Eze Imo Title:  An Aberration

By Ifeanyi Onyekach

One of the mistakes of past administration was undue interference in sacred tradition of the people.
The government of former governor Rochas Okorocha appropriated all powers and authorities even those belonging to the gods.
He exuded so much influence on traditional matters and concluded with fiat issues of sacred tradition that requires consultation of chief priests and the ancestors.
He resolved ezeship tustle by the toss of a coin and proclaimed an Eze by whimsical feeling.
His  administration witnessed unusual approval and proliferation of autonomous communities.
That was the era when Ndieze, who ordinarily should serve as custodians of  tradition  and protectors of the people, became high wired politicians in traditional  toga, unpretentious spokes men of the government. With exception of negligible few.
The traditional institution in Imo state became a mockery, a laughing stock and  object of ridicule vis-a-vis other traditional institutions in other clime that have sustained its sacred mystery  credibility and reverence over the years.
It was the  period when the  state government under former governor Rochas Okorocha appointed the chairman of Imo state council of traditional rulers and  gave nod to the extra title of “Eze Imo”.
The Eze Imo title has been berated by historians and those knowlegeable in the art of  culture and tradition.
It has been variously described as an aberration, one of the concocted abnormalies of the past administration.
Because the title has no known historical background, it is totally alien in the  traditional lexicon of Ndi Imo or Igbo race as a whole.
It is copy and paste, an incongruent adoption of some emirate or obaship titled style such  Emir of Kano, Sultan of Sokoto, Alafin of Oyo, Oba of Lagos among others.
These Emirs and Obas whose titles are suffixed with the name of their states as in the above examples,  are usually  first class rulers who superintendents over a large domain with enormous  influence and reverence.
Perhaps, the government thought that by ascribing the “Eze Imo” title to the chairman of Imo state council of traditional rulers, the  bearer automatically  earns influence, power and dominion.
But Igbos, especially Imo people, have a unique Ezeship institution that does not appropriately conform with those the past administration is trying to emulate.
The Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani or other oligarchy are different from the Igbos in style and administration hence they  cannot tally even in title.
The Oba of Lagos or Emir of Kano for instance, is not  a creation of the governor.
They earned their domain and title by acquisition and conquest.
For example, the Emirate of Kano did not emerge by political proclamation nor exigencies of geographical delineation  but by conquest and domination that dates back to centuries.
History has it that In 1805 the last sultan of Kano was defeated by the Jobe clan of the Fulani and Kano became an Emirate of the caliphate.
The traditional and religious leader of that Emirate became the Emir of Kano.
Lagos which was originally known as Eko had Oba Ado as its first King.
Oba Ado took over the  kingship of Lagos through superiority influence and manouver.
He remained the Oba  until 1841 when Oba Akintoye ascended the throne as Oba of Lagos.
The story is  the same with all the kingdom and domain that the past government of Owelle Rochas Okorocha tried to borrow from.
One may therefore ask, what is the history of “Eze Imo” or Eze Imo title? Why can’t the political head of Ndieze in Imo be simple known as the Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers rather than encumberances with controversial title?
In the cause of stringing this piece together,  the best explanation I got from another Eze, who I chose to keep anonymous  is that it is a mere nomenclature that  can be chosen by the first among equals.
According to him,  “we are all traditional rulers but someone must lead the others. If he chooses ‘Eze Imo’ as a title there is nothing wrong with that”.
Another side to the  story is that the governor Rochas Okorocha, at that time had deposed the former Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, His Royal Majesty, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya,  and installed his preferred candidate, His Royal Majesty, Eze Samuel Ohiri.
The story went on to say that the “Eze Imo” title was coined to spite the deposed Eze and accord more power and recognition to the anointed one.
But what ever is the case,  the argument sounds puerile and lacks cultural backing and explanation.
It is a title taken too far. It is suggestive of one all powerful Eze of all Imo people.
Every community is overseen by an eze  and should  commands equal measure of royalty, paraphernalia and respect from the subjects.
Imo has no single Eze.
That probably explains why notable Owerri indigenes queried the rationale behind the erection of the palace of Eze Imo in the domain of another Eze.
The government of Rochas Okorocha has  erected a palatial mansion  in the  heart of Owerri with a bold inscription “Obi Eze Imo”
The Eze Imo, His Royal Majesty, Eze Samuel Ohiri,  chairman of Imo state council of traditional rulers, is  a revered traditional ruler of Obi Orodo in Mbaitoli local government  but runs another palace built by the state government in the domain of another Eze.
I was reliable informed that the land where the  Eze Imo Place was built  belongs to Urrata.
Many have described the act as absurdity and transverty of the law of culture and tradition.
That is why when Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha came on board, I was among the early people who shouted “blue murder” on the erosion going on in our traditional institution, especially the multiplicity of autonomous community.
I was happy he quickly called on the newly elected lawmakers to suspend further creation of  autonomous community and promised to restore the dignity of our Ezes
It  has become expedient for the government of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha to remove every vestige of error stamped by the last administration on our traditional institution.
The “Eze Imo” title is an aberration that must not stand.
Ifeanyi Onyekachi, A Public Affairs Analyst.
Tel: 08034454068. Written in 2019

Related posts