Historically, Idumuje people who are part of Idumuje clan in Aniocha North L.G.A. Delta State trace their roots to ancient Bini kingdom just like most of the Ezechima and Odiani people that left Benin in the 18th century.
Idumuje Uno and Idumuje Ugboko are one people that settled in different locations. They share boundaries with towns like Igbodo in Ika North East LGA, Onicha Ugbo and Ugbodu in Aniocha North LGA and Ewohinmi in Edo State.
They belong to the Igboid linguistic group but their political power structure, institutions and practices; draw largely from the ancient Bini kingdom.
Agriculture was their major preoccupation, but over time, commerce and other crafts as well as blue collar jobs, professional trainings, etc, have become part of the transformation that came with access to education and exposure to other civilisations.
Idumuje Ugboko is the epicenter of this analysis and it must be said that to understand a people you must look at their history, their mores, social and interpersonal relationship, religion, culture and other values that inform their world views.
Hence they say that those who ignore the lessons of history would repeat its tragedy.
A lot of half truths and misleading facts are being fed to the public through a media team whose mandate is to propagate false hood.
To understand the unfolding events, it is important to follow the historical trajectory of the hidden discontent and structures in the Royal family and the Idumuje Ugboko before the death of the king.
The Royal family in Idumuje Ugboko is among the ten largest in the world. Idumuje-Ugboko which is some four kilometers away from her sister community Idumuje-Uno was founded by a large number of people who migrated Idumuje-Uno as a result of a quarrel on the Odogwu traditional chieftaincy title as it were then at Idumuje. This exodus was led by Nwoko, a candidate for the Odogwu chieftaincy title who later became the first Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko.
Idmuje Ugboko Palace Coup
What is happening in Idumuje Ugboko kingdom today has all the trappings of a palace coup d’état and the two surviving widows of the late monarch are not hiding their views about the bizarre event.
They have written a petition to the IGP, demanding for an autopsy of the late monarch whom they claimed was strangled to death. The IGP has directed that an autopsy should be carried out on the late king.
At the time of this report, a petition has been written to the AIG zone 5 in Benin city to enforce a warrant of arrest which had been issued against Prince Nonso Nwoko who is battling over five criminal cases.
Bench Warrants of Arrest had been ordered against Prince Justin Chukwunonso Nwoko in the stated Charge NO: CMA/420C/2016 and Charge NO: MUO/5C/2016 since March, 2017 and renewed on 29th June, 2017.
It is a fact that when the case on Charge NO: CMA/420C/2016 came up for continuation of hearing on 29th June, 2017, the Police Prosecution Counsel who at the sitting of the court on 31st May, 2017 had applied for an order of the court which was granted by the court in Charge NO: CMA/420C/2016 to enable the Police verify the medical certificate from the Hospital Management Board, Owa-Oyibo tendered by Prince Barr. Mbanefo Nwoko (Counsel to the Accused) as reason for the 1st Accused absence in court, tendered before the court a disclaimer of the medical report from Hospital Management Board, Owa-Oyibo which was tendered on behalf of Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko who was absent in court on 31st May, 2017 by Prince Barr. Mbanefo Nwoko.
The Chief Magistrate in his ruling on 29th June, 2017, ordered the police to investigate the said medical report from Hospital Management Board, Owa-Oyibo with a view to uraveling those behind it. The medical report is alleged to have been forged. So far, the Crowned Prince has used the excuse that he is mourning the death of his father to avoid responding to Police invitations. A conviction on any of them could disqualify him from the kingship aspiration.
The move to drag the Star University project into the kingship tussle is only a ploy to exploit the emotive content associated with land matters to garner support for his schemes and divert attention from real problems that are rooted in history, culture and destiny of the people.
Birth right and Kingship
As stated above, there are historical and socio-cultural issues associated with who becomes the next monarch in Idumuje Ugboko after the demise of the last monarch. Before his exit, there were deep crisis in the Royal family as reflected in a position paper presented by Prince Dan. O. Nwoko, to the inaugural meeting of the Umu Obi Omorhusi Executive Council in the Royal Palace on April 6, 2016, in Idumuje Ugboko.
Some of the issues raised centered on lack of respect for senior members of the Royal family, exhibition of acts of indiscipline and unbridled ambition, disregard for traditional and protocols, usurpation of the functions of the monarch and the concept of primogeniture in Idumuje Ugboko kingdom.
Prince Dan O. Nwoko raised issues concerning primogeniture, qualifications and eligibility of the presumed Crown Prince eventually qualifying to exercise his birthday right. In other words, “the term Crown is a floating term as it hovers over whosoever is tagged the ‘Crown Prince’, until it crystallizes and rests on his head, that is when he is put on the throne.” Therefore, it can be frustrated under unwritten customs and laws. Such frustration can take place under the following circumstances:
• If the Crown Prince is pre-deceased the reigning monarch.
• If the Crown Prince is of unsound mind and is incapable of knowing or understanding what he is doing. No one will have an idiot as a king.
• If he is arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction of criminal offence, found guilty, sentenced and or fined. Certainly, no one will like to crown a criminal or ex-convict as a king. This has three dimensional phases taboo stage, tragic stage and tragedy stage. The three stages must be completed, before action can be taken for the ambulatory (floating) crown to continue its movement and search for the right person.
• Taboo stage as where the Crown Prince is invited to police station, quizzed, detained and taken on bail of any community in the country. For instance, if he has been involved in any armed insurrection or has aided, abetted or facilitated insurgency in the country or elsewhere.
• The tragic stage is where the Crown Prince is docked before a court of competent jurisdiction on criminal charge.
• Finally tragedy stage, where Crown Prince is found guilty on criminal charge, sentenced or fined.
• If he is an ex-convict and has not been granted parole by the governor, under the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, he is not a fit and proper person to ascend the throne At appropriate time, it is this executive council that has just been formed that will have the final say and advise Umu-Ologbo as the case may be.
When the time comes, and if he, the Crown Prince scales through all the above huddles, this council will organize one Man leadership training course for him. Where he will be coached by eminent scholars on traditional customs and leadership
– Qualities of a leader
– Approach to public issues
– handling of chiefs, subjects etc
– meaning of divide and rule, its attendant consequences
– The place of brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts etc in his life
– Arrogance, pride, stubbornness, favour and favouritism and how to develop listening ears.
– Native laws, customs, entrenched norms, prerogatives, and their applications
– Conflict resolution mechanism, disagreement management and tactics and tactical approach to issue
– History of kings, their growth, rise and fall and how a kingdom can be strengthened or fall
The training course content can be developed and enlarged.
The above is an innovation, but it is based on recent happenings and traits of our Crown Prince.
The Crown prince is not seen or heard while the father is still alive. He remains behind the scene and not dragged to public controversy:
The tradition of Idumuje Ugboko allowed the period of regency from 1955 to 1981 when departed HRM Obi Albert Nwoko, III, Ph.D, MON, JP was crowned the Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko.
Even though it is an established tradition that to be crowned king, both parents of the Crown Prince must be bonafide indigenes of Idumuje-Ugboko, in this case, mother of Prince Nonso Justin Nwoko hails from Ubulu-Uku in Aniocha South Local government. His own wife and mother of his children hail from Anambra state.
The Regency and Battle with Fate
There are two contenders to the throne namely; Prince Justin Chukwunonso Nwoko, whose mother is from Ubulu-Uku and Prince Uche Stephen Nwoko whose mother is from Idumuje-Ugboko.
Royal watchers assert that right from the first monarch, HRM Obi Nwoko I, his first son, Prince Omoje never ascended the throne because his mother was from neighbouring and sister town Idumuje – Unor. The crown went to Prince Omorhusi Nwoko, Prince Omoje s first son whose mother hailed from Ogbe-Ofu village. When Obi Omorhusi died, his first son Prince Justin Nkeze Nwoko whose mother was from Atuma village in Idumuje-Ugboko became king and known as Obi Nwoko II. When Obi Nkeze died in 1955; the issue of succession came up because the actual first son died before him. Prince Rowland S. O. Nwoko, who showed interest, was denied because his own mother was from Idumuje-Unor. The choice fell on Prince Demas Nwoko, but declined because his wife is from Umunze in Anambra state and that disqualifies his children from succeeding him as kings.
The mother of Prince Albert Nwoko was from Ugbodu and his wife was from Ubulu Uku, these precipitated a regency period from 1955 to 1981 (26yrs). The situation became unbearable for the people. The elders and the chiefs then met and contrived a plan to make Prince Albert Nwoko the king but with a proviso that he must marry a woman from his native land whose first son would succeed him for the throne.
His first son, Prince Justin Chukwunonso Nwoko had disqualified himself from any prospect of becoming king ab initio, by marrying a woman from the Eastern part of Nigeria. It is worthy of note that Obi Albert Nwoko III refused to perform the traditional naming ceremony of Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko’s first son in protest of Prince Chukwunonso’s refusal to marry from Idumuje-Ugboko in line with the tradition and the agreement reached between him and the community. Consequently, Obi Albert married an Idumuje-Ugboko woman immediately after he was coroneted the king in 1981.
At first, the woman he married from Idumuje Ugboko did not give him children. This set tongues wagging and there were insinuations of the use of “Natural power” on the woman. The king was forced to marry another second wife again from Idumuje-Ugboko. She gave him Prince Uche Stephen Nwoko 18 and other children, including the 14 year old girl that was victim of rape in the palace in 2016. This is the background to Prof. Som Nwoko’s letter where he warned that Prince Justin Chukwunonso Nwoko cannot succeed his father, HRM Albert Agbogidi Nwoko, III, Ph.D, JP, MON, on his demise.
The major challenge facing Idumuje-Ugboko, is that it may end up producing monarchs that are non indigenes and who know little or nothing about the culture and tradition of the people. Nevertheless, this looks like a script for home video movie, but we are dealing with a situation that goes beyond investing emotional capital.
Prof. Som Nwoko’s letter provoked uproar as some members of the Royal family challenged his radical position. The late monarch summoned a meeting of some senior members of the Royal family namely; Prince Martin Nwoko, Prince Demas Nwoko, Prince Som Nwoko and Prince Akaba Nwoko. He told them that such issues should not be discussed while he is still alive, thereby postponing the doomsday.
Now some traditionalists who are aware of this contraption are insisting that “the due process of selecting the next occupant to the throne as recognised by the culture and tradition of Idumuje Ugboko kingdom must be followed in selecting the next king of the town.
Suspicious burial of the late Monarch
The culture of Idumuje Ugboko kingdom requires that a King must be interred within 24 hours of his passage but the rite must be initiated by the Obi in Council led by the Iyase of the town who has the right to summon the council of chiefs consisting of the Iyase, the Odogwu, the Isama and the Uwolor amongst others. These are four (4) high ranking Chiefs who oversees their various four villages of the town namely Atuma, Ogbe Ofu, Ogbe Obi and Onicha Uku respectively.
The Iyase is the head of the Onotu warrior or local army. The Iyase is the traditional prime minister, the most powerful chief after the Obi. Traditionally, the Iyase is the first person to be contacted when the Obi, joins his ancestors. Thereafter, the Iyase will inform the Diokpas in the four quarters, who invite them to the palace to perform the necessary rites and respect. The death of the Obi will then be made official to the town. His interment will take place within 24 hours.
A period of Three (3) lunar months as set by the Obi in Council is declared as mourning period before commencement of the process for selecting a new king.
Meanwhile, the Iyase presides over all meetings in the palace during these 3 months and after the formal announcement. He then directs the Onotu and/or the Omu to ensure that the town’s market is closed and the people shave their hair as a mark of respect to the departed Obi. These directives are to last until the king is buried traditionally.
It is only after the burial ceremonies of the departed Obi that the process for the coronation of a new Obi commences. This must be religiously followed as the culture and tradition clearly demand.
But in his interview published in Daily Sun of June 20, Prince Justin Chukwunonso Nwoko said: “When the Obi passed on February 6, in our tradition there is no vacuum, the next person is installed. There is no argument about it; the first surviving son, which I am, is installed immediately after the burial. The burial took place around 12 midnight and I was installed at about 2 am. The next thing we heard was my siblings, saying I murdered the Obi. There is a petition to that effect”.
From the tone of this interview and by his own admission, it is clear Prince Nonso Justin Nwoko, and some persons loyal to him have circumvented the laid down traditional due process for the coronation of a new king.
Not only that the paramount Chiefs were sidelined, the traditional customs of selection were breached and we have a unilateral proclamation of a king. This has not gone down well with a majority of indigenes who are not comfortable with the idea of abusing traditional due processes for a matter as weighty as the coronation of a new king.
The fact that one of the Princes is addressed as the crown Prince does not confirm automatic conferment of the crown as there could be health conditions, ethical and social cultural issues that can disqualify such a candidate. The indigenes of the town must have a say in who becomes their king. The culture and tradition of Idumuje Ugboko kingdom does not support unilateral proclamation of Kingship or usurpation of the throne through the use of intimidation, acts of brutality and impunity on the peace loving people.
Games of thrones
This began four years ago 2013 when prince Nonso moved from Lagos to Delta. He believed that the king’s last wife must be forcibly evicted from the palace. She was the life and soul of the king and much younger person. She was in her thirties while the king was in his eighties but she was a good companion for the king and gave him the much needed support and attention. Prince Nonso organized a group of boys to beat up the woman who was 7 months pregnant at the time. Her shop was looted and destroyed and her vehicle taken from her. Nonso was arrested and charged along with others for stealing and criminal damage. This brutal act of violence is exactly the same style he had adopted in recent times by getting cult boys to burn and destroys properties belonging to his opponents.
The immediate cause of the violence that erupted was the attempt to call an illegal town’s meeting that sort to exclude the chiefs, men and youths who were opposed to Prince Nonso’s crowd. The incident led to the killing of one okada rider from the neighboring village and the violence spread. The thugs loyal to Nonso destroyed 25 homes, cars, motorcycles and shops belonging to those who are not his supporters. Among the victims were the Iyase, Odogwu, the 2 wives of the late king, the President of Idumuje Ugboko Development Union (IUDU) home branch amongst other. 10 of them have been arrested and charged with various criminal offences varying from conspiracy and murder. Many of the hoodlums are still at large threating further violence on innocent indigenes.
Prince Uche Stephen Nwoko was setup when a bag was given to him to keep for Prince Nonso Nwoko. The police were promptly informed of the bag, lo and behold it contained a sawn off short gun. He was arrested and kept in custody for 3 months before the matter was eventually dismissed. The plan was to keep him away from the palace and from any contention to the throne.
Eviction of the younger princes and princess from the palace
It not surprising that as soon as the king died, his younger children who lived with him in the palace were forcibly evicted as their presence was unsavory to prince Nonso who must rule at all cost with no trace of opposition.
Rape in the Palace
On August 3, 2016, a 14 year old daughter of the late monarch was allegedly raped in the palace. The victim was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital, Asaba, for treatment which lasted for three weeks. Efforts were made to cover the crime but a petition by a former President-General of Idumuje-Ugboko Development Union dated 20th September 2016, to the Delta State Police Commissioner CP Zanna Ibrahim, titled, “Compounding Felony, to Wit, Rape on A Princess…” brought the Federation of International Female Lawyers to step into the matter. The girl was left to suffer humiliation and rejection with nobody to defend her rights. The intervention of FIDA resulted in the arrest of three Princes who are facing trial at Magistrate court three in Asaba, Delta state. It is strange that such an abominable act was concealed even by female members of the family. Rather than rehabilitate the rape victim, she was allegedly withdrawn from her School, Command Secondary School Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, to Onicha Ugbo Girl Secondary School in Aniocha North. She was issued a threat that she would die a “Natural” death if she ever discloses the identity of the rapist to anyone. This was the same threat that was issued to the guardian of Prince Uche Nwoko, an Army Sergeant (name withheld), who was made the scapegoat and coerced to accept responsibility for abominable and despicable act was issued with the same threat and made to pay a fine. Even though the father of the girl, HRM Albert Nwoko, the Obi was still alive then, the matter was not brought to his knowledge.
Scapegoatism and reign of Terror
Watchers of the event in Idumuje Ugboko must have noticed the systematic use of threat and intimidation by Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko to crush every opposition to his ambition to be king.
In his petition of July 12, 2017, to the AIG, Zone 5, Benin city, a concerned and peace loving indigene of Idumuje Ugboko stated that since the unilateral proclamation of his kingship, by Prince Justin Chukwunonso Nwoko, there is now a reign of terror in Idumuje Ugboko as anybody who is perceived to be a hindrance to the Prince Nonso usurpation plan is threatened with banishment or declared persona non grata. Such persons or group of persons cannot go about their lawful activities in peace. They cannot go to their farms or go to the market for fear of been attacked by supporters of the new “obi”.
Before he switched his loyalty to the Crown Prince, Mr. Okey Ifejioku, had written a petition to the CP Mr, Zanna Ibrahim about the activities of a group that was robbing and terrorizing people on the Onicha Ugbo, Idumuje Ugboko, Ewohinmi, Abuja road. They were promptly arrested and detained when guns and other weapons were found in their possession but Prince Nonso Nwoko promptly intervened as the cult boys are his hit men and Okey Ifejoku who effected their release. Those same boys have become palace urchins and the new foot soldiers that are enforcing the reign of tyranny in the town.
They have been soliciting for funds to acquire more weapons to fight those they have classified as “our common enemies “.
Setting up People for Crime
Apart from the intimidation, arson, brutalisation of People who are seen as opposed the usurpation plan, others who are contesting for the crown or known to support Prince Uche Stephen Nwoko, are set up and have evidence planted on them. Prince Uche Nwoko suffered an arrest and a three month detention on the allegation of being in possession of gun, a plot by Prince Nonso Nwoko and his supporters to criminalise the young Prince Uche Nwoko, to disqualify him from the contest. They failed to sustain prosecution of the young Prince Uche and the case was eventually dismissed.
Within two months of the passage of the late monarch, his two wives and other young members of the Royal family were thrown out of the Palace without any plans to care for them.
Violation of Fundamental Human Rights
There is flagrant violation of the freedom of speech, association, conscience as guaranteed by the 1999. Indigenes of Idumuje Ugboko who are not free to express their views at Izu ani, General meeting because those oppose the usurpation plan are fined indiscriminately, others are threatened with banishment or death through a diabolical means called “Natural”cause especially if they speak against the Crown Prince. Late Prof. Som Nwoko is cited as an example to others who say Prince Justin Chukwunonso Nwoko would not be the king. Some people from Ogbe Ofu village have been threatened with banishment from the town if they refuse to be loyal to this taboo.
The king under House Arrest
Even before his contrived death on February 6, 2017, the late Monarch had been held prisoner in the Palace by Prince Nonso, Prince Richard Obiajulu and Prince Ejimofor amongst others. He was made unreachable and rendered incommunicado by some cabals in the Palace. Not even his wives nor the chiefs could reach him yet he was not in poor health.
The Crown Prince took over the administration of the kingdom, issuing proclamation which led to the Chiefs instituting a civil case in suit No. HCI/1/16 before the State High Court Issele-Uku in March, 2016 and obtained an Injuction restraining Prince Chukwunonso and others from usurping the duties of the Chiefs. This court order he has flouted severally. Prince Dan O Nwoko warn him in his Position paper of April 2, 2016, cited earlier in this article. According to the tradition of Idumuje Ugboko, a Crown Prince does not participate in the administration of the kingdom while the father is alive.
In one of such Court matters, Prince Edwin Nwoko deposed to an affidavit discontinuing with the matter claiming that they were acting without authority of the king or the family at large.
Diversion from Acts of Criminality
The Iyase of Idumuje Ugboko, Chief Chris Ogwu, the Odogwu Chief Sunday Edemodu, the Chairman of the Land Allocation Committee, Chief Kennedy Illoh, members of the Onotu amongst others participated in the Izu-Ani where the application for the allocation of the land for the Star University project have all become victims of acts of vandalism, arson and threat to their lives.
These issues have not been resolved and could not be resolved by evoking emotions on issues that are already in court of law. Some of these excesses have been afoot in the past four years when the Crown Prince relocated from Lagos to Asaba, as he claimed, to monitor the events in the kingdom.
The issue of acquisition of land and payment of compensation to the farmers has been in Court in the past two years. The process of ascending the throne in towns within Aniocha North is duly recognised by the Council of Traditional Rulers and the Delta State Government, it would be a bad precedence to allow a palace coup and usurpation of the kingship throne in Idumuje Ugboko to succeed no matter how persuasive the propaganda may seem, the rule of law must prevail above the rule of the jungle and brute force…
Ugbaja wrote from Lagos…..