By Ndubuisi Michaels
The traditional ruler of Oru Oboro Autonomous Community in Ikwuano Local Government Area of Abia State, HRH Eze Ralph Ogbonna, is in the eye of the storm following allegations of corruption, maladministration, injustice and violation of the constitution leveled against him by his community.
Expressing their resolve to have the traditional ruler investigated and removed from office, the community, led by Oru-Oboro Development Union Federated (ODUF), the apex governing body in the community, has filed a formal petition with the Abia State Government and Ikwuano Local Government council and other relevant authorities.
The six-page document made a wide range of accusations against Eze Ogbonna, which it said had denied the community and its people the peace and stability required to pursue and actualize their individual and collective goals.
The petition is titled, ‘HRH EZE RALPH U. OGBONNA: FUELING OF CRISIS AND INSTABILITY IN ORU-OBORO, VIOLATION OF CONSTITUTION, MALADMINISTRATION AND CORRUPTION’, and addressed to Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Abia State Government, and copied to other stakeholders.
In the petition, the people expressed surprise that a piece of land belonging to the entire community, and upon which a town hall has being built, was unilaterally handed to an individual by Eze Ogbonna to construct lockup shops without consulting the people or seeking their consent. The developer would own and manage the four shops for 20 years before handing over to the community.
As anger grew in the community over the project, the apex governing body convoked an enlarged conference on April 4 to deliberate on the project and other issues. A resolution was passed to demolish the shops. Nonetheless, the monarch directed the developer to continue with the project.
The petition also alleged that Eze Ogbonna claimed at a meeting in his palace on April 5, 2021 that he single-handedly built a town hall at the community’s village square at a cost of N23 million. It faulted the assertion by Eze Ogbonna, noting that ODUF provided the seed money with which construction of the town hall started, while individuals and branches of the town union made contributions in the form of money and material donations. It even accused the monarch of diverting chairs donated by Umuahia branch of the union.
In the area of corruption, the petition said the community, through numerous commercial activities, generates millions of naira per month, but the monies are being pocketed by Eze Ogbonna and a cabal of his followers, while the committees that are supposed to manage such activities are sidelined.
The petition also alleged that some projects sited in the community as well as allocations from government and bodies have been left moribund, vandalized or hijacked.
On violation of the constitution, the petition cited numerous instances where Eze Ogbonna breached the rules, including creating an illegal advisory body and appointing people to offices in the ODUF executive body, which are outside his jurisdiction.
Eze Ogbonna was also accused of announcing the dissolution of the ODUF executive committee, and appointing a caretaker committee to replace the committee, which he lacks the powers to do, even though a properly constituted conference had on April 4, 2021 extended the tenure of the incumbent executive committee.
Several calls to the phone number of Eze Ogbonna could not get through as it kept saying it was either switched off or outside coverage.
However, a source who is privy to the thinking of the Ogbonna camp, disclosed that they plan to deploy the political network of his younger brother, Hon Wisdom Ogbonna, a former majority leader in the Abia State House of Assembly, and political operative to frustrate the community’s drive for change.
Speaking on behalf of the community, the acting President General of ODUF, the apex governing body in the community, Mr. Okey Nwachukwu, said the people are craving for a reset, having come to terms with the need to put in place proper structures and procedures for a better management of their affairs.
Specifically on the petition, which he co-signed, Nwachukwu said “We have articulated the views and position of the Oru people as aggregated at the Easter conference and presented to the Abia State Government through the office of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. We are awaiting the next steps.”
On what internal crisis resolution measures were explored before going public, he said Eze Ogbonna has always rebuffed and frustrated such moves. He noted that an intervention by elders of Amaoba, a related village, was frustrated by Ogbonna, adding that a meeting with the traditional ruler on April 5, 2021 was an anti-climax of sorts as the traditional ruler took the occasion to lambast everyone and insisted on maintaining the anti-people status quo.
“Everything is not about money. Leadership comes with certain expectations. In life, you don’t expect everything you say to be taken line, hook and sinker. You have to convince and carry the people along. You cannot unilaterally impose your wish on a community of over 10,000 people or oppress them because you are rich or politically-connected.
“This is particularly instructive in a community where the office of the traditional ruler is not hereditary; it is rotational and open to every qualified person from the community. And the constitution is specific about the duties of the traditional ruler, as well as the way such a person is appointed or removed. We have seen unrelenting breach of the constitution by Eze Ogbonna,” Nwachukwu said.
Speaking on alleged plots by some people to frustrate the people’s demands by using their links to government, Nwachukwu said, “We have heard about such boasts to use their closeness to Governor Ikpeazu of Abia State to frustrate our efforts. It is still speculation. Oru will not flex muscles with its own people; the community is bigger than any one of us. In any case, I believe that the present administration in the state is a responsible and responsive one. They will surely not support injustice and subjugation of the people. The common good of our community is what we seek.”