Traditional rulers, by virtue of their positions as fathers to all have the right to host anybody with political ambition even though they are and remains non-partisan, reports Peterclaver Egbochue
During political era, politicians seeking royal blessing regardless of their platforms often visits them. But for the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, traditional rulers should be partisan and those who dared to host politicians from other platforms must be dealt with. According to reliable sources, this has been the fate of 40 traditional rulers under the former Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, HRH. Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, who welcomed former President Goodluck Jonathan, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to Imo State in March in the build-up to the general elections.
Interestingly, the traditional rulers who played host to General Muhammadu Buhari, (retd), who was the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) when he visited Imo State, were reportedly handsomely rewarded and neither intimidated nor suspended. Four months after the election, the traditional rulers are still being intimidated. Only recently, Governor Okorocha reiterated that traditional rulers who constitute themselves into opposition to his administration would be severely dealt with.
Addressing the traditional rulers and political leaders from the Mbaise Nation, who paid him a solidarity visit at the Government House, Okoroocha maintained that traditional rulers who continued to fight his government would have themselves to blame. The governor, who disclosed that his government had set up a committee to look into the case of 40 traditional rulers who had dragged him to court over an action he never took, admonished the traditional rulers involved not to allow themselves to be deceived by the old style of the PDP where they used the instruments of then federal government to disobey the orders of the state government.
His words, “traditional rulers still operating on the wrong impression created or standard set by the PDP in the state would have themselves to blame. The Ezes who have continued to fight the government will have themselves to blame. Again, those who believed that they had relationship with the president of the PDP extraction are no more in power today. But I cannot do what they did because I want to show leadership. I am proud of traditional rulers from Mbaise. “The level of impunity displayed by the PDP people who believed that they were connected with the president during the election in Mbaise area was embarrassing. Today, the PDP government is gone.
It is not in my character for vengeance. Nothing is permanent in life. So, the period of politics or campaign of calumny has gone and this is the period of governance. I am looking at the state now from the angle of good leadership and not from the angle of politics.” In his response, leader of the delegation and deputy chairman of the state council of Ndi-Eze, HRM Eze Chidume Okoro, pledged their loyalty, promising that the traditional rulers from Mbaise were solidly behind the Governor and his Rescue Mission Government in the state.
It would be recalled that 40 traditional rulers from the 27 local government areas in the state had resolved to resist the attempt by Okorocha to intimidate them for joining Eze Ilomuanya, to host former President Jonathan in March this year, when he was still in office. Eze Ilomuanya had, however, been restored to his position as Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers by the Supreme Court.
But Governor Okorocha had through Eze Samuel Ohiri, in contravention of several court judgments, set up a panel to investigate over 50 monarchs, accusing them of indulging in partisan politics, when they participated in the reception of the sitting President Jonathan, during his official visit to Imo State. Okorocha, had earlier suspended four monarchs, including the traditional ruler of Owerri, Eze Emmanuel Njemanze and went ahead to invite 50 others to face what it called “Fact Finding Panel”.
However, in a bid to assert their right and avert what they called ambush by Governor Okorocha’s administration, 40 monarchs headed to an Owerri High Court, accusing the governor of surreptitiously witch-hunting and intimidating Imo traditional rulers through the setting up of an illegitimate Council of Traditional Rulers headed by his stooge. They contended that the council headed by Ohiri was an unlawful and illegal body and thus, had no powers to function in any capacity, pointing out that even the purported Fact Finding Panel was itself an illegal and unlawful entity.
In an affidavit deposed to by HRH Eze Donald Nnabue, on behalf of 39 other monarchs in Suit No: HOW/313/2015, the monarchs stated that over 400 traditional rulers in Imo State welcomed both former President Jonathan and Buhari (now President) when they both visited the state in March, 2015, wondering why the state government singled out about 50 of them for vendetta using, “an illegal body headed by Eze Ohiri which was constituted unlawfully in contravention of the extant provisions of Law No. 6 of 2006 (Imo State of Nigeria Traditional Rulers Autonomous Communities and Allied Matters Law)” According to the monarchs, for the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers to “effectually and validly perform any lawful act, it should be constituted in strict compliance with the provision of Section 2 (2) of Imo State of Nigeria Traditional Rulers, Autonomous Communities and Allied Matters Law No. 6 of 2006 (as amended).
Consequently, the aggrieved monarchs sought a declaration from the court that the “purported Imo State Council of Ndi-Eze as presently constituted by only 27 members appointed by Okorocha, being an illegal body, is null and void and should be dissolved by the Court, likewise the Fact Finding Panel set up by the illegitimate Council and an order of perpetual injunction restraining Okorocha and other defendants from investigating them, stopping their allowances and tampering with their functions as traditional rulers or withdrawing their Certificates of Recognition/Staff of Office.”
A source told The UNION that the governor is determined to withdraw the certificate of the affected traditional rulers for their ‘effrontery’ to dare him. The traditional rulers on their part appear ready to follow the case to a logical conclusion. But whether they will win at the end of the day remains a matter of conjecture.