By Kelechi Mejuobi
It was the dying minutes production time of an Owerri based print media outfit last week Thursday before story changed. As the pages were being arranged in proper shape with relevant stories for the next day publication, a news item had been properly written and tucked in for production by one of the correspondents who covered an event at the palace of the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers. According to her report due for the front page of the next day, was “Eze Okeke Replaces Eze Ohiri As EzeImo, Inaugurates Chairmen For LGAs”
The content of the initial story was that the Eze Imo Palace where Eze Ohiri had been dictating the pace of the Ndi Eze Imo affairs had been overtaken by Eze Okeke, the traditional ruler of Amaifeke town in Orlu LGA of Imo State.
Okeke was a fortnight ago appointed and subsequently inaugurated as Chairman of Imo Traditional Institution and Community Policing. The new disposition was coming at the heels of the repeal of the Community Government Council, CGG Law, a quasi Fourth Tier arm of government introduced during the Rochas Okorocha regime which empowered monarchs in the various LGAs to head the CGG in their domains as well as the amendment of the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers law which empowers the state governor to appoint officials of the royal fathers’ body than through election process. The Okeke appointment sent a signal of a possible subtle means that had ended Ohiri’s tenure as Eze Imo.
The suspicion was further fuelled by a publication of the Imo State Government owned tabloid; The Statesman in one of its banner lead story which states ” Eze Okere Becomes Eze Imo”
As this particular newspaper was settling down with the story of Okeke “taking over from Ohiri” based on the report that the former stormed the Eze Imo palace on Mbari Street, Owerri to demand for the keys from the latter, accompanied by some government officials for the inauguration of the LGA chapter chairmen, the state government surprisingly came up with a press release disclosing that it was yet to appoint a Chairman for the Ndi Eze Imo.
Surprised at the development, the editorial head reached out to the state Commissioner for Information, Mbadiwe Declan Emelumba who confirmed the government position and consequently sent an official statement on the matter. The release forced the print media to now engage in late minute change of headline from “Eze Okeke Takes Over from Eze Ohiri As Ndi Eze Imo Council Chairman” “Imo Government Opens Up On Eze Council Chair, Denies Eze Okeke”
The statement from Emelumba reads;
“GOVT YET TO APPOINT CHAIRMAN IMO STATE COUNCIL OF TRADITIONAL RULERS
“Imo state government has announced that it is yet to appoint a chairman for Imo state council of traditional Rulers but will do so at the appropriate time
“A statement yesterday by the commissioner for information and strategy, Declan Emelumba, said that the explanation became necessary following the high level of rumours and speculations making the rounds on the appointment of chairman of Imo state council of traditional Rulers.
“He advised the Imo public to discountenance any claim by any person purporting to have been appointed chairman of Imo state traditional institutions
“The government has not yet appointed anybody as chairman of Imo state traditional institutions or council of Ndieze. This will be done at the appropriate time and announced accordingly” the statement said, adding that the public should disregard any claim to the contrary.
It is evidently clear that the statement from Government has no doubt raised more questions than answers concerning the Eze Imo Chairman issue if events surrounding happenings around monarchs are anything to go by.
Earlier, apparently aware of government plot to make a mincemeat of his chairmanship position, Ohiri who has been in the saddle had objected to the action of Imo State House of Assembly Members in amending the Imo State Autonomous Communities and Allied Matters Law No 15 of 2016 which hitherto, conferred on the Traditional Rulers the Right and Powers to elect their Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Ndi Eze council. But through the recent amendment, such right has been stripped.
Ohiri, the Obi of Orodo in Mbaitoli LGA who was appointed by Okorocha administration in 2011 and had had years of legal battle with his predecessor, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya of over wrongful termination when the former governor was elected nine years ago, kicked against the new amendment.
Even as Ohiri continues to claim he is still the chairman as published in the newspapers, Okeke has been receiving congratulatory messages from the public as the new Eze Imo.
There appears to be theatre of absurdities in the whole arrangement to warrant the state government be decisive in its decision to enable the monarchs be clarified on who is truly in-charge.
Irrespective of divergent media positions on who is the authentic Eze Imo, these underlying posers mentioned below are before the state government for further clarification except there is incriminating intent to surreptitiously entrench anarchy in the traditional institution in Imo.
For the avoidance of doubt, since the Imo State House of Assembly repealed the CGC law, did it affect Ndi Eze Imo law and position of Eze Ohiri as Chairman?
Has the amended law of the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers automatically relieved Eze Ohiri of his position as the Eze Imo council chairman?
What is the relationship between the Imo Traditional Institution and Community Policing Okeke has been appointed as Chairman against the Ohiri led Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers before the recent amendment of the law?
Is there any law of the state known as Imo Traditional Institution and Community Policing for the governor to appoint a Chairman who will now assume the position of Ndi Eze Imo chairman?
Doesn’t it amount to double standard and fuelling complicity in the Eze Imo saga for the state government to have allowed its print medium, The Statesman newspaper to have rolled out a banner headline announcing Okeke new Eze Imo in one edition and coming back to say government has not announced a new Eze Imo in another publication?
Why didn’t the Imo State Government issue a rejoinder or disclaimer to the first story published by The Statesman which claimed Okeke had been appointed Eze Imo before coming up with a contrasting version?
Why did the state Commissioner for Information as the supervisory Commissioner in-charge of Statesman take about a week before issuing a counter statement against the position of the state owned medium?
The discombulation arising from the position of the government also raises concern about the status of Ohiri in view of the fact that the law that brought him into power has been repealed and the governor, according to the Information Commissioner is yet to appoint a new Eze. Therefore, does it mean in the spirit of the new law Ohiri is no longer functioning as Eze Imo and the sit is now vacant waiting for the new appointee?
The answers to these questions have become necessary for bewildered minds since the Eze Imo stool is a highly revered position in the state’s traditional institution
By Kelechi Mejuobi