It has become something of norm for south east residents to go to bed with one of their eyes open. The reason is not farfetched. From the era of kidnappings to the era of the IPOB-Military face-off, to the period where ‘Unknown Gunmen’ reigned supreme, attacking police stations and checkpoints, to the period of palpable fear of being killed or vehicles razed for flouting the Monday sit at home order.
South easterners have not had a breathing space in 2021. When you factor in the lock downs which emanated from the Covid-19 pandemic and the #EndSARS protests of 2020, then you will understand the depth of how things have indeed fallen apart for us as a people. As we thought that the whole insecurity situation was winding down coinciding with the evening of the year 2021, another saga reared its ugly head, this time our traditional institutions.
In the past few weeks, south east states especially Imo has witnessed an unprecedented rise in the attack of the stools of cultural and ancestral leadership in Igbo land. The perplexing part of this barbaric scenario is that the Igbos are not known to be at war with its traditional rulers, the Eze’s, Obi’s and Igwe’s.
On October 19, 2021, gunmen stormed Njaba council headquarters at Nnenasa in Imo state and opened fire on traditional rulers in a stakeholders meeting, killing two, while others sustained injuries. It could also be recalled that the traditional ruler of Achi Mbieri in Mbaitoli Local Government Area of the state, Eze Henry Madumere, was kidnapped on November 19, while heading to a public function. The monarch, who is the father of a former deputy governor of the state, Eze Madumere, was released after six days.
On Sunday, 12th December, 2021 gunmen continued to inflict their venom on traditional rulers in Imo state when they abducted two traditional rulers Eze Acho Ndukwe of Amagu Ihube and Eze Paul Ogbu of Ihitte Ihube, both in Okigwe Local Government Area of the state. The gunmen also seized the youth leader of Umulolo Okigwe and vandalized the house of another community leader, Fabian Nwosu. Eze Ndukwe is said to be the Chairman of Council of Traditional Rulers, Okigwe Local Government Area. Sources said the gunmen came in Hilux vans, kidnapped the two monarchs and burnt their palaces and vehicles.
The latest incident brought to four, the total number of monarchs abducted in Imo in the last one week. The other two are the traditional ruler of Atta ancient kingdom in Njaba LGA, Eze Edwin Azike and that of Mbutu ancient kingdom, Eze Damian Nwaigwe. Both were abducted on Thursday last week, 9th December, 2021. While Eze Azike was killed and his corpse dumped at the market square a day after, Nwaigwe was lucky to have regained his freedom after spending two days in the kidnappers’ den.
As if it wasn’t enough, as the Imo State Government was saying it was doing its best to curbing the wave of kidnapping and other criminal activities, another Traditional Ruler was reportedly kidnapped on Wednesday, 15th December, 2021. The traditional ruler of Umuezeala-Ama Autonomous Community in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area, Eze Aloysius Igwe. According to sources, the condemnable incident occurred at the Nkwo-Umuezeala market square. A source said the monarch went out to pick his wife from a meeting around the area. While in wait for his wife, his abductors, who came in a small bus, double-crossed his vehicle and whisked him away in it.
While it is senseless, barbaric and ‘un-Igbo’ to kill and abduct these traditional rulers, the big question is why? What is the motive behind these killings? Some reports claim that some of these traditional rulers have left their primary duties to become political stooges to the government. In many instances, Ezes have been seen and read about making strong political statements and showing serious political leanings, a situation many feel have de-robed them from the revered status as representatives of the divine in their respective kingdoms whose integrity should be intact and whose bias should be solely for the wellbeing of the subjects in their domains.
In the past, politicians pay homage to the traditional rulers but now the case is different. You find them in their retinue praise singing and arms begging at government lodges to curry favour from the executive.
News Echo condemns in strong terms the abduction and killing of traditional leaders for whatever reason. We advice traditional leaders to face their primary responsibility which is to lead in the example of their ancestors, not according to the pockets of their state governors. Ndigbo wants Traditional leaders, not Trado-political rulers!