By Bassey Inyang in Calabar
Cross River State government has denied alleged plans to depose the longest serving monarch in Nigeria, His Royal Highness, Uti Jedy Agba, Paramount ruler of Obudu.
Palpable tension enveloped the state with rumours swelling around the possible removal of the monarch who has been on the throne for about 57 years dating back to his days as a member of the Eastern House of Chiefs during Nigeria’s the first republic.
Reacting to the allegation through a text message, Ayade’s chief press secretary, Mr. Christian Ita stated: “If there is a plot at all to dethrone the man, please look elsewhere for those orchestrating it. The governor has no hand in it. He is too preoccupied with governance to concern himself with such provincial issues. This is an old claim that is being regurgitated by those seeking relevance.
“The governor gains nothing or losses nothing if the man keeps his seat or losses it. Don’t forget that one of the man’s sons is serving in the Ayade-led administration,” he pointed out.
Investigations revealed that the alleged plot to depose the monarch might be connected to the political rivalry between a former governorship aspirant in the state, Mr. Goddy Jedy Agba, and the state governor, Professor Ben Ayade.
Sources who pleaded anonymity have fingered the state government under the watch of Ayade as being responsible for a recent plot to unseat Uti Jedy Agba, saying the recent allegation by a group of persons from Obudu that Uti was incompetent to led the people following recent clashes of cult groups that resulted in many deaths were part of the plot being hatched to depose the monarch.
The sources further disclosed that the interest groups working in league with some state government officials and aides of the governor had been lobbying traditional chiefs across Obudu to support the plot to sack the paramount ruler.
One of the sources disclosed that in one of such meeting held last week in Calabar, between the monarch’s adversaries and some traditional rulers operating under the umbrella of the state traditional rulers council, the natural rulers made it clear that they would all resign from their positions, if Uti Agba, who is the ‘Chief of Chiefs’ in the state was deposed.
THISDAY gathered that aside from the peace moves Uti Agba initiated to reconcile his son and other aggrieved politicians from Obudu with the governor who also hails from Obudu, the monarch had also initiated other moves to calm frayed nerves and bring lasting peace to his domain.
Among the moves THISDAY gathered was the directive and advise he gave to other traditional rulers including clan and village heads to lead groups to hold traditional rites and prayers for spiritual cleansing across towns and villages in Obudu Local Government Area in order to restore peace and unity.
The advice and directive from the Obudu monarch were effectively carried out, the sources said.
When contacted for his comments, the Chairman of the state traditional ruler’s council, His Royal Highness, Etim Okon Edet, declined comments. However, he responded to a text message from THISDAY, saying he was out of town having travelled out to Lagos.
When contacted for his comments on the issue through a phone call, Ayade’s Special Adviser on Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. John Eyikwaje simply said: “I am not aware and I don’t think it is true.”
It was gathered that though the former governorship aspirant, who is a biological son of the monarch , supported Ayade during the 2015 governorship election, having withdrawn from the race for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket, after the governorship election and Ayade’s enthronement, he decamped with his supporters and other political heavyweights from Obudu to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Sources said the dumping of the PDP by the former governorship aspirant and his supporters did not go down well with Ayade his kinsman, due to the suspicion that the former could be plotting to contest against him in 2019, using the APC platform.
The sources said Ayade and his supporters were unhappy that the monarch was supporting his son; hence his refused to stop him from withdrawing his support for him (Ayade) and his administration.
Besides, the governor and his supporters are said to be worried that the monarch commands a lot of influence, and should he avail his son his support to contest the 2019 governorship elections, then he would need to put in more resources and energy to retain his seat.
Though the former governorship aspirant has been very silent as to whether he intends to contest the 2019 elections or not, but he recently sent petitions to the Director General of the Department of State Services and the Inspector General of Police alleging threat to his life by Ayade; a clear indication of a frosty relationship between him and the governor.
THISDAY gathered that the monarch, on noticing the frosty relationship between his son and Ayade, he decided to wade in to make peace between the duo on the one hand and other politicians in the area who were perceived to be the governor’s opponents , on the other hand.
Those privy to goings-on explained to THISDAY that a meeting arranged by the monarch in his palace early this year to resolve the faceoff between the governor, Agba , the former National Publicity of the PDP, Mr. Venatius Ikem, and the state former representative on the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Paul Adah; whom he considered as his sons, did not achieve any success because Goddy and Adah attended the meeting in person, Ikem sent a representative, but Ayade and his younger brother Frank Ayade , whom sources said were invited to the meeting did not turn up..