Dethroned Enugu traditional ruler of Olo, Igwe Harford Agana has been speaking on the chain of events leading to his recent dethronement. Igwe Agana who was also the Chairman, Enugu West Traditional Rulers’ Council said his travails started on January 29, 2014, when he joined stakeholders from his Ezeagu Local Government Area of the state on a solidarity visit to the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu.
During the visit the, Ezeagu leaders of thought had poured encomiums on the senator for representing the zone well and pledged their support to his political future.
A press conference by Enugu West People’s Forum few months later entitled: “Harassment and imminent sack/suspension of Enugu royal fathers,” suggested that all was not well after all. Although the state Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairman, Vita Abba, who is also a guber aspirant, tried to dismiss the claims, the eventual sack of the royal father had left many questions unanswered.
The Enugu West Forum had raised the alarm alleging harassment, embarrassment and intimidation of respected traditional rulers from Ezeagu LGA for their support for the deputy senate president.
Hon Paul Anikwe, chairman of the forum listed Igwe Raphael Okolo of Iwolo, Igwe John Nwakaeze of Oha Ndiagu and Igwe Harford Agana, alleging that they were among those facing threats from the government for visiting Ekweremadu.
Anikwe further alleged that for joining Ezeagu stakeholders and leaders of thought on a ‘Thank you visit’ to the deputy senate president, the royal fathers were being victimised.
He equally alleged fruitless attempts by top government functionaries to get the traditional rulers to recant their support for Ekweremadu. According to the forum, “the refusal of Igwe Harford Agana on behalf of the traditional rulers resulted into a protest against him in front of the Government House by a few individuals arranged by government functionaries to set the stage for their sack.”
The forum condemned the “unwarranted intimidation and denigration of our revered royal fathers by government functionaries and officials of the PDP.”
On his part, the sacked traditional ruler told our reporter that the dissolution of Enugu Traditional Rulers’ Council and his removal as chairman, Enugu West Traditional Rulers Council were part of efforts to get at him for associating with Ekweremadu.
But the state Commissioner for Chieftaincy Matters, Pastor Emeka Abugu, dismissed the claims insisting that “there was no decision taken in the state that isolated anybody for victimisation.” He explained that there was a change in the composition of the council when the State Traditional Rulers’ Council was composed.
“There was a new order that the chairmen of the various zones should emerge from the members of the council; Igwe Agana was not a member of the council. The chairman of Enugu North Traditional Rulers Council, Igwe Hyacinth Eze, was not a member of the council going by the new composition. And because of that, they lost out; because we wanted the zonal chairmen to be members of the State Council of Traditional Rulers.
“Agana is just one person out of the lot in the three zones we are talking about and he was not the only person affected. The other, Igwe B. Eze, who was the chairman, Enugu East Traditional Rulers’ Council, happened to be in the council and that was why he retained his position.
By the time Igwe Agana handed over in February, he received a letter from the commissioner querying him for not handing over a vehicle donated by Senator Ekweremadu. In his reply dated March 11, 2014, Agana recalled that: “The vehicle you were referring to was a gift given to me by His Excellency, Ike Ekweremadu. Since July 12, 2013, when he gave me the bus, I have, used it not only for myself but for the purpose of Enugu West Traditional Rulers. That act of magnanimity on my part cannot however change the fact that the vehicle was given to me personally.”
But in another letter dated June 17, 2014, the commissioner announced the suspension of Igwe Agana. His suspension order reads: “I am directed to inform you that following your refusal to handover the assets of Enugu West Traditional Rulers Council Toyota bus and N1m to the new executive despite appeals from the council and the ministry, you are suspended as traditional ruler for 30 days within which you are expected to return the assets.”
In an attempt to put the records straight, Chief Ekweremadu was said to have written to the commissioner on July 2, 2014, clarifying that he gave the bus to Igwe Agana. “I did not buy or donate the bus to the Traditional Rulers Council of Enugu West. I also gave him the sum of N1m as donation to assist him with the initial operating cost of the said bus.”
Ekweremadu who enclosed documentary evidence expressed the hope that his explanations would help clear the controversy.
But rather than clarify issues the letter appeared to have worsened the situation as the suspended traditional ruler was finally sacked two weeks later.
In a letter entitled: ‘Withdrawal of recognition as traditional ruler,’ Abugu on July 18, 2014, wrote: “I am directed to refer to my earlier letter No: MCM/CM/605/VOL.111/101 dated June 17, 2014, suspending you as the traditional ruler of your community.
“Consequent upon your refusal to comply with government directives therein, your recognition as traditional ruler is hereby withdrawn pursuant to section 10 of the Enugu State Traditional Rulers Law.”
In a bid to fight what he sees as injustice, the deposed traditional ruler has written to the government notifying it of his intention to seek redress in court and to claim N20m damages for embarrassing him.
“I did nothing; I am the traditional ruler of this community having been selected in 2002 and I got to the height of chairman, Enugu West Traditional Rulers Council and since then I have been doing well. The community is very peaceful and we have been doing well and that was why traditional rulers from the zone made me their chairman and re-elected me for a second tenure. So, I don’t know what I did.
I was selected as traditional ruler in 2002 and I was recognised by the government in 2010 and now they have dethroned me and are trying to impose another ruler; you can see something is wrong. By our constitution, the Igwe is for life; but I am still alive; what they are doing to me is political.”
However, Abugu, a pastor, dismissed allegations of victimisation insisting that Igwe Agana’s people had been clamouring for his removal. “It’s like the government intervened on the side of the people. The governor evoked Section 10 in the interest of peace and order and security of lives and property.
“He is merely feeding you with the bus donation and not the challenges we are having within the council which he belongs. This office is inundated with petitions from that traditional council; they even tried to attack me here saying that government is weak in terms of handling the challenges they were having with him. So it’s like he was not ready to live in peace with anybody including his people. He was ready to fight everybody including myself. He even snatched the microphone from me before he was called to order when I went to inaugurate the new chairman.
“I don’t want to join issues with him on the angle of the deputy senate president; but I know this state will never victimise anybody for associating with anybody.”
On the clash between supporters of the dethroned traditional ruler who carried a protest when the commissioner went for verification in the process of installing a replacement he said: “It was clear that his supporters were a handful while the majority is against him.”