FeaturesFEATURES: Disquiet In Enugu Community Over Igwe-Elect

FEATURES: Disquiet In Enugu Community Over Igwe-Elect

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February 18, (THEWILL) – To those at home and in the Diaspora, December 19, 2023 remains a day the Evuazu community in Ezeagu Local Government Area, Enugu State will not forget in a hurry. Since then, there has been an uneasy calm in the community, following the emergence of Chief Christopher Sunday as the first Igwe-elect of Evuazu.

While many believed this step would enable the Evuazu autonomous community to achieve some levels of development, some see the day as the beginning of deliberate efforts at breeding division, cultural insensitivity, non-inclusiveness and supremacy of one over another.

On a separate occasion, stakeholders unanimously agreed that the committee that spearheaded the writing of the constitution failed to address certain complaints raised by some set of groups, which resulted in differences of opinions amongst the people.

Also, they urged the committee to do the needful by drafting a constitution that will facilitate the resolution of the existing challenges.

However, they advised the aggrieved and the favoured to sheathe their swords and let peace reign.

According to an eyewitness account, the disagreement undoubtedly caused by the December 19 event negatively affected the turnout of guests and participants during the 2024 Ugwudoro of Evuazu Cultural Festival celebrated last month.

During THEWILL’s visit to the community recently, Chief Christopher Ekwo, the immediate past president-general of the community, dismissed claims that the process, which led to the emergence of the Igwe-elect, was entirely wrong. To him, the race for who would become the first Igwe was keenly contested and a winner emerged through the process.

Meanwhile, Evuazu has three smaller villages: Umukanu, where the Igwe-elect comes from, Amube and Umunwanke.

THEWILL observed that the former Evuazu leader highlighted the achievements he recorded while in office and after his tenure as president-general of Evuazu community. Notwithstanding, it seems the process of electing a new traditional ruler has snowballed into more tension in the community with its attendant political slants.

Ekwo, in an exclusive interview, said: “I have done everything within my power to upgrade the living conditions of the people by every standard.

“While waiting for government approval, in respect of the autonomous community, I have been doing everything possible to put the people in the spotlight. We actually planned to merge with a neighbouring village, known as Umuagbo, to form the Ibuzor autonomous community.

“One of the illustrious sons of the community, Barr. Matthew Eluke, was said to have been authorised by the former Governor of Enugu State, Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, at the twilight of his administration to make a demand. This is what led to the emergence of the Evuazu autonomous community, a move that will foster advancement across the entire community.

“The young man who doubles as a sitting judge didn’t tell the governor to give him land or money, he requested something that will benefit the whole people, then the governor approved Evuazu autonomous community, which I firmly believe will bring a lot of development.

“You know in a community, there will be agitators and you don’t expect everybody to like you, it is like politics, you join the party you like, and then when you win, you embrace everybody.

“The issue of Ugwudoro came up when some of our brothers from Umunwake complained about being left out. As the Igwe-elect, I have been in constant dialogue with them but to no avail. I’m not relenting in my efforts to achieve peaceful coexistence among the people.

“I am not in any way against what you people are saying, even pleading with those affected to wait patiently till after the Ugwudoro festival. We will be able to sort everything and everybody will be happy before next year’s celebration.”

While pleading that the indigenes should encourage him to function effectively, Ekwo said the tradition and custom decisions fell under the traditional ruler’s purview.

Continuing he said: “I went as far as promising them that before next year’s celebration, which will be great, everyone will come together and decide how we will be doing it. We don’t have anything for now, but by his grace, before the end of the year, we have promised to give the community basic social amenities, such as electricity, water, roads, hospital/maternity and education in the form of nursery and primary schools, among others. From the water central unit, we will extend to inner villages to make it easy for the people to access.

“I have sent somebody to enquire on the repairing cost of the water pumping machine to ensure that the water issue is addressed and gone forever.

“We will beef up security. For example, there is a link road from Evuazu to a neighbouring community known as Nsude. Our people stopped accessing the road due to a high state of insecurity which include kidnapping, killings, rape, snatching of bags and more. We will make it safe for the people again, such that security will be beefed up along the area before December.

“Our people’s lifestyle will be improved. And that could be achieved only after the coronation. We don’t have money, but we will source money to carry out the projects.

“Eveazu has been a beautiful place and a safe haven for the people and even for their guests, especially during the cultural heritage festival celebrations. Our guests don’t want to leave after the celebration.

“We have been living in peace from time immemorial and the process of electing the lgwe cannot quench the fire of unity and love burning within the community. We are hospitable. Hospitality runs in our bloodline.

“The issue of autonomy cannot separate us because we are one blood. Well, as a traditional ruler, you can’t wait for the community to do everything. I will seek financial assistance from our brothers and sisters who love development. But I will start it.

“Even the money we paid to the government to collect the autonomous certificate was almost impossible. At the time, there was no money in their purse, but on behalf of the community I committed the sum of N2.4 million as requested by the Enugu State Government. The fund hasn’t been refunded to me.

“But on the eve of Ugwudoro day, I went to Umunwanke with some members of the Evuazu committee that they should let peace reign. I will streamline everything about the Ugwudoro Festival and every attempt to disabuse their mind of the exotic notions that they are being marginalised appears to be abortive.

The Umunwake said they are not against the Igwe-elect’s election, saying, ‘Igwe, we support you, but this is our stand on issues regarding Ugwudoro.’

“They refused to listen, but now we have started talking to three or four of them. I will be with them soon to make sure they reunite with others to move the community forward, so they won’t be left out in the cabinet and decisions taken against their wish. And I wouldn’t like that to happen.

“This issue of Ugodoro shouldn’t be an issue to us, because Ugwudoro is as old as the community. If we are going to change anything regarding the venue, it has to be a collective effort, there will be an agreement between all the villages. And this will allow the people to experience a better and more robust celebration next season.”

To his villagers, he said, “We are brothers, this Igwe is one of them and part of their family. They should be proud of how the election turned out, they should relax, and eventually, they are going to enjoy after the coronation.”

The former president-general of Obeleagu Umana, Chief Nicholas Ekwo said, “The only problem was an electoral process that led to the emergence of the Igwe-elect. A certain set of people expressed their grievances and according to them, the committee draft was not fairly and effectively treated, with the mindset that the draft couldn’t protect the rights of their own village.

“It’s a good thing we now have autonomy but let everyone come together to move Evuazu forward. I will support the Igwe-elect to move Evuazu forward.”

In his remarks, Mr Charles Ewo, who firmly believes they wouldn’t have been experiencing any form of contentions or animosity if he was duly elected into the office of Igwe said, “As it stands, the community has been divided into two. For now Umuahe/Nkpagu is with Umunwanke, while Umualiogene is with Amube. The spirit of disunity has set in and we should pray for peace to return in no distant time. For peace to return the Constitution should return.”

Nevertheless, as at the time of writing this report, Barr. Eluke stated, “As a sitting judge I wasn’t authorised to grant interviews without explicit permission from the state’s Chief judge.”

About the Author

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Janefrances Ebere Chibuzor is a Tourism Writer at THEWILL

Janefrances Chibuzor, THEWILLhttps://thewillnews.com
Janefrances Ebere Chibuzor is a Tourism Writer at THEWILL

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