The installation of Obi Ifechukwude Chukuka Okonjo 11 of Ogwashi-Uku kingdom has thrown the kingdom into turmoil. Another prince, Nathan Okonjo, claims he has been installed by an aggrieved party, writes Okungbowa Aiwerie in Asaba

OGWASHI-UKU Kingdom in Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State is on the boil again. At the centre of the debacle is a decade old kingship tussle, which predates Obi Ifechukwude Chukuka Okonjo 11, who succeeded Obi Ben Chukuka Okonjo, a professor of mathematics and father of ex-Finance Minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The new obi’s coronation followed the endorsement and presentation by the Umu Obi Obahai royal family of Ogwashi-Uku and the traditional chalking and crowning ceremonies conducted by the Ikelike and Agidiehi (kingmakers) in Ogwashi Uku.

Despite the colourful ceremonies heralding the reign of the young monarch, a faction of the royal family, led by Prince Nathan Okonjo and his siblings, is on the warpath.

Historically, the Umu Obi Obahai royal family had suffered usurpation by the Dieyi’s regency for 140 years. But in a landmark ruling, an Asaba High Court on January 24, 2007, restored the throne to the Umu Obi Obahai royal family.

Despite the court judgment, peace has eluded the Ogwashi-Uku royal family as litigation continues to threaten the community’s unity and peace.

The crux of the matter, according to Prince Nathan Okonjo, lies in the correct interpretation of the judgment by Justice S.C Oseji, which states in item (ii): “It is the duty of the said family to meet to examine the eldest son of the late Obi and his qualifications as hereinbefore stated. It is this meeting of the sole ruling dynasty which is entitled to resolve all questions as to the qualifications and fitness for appointment and all pre-selection claims or counter-claims. If any, including in case of any dispute arising as to seniority in age between two sons of the late obi by different mothers, to determine the issue of seniority between the two sons and put forward the elder son for the succession.”

He alleged that some key family members were induced financially, saying that due process was not followed in the selection of the incumbent obi.

Prince Nathan Okonjo said: “I went to court because our family, the larger Umu Obi Obahai family, did the wrong thing. The Hon. Justice Oseji judgment was in favour of the Umu Obi Obahai family that went to court, but within the Umu Obi Obahai family is the Okonjo dynasty-the sole owners of the throne. Instead of allowing us (Okonjos) do the normal thing as the court-ordered i.e. picking and selecting a candidate to be put forward, the Umu Obi Obahai now decided to award the obiship to Prof Okonjo without following due process. Of course, right from the outset, I objected. I wrote a protest letter to the kingmakers telling them that they should not be in a hurry to chalk anybody. I told them that the man they are bringing forward is not fit and proper to rule. I have copies of these letters (displaying a sheaf of papers). The one we wrote on February 8, 2007, soon after the judgment, then the one of February 21, 2007, on the same subject-matter. You know the daughter was a one-time Finance mnister of the federation; she aided him.”

He went on: “Some of us objected, pointing out that due process was not followed. That process is for the Okonjos to sit and decide because as it is, at the time of the judgment, nobody’s father was an obi. So, for someone to make the claim of succession from father to son is ludicrous. My father was the last of the Okonjos that lived and he instituted this legal action that proved successful in 1984. If things were done properly, I, being the eldest son, should be selected, but they used unorthodox means to get him (Prof Okonjo) there.”

In his protest letter to the chairman of Aniocha South Traditional Council, Prince Okonjo said the procedure for selection of obi is that the Emordi family, acting through the Diokpa of the Emordi family, requests the Okonjo family to meet and provide two candidates for confirmation by the Emordi family. Also, the confirmation of the two candidates by an oracle must be witnessed by three or four persons in the Emordi family, one being a woman.

According to him, this crucial process was bypassed. The Umu-Obi Obahai family, he said, acted outside the main Umu Emordi group. Their (Umu Obi Obahai) only role is to accept the nomination of the Okonjo family as presented by the Umu Emordi family.

In furtherance of his desire to become king, Prince Nathan has commenced the chalking rites preparatory to being crowned obi.

He added that his action is based on an Ogwashi Uku High Court’s judgment by Justice Tessy Diai delivered on November 22, 2012.

Prince Nathan Okonjo said he had been chalked and installed by the Umuonihe Adimoso Ruling House.

According to Nathan Okonjo, the Umuonihe Adimoso, according to Justice Diai, is entitled to nominate, recommend and present a candidate for the conferment of the chieftaincy title of Onihe of Ogwashi-Uku, which also installs an Obi.

He said the age-long Ogwashi-Uku succession tradition of primogeniture cannot be swept under the carpet, adding that as the eldest male in the Okonjo family; he is the authentic obi of Ogwashi-Uku kingdom.

The late Obi Okonjo

Also, there is another suit instituted last year by Prince Clement Okonjo at an Ogwashi Uku High Court challenging the new monarch.

The suit between Prince Clement Okonjo and others vs Prof Ben Okonjo and six others has, among other reliefs, a perpetual injunction seeking to stop Obi Ifechukwude 11, who is listed as the fifth defendant, from parading himself as the crown prince to the throne.

Prince Clement Okonjo said because Obi Ifechukwude Okonjo 11 was joined in the suit, it was wrong for him to have allowed himself to be crowned as obi of Ogwashi-Uku.

His words: “This is because whether an interlocutory injunction has been granted or not against the installed obi, one should obey and respect the rule of law by holding forth until the matter is dispensed with.”

Reacting to insinuations that the new monarch was crowned in error, the Ogwashi-Uku royal family faulted such claims.

In a statement jointly signed by the Acting Diokpa; Umu Obi Obahai royal family; Prince Emmanuel Nwokolie Ohei; Ozoma of Ogwashi-Uku; and Palace Secretary Prince Okolobi Nkemjika Lawrence; Prince Ifeakanachukwu Emordi;  they urged the public and the people of Ogwashi-Ukwu to disregard any misinformation being peddled by “some disgruntled individuals”.

The seven-paragraph statement reads:  “It has come to our attention that Patrick Okonjo, a renegade and serial petition writer has issued a statement in which he claims to be speaking for the Umu Obi Obahai royal family.

“We want to make this known: Patrick Okonjo does not speak for the family; he speaks only for himself as he has always done.

“We urge our people, the public, media and all stakeholders to ignore the reckless comments of Patrick. He has been issuing such frivolous statement and filing frivolous court cases in pursuit of his selfish interest for over a decade.

“The Umu Obi Obahai royal family is united in its decision which produced Obi Ifechukwude Chukwuka Okonjo. And this decision has been endorsed by Agidiehe and Ikelike , the kingmakers. The successful installation, enthronement and the joy of the people last Friday (September 13, 2019) knows no bounds and goes to show that the people of Ogwashi-Uku are happy with this decision.”

According to the statement, the new obi is rounding off the remaining traditional processes and set to begin his reign, adding: “ We thank God for making the process smooth and we also ask Ogwashians to pray for the progress and development of our great kingdom.”

Certainly, the last has not been heard in the hometown of the Okonjos.

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