Group Seeks End to Communal Crisis, Kingship Tussle in Nkerehi/Umuchukwu

…Demands Audience with Soludo

By Jude Atupulazi

A peace seeking group, Idin’otu Ka Nma Peace Initiative, whose membership comprises elements from both Nkerehi/Umuchukwu divides, has implored the Anambra State governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, to grant them audience to explore ways of bringing an end to the 16-year old communal and monarchical crisis that has torn the area apart.

In a letter signed by Ogbuehi Eric Ike and Sir Hon Emeka Onwusoronye under the aegis of Umuchukwu Concerned Citizens and Stakeholders Forum, addressed to the governor through the Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Town Union Affairs, Hon Tony Collins Nwabunwanne, the group believed that meeting physically with the governor, whom they described as a son of the soil, would provide an opportunity to dissect the whole issues involved in the crisis and bring about an amicable settlement, even as they appealed to the governor to give the group 18 months to sort out matters and settle the thorny issues bedeviling the two divides.

They said they were in possession of two letters where government postponed the election and later lifted it before the COVID-19 necessitated an indefinite postponement. ‘We have a court case challenging the whole thing,’ they said.

‘We are bona fide sons of the soil and we witnessed all the crises first hand. And so we know what the true issues are and we will address all of them with sincerity of heart and purpose,’ they stated in a letter signed by the chairmen and secretaries of the five villages of Isiama, Umuana, Uhu, Umueze and Umuahaoma.

Appealing to members of the Nkerehi and Umuchukwu divides in the community to align with the group’s efforts to restore peace, the group assured that no citizen of the community would be maligned for choosing to belong to either Nkerehi or Umuchukwu and that the two divides would be allowed to hold their burial activities or other functions freely without encumbrance from any quarter.

The group appealed to village heads, religious leaders and government agencies working in the community to assist the group’s peace initiative, including the youth leadership of Nkerehi/Umuchukwu divides, urging it to see themselves as brothers and sisters and take up the challenge of building a healthy community founded on love and peace.

The group however warned against any further acts of misdemeanor on what it described as the sacred tradition and accused a certain family of pushing for it, noting that it would only aggravate the already tense atmosphere in the community.

In the letter to the government they said that Idin’otu Ka Nma Peace Initiative was a group of energetic young men from Nkerehi/Umuchukwu Community with a sincere and genuine desire to mediate in the communal/traditional rulership crisis bedeviling their community for years and restore it to the path of peace.

They said their sole agenda remained the restoration of lasting peace in the community and a peaceful resolution of the igweship tussle rocking it.

Since 2006/2007, the community has been immersed in crisis, leading to orgies of violence among the people, owing to an attempt to change the name of the town by a wealthy individual from the other divide whom they accused of intimidation and brutality, as well as imposition of a monarch on the town.

An illustrious son of the soil, Iruka Okalazu, aged 32, was hacked to death in his prime over what those on the Nkerehi divide described as absolutely no justifiable reason, except for insisting that if there must be a change of name, it should follow due process, rather than being imposed on the entire community by a single individual.

‘Our cherished traditional stool which was usually admired by friends and well wishers from far and near, is now hijacked by same people who believe they are too powerful to respect laid down rules of engagement. We have always had the traditional stool rotate between the 5 villages that make up our community, starting from the eldest.

The volatile situation has led to many court cases, both criminal and civil, many of which are yet to be determined; as well as petitions to the state government. They recalled that the government of Willie Obiano suspended the igweship election and postponed it for security and other reasons.

They also recalled previously crying to the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to intervene and save the community from degenerating into further crisis and that they agreed to give peace a chance.

They noted that it was this that led to the emergence of Pastor Chinaza-Ekpere Akachukwu, who, they said, was less than 15 years old when this crisis started, who started the group, Idin’otu Ka Nma Peace Initiative, last year in an effort to mediate and restore peace in the community.

They said the initiative had been able to engage the two sides of the divide in separate town hall meetings and was able to get the consent of the two sides to take over the matter, withdraw all pending cases at various court levels, and settle same amicably.

They however regretted that the same individuals ‘who brag about how they are larger than life and even larger than the law, vehemently refused to listen to the voice of reason’.

They accused them of cancelling the peace agreement/withdrawal of court cases which Idin’otu Ka Nma Peace Initiative had concluded with the Umuchukwu faction.

This, they said, was why they were bringing the matter to the notice of the governor, seeking to find solutions to the problems in the community.

But reacting to this, the Anambra State Government through the Commissioner for Town Union and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon Nwabunwanne, said as far as the government was concerned, the matter was done and dusted as an official gazette by government done in the regime of Peter Obi and recognized the change of name from Nkerefi to Umuchukwu.

‘We only want to follow due process as one of the cardinal points of this government is to respect the rule of law. Whatever we do is guided by that. The Umuchukwu case started two administrations ago and that was when Nkerefi was changed to Umuchukwu. It’s not about us or the previous administrations.

‘When we came on board we discovered that the past administration had done everything and that Nkerefi people went to court. They lost in the lower court and Court of Appeal and are now at the Supreme Court. We have nothing to do with this but trying to bring peace between the two groups,’ Obinwanne said.

He said an election was conducted to choose a president general which was won by a person from Umuchukwu and noted that the said election was conducted by the last administration.

‘We are just trying to follow the rule of law and nothing more, the commissioner said.