Following the impasse in the kingship tussle in Onicha-Olona community, Aniocha North Local Government Area, an octogenarian member of the royal family, Prince Erasmus Nduka Nwabuokei, has attributed the unending crisis surrounding the over 500-year-old traditional stool to a 116-year-old curse placed by his forebear, Prince Chika Dieyi.
Prince Erasmus Nduka Nwabuokei, head of Idumugbe Quarter, the royal home of Onicha Olona community, in an interview with The Nation, urged the Delta State government to return the monarchy to the rightful family to serve as propitiation for the curse.
Nwaboukei said Ugbehe, a prince from Benin Empire, founded Onicha-Olona in the 15th century during the reign of Oba Ewuare the Great, adding that Ugbehe instituted the dynastic hereditary system of kingship where the oldest, wisest and most capable son or his descendant ascends the throne as opposed to the principle of primogeniture (succession by first son).
He listed the chronology of kings of Onicha-Olona to include Oba Ugbehe, Ofoko, Zolumuna, Mogbei, and Dieyi as the direct descendants of Oba Ugbehe.
Others include Ozo nwa Omone, who became the sixth king and Okpoko nwa Ozo, who was the seventh king.
He said all the kings ruled in accordance to Ugbehe’s decree that the older capable son in his bloodline should ascend the throne.
He said the kingship moved outside Idumugbe to Idumu Ogbele when Prince Dieyi died and all the sons in the royal family were minors and the law precludes minors from ascending the throne.
According to him, Osakwe Ofili (the Okwelegweanyi), in connivance with the British government usurped the throne following the death of Oba Okpoko in 1897.
The Onicha-Olona monarchy, according to Nwabuokei, has had 16 kings, noting that of the 16, only the first eight kings were legitimate and crowned in accordance with Oba Ugbehe’s decree.
His words: “During the reign of Okpoko the elders of community started preparation for the original lineage to take over the kingship. After the death of Okpoko the deceased monarch was kept in traditional embalmment for three years as is the custom. It was at this time that Osakwe who worked with the Royal Niger Ccompany sought to become king. After the burial ceremonies of Okpoko in 1900 crisis erupted when Osakwe wanted take the kingship, but the help of the British he defeated the rightful heir Prince Chika Dieyi. The British compelled Prince Dieyi to pay homage to Obi Osakwe Ofili. Osakwe Ofili became the first Obi- Igwe as opposed to the original title of Oba which kings of Onicha-Olona were called. Osakwe Ofili after the homage paying ceremonies was afflicted with a strange ailment that struck him dumb. He died from the ailment. Prince Chika placed a curse of unending crisis on the throne unless the rightful lineage assumes the throne. He further said placed a curse of insanity on anyone outside the royal family who becomes king. All of the kings who have ruled since then have died disgraceful deaths including imprisonment, insanity and violent deaths’.
As if to give credence to the potency of the century old curse, the monarchy has been dogged by intractable crisis since the spell was pronounced in 1900.
Currently, three claimants to the throne have emerged, with each promoting different systems of ascension to the throne.
While Dumbili Nwadiajueboe claims the Obi-ship through the hereditary system of ascension, his contender, Christopher Uzu Diji claims the Obi-ship system using the Okpalabisi system.
The royal family has faulted these systems of ascension insisting that the dynastic hereditary system be adopted.
Uzu Diji argues that the kingdom never practiced hereditary system of monarchy, but the Okpalabisi system based on the principle of gerontocracy i.e. the most senior traditional title holder succeeding the incumbent king.
Prince Erasmus Nwabuokei discredited Dumbili Nwadiajueboe claims to the monarchy, adding that Dumbili’s parents are non-indigenes, but naturalised into the family lineage of a daughter of Idumu-Ogbele and as such is precluded from the throne.
Following the crisis the community has remained without an officially recognised king until May 2016, when the Delta State government in a letter addressed to His Royal Majesty, Dumbili Nwadiajueboe appointed him as the Obi of Onicha-Olona Kingdom.
Emboldened by the development, Nwadiajueboe started making arrangements for the presentation of Staff of Office.
According to him, on the directive of the government, he bought the Staff of Office for N50, 000.
But Nwadiajueboe , 48 hours later, got another letter from the government that the presentation of the staff of office had been put on hold, purportedly based on the security situation of the community.
Nwadiajueboe said: “After taking a date, I went to buy the Staff of Office with over N50, 000.00. I printed invitation cards and bought drinks for entertainment. I wasted more than N200, 000.00. Now what do they want me to do with the staff of office, they have to come and present it.
“What they stated in the letter is pregnant and full of deceit; it was only a figment of their imagination. Onicha-Olona is a very quiet place, there is no crisis. My message is that I am the Obi by right; I have gone through the processes. They are only trying to disturb me and the peace of the town.”
Investigation revealed that government would have gone ahead to present the staff of office to Nwadiajueboe but for the intervention of an influential politician in the community and the traditional council in Aniocha North council area.
It was gathered that the influential politician acted on the resolution of Aniocha North traditional council to the effect that the wish of Onicha-Olona people be respected by upholding the Okpalabisi system and stop the presentation of staff of office.
Although, the letter had suspended all actions “pending the resolutions of all contending issues” Nwadiajueboe is however at loss, following the enthronement of Uzu Diji as the Obi by the kingmakers in an atmosphere devoid of crisis, contrary to claims by government officials.
“They said there would be problem if government recognises me, and government is waiting for the resolution of the contending issues but they went on to enthrone Uzu Diji. The Iyase went to enthrone him, is that a way of making peace? If my people were not calm and law abiding there would be riot in this town. But we remain calm because we want to obey government.”
The Iyase of Onicha-Olona,Chief Eziashi warned that should the government go ahead to recognise Nwadiajueboe as the Obi, the action would have catastrophic consequence on the community, insisting that the hereditary system of monarchy was alien to the kingdom.
A section of the community is of the view that the system of gerontocracy was not effective as the product of the system was often senile due to old age.
The impasse led to the setting up of an Administrative Commission of Inquiry by the state government which recommended hereditary as system of ascension to the throne.
The people challenged the recommendation, alleging that the Administrative Commission of Inquiry was manipulated and influenced, adding that the hereditary system was monopolistic as it will ultimately impose a family or a group of persons within a family perpetually on the Kingdom as king.
Chief Paul Eziashi said: “Despite several memoranda that were submitted to the said commission which shows that Okpalabisi system is the only recognised system of ascension to the throne of Obi in Onicha-Olona, the commission having been influenced, recommended a hereditary system of ascension to the throne of Obi of Onicha-Olona, a system alien to the tradition and custom of Onicha-Olona people.
Continuing, “The government White Paper and Chieftaincy Declaration was totally condemned, and protested against by indigenes of Onicha-Olona who have since stuck to their position that an alien system of Obiship ascension which ultimately will impose a family or group of persons within a family perpetually on them as their Obi from time to time cannot stand, hence the existing quagmire in the Obiship stool in Onicha-Olona.
Eziashi said: “We are going ahead to crown the most senior title holder which is Chief Christopher Uzu.”
Eziashi urged the government not to recognise Nwadiajueboe as the Obi.
But Nwadiajueboe countered the Iyase, arguing that Okpalabisi was not the only system that was bequeathed to Onicha-Olona by its founding fathers.
Is the century old curse the factor undermining every effort at finding a lasting solution to the kingship tussle? Only time will tell. (The Nation)