All is not well between traditional rulers from Anambra Central and the Anambra State Government. This followed the suspension, July 24, 2020, of the Chairman of Anambra Central Traditional Council, Igwe Peter Uyanwa of Ukwulu, by the Anambra State Government. Jude Atupulazi writes.
In a press statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr C. Don Adinuba, and made available to Fides, the state government cited threat to security as the chief reason for the suspension. The press statement read thus:
‘Following grave security reports and a series of petitions against the Traditional Ruler of Ukwulu in Dunukofia Local Government Area from many people in Ukwulu and elsewhere who want to forestall an impending huge crisis in the community, the Anambra State Government has decided to suspend Chief Peter Uyanwa as the Igwe of Ukwulu for one year, with effect from Friday, July 24, 2020, in the first instance.
‘His Certificate of Recognition as Igwe is also withdrawn with immediate effect. Consequently, Chief Uyanwa can no longer function as Chairman of the Traditional Rulers Council, Anambra Central Zone.’
The Anambra State Government said it took the action in the public interest and that the appropriate security agencies had been notified.
But four days after, some traditional rulers from Anambra Central gathered at the palace of the suspended Ukwulu monarch to not only give their solidarity but to warn the state government to desist from intimidating them, even as they affirmed that Igwe Peter Uyanwa remained their chairman. The traditional rulers were joined by oil mogul and billionaire, Prince Arthur Eze, who disclosed that police officers deployed on the orders of the state government to the palace of Igwe Uyanwa were sent back by him following his call to higher authorities.
The traditional rulers who advised Governor Willie Obiano to refrain from harassing or intimidating them with suspension, said they were free to express their views on any issue.
Indeed, Fides investigations gathered that the suspension of Igwe Uyanwa might not be unconnected with the resolutions reached by the central monarchs on some issues at a meeting they held at Uyanwa’s palace earlier.
Part of the resolutions included the call by the monarchs for the payment of the 5% of local government allocations approved by the presidency for traditional rulers but which is not being paid in Anambra State.
The monarchs also questioned what the state government did with local government funds, complaining that there was nothing on ground to attest to the funds’ proper utilization. They also resolved that the principle of zoning for the impending governorship election in the state should not apply as all the zones had taken turns. They thus wanted an open race.
This was said not to have gone down well with the state government which wielded the axe against the chairman of the Anambra Central Traditional Rulers Council, Igwe Peter Uyanwa, suspending him and withdrawing his certificate of recognition through the office of the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters.
The government’s subsequent reason for suspending the monarch was therefore seen as a smokescreen in some quarters
However, addressing newsmen last Tuesday, a defiant Igwe Uyanwa said power was given by the people and not government. Recalling how he was chosen by his people, he said it was only them that could remove him.
Igwe Uyanwa said it was only the duty of government to issue certificates of recognition, following the people’s mandate. This was even as he however doubted the knowledge of the governor about the suspension letter, promising to visit the governor, whom he described as a good friend, any time soon.
But the other traditional rulers did not take the development lightly and warned the governor to desist from interfering with the traditional stool.
Speaking on the matter, the traditional ruler of Nawfia, Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo, while calling for proper handling of the issue, demanded an investigation of the activities of those saddled with chieftaincy matters by the government.
His counterpart from Abacha, Igwe Godwin Mbakwe, said the royal fathers were free to express their opinions on any issue and called on the government to retrace its steps on the matter quickly.
He said since there were different political parties, it would be wrong for any one party to impose its decisions on others as it concerned zoning, noting that the traditional rulers could not be intimidated by the government.
For his part, oil mogul, Chief Arthur Eze, urged the suspended royal father not to worry as he had people rallying behind him.
Eze accused the Anambra State Government of pocketing the 5% of LG funds approved by the Federal Government for traditional rulers, regretting that Anambra was the only state not paying it.
He also accused the state government of pocketing LG funds and that of the judiciary, and warned that President Buhari would not tolerate those who siphoned money, even as he hinted that the FG would be prevailed upon to stop paying such monies to the Anambra State Government.
With the Anambra Central monarchs defiant over their chairman’s suspension, it appears the battle line has been drawn. Who blinks first between them and the state government?