persons seeking clarification from me as chairman of ASTRC regarding a situation to which I was not privy. Your letter to lgwe Damian Ezeani was copied to the Commissioner of Police and Director of DSS, Anambra State, but not to the chairman of the ASTRC.

“This act, amongst many others, was seen by the traditional rulers of Anambra State as a measure of the worth of the traditional institution to the present administration.”

Achebe detailed concerns about the selective application of the Code of Conduct for traditional rulers, the delayed presentation of key documents, and perceived disrespect towards the traditional institution, alleging a progressive dehumanisation of the traditional rulers by the current administration.

“Distinguished Senator Ifeanyi Ubah is not an unknown entity in Anambra State or Nigeria, including to the present administration. Thus, the suspension of lgwe Neni and the threat to withdraw his Certificate of Recognition for apparently violating the Code of Conduct by giving him a chieftaincy title was extreme in comparison with other recent cases,” he added.

He further stated, “You publicly visited the sins of an unrecognised self-acclaimed traditional ruler on the entire state traditional institution, to which he does not belong.”

Mr Achebe said the traditional institution in Anambra comprised some of the finest “sons of the state” who achieved sterling academic heights and professional and vocational attainments.

He said the claim of the government that rulers had demonstrated a penchant for trading chieftaincy titles for money was not supported by any evidence, adding that their stool was not sustained by it or government stipend.

He said, “The livelihood of the traditional rulers does not depend on selling chieftaincy titles or the N175,000 monthly stipend from the state government, but on their own hard-earned modest personal resources.

“By their office, age, attainment and standing in society, they deserve far better respect and dignity than being publicly bullied and unfairly shamed at every opportunity by people in the state government.

“The federal and other state governments hold the traditional institutions in high esteem. What, then, has gone wrong in Anambra state? The traditional institution of Anambra feels strongly that the present administration is progressively dehumanising and deprecating the institution against the trend in the rest of the country.”

Giving further details, the renowned Obi of Onitsha said: “On the events over the last eight days or so, you will also recall that you called me severally on Saturday, 06 January, 2024 between 15:34 and 22:31 hours without reaching me. At 08:06 hours on Sunday morning, I called you and explained the circumstances that made me unreachable on the previous day. In our long conversation, you said that you were seeking to bring to my attention a press release that you were under pressure to issue.

“This was in connection with traditional rulers conferring honorary chieftaincy titles in violation of the Code of Conduct for Traditional Rulers and the Government directives. You specifically mentioned two cases only, namely, Igwe Ojoto, who conferred an honorary chieftaincy title on Senator Ifeanyi Ubah on 30 December, 2023, and the self-acclaimed traditional ruler of Nawfia, who conferred honorary chieftaincy titles on forty (40) persons on 04 January, 2024.

“You further confirmed that the press release had been issued, which I later found to be on 04 January, 2024, that is, the day prior to your unsuccessful attempt to reach me. In the conversation, you categorically did not mention, in any regard whatsoever, Igwe Neni who celebrated his Ofala on 29 December, 2023.

“In our above conversation, I made the following points: Your desire to reach me on Saturday night seemed merely to justify a fait accompli, considering that you had already issued the press release two days earlier ‘under pressure,’ as you said.

“I noted that the self-acclaimed Igwe Nawfia, whose recognition was withheld by the Government due to pending matters in court, was consequently not considered a member of the State traditional institution. His activities should therefore not be associated with the State traditional institution in any manner.

“I distinctly pointed out that picking on the above two cases (Ojoto and Nawha) by your office was selective and appeared to be a deliberate favoritism towards other cases which you were well aware of.

“I reminded you that there had not been any reaction from you or Mr Governor to our conversations of 04 October 2023 on the Code of Conduct for Traditional Rulers. You apologized for the failure to revert.”

Meanwhile, the traditional ruler of Aguluezechukwu in Aguata Local Government Area, Igwe F.E. Ebelendu; traditional ruler of Neni in Anaocha Local Government Area, Igwe Onwuamaeze Damian and the traditional ruler of Ojoto in Idemili South Local Government Area, Igwe Gerald Mbamalu, have withdrawn the chieftaincy titles they conferred on Senator Ifeanyi Ubah.

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