Historical Facts Behind Idumuje Ugboko Palace Coup
By Hezy Odoh
Historically, Idumuje people who are part of Idumuje clan in Aniocha North L/G.A. Delta State trace their roots to ancient Bini kingdom, just like most of Ezechima and Odiani people that left Benin in the 18th century.
Idumuje Unor and Idumuje Ugboko are one people that settled in different locations. They share boundaries with towns like Igbodo in Ika North East LGA, Onicha Ugbo and Ugbodu,in Aniocha North LGA and Ewohinmi in Edo State.
They belong to the Igboid linguistic group, but their political power structure, institutions and practices; draw largely from the ancient Bini kingdom.
Agriculture was their major preoccupation, but over time, commerce and other crafts as well as blue collar jobs, professional training, etc, have become part of the transformation that came with access to education and exposure to other civilisations.
Idumuje Ugboko is the epicenter of this analysis and it must be said that to understand a people one must look at their history, mores, social and interpersonal relationship, religion, culture and other values that inform their world views.
Hence they say that those who ignore the lessons of history would repeat its tragedy.
A lot of half truths and misleading facts are been fed to the public through a media team whose mandate is to propagate false hood.
To understand the unfolding events, it is important to follow the historical trajectory of the hidden discontent and structures in the Royal family and the Idumuje Ugboko before the death of the king.
The Royal family in Idumuje Ugboko is among the ten largest in the world. Idumuje-Ugboko which is some four kilometers away from her sister community Idumuje-Uno was founded by a large number of people who migrated Idumuje-Uno as a result of a quarrel on the Odogwu traditional chieftaincy title as it where then at Idumuje. This exodus was led by Nwoko a candidate for the Odogwu chieftaincy title who later became the first Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko.
What is happening in Idumuje Ugboko kingdom today has all the trappings of a palace coup d’état and the two surviving widows of the late monarch are not hiding their views about the bizarre event.
They have written a petition to the Inspect General of Police, demanding for an autopsy of the late monarch whom they claimed was strangled to death. and the IGP has directed that an autopsy should be carried out on the late king.
At the time of this report, a petition was written to the Assistant Inspector General of Police zone 5 in Benin city to enforce a warrant of arrest which has been issued against Prince Nonso Nwoko is battling over five criminal cases.
Bench Warrants of Arrest has been ordered against Prince Justin Chukwunonso Nwoko in the stated charge no: CMA/420C/2016 and CHARGE NO: MUO/5C/2016 since March, 2017 and renewed on 29th June, 2017.
It is a fact that when the case came up for continuation of hearing on 29th June, 2017, the Police Prosecution Counsel who at the sitting of the court on 31st May, 2017 had applied for an order of the court which was granted by the court in (charge no: CMA/420C/2016) to enable the police verify the medical certificate from the Hospital Management Board, Owa-Oyibo tendered by Prince Barr.
Mbanefo Nwoko (Counsel to the Accused) as reason for the first accused absence in court, tendered before the court a disclaimer of the medical report from Hospital Management Board, Owa-Oyibo which was tendered on behalf of Prince Nwoko who was absent in court on 31st May, 2017 by the counsel.
The Chief Magistrate in his ruling on 29th June, 2017, ordered the police to investigate the said medical report from Hospital Management Board, Owa-Oyibo with a view to unraveling those behind it.
The medical report is alleged to have been forged. So far, Nwoko has used the excuse that he is mourning the death of his father to avoid responding to the police invitations. A conviction on any of them could disqualify him from the kingship aspiration.
The move to drag the star university project into the kingship tussle is only a ploy to exploit the emotive content associated with land matters to garner support for his schemes and divert attention from real problems that are rooted in history, culture and destiny of the people.
As stated above, there are historical and socio-cultural issues associated with who becomes the next monarch in Idumuje Ugboko after the demise of the last monarch. Before his exit, there were deep crisis in the Royal family as reflected in a position paper presented by Prince Dan. O. Nwoko, to the inaugural meeting of the Umu Obi Omorhusi Executive Council in the Royal Palace on April 6, 2016, in Idumuje Ugboko.
Some of the issues raised centered on lack of respect for senior members of the Royal family, exhibition of acts of indiscipline and unbridled ambition, disregard for traditional and protocols, usurpation of the functions of the monarch and the concept of primogeniture in Idumuje Ugboko kingdom.
Prince Dan O. Nwoko raised issues concerning primogeniture, qualifications and eligibility of the presumed Crown Prince eventually qualifying to exercise his birthday right. In other words, “the term Crown is a floating term as it hovers over whosoever is tagged the ‘Crown Prince’, until it crystallizes and rests on his head that is when he is put on the throne.”
Therefore, it can be frustrated under unwritten customs and laws. Such frustration can take place under the following circumstances: If the Crown Prince is pre-deceased the reigning monarch; If the Crown Prince is of unsound mind and is incapable of knowing or understanding what he is doing. No one will have an idiot as a king; and if he is arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction of criminal offence, found guilty, sentenced and or fined. Certainly, no one will like to crown a criminal or ex-convict as a king.
This has three dimensional phases taboo stage, tragic stage and tragedy stage. The three stages must be completed, before action can be taken for the ambulatory (floating) crown to continue its movement and search for the right person.
The tradition of Idumuje Ugboko allowed the period of regency from 1955 to 1981 when departed HRM Obi Albert Nwoko, III, Ph.D, MON, JP was crowned the Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko.
Even though it is an established tradition that to be crowned king, both parents of the Crown Prince must be bonafide indigenes of Idumuje-Ugboko, in this case, mother of Prince Nonso Justin Nwoko hails from Ubulu-Uku in Aniocha South Local government. His own wife and mother of his children hail from Anambra state.
There are two contenders to the throne, who Prince Justin Chukwunonso Nwoko, whose mother is from Ubulu-Uku, been one, and Prince Uche Stephen Nwoko, a son of a woman who hail from Idumuje-Ugboko.
Royal watchers assert that right from the first monarch, HRM Obi Nwoko I, his first son, Prince Omoje never ascended the throne because his mother was from neighbouring and sister town Idumuje – Unor. The crown went to Prince Omorhusi Nwoko, Prince Omoje s first son whose mother hailed from Ogbe-Ofu village.
When Obi Omorhusi died, his first son Prince Justin Nkeze Nwoko whose mother was from Atuma village in Idumuje-Ugboko became king and known as Obi Nwoko II. When Obi Nkeze died in 1955; the issue of succession came up because the actual first son died before him.
Prince Rowland S. O. Nwoko, who showed interest, was denied because his own mother was from Idumuje-Unor. The choice fell on Prince Demas Nwoko, but declined because his wife is from Umunze in Anambra state and that disqualifies his children from succeeding him as kings.
The mother of Prince Albert Nwoko was from Ugbodu and his wife was from Ubulu Uku, these precipitated a regency period from 1955 to 1981 (26yrs). The situation became unbearable for the people. The elders and the chiefs then met and contrived a plan to make Prince Albert Nwoko the king but with a proviso that he must marry a woman from his native land whose first son would succeed him for the throne.
Even before his contrived death on February 6, 2017, the late Monarch had been held prisoner in the Palace by Prince Nonso, Prince Richard Obiajulu and Prince Ejimofor amongst others. He was made unreachable and rendered incommunicado by some cabals in the Palace. Not even his wives nor the chiefs could reach him yet he was not in poor health.
The crown prince took over the administration of the kingdom, issuing proclamation which led to the Chiefs instituting a civil case in suit No. HCI/1/16 before the State High Court Issele-Uku in March, 2016 and obtained an Injuction retraining Prince Chukwunonso and others from usurping the duties of the Chiefs. This court order he has flouted severally.
Prince Dan O Nwoko warn him in his Position paper of April 2, 2016, cited earlier in this article. According to the tradition of Idumuje Ugboko, a Crown Prince does not participate in the administration of the kingdom while the father is alive. In one of such Court matters, Prince Edwin Nwoko deposed to an affidavit discontinuing with the matter claiming that they were acting without authority of the king or the family at large.
The Iyase of Idumuje Ugboko, Chief Chris Ogwu, the Odogwu Chief Sunday Edemodu, the Chairman of the Land Allocation Committee, Chief Kennedy Illoh, members of the Onotu amongst others participated in the Izu-Ani where the application for the allocation of the land for the Star University project have all become victims of acts of vandalism, arson and threat to their lives.
These issues have not been resolved and could not be resolved by evoking emotions on issues that are already in court of law. Some of these excesses have been afoot in the past four years when the Crown Prince relocated from Lagos to Asaba, as he claimed, to monitor the events in the kingdom..
The issue of acquisition of land and payment of compensation to the farmers has been in Court in the past two years. The process of ascending the throne in towns within Aniocha North is duly recognised by the Council of Traditional Rulers and the Delta State Government, it would be a bad precedence to allow a palace coup and usurpation of the kingship throne in Idumuje Ugboko to succeed no matter how persuasive the propaganda may seem, the rule of law must prevail above the rule of the jungle and brute force.