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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Trumpet With Certain Sound

Daggers and Swagger in Awka Kingship Saga

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The kingship crisis in Awka has turned into a Gordian Knot. It has become a debilitating stalemate, with the contending coalitions caught in a strained balance of power. Neither coalition seems able to vanquish the other. Thus, a negotiated settlement has become inevitable, and it requires concessions from all sides. Political mediators in Awka should pursue this option, for real peace and progress to return to Awka.

By Chudi Okoye

Augustine Ndigwe swept into Tampa, Florida at about the same time, in late August 2019, that Hurricane Dorian began to pelt that pointy peninsula in southeastern United States. Like the gusty tropical cyclone that reached Category 5 intensity, Ndigwe had stormed into town on his way to the World Igbo Congress gathering where, in his usual barnstorming fashion, he had planned an appearance as “Eze Uzu III, Obi of Awka”. Also like Hurricane Dorian which swept up artefacts all over the Bahamas and Caribbean Islands, Ndigwe traversed the southern states of America –  those places dense with Igbo diasporans – sweeping up his own artefacts of fervent applause.

At about the same time that Ozo Austin Ndigwe was being fêted in foreign forums, 6,000 miles across the world in Abuja, the self-effacing incumbent on the Awka Stool, Eze Uzu II Obi Gibson Nwosu, was attending a small private event where the daughter of his close political ally was getting married.

The contrast in circumstances couldn’t be starker. But it typified the saga of Awka kingship rivalry – the swagger of personal acclaim, the divided loyalties of Awka people, the seemingly unbridgeable gulf between the loyalist and insurgent coalitions, and the depressing tenacity of the kingship crisis – all aiming daggers at the very heart of Awka polity.

Insurrection in Awka

How do you handle a monarchic insurgency that has gathered steam and remains, to all appearances, an undefeated dream? How do you cope with a rebellion that remains a redoubt of unrestrained success?

Such today is the conundrum in Awka town as the kingship intrigue continues unresolved. Some elites in loyalist circles choose to ignore the dystopian reality. Some allow themselves fleeting moments of angst about it, but soon relapse into characteristic passivity. Others yet have roused themselves to ‘patriotic’ fervor, vowing with vigor to vanquish the vexing insurgency. The loyalist elites turn up their noses at what they consider an odiferous pollution of Awka political culture; others mock or maul what they see as unbridled personal ambition and gratuitous opportunism.

But against all opposing reactions, from supercilious disdain to legal confrontation, the insurgent claim on the Awka Stool continues unabashed. Awka people have watched as something that seemed at the start a ramshackle insurgency has morphed into a sophisticated assailment of the Awka Stool. Nothing as yet appears able to check the insurgency from Umuayom. Whether or not one is inclined to support it, it seems imprudent to ignore the strength and persistence of this enterprise.

For, despite protestations to the contrary, the following remains today the perception of political reality in Awka:

  1. The purported dethronement of the Awka traditional ruler, Eze Uzu II, His Majesty Obi Dr Gibson Nwosu, who appears to have lost significant support among Awka people but is nonetheless officially recognized as the traditional ruler of Awka. The Governor of Anambra State is considered, in the founding law for the Eze Uzu institution, as the ultimate ratifying authority in the selection of an Eze Uzu. Thus, Nwosu’s official certification confers significant strategic advantage.
  2. The purported enstoolment of a new traditional ruler in the person of Ozo Augustine Ndigwe, who apparently has been invested as “Eze Uzu III” of Awka. However, this new claimant, like the incumbent, also lacks overwhelming support among Awka people, as shown in Awka Times survey. The insurgent also suffers additional statutory handicap, not being or likely to be recognized by the current Anambra State administration.

These are the basic and irreducible facts of the kingship crisis in Awka today, and they cannot be controverted except perhaps by partisans attempting to mischaracterize the situation.

The question then insists: How did we arrive at such a sorry state?

A Hunted Monarchy

Things apparently started going awry from the very beginning. Nothing became the reign of Eze Uzu II than the manner of its inception. It seemed from the start that some personal factors relating to Dr Gibson Nwosu did not sit well with certain power blocs in Awka. His maternal trace outside of Awka was an issue for some. So too, it seemed, was his marriage to a foreigner. He had not long acquired the Ozo title, and so lacked that collegial acceptance it could confer. He did not seem too steeped in Awka tradition; he was (and remains) a devoted follower of a foreign religion to which, some thought, he owed greater allegiance than to Awka tradition; and, though unspoken, his overall modernist outlook suggested to some an inward antagonism to the ancient ways of Awka people, or an ‘otherness’ not fitting for the custodian of Awka culture. Gibson Nwosu was not a laboratory model for many in the influential circles with a fixed taxonomy of eligible profiles for an Eze Uzu!

Quite apart from his “exotic” profile, or perhaps because of it, there had been murmurs of impropriety in some circles about the process by which Gibson Nwosu acceded the Stool.

Mind, it was ever thus in Awka. There had been similar agitation at the emergence of Nwosu’s predecessor, HM Alfred Ndigwe. Also the very first paramount chief in Awka, Ichie Obuorah Nnebe, spent his reign fending off partisan restiveness.

In Nwosu’s case, the murmurs would metastasize into a sustained insurgency. Eze Uzu II would come to be accused of a series of impeachable misconduct by some members of Ozo Awka. Following a protracted tussle between the Eze Uzu and a faction of that society, the Council of Kingmakers in April 2017 declared that Nwosu had been dethroned. Consequent upon this declaration, the Council proceeded to name the then Head of Ozo Awka and Chairman of the Council of Kingmakers, Ozo Obuora Essel, as the Regent. The Regency, supposedly following constitutional rules, was to subsist for a period of six months during which time the renegades selected and installed a new Eze Uzu.

 Eze Uzu II, Obi of Awka, Gibson Nwosu

The purported dethronement of Obi Gibson Nwosu by the Essel-led faction of the Kingmakers supposedly ensued because Nwosu had apparently failed to seriously answer to the charges brought against him before the Council. These charges (see sidebar) concerned certain misconduct violating the undertaking that Nwosu had signed earlier in January 2000, the first time he was cited for constitutional breaches.

The latest charges were a mishmash of complaints. It was a charge sheet by turns ponderous and puerile, though in places seriously incriminating. It should be noted that Eze Uzu Gibson Nwosu himself, and also through a phalanx of spokesmen, had strenuously denied – even rebutted – the charges of misconduct. In so doing, by its reckoning, the Nwosu camp felt that it had rendered his purported dethronement baseless. Separately, the Nwosu camp also argued that even were the misconduct charges of any merit, the faction prosecuting the case had not followed the strict provisions of law, and as such any alleged dethronement was of no legal effect. That may well be. However, since this procedural matter was never tested in court, this remains a moot point.

A Vaunted Insurgency

At the opposite end of this debacle, the legality of Ozo Augustine Ndigwe’s enstoolment itself remains patently unclear. For one thing, many indigenes have questioned the validity of his investiture, pointing in part to the allegedly artful process by which it came about. Some indigenes told Awka Times that on the day of the purported investiture, they had been invited to attend an advertised political party event. On arrival, they said, they encountered not a party event but the apparent installation of a purported new Eze Uzu! Such a sleight-of-hand is far from the open selection process specified in the constitution. This allegation, however, has also never been tested in court.

 Ozo Augustine Ndigwe presumably being capped by the Otochal, although the burial of the previous Otochal is clouded by controversy
 Ozo Augustine Ndigwe apparently being handed the staff of office by the late Regent, Ozo Obiora Essel

What has been partially litigated, which seems to further becloud the legality of Ndigwe’s claim, is the position of Nkwelle village on the succession issue. By constitutional rotation, it would be the turn of that village to produce a successor to Eze Uzu II whenever a vacancy materializes. Ndigwe’s village, Umuayom, is not eligible according to the rules, to offer a successor, having produced Nwosu’s predecessor who was in fact Ozo Augustine Ndigwe’s uncle. Ndigwe justifies his apparent selection by claiming, in an interview with Awka Times, that he had been sought out by Nkwelle people because there was no ready candidate from the village itself. It is unclear, however, if this claim can be sustained. For one thing, the assertion flies in the face of a published statement attributed to some Nkwelle spokesmen stating that the village was not aware of any vacancy on the Awka Stool. The statement also denied that the people of Nkwelle conceded their right to present the next Eze Uzu or indeed ever nominated Ndigwe.

The Nkwelle matter has been litigated, and the extant judgement from the courts upholds the objection of Nkwelle village. The case is however on appeal at present. The high court ruling may yet be overturned in the appeal, as Ndigwe indicated to Awka Times, especially with claims of procedural irregularity at the lower court. The Ndigwe camp insinuated this claim into the appeal case.

But whatever the outcome of the Nkwelle case, there seems to be a major issue here concerning the spirit of the law. Awka society from antiquity resented the idea of personal rule. The ancient town of Awka was the very crucible of republican government. All Awka governing institutions, and the culture of its politics, were designed to prevent extreme political stratification and the emergence of personal or aristocratic rule. This was the case for millennia in Awka, as several sources recounted to Awka Times in interviews. However, in an ironic twist of fate, the onset of self-rule in Nigeria created the need to install a paramount ruler in Awka after centuries of rejecting the very idea. The establishment of the Eastern Nigeria Chieftaincy Law of 1957 and the creation of the Eastern Nigeria House of Chiefs in 1959 compelled Awka to elevate one of its traditional chiefs to a position of paramount chieftain who would represent the town in the new legislative House. So began a political transition process that culminated in the present-day Eze Uzu institution.

But, while Awka was compelled by the expediency of political representation to elevate a single chieftain, it has made sure through evolving constitutional designs to preserve the republican precepts embedded in its political DNA. So, for instance, Awka insists on a traditional ruler who is merely primus inter titulos pares (first among titled equals). Awka paramount chief or traditional ruler law has remained pragmatic and humble, shorn of the grandeur and political aggrandizements that could tempt an over-ambitious or capricious chieftain. For instance, in order to curb the pretentions of an emergent Eze Uzu or his gaggle, the Awka Traditional Ruler’s Amended Constitution, 1986 refrains from using words like “king”, “royal”, “majesty”, “imperial”, “highness”, “prince”, “princess”, or indeed any corollary of these words. It simply says at Section 4 that:

The Traditional Ruler of Awka shall be Obi, the Eze Uzu of Awka.

Simple. No fanfare. No exaltation or magnification.

The constitution also severely curtails the powers of the chieftain, and it subjects him to elaborate checks by more ancient institutions of traditional governance in Awka.

By the same token, the Traditional Ruler’s Constitution enforces a rigid rotation of rulership among the 33 Villages of Awka town, collecting them in binary bundles of seniority within the Ezi and Ifite sections. The constitution leaves the unmistakable impression that it intends for rulership to rotate between the two Awka sections and to translocate through the constituent villages of each section, scrupulously avoiding the concentration of power in any one village.

It can be argued that Ozo Austin Ndigwe’s bid for the Awka Stool, however well-meaning it may be, offends the spirit of the Awka Traditional Ruler’s Constitution. Whatever the technicalities around the trial of Eze Uzu Gibson Nwosu; whatever the truth around the claim of Nkwelle people’s unbidden outreach to Ozo Austin Ndigwe; and whatever may lie behind the elusory details of the process by which Ndigwe himself came to effectuate his claim to the Stool, it should be clear to any patriotic-minded Awka indigene that Ndigwe’s accession negates the principle and spirit of power rotation and translocation espoused in the constitution. It represents an ossification of power, not just in one village, Umuayom, but indeed in one family! The implications of this bid for Awka politics are prodigious, and must be closely examined.

A Deficit of Legitimacy

Notwithstanding the above technical and patriotic considerations, and despite the fact that Ozo Ndigwe suffers the statutory handicap of non-recognition, the chief continues to assert his claim to the Stool, seemingly with strong support from certain elite factions and civic associations, and segments of Awka grassroots. For his part, although he appears to have lost significant popular support, Obi Gibson Nwosu too continues to proclaim his incumbency, still retaining government recognition, the backing of notable elite factions, and undoubtedly a residue of popular support. Awka Times’ random sampling of popular opinion on the leadership claims shows that 43% of Awka people consider Gibson Nwosu the authentic Eze Uzu, 27% consider Ndigwe as such, and about 30% consider neither as the Eze Uzu. Significantly, as seen in our survey data, none of the claimants commands a majority of the votes!

This then is the stalemate in Awka today, a contest of “crowns” as it were, each side believing itself to possess the more credible claim to the Awka Stool and decidedly unwilling to concede.

There is of course an unequivocal and irrefutable case to be made that the authority of an Eze Uzu is established upon formal recognition and certification by the Anambra State Governor. Going by the provisions of the Awka Traditional Ruler’s Constitution, the Governor would appear to be the ultimate grantor of rulership authority. But the matter cannot be as simple as that. For, while the Governor has ultimate certifying authority, the constitution and its founding laws make it clear that the Governor will be required to endorse the community’s choice, in so far as the proper selection procedure is followed and the candidate meets the criteria specified in state law. To an extent, the Governor’s constitutive power might be said to be fiduciary, in that he is constrained to endorse the candidate chosen through the institutional processes of selection involving the whole community. The Governor cannot wantonly subvert the will of the people if the community speaks with one voice. However, the power of the Governor becomes more autonomous when there is ambiguity in the community, when there is contestation for the Stool and a crisis of legitimacy ensues.

It has long been accepted by social theorists, following the German sociologist and philosopher Max Weber, that political authority emanates from diverse sources in an established or even emergent social system. If authority is defined as “the legitimate power which one person or a group holds and exercises over another”, then a crucial question arises as to the source of that legitimacy.

There are generally three types of legitimate political authority identified in Weberian social theory:

  1. Legal-rational authority: The form of authority which depends for its legitimacy on formal rules and established laws of the state, usually written down in legal documents like constitutions and government statutes.
  2. Traditional authority: Here, authority derives from long-established customs, cultural traditions and social structures, with power passing from one generation to another through customary precepts and practices.
  3. Charismatic authority: Here we have authority flowing from an individual leader’s claim to a higher authority. Charismatic authority can also obtain in the secular domain through the personal, animating qualities of the leader.

The claim to legitimacy by Eze Uzu Gibson Nwosu, anchored on statutory certification, is largely based on the first type, legal-rational authority. That is undoubtedly a formidable claim. But an interpretive reading of the 1986 Traditional Ruler’s Constitution shows that it also embodies the second type of authority, one issuing from Awka traditional and cultural norms. This is why the constitution insists on a selection process originating with the legitimate governing institutions of Awka community. These institutions have deep cultural roots and it is their ultimate candidate, selected from a process involving the entire community, that is presented to the Governor for recognition and certification. The constitution therefore intends for the Eze Uzu to have both legal and traditional authority.

There could even be a case made for the salience of the third type of authority, based on individual charisma. The Awka people have a right to be led by someone who generates excitement, someone who animates the community and brings pride to it by his investiture, someone to whom the community could entrust their hopes and aspirations; that is, someone who inspires a strong sense of pride and patriotism in the populace. The Awka aphorism, gidigidi bu ugwu eze!, reflects this idea that a leader of the people must be a rousing personality, for it is only through his charisma that he can win the affection of the people and mobilize their collective will and energies to achieve community objectives. An Eze Uzu should be imbued with all of the above, and not just wield paper certification as the emblem of his legitimacy. At the same time, Awka does need her Eze Uzu to be formally recognized by the statutory authorities, else the very purpose for which Awka republican democracy came to be subsumed under a strange monarchic system will be defeated.

This writer argues that both Obi Gibson Nwosu and the challenger Ozo Austin Ndigwe will have to embody these three sources of legitimate authority to consolidate their claim to the Awka Stool. To the extent, at present, that both contenders in one or other regard suffer a deficit of political legitimacy, to that extent then is either claim incomplete. This assessment is reflected as well in the results of Awka Times survey (see above). And it means, sadly, that the struggle for the Awka Kingship Stool will continue in a stretched and sordid stalemate, as neither claimant considers their counterpart its rightful occupant.

No Hope for Unilateral Surrender

There is yet another reason why the current stalemate may linger for longer. This relates to the personal motivations of the contenders. Awka Times gathers that at the onset of the present kingship crisis there had been some early third-party interventions attempting to nip the issues in the bud. These included both individual and group interventions. But these efforts were evidently unsuccessful. In part this was because the crisis swelled quite quickly, overwhelming early interventions by its sheer complexity. As we have seen, the Awka kingship crisis is not just a political squabble. It is a cauldron of personal resentment, religious animosity, cultural alienation, and of course a patent struggle for economic and political advantage. With such a heady mix, there was little hope for an easy or early resolution.

It is for this reason too that any expectation of a unilateral surrender on the part of either claimant must be considered unrealistic. For such continues to be the naïve hope in some forlorn fringes of Awka community, the idea being that either contender will somehow give up their claim.  But what are the prospects for a unilateral surrender with so much at stake for either contender? We only have to consider what is at stake for each claimant to see the futility of such an expectation.

The Incumbent: Dr Gibson Nwosu

Dr Gibson Nwosu is carrying on in his role as Eze Uzu II secure in the knowledge that he enjoys official recognition by the Anambra State Government. Also, having held the title for over 20 years, he is too used to its power and prestige to abdicate the office.
 Eze Uzu II, Obi of Awka, Gibson Nwosu

Besides, Nwosu would be loath to go down in history as the first incumbent Eze Uzu to be successfully unseated by a challenger. Since both of his predecessors had effectively seen off similar assaults, Nwosu would be wary of the judgement of history should he allow the challenger Ndigwe, with a specious claim to the Stool, to get the better of him. Already there is a narrative abroad that Nwosu’s self-effacing and humble demeanor – ironically just what the Awka constitution approbates – may have made mistakes that allowed his younger opponent to make inroads in his quest for the Awka Stool. To some extent, then, for Eze Uzu II there is an issue of personal pride involved in this saga.

But there must undoubtedly be a certain unease about a flamboyant challenger who Nwosu probably considers unfit for an Awka Stool that requires probity and personal humility. Nwosu might be uncomfortable with the challenger’s ambitions, worrying that such grand ambition could potentially harm the realm.  (Ndigwe already proclaims himself an “Imperial Majesty”, a puzzling nomenclature since Awka is not and cannot be an ‘imperial kingdom’ under the Nigerian democratic dispensation). Nwosu would also be concerned about leaving a legacy where a future Awka monarch could be challenged at random; and he would worry that he might be blamed for leaving the Awka Stool with a precarious posterity if Ndigwe and his acolytes were to successfully force him from power.

So, Eze Uzu II Dr Nwosu will prove unyielding, both for personal and institutional reasons, to the idea of unilateral surrender.

The Challenger: Ozo Augustine Ndigwe

An ambitious person like Ndigwe, who seems to have coveted the Awka Stool for so long despite claims of unbidden entreaty from Nkwelle, will also not voluntarily surrender it now that he has, in his view, attained or nearly attained its accession. There may be both personal and civic ambition in this quest for Ozo Ndigwe, as any discussion of the subject with him indicates. Having invested so much money, time and effort to achieve his goal, and with his personal and family prestige virtually on the line, it is almost unimaginable that Ozo Ndigwe would contemplate a unilateral surrender.

 Ozo Augustine Ndigwe (Claims the title of “Eze Uzu III, Obi of Awka”)

Such a concession could hurt his reputation. Ndigwe has raised the stakes so high, especially with the steps he has taken since his presumed enstoolment: He has orchestrated royal visits, mainly to non-Igbo monarchs, to announce his ascendancy; he frequently holds court in his domain surrounded by an entire courtly retinue; he is building his support base with purse and pageantry; and has raised such din and drama around himself that it is inconceivable for him to stand down voluntarily.

Besides, he has conferred subsidiary titles on several of his supporters, and in so doing has cleverly erected an ecosystem of ambition around himself, surrounded by a new ‘aristocracy’ of monied arrivistes who would not want to surrender their new status. They would lean hard on him to persist with his claim, were he implausibly ever to waver.

This writer simply cannot imagine Ozo Austin Ndigwe giving up his quest, having come this far. The kingship is his life!

Balance of Forces

The foregoing observations are without doubt grim sketches of despair for Awka polity. There is indeed much reason for pessimism, made more depressing when we consider the balance of forces in the ongoing monarchic battle. As earlier indicated, this is not the first time that an Awka chieftain would be challenged. It is not the first time that the reign of an Awka chieftain – Ichie or Eze Uzu – would come under factional stress. But let us consider here why the present challenge might be different from previous eruptions.

First, both Ichie Nnebe and Eze Uzu I, Obi Alfred Ndigwe, in their time faced intra-generational challenges – that is, their challengers were of similar ages or in the same generational cohort. By contrast, in the present case we have inter-generational rivalry, with Nwosu an octogenarian in contention with a Gen X opponent! This means that the challenger is able to mobilize youth support with some ease, especially in an ecosystem teeming with hordes of unemployed and possibly resentful youth. If sustained, Augustine Ndigwe’s accession, apart from fulfilling his personal ambition, could represent the overthrow of an old guard, a decisive generational upset and indeed the elevation of a new arriviste class. This alone makes his a formidable challenge, far more potent than what obtained in earlier generations.

Add to this the fact that Ndigwe has successfully splintered the ranks of the elderly constituency in Awka, with many elders in the Ozo Awka and other socio-cultural societies supporting him. It should be clear to all realistic observers that Ndigwe has built up a formidable, cross-cutting coalition which cannot easily be foiled by an octogenarian wielding a certificate from a governor who is otherwise unpopular among Awka people.

Throw into this calculus as well the utter imbalance in financial resources – based not just on Ndigwe’s observable advantage in personal wealth but also on his apparent access to a network of external financiers seemingly striving to secure a ‘vote’ in the selection of an Awka monarch – then you have a veritable mismatch in resources.

Ndigwe also appears nimbler and more media savvy. He exploits all media opportunities to advance his claim to the Awka Stool, understanding the importance of such excursions as a strategic tool. In the face of a clunky and conservative old guard still figuring out the world of social media, this gives Ndigwe a peculiar advantage not available to earlier challengers in Awka chieftaincy history.

And then there is the seeming ambivalence of the state government itself. While the government remains steadfast in upholding the incumbency of Eze Uzu II Dr Gibson Nwosu, it has avoided direct intervention to squelch the surge of Ozo Austin Ndigwe. The chief continues to parade himself as the traditional ruler of Awka, cannily and rather aggressively projecting himself in public and private fora within Awka and beyond as the extant traditional ruler of Awka. And yet for either security reasons, strategic prudence or some other unknown reason, the state government seems to have chosen a light touch thereby allowing Ndigwe to continue in his pursuit. (In a curious case, the state government recently issued a circular directing that no private individual or group should celebrate New Yam Festival in Anambra State before the traditional ruler of their community. It seemed to be targeted at Ndigwe who was planning a ceremony. He went ahead with his plan, with no reaction from the government, thus handing him a PR coup.)

Given all of the above, this writer cannot join those expressing calm equanimity about the current contest and what it portends for the future of the Awka monarchy. There is undoubtedly a pessimistic outlook for the young monarchy in Awka, and by extension for Awka political society.

Imperative of a Negotiated Settlement

What then is to be done? How can the monarchic intrigue in Awka, and the stultifying stalemate it has engendered, be resolved?

Many options are notionally available. These run the gamut from a decisive vanquishment of insurgency on one end, to the abdication or decertification of the incumbent on the other. These polarities represent the nuclear options that might be favored by either coalition. But facts on the ground, and the reality we have sketched above, make clear that there is no window for a nuclear option. The loyalist forces behind Eze Uzu Gibson Nwosu are not potent enough to defeat the renegade coalition behind Chief Augustine Ndigwe. Nor is the latter able to force the abdication or decertification of the incumbent.

Some people consider that the crisis, which has resisted all attempted solutions, will probably be settled by ‘natural selection’. Those who believe that Obi Gibson Nwosu was effectively dethroned in the April 2017 ‘putsch’ hold out a faint hope that the octogenarian will eventually come to find the fight too fatiguing; or that a new government in Anambra State could be persuaded to decertify him. They cite examples of such outcomes from elsewhere in Nigeria.

On the other hand, those in the loyalist camp argue that it is only a matter of time for a vitiated insurgency to implode. This is very likely, the argument goes, if the courts continue to rule against the insurgency and the government too continues to deny it recognition. Starved of judicial validation and also denied formal recognition, the insurrection will simply flame out, it is said. Besides, the loyalists believe that if superior courts uphold the lower court judgement against the insurgency, then the state government – which so far has avoided forcible intervention in the community affairs of the capital city – will have a freer hand to move in and extirpate the insurgency.

We can hope!

Either of these scenarios – incumbent exhaustion or insurgent implosion – is in fact plausible. However, there are too many imponderables. On the one hand, we see little sign of exhaustion on the part of the incumbent. Rather, his camp appears to have been recently re-energized by the victory of Engr Sir Tony Okechukwu in the appeal court ruling on the ADUN case. Okechukwu belongs to the loyalist camp.

Nor do we detect any wavering in government support for the incumbent Eze Uzu. One would rather expect government support to remain steadfast. With many monarchies in Anambra State teetering, ANSG will not want to create a ripple of insurrections by switching support to the renegades in Awka. There may be cases elsewhere in Nigeria where a new government favored the challengers. But these examples come from well-established kingdoms with long dynastic history. An incoming government in Anambra would be wary of countermanding its predecessor and switching recognition to the insurgents. It would be considered extreme political meddlesomeness if it did, and it could trigger a spate of crises the new government would want to avoid.

So much for the hopeful insurgents.

At the other extreme, the loyalists hoping for judicial victory and government interdiction of insurgency may themselves be being too optimistic. The victory of Engr Tony Okechukwu at the appeal court, where he successfully overturned an adverse high court ruling on the ADUN case, is instructive: None can be sure that the superior courts will uphold the finding of the lower court. If anything, the opposite seems more plausible. As earlier noted, the insurgent appeal already pointed to procedural irregularities which could imperil the lower court’s judgement. In addition, the well-financed insurgent camp of Austin Ndigwe can likely outspend the loyalist camp which is currently scratching and scraping to build up a war-chest for the legal battle. Money talks in the Nigerian justice system. Besides, the insurgents seem ready to drag the case all the way to the Apex Court. This means that the disposition of the Awka monarchy case could well take years – during which time anything is possible, including natural transitions and force majeure.

As for government interdiction of insurgency, without loyalist legal victory, this may not be forthcoming. Even with such a victory, government intervention might still be restrained for the reasons given above.

So what is the upshot of all this? That there is only one way to go to resolve the kingship crisis in Awka. That is, unequivocally, the path of constructive engagement between the contending camps, and the search for a negotiated settlement. This calls for a different mindset on all sides. The combatants must themselves be willing to make concessions. The insurgents cannot expect a duly certified incumbent to abdicate based on what are largely trumped-up charges concocted to eliminate a monarch who did not fit their partisan profile for an occupant of the Awka Stool.

Equally, the loyalists cannot expect a rousing insurgency which has survived the odds and appears to have a measure of populist support simply to fold up or melt away unacknowledged. The insurgency may have been driven by partisan grievance and personal ambition, but it has garnered strength due to evident lacuna in incumbent legitimacy. The insurgency must be acknowledged, and perhaps invited into the governing realms through a carefully designed arrangement that respects the strength of its coalition and constituency.

This is the only meaningful path forward, given facts on the ground.

The cognizant and civic-minded elites should engage a strategic peace initiative including personal diplomacy, formal peace missions, and even arbitration, to force a negotiated settlement. The elites should form a formidable coalition of peace mediators, mobilizing the masses behind their peace initiatives to compel concessions from the contending camps.

Only a negotiated settlement will help to resolve the continuing kingship conundrum in Awka.


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