Tension rose to boiling point Saturday in the sleepy town of Nteje, the headquarters of Oyi Local Council of Anambra State, as the battle for who sits on its traditional stool led to demonstrations by youths.
Nteje is the home of prominent Nollywood actor, 71 years old Chief Pete Edochie. The community erupted in crisis during the celebration of 2018 Ofala festival (rites of renewal) by one of the claimants to the traditional rulership throne, Rowland Odegbo.
Odegbo and Chief Charles Anaduaka were for years locked in a legal tussle over who becomes the authentic monarch for the community.
Hundreds of protesting citizens mainly youths took over the major road linking the community to the Enugu-Onitsha federal highway and the rest of Anambra East-Anambra West council areas chanting wars songs critical of Odegbo and the Anambra State government.
The protesters, carrying a large white coffin draped with golden edges also carried numerous placards with anti-Odegbo inscriptions and others asking Governor Obiano respect the wishes of Nteje people.
The youths were said to be peaceful in their until others from an opposing camp accosted them.
Then, he’ll was let loose. A free-for-all fight ensued. Some cars of distinguished personalities from out of the state who came for the Ofala and chieftaincy honour to some citizens were smashed.
One of the suspects was however apprehended by the soldiers on duty at the Ofala.
Many guests and natives took to their heels and others quickly jumped into their cars and sped off back to their homes.
The crisis nearly ruined the event as guests simply disappeared.
When contacted, Anaduaka blamed the situation on non-respect for rule of law. He pointed out that Nteje and Anambra state have written laws on traditional institution that was carefully followed in his selection. But Odegbo went to court and lost.
“After the verdict didn’t favour him, he went to Court of Appeal and lost again. Right now he is in the Supreme Court, where we were asked to maintain the status quo. But he ignored it and now went ahead with this Ofala which clearly infuriated the citizens thereby leading to fracas and total breakdown of law and order”, Anaduaka stated.
There were unconfirmed speculations that the Police was advised to prevail on one of the aggrieved parties to shelve the Ofala.
It was gathered that the Anambra Police command had a hard time prevailing on the party to stop the event but that he allegedly used contacts in the state government to organize the event.