Road To Crowning A New Eze Aro By Ernie Onwumere

Nnadozie Victor


In an enviable ancient kingdom like Arochukwu, it is not unexpected that the exalted stool of royalty would be coveted by the privileged. When the throne becomes vacant as a result of an Eze joining his ancestors, there should not be a vacuum for too long before another Eze takes over. As nature abhors vacuum, so does our kingdom so that progress and wellbeing can be assured. Ours is a kingdom with wise elders and responsible leaders who can show us the way forward in any given situation. 

Yet, a lot has happened in Arochukwu Kingdom in recent times from 18 October, 2023. It has been a slew of rehashed falsehood, accusations, calumny and damaging misrepresentations propagated against the leadership of Okennachi Kindred which has been accused of interference in the affairs of the Palace. But there is really no undue interference in the palace; what happened is that Umu Aro were worried about the non-presentation of a new Eze Aro such that on November 23, 2022 the Nzuko Aro leadership wrote a letter to Okennachi leadership on the matter. On 27th December 2022, the body of Nzuko Aro National Patrons led by Prof. Okoro Ijoma followed suit with a visit to the Okennachi leadership. The Okennachi Kindred was seen as incompetent because of their seeming inability to produce an Eze Aro on time. Following the selection of Prince Eberechukwu Oji as Eze Aro-designate and the subsequent parading of Prince Goddy Idei, it becomes necessary that Okennachi Kindred should now tell the story of what transpired from the beginning to the end without holding anything back.

The Background  

It would be recalled that following the death of Mazi Kanu Oji, the legendary Eze Aro, there was a legal tussle over the ezeship, which lasted for eight years in the court and created an unhealthy atmosphere in the Palace and Arochukwu Kingdom worldwide. The animosity generated by that case persisted and one could proverbially touch the bitter wrangling among the royal families and even within family units. That case broke the Aro myth and we paid dearly for it as a kingdom.

Now, following the recent passage of Eze Aro, Eze Ogbonnaya Okoro, after twenty-five years on the throne, Umu Aro started demanding for a younger person as successor, especially when they considered that Mazi Oji Kanu Oji (now 91+ years) and Mazi Joshua Kanu Oji (now 86 years) were fiercely and bitterly seeking to outwit each other for the throne.  At the same time, there was and is still no love lost among the three royal family units. There was suspicion mostly fuelled by divisive gossips from outside the palace. 

Faced with this situation and the difficulties the lack of peace in the palace would present in finding a common ground to produce an Eze Aro, Okennachi commissioned in August 2021 a group  of 8 eminent persons: Mazi Ike Okornkwo, Mazi Obasi Lawson, Mazi PC Okoro, Mazi Nkem Okoro, Mazi Retd Justice Anyalewechi Onwuchekwa, Mazi Bank Anthony Okoroafor, Mazi Kanu Ivi and Mazi Kanu Oji Awa with the mandate to interact with the Princes to broker peace and create the atmosphere to help the Princes come up with a solution on how to give Aro an Eze. The Committee members spent their money travelling all over the country, co-opted people and had several meetings. After 8 months, precisely on the night of 18th April, 2023, Okennachi summoned a meeting of this Committee to know the outcome of their efforts. Their report showed that despite their efforts, troubles, expenses, travel risks, there was a total lack of appreciation or cooperation from the Palace.  There was no progress and no hope of the Princes coming together for the common good. At this juncture, the Committee was asked to stay action for a while and let peace actions be initiated from within the family circles.

Utughugwu Report 

In order to further facilitate the peace process, Utughugwu Committee, which comprised members who are family to the Princes, was established to resolve the issues pertaining to the Eze Aro selection. The committee’s first meeting was on July 30, 2022, but the Oji Okoro family did not attend while all other families were present. Those present made their submissions and the Utughugwu report was presented to Okennachi Kindred on the 20th of September 2023 for consideration and adoption.

The report was read to the Princes/Representatives of the 3 royal family units on 22nd September, 2023. The royal families appreciated the Okennachi Kindred for all the efforts and sacrifices they were making to find a solution to the problems at Oror.

The highlight of the meeting of 22nd September 2023 by Okennachi Kindred was to tell the Princes: “Go back home and discuss among yourselves and give us one candidate for Eze Aro”. If they are unable to do so, then let each house produce one candidate so that a committee would be set up to evaluate them and choose the best for Aro.” In other words, if the Princes failed to agree on one candidate, they had a deadline of 5th October, 2023 to submit names of their best candidates. A meeting was then fixed for 7th October to receive, accept and adopt their joint nomination or to evaluate their individual candidates. All the families, without exception, accepted the above suggestions with gratitude. 

The Nominations

Before the 5th October, 2023 deadline, Okennachi Kindred had received nominations for the throne of Eze Aro. The implications of the submission of candidates list from the families are that they could not harmonise their interests and agree on one candidate and by that they had accepted that their candidates be individually evaluated. The panel received the following nominations: From Asi Eko Oke - Prince Obioha Ogbonnaya Okoro; From Kanu Okoro Oke - Prince Godwin Idei and from Oji Okoro Oke - Prince Oke Kanu Oji & Prince Eberechukwu Oji. The two nominations from Oji Okoro family highlighted the rifts in the family. 

After the submissions of nominations, the President General of Okennachi Kindred had to constitute a panel of seven eminent Okennachi sons to evaluate the candidates. Despite their submitting names, Okennachi Kindred still continued to encourage the Princes to discuss among themselves and agree on a joint candidate. The members of the evaluation committee were: Mazi Obasi Lawson, Mazi Kanu Ivi, Mazi PC Okoro, Mazi Ugochukwu Okoroafor, Mazi Dr. Azubuike Okoro, Mazi Nkem Okoro and Eze Ogo Utughugwu, Mazi F. O. Ajunwa. 

The Delay of the Election Meeting 

At the meeting of the 7 October, 2023 at the Council Hall, Oror-Arochukwu, only Prince Oke Oji was there. Prince Godwin Idei had sent a message that his flight connection was delayed at Amsterdam and he would not arrive until the 10 October, 2023. Prince Ebere Oji sent a message that he was out of the country and would return and be in Aro by the 15 October, 2023. Prince Oke Oji informed he would not stay in Aro beyond the 17 October, 2023 as he was travelling abroad. In the panel, Mazi Kanu Ivi had to reschedule his flight to the USA, while Mazi PC Okoro had to call Lagos to reschedule his Doctor’s appointment. Members of the panel had been in Aro since before the 20 September, 2023 and Okennachi Kindred PG had to plead with them to continue to stay. After all considerations and pleas to members, a new date was agreed for 17 October, 2023 for the selection.

The Election Process 

On 17 October, 2023 morning, the Kanu Okoro (Idei) family unit informed that their candidate would be arriving Uyo from Brazil through Luanda in the early afternoon. The panel stood down proceedings until afternoon to allow for his arrival. With Princes Oke Kanu Oji and Eberechukwu Oji coming from one family unit, the panel told them they would only accept one person and urged them to go and reconcile their differences. By the time the panel reconvened in the afternoon, Prince Godwin Idei had arrived. Prince Oke Kanu Oji and Prince Ebere had reached consensus with Prince Oke Oji stepping down for Prince Ebere Oji to be the preferred candidate of Oji Okoro family unit. True to the tension in the family, Mazi Prince Oji Kanu Oji did not hesitate to protest, saying that Prince Oke Oji had no right to hand over the nomination he gave him to Prince Ebere Oji without his consent. However, Prince Oke Oji stood his ground by making the announcement public.

The panel adjourned the morning proceedings and reconvened in the night to continue the consultation with the princes to negotiate a consensus candidate. At the resumption of proceedings, the duo of Princes Goddy Idei and Ebere Oji was again advised to meet privately and agree on one candidate with a proviso that they would only be evaluated if they failed to reach a consensus.

Contempt of Vow and Court Judgement 

In the early morning of 18 October, 2023 before the commencement of the day’s proceedings, Okennachi Kindred received letters from Eze Ibom Isii, Mazi Kanu nwa Kanu and Eze Ezeagwu N’Okwaragwu dictating to Okennachi who should become Eze Aro and who should not - a responsibility totally outside their competence. Their main point was the bogus theory that ONYE NNA YA DI NDU ANAGHI ACHI EZE. The duo ordered Okennachi Kindred to select Prince Goddy Idei and went ahead to threaten that any candidate short of him would not be recognised by them. 

The action of the duo of Eze Ibom Isii and Eze Ezeagwu N’Okwaragwu was entirely meddlesome and a breach of the independence of the federating kindred’s in Arochukwu. Besides, the action was also in violation of the 2 January, 2015 vow entered and signed by Aro traditional rulers and Nzuko Aro Patrons and validated by consent judgement of 26 October, 2015 by Justice S.A. Nwakanma of Abia State High Court, Umuahia that “That Kindred Eze should no longer interfere with internal village administration and selection of Eze Ogo…” paragraph 9.

The Panel considered this communication and resolved to proceed arguing that “the great ancestor Nnachi was alive when his son, Oke, became Eze Aro”. Also, it was agreed that Mazi Prince Oji Kanu Oji, being the oldest and head of the family, had waived his right as Okwara Ezi and that confers traditional rights on the beneficiary.

The Selection 

When the proceedings resumed, the candidates were asked to advise the panel on the outcome of their consultation. Prince Ebere Oji informed the panel how they both wept the night before on each other’s shoulder. They both confirmed they could not agree to one candidate. They both agreed to submit themselves to be evaluated and voluntarily participate in the casting of vote.  Both candidates took turns and promised to support each other and whoever emerged winner. The entire people present and the candidates took group photographs at Ukwu Ovo Aro where Mazi Prince Oji Kanu Oji poured libation for peace. It was all smiles and camaraderie. 

Thereafter, each candidate was given a chance to present his manifesto and answer questions. During these presentations, 2 persons were allowed to be present for each candidate. The 2 persons were also allowed to make statements in support of their candidate. Mazi Philip Kanu Okoro and Mazi Okoro Idei spoke on behalf of Prince Goddy Idei. Mazi Oji Kanu Oji and Mazi Kanu Okoro Kanu Oji were for Prince Eberechukwu Oji.

At the end of the evaluation at the voting stage ,Mazi Emma Ivi stepped down from voting to make the panel composition odd number. Thereafter, to balance the panel a representative of Otusi Bianko and Amaja was nominated and an agreed seven-man panel was formed.  The panel wanted to use ballot papers but Mazi Philip Kanu Okoro protested vehemently, prompting the Chairman of the Panel to tear the papers publicly. The Panel asked everybody to leave while they considered their evaluations.

With the evaluation and voting among the seven members concluded and approved by all the parties, the panel invited everybody and announced their verdict, which was a 5:2 vote in favour of Price Eberechukwu Oji.

The Protest and Rejection of Verdict 

Upon the announcement of the verdict by the panel, there was uproar and rejection of the result by Prince Godwin Idei who had willingly submitted himself to the entire process. It is worthy to note that all parties had commended the selection process and pledged to abide with the outcome. Prince Goddy Idei, led by Mazi Philip Kanu Okoro stormed out of the Council Hall. Thereafter Mazi Philip Kanu Okoro Idei, began a campaign of calumny and blackmail calling the process he participated fully in, “kangaroo”, and accusing the committee of collecting bribe.

Documentation and Facts 

It is quite regrettable to observe that a process that all parties approved and consented to voluntarily to participate in is now being disparaged to mislead Aro citizens and present a picture of ‘kangaroo’ selection. 

The interesting thing about the above process is the video, pictorial and written documentation captured by the panel, detailing contributions by all the parties in the entire process and now made available in the public domain for Umu Aro to see and be the better judge. 

The Way Forward

To all intent and purpose, the process for the selection of Eze Aro of Arochukwu Kingdom has been concluded by the Okennachi Kindred and Prince Eberechukwu Oji has emerged as the Eze Aro-designate. Having emerged and been presented to Otusi Okennachi, Bianko and Amaja following the traditional procedure, Aro should move to crown him the Eze Aro with Eze Ibom Isii performing the ritual in agreement with Eze Otusi. 

It is my well-considered opinion that the Okennachi Kindred should, before the coronation of the Eze Aro-designate, create and standardise an enduring selection agreement building on the experience and challenges observed in this process for the future, and get the royal families and the three Otusi in Okennachi to sign their consent. Ours is such a globally revered kingdom that we cannot afford to continue exposing our stool of royalty to needless controversies and wrangling anytime there is a vacancy to fill. Having a standard, inviolable selection code will ensure seamless royal succession and attract respect to our kingdom. 

Long live Arochukwu Kingdom

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