Ojoto Igweship: Igwe Elect, Okafor opts out of govt panel, decries ignorable, unconstitutional procedure adopted.

There was confusion at the Anambra Government House, yesterday when one of the candidates in the Ojoto chieftaincy tussle, who had earlier been elected and presented as the community's monarch, Chief Dennis Okafor stormed out of the panel's set up by Gov Willie Obiano to look into the selection process of their next traditional ruler.

Okafor accused the government of attempting to usurp their Chieftaincy constitution and interfering in the internal affairs of the community.

 Among the four candidates who indicated interest in the vacant stool, two later dropped, leaving behind Okafor and Chief Gerald Mbamalu.

Okafor told journalists who were at the Government House premises, venue of the panel's sitting yesterday, that his Umuofor kindred of the Enugo Ojoto village had successfully selected him and presented him to the Ojoto Akanasato community as Igwe elect.

He was therefore sad that those who lost out now instigated instability in the community under the guise of which the state government was now being railroaded into. Matters got worse when government instead of looking into the issue in dispute now chose to start screening of candidates afresh thereby technically supervising the selection of the traditional ruler for the town.

He faulted this move saying: “selection of candidates for chieftaincy of a community is usually strictly preserved for citizens of that community and they have sole right to do that. Government does not choose ruler for a community. It is the community that chooses who rules them", he argued.

Okafor explained that he opted out of the screening process for three main reasons.
"The Panel Chairman announced that OSDU constitution will be used for the screening of the candidates whose names were forwarded to them and I queried why, because the said constitution was in a letter addressed to Enugo Village dated 30th of July, 2017, suspended and Ojoto Akanasato Union, OAU, constitution was approved for the process. Because OAU constitution is supreme law in Ojoto community, as the mother town Union. Why are they conducting a fresh screening when an Igwe elect has been produced using the OAU constitution"?
He added, "I also argued that even with the OSDU constitution, the composition of the membership of the screening committee was wrong as people who do not possess the necessary criteria as stipulated in that constitution were invited as members. Finally, I left the panel because it was clearly stipulated that in the case of ambiguity, it is only the Central Executive Committee, CEC, that can interpret the constitution of which their resolution was that Enugo village should select a candidate from the most senior kindred which is Umuofor. This has already been done and I emerged. "

He also said some of members of the Panel like Mr Greg Obi ,the commissioner for LGA and Chieftancy matters are already biased as they have vested interest in the matter and based on how strategic nature of their office in this matter  implore undue influence on the decisions of the panel. This he noted, had prompted him to write to Governor Willie Obiano. But he lamented that for some reasons, his letter was not acted upon because it may not have been brought to the attention of the governor.

He said: "I have passed through all the processes and fulfilled all obligations and recommendations in line with the constitution of Ojoto and the State Chieftaincy Act 2007 as amended under the supervision of the Ojoto town union otherwise called Ojoto Akanasato Union (OAU).

 "Everything regarding my selection as the Igwe Elect of Ojoto is well documented and made available to the State Government, the Police and the Department of State Security (DSS).

He also accused the panel of bringing in strange people who were not authorized by the town’s constitution to participate in screening of candidates.

 However, the chairman of the panel and former Minister of Health, Dr. Tim Menakaya dismissed the allegation of compromise against any member of his panel, describing them as very distinguished men and women.

In an interview, shortly after the sitting, Menakaya said: "I will deny that every member of the panel was compromised. But we refused to stand truth on its head. All we have tried to do is to follow to the last letter the words of the constitution of Igwe Ojoto. Every single soul on the panel is man of integrity. I don't know the reason for anybody to be angry".

A visibly satisfied Chief Mbamalu said that all the rules stipulated in the process of selection of Igwe Ojoto was followed by the panel which went thoroughly through the constitution line after line, and decided that the only way out was to follow the constitution and conduct a repeat process.

 He said the constitution spelt out method and criteria for selecting a traditional ruler for the community.

"The reason we asked government to do the screening is because we cannot be sure of what happens if we decide to go back home with the problem.

 "The committee invited all the people eligible to vote, village chairmen, the Okpalas and so on as well as the contestants to witness the screening.

 "But it is unfortunate that Okafor insisted  that the method was not right. He kept saying that he cannot be part of it because the constitution was not followed. He stormed out of the screening exercise and so automatically he has given up, he has surrendered"


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