By Fred Akpewe
Idumuje-Ugboko is a serene, sleepy town in Aniocha North Local Government Area. This rural-agrarian settlement has been peaceful for decades until a seemingly innocuous issue triggered crises which have now grown to monumental proportions. In the early months of 2015, an international lawyer, philanthropist, and environmentalist and a scion of the Nwoko royal family of Idumuje-Ugboko, Prince Ned Nwoko announced with glee that he had decided to build his pet dream of a sports university, and a golf course in the village.
The STARS University was to be one of its kind in south Saharan Africa and the gains to the village in terms of development promised to be salutary. Prince Ned Nwoko requested for an additional 90 hectares of land for the University and golf course, having earlier been granted a 33 hectares of land for a diary farm. His Royal Majesty, Obi Albert Nwoko III, JP (MON) and his Obi in Council had given their approval for the land promptly for the commencement of the Stars University and golf course but with a proviso that the community would own 40% equity in the proposed university. Prince Ned Nwoko joyfully procured a certificate of occupancy to cover the land which was issued to him through his company, LINAS INTERNATIONAL LTD.
GENESIS OF THE CRISES IN IDUMUJE-UGBOKO
From sources obtained by us and corroborated by the accounts of Prince Walters Eziashi, a former President-General of Idumuje-Ugboko in 2008 and Chris Ogu, the Iyase (Traditional Prime Minister) of Idumuje-Ugboko, trouble started when a fresh letter purporting to have been written by HRM, Obi Albert Nwoko was widely circulated with claims that the Obi had repudiated his earlier approval for the land to establish the Stars University and the golf course. This new twist which occurred on Wednesday, August 12, 2015 was doubted by many sons and daughters of the village prompting some persons to go to the Obi’s palace to seek clarification from Obi Albert Nwoko. Unfortunately, Prince Chukunonso in concert with Prince Ejimofor Nwoko, Richard Obiajulu Nwoko and Dennis Nwadiegwu Nwoko had erected a barricade in the Palace in an attempt to frustrate their seeing the king.
A shocked Prince Walter Eziashi, the then President-General of the community petitioned the Commissioner of Police on September 14, 2015 to investigate the letter allegedly written by Obi Albert Nwoko. Police investigation indicted Prince Nonso Nwoko, Richard Nwoko and Ejimofor Nwoko for forgery and the matter was charged to Magistrate Court I, Asaba in a Suite No. SMC/420C/2016. By this singular act the fragile peace in Idumuje-Ugboko had been aggravated. From that date, some strange occurrences started in rapid succession. The King, Obi Albert Nwoko died in questionable circumstances in February 6th, 2017 and was allegedly buried hurriedly while Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko promptly crowned himself King against all traditional protocol, rites and traditions. Although Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko was the first son of HRM Albert Nwoko, his mother was from Ubulu-Uku, prompting the late King’s other son, Prince Uche Nwoko whose mother is from Idumuje-Ugboko to lay claim to the throne. Idumuje-Ugboko tradition has it that for a King to be crowned, his mother must be from Idumuje-Ugboko. The mysterious death of Obi Albert Nwoko had elicited grave concerns causing his Queen to petition the Inspector-General of Police with claims that their husband was murdered.
Evidence abounds that Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko responded by clamping down on all persons perceived to be enemies of his quest to become the undisputed Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko. On May 18-25, 2017 hell was let loose in Idumuje-Ugboko in a Palace fracas which spread to all parts of the town. At the end, an okada man, Cyprain Kumiolu and Kennedy Iloh were murdered in cold blood while 29 other victims of the mayhem suffered varying degrees of injuries and fractures prompting the Police and the National Human Rights Commission to visit and make documentations. On another occasion, the Iyase of Idumuje-Ugboko, Chris Ogu was beaten up and flogged in the Palace while his house and cars were badly damaged. On yet another occasion, a teenage girl was raped right in the Palace and this act generated wide outrage against Prince Nonso Nwoko.
PEACE PROCESSES IN IDUMUJE-UGBOKO
The Idumuje-Ugboko crisis has generated several commentaries and schools of thought. A school of thought has linked the Idumuje-Ugboko altercations to the crises of confidence between Prince Ned Nwoko’s quest to build a star University and golf course and Prince Nonso Nwoko’s inability to get his staff of office. Closely related to this school of thought is that the crises has lingered because Prince Nonso Nwoko has refused to authenticate the additional 90 hectares of land approved for Prince Ned Nwoko by Obi Albert Nwoko for the Stars University/golf course.
Desirous of finding a lasting peace to the crises about 8 peace attempts have been made and all of them have been unsuccessful. They are:
Aniocha North Traditional Ruler Committee (March, April and May, 2017)
Peace meeting with the AIG zone 5, Adamu Mohammed in Benin-City (June 1, 2017).
Benjamin Elue led Aniocha Congress Peace meeting which held several times.
A proposed meeting with Obi of Idumuje-Unor but which was allegedly aborted by Prince Nonso Nwoko.
Chief Paul Uzor led fact finding committee which was unceremoniously aborted by Dr. Gabriel Ogbechie after a pre-emptory publication/advertorial on 21/4/2017.
The Obed Nwochie Peace Initiative.
Diokpa Uka/Idumuje-Ugboko Women I.U.D.U sponsored Peace Initiative.
Obi of Owa, HRM Professor Efeizomor Peace Committee Meeting.
In all the above meetings, it is instructive that Prince Ned Nwoko, ever ready to avail himself of any available amicable settlement has always made himself available.
THE ROLE OF DR. GABRIEL OGBECHIE AT PEACE SETTLEMENT
Although Dr. Gabriel Ogbechie, a prominent son of Idumuje-Ugboko had presented himself as a peace maker in the crises rocking the community, many indigenes of the town are uncomfortable with his motives. His real motives may have come to the fore in his two-page Vanguard advertorial of May 21, 2020. In the publication titled “The quest for Peace in Idumuje-Ugboko, Gabriel Ogbechie presented Ned Nwoko as the antagonist in the crises that was stalling the peace process. Ogbechie also labored to link the kingship tussle to the land for the building of the Stars University. Gabriel Ogbechie also labeled Prince Nonso Nwoko as a peace loving King who is being unjustifiably denied his staff of office. Gabriel Ogbechie’s pontifications has painted him as a man whose only interest is to make sure that Prince Nonso Nwoko gets his staff of office, even if it means Ned Nwoko getting an alternative piece of land for his Stars University and golf course.
THE STANCE OF NEW NWOKO IN THE IDUMUJE-UGBOKO CRISES
Prince Ned Nwoko has consistently maintained that he has no hand in the kingship tussle in Idumuje-Ugboko. Prince Ned Nwoko has also shown sufficient commitment to the peace process by attending and contributing to all the peace meetings. Perhaps, one area in which Prince Ned Nwoko has been clearly misunderstood is that he wants just more than peace. He also wants justice. Ned Nwoko believes that the several human rights violations in the community should not be swept under the carpet. The culprits fingered in the death of some folks, the villains who caused the maiming of innocent people and those who vandalized people’s property and forged vital documents should not go unpunished. Although Ned Nwoko himself had not instituted any court case against anybody in the village, he believes that true reconciliation and justice must go hand in hand. It is this position taken by Prince Ned Nwoko that makes some people including Prince Nonso Nwoko and Dr. Gabriel Ogbechie to believe that he (Prince Ned Nwoko) does not want the staff of office to be given to Prince Nonso Nwoko.
WHY THE STAFF OF OFFICE HAS NOT BEEN GIVEN TO PRINCE NONSO NWOKO
The Delta State Government does not confer staff of office on a person whose kingdom is under strife. In the case of Idumuje-Ugboko, there are about five (5) lingering cases in court against the Palace ranging from murder to forgery and willful damage to property not to talk of gross violation of human rights. Under this circumstance it would be a grave error for the Delta State Government to confer a staff of office on Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko. Besides, there is a kingship tussle in Idumuje-Ugboko between two brothers – Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko and Prince Uche Nwoko.
FINDING THE WAY FORWARD TOWARDS PEACE IN IDUMUJE-UGBOKO
With eight (8) peace committees unable to find a solution to the protracted Idumuje-Ugboko crises, it has become necessary to change the strategies. Before that is done, it is necessary for Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko to shift his position a little bit. Prince Nonso Nwoko needs to be reminded that the Stars University will open a floodgate of development in Idumuje-Ugboko, Anioma and Nigeria which would be the beneficiaries of this unique life changing institution. The Stars University is not for personal aggrandizement. The students from this University will rub shoulders with Nigeria and Africa’s most famous couple, Prince Ned and Princess Regina. In any case, it is an acknowledge fact that any attempt or support for the reversal of the University land will amount to reward for fraud and illegality. Prince Nonso’s fraudulent attempt at reversing the titles to the University land will not stand as he is facing criminal trials for forgery and deception. Government has approved the building plans for the various multi-billion naira projects.
At this juncture, there are windows open for Prince Nonso Nwoko to pursue genuine peace and reconciliation. It is necessary for Prince Nonso Nwoko to subject his process of ascension to the throne to community scrutiny with the intention of doing the right thing; the right thing being a proper process of crowning according to traditional rites. This would be involve assuaging people and families who have been vilified, intimidated, maimed or even killed in the community or Palace fracas. Thereafter, Prince Nonso Nwoko should keep his hands off the land properly acquired by Prince Ned Nwoko for several development projects. Prince Nonso should not be the clog in the wheel of progress in his own community. Nobody can do this for him, not even the unseen hands that are goading him on to commit more havoc against his people than he has already done before. He must take urgent decisions to restore himself to the path of honour. This is one sure way of restoring peace and dignity to the beleaguered community of Idumuje-Ugboko.