For decades, there has been a tussle over the leadership of Igbos in Ibadan and Oyo State as a whole. TUNDE OGUNESAN spoke with key players involved on issues fuelling the protracted imbroglio.
When were you installed as Balogun of Ndigbo in Ibadan?
In October, 1996 by late Oba Emmanuel Adeyemo Operinde.
What happened recently when Olubadan Oba Adetunji hosted you?
When the new Olubadan ascended the throne, some people were troubling him on the issue of leadership. So, we were invited to the palace where the high chiefs and the Olubadan were present. We were to report at the palace by 11.00am; I and Anozie were there with our people. Around 2.00pm on that day, they invited both of us inside where Olubadan and the council read a letter from a resolution from the South East Council of traditional rulers in 2008. That was the first letter they read to our hearing in that meeting. Anozie was asked if he was aware of the letter before that moment, but he denied ever seeing it. I brought out my own and told the council that the letter was circulated to everybody, he still denied but later accepted it.
The second letter was the one where his title “Atojuse” was revoked because he sued Olubadan, that was the reason cited for the revocation of his title. The council also read the letter to him and he accepted that he got the letter. From there, they warned him to no longer answer the Eze Ndigbo title any more, and that they didn’t want to hear about Eze Ndigbo in Ibadan. That was all that happened that day and we all left the palace.
What happened thereafter?
After that day, I and my people went to greet Olubadan for the decision he took with the council. The Olubadan asked me to come back with my people. When we got there, the Kabiyesi reaffirmed my leadership as Igbo leader-Balogun, given to me by Oba Adeyemo, which was recorded in black and white. The title, according to Oba Adeyemo, was due to my contribution to the development of town.
But Dr Anozie alleged that his title is legal and that he took you to court and won. Why are you flouting court order?
Yes. He took me to court over the title at the High Court and he won, but I appealed against the judgment.
What was the outcome of the appeal?
My lawyer filed a motion that Anozie was not a member of Igbo General Assembly (IGA) and that he never participated in the election and the Court of Appeal ruled on that motion in my favour and even awarded me N10,000 against him. That is the first leg of the appeal. Again, while the court ruled on that motion, it declared that he had no locus standi to take me to court in the first instance because he was not a member of the IGA.
It was the members of IGA that produced me when royal fathers came from the South East and met late Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade in 2009 and told him that they didn’t want anybody to answer Eze Ndigbo, His Royal Majesty or his Royal Highness in Ibadan any more. And the Olubadan gave them his word in that respect. The two of us were present there. From there, we moved to Government House where the then deputy governor, Alhaji Taofeek Arapaja received the delegation and may I tell you that Anozie was also present at that meeting.
Olubadan said he has been expecting the traditional rulers for a very long time, saying Anozie had been troubling him for long, to the extent that he wrote him a letter asking for him to be made a member of Olubadan-in-council, a non-indigene for that matter! Oba Odulana said that if not the fact that he had worked with late Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, he would have banished Anozie from Ibadan. We were all there live.
Let me also inform you that he contributed N30,000 to the hosting of South East Council of traditional rulers led by C.Y. Onwuamaya. Fourteen of the leaders and the governors were aware of their mission to Ibadan.
After informing the deputy governor of their mission, I remember vivdly, that he said that the oracle had spoken. From there, we went for a town hall meeting at St Gabriel’s Mokola, from there they banned Igbo Community Oyo State (ICOS) which produced Oramadike and Igbo Community Development Association (ICDA) on July 14, 2009, which produced Anozie. Even Oramadike was there in 1996 and joined our meeting. He even told Anozie to come over. It will also interest you that Anozie said the closing prayer that very day.
They handed over the affairs to the six presidents of Igbo states to manage the affairs of the Igbos till the time it would be conducive for them to conduct fresh election.
When was the election conducted?
The election was held May 8, 1996 at the Olubadan Stadium, Iyaganku. It was well attended as all Igbo traders closed their shops that day. They threw the competition open and called on everybody that was interested to come and obtain forms. One late retired police officer, Isaac Ozeze, a Deputy Superintendent Police, and I obtained forms. They gave us one month to campaign in all the Igbo states and gave us some conditions which the two of us met.
The election was based on delegates and we had 20 delegates each from the states, Delta Igbo inclusive, that is six states, making 120 delegates.
Which group conducted that election?
IGA conducted it through a committee it set up to supervise it. I got 98 votes and Isaac got 21. Even at that time, the South East council of traditional rulers approved me as Onyendu which means a leader. That is how I became the leader of all Igbos. This election was what Anozie challenged in court. He applied for an injunction which the court refused to grant him.
After the 1996 election, you became Balogun of Igbo in 2010. Since then was there any factional arrangement that produced another leader?
There is none. I told you the two associations became Igbo General Assembly (IGA), so, there is no division or faction among us. But in every 12 disciples, there must be a Judas and Anozie and his sympathizers are our own Judas. He doesn’t even have one local government that he is controlling, but we still call them opposition.
But he took you to High Court and won?
Yes, he won. But when I was not satisfied with the judgment, I proceeded to the Court of Appeal. The first motion we filed was asking the court to rule that he did not participate in the election; he is not a member of IGA, and that the judge should not have entertained that case at all. That was what my counsel, Sanusi’s motion and the Appeal court ruled in my favour, awarding me N10,000 against him.
What else happened?
After my election, he wrote a letter to Ohaneze Ndigbo national. The late president of the union, Ambassador Ralph Oweke set up a committee to look into the allegation that the election was not approved. He invited me and Anozie with our groups to Enugu. The president-general of Ohaneze was the chairman of the committee. Both sides stated their claims. They then asked us to go and promised to get back to us.
After studying the matter, they wrote to the governor saying that my election was justified, and that Dr Anozie had no case at all.