Chieftaincy And Kingship Tussle In Igboland: A Case Study Of Ogidi Community Anambra State, Nigeria (1904 -2010)
This research work centers on investigating the factors responsible for Chieftaincy and Kingship tussle with specific focus on Ogidi community of Anambra State of Nigeria. It was aimed at exploring the origin, the causes, the effects and the experiences people encountered during the period of the tussle. The work traces the origin of Igbo, the pre-colonial and colonial administration as well as the Igbo leadership after the British era. The Origin of Ogidi, introduction and administration of monarch. (Kingship) as well as the structure, power, qualification and mode of election into the office of the Igwe were discussed. Data for the work were collected using library research, employing both primary and secondary sources, and through oral interview, which was randomly selected within the scope of the study. The researcher personally went for the interview and established the content validity of the interview conducted. In the work also, the tussle itself, the situation as at the time of the research, the efforts to resolve the issue as well as the approaches for the reduction of the tussle were handled. Based on the observations, it was discovered that the causes of the tussle were the monopoly of the governing post and the imposition of the unwanted candidate.
Background of the Study
Among the scholars especially the ethnologists and historians of Igbo history, the origin of Igbo people is still a subject of controversy. The reason borders on the fact that the main stages of evolution of Igbo history and culture are yet to be explored. Those who are vast in ethnographic and archaeological discoveries from which Igbo origin and history can be distilled are yet to be properly collected, collated, analyzed and interpreted.
As the origin of Igbo remains a vexed question among historians, the place of chieftaincy and kingship institution in Igbo leadership remains an enigmatic aspect of Igbo culture among scholars, some historians insisted that the Igbo had no kings- Igbo enwe eze, which implies that kingship, was alien to Igbo culture, introduced and nurtured by outsiders in pre-colonial settings. While some insist that kingship was and has been part of Igbo culture, Ezedigbo or Ezeadigo nurtured by Igbo autonomous values and principles. They are of the opinion that Igbo communities had kings or kingship at varying levels of development in the pre-colonial period, with accounts of origins, migrations, and settlements among the Igbo.
They assert that each community recognizes and appoints its own Eze who is usually an honest, wealthy heir in the town. In the East Central States like Anambra, Imo, Abia and Enugu, kingships is somewhat static. Kingship emerged in response to social and economic pressure in the various areas occupied by the Igbo. As community developed, the need for leadership whose jurisdiction went beyond their family or lineage units arose. The advent of British rule changed the system, legitimacy to kingship was no longer the affair of the respective communities but that of the Regional government headed by the European. Every selection, appointment, or
election to kinship had to be ratified by the Regional government who also had to determine their pay. Because of this, the traditional ethical values which guided the activities of kings became increasingly neglected. The unit among the Igbo was bastardized by the colonialist that enthroned the aristocratic system of government in Igbo culture.
King or monarch, which is popularly called “Igwe” in Ogidi, is a phenomenon that came into being in the early part of nineteenth century. Before the establishment of Kingship in Ogidi in 1904, the four quarters that make up Ogidi namely Akanano, Uru, Ezinkwo, and Ikenga had Warrant Chiefs. These Warrant Chiefs (W.C) were called Ezeobodo. The Ezeobodo (Warrant Chiefs) acted as the village father and headed village meetings and occasions with the help of other titled-men. Their duties range from settling disputes among the sub-villages to resolving conflicts between his subjects. The Ogidi Community adopted the title “Igwe” based on 1976, 1991,and 1994 Anambra State Traditional Ruler Edict, signed into law by John Atom kpera, (Governor of old Anambra State with capital at Enugu), Joseph Abulu and Mike Attah, former Governors of Anambra State.
The Warrant Chiefs shouldered the responsibilities of their villages and established autonomous governance. The community was divided and each of them had the power to rule over the affairs of their respective quarters. This was where the principle of “divide and rule” emerged in Igbo culture. “Divide and Rule” which was introduced by the British colonialist who invented direct administration in Igbo culture through establishment of native court, derived her revenue from indirect taxation. This “Divide and Rule” system of nineteenth century saw the Igbo villages divided and grouped together and a British District Officer assigned to rule them. Ogidi as other Igbo before the advent of kingship were egalitarian in outlook. There was nothing like overall crowned leader. The whole villages meet in the village square to discuss and deliberate on
matters affecting them. One person was heading the meeting. He was not to have prerogative power neither was he superior to other members in the meeting. Each community recognizes and appoints it own Warrant Chief (Ezeobodo) who was usually a democratically elected nationalist. When the colonial administration enthroned the rule of Kings, the system was changed, the centre could not hold any longer and things fell apart.
Again, the Ogidi community, apart from having Warrant Chiefs as their leaders, also had rulership systems of mmo (masquerades), alusi (deities) Age grade (Otu-ogbo) and titled elders (Ndi-ichie). Both Ibemesi (1995), and Obi (1996), agreed that the Ezeobodo supervised them and this continued until the emergence of British Colonial Administration that instituted Kingship stool in the community about 100 years ago. They assert that each community recognizes and appoints its own Eze who is usually an honest, wealthy heir in the town. This was bastardized by the colonials, which enthroned the aristocratic system of government in Igbo culture.
At the demise of Igwe Walter Amobi 1 in 1925, there was an interregnum in the Igweship system for 19 years, (1925 -1944). The interregnum lasted because Ogidi people refused to have repeated performance of the unbearable experiences they had with the first Traditional Ruler, Igwe Walter Amobi 1.
During the reign of Igwe Amobi 1 in 1904, the community experienced many horrible and excruciating situations because he was high-handed in his reign. Members of the community were forced to carry heavy load, work and labour in Igwe’s compound and farmland once every lunar week (Izu) without any compensation, He married many women mostly from those who came to sweep the palace and snatched other peoples wives forcefully while other men donated
their wives to Igwe so as to get Igwe’s recognition, societal appointment and employment to alleviate hunger and starvation rampaging the community then.
Whenever he attended the court in Ogidi, which was just a stone throw from his house, four men would carry him on a Hammoc, rather reminiscent of the way David Livingstone travelled in East Africa. He had a hand drawn cart for attending other courts. Later on he acquired cars to enable him get to the more distant courts in time. Indeed, he was a powerful monarch, very strong and influencial.
The Igwe’s decision was final. He was to be given the fattest yams in one’s barn, most vital parts of animal killed, collected large expense of land, received tax and was the only one living in well built and expensive house. He wielded sufficient influence both in Ogidi and many other neighbouring towns, which he galvanized together, and was ruling and imposing financial burden on them. There was a regrettable punishment to any one that faltered the orders of the Igwe and one of them was self-exile. Infact, the whole act was dehumanizing in nature.
Statement of the Problem
Looking down the trend of historical event in Ogidi, one can easily observe that since monarchical government began in 1903 from the family of Amobi, it has not been ceded to any other family. Four members of Amobi family have uninterruptedly occupied the Igweship stool of the town without the interregnum years. The colonial government’s determination to perpetuate the traditional systems of administration became distasteful to the emergent Ogidi nationalists. With a few exceptions, most native authorities consisted of illiterate, conservative, and autocratic chiefs, who were either unwilling to move with the times or incapable of it.
Therefore people needed to have a taste of another person’s ability in community democratic governance.
Sometimes only the family members, friends, supporters and relatives of the incumbent rulers are advantaged and favoured during revenue allocation, educational opportunities, political representation, public service employment, political appointment, and chieftaincy coronation. The younger educated elements of the various communities were in most cases excluded from membership of the native authorities. Others are marginalized and unjustly maneuvered.
Because the king has the mandate to rule, he exercises his absolute power to the people of the society. The office of Igwe is democratic, but because power has been allotted to that, it becomes obvious that such powers are abused especially in settling disputes, neglect of the marginals and selecting successors and appointing those to be given titles. Other blatant injustices like levying the public, looting of the community treasury and the king living on the expense of the people became manifest and steers up quarrel and conflict in the town. Another problem is that anyone who refuses to accord the Igwe the above “rights” and “opportunities” will be fined in cash or kind and sometimes, both. Those who thwart or neglect the Igwe’s orders will be forced to self-exile with their families and those who are working directly under him will be forced to resign and their stipend terminated forthwith .In this way, a lot of people migrated and settled in the neighboring communities. Some who were driven away disgracefully did not return while few others have come back home. Although modernization and new wave of global learning and technological development have given rise to more maturity and excellence in governance and in change of certain cultural perception, the Igwe refuses to relinquish this office to other interested parties who can effect some credible changes in the community.
Again, because the community has been practising hereditary system of leadership, at the demise of the reigning king, his successor may be inexperienced, or have a questionable character, unlearned, and generally unaccepted. But because he is aware that the Igweship position will be inheritably relinquished to him, he does not border or rattle for it. This generates a lot of conflict from the people. The most common problem is that this situation has degenerated the tempo of community’s plan of development.
Purpose of the Study
One of the things the researcher will do is to look at the origin of Igbo, their system of leadership governance before and during the advent of British colonialist, their influence on Igbo culture and impact of the State Recognized Traditional Rulers in repositioning the kingship system in Igboland.
Secondly, to examine the matter bordering on kingship tussle with a view to providing some positive enlightenment that influences policy on the role of kings or Chiefs in the political transformation of contemporary Ogidi society. Furthermore, in the survey of moral, political and social significance or functions of kingship title in Ogidi, the researcher will investigate the causes, persistent and prevailing problem of kingship especially in Ogidi community.
The researcher will also examine the factors that make people involve themselves in kingship and taking chieftaincy title. Finally, because of the duration of years this problem has lingered on, the work will highlight the tussle itself, situation now, efforts applied to get it resolved, and effects the chieftaincy and kingship tussle have brought on the people, the society and the cultural traditions and then proffer solutions on how the problem could be prevented or reduced.
Significance of the Study
In the respective Igbo communities, kings are always at the helm of affairs. They become the principal targets of social and political reforms. They carry out the government functions of policy making, adjudication of justice, execution of laws and defence of the state. Therefore the benefits to be derived from this study are in three-folds, which include. –
- Identifying and proving the true position and function of kingship institution in the society. The kings realize that the power and authority given to them are for human and material development services. To ensure that the need of the people and society must be prioritized and prerogatized. The call to leadership is that of responsibility and that of a follower is obedient to the constituted authority.
- Making the people realize that conflict and tussle may not necessarily be the best way to resolving political and social issues. Sometimes when tussle arises it is always to the detriment of the entire society because, lives are lost, money and time are spent, above all properties and infrastructures are looted and destroyed as a result of violence, sometimes the people are always victimized. The developmental strides of the community are dangerously hampered. Issues are better resolved amicably than violently.
- Demonstrating that many communities are involved in this cultural dilemma, the case of the community under study will serve as an eye opener to others. They will see both the positive and negative effects of conflict and proffer solutions when their own case is still in an incubating stage. Lastly since this issue has to do with socio – economic and political lives of people, it will give more room for further investigation on the management and handling of Chieftaincy problems because the king, the people and the society are affected directly or indirectly.
Scope of the Study
This research work focuses on the effect-nexus of Chieftaincy and Kingship tussle with specific reference to Ogidi Community in Anambra State Nigeria. Although the Igbo concept of leadership and governance would be touched, major work of this research paper centres on the socio-political tussle in Ogidi, the situation now and efforts to resolve them.
In view of the nature of this research work, the researcher made full and efficient use of both the primary and secondary sources and methods of data collection to achieve the purpose. Data was collected through: (a) oral interview, and (b) library research. For the primary method, oral interview was used through encounter with the randomly selected heads of the villages; kindred and quarters in Akanano, Uru, Ezinkwo and Ikenga were interviewed.
Secondly, in the secondary method the researcher used the official documents of Ogidi community like the chieftaincy constitution, the historical books of Ogidi and cultural modification of the town. Anambra State Edict of Traditional Rulers of 1991 and 1994 and official document from Anambra State Government Official gazette were also used.
Thirdly, the researcher made use of helpful and relevant literatures, journals and materials available. From both the primary and secondary sources of data collection, the analysis was based on the findings and reports obtained through the interviews and resource materials used. The researcher observed that although one family had taken the leadership position of the community for a long period of years with socio-political achievements, there is need for the traditional leadership governance to be ceded to another citizen of the community. While on the other hand, documented materials dealing with the tussle in Ogidi make the kingship position contestable among the indigenes except the Ire quarters whose responsibility is to crown the elected king
Definition of Terms
For purposes of clarity and better understanding, some of the key words used in this work are defined. They include
- Chieftaincy / kingship
- Tussle/ conflict
Chieftaincy / kingship
Hornby and Wehmeier (2005), say that the word “Chieftain”- from where chieftaincy is derived means the leader of a people or clan, while chief is the title given to the leader of the community. Brennus (2007), says that chieftain means the leader or titular head of a people or similar ethnic group. In definition of king, the former defines it as the male ruler of an independent state that has a royal family and kingship is the state of being a king; the official position of a king. While the later (Brennus) defines king (royalty) as a title of a male ruler vested with authority over a single state, nation, or tribe usually for life and by hereditary succession. This definition of king (kingship) is synonymous with monarchy which is defined as the form of government in which one person has the hereditary right to rule as the head of state during his life time. From this definition a sharp distinction could be made. A chieftain has to do with one heading a people’s group or clan. This may include female chiefs while chieftaincy is the title conferred on the recipient of the honor. Animba (2000), says that “the word ‘chief’ remains an appellation which Ndi Nze and their Ndi Ichie in this sub-culture confer on their subjects and friends of proven ability and achievement in community development and social welfare” (p. 120). Others in this category are the warrant-chiefs and Ndi Nze na Ozo. So all of the above is accountable to the king. The kings make the chiefs and he rules the entire community not part as the case of the chiefs.
Anyanwu (1995), affirms that a “king is the male sovereign (especially one whose position is hereditary) of an independent state” (p. 67). Such a state is called a kingdom. A ruler of a kingdom is the king. In the Igbo culture, three names are designated to kings, “Eze”, ’Igwe’, and ‘Obi’. The Edict of Traditional Rulers in Anambra State No. 2 of section 21 of 1994 and authored by Anambra State Government recognizes that the terms “Igwe” and “Obi” be used to address any government recognized traditional ruler. And that a recognized traditional ruler be addressed and referred to as, “His Royal Highness”. A town or community shall determine either in its town constitution; the either “Igwe” or “Obi” by which the community’s recognized ruler shall be known and addressed.
The word “Eze”, according to Animba (2000), is a derivative from the verb root “Eze” translated “Traditional Rule” and not chief. This agrees with our earlier definitions of chief. Inyama (1993), describes “Eze” as “a traditional head acting as the custodian of culture, custom and tradition and advising the community on them”. (p. 224 – 225). This means that the “Eze” is sovereign in all traditional issues, example is Eze Nri.
Again, “Obi” according to Uchendu (1965), described as the official title of the king. For example, Onitsha community uses the word “Obi” and his prime minister called ‘Onowu`. The right of the “Obi” and his council are regulated by customs. When they exceed their right, the offended village boycotts the Obi’s palace.
“Igwe” is a general title, which many Igbo communities adopt as official name of their traditional ruler. The researcher agrees with Waanders (1990), summary of the definitions of these titles: “Eze”- meaning the king, head, leader, supreme master; “Igwe” – meaning the sky, the highest traditional rank; and “Obi” title for a traditional ruler. All these titles connote the word king or kingship is a universal phenomenon with long history.
Hornby (2005), describes tussle as a short struggle, fight or argument especially in order to get something: while Sagala and Lorna (2002), said it is a fight, battle, brawl, conflict, contest, scrap, scuffle and struggle.
As Lorimer and Lechner (1995), define conflict as a war, a struggle between opposing principles or aims, a clash of feelings or interest. Such a clash as a source of dramatization; Deutsch (1977), definition is more apt. He views conflict as an action, which prevents, obstructs, interferes with, injures or renders ineffective another action with which is incompatible. From the above definition, tussle and conflict connote dispute, disagreement or controversy in ideas or viewpoints held by two or more individuals/ communities. As tussle involves struggle to obtain or change something, conflict relates to uncompromised human needs. For the purpose of this study, these words are co-related to each other, but the researcher preferably chose the word “conflict” as the best match to the word tussle. Both of them are used interchangeably.
Summary and Conclusion
From this research, it is observed that the search into historical background of the Igbo helped to understand the Igbo identity. The basic problem facing Igbo is identifying a suitable leadership system that would be considered fit to destabilize the numerous crises rocking the domains of some of traditional kings. If the kings could adapt to the process of change, one would obviously see the mechanisms of change going on among the Igbo.
The research identifies the historical and scholarly imbalance on the origin of the Igbo, the pre- colonial ruler ship experience and the origin of the institution of Igbo leadership using Ogidi community as a target study. This enabled me to understand that every society has some form of government system or the other – a social system mechanism for social control, as no society can exist without social control.
Looking at the Igbo origin, one would say that the traditional institution has come a long way. Conscious efforts have been made to divest the institution of those obnoxious vestiges of colonial era. The traditional ruler ship is presently the highest position one can aspire to within ones community. This is why some people are vying for the post.
An examination of the modus operandi of some rulers in their autonomous communities reveals an administrative set-up through which they wish to rule the people. The most important of this is the Igwe in Council, Ndi Nze na Ozo, the Town Union (as the case of Ogidi), the Town Chiefs (titled men) and members of the group of Eze’s chiefs. In Ogidi the action of the king to select
those to be given titles without the approval of the Town Union and his role to amend some sections of the community’s constitution to suit his administrative style, and the claim of hereditary kingship resulted in tussle and the rise of cleavages which culminate into section demanding elective system of kingship in the community. The issue facing Ogidi community centers on method of selection (whether hereditary or rotational), and not necessarily what come out of the governance.
Igbo rulership requires as Read (1959), observed “a man endowed with a considerable measure of self-confidence, a person who is yielding or assertive as the occasion demands, a man who is able to judge and to wait for appropriate moment to act” (p. 427). Someone who can to a certain degree manipulate public opinion and of necessary defer to it without relinquishing either his control of his individuality, a man who is rightful and aware of group needs. Such men are essentially the more autonomous in a “tradition-directed” society.
The ruler should know also according to Nwoga (1984), that;
Part of the perception group identity is the recognition that the achievement of one Person leads to the improved level of existence of the community, and the crime of one person can lead to the abomination, destruction and suffering of the town”. (p. 28).
When all these are considered in its sense of cooperativeness, it gives consistency to what should have been contradictory in some Igbo behavior and especially among the people of Ogidi who demand fair justice. Among all, since the numbers of kings are increasing in the State, this may indicate the ranking of kingship institution as era instrument for promoting traditional and a cultural heritage as well as progress within individual Igbo communities.
Therefore, social vices, social injustices, unequal dissemination of resources and power, neglect and disharmony, dishonestly and disparity contributed to the problem of kingship in Igboland and Ogidi in particular should be discarded.
It has been observed through this research that institution of kingship and chieftaincy in Igbo culture has witnessed both change and continuity in terms of ideas and organization. The institution has also been both as asset and a liability to leadership in Igboland mainly because of the lash between tradition and culture-inspired pressures on the one hand and those of colonial situation on other. We see that Igbo leadership principles were such that have continuously sought to maintain a balance, will and interests of the people, and the right and obligations of kingship. Despite the Igbo chequered history, its culture espouses leadership principles, which stress consensus and equalitarianism, the Igbo have desired and nurtured kingship in their respective communities and this is still in existence.
In Ogidi community, though the bone of contention centers on hereditary or elective kingship, it mostly borders on the kings ability to respond to the social, economic and political problems of the people especially when they rush to them for advice, solution and settlement. Igbo and Ogidi community would accept their kings and chiefs if the general opinion of the people were sought for. The major cause of tussle is the imposition. Peoples wish is to procure a leader who stands for justice, equity, truth, honor and integrity and when these are ignored tussle emerges, disruptions, disasters, disagreement and divisions become the results.
The researcher also observed that though chieftaincy and kingship tussle in Igbo culture seems inevitable, it may be reduced drastically. This implies confronting it, identifying and resolving it. At the end of the tussle, there may not be a conqueror or vanquished. Let it be concluded that the end of the conflict resolution is peace, which positively respond to social and political fractures. Both the king (the head) and the led (the community) must relate closely to establish acceptable leadership governance.
Kingship has been a positive factor in the development of Igbo history. The Igbo experience of kingship does not support the position of some scholars and thinkers that traditional rulership is usually antithetical to modernization or progress. The Ogidi community witnessed tremendous progress during the regimes of its traditional rulers. So this experience makes it necessary for the researcher to make the following recommendations for increasing the gains of kingship or Ezeship.
The kings should avoid the inclination to impose on their communities ideas and practices of power and authority, which run counter to those cherished by and acceptable to their people’s culture. There is need to remind the kings that Igbo ships do not need to become equivalents of traditional rulerships (like Emirships and Obaships) rooted in the history and cultures of other Nigerian groups. In deed, part of that distorted kingship in colonial Igboland was the attempt to discover or make such equivalent. That was what the pioneer (Igweship) leadership in Ogidi tried to emulate.
Secondly, kingship deserves to be safeguarded in Igbo leadership through the establishment of constitutionally approved Houses of Traditional Rulers at the State and Local Government levels. The government should intervene in any community that falters the rules and regulations of governance, which is in the constitution. And the offenders are reliable to punishment irrespective of, race, repute, tribe or influence.
Thirdly, those vying for the post of Kings/Chiefs should allow the people to decide who governs them. They should not use their influence, wealth, god-fatherism and even para-military or government position to force themselves into leadership. The duration of each regime, method of selection and election must be well-defined.
Fourthly, the researcher recommends that Ndi Nze in Igboland should formally distance themselves from partisan political and other loyalties or alliances despite pressure to the contrary. For Ogidi Community, this problem of kingship has really wreaked the traditional communal base of the town and has brought a hostile relationship among the members of the community. The relationship between the king, his Town Union and Development Associations has been a source of problem. The problem centers on who holds the power in the community, who controls the fund which in most cases easily degenerate into personal clashes that can result in killing, kidnapping or even physical violence.
For the people themselves the researcher recommends that
- There must be a conducive atmosphere where peaceful dialogue should be maintained. This matter can be resolved amicably when the people imbibe tolerance.
- There is need for the people to seek divine help. They should allow the Church to come in irrespective of the fact that it is a socio-cultural problem. The entire community is suffering the consequences.
- There is also need for the community to withdraw all their court cases. The money spent in this case was enough to handle meaningful projects in the community.
No single research is all comprehensive and conclusive that it will exhaust every thing about a given topic, therefore this particular work is by no means not ended. The study is limited in both scope and findings. The scope was limited to Ogidi Community in Anambra State
Further researches are needed on the same subject matter in other numerous communities in Igboland. In fact Chieftaincy and Kingship tussle is a general problem in most part of Eastern States of Nigeria. Though few communities have taken decisive measures to tackle it due to its prevailing effect to the entire community, few others are still searching for the right key to unlock the route towards solving the enormous problem it poses in the community. A lot of more research is needed into several other ways that can minimize or reduce conflict in the community.
Research also could be done further on how the Igbo could improve their traditional rulership governance and how successors would be maintained without conflict. The Yoruba and Hausa have strong history of ancestry the thrones. It is the ancestral line of succession that generates the sense of oneness and legitimacy, which the people accord their rulers. This void not only denies the Igbo traditional ruler of the spontaneous support of his subjects, but also leads to the chaos of succession that engulf the communities at the death of the incumbent.
Further research could be made on how the leadership values of the Igbo and Ogidi in particular could be resolved. The religious nature of the value rendered them vulnerable to the onslaught of Christianity and modernity. Traditional rulers who compromise these traditions for Western values and religion are inadvertently dealing a deathblow to the institution. Some traditional rulers even live in the city while his subjects live in the villages, so how can he restore the Igbo values and codify traditions or create new ones to meet the needs of the people and at the same time preserve the value.
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