Ishiagu, a town in Ivo local government area of Ebonyi state, has been turned into a theatre of war following the emergence of two traditional rulers in the town known for its rich solid mineral deposits, writes MIKE UBANI.
Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Secretary to the government of the Federation, SGF, would certainly be emotionally disturbed each time he remembers even dimly, that all is not well in his home town, Ishiagu in Ivo local government area of Ebonyi state. There is palpable tension in this town which is richly endowed with solid mineral resources.
Two of its community leaders are at daggers drawn over who is the valid monarch of the town. And this development has caused a deep divide among the indigenes, with several of its influential sons and daughters pitching tents with either of the two parties.
Ironically, instead of being a blessing to the town which is also rich in agriculture, the availability of solid minerals in the area has sadly become a curse. Any businessman who comes to the community to engage in mining is reportedly coerced by some community leaders to pay money running into hundreds of thousands of naira before kick-starting his business. And who controls the funds coming from the miners seem to be at the root of the leadership crisis.
When the town's monarch, Agu 11 of Ishiagu, died four years ago, many prominent sons of the town jostled to replace the late king, and in the process, raised the tempo of tension and bitterness in the town.
Some of the contenders to the exalted stool were said to be motivated by the huge sum of money the prospective miners often pay to the community before they are welcomed to exploit the vast limestone deposits in the town.
On December 15, 2011, some elites in Ishiagu, crowned one Eze Moses Okafor Ngele, the 'Agu 111 of Ishiagu', a development which rankled some influential sons and daughters of the town, including some executive members of Ishiagu Community Development Union, ICDU.
LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that the Chairman, Ivo Local Government Council, Hon. Celestine Eze, distanced himself from the emergence of Ngele as the town's monarch, just as he reportedly refused to present him to the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Hon. Celestine Nwali.
According to the rules and regulations guiding the traditional institution in the state, one does not become a recognized traditional ruler, until the commissioner formally presents him to the governor, and a staff of office and certificate of recognition issued him by the governor.
Some residents of Ishiagu who spoke with SUNDAY LEADERSHIP, say Eze Ngele is not qualified to occupy the highly revered traditional stool of 'Agu 111 of Ishiagu', against the backdrop that he has a controversial paternal identity. They also described as false, Ngele's claim to hold a doctorate degree in political science, saying that he never saw the proverbial four walls of a university.
According to one source, Ngele travelled to Aba, the commercial and industrial hub of the present day Abia state, when he dropped out of primary school, to pick up a job of a domestic servant to one of the influential son of Ishiagu. He later travelled to Canada where he was allegedly arrested for drug trafficking and subsequently repatriated to Nigeria. And shortly on arrival in the country, he contested the 2007 gubernatorial election in Ebonyi state on the platform of the Fresh Party.
However, Ngele vehemently denied all the allegations in a telephone interview with LEADERSHIP SUNDAY. He claimed to have obtained a BSc degree in tourism from a Canadian Travel College, and later obtained a doctoral degree in Political Science, from an unnamed university in Canada.
He denied ever engaging in drug trafficking adding that his paternity was never in doubt, stressing that he is currently living in his father's compound in Amata village, Ishiagu. He argued that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, couldn't have cleared him to run for the governorship race in Ebonyi state in 2007, if he had forged his certificates or if he ever engaged in illicit drug business. Besides laying claim to the traditional stool of Ishiagu, Ngele currently bakes bread - 'Canada bread'.
In a well attended ceremony on May 30, 2012, some prominent Ishiagu sons - crowned Eze Elias Aja Ezenta as the 'Agu 111 of Ishiagu'. He was immediately presented to Ivo local government chairman, who wasted no time presenting him to the commissioner for local government and chieftaincy matters. It was gathered that the state governor, Martin Elechi, will in a matter of weeks, give Eze Elias Ezenta, a certificate of recognition and staff of office.
"I am the authentic Eze-elect of Ishiagu autonomous community. The purported self-installation of one Moses Okafor on 15th December, 2011, is a farce because this man installed himself Eze, without due process. So that is why the Ishiagu Community Development Union, and the local overnment frowned at it", Ezenta told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY in an interview.
He continued: "We were screened by a committee set up by the Ishiagu Community Development Union, which was inaugurated by the then ICDU President, Engineer Godfrey Aja.
"After the screening exercise, three persons emerged candidates for the election. Remember that Ngele did not take part in the screening exercise, but after the exercise, he went to court to stop the election. But after he withdrew the case from the court, I emerged the authentic traditional ruler of Ishiagu, following the withdrawal of two candidates from the election".
Chief John Okereke, one of the three candidates cleared by the ICDU to contest the election, confirmed to SUNDAY LEADERSHIP in an interview that he withdrew from the race in order to ensure that peace returned to the town. He described Eze Elias Aja Ezenta as the authentic traditional ruler of the town.
Nevertheless, Eze Ngele, described as fraudulent and illegal, the process that threw up Ezenta as the traditional ruler of the town, arguing that there is no provision in the constitution of Ishiagu for the existence of two traditional rulers at the same time. He accused the chairman, Ivo local government council for stalling efforts to present him to the state government for recognition. But the local government boss has since washed his hands off the allegation.
Some media reports quoted the President-General, ICDU, Engineer Godfrey Ukpai Aja, as describing the crowning of Ezenta as the traditional ruler as illegal and unconstitutional. He reportedly accused the local government chairman of fomenting trouble in the town, saying that the power to choose a traditional ruler for the town is vested on the ICDU.
Nevertheless, Remigus Okeke Ajah, secretary- general, ICDU, dismissed claims by Engineer Aja, that Ezenta is not the authentic traditional ruler of the town. Beyond that he said that Aja was suspended from office on February 6, 2012, for alleged mismanagement of funds, and therefore, is not empowered to speak on the issue of who is the authentic traditional ruler of the town. He said the acting President -General of Ishiagu, is Chief Linus Ukachukwu.