UNIZIK don kicks against Igweship of Ojoto community

A lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Anambra State, Engr. Dr. Edwin Umeghalu has described as an error and injustice the coronation and certificate of recognition issued to current Monarch of Ojoto community, Igwe Gerard Mbamalu.

Umeghalu said this in Awka during media parley while reacting on the leadership crisis in Ojoto community and controversy surrounding emergence of Igwe Mbamalu as the Monarch six years ago.

Umeghalu, immediate Past President General of Ojoto Community said he was just sixteen days old in office as the PG when the last Monarch of the community, Igwe Obidiwe died which kick-started the process for the coronation of a new Igwe.

He said: “Umuofor kindred which is the oldest kindred from Enugo Village were mandated to produce the next Igwe by right of which they responded by producing Chief Dennis Adindu Okafor who was screened and presented to Ojoto Akanasato Union which was then ratified and sent to the Okpalas who have the powers to crown a new Igwe and did so on May 13, 2017.

“Thereafter, Chief Okafor’s name was submitted to the State Government through the Local Government Secretary for screening by the DSS, Police and Immigration which he underwent successfully and awaited the presentation of Certificate of Return from the then Governor Willie Obiano who was on vacation abroad.

“Ojoto Community, however, received with rude shock the presentation of Certificate of Recognition to the current Monarch, Igwe Gerald Mbamalu upon the return of Governor Obiano on February 20, 2018 after an allegation that late Senator Annie Okonkwo had visited Governor Obiano overseas to influence the community leadership process in favour of Igwe Mbamalu who went on to coronate himself as the Monarch of Ojoto Community on April 1, 2018.”

According to Umeghalu, one of the laws of the community’s constitution states that when an incumbent Igwe dies, after 28 days, the person who is asato of Ojoto (Chairman of Igwe in Council) would take over and become the Regent until the last day of the demised Igwe which is the Last Ofala.

“As at then Gerald Mbamalu was the Asato, I gave him a certificate and pronounced him as the regent. The constitution said after 28 days, he will write the village whose turn it is to produce the next Igwe to start the process of selecting the new Igwe which they should select and hand over to Ojoto Akanasato Union on or before the last day of Ofala. I wrote two letters on May 13, 2016, one to Gerald Mbamalu and to the village (Enugo) which is to produce the next Igwe.

“As with our rule, Igwe is selected from the first kindred of that village which is Enugo and in this case, Umuofor Kindred, which is the oldest kindred was asked to produce a candidate and if they fail to do so the next kindred (Umueze Ekengwu) will produce and if they also fail to do so or do not have the candidate, the onus will now fall on another village which would be done within a specific time.

“Umuofor brought four names to us – Chief Dennis Okafor, Gerald Mbamalu who was from the second kindred of Umueze Ekengwu, one Dr. Ezekwelu and Ilonze. We throw it back to them telling them that we wanted just one candidate which eventually we picked Chief Dennis Okafor from the first quarter of Umuofor Kindred who was screened and thereafter was presented to Ojoto Akanasato Union which they ratified and we took him (Chief Okafor) to the Okpalas who represents the eight shrines as they have the utmost powers to crown a new Igwe and that was how Chief Dennis Okafor was crowned Igwe by the Okpalas on May 13, 2017.

“Hitherto, Gerald Mbamalu the incumbent, wrote to Umuofor to give him a chance to serve, they responded to him that they already have a qualified candidate in Chief Dennis Okafor. We forwarded the name to the State Government through the Local Government Secretary. Chief Okafor went through the DSS, Police Force and Immigration screening process and came out successfully.

“What was remaining was the issuance of Certificate of Recognition from the then Governor, His Excellency Willie Obiano who was abroad as at that time on vacation. As this process was on it was alleged that the late Senator Annie Okonkwo vowed that Chief Dennis Okafor would never be the Igwe and it was also alleged that he travelled overseas to see Governor Obiano to influence the process which we took with a pinch of salt.

“We were greeted with rude shock to hear that Chief Gerald Mbamalu have been crowned the Igwe of Ojoto and handed the Certificate of Return by Governor Obiano on his return from overseas despite the fact that Mbamalu did not go through the screening process and when he wanted to have his way, he was disqualified by the DSS on the grounds that recommendation was not from Ojoto Akanasato Union.

“This has been the issue since then and I can boldly say that Gerald Mbamalu is not the rightful Monarch of Ojoto Community but Chief Dennis Okafor.”

Umeghalu who served as President-General of Ojoto Akanasato Union from 2016 to 2020, was once former Chairman, Idemili South Local Government Area of the state from January 2002 to November 2003 and just recently handed over baton of leadership as immediate past Head, Department of Agricultural and Bioresources Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, UNIZIK.

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