Mary Nnah reports that it was celebration galore for the people of Ogale, a town in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State, as they came out in large numbers to crown His Royal Highness, Dr. Appolus Chu as their new clan head, ultimately making him the new king of the Ogale
For the people of Ogale, a town in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State, which also is the headquarters of the local government area, their joy knew no bounds as they recently crowned His Royal Highness, Dr. Appolus Chu, as their new king.
Chu who doubles as the Egbere Emere Okori, Eleme, was enthroned the new Emere Ogale weeks back in Ogale, following the dethronement of the erstwhile community leader, Godwin Maduabuchi Bebe Okpabi, who was found wanting in the various ways he dealt with the people.
Predominantly is the conflict between Chief Okpabi and the original land owners of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Right of Way in Ogale community. The people of Ogale community comprising the heads of sub communities, the land priests, youths, elders and critical stakeholders in a unanimous decision dethroned king Chief Godwin Bebe Okpabi in accordance with the customary laws and traditions of the community and consequently, enthroned a new king and paramount ruler.
It therefore called for a huge celebration as the coronation took place at the instance of members of the family of land priests who are also king makers as well, as all members of the community and sub community chiefs and heads following Chu’s fulfilment of all the rites required by the custom and tradition of Eleme to ascend the throne of One Eh Ogale (King of Ogale).
At the end of the day, they unanimously crowned Chu, giving him the authority and right to ascend the ancient stool of Emere Ogale. It was apparent that his ascendency to the celebrated stool was divinely orchestrated as he was warmly welcomed by the people of Ogale as they all danced along with their new king as he was being enthroned. Reciprocating the gesture, the monarch accepted the call from his people to liberate them from the days of agony.
The Chosen One
It was further revealed that according to the tradition of the land a person who is collectively chosen as king by the people, must not reject such offer, as this may have negative spiritual impacts on him, his family and the entire land. It was therefore on this premises that Chu could not reject the mandate of the people as their chosen Emere Ogale.
A community leader in Ogale, Chief Eji Olaka, affirmed that Chu, the Egbere Emere Okori, Eleme, was actually not in town at the time of his selection, explaining that the people of the community, having consulted widely, found him fit and chose him as the new king of Ogale as their tradition demands.
He explained that after going round the community, visiting all the sacred shrines in Ogale, the chiefs, elders and youths unanimously agreed to symbolically take the sacred stool of the community and the god of the land to the palace of King Appolus Chu. Unfortunately he was not in town.
Olaka further revealed that as Eleme tradition demands, the sacred stool would be left in the compound of the chosen one and that it is expected that when he returns from his trip, he would invite the community and accept the offer.
He said that although Chu was not consulted before he was chosen as a paramount ruler of Ogale, it was mandatory that he accept the offer and embrace the community, as failure to do so would attract spiritual consequences on the family of the chosen.
After being escorted round the community, to traditionally communicate with the ancestors through pouring of libations during a ceremony that saw him enthroned as Emere Ogale, the king makers capped him with a symbol of authority, the crown of stewardship, while at the same time prayed that the new Emere Ogale governs the land majestically.
“From today, we enthrone you with this crown and we charge you to go and overcome everything challenging Ogale clan and bring home development”, implored one of the land priests.
Speaking further as he handed over the staff of authority to the newly crowned Emere Ogale, he said, “I handover to you, this staff as the clan head of Ogale, use it to chase every evil that may befall Ogale”.
The monarch, who is presently wearing two caps, as he was and still is the head of the Okori Eleme clan, before he was recently given the additional responsibility of being King of Ogale, was said to have been out of town when the people of Ogale decided to add another feather in his cap despite the fact that he was already shouldering a huge responsibility as the king of Okori – Eleme.
Shedding light on the ordeal that led to the dethronement of Chief Godwin Bebe Okpabi, a renowned lawyer and one of the sub community heads and member of the 13 original land owners of SPDC Right of Way, Chief Princely Emeka Chujor, explained that the decision of the community was induced by Okpabi’s alleged blatant disrespect and infringement of the fundamental human rights of indigenes of Ogale, abuse of power and office as well as other activities he engaged in which have been brought before a court of competent jurisdiction, the Eleme Council of Chiefs. as well as other prominent leaders of Eleme.
Chujor said, “On March 27, 2019, the people of Ogale met, and decided that they have to take a concrete decision on the matter since Okpabi frustrated and truncated every means to bring peace in Ogale community as directed by the supreme council of Eleme Chiefs and Elders (Nkporon Eleme) on August 2, 2017, following a pending suit filed by the concerned citizens of Ogale against Okpabi to explain why he replaced the names of original land owners of SPDC Right of Way in Ogale with his name and those of his associates and further confiscated the monies belonging to original land owners.”
Chujor said further that the families of the 13 original land owners of SPDC right of way did everything possible to plead with Okpabi to refund their monies and reinstate their names on the SPDC list of land owners, but he turned deaf hears.
As far back as 1958, a total of 32 families of the community were accredited and confirmed by the then Nigeria Federal Government and SPDC as the authentic land owners and hosts of six oil wells, manifold stations and pipelines in Ogale following oil exploration activities at the time and it was alleged that Okpabi usurped the legal right of ownership of some families.
Chujor purported further that in 2012, Okpabi confiscated monies belonging to two families, the Akaji and Obe families and in 2016, he also had monies accruable to 11 other families who are original land owners including the Chujor family, which he belong to, and never returned the monies till date, despite the rulings and directives of the Eleme Council of Chiefs and Elders on August 2, 2017 which required him to return the said monies belonging to the original land owners, reinstate their names on the SPDC list and liaise with the land priests to ensure peaceful reconciliation of the aggrieved parties.
A Break with the Old Order
Speaking further, Chujor said the people of Ogale, the land priests and original land owners having exercised utmost patience for two years without a word from Okpabi, met on March 27, 2019 and resolved that since he has refused, neglected and rejected the rulings and directives of the Eleme Council of Chiefs and has refused to return the monies to the affected land owners or broker peace in the community, he can no longer be trusted and therefore unfit to continue to serve as the paramount ruler of Ogale as he had contravened the customs and traditions of Eleme people which states that a king or paramount ruler can only remain fit to serve in that capacity if he does not steal, kill or commits adultery with another man’s wife.
“Therefore, Okpabi having withheld the monies belonging to the original land owners of SPDC right of way, as stipulated under Eleme customs and traditions, should no longer rule over Ogale and therefore we dethroned him and on April 3, 2019, the people of Ogale went before Eleme Council of Chiefs to inform them that we have no confidence in Chief Bebe Okpabi and he is no longer our king”, Chujor said.
As a result, the people of Ogale people had on March 27, 2019, unanimously selected Chu as the new paramount ruler and king of Ogale clan (Emere Ogale)”.
Some of the people in the community expressed that the Ogale people chose Chu as their new king because of his track record of achievements in community and human capital development, national integration, peace and unity amongst Nigerians, which has earned him both international and national recognitions.
They claimed further that Chu is a traditional ruler with a difference who gives listening ears to all and sundry and detests injustice and partiality with every sense of morality and was therefore found fit and most appropriate to keep Ogale on the part of progress peace and development.