By Jude Atupulazi
Managing communities in Igbo Land is not exactly a pleasurable task. Igbo Land is peopled by many who are as rich as, if not richer, than their state governments. Thus, such people, who can be described as the nouveau riche, virtually see themselves as being de-facto leaders wherever they find themselves.
They hardly respect constituted authorities and perform parallel functions to those of recognized leaders. Indeed, in some communities, many people now perform parallel eating of the new yam which resonates more than the one performed by their town’s traditional ruler, such that most people in the community troop to their own.
But then, we are aware that when two captains operate in one ship, trouble will result. That is the situation in many Anambra communities at this moment.
Many rich people, mostly younger elements, see themselves as a law unto themselves. They listen to no one and tolerate no opposition. Attempts to make them soft pedal usually attracts insults, no matter who makes those attempts.
The worrying thing is that as they display this attitude, many more young men are looking at them and believing it is the new normal. The homes of such new lords are usually flocked to by hangers-on who are ready to pick fights on their behalf. They believe that nothing can happen in their communities without their say-so. That is really a tragedy.
Across many communities today, the respect accorded traditional institutions are fast waning. Everybody is now a leader and in some cases calls are made to the government to dethrone their actual leaders.
The other day the Anambra State Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Town Union Affairs, Hon Tony-Collins Nwabunwanne, addressed journalists in his office in Awka. He himself is a current victim of the malaise I have just talked about.
Some elements in Ifitedunu had called for his sack by the Anambra State Governor for his role in the affairs of the community. What is his offence? He is insisting on the application of the letters of the constitution of the town concerning the removal of officers of the town, to the matter in hand, in this case, the calls by some quarters for the removal of the president general of the community.
One of the dramatis personae in the Ifitedunu brouhaha, is Chief Dr Vincent Udobi, a very wealthy and influential stakeholder in the community. Udobi had accused the Commissioner of instigating the crisis in Ifitedunu and called on the Anambra State Governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, to sack him, Nwabunwanne.
While Udobi accused Nwabunwanne of being the cause of the crisis in Ifitedunu, Nwabunwanne said Udobi was using his wealth and contacts to destabilise the community.
Ifitedunu Community has been embroiled in crisis involving the President-General,Mr Uchenna Nwoye, who Udobi and others accused of being an ex-convict and as such was not eligible to continue to lead the community.
Udobi said Nwoye was convicted and removed as the PG of the community before Governor Soludo came into office but Nwabunwanne reinstated him on frivolous grounds of being his personal friend when Soludo became governor, despite Udobi being disowned by the village chairmen of the community.
He said, ‘Governor Soludo should take special interest in Ifitedunu by sacking Nwabunwanne for the return of lasting peace which the people are truly craving for.’
But Nwabunwanne, at the press conference on, August 17, said it was purely a constitutional matter as government would not support an arbitrary removal of any community leader in the state.
He said Ifitedunu Constitution stipulated conditions by which a PG could be removed from office, which, he said, required a general meeting supported by two-third of those present.
He said Udobi was wrong to stand against Nwoye because the community’s constitution was not violated in any way. He also wondered why, of all the people in Ifitedunu, it was only Udobi that had issues with Nwoye and said it was something that should concern everybody.
The Commissioner faulted the actions taken against Nwoye, especially when he (Nwoye) was assaulted at the community’s market place by thugs suspected to be sponsored by Udobi.
Nwabunwanne called on security agencies to take necessary actions as required by law and call Udobi to order.
He said the government believed in public interest first and that when they came, almost all communities were run by caretaker committees which made it necessary to reconcile all communities and enable people to select their leaders. He said Nwoye had been his friend and that he was into fashion biz and that was what united them and where he met some of his kinsmen, but that it had nothing to do with the matter in hand which, he insisted, was simply a constitutional matter.
Nwabunwanne said the Soludo Administration had said there would be no more caretaker committees in communities but also knew some communities had timelines for elections which the government acceded to.
According to the commissioner, the tenure of the Ifitedunu Caretaker Committee expired and the government refused to extend it. He also said the government went through their file and investigated and found the announcement of Udobi’s removal was unconstitutional and heard from various stakeholders from the community.
While recalling that during the election, Nwoye won convincingly, government nevertheless met the stakeholders to preach peace, dialogue and reconciliation.
He said the report of a committee set up to look into the matter was made open and when Nwoye was reinstated, there was joy in the community.
As for the alleged criminal charge against Nwoye on cyber crime, he said it was not the concern of government but that government still needed the right process to be taken in the matter of removal.
The commissioner showed the aspects of the Ifitedunu Constitution on the removal of the PG which he proceeded to read out.
For him, therefore, Nwoye remained PG until the right process was followed which is that the general assembly must decide based on two-third majority when their meeting comes up in December this year. He therefore, could not see any reason for the hullaballoo in Iftedunu.
Meanwhile, the Anambra State Association of Town Unions (ASATU) has chipped in on the matter and condemned the attitude of some people in the various communities in the state.
ASATU National President, Titus Akpudo, a lawyer, stated this at a press conference in Awka, the Anambra State capital same Thursday.
He was particularly worried by the attacks on his members by some elements in some communities.
Akpudo said six Presidents-General of communities in the state had been killed in cold blood.
Akpudo was reacting to an attack on the President-General of Ifitedunu, Uchenna Nwoye, by some aggrieved members of his community, allegedly led by Chief Vincent Udobi.
He named the communities whose PGs were murdered to include those of Nimo (Njikoka LGA);Omor (Ayamelum LGA);OromEtiti (Anambra West (LGA); Nanka (Orumba North LGA) and Obosi (Idemili North LGA).
He said ASATU would no longer sit back and watch its members being humiliated and killed without any form of provocation, because of the ambitions of some people in their communities.
On the Ifitedunu incident, where the PG was attacked and injured in public, the ASATU president called on relevant authorities who had been petitioned over the incident to expedite action on their investigation and punish those found culpable to serve as deterrent to others.
He said, ‘Ifitedunu Town Union PG is our member. It’s our duty to protect him. It’s our duty to protect our members. That’s what will give them the freedom to operate freely. One needs to do his job without fear of molestation. We have had experience where PGs were killed, beaten and molested in many communities.
‘The Ifitedunu PG was beaten publicly. He is a family man; how will his children and wife feel watching the video? If nothing is done about this, people will be reluctant to offer leadership to communities.’
Akpudo went on to pass a vote of confidence on the state Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, Hon Nwabunwanne.
The ASATU National President, who commended the achievements of the Commissioner, said most communities in the state were now calm and experiencing peace under the commissioner.
The events in Ifitedunu are however yet another example of how avoidable troubles are caused and lends credence to the unwholesome effects of meddlesomeness by individuals in communities; a development that brings bad name to Igbo leadership and followership.