For the past 17 years, it has been a kind of graveyard silence for the three warring factions contending the title of Eze Ndigbo of Oyo State when the Igbo Community Development Association ‘crowned’ Dr. Alex Anozie. The three factions were led by Dr. Alex Anozie, Chief James Nduka Oramadike and Chief Alloy Obi.Each of them had been laying claim to the title and this has led to serious legal battles. Though, the battle for recognition subsided shortly before the 2015 general election as the factions came together to drum up support for the former president at Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, all parties later withdrew into their nests, sharpened their swords and dusted their armour for fresh crisis.
Of the three, Dr. Anozie has been brandishing a court judgment by Justice Mashud Abbas of Oyo State High Court on February 18, 2014 which recognised him as the rightful holder of the title. The court declared that Anozie is the subsisting Eze Ndigbo of Ibadanland and Oyo State, having been democratically elected and sworn-in into office by the Igbo Community Development Association in 1997 on the authority of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo in 2000.
As he approached the state High Court, he sought a declaration that all steps taken by Chief Alloy Obi and his group who were claiming the title of Onyendu Ndigbo were contrary to Igbo customs and tradition, and the constitution of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and thereby null and void, and thereby sought an order of the court setting aside all acts and steps by the defendants towards selection and proposed installation of Chief Obi as the Onyendu Ndigbo of Ibadan and Oyo State.
In 2009, the crisis reached the crescendo as those who were sympathetic to Chief Obi allegedly came together and claimed to have removed Anozie. The claimant also sought an injunction restraining the defendants whether by themselves, their servants or agents, from installing Obi as Onyendu, and an order of injunction restraining Chief Obi from pronouncing or parading himself as the Onyendu Ndigbo of Ibadan and Oyo State.
However, after listening to the facts and circumstances of the case as presented by counsel to both concerned parties, the court identified some issues for determination.
The third issue identified for determination was whether Eze Anozie having been removed as the Ezendigbo of Ibadan and Oyo State in 2009 had the right to challenge the election and inauguration of Chief Obi as the Onyendu of Ibadan and Oyo State. All these issues were, however, resolved by the court in favour of Anozie, after which the judge went ahead to grant the relief sought by the claimant.
While granting the prayers of the claimant, the court ruled that there could only be one Onyendu Ndigbo for one community, and that the claimant is the one for Oyo, having been duly so proclaimed by the Igbo community in Oyo State in a communiqué issued on September 30, 2000.
The court also declared that all acts and steps taken towards the selection of Chief Obi were contrary to the Igbo customs and tradition and the constitution of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and therefore granted an order setting aside all the steps and acts which led to Obi’s purported selection as the Onyendu.
Finally, the court granted an injunction restraining the defendants, whether by themselves, their agents or servants from installing Obi as Onyendu of Ibadan and Oyo State, and the one restraining Obi from parading himself as such.
While speaking with Vanguard yesterday in a telephone interview, Dr. Anozie said as far as he is concerned, since the court has ordered the other groups to desist from parading themselves, anybody promoting them to flout the court judgment is not a friend of the country.
“Anybody I am referring to could be radio, television, government and even me. I learnt that the other side has appealed the judgment of the State High Court, they should wait for the outcome of the appeal. It should also be noted that when you appeal a judgment of a lower court, it doesn’t mean the judgment no longer subsists. It subsists until the appellate court says otherwise. The truth is bitter but it is good to tell the truth. Both of us in the crisis presented our evidences before the court and the court having weighed the evidences and pronounced me as the holder of the title,” he said.
As Anozie is slugging it out with his opponents in the state, the national leadership is also giving him grey hair. Recently, his camp accused Ohaneze national leadership of instigating crisis in the state. It called the attention of the national body to the fact that the court “ordered everything about the Igbo General Assembly (IGA), including their acts, steps taken by the group and the South-East Traditional Rulers null and void, and restrained Chief Aloy Obi from parading himself as the Onyendu Ndigbo of Ibadan and Oyo state.”.
His group alleged that the recent visit by “one person who called himself the Deputy President of the Ohaneze Worldwide, by name Ogochukwu Onyema”, who allegedly said something that eroded the court ruling, and claimed to have spoken on behalf of the Ohaneze national body.
“If it is true that they are the ones who sent one Ogochukwu Onyema to Ibadan on 15th of August, 2015, to come and say all what he had said, then they need to take caution . We are responsible peace-loving citizens of Nigeria who so much believe in the rule of law, and that is why we tolerated so many provocations since many years now, and we have continued to allow the judiciary to help us sort things out peacefully. Oyo state is peaceful and we want it to remain peaceful”.
“We are aware of the antics of the very person who has been the brain behind all these problems since all these years; he would want to drag everybody that matters into this controversy, including the South-East Traditional Rulers and Ohaneze national body, whom we expected to play a justified fatherly role in this issue.”, they said.