Recently, most of the newspapers reported the feud between the Deji of Akure, Aladelusi Aladetoyinbo, and Eze Ndigbo in Akure, Gregory Iloehika, over claims of a plan by Aladetoyinbo to dethrone him.
Many issues were at stake but the glaring ones are who should collect royalty from the Igbo community who seem more comfortable paying to the Eze Ndigbo than the Deji, and the influx of “illegal traders” at Mojere market where Igbo traders were accused of contravening the rules.
One Emeka Umeh, chair of the Igbo traders, was accused by the interim chairman of the market, Saka Aliu, of responsibility over the “illegal traders”.
A meeting was held where Umeh was mandated to do away with the “illegal traders” but he allegedly refused, leading to forceful resort to eject the “illegal occupants” on the directives of the Deji.
The forgoing was the background upon which the Eze Ndigbo was brought into the picture to intervene, but the Deji may have considered his intervention slow and his style, arrogant and disrespectful to his authority and institution.
“We shall continue to allow integration of all Nigerians, but we will not allow anyone to degrade or trample upon our tradition and institution,” he said.
The Deji accused the Igbo in Akure of insubordination and violation of tradition.
Rotimi Olusanya, the Asamo of Akure, who spoke for Aladetoyinbo, accused Iloehika of disregard for Akure people and the traditional ruler.
Events came to a head when the Deji directed that Iloehika should stop wearing a crown in his domain, Akure.
This, the Igbo in Akure kicked against, fingering the Deji-in-Council as poking the fire to dethrone Iloehika. They shut their businesses and markets in Akure in protest.
Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, convened a meeting where Aladetoyinbo still listed conditions for a truce with Iloehika.
Aladetoyinbo reiterated that Iloehika is forbidden from wearing any form of crown and must apologise to him in at least three national newspapers and on radio.
Others include: “That the Igbo leader must write a letter of apology to the Oba and the Deji-in-Council.
“That the title ‘Eze Ndigbo’ must be reviewed and replaced with a non-controversial honorary title and that the Igbo leader must comply with all the earlier directives of the palace.’’
Mimiko also met with Igbo leaders in Akure, led by Iloehika. At the meeting, Ileohika denied disrespecting Aladetoyinbo as well as the charges of insubordination.
His words: “The Deji invited me to his palace on Monday (penultimate week) and I honoured his invitation. I went with one of my chiefs, but when I got to the palace, I saw youths numbering over 200 who started shouting as I entered.
“I suspected that the youths were mobilised by the monarch and I showed respect to the Deji by prostrating for him.
“The monarch, while addressing me at his palace, threatened to drive all the Igbo in Akure out of the city, and when I asked for the offence my people committed, the youths at the palace descended on me.
“They tore my beads and removed my crown. They attempted to beat me up, but the police officers at the palace rescued me.”
True to type, some Yoruba ethnic irredentists, including members of the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) have keyed into the Akure situation to do what they know how to do best – pour invectives on the generality of Ndigbo.
Can one tell me how communication breakdown over Eze Ndigbo issue can translate into an Igbo expansionist agenda as Afenifere is telling its kit and kin? “The evolution of this structure has forced us to consider it as an expansionist agenda as the structure is only rampant in Yoruba land,” said Kunle Famoriyo, ARG Publicity Secretary.
The group claimed that its earlier communication to the Igbo leadership of the unacceptability of Igbo kings in Yoruba land “fell on deaf ears.” Which Igbo leadership did it complain to and what response did it get?
Famoriyo said: “In Akure, the ‘Eze’ believes he now has the power to invest people with chieftaincy titles that are traditional to Yoruba kingship system.
“In Lagos State, there is an Eze Ndigbo of Lagos, as well as for each of the 57 local government areas. There are reports that we now even have Eze Ndigbo of some neighbourhoods in Lagos.
“This is what used to be mere development unions and associations of Igbo people living in Yoruba land. Almost all Igbo community with a sizeable number of indigenes living in Yoruba land have a development union or association.
“These associations are welcome and supported, being organisations set up to discuss the welfare of their members.”
But Afenifere added that the spread of ‘Eze Ndigbo’ connotes territorial influence and even ownership.
“This practice has continued to stretch the tolerant nature of Yoruba people to the limit and it appears the eventual aim of its perpetrators is to stretch this beautiful culture of Yorubas to the breaking point.
“This is something that Yoruba people living away from Yoruba land do not even think of, and we therefore see no reason why migrants living in Yoruba land should not know their boundaries.
“Consequently, ARG calls on all Yoruba traditional rulers and the executive heads of government at state and local levels and governors to de-recognise all customary titles that are not backed by our customs, particularly those that they did not confer, and we enjoin those parading themselves as holders of such titles to drop them in the spirit of peaceful coexistence.
“It is globally accepted that there cannot be two kings in the same domain as there cannot be two captains in the same boat.”
Some of the posts on facebook or any other social media platform by some Yoruba youths keeps one wondering if there is a course they teach them at school called “How to hate Igbo.”
By derogatorily describing a people as migrants in their own country, what has Afenifere achieved other than the usual sing song of hate for the Igbo?
Unfortunately, what most of them forget is that not all Igbo are wearing the crown of Eze Ndigbo in the Yoruba environment or any other part of the country as the case may be where the fraud called Eze Ndigbo holds sway.
In any case, they seldom also know that most of those who adorn such Eze Ndigbo garbs and parade such titles do so in collaboration with their equally fraudulent types, mostly for pecuniary reasons.
Afenifere waded in almost immediately the feud began and used the opportunity to castigate and malign the Igbo Nation as expected.
By regarding the matter as an “unrelenting desecration of Yoruba culture by the Igbo communities’ obsession with having a crowned king in Yoruba domains” one could see clearly that the target here is no longer the miniscule number of Igbo men who crave worthless social renown through the instrumentality of Eze Ndigbo outside Igboland, but Ndigbo as a whole.
Afenifere said the title of Eze Ndigbo in Yoruba land is not backed by any customary law and is therefore considered alien.
But wait minute, is Afenifere telling us anything new? If they are not beneficiaries of the contraption why is it taking them time to outlaw the shenanigan which even the majority of the Igbo know have little relevance in their traditional institution back home?
It is worrisome that during every development that tests the ability and patience of the Igbo and Yoruba to cohabit the popular refrain would always be that Ndigbo should be led to the slaughter house.
It is on record that a few years ago, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, Chairman of South East Council of Traditional Rulers declared Eze Ndigbo illegal and warned those who recognise and patronise them to desist from doing so.
But do you blame the Afenifere?
The Igbo say imi beme anya ebeme (when the nose starts crying the eye joins) and that ihere onye ara ji eme onyenweya (it is the relation of the mad person who feels ashamed).
Why would anyone raise a finger for a bunch of Igbo men, some better regarded as renegades or tricksters who make themselves lackeys of the traditional and political institutions of other ethnic nationalities, just because they seek social relevance they cannot get at home?