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Ubulu-Uku: A kingdom divided within

Almost a month ago, 17-year-old Chukwuka Noah Akaeze was crowned to succeed his father, the late Edward Akaeze Ofulue III, as the new monarch of…

Almost a month ago, 17-year-old Chukwuka Noah Akaeze was crowned to succeed his father, the late Edward Akaeze Ofulue III, as the new monarch of Ubulu-Uku in the Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State.
The pensive and discreet coronation, just like his father’s death, generated unusual awe and attention following the mysterious passage of the monarch. The late Ofolue III was kidnapped and later murdered in unexplained circumstances.
After the coronation of the teenager, the local government Chairman, Chief Isaac Anwuzia, summoned the Aniocha South Traditional Council to official receive the young monarch into their fold. The council is headed by HRM Obi Kikachukwu and traditional ruler of Ubulu Unor, one of the three communities that constitute the Ubulu clan.
But the traditional council, it was learnt, had advised the Ubulu-Uku royal family to go back and put their house in harmony before official public presentations were made.
However, the next day, the local government chairman led the royal delegation on a courtesy visit to the Delta State Governor, who accorded the young monarch a regal honour befitting a first class traditional ruler.
Irked by the development, the Onishe of Ubulu-Uku kingdom and head of the Idimas-in-Council, Chief Emma Ejiofor, spurned the royal fanfare.
Chief Ejiofor went down memory lane on how the late Ofolue III emerged as king of Ubulu-Uku.
He lamented the action of a section of the Ubulu-Uku royal family (Umu Obi) who had backed the late ruler to allegedly usurp his most elder brother’s right and continually desecrate the sanctity of the traditional institution.
He condemned the present arrangement, where the palace was put in the care of a Regent and uncle of the young king, Prince Tony Ofulue, describing it as alien to their tradition.
“The Ojiba is one of the Idimas. He stands in for the king when he is not around or travels [dies]. He takes charge of the palace at any period of interregnum. He holds the keys to the palace. There is no place the Ojiba does not enter, in some cases, even where the king cannot enter. The tradition is such that the throne cannot be vacant at any moment. So there is no place for Regency in Ubulu Uku Kingdom,” the Onishe averred.
He described the coronation as an irresponsibility on the part of some people. “The first question you should ask is: who installed him? All these happened within a month and then you are saying they installed somebody. Is it by election that somebody will be on the throne? Whose throne is the child sitting on? Is it the throne of his father?” the Onishe queried rhetorically.
Chief Ejiofor said that the late Ofulue III had three elder brothers ahead of him by the same departed royal patriarch, of which the last of the three was senior to him with four years and eight months, stressing that Ubulu-Uku practises traditional monarchy by primogeniture, not paramountship.
He reasoned that if the installed traditional ruler is not his father’s first son, whose throne is he occupying?
“Ascending the throne is not by election rigging, where they write results and say you have won, whether you truly win or not. No! We are talking about tradition. The processes of having a king takes a long time,” he stated.
He maintained that the throne was never vacant since 2011 when the eldest son, Prince Okwuchukwu Edward Ofulue was conferred with the title of Umogwu (heir apparent) of the Ubulu-Uku kingdom.
Chief Ejiofor believed strongly that the state government merely recognises a traditional ruler with the presentation of Staff of Office but cannot choose a king for the people, adding that the late Ofulue’s recognition was politically manipulated in September 2006.
He said they had secured a court pronouncement in 2006 that the status remained but was vacated in a high-powered political manipulation a few months to the termination of the James Ibori administration.
“There has been a court case by the kingmakers that the late Ofulue III should not be recognised because he was not the first son. But the former deputy governor, Chief Benjamin Elue did otherwise,” he said.
In the heat of the tussle, a socio-cultural group, Ndi Anioma Forum led by Lauretta Onochie,  set up an independent 11-man committee to intervene on the issue and held series of consultations and meetings with the parties in the royal feud.
Mrs. Onochie told Daily Trust on Sunday that the committee was nearing success as the late Ofulue III had expressed willingness to abdicate the throne for his elder brother sometime in 2013 and a truce meeting had been planned in London for the royal pact to be sealed.
Ndi Anioma took the matter further by writing a letter to the then Governor of Delta State, seeking him to prevail on Ofulue III, among other demands, to abdicate the throne for his elder brother as he was willing to do.
Ndi Anioma further canvassed that the rightful heir, Prince Edward Okwuchukwu Ofulue, apply for and be issued with the Staff of Office as he has completed all processes leading to the coronation of an Obi, according to Ubulu Uku tradition and customs.
Now, traditionalists in the community believed that the late ruler’s death smacked off “evidences of ancestral curses” over the alleged usurpation of the throne.
According to inside palace sources, in the heat of the kidnap saga, some designated royal family members “Umu Obi” had consulted professional soothsayers, oracles and deities outside Ubulu-Uku for a clue on the whereabouts of the monarch, but were curiously referred back to Ubulu-Uku for a solution.
In his one decade rule, the late Ofulue III was reputed to have brought reforms in certain obnoxious traditional rites and was a devoted Christian.
Daily Trust on Sunday sought reactions from the Regent, Prince Tony Akaeze, but he was said to have travelled and nobody has the mandate to speak on the issues.
The President-General of Ubulu-Uku Development Community, Mr. Jones Ofunne, said the palace was aware of the media spotlight on the issues of the throne and the kingdom and disclosed a press conference would soon be held to address the matters.