Eze (Dr.) Ngozi Ibekwe (JP) Ugo-Oha 1 of Etiti Mgboko Ancient Kingdom, Abia State Nigeria, holds Bsc, MPIA from the University of Lagos and FCIA. He is also the Mayor: Non-Yoruba Speaking People in Lagos. If you are just meeting him for the first time, a mere stirring at him, a full picture of his bold dripping Royalty vividly announces his kind of personality into your mind.
When Waka Abot Africa team visited his palace, you can notice Eze Ngozi in all its ramifications is a very flamboyant traditional ruler of the first order who takes delight in ensuring that the sacred institution that is very close to the people are upheld to the letter. He is an interviewee delight to behold.
He gave a vivid insight into how the traditional institution is being preserved from the grips of hacked that abuse the institution from the diaspora. He informed how these “emergency” Ezes are kept at bay by their respective traditional rulers in their various Ancient Kingdoms across Igbo land. It remains an account you have not read elsewhere before.
He is not once that talks on the drop of a hat. He calls spade by its name which is why he has been able to hold his traditional Ancient Kingdom together to date, peace and harmony took hold and centre stage.
He is from Abia State and never hesitated to reveal that those that parade themselves as Eze Igbo from the diaspora are not recognised into Abia State Traditional Royalty Council.
On what their roles are, he informed that it is chiefly to gather people mostly those they knew that are in tune with the culture of the people hence they rally around him in case anything happens to anybody within their domain.
On whether he recognises Eze Igbo in his Kingdom, he paused and said No way, why should I? Two Kings (Ezes) can never be in a community at the same time. It will be unheard of, in short, it is not possible, no matter where he comes from and presents his letter of recognition to me in my Kingdom. He won’t be recognised, who then will I be if such person becomes Eze in the same Kingdom also. You can on your own feel unrealistic of such.
Worst case scenario I will firstly, recognise him as a High Chief under the Eze Igbo there, all these have been causing lots of problems at home because when you come and begin to make such claim, we will say no even if you have more money than the Eze, he will never allow you any space to operate in the same community even in your compound you cannot be recognised.
Seriously, I have not heard of these Eze Igbos in the diaspora at home how can we hear of these Eze in our community, that was because they are not original Eze Igbos most of them, are chiefs in their domain and at home.
How did you reconcile this, remember this incident that happened in Ondo State, where Eze Igbos of that State was trying to measure height with the original King so why won’t they be recognized in their respective States first, it will continue to be impossible because there is always original Eze there. No vacancy. Once they have money to throw about, and driving expensive cars that it is finished, they have arrived and can feel as if they are thin gods, In short, they play god.
They place and parade themselves too high and important above every other person in the community. Like I said earlier, once they have lots of cash to throw here and there, driving exotic cars and they have Community or Local government where they can operate from, if that Local government have any issue, they report to them so all information goes to them and you hear them saying vote for me and stuff like that.
As the Mayor of non- Yoruba speaking people of Lagos State which as a matter of fact are Igbos, Hausa and South-South are all here these people are born and brought up in Yoruba they are the people that I govern as Mayors.
Non-speaking Yoruba people, we have them amply here, they came around if anybody has a problem they can come and report and we will promptly mobilise and then go for it. We have helped to recover one land that was taken by another man.
He posited that the Mayorship is not only in Ojokoro here, rather it is all over the State. They are well distinctive about it because they are still looking out may be thinking these people should not take over our land.
As a well recognised Eze in Igbo land, His Royal Majesty from Abia state, in short, the Ugo 1 of the Udokombom Kingdom, I’m close to my subjects whether it has been hard or so to win my people back home from Lagos as I have said oftentimes purely depends on how or the method using are employing to lead your people, I have an administratively sound Prime Minister who is in charge in our Kingdom.
We are constantly in touch with each other 247. In such circumstances he first seeks my opinion on issues, we held a meeting and after deliberating extensively on them I will then give him the go-ahead order based on what we discussed are the best acceptable practices to handle it (them) that is the vital issues. I cannot stay here to tell you that the difficulties are not there but God in His Wisdom has given me the grace on how to manage all without much hassle and I want to use this opportunity to said without any let or hindrance that absolute peace, freedom of expression, movement, association, and stability have reigned supreme in my domain.
When asked on how he coordinates the people of his Kingdom, if he has Oligarchy, Head of the village, he said, in the village, it is called Village head. Each village has its own head and there is a Central Chairman, all the Village Heads report any incident to him the (Central Chairman) and the chairman reports to me it’s a kind of rules and regulations in check so for me how to lead the community is not a problem it’s only if you cannot handle your administration so whatever goes on the chairman tells them me about it and we have it figured out. I have about eight villages head under me. The population is more than 500,000 and their occupation is trading and farming. How often do you have meetings with your village heads? It depends on what happens if a trouble maker breaches in and start causing trouble, though there is nothing the chairman cannot handle. But I do have meetings with them once in a while.
I have had an emergency situation which made me fly home, that was the time there was chaos everywhere in the community, it was about certain witchcraft, where and everybody was in total confusion so I travelled home and brought everything to normalcy. There was a man called Uto I wanted to bring him to my village but the villagers didn’t allow me so I step aside on it. But then so many people were accused including my uncle before I arrived they excommunicated him, brought down his house and he took us to the court that his wife was killed on the process. So they came, arrested people at home we went there spent money and brought them back home I spend about N50,000 then and we went to Court with the man for about four years at the end, we detected that it was the man that killed his wife through this poison they did, about five years ago.
How did you emerge as the Royal Majesty of your Kingdom O! It interesting, I was the Prime Minister of our Kingdom then, the Eze then was Mayor and incidentally from another community and I am from the center of our community. He said when he heard that they wanted to split the Kingdom even though, I was the Prime Minister, the King was begging me to go for it, few people from my village went and divided the community as a Prime Minister under somebody then I had no power so they took the Eze of my environment to another place and give them.
So I knew some people don’t want me to be their Eze so I went to another community, we did the commissioning and the community was approved. Then there was a certain Commissioner of Police who vowed never I would not be the Eze, he thought that once he retires he will become the Eze, so I went to Eze gave him two cow, 150, 000 and some drinks during his coronation because they saw that if our community need anything we will get it at that period, I was charged N500, 000, I priced N250, 000 which was declined I later pay the N500, 000 and some money to do other things. I later travelled to Israel.
According to tradition, the Eze to be must be present if not the Commissioner would withhold the title pending the time you come which will attract money and some other things. So when I came back, I passed through Port Harcourt before I came before reroute my community, then I was handed over the title so nobody can come up now and said they gave me the title.
I must be honest with you that the relationship between me and my people has been nothing but cordial. To further put it mildly, I have no issue with my people though not everybody will like you as their King even Governor Akinwunmi Ambode not everybody loves him if not everybody would have been in APC or voted for him so that is nothing to me or fear for.
I have been the Eze for the past 15 years now that is why I am planning to retire from everything and go home. I have heard of retirement several times now. What I have done for my people is uncountable and the majority is pleased and glad about them. They knew I have created so many things even before I became the Eze, I built football viewing centre where people congregate to watch games and also enjoy themselves, as it is now there is an assessable from road our place to Akwa Ibom, I wrote letter to Governor than to the Minister for Works and Housing, now the road is in progress. And mind you all the position I got, I didn’t fight with anybody to get any.
On how the Obas from Lagos relate with Royal Majesty from the East, “We get along very well, they respect us and we do the same because they knew we are all equal if not for the way Lagos State treats them, paid them and gave them cars but they still accord us the respect when it comes to ranking, we are all the same.
For instance, when we are in any event involving the Obas, we interact well and do normal greetings, I cannot bend down for them and they can’t bend down to me as well and nobody can’t force you to do that it is not possible.
Talking about Oba, Emir, and Eze being one and equal, he said they have been discussing with the government on how to handle the people and recognised them in this country in order for them to function effectively. In Nigeria today, things are not working accordingly, otherwise, the duration of Eze would have been the same but they have to hand it over the state governor. What I heard and read was that for the Eze to exist, they have five percent of the local government allocation, if I tell you how much they pay us you will laugh. We have the Chairman in Abia State that is where we go to collect our pay so anything that is given to us is what we take home. So it is not like Lagos that the federal and state governments look after the Obas you can’t compare them with us.
The Eze said eastern Governors must go the extra mile to take care of the Ezes. If the federal government can give directive on how much all Ezes should be paid and possibly give them new cars but such order is not coming from the top so the state and Local government does what they feel like.
Without Eze, it will be very difficult for the government to know what is happening in the respective communities because whatever happens in the communities they come to confirm from the Eze that why I want to write a book maybe with time on “Role of Eze in Cotemporary Nigeria” so if the government is not taking care of Eze how can you come and ask him about criminal activities in the community.
Talking about diaspora Kingship gear him, Let me make it clear that my diaspora Kingship is not affecting me at all. It’s not affecting me in any way because as young as I am, I cannot go home and be dependable in Igbo land nobody gives you anything instead, they expect you to give them so let me be here when my children obtained their Master’s degrees, I can retire and go home.
On the date he is intending to retire, “I am planning, I don’t want to go home and be a liability. Let all the traditional rulers be treated equally. Somebody must rule the community, people have to make comments so what I am saying is there is no respect for the King, if not government would have raised the status of Kingship, there are so many poor Ezes around here using motorcycle popularly called Okada so to me government is not doing proper work for the Ezeship.