Abduction and killing of traditional rulers have taken a centre stage in Imo State of late. These have made many monarchs in the state flee their kingdoms and the state.
Within a period of one month, gunmen killed two monarchs and kidnapped five others.
For example, gunmen on December 14 kidnapped the traditional ruler of Umuezeala- Ama ancient kingdom in the Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State, Aloy Igwe.
The monarch was kidnapped at Nkwo Umuezeala market while he was discussing with his kinsmen.
A source in the area said, “Eze Aloy Igwe of Umuezeala- Ama kingdom has been kidnapped. He was kidnapped on Tuesday evening at the Umuezeala market square. Some guys stopped and ordered him to join their vehicle. The monarch obeyed and since then his whereabouts have remained unknown.”
On December 13, two traditional rulers, Acho Ndukwe and Paul Ogbu from Ihube communities in the Okigwe Local Government Area were kidnapped and their palaces razed.
While Ndukwe was rescued 24 hours later, Eze Ogbu was later found dead when security operatives raided a criminal den in the Orlu Local Government Area.
On December 9, the traditional ruler of Mbutu ancient kingdom in the Aboh Mbaise LGA, Damian Nwaigwe and his counterpart from Atta ancient kingdom in the Njaba LGA, Edwin Azike, were kidnapped separately.
While Azike was kidnapped and his corpse dumped at the market square in his community, Nwaigwe was freed two days later.
On November 19, the traditional ruler of Achi Mbieri in the Mbaitoli LGA, Henry Madumere, was kidnapped at Iho in the Ikeduru LGA while on his way to a public function.
The octogenarian monarch, who is the father of a former deputy governor of the state, Eze Madumere, was let off the hook of his abductors six days later.
Earlier on October 19, the traditional ruler of Etekwuru autonomous community in the Ohaji-Egbema LGA, Kenneth Okereke, escaped assassination. But his attackers burnt his palace and official vehicles after he escaped.
Also on the same day, gunmen invaded the Njaba LGA council headquarters located at Nnenasa and opened fire at traditional rulers.
While two traditional rulers died on the spot, two others went into a coma and were rushed to an undisclosed hospital where they were resuscitated.
On April 7, gunmen abducted Eze Charles Irogebu of Umuezie community in Nguru- Aboh Mbaise LGA and his cabinet chiefs.
The monarch, who was freed days later, was returning to his palace after attending a traditional marriage ceremony at the Ehime Mbano LGA when his abductors double-crossed his convoy, kidnapped him and his cabinet chiefs.
The development had caused panic in the state. Moreover, the video footage circulating online which showed how some kidnappers were dehumanising some abducted traditional rulers had generated public outcry.
Many residents of the state have continued to condemn the abduction and killing of monarchs.
One week after the kidnap of Eze Aloy Igwe, nothing has been heard of him. This development has generated fear in his family and the kingdom.
The President General of Ohanaeze Youth Council, Igboayaka Igboayaka, said that kidnapping and killing of kings in the state were abominable in Igboland.
The youth leader said, “The apex youth socio-cultural organisation of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Ohanaeze Youth Council, has described the recent onslaught on traditional rulers, particularly the recent abduction of two monarchs as an abomination and a sign of decline of Igbo norms and value system.
“As the National President of Ohanaeze Youth Council, I say that the circumstances of formation of Eastern Security Network have made some political opponents in the state to unleash terror on the people to sabotage the present government in Imo State.
“The council regretted that the victims, Eze Acho Ndukwe of Amagu Ihube, Eze Paul Ogbu of Ihitte Ihube, both in the Okigwe Local Government Area of the state, have become victims of a failed Igbo society.
“The council decried the manner in which the gunmen whisked away the royal rulers, unfortunately the gunmen also burnt their palaces and vehicles. This is sacrilege in Igbo land,” Igboayaka lamented.
“It seems that the lives of traditional rulers in Igbo land are in danger. Just on Thursday, December 9, the traditional ruler of Atta ancient kingdom in the Njaba LGA, Edwin Azike, was kidnapped and killed on Friday with his corpse dumped at the market square.
“It’s on record that the traditional ruler of the Mbutu ancient kingdom, Eze Damian Nwaigwe, was kidnapped on Thursday and released on Saturday.
Also, the National President of Igbo National Council, Chilos Godsent, said that the abduction and killing of monarchs in the state were dangerous to the growth of the state and its economy.
The activist said, “The Igbo National Council worldwide has observed the reckless and mindless kidnap and murder of traditional rulers in Imo State in the recent times.
“Th INC notes that it’s alien in Igbo for gunmen to murder in cool blood ordained traditional rulers. We, therefore, condemn the act in its totality.
“Consequent upon the above, INC, therefore, calls for the restructuring of the security architecture in the South-East.”
An indigene of the state, Orie Martin, said “The simple fact is that the incessant attacks clearly demonstrate the failure of security agencies, particularly the police and the DSS (Department of State Services.
“Now, the monarchs killed lived in their autonomous communities. Before the killers carried out the killings, they held meetings. They communicated, that is they made calls. If there was well placed intelligence, the security men would have got a wind of it and act accordingly. Even if they were not prevented, after the act, it would not have been difficult apprehending the culprits and that would have served as a deterrence as the killers would be afraid of being caught.
“Thus, the blame goes squarely to the police, and to Governor Hope Uzodimma who has failed to restructure the security architecture of the state. For instance, when you encounter three to five youths in a vehicle, do the police question them?”.
The interim president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Wing, Jones Onwuasoanya, said “This is another evidence that some extraneously motivated or brainwashed terrorists have invaded Igbo land. No Igbo true born would think of harming the custodians of our tradition, the holder of the community’s ofo – the symbol of authority and spiritual powers.
“No matter what the grievances might be, the truth of the matter is that the way our government is structured, these traditional rulers have little or no powers to bring about any reasonable change in the system. They are being targeted because they vulnerable because they can easily be picked up, when compared with political officers, who are guarded by well armed security agents, but these traditional rulers either do not have the financial muscle or connection to have even armed security personnel. Except maybe, the so-called first class traditional rulers.
“ I think some people or a group of people are trying to send a message by harassing these traditional rulers. But that message is an evil message, it portends danger for Ala Igbo and I will continue to plead with my fellow youths and anyone involved in these mindless atrocities to sheathe their swords.
“If they are being used by politicians, they should sit back and understand that it is their own future that they are ruining, not the future of these politicians. Beyond the fact that the law will definitely catch up with them, they should also consider the spiritual implications of these atrocities. You do not spill the blood of innocent people, no matter what may be the justification. This blood will haunt them and everyone connected to them. The curses of our fathers whom they made to pass through this trauma won’t elude them.
“First and foremost, we are the Igbo, before being any other thing; be it Nigeria or Biafra. We are first of all the Igbo, and we have our traditional spiritual beliefs and practices. We have what is called Nso Ana. A taboo, an abominable act. Those killing our traditional rulers or killing any innocent Igbo person in the guise of any agitation are evil people, whom we hope shall quickly repent and turn away from their evil ways and if they don’t, they shall meet very bad ending.
“Politicians, whether in power or in opposition must take responsibility, they must stop giving tacit support to the activities of these hoodlums and rather work hard to douse the tension in the land. It is suspicious when politicians keep quiet or tacitly express joy while the State is being destroyed. Every responsible political, religious, sociocultural leader must dude to the occasion.”
Another resident of the state, Jude Owuamanam, said” it is very worrisome that a revered institution in Igbo land is under attack. It is worrisome because no one knows where these attacks are coming from and the motives.
The Chairman of Human Rights Defenders, Imo state chapter, UgoGold Ofondu, described the development as a sacrilege.
He said “the attack, abduction and the killing of some Traditional Rulers in Imo State in recent time, is nothing short of a sacrilege. The act itself is repugnant, reprehensible and utterly condemnable.
“No matter the grievances of the young people who are perpetrating these heinous crimes, nothing can justify the brutish nature of their actions.
“I am deeply saddened over the rising state of insecurity in Imo State in particular, and in Nigeria in general.
“And I call on every well-meaning Imolites particularly the political class, to rise up in condemnation of this despicable wave of attacks on our once revered Traditional Institutions and the custodians of the people’s culture and tradition.
“I beckon on the Youths of Imo State to always toe the path of peace in addressing whatever wrong that had been meted out to them
“They should bear it at the back of their minds that whatsoever one sow, one must reap.
“And as the Military/Police option is not yielding the expected results, the Imo Government should equally tinker with prospect of engaging Imo Youths in a roundtable discussion to ascertain what the problems are exactly. We have suffered enough. Imo needs peace now.”
The police spokesperson in the state, Micheal Abattam, said that the security agents were not resting on their oars in making sure that the state is safe for everybody, including the traditional rulers.
The governor of the state, Hope Uzodiinma, said that his administration would support security operatives in the state to stamp out criminality in the state.
He assured that those who were arrested in the Orsu LGA and Lilu in Anambra State in connection with the abduction of two traditional rulers and killing of Eze Ogbu and a youth leader in Okigwe would be made to face the full wrath of the law.