What many described as an unfortunate drama played out last week at the burial ceremony of late Ugoeze Philomena Ngimah, wife of HRH, Eze Titus C. Ngimah (Uchekaku I), the traditional ruler of Ofekata IV, Autonomous Community, Awo-Omamma in Oru East L.G.A. of Imo State.
The burial rites of the late Ugoeze which held at the bereaved husband’s compound, saw the traditional rulers in attendance in apparent apprehension over a directive barring them from attending such gatherings and further meetings until further notice.
A text message said to have been signed by the State Deputy Chairman of Council of Ndieze had a day, preceding the burial date of Ugoeze Ngimah, directed that no traditional ruler should attend the said burial. The reason advanced by the sender of the message was to forestall turning the funeral ceremony or any order future gathering into a political rally. The message further stated that a date (not mentioned) has been slated for a condolence visit by the Council of Ndieze.
While the funeral lasted some of the monarchs were seen leaving as they arrived, even as others were sighted in groups discussing the development, describing same as an aberration.
The traditional ruler of who reluctantly spoke to journalists, on condition fo anonymity condemned in strong terms the directive credited to the state deputy chairman of council of Ndi-Eze stopping traditional rulers in Orlu Zone from associating with each other. He described the clampdown as an aberration, wondered why a zonal union of natural rulers which dates back to 1909, should be abolished in 2018 through a text message.
“I don’t understand the meaning of this; honestly, this is wrong and condemnable. I want to ask you people; is anything wrong in our coming here to condole with our colleague who lost his wife? What is the name of your association? Okay; can anybody stop you from visiting your member who either lost his wife, husband or relation? What is the rationale behind this? He asked.
The monarch who disclosed the position of the State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha on Zonal planks of Ndieze, as well as the State and L.G.A., said that the directive did not emanate from the office of the Imo Chief Executive. He insisted that the Owelle Okorocha he knew does not give such directives to Ndieze through his aides. He, however, opined that should the development be the brainchild of the powers that be, that the best option was to make it public through an appropriate medium so as to put an end to speculations.
“The government should announce it over the radio or tell you people to publish it in your newspapers; if that is done, we will be able to understand whether our meetings or paying condolence visits amounted to security breach or not? We are not politicians and we cannot gather for a burial ceremony and turn to politicians. Farmers associate with farmers, mechanics and drivers have their own unions; so what is wrong in traditional rulers in Orlu zone coming together under one umbrella?” The piqued royal father queried.
The unhappy monarch who dismissed the idea of paying condolence visits to members after burial must have taken place as an unnecessary emotional torture on the bereaved, said it was better to mourn with those that are mourning at the right time. Other traditional rulers who pleaded anonymity, called on the State Governor to address the issue before it is late, as according to them, the ban was tantamount to an infringement on their right of freedom of association.
Meanwhile investigation revealed that the wives of traditional rulers in the state have also been banned from attending all zonal meetings of Ugoezes.
This directive was conveyed to the wives of the monarchs via a letter signed by the wife of Eze Imo, Ugoeze Chioma Ohiri, informing the chairpersons of Association of Ndi-Ugoeze in the state that the order was from the government house.
When contacted on phone Ugoeze Chioma Ohiri state chairperson association of Ndi-Ugoeze admitted writing the letter adding that it was written based on instruction from above.
According to her the letter was to formally notify them that the zonal structures of the council of Ndi Eze and Ugo-ezes have been abolished and that the council now has only a state chairman and his deputy piloting the affairs of the council.
Media aide to Eze-Imo, Mr. Gift Nwokoro who also spoke on the issue corroborated the stand of Ugoeze Ohiri saying the letter and texts were to clarify the current situation in the council.