Posted by By VICTOR AMADI on
He is 6ft tall, broad chested, and 39 years old. He has the frame that befits a king; but humble, obedient, and admired by his community.
He is 6ft tall, broad chested, and 39 years old. He has the frame that befits a king; but humble, obedient, and admired by his community. Aware of his poor background, he has been working hard as a private man. December 2002, Oyebuchi Ndubueze Duruaku was presented to the Ehime Mbano Council as the Eze-elect of Ezeala Owerre/Ezike Autonomous Community as the traditional ruler.
However, he is yet to be coronated six years after, because one Nze Julius Okeagu, a former driver with NITEL, Enugu, appeared in 2004 to lay claim to the Ezeship. Since then, the case has been in court.
Meanwhile, the position of the community is: "If no Onyebuchi, no traditional ruler". In unity, the entire people of the autonomous community now want the Imo State Government to proclaim Onyebuchi Duruaku as their Eze. In this interview, the easy-going, soft-spoken Eze-elect, spoke to Daily Sun Newspaper recently and bared his mind in all.
Is it true that you are the Eze-elect of your community?
That is unequivocally and incontestably correct. I am the Eze-elect of my people. My autonomous community is made up of seven villages, namely: Umuezike, Umuagha, Umualuwoke, Nneato, Umueze Owerre, Umueze Ama, and Umuebo. In June 2000, in a properly convened general meeting of the seven villages to pursue the creation of Ezeala Owerre/Ezike autonomous community, the oldest village which is Umuezike and incidentally my own village, was called upon to identify/nominate a young man as Eze-elect. My village was granted 14 days to produce a consensus candidate at the next general meeting. On the agreed date, my village presented me. Upon the unanimous acceptance of my candidature by the seven villages, and as a pre-condition for the creation of the autonomous community, my name was forwarded along with other requirements to the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in Owerri, the capital of Imo State.
My installation and naming of our new community
In July 2000, the seven villages in Unanimity, installed me as the Eze Udoala I of Ezeala Owerre/Ezike autonomous Community. My installation ceremony recorded a large turnout of people for the first time in the existence of the young community. It is said that photographs donít lie. We are therefore bound by photographs and other historical evidence. It was in 2001 that I appeared before the Onumajulu Panel of Enquiry at Ehime Mbano Local Government HQs and was quizzed on the controversy surrounding the name to be used in the creation of my autonomous community, hence, Ezeala Owerre/Ezike Autonomous Community. On the 9th of October, 2002, the name of my autonomous community appeared in the gazette of Imo State Government.
It was on the 9th of December, 2002, that I was formally presented to the Ehime Mbano Local Government Area under the Chairmanship of Chief Moses Okeafor. We are also bound by photographs, video clips and other documentary evidence of that event. However, in 2004, as the community awaited for the recognition of their Eze-elect (myself), by the Imo State Government, but to our surprise and embarrassment, one Nze Julius Okeagu emerged from nowhere to lay siege to the Ezeship and thus, continue to strangulate and suppress traditional rulership of my people. Between year 2002 to 2004, he was not in the fray. Nze Julius was a civil servant, a driver with the NITEL at Enugu. He is an usurper.
Himself, his cohorts and fellow conspirators are rubbishing my autonomous community by constantly, willfully and obstinately parading Nze Okeagu as the traditional ruler. Nze Julius Okeagu is not the peopleís choice. He was imposed on the community by few powerful individuals who have access to government and replaced my name with his own name. They have been bragging about saying I have no money; that I am poor, nor do I have money bags to back me.
My community knows that I am poor, yet, they presented me as their Eze-elect. I believe they know why they want me as their Eze. I am not afraid of poverty, but I dread its status. Let the will of God be done, thatís my submission.
My community is learned, civilized and a peace-loving one. We decided not to fight, burn houses, kill each other, or cause upheavals in the land. We, therefore, chose the gentlemanís option by going to court to challenge this denial and ill treatment done on us. And from the Judiciary, Suit No HME/65/2004 (No 12 (a) was instituted. The suit suffered numerous adjournments at the instance of the defence, in order to frustrate our case. Trial commenced in October, 2007. On January, 2008 we had given evidence and tendered all exhibits in full, as required by law, pending cross examination by the defence.
To our shock and bewilderment, Her Lordship, Justice Ononeze Mmadu (Mrs) (With all due respect), declined to continue with the matter. The woman told my people that some influencial personalities who she could not refuse their request approached her to pervert the course of justice. Hence, the transfer of the case file to the office of the Chief Judge of Imo State. Our lawyer appealed to her to continue with the case but she refused. She said that she was being compelled to give judgment in the wrong way. She said also that sheís a mother with children that her conscience was pricking her, and that, instead of her to be assassinated, she had better transfer the case to the chief judge.
Why Julius Okeagu still parades himself as the Eze?
He is going about as the Eze because some influencial people in the government of Achike Udenwa wanted him to be the Eze, and they stopped at nothing to actualize their mischief and game plans. They conspired to wipe out my name and replaced with Okeaguís name. Eventually, when the gazette came out, his name (and not mine) was there as the new Eze of Ezeala Owerre/Ezike autonomous community. Till date, Nze Julius Okeagu is not recognized by the community which comprises seven villages. The traditional rulers of other communities in Ehime Mbano LGA, donít want to deal with him because he is not the choice of the people. I am the chosen Eze-elect and the consensus candidate to the traditional stool, by the entire seven villages that make up the autonomous community. He cannot constitute a cabinet because the people are against him. The law court never recognized him as Eze, but also addressed him as Nze Julius Okeagu.
Interestingly, I have people from his village who are in my camp, and have continued to scold him that what heís doing is wrong.
Fall out from Onumajuru Panel
When the process of the Ezeship began, and we had looked forward to the day our autonomous community could be a reality. My autonomous community briefed me as their Eze-elect that Justice Onumajuru Panel was coming to the area from Owerri. In 2002, when the panel constituted by the government of Imo State arrived Mbano, Julius Okeagu did not come. The Onumajuru Panel interviewed me. The panel asked for the Eze-elect and my community introduced me. They asked me questions and based on that, Ezeala-Owerre/Ezike Autonomous Community was created. To everyoneís surprise and astonishment, the usurper made an inglorious appearance sometime in 2004 to lay claim to the traditional stool and its veneration.
Eze-ship tussles bad for all
It is an ill wind that blows no one any good. And ever since, his behaviour has been denying my community of able rulership. Since the tussle began, we have not been paying tax to the coffers of the government since 2004. The government mandates traditional rulers to collect income tax on her behalf, and since then, you should imagine how much have been lost. These days of cash squeeze in government treasury, how much any autonomous community generates could also determine what level of infrastructure government puts in the community. When a community continues to agitate for developments, but surprisingly, it is discovered such a community is not helping their cause by paying taxes, surely you will agree with me that government can come down heavy on such a people.
What has been the reaction of the women from your autonomous community?
They are not happy. They have protested at the local council, and at one time even blocked the main gate of the Complex; for the government to know what is happening. They didnít stop there, they went as far as the state level as they found their way to the government house to protest. With wise counseling, roundtable talks, or with the use of force by military/police intervention, you can stop men and their aggression. But in the revolution of women, you may not be able to stop them easily. For women, you canít tell the form their fight could take.
The government White Paper
In 2004, the Imo State Government under former governor, Achike Udenwa, released all the local governments existing in the state, including the old and newly created autonomous communities in the two council areas of Mbano; with their traditional rulers, as well as their Ezes-elect. I am proud to tell the Nigerian public that in that White Paper, my name appeared on number 14 as the Eze-elect of Ezeala Owerre / Ezike autonomous community. And also, about three years ago, I presided over the ĎWearing Clothí Ceremony in my community otherwise known as the "Initiation of manhood". In some parts of Igboland where it is performed, is called, "Iwa akwa". I am saying this so that the public can know and appreciate the grave injustice a clique of vandals have done on my community.
Since the Eze-ship tussle began, does your rival perform traditional functions in the community?
No way, the seven villages donít acknowledge him as their Eze. I perform all the roles of traditional ruler as required by the community. If any government official is to visit the local government, my community will adequately brief me. School teachers and pupils come to me to lay their complains. Women in the community visit me to lend their support, while Nze Julius Okeagu is now ruling himself, his family, wife and children. It is a slap on the people of my community. His brother James Okeagu Ďaliasí Mberede, has been going round telling people I am poor, so, I cannot rule them. Traditional rulership is not determined by wealth or education. Rather, it is the choice of the people that decides who rule them.