In Igboland, kola nut is sacred, respected and celebrated before being broken and eaten. Recently, in Anambra East Local Government Area of Anambra State, home town of the sitting Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, a traditional ruler was suspended for failure to abide by the rules guiding the celebration of kola nut. Following the the suspension is a counter-suspension, as well as a verbal war.
On January 31, 2019, the Chairman of the Anambra East Traditional Council, HRM Igwe Alex Edozieuno, Ezendo Mkpunando of Aguleri-Otu, suspended one of the members of the council, HRH Igwe Ben Izuchukwu Emeke, Okebo II of Umuleri Community, for one year.
In the letter of suspension, HRH Igwe Emeke (the youngest member of the council) was alleged to have grabbed kola nuts from the hands of Chief Anthony Oli, a Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor, which were presented by the governor to Anambra East Traditional Rulers during his thank you visit to Otuocha.
During the incident, Igwe Alex advised Igwe Emeke to quit play and keep to the rules. Instead of heeding to the advice, Igwe Ameke abused the chairman and told him that he was from Mmanyi and should not to be the right person to break the kola nut. The chairman reminded Igwe Emeke that he (Emeke) was from Uromi in Edo State. Thereafter, Chief Oli asked who was the chairman of the council and Igwe Ameke replied that it was Igwe Alex, Chief Oli then handed over the plate of kola nuts to the chairman.
Amid the confusion the kolanuts were returned to the governor and the kola nut ceremony was not observed.
Igwe Alex who has been on throne for 16 years recognised the presence of Igwe Chukwuemeka Eri of Enugu Aguleri of Uno Community, who is over 30 years on throne and Igwe Kelly Okalaku of Igbariam Community, who is also over 30 years on throne, as well as the Patron of the council. He handed over the kola nuts to HRM Okalaku to perform the normal traditional prayers, but still, Igwe Ameke refused. He insisted that he was the rightful person to break the kola nut because he was a “son of the soil”.
The suspension letter also directed that, Umuleri Community where Igwe Emeke came from, should nominate another person to be representing them in meetings of the council. The council also ordered Umuleri kingmakers to send Igwe Emeke on training on the customs and traditions of Igboland, and that he should be presented with a certificate before he would be readmitted into the council at the expiration of his suspension.
The letter further advised that Anambra State traditional rulers should stop informing him about meetings.
The council said it was unfortunate that Igwe Emeke did not know the history of ownership of Otuocha land which he laid claim to.
According to Igwe Alex, the council had a code of conduct signed by all the traditional rulers in the area which stipulated that the chairman of the traditional council had the right to break kola nut if the venue for the function was Otuocha, the headquarters of Anambra East, or could mandate any member or the oldest member to do the honour.
In reaction, Igwe Ameke also announced the suspension of the Chairman, Igwe Alex, for two years for not knowing the limit of his power and that of the council.
Igwe Emeke described his suspension as a nullity, insisting that the council had no powers to suspend him or any traditional ruler.
He said the purported suspension did not “hold water” and could not stand because there were procedures for suspending a traditional ruler in the state which only the governor could effectively do, adding that for any traditional ruler to be suspended in the state, there had to be a meeting of the traditional rulers who would recommend such to the local government council and from there to the governor who was the only person with the power to approve the suspension of a traditional ruler.
Igwe Emeke said, “Since Igwe Alex said he has suspended me, I hereby suspend him for two years because his actions are unbecoming of a traditional ruler. This man’s community is over 200 kilometres away from Umueri, my home town, and he wants to break kola nut in a land that I am the traditional ruler; it is not possible.”
Meanwhile, Umuleri National Youth Forum (UNYF), led by Chibuzor Ezekwenye, has petitioned Gov. Willie Obiano for the vacation of the suspension in order to avert a breakdown of law and order in the area.
In a statement, UNYF said it condemned in the strongest terms the actions of the traditional ruler of Igwe Alex.
“We call on His Excellency, Chief Willie Obiano, to caution Igwe Alex to avoid a repeat of similar actions, as we will not take it kindly with him any other time.
“We call on the Traditional Ruler’s Council in Anambra State to sanction Igwe Alex for overstepping his boundary and for this his ill-conceived action which is enough to cause a serious breakdown of peace and order in Anambra State,” UNYF said.