BY OSOLOKA NNAMDI in Awka•
There is concern among the people of Ojoto community in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State following the conclusion of public hearing by Dr Tim Menakaya led Panel of Enquiry set up by the State Government to look into the Igweship tussle in the community between two parties led by Chief Denis Okafor on one side and Chief Gerald Mbamalu on the other side.
Okafor and Mbamalu are hooked in a fierce battle for the Ojoto Igweship Stool since April last year following the exit of Igwe Augustine Obidiwe who joined the ancestors with both separately approaching the State Government to issue them certificate of recognition as the traditional ruler of Ojoto having fulfilled all obligations and recommendations inline with the constitution of town.
Apparently under pressure to act, the State Governor Chief Willie Obiano set up a panel under the chairmanship of Elder Statesman and former Minister of Health Dr. Tim Menakaya to investigate issues surrounding the battle for the Ojoto stool.
The panel for three days gave all parties the opportunity to speak and present their positions on the matter for deliberation and onward presentation of the panel Governor Willie Obiano.
Presenting his position on the matter, Chief Okafor explained that he passed through all the processes and fulfilled all obligations and recommendations inline with the constitution of Ojoto and the State Chieftaincy Act 2007 as amended under the supervision of the Ojoto town union otherwise called Ojoto Akanasato Union (OAU) adding that everything regarding his selection as the Igwe Elect of Ojoto is well documented and made available to the State Government, the Police and the Department of State Security (DSS).
He said, “first of all let me explained that I am Chief Dennis Okafor, a son of Ojoto, my grand father served as a member of House of Chiefs representing Idemili Division during the colonial masters era.
“I am a businessman and the Chairman/CEO Densine Group of Companies; I attended my primary school at Ojoto. Thereafter I went to Nnewi High School. I obtained my First Degree at Houdegbe North American University Cotonou and did my Masters at the University of Calabar.
“Like I said, my selection as Igwe Elect of Ojoto was purely inline with the constitution of the town. The DSS are aware because I am the only person they screened and they have all the documents regarding my selection.
It is enshrined in the constitution of Ojoto that the Igweship throne should rotate between Ojoto Uno and Ojoto Obofia in other words Ojoto North and Ojoto South. Following the exit of Igwe Augustine Obidiwe who is from the North, it is now the turn of South to produce the next traditional ruler of Ojoto.
According to him, “again the constitution has it that the eldest village in the South which is Enugo will produce the candidate for the throne. Based on this constitutional injunction, the town union wrote Enugo village to forward a candidate for the throne. Following the letter myself, Mbamalu and two others indicated interest for the throne.”
He further explained that, “the leadership of Ojoto South Development Union (OSDU) suggested that we go for election but that was rejected by the people because election is not in our constitution.
“The people of Enugo told OSDU that according to the constitution the eldest kindred in the village should produce the candidate, which is Umuofor.
“Among four of us I am the only person from Umuofor. Under this condition two others withdrew from the race because they are not from Umuofor.
He added “furthermore our constitution also made it clear that the eldest family in Umuofor will produce the candidate and in Umuofor my family Okafor family is the eldest.
However, not ready to abide by the constitution, OSDU in collaboration with some highly placed people in the town moved to organise election between Mbamalu, and me but unfortunately for them the State Government stooped the election because it was contrary to the provisions of our constitution
“With nobody coming forth from Okafor family to contest with me, the town union deemed it right enough to present me to the Okpalas, that is the heads of the villages in the town for my installation and crowning as the Igwe Elect of Ojoto.
“And the Okpallas crowned me as the Igwe Elect. On the 17th May 2017, I was presented to the Local Government Area authority and the Local Government authority subsequently forwarded my name to the State to issue me certificate of recognition.
On his part Mbamalu said that he took over as the Regent of Ojoto following the exit of Igwe Obidiwe and based on his position prominent people from Ojoto persuaded him to go for the Igweship throne proper following the fact that it is the turn of Enugo village to produce the candidate for the throne and considering the fact that he has been actively involved in the Chieftaincy affairs of the town for a long time, so he enough experience required for the job.
He explained that “I am Mbamalu Gerald, I have Bsc in Computer Science from University of Nigeria Nsukka. I am the Chairman of Igwe in Council since 2008. I have served as the Secretary OSDU Lagos Branch, vice Chairman OAU Lagos Branch, Vice President General OAU Ojoto, Chairman OAU Lagos branch for 10 years instead of eight years because nobody wanted to take over from me, Chairman Ojoto Brothers Development Initiative, Chairman Igwe in Council Asato Ojoto/traditional prime minister and presently the Regent of Ojoto.
“Like I said when it was clear that Enugo has to produce the candidate for Igweship stool of Ojoto, members of the Igwe in council and other people of Ojoto came to me and said look we have looked around and find out that you are the one to lead us as our traditional ruler because we are satisfied with the way you have been leading the Igwe in Council, consequently, I consulted with my family and also looked at the constitution of the town, l then wrote a letter to all the villages in Ojoto and to all the kindreds in Enugo including Umuofor expressing my willingness to offer myself to serve as the traditional ruler of Ojoto.
He said that according to the constitution Enugo village should present a candidate through OSDU onward to OAU being the eldest village in Ojoto South adding that the constitution didn’t concede the stool to particular kindred in Enugo.
He added, “What the constitution says is that Enugo should present a candidate to OSDU, then OSDU should forward the candidate and his CV to OAU, OAU will then present the candidate to Ojoto in a general meeting of the town for the people to see him, but that was not done, OSDU has to clear the candidate before OAU but my opponent doesn’t want to pass through OSDU as stipulated by the constitution.”
At the end of the hearing, the chairman, Menakaya was said to have asked the two contestants what would be their reaction on the panel report if it didn’t workout in their favour, they responded by saying that they will accept the outcome of the report in good fate Supporters of both parties are looking forward to a favourable report from the panel hence the anxiety.