By Dayo Johnson
UNTIL last week, the Eze Ndigbo of Akure, Gregory Iloehike was a man about town. He used to go about in Akure, the Ondo state capital with all the paraphernalia of a traditional ruler and served as the voice of the Igbo in the metropolis. But his over bloated ego of many years was deflated when he reportedly “ disrespected the town’s monarch’’ by uttering uncomplimentary remarks to the Deji of Akureland, Oba Aladelusi Aladetoyinbo, who invited him to the palace in Akure to find a lasting solution to a leadership tussle in a popular market in the ancient town.
Reports had it that Oba Aladetoyinbo in order to douse the tension in the market sent an invitation to the Eze Ndigbo to shed more light on the cause of the crisis and how to resolve it.His activities in the past years failed to attract the attention of past Deji of Akureland and this reportedly made him more powerful and he began to wear beaded crown and other regalia of a traditional ruler. Vanguard learnt that the leadership tussle in Mojere Market- the biggest spare parts market mainly populated by the Igbo in the Akure metropolis exposed the excesses of the Igbo leader and this ended up pitching him against the Oba of the town.
He was alleged to have kept the Oba waiting for hours and when he eventually showed up reportedly wore a beaded crown and other paraphernalia of a traditional ruler.
Vanguard learnt that the Council of Chiefs who were in the palace by the time he came expressed concern over his appearance before the Deji of Akureland. He was alleged to have addressed the Oba rudely and the palace aides and some youths protested. The Council of Chiefs, reportedly seething with anger, asked him if he could address the traditional ruler in his home town the same way he was addressing their Oba.
Irked by the disrespectful attitude of the Eze Ndigbo, the Deji reportedly barred him from parading himself as Eze Ndigbo of Akure forthwith. Vanguard learnt that the Eze was manhandled by some youths who reportedly removed his crown and beads. He was said to have been smuggled out of the palace by some Policemen.
The news of his alleged maltreatment travelled like wild fire and shops owned by Igbos across the state capital were shut for three days. They marched through the streets protesting the stripping of the Eze Igbo traditional title by the Deji questioning his power to dethrone their leader installed by them and not Akure indegenes.
The Eze Ndigbo while speaking on his ordeal denied that he was rude to the Oba. Iloehika said that the Oba invited him on Sunday and he honoured the invitation on Monday only to be manhandled by the youths who were mobilized to the palace to embarrass him.
“The youths tore my beads and removed my crown. They attempted to beat me but the police officers at the palace rescued me,’’ he said. Vanguard was informed that the Deji pointedly told Iloehika that he had nothing against him and the Igbos in the town but that “erecting a palace and being enthroned as a king here is an abomination to my heritage”.
The President General, Ohaneze Ndigbo, High Chief Okechukwu Okorie vowed that; “Any attempt to dethrone the Eze Ndigbo would be resisted by all the Igbos in the state.’’ Okorie said that Iloehike, who was installed four years ago, did not disrespect the Oba, hence, the traditional ruler had no power to dethrone him.
“Only the Igbo who elected Iloehike have the right to stop him from being our Eze Ndigbo.’’ he said. Meantime, the state Council of Obas chairman and the Osemawe of Ondo town Oba Adesumbo Kiladejo, is expected to table the matter for the council to issue a resolution that will curtail such excesses across the 18 council areas of the state.
The Obas according to an aide to one of them who spoke with Vanguard in confidence said that; “If the Obas fail to act now, they should be ready for similar or worse insults in their various domains.