There is tension in Mbaise nation, a clan of people that make up three of the 27 Local Governments in Imo State. Politically, they constitute the largest voting population in the State and known to have notable political leaders and those who have excelled in various fields of human endeavor. The annual New Yam festival (Iri Ji) is a well known cultural norm of the people and this year’s event is generating so much controversy as reports reaching Waka About Africa indicate that a planned chieftaincy title by all the traditional rulers from the area on a top Imo State government official is generating ripples. Governor Rochas Okorocha’s Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu is fingered to be the one that will be conferred with a chieftaincy title on the day of the New Yam festival, a move said to have sharply polarised the entire Mbaise clan.
The apex social-cultural organization of the entire Mbaise nation, Ezurezu Mbaise disassociated itself from any planned conferment of chieftaincy titles on anyone on the day of the New Yam festival.
The statement signed by Chief Barr. Cyril Anyanwu described such planned conferment as an aberration and a desecration of the cultural heritage of Mbaise people particularly on those who have not contributed or attracted any economic or social benefit to the people. They have further advised Ndi Ezeji and the good people of Mbaise to observe the 2018 Iri Ji festival in their various autonomous communities, noting that the group is not part of any kangaroo Iri Ji Mbaise purportedly planned by some elements to justify huge funds said to have been allegedly collected from their “client”.
Chairman of all Traditional Rulers in Mbaise nation led by His Royal Highness Eze Leo Nwokocha has reportedly denied any form of inducement to conferring the title of the State government official. Based on the foregoing, traditional rulers and Ezejis were reported to have been directed to celebrate the festival in their respective communities.
Tension is looming in Mbaise clans following the developments associated with the 2018 Iriji Festival held at Itu Mbaise, even as this newspaper has gotten a fresh report after the initial news about the location where the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Uche Nwosu was handed the chieftaincy title.
It was further learned that the continued stay of about 78 Mbaise traditional rulers in their domain as royal fathers is in doubt as they have been marked to have opted out from the Chieftaincy installation and not sighted within the premises.
If the number of Eze at the event where Eze Leo Nwokocha, the Chairman of Mbaise Council of Traditional Rulers led others present to confer Nwosu the title is to be counted, then the absentees are in trouble.
It would be recalled that the controversies trailing this year’s Iriji, especially after it was made public that Nwosu would receive a chieftaincy title from the monarchs caused friction, leading the organizers; the Ezuruezu Mbaise, to disagree with the section of the monarchs wanting Nwosu to be handed the title. Should the threat from Government House quarters be considered, then the absentee Ezes are in trouble and likely going to face severe consequences where dethronement may come in. Meanwhile, a clearer picture of what transpired at Mbaise during the Iriji Festival has appeared as the newspaper was mistaking the sequence of events and error of identity when it disclosed that Nwosu’s title it was at the Eze’s palace
However, further reports gathered have it that it was at the Central School Itu, venue of the event. In line with the earlier report, by our reporter who was on the ground says that after the performance of traditional rites majority of the Ezes and Ezeji’s left, the venue became alive when Nwosu came with his teeming supporters.
At that point, the event turned to a political rally with all the structure of Ugwumba moving around the field with banner and supporters of Uche Nwosu took over the place and allegedly removed every poster of other political aspirants who are not Rescue Mission compliant. Nwosu now took the center stage as his supporters who are mainly not from Mbaise began to sing and dance in solidarity songs around him.
His arrival to the event place changed the atmosphere as he was on top of a jeep acknowledging cheers from his supporters drawn from all parts of Imo State, mainly, from Ohaji/Egbema. Other aspirants in Ugwumba Uche Nwosu’s camp used the opportunity to showcase themselves. The place became very rowdy and at a time police calmed the situation and stopped all movements. The police ordered that people should go back to their seats.
Kola nuts were presented to him after which he was presented before the crowd for the chieftaincy title. Eze Leo and others present gave him the title “Ugwumba Oha-Nile and not Omenkeahuruanya as earlier rumored. Eze Nwokocha while appreciating Nwosu told Uche Nwosu not to forget Ndi Eze Mbaise.
After receiving the title, Uche Nwosu promised to carry Mbaise people along. He also promised to empower youth and women of the area if he becomes governor in 2019. Waka About Africa gathered who’s who that was at the venue when the Ezeji’s and the majority of the Ezes left after the Iwaji was told Nwosu’s Chieftaincy title would hold at Eze Nwokocha’s palace. Some journalist who proceeded to the palace but was turned back by security operatives who took over the area.