The recent verbal attacks by the traditional ruler of Dindi Ihiagwa autonomous community of Owerri West local government area of Imo State, HRH, Eze Kingsley Odu, on an illustrious son of the community, Chief Festus Ekechi, had been roundly condemned by the leaders and people of the community who described these attacks as unwarranted, unnecessary and attempts by the monarch to deceive the public and cause distractions from the real causes of the crisis rocking Iriamogu which are Eze Kingsley Odu’s misrule, forcefully dispossessing people of their private lands and secretly allegedly selling the community’s ancestral land: Okohia and Okpe Ogoloshi without the knowledge and involvement of the people.
Speaking to our reporter on Friday, at Ihiagwa, a community leader of Iriamogu village, Mr Anoruo Mbawuike, referring to the March 26, 2021 edition of weekly Nigerian Watchdog Newspaper, observed that the names published there by the traditional ruler as “executives of Iriamogu Development Union (IDU) are false and merely tools the traditional ruler has appointed to use in actualizing his plot to complete his plan of selling off the people’s ancestral land and further dispossess them of their private lands”.
According to Mbawuike, the appointment or selection of IDU executives by Eze Odu violates section 14 (a-f) of the IDU Constitution which clearly states that “the general house has the sole right to choose their executives through an election conducted by an electoral committee. The same constitution also states that an existing executive council can leave office after the expiration of their tenure or be removed if found guilty of gross misconduct and both conditions applied recently to the former tenure of the Amarikwa- led executive council”.
He noted that in line with the constitution, “the Amarikwa- led exco was dissolved on March 14, and an electoral committee was set up sameday comprising of Mr Paul Oparaeke (Chairman), Chief George Oparaigwe (Secretary), Mr Chiaka Eboh (member) and Lucky Ajoku (member) with the mandate to conduct a credible election of Iriamogu Village Development Union (IDU) executives on or before April 11, 2020. The electoral committee fixed the election on march 28”.
Mbawuike added that “it is important to note that the IDU Constitution does not give the traditional ruler the power to select, nominate or dissolve the IDU exco and the involvement of Eze Odu in the affairs of IDU is an aberration borne out of the Eze’s interest in the manipulation of the people in the deforestation of our ancestral land (Okohia Iriamogu) which he and the former IDU exco led by Amarikwa Opara handled like their private business”.
“At the start of the deforestation of Okohia, Eze Kingsley Odu had invited the people to his palace to inform them that Rochas Okorocha’s government had taken over Okohia, waving a paper to the audience as one from the government, two people- Oliver Ekechi and Simon Onyewenjo had demanded to know the content of the paper and it was angrily thrown at Oliver Ekechi. Two weeks later, Onyewenjo was kidnapped in his farm at Okohia and this sent fear into all the people and nobody had courage to question the Eze again about Okohia, until recently when some stakeholders returned home and started asking questions about Okohia”.
“Owing to increased pressure, Eze Odu set up a committee to audit Amarikwa’s exco and the deforestation of Okohia, but when the committee started work, the Eze denied them access to Okohia to investigate it, the developer and all documents relating to Okohia, leading the committee to turn in an inconclusive report that the general house rejected and asked them to go back and produce a complete report. Since then, nothing has been heard about it”.
Mbawuike stressed that “all that the people of Iriamogu village are demanding from Eze Odu and whoever may be involved in the deforestation of Okohia is to account to the entire people on how many plots there are in the new Okohia. Let us know areas mapped out for markets, school, civic centre among others and the allocation to every family. We want the world to know that Iriamogu is made up of 21 families. During the plans for deforestation, only 6 families consented, yet Eze Odu went ahead to deforest it. As peace loving people who respect the Eze, no one questioned him”.
“Yet asking to know what happened in the Okohia is now causing problem between the Eze and the people. If the Eze and his co-travellers had no hidden agenda, why did they collect the 4 plots given to each family in the first phase of Okohia shared out by former IDU Chairman, Mr Paul Oparaeke and merged it with the second phase of Okohia the Eze and Amarikwa deforested and gave each family 4½ plots, meaning that what each family now got from the new Okohia is ½ plot and the new Okohia is 4 times bigger than the old”.
Mbawuike continued, “I am too big to be sponsored by anyone. People are tired of our Eze’s misrule and bad treatment to the people. He should desist from blackmailing people. Chief festus Ekechi has been advising him to do the right thing and the Eze’s sponsored attacks on this illustrious son of our community is because chief festus Ekechi has refused his overtures and bribes of plots of land aimed at winning his support in the deforestation of okohia. Rather chief festus Ekechi, as we know him, is a man of integrity, principles and has invested a lot in the progress and development of our community”.
“We know that this our son is on the side of the equity, justice and fairness and would never betray our people and the future generation of whom our okohia has been reserved as future habitation. Our Eze is simply uncomfortable with chief festus Ekechi whose honesty and strong character are stumbling blocks to him, hence the blackmail of sponsoring our agitations. I repeat: the people of our community are capable of fighting this battle to the end and no amount of blackmail or threat by anybody can stop us!”
Adding his voice, Hon Bright Agu, former youth chairman of Iriamogu Youth Development Union (IYDU) and a former ally of HRH Eze Kingsley Odu informed that at the beginning, he, as youth leader, had been invited with other youth to the Eze’s palace by Hon Chris Oguoma who was the said developer. It was there the Eze informed them that Hon Chris Oguoma was behind all things and the youth had wanted to know the details and the Eze promised to carry everyone along, but later decided to do without the people.
Agu explained that chief Festus Ekechi’s only offence to the Eze was his insistence and advice to the Eze that everyone be carried along in the issue of Okohia, saying Chief Festus Ekechi never sat in any meeting between them and the traditional ruler.
The youth chairman of Iriamogu Youth Development Union (IDU), Mr Kelechi Oparaigwe, referring to the news story sponsored by Eze Odu in the March 26, 2021 edition of weekend Nigerian Watchdog newspaper in which he was alleged to have stopped Imo housing from bringing poles for the development of iriamogu village, noted that it was a lie and that he was not a tout, but a responsible citizen, graduate of Banking and Finance and an entrepreneur with 25 staff on the payroll of his company every month.
Oparaigwe accused the Eze of doing everything possible to illegally remove a duely elected youth chairman so as to pave way for his illegal activities in their ancestral land. He called on HRH Eze Kingsley Odu to stop attacking people and do the needful which is simply adopting the principles of accountability and transparency in all matters, especially the okohia ancestral land of iriamogu village.