Ephraim .C. Okafor
In the context of this discuss as it regards the subject of Appointment by the Colonial Masters of persons as Warrant Chiefs and its implications in the traditional Igbo society using the current Ezeship imbroglio in Mbubu-Amiri, note should be taken that Igbo kingship institutions developed from three notable sources. The first is indigenous and ancient priesthood, which traditionally combined clerical and political duties of leaders in the village-based republics.
Ezes were recognized in Arochukwu, Awka, Nri-Igbo, Owere, Northern Nsukka and Ngwa – the most populous Igbo sub-group. In Ngwa, Josaiah Ndubuisi Wachuku was Eze from ancestral, royal lineage. Enugu-Ezike, Ovoko, and Iheakpu-Awka are home to the Igbo-Eze communities. The King is variously referred to as Eze or Ezeikpe, depending on lineage. Secondly, the neighboring Benin Empireimposed certain conventions by colonizing certain parts of Nigeria.
According to an opposite view, the Eze of Nri influenced the constitution of the Benin Oba’s status. Differing points of view are focused particularly on the communities of Asaba, Onitsha, and Oguta. According to some scholars who argue against what is known as the Afigbo and Omenka Thesis on Origin, Igbo kings of these places trace the historical roots of their investiture immediately to the Oba of Benin. They tend to be called Obi as royal title of honour.
The third source of Igbo kingship is believed to be 19th and 20th century colonial rule by the British. Under a policy of indirect rule, the colonial administration created “warrant chiefs,” selecting recognised individuals to serve as administrators, rulers, judges and tax collectors. Native to their communities, warrant chiefs were usually selected from among those men who were most cooperative with the colonial administration, who were passionate about their people and of great sound mind and reputation.
After Nigeria gained its constitutional independence from Britain on Saturday 1 October 1960, many of those warrant chiefs maintained their status by seeking to recast their political roles.They clamoured to be among traditional rulers and were collectively retained by government of independent Nigeria vis a vis Igbo Eastern Nigeria, epecially in cases where there were no divergent views and stiff opposition.
The above has direct correlation with the current incident in Mbubu Amiri kingship tussle where the irreducible truth being that Ngwadom Okorie satisfied the Traditional “Aptitude Test” in that being from Amapu village and also Ngwadom family that calls itself first in Amapu village, he succeedingly became the Traditional Head of Amiri which in our Igbo Traditional rulership system was refered to as Eze Amiri.
In his capacity and disposition as Eze Amiri he presided over cases most profoundly proven by the official records with Ugwu Apali ( Orlu). His appointment as Warrant chief sometime around 1912 empowered him to carry out judicial functions reserved for any Eze anywhere in the whole of Eastern Nigerian and his complementary roles as Warrant chief helped cement his Ezeship roles.
To further buttress the fact that he was the Village Head cum Eze Mbubu Amiri, his colleagues all from the 9 (Nine) villages that made up Amiri clan namely Ogbennaya Ikerioke Amaokpara, Nwire Oloziriuwa-Nchoko, Obilom Okwudaa- Umuduru, Eleghasim Nwanjaba- Ugbeke, Nnadiawuke Orusakwe- Mbubu, Ogbeama Irechukwu Ubahazu, Amaukwu Agwubuo-Amuka, Ojibe Esionwu- Umudioka,Agupuruonye Okoroji- Isiorie and Ogujiofo Durumbaegbu-Umuecheta.- due to his gravity and fearlessness – these men appointed him, Eze Ngwadom Okorie, to represent the entire Amiri Clan when the Whitemen came.
With this, it is safe and sacrosanct to add here that Eze Ngwadom Okorie was the first Eze of Amiri clan. This is archived and can be found at National Archive Enugu. There was harmony not until 1979 when Imo state government created State Council of Chiefs and demanded communities to present to it names of their Ezes. The entire Amiri gathered on the instance of Dr. Okechukwu Okibedi, who just started his tenure as Deputy Speaker Imo State House of Assembly.
There emerged for the first time controversies as to whom Amiri would send his name. As of this moment, Sylvester Okafor was the chairman of Amiri Community Council, a position Grand father to Prof. Ekelekamchukwu Ngwadom, Nathaniel Ibenyenwa Ngwadom appointed him in 1977 in his powers and authority as the traditional head of Amiri community. The said Sylvester Okaforwas nominated and his name sent as Eze Amiri. His name was subsequently gazetted to that effect.
But prior to this exercise, Chief Elugwe Unagwu from Amuka had moved a motion that Ngwadom should be sent to Owerri to represent Amiri. Chief Nicholas Oguejiofor from Umuecheta objected, with the claim that Umuecheta is the first son of Amiri. Chief Paul Ogbeama argued that Amiri should send one of their sons who has money as their representative. He acknowledged Eze Ngwadom as the Head of all Amiri chiefs but he does not have money.
“We are tired of contributing money for projects in Amiri. We want an Amiri son who will be able to do things for us with his money when government calls upon us,” he said. He went ahead to nominate Sylvester Okafor, a business man based in Onitsha. At that, the meeting ended in stalemate.
The chairman of Amiri Development Union, Mr. Gerald Ubazi adjourned the meeting to July 1978 for possible truce. On that date, the ADU set up a Chieftaincy Committee which developed a new constitution that changed the Ezeship from being “Hereditary” to being “Rotational” but made the ten village heads as Hereditary or Permanent.
For instance, since Ubahazu has nominated Sylvester Okafor, because he had money, they still live in the Ogebama family as hereditary, because Ogbeama is one of the Ngwadom kingmakers. Within these stretch of time, Sylvester was coming to Prof. Ekelekamchukwu’s grandfather’s house telling him that he was not interested in contesting the Ezeship with him i.e. Nathanial Ngwadom.
He was said to have admonished him that if he was not interested why not step aside!!. Dr. Okechukwu Okedibe former deputy speaker Imo House of Assembly, can attest to this event. The details were well captured in the book “History of Amiri” (Ngwadom E.). It is never true that Nathaniel Ngwadom or anyone from their family voluntarily handed off the throne to anyone. The matter was unresolved.
The Amiri chieftaincy committee retained the permanency of Ezeship in the ten villages as ” Hereditary” …constitution drafting committee which Chief Alphonsus Efelemegide Ngwadom the father of Prof. Ekelekamchukwu Ngwadom, was even signatory to. It is noteworthy that Ngwadom family has been the figure head of Mbubu people and for thishas relentlessly, righteously, laid claim to the Ezeship of the Mbubu Amiri.
If Amiri Chieftaincy Committee constitution recommendations mean anything to Amiri people and the words of those elders can stand the test of time, the Hereditary clause enshrined in that document for village heads in which Ngwadom is the one
in Mbubu, any argument of rotation in the newly created Mbubu Autonomous Community does not hold water.
it is also a historical fact buttressing the immutable claims of the Ngwadoms of being the undisputed head of Amiri. In 2006, one of the uncle of Prof. Ekelekamchukwu Ngwadom had visited his father for the purpose of the Mbubu people applying for an autonomous community with Prof.’s father as the traditional ruler. Cyril Ugochukwu Uzoukwu admitted he would not want to be Eze. He avowed his support to Alphonsus Ngwadoms and bemoaned how Amiri people have been treating him.
His seemingly kind expressions only reminded Alphonsus Ngwadom the way and manners his father Chief Wilfred Uzoukwu supported his (Ngwadom’s) own father then. He( Ngwadom) suggested to them of the need to add Amaokpara to Mbubu to read Amambu autonomous community. Chief Stephen Ike and his brother Edwin Ikerioke were consulted. They agreed and stated that as far as Ngwadom shall be Eze there won’t be any issues.
A few people from Amaokpara raised objections demanding that it should be rotatory with Ngwadom being the Eze and that after he dies it will come to them. When they noticed that the arrangement didn’t go down well with Mbubu people who insisted on hereditary, they pulled out. Mbubu proceeded with the application for autonomy with Ngwadom as their Eze.
Another argument emerged from within Mbubu that it should be rotational from family to family. Prof.’s father, Ngwadom Alphonsus disagreed with them citing that Mbubu ezeship is hereditary and not rotational. This is evident when a titled man in Mbubu dies his son will ( Macha agada Eze ya) – take his place or succeed him. Ngwadom Alphonsus and his supporters from Mbubu successfully applied for an autonomous community. It was granted in 2011.
Unfortunately, on the day of presentation of the certificate, Eze Ngwadom was kidnapped by a group of people led by Mr. Charles Ndobi. They didn’t realize that the certificate was aleady printed. Noticing that they couldnt change the name, they went and reapplied with a non-existent community Mbutu Amiri in Oru West local government.
Cyril Uzoukwu has been operating with that document for seven years now until he was apprehended. He claimed it was a mistake in the name; if Mbubu was mispelt as Mbutu in error what about the inclusion of Oru West, instead of Oru East, is it also a mistake?
Hon. Barr. Ephraim .C. Okafor, Head of Practice, E.C. Okafor01&Co.(Okemuo Chambers).