MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
As Ogwashi-Uku community in Delta State continues to live in an ‘unsettled’ atmosphere due to the Odogwu (war Lord) chieftaincy crisis, Delta State Police Commissioner (CP); Ari Mohammed Ali has warned that nobody should take the patience of his officers and men as a sign of weakness. He has therefore threatened to deal with any one who goes about causing a breach of peace in connection with the Odogwu Chieftaincy issue.
Ali who spoke with some journalists from Lagos in his office on Friday disclosed that the Delta State Police Command had been directed by Force headquarters not to leave any stone unturned with a view to bringing to book all those involved in promoting violence at Ogwashi-Uku with respect to the Odogwu title.
According to him, while some arrests have been made with interrogation going on, more people would likely be arrested in connection with the incident as investigation was still going on.
It would be recalled that on June 24, 2021 part of Ogwashi-Uku town was engulfed in violence as a result of some people’s objection to the conferment of the Odogwu title on Mr. Gabriel Anyibuofu Ohai; a graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka by the Ogwashi-Uku monarch, His Royal Majesty Obi Ifechukwude Aninshi Okonjo.
During the violent attack, personal properties of the Odogwu estimated at about N500million were reportedly destroyed by some youths in the community who were allegedly instigated to unleash the attack.
Sequel to the crisis some elders of Ogbe-Odogwu Quarters, Ogwashi-Uku had written a petition (copy of which is in possession of AtlanticNewsonline) to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) at Force Headquarters Abuja seeking his intervention.
In the petition dated 7th July, 2021 and signed by Messrs Okei Odogwu, Okafor Odogwu, Azuka Obata Nwadiokpa, Ralph Isichei, Elder C.I. Eke and Chief Charles Nwaolise alleged that Mr. Gabriel Anyibuofu Ohai had “clandestinely usurped the Odogwu title with the active support of the Ogwashi-Uku monarch, Obi Ifechukwude Aninshi Okonjo.
The petitioners made several allegations against Ohai bordering on membership and leadership of Aiye Confraternity, intimidation of non supporters with the aid of cult members, illegal possession of firearms and so on. They further alleged that Delta State Police Command seemed to have been compromised as they could not arrest the Odogwu.
In other to ostensibly tame him, the Ogbe-Odogwu elders in their petition pleaded with the IGP to intervene in the matter.
However, according to the Commissioner of Police, he had received directives from Abuja to discreetly investigate the matter without conceding to any party as a sacred cow. The police boss has however regretted the double-edged accusation from both sides to the matter, alleging that he had no sympathy to either side.
He vowed not to be intimidated by the parties to the case who were expecting him to indiscriminately arrest their perceived enemies in the case. “We have arrested some people based on evidence of involvement and we will still arrest anybody found culpable” he told journalists.
When interviewed by the Lagos visiting journalists in Asaba last Saturday, the man at the center of the crisis; Chief Gabriel Anyibuofu Ohai told the news men that the entire ugly saga was precipitated by his elder brother Mr. Hyacinth Ohai who played what can be described as a chameleonic and monstrous role.
Narrating his ordeal, he began by giving some insight into the Ogwashi-Uku Chieftaincy institution pointing out that the monarch (king of Ogwashi-Uku) is the sole authority who confers Chieftaincy on any indigene worthy of such position. Anyone installed as a Chief exercises delegated powers of the king.
According to him, such a system did not begin with the current king but right from inception of monarchical system in Ogwashi-Uku. He added however, that there is usually a synergy between the palace and the immediate community or quarters where a particular Chieftaincy is domiciled traditionally.
Chief Gabriel Anyibuofu Ohai said his problem began soon after he indicated his interest in the stool of Odogwu which had remained vacant for many years following the demise of the last Odogwu. Some members of Umu Odogwu (the real owners of the Odogwu title) at Ogbe Odogwu quarters had consented to his interest in the Chieftaincy in view of his personal contributions to the development of the community particularly as employer of labour in his integrated agricultural farm. He owned large farm with poultry, piggery, goat rearing, cassava production in place.
He told journalists that when his elder brother whom he described as “dare-devil” heard that the monarch was in the process of recognising him for the Chieftaincy position, he became embittered and went straight to the monarch with the sum of N20,000 and kola nuts to announce his intention for the same title.
The older Ohai in the process of trying to convince the monarch that he was qualified for the Chieftaincy, promised the king that he would bring N500million investment to Ogwashi-Uku if he was allowed to be the Odogwu.
Sensing some dangers ahead, the king according to Gabriel Ohai directed both brothers to go back home, resolve their differences and come back with the name of who was chosen.
According to him, he had to defer to his elder by going to beg him and seek his blessing since as a serving public servant, his elder brother was not suitable to occupy the position.
With his brother’s consent and blessing, the king was officially informed that he (Gabriel) had been chosen to take the Odogwu title. Sequel to this, the older Ohai was said to have promised accompanying his younger brother to the palace for formal presentation of him by Umu Odogwu family to the monarch.
Mr. Hyacinth Ohai was said to have reneged on his promise of going with his brother to the palace. The actual conferment of the title eventually came with an elder in Umu Odogwu family by name Pedro Peter Ohai dedicating himself and time to the event.
He was said to have liaised with other elders in the larger family for family meeting where it was decided how they would accompany him to the palace with ceremonial conferment of the Odogwu title on him.
The event came and took place at the palace. The ceremony was recorded and the video of it went viral. Hyacinth Ohai and some others after watching the ceremony took offence by summoning elder Peter Ohai to harrass him for having the audacity to lead others to the palace for the Chieftaincy. They threatened to kill him and eventually killed him, thereby setting the stage for more deadly action.
Hyacinth Ohai was said to have reversed his position from supporting his younger to hold the Odogwu in a treacherous manner that found some support from a serving Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) of Ogwashi-Uku extraction at FCT Police Command, Abuja.
The ACP according to the Odogwu had reportedly lobbied his way to take the Odafe title from the monarch who initially was reluctant to confer the title on him as there were other better candidates among whom were retired Professor, a writer with a Doctorate, retired Customs officer and so on.
According to the Odogwu, the active collaboration of the ACP and his elder brother Hyacinth Ohai gave birth to the attack on him on June 24, 2021 during which over 3000 chickens, 200 pigs, 165 goats, three cars and his houses were set ablaze. His agricultural farm was visited by the rampaging youths who never spared anything in sight.
The Odogwu estimated all his properties lost in the attack to be about N500million, stressing that his means of livelihood had been destroyed with his workers now jobless even as he has no home now to lay head nor cars to move around.
He gave names of over 25 persons as belonging to the gang who destroyed his properties and are still determined to exterminate him simply because he objected to the arbitrary sales of the community land. They included Fidelis Nweke, Henry Okocha, Ifechukwude Ikenweji, Augustine Nkwor, Augustine Obata, Azuka Obata, Ifeanyi Nwaolise and many others.
While waiting for the police to do their job without fear or favour, the Odogwu had challenged anyone who is opposed to his Chieftaincy title to seek redress in court of law.