…Anambra Govt Disowns Both
There is controversy in Nawfia Community, Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State, over who the real traditional ruler of the community is. Two men, Chijioke Nwankwo and Daniel Obelle are laying claims to the kingship of the community, which is within the capital territory. And this is just as the Anambra State Government has insisted the community’s royal stool remains vacant until the matter is decided by the court, Ikeugonna Eleke Reports.
There are fears that violence may erupt in the community soon, following threats by both claimants. This is as the new yam festival of the community has rekindled the tussle, causing both claimants to declare war between themselves.
For context, Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo, one of the claimants, has been perceived or seen as the traditional ruler of the community for years, until 2020, when the government of Chief Willie Obiano, former governor of Anambra State, suspended him.
Nwankwo was alleged to have been crowned as the monarch of Nawfia in 2001, after the gruesome assassination of his father, a popular monarch, Igwe FFBC Nwankwo. Though he was the second son of his father, the first, a US based medical doctor, had declined interest, leading to his coronation.
In 2020, Nwankwo was among Anambra traditional rulers who travelled to Abuja with oil mogul, Prince Arthur Eze, to see then President Muhammadu Buhari. Eze, owner of Oranto Group, an oil company, was then seriously opposed to Obiano’s Government. As a way to get at the monarchs who obliged Eze the visit, they (monarchs) were suspended.
One thing led to the other, and Nwankwo’s suspension as monarch snowballed into a dethronement. Since then, Nwankwo has been fighting tooth and nail to regain his throne, but unfortunately for him, Nawfia Town Union, the umbrella body of all Nawfia indigenes, had rallied round, and conducted an election with an elected monarch. The monarch is Igwe Obelle, who has already started enjoying the support of the people.
With the approach of the Yam Season, there have been a renewed tussle over who among the monarchs should conduct the Iwa Ji Rite. This is a festival conducted by traditional rulers in various communities, which ushers in the right of indigenes to begin eating yam, which is regarded as the king of crops.
Last week, both Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo and Daniel Obelle scheduled their Iwa Ji festival on different dates.
This reporter who travelled to Nawfia for the festival was not so sure how to ask for directions to the palace as each contender claimed to be authentic and also had massive followership.
This reporter was however able to locate HRH Igwe Dr Ogochukwu Daniel Obelle’s Palace, where he was tracked down for an interview.
He said: ‘I’m the constitutionally elected Igwe of Nawfia Community, and recognized by the government of Anambra State, with a certificate of recognition. I’m addressing you because someone who was never elected as Igwe is trying to cause confusion in our community.
‘We have sent a message to tell him to hold his peace and every Nawfia person knows that since 2001, he was installed as regent. A regent is not an Igwe, but someone holding forth for an Igwe to be elected. His regency was to last for just 5 years, but he continued to parade himself as Igwe.’
Speaking on why Nawfia Community relented in electing a new monarch after Nwankwo had served out his five years as a regent, since the stool is not hereditary, Obelle said Nwankwo who was installed as a regent because of what he described as Nwankwo’s father’s sterling work, later transited himself into a monarch until the community held an election which he, Obelle, won.
Meanwhile, Nwankwo is not relenting. He has insisted that he remains the traditional ruler of the community. While Obelle scheduled his Iwa Ji Festival for Friday, September 22, Nwankwo circulated a notice to all concerned, saying that he was the rightful monarch and that he had held the new yam celebration for the community on September 15, and that what Obelle was doing was a mere charade. He charged members of the community not to honour Obelle’s invitation.
Despite the warning however, Nawfia indigenes flooded Obelle’s palace where the ceremony held. Obelle boasted during the event that he was the duly recognized monarch, especially as Nwankwo never had any certificate of recognition from government as he was originally installed as a regent.
Meanwhile, there is a twist in the matter as the Ministry of Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Matters, has said that both Obelle and Nwankwo were not recognized by government.
The Commissioner, Hon Tony-Collins Nwabunwanne, stated that neither Obelle nor Nwankwo was currently occupying the traditional stool of Nawfia.
‘There is a court ruling that Dan Obelle should stop parading himself as the traditional ruler of Nawfia.
‘Meanwhile, the court did not, however, rule that Nwankwo’s certificate should be returned to him. Instead, the court ordered a return to the status quo. And, by implication therefore, the two should stop parading themselves as traditional rulers of Nawfia,’ he said.
‘The matter is before the court, and we cannot act until the court pronounces its judgement. In other words, both of them must stop parading themselves as traditional rulers, pending the outcome of the court judgment.
‘And that was why I said that Nawfia has no traditional ruler for now, because, as long as that court ruling is concerned and as long as it has not been overturned, the Nawfia traditional stool is empty now, and will remain like that till the court says otherwise,’ the Commissioner maintained.