His Royal Highness Eze Jude Ejefobiri, is the traditional ruler of Igbo community (Eze Igbo) of Idu and Karmo, Abuja Municipal Area Council. In this interview in Abuja with Correspondent Paschal Emeka, he spoke on the role of traditional rulers in Igbo community in Diaspora and other sundry issues. Excerpts:
Can you explain the importance of traditional rulers (Ndi Eze) in Igbo Communities in Diaspora?
There are traditional rulers (Eze Igbo) in all Igbo Communities Worldwide. They settle dispute among members of the community, ensure that they live in harmony with their hosts. So Ndi Eze is very important for peaceful co-existence of the Igbo’s and their hosts. By the special Grace of God we are doing a wonderful workthat is very important in the society. We make sure that there is peace. We gather our people together bringing them under one culture.
From time to time we held ceremonies like offalas and new yam festivals. They don’t have to travel to Igbo land to practice their cul- ture. We refuse to allow the culture of the hosts to influence them. For instance, if there is no Ndi Eze in Abuja, Gbagyi culture would have swallowed our culture long time ago. Some people like my sons and daughters were born and brought up here in Abuja.
We gather together and inculcate the culture and traditions of Igbo land in them. I went to a secondary school the other day, they displayed Igbo culture and I was very happy. I encouraged them and promised them that I will come again because I love what they are doing. They dance, played and sang in Igbo language.
Some people are saying that Igbo language will soon go into extinction because parents no longer teach their children the language. What is your reaction?
Igbo language will not die. It will not; it cannot and it shall not. There is no way Igbo language will die. If Igbo language will die, what about those in Onitsha, in Owerri, in Anambra will all of them die? That one or two persons found themselves in a new environment and could not be able to join the old environment does not mean that the language is dying. There are Igbo’s everywhere speaking their language. I was baf- fled when I discovered that there are Igbo market in Togo and Benin republic. Even in Cameroon there is Igbo market, so how can Igbo lan- guage die? It will not. Even in my church, we have Igbo Mass, Igbo activities and ser- vices. In Gansu, Zamfara State, I have attended a thanks giving Mass conducted in Igbo language. Even in Kano, there are also church services conducted in Igbo language. If this is happening in far North, why some of us in Abuja are saying that the Igbo language is going into ex- tinction. Does it mean that I as Igbo man living in Abuja will abandon my mother tongue?
The Ohaneze Ndi Igbo sometime ago refused to recognize Igbo traditional rulers outside Igbo land. Have they changed their positions?
That is when a man called Eze Ilomuanya was the chairman of Tra- ditional Rulers Council in Imo State. He went about campaigning against us and said we are (Ndi ndu) Lead- ers of Igbos in Diaspora. What do you mean by leaders; is a leader not a king. He is a confused man. Last year, we were able to reach out to His Excellency Rochas Okorocha governor of Imo state who gave use Staff of office as His Honour or his Royalty (Ochi Igbo) rulers of Igbo in Various places outside Igbo land. We deserve that staff of office as His Honour or Rulers of Igbos in Diaspora. Down East, the (Ezes) traditional rulers are happy with us because we are complementing their roles. No traditional ruler in Owerri, Nnewi or Akwa will abandon his seat and come and rule in Abuja. It is not possible. We are representing them. We are even doing a wonder- ful work which they should be proud of.
What is the Ndi Eze (Tradi- tional Rulers) in Abuja doing to protect the interest of Igbos living in Abuja?
The truth is that Igbos are true Nigerians. Go to the Eastern parts of the country and find out how many Yoruba’s or Hausas have houses there. We believe in Nigeria. If you go to Bauchi, Gombe, Ibadan or Lagos; properties owned by the Ig- bos are countless. We have told our people to be law abiding. If you are building houses, make sure you have genuine certificate of occupancy and other relevant documents. We have also advised them to engage in le- gitimate businesses and ensure they live in harmony with their neighbors.
Is it true that Igbos don’t have kings as alleged by some people?
That Igbos doesn’t have kings is an old adage. It simply means that Igbo man does not believe in the cultures of some tribes who prostrate to their kings as if they are God. An average Igbo man is independent minded. They don’t make prostrating to their kings their pre-occupation. That is why they do say Igbos don’t have kings.
Before the last presidential election, Ohaneze endorsed Dr. GoodluckJonathan, while Igbo traditional rulers in Diaspora endorsed MuhammaduBuhari. Is it that Igbo’s are not speaking with one voice?
You cannot endorse any candidate without a general consensus. If you want to endorse, you carry every- body along. When the Ohaneze en- dorsed Jonathan, we the traditional rulers in Diaspora came together and read the handwriting on the wall. We gave them our blessings and finally, Buhari won. I believe we did not err. We are not politicians, we only give blessings.
What’s your advice to Ndi Igbo concerning President Buhari’s administration?
I have studied Buhari from his military days; in fact even before he joined the army, I was privilege to go to Daura where he comes from and I came to understand that he is a straight forward person. As a man of honor he still has a single building in Kaduna, despite having opportunities to steal money. We should pray that God gives him all it takes to succeed as a president. The president is the father of Nigerians, no matter any tribe you come from. Therefore we should support him. He should in turn prove to the world that Igbo’s are his friends, by reconstructing Enugu/Onitsha ex- press road, Port-Harcourt/Owerri road and liasewith Governor Obi- ano to build an Airport in Anambra State.
Are you paid by FCDA con- sidering the humanitarian roles you play in IduKarmo?
Nobody is paying us. All I am doing is a sacrifice. We go to po-lice to settle cases; we go to market and settle cases and I am spending my money on all these. We go to hospitals and settle bills. We go to Gwarimpa, we go to Jiwa, we go to Karmo, and we go to Gwagwa to settle disputes between our brothers and sisters. We help the poor and the sick in our communities and we pray that government will remember us at least with a monthly stipend. If I tell you how much we spent monthly, you may not believe it, and every- body believes that traditional rulers are rich. If Buhari’s administration should remember us in any form, we will not say no.
But your equivalents in the far North are paid by state governors?
I heard that some of them are be- ing paid, but I have not seen that is why we are appealing to the Senator representing FCT to come to our aid because he is elected by the people. The minister is only an appointee. He can initiate a bill that will make government recognize Ndi Eze who is in Abuja. Everybody comes to my palace including Yoruba, Hausa, and Gbagyis seeking for one form of assistance or the other and I can- not turn them back.
Do you have any regret?
No. it is a thing of joy, I thank God that I am privileged to be a traditional ruler, I have no regrets. I was chosen by my people to serve them and I was chosen out of many, whoIamtosayno.Iamalsodoing the work of God and he will reward me.
What is the relationship between you, indigenes and their traditional rulers?
I thank God for the people of Idu/ Karmo. I have a cordial relationship with them. The Halkimi of Idu and I were going round before the last elections telling people to stop running away; during their festivals, they invite us and we go and pay them homage.
If we are having events, we equally invite them. I pray that this relationship continues.