By Bala Mohammed Yusuf
As a journalist, when I read and analysed the publication by Dr Ogbechie in Vanguard of May 21st, 2019, I felt he was an authentic Idumuje-Ugboko patriot.
Titled “The Quest for Peace in Idumuje-Ugboko: My Perspectives”, he came across as a gentle man who desired good peace in his community.
So, he inspired me to put a call across to Prince Ned Nwoko, a man I had read quite a chunk about but had never heard him speak nor have I been privileged to speak to him. You know you don’t just wake up and start speaking to billionaires.
Again, the consistent horrifying news of terror emanating from that little town, made my call inevitable. I wanted to hear his own side of the story having done my quiet investigations. I wasn’t sure he would pick the call from an unfamiliar number.
But Prince Ned surprised me quite a bit as he picked my call at the second ring. Very unlike our big, big men. But his response to my question was terse.
“I’m sorry my friend, I don’t talk to the press about the crisis in my village”. I warned that the crisis could actually degenerate and further harm his village from what I gathered.
He agreed but added, “it is a serious crisis but I still believe we can resolve it peacefully if we come out sincerely to do so. I haven’t given up hope. Not at all. All we need do is to ensure that the peace we seek is a product of justice. I am optimistic. This is all I can tell you my friend. Thank you so much for your interest in our problem”.
He hung up and I almost lost interest in the story. This was on May 23rd, 2019. But on June 7th, 2019, I stumbled on a letter written by one Prince Daniel Odims Nwoko, a cousin to Prince Ned and Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko, the eldest son of the late king, Obi Albert Nwoko III, PhD, JP, OON.
The letter convulsed my entire thoughts about Dr Ogbechie and rekindled my interest in the crisis.
My greatest shock came from the fact that Prince Daniel put a red hot sword in the heart of everything Dr Ogbechie wrote and cut them to shreds. In plain language, he tacitly told the business mogul that he lied pathetically.
The fact that the writer is an old man of 88 incredible years makes the weight of his revelations much heavier and calls to serious question the sincerity of Dr Ogbechie.
Let me take the first simple shot. In No. 11 of his essay in Vanguard, Dr Ogbechie wrote, “On Sunday, the 26th of January, 2020, the Chairman, Delta State Council of Chiefs and the Obi of Owa Kingdom, the highly respected and revered Obi Efezeimor II called a Peace Meeting between Hon Ned Nwoko and HRH Obi Chukwunomso, the Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko….I was elated when I heard of the meeting. Hon Ned accepted to attend the meeting but HRH Obi Chukwunomso Nwoko had some concerns about leaving his palace and going to Agbor for the meeting.
There is a needless terrorism charge hanging on him and the President General had just been arrested on the streets of Issele Uku…..After the meeting, Idumuje-Ugboko was agog. The women were dancing; the king had met Hon. Ned Nwoko.
Peace had come. Everyone was happy. It’s been four months now since that meeting and despite the enthusiasm, the implementation of the peace initiatives as enunciated by the Obi of Owa has been bogged down by those who are bent on ensuring the community does not have the peace we so desperately crave”.
Looking closely at these lines, an analytical mind will first of all puncture Dr Ogbechie’s sermonizing words.
He said there is a “needless terrorism” charge hanging on the king. By this singular assertion he is simply saying that the king, Obi Chukwunonso, is a fugitive of the law.
Otherwise anyone would wonder why a charge is hanging on his head. Still, I am tempted to ask, in what capacity is an enlightened man like Dr Ogbechie describing the charge as “needless”. Does he have power of adjudication over a case in court ? How did he arrive at the phrase, “needless charge”.
In a country like Britain, Dr Ogbechie actually could be put in prison by a Judge presiding over the case for commenting ignorantly and even dismissing a suit before his court.
Secondly, if Obi Chukwunomso as Dr Ogbechie likes to address him, has no cockroach in his cupboard, and so has nothing to hide, he should go straight to the court to clear his name. It is only a charge. He remains absolutely innocent until proven guilty. He cannot be hiding in Idumuje-Ugboko and Dr Ogbechie will naively be describing the charge on his shoulders as needless.
Prince Chukwunonso, like his opponents, is not above the law and he does not enjoy any immunity. The best help Dr Ogbechie can give him therefore is to advise him to go and answer to the charge levelled against him. If he fails, he remains a fugitive and the law will inevitably come for him.
His supposed opponent, Hon. Prince Ned Nwoko has been invited by the police a few times based on petitions written by Prince Nonso and his supporters and Prince Ned submitted himself for investigation. And when the police could not find him culpable, they let him go. He was only a suspect.
Prince Chukwunonso should emulate his cousin and pick up courage to see the police or go to court to clear himself and his name. Anything to the contrary makes him a bad actor and a renegade. How can a felon and a transgressor then be the king of a village.
But let me come to Prince Daniel’s letter. Dr Ogbechie gave me the impression on the quoted No.11 above that some people are the obstacles to the implementation of the recommendations of the Delta state Council of Chiefs led by HRM Dr Emmanuel Oyinke Efeizomor II, Obi of Owa Kingdom.
However, Prince Daniel Nwoko’s letter to Dr Ogbechie points angry, accusing fingers at him as one of the main obstacles.
Hear the old man, “I have always and recently and since the Royal Fathers issued their communique, sent you my peace implementation moves. I thought you would have responded positively or ask me some questions”.
Going further, Prince Daniel writes,”… I have made proposal to the Royal Fathers by setting up a Joint Peace Implementation Committee (JPIC). I urge you to queue to this proposal…..Tell those queueing behind you to join the Joint Committee I have set up and encourage Nonso to tow the path of peace and progress”.
The articulate only man’s lines do not portray Dr Ogbechie like one truly eager to help bring about peace in his home town. There is on the contrary, a tacit accusation of a complicit attitude by Ogbechie through his eloquent indifference. But there were harder knocks to come.
UNMASKING DR GABRIEL OGBECHIE
In his perspectives on Idumuje-Ugboko’s quest for peace, Dr Ogbechie in Nos. 1 and 2 of his well written essay talked fervently about his support for the establishment of Prince Ned’s University now known as STAR University.
He also stated in palpable terms that he was in full support of Obi Chukwunonso getting his Staff of Office as king of Idumuje-Ugboko. He then caressed his role further, narrating the pain he took to meet and ask Princes Nonso and Ned to follow the cause of peace and to actualise their individual goals as both interests could co-exist.
Said he, “Hon. Ned Nwoko should build his University and HRM Obi Chukwunomso Nwoko should get his Staff of Office. Advocating for the King to have his Staff of Office does not mean opposition to the construction of the University and vice versa…”.
Dr Ogbechie’s flowing essay in its face value would be adjudged to be both altruistic and patriotic.
But Prince Daniel’s letter unfortunately put a naked lie to his claims accusing him of heinous hypocrisy.
This is Prince Daniel’s frustration-laden voice, “Let me repeat again, the feud is that of the Royalty. Nonso is Nwoko, Ned is Nwoko, so it is Nwokos that will resolve the feud in Nwoko family and not you. You can only assist but should not become the focal point”.
Now, hear the hard punch to Dr Ogbechie, “You are the only financial muscle behind Nonso. Senator Nwaoboshi has pulled out. The kind of support you are giving , you are helping to widen the gap between Nonso and Ned thereby destabilizing the Royalty and making reconciliation difficult…..I expected you to play the engagement of a mediator and not a destabilizer. Others talk and end there but you talk and roll out millions in support of Nonso…..The feud in the family continues to drag on because of your acts of omission and commission. You are wittingly or and knowingly destroying the Royalty”.
These words from an 88 year old man is an ominous condemnation of Dr Ogbechie’s role in the Royal fued. It unreservedly casts into the trash bin Ogbechie’s sermons in his “Perspectives” as published in Vanguard.
Again, writing on the dismal events that followed the death of Obi Albert Nwoko III, especially the terror that engulfed Idumuje-Ugboko, Prince Daniel enunciated the destruction that took place and indicted Ogbechie who had glossed over the atrocities perpetrated by the hoodlums that he, Ogbechie, in fact painted as the aggrieved.
Dr Ogbechie’s narrative claims that on 19th of May, 2017, “the king, Obi Chukwunomso Nwoko called a routine meeting in his palace. The meeting is called Izu Ani……I was informed that while this meeting was just starting, thugs came and destroyed the canopies, chairs and all the meeting materials and chased all the people away”.
Dr Ogbechie continued his tale, “The meeting reconvened at the palace on the 23rd of May, 2017. Thugs and hoodlums came yet again and stopped the meeting from holding and dispersed the old men with violence. This time, there was a push back. Some youths in the palace chased the thugs away and allegedly attacked those they perceived were formenting trouble in the village “.
In my analysis of this narrative, having spoken to so many people living in Idumuje-Ugboko, I found it extremely difficult to believe this part of Ogbechie’s narrative.
It was a very poor contraption. I found it hard to understand how a man of Ogbechie’s brilliance and stature could wilfully put out this kind of infantile narrative.
It so badly diminished his stature. This is simply so because there was no motivation for thugs, if any, from the opponent’s group to visit the palace with violence.
First reason is because it was the palace that was under pressure and not its opponents.
Prince Chukwunonso’s opponents had made it difficult for him to get his Staff of Office and that constituted a big frustration for him and his group. And so his opponents were having a good laugh.
They were also consistently defeating him in the various court cases that he, Nonso, initiated and naturally they were the ones celebrating with malignant pleasure over their victories and his misfortunes.
So, what would motivate them to go and attack a group that was already down without a single victory, without credibility, or go after a king that is a fugitive, who was only using the facade of meetings as the only way to tackle shame and dramatise his position as king.
There was certainly no compelling reason to attack the palace as Dr Ogbechie artfully painted it. He pushed forward a tale of Idumuje-Ugboko youths who only went out to avenge attacks on the village. He made no mention of the sad destruction of properties and loss of lives that have now climaxed in terrorism charges in court.
But it was Prince Daniel that unveiled the facts and once again subjected Ogbechie to a dire embarrassment with words that delineate Ogbechie’s less than sincere role.
To the business magnate, Prince Daniel said, “If you visited and went round Ugboko after the rampage, you will discover that many people were wounded and the only way to calm nerves was to pay reparation and beg the injured for forgiveness. It is mere sensationalism and sentimentality to pretend that nothing happened, that no one was injured and properties were not destroyed. To do so is to be unreasonable and inhuman to the core. I went round Ugboko after the gory scene and saw man’s inhumanity and the extent of the destruction…What happened was like a scene in a movie industry where many unbelievables happen . Is it right out of sentiment to gloss over it and give kudos to the perpetrators?”, he asked rhetorically.
Prince Daniel here again wrote with pain in his heart but still holding on to a thread of hope. He nullified the anecdotal lines, hypotheses and outright untruths in Dr Ogbechie’s letter.
But the brutally frank octogenarian holds no bitterness against Nonso neither is he against his kingship ambition.
He tells Dr Ogbechie, “Since you are the elephant standing behind him financially and otherwise, tell him my mood. I am more aggrieved than any of my brothers because I, my wife, my daughter and my in-laws were rubbished, disgraced and battered by Nonso….Tell those working with you and engaging in media war that I am not against Nonso per se but against his style, immaturity and impunity”.
Prince Daniel Nwoko had a parting shot for Dr Ogbechie and it is a mortal knock. Writing about the alleged desperation of Ogbechie to get Prince Nonso his touted Staff of Office, he said ” Attempting to bribe the Authorities to get him Staff of Office is criminal, subversive and sabotage….recall the N10million that you allegedly gave out to bribe the Authorities and apply it:
a. To pay compensation and reparation to the people whose properties were destroyed, damaged, burnt and or carted away by the hired hoodlums.
b. To pay compensation to the people who suffered one form of deprivation of liberty through humiliation, flogging and harassment.
c. Pay compensation to those who lost loved one by the unkind bullet of the wicked hoodlums and;
d. Apologise to the aggrieved, then see if those held in Abuja will not gain their freedom”.
Prince Daniel by his last words confirmed in lucid terms that the terrorism in Idumuje-Ugboko was real. That properties were destroyed and that lives were lost.
This is against Dr Ogbechie’s posture that attempted to gloss over these atrocious acts and in particular the gruesome murder of the young motorcycle rider, Cyprian Kumiolu, that he insensitively said his body was not seen neither was there an autopsy to prove the claim that he was killed whereas it was alleged that the thugs from the palace, his killers, carted his body away never to be seen ever since. Many alleged the thugs burnt both his motor bike and his body.
Prince Daniel confirmed clearly like the police and human rights organisations that Idumuje-Ugboko came under a dreadful siege involving arson, murder, abductions and torture, a clear case of terrorism.
The octogenarian in a magnanimous spirit however advised Dr Ogbechie, as the pillar of Nonso’s battles, the steps to take for the renaissance of peace in their rustic village.
But I will add one critical line that Prince Daniel omitted.
For presenting Prince Ned as the aggressor instead of the aggrieved, for making the scenario look like Ned spurred the police to pick some innocent people and needlessly charged them for terrorism, for simply smearing the character of a man that has shown so much patience, nobility and distinction in his ways, Dr Gabriel Ogbechie should humble himself, walk up to Hon Prince Ned Nwoko in Abuja and apologise to him. And Prince Nonso should do exactly the same . Then Idumuje-Ugboko can begin its full healing process.
MY WORST FEAR ABOUT THIS SIMMERING CRISIS
I read Zik Zulu Okafor’s story in Vanguard online titled Idumuje-Ugboko Crisis: The Genesis, the Mindless Terrorism and the Dangerous Move to Drag IUDU into a Personal Agenda.
An aspect that shocked me the most was the part about IUDU contributing money to fight the terrorism case in court which the prolific journalist took time to draw from his experiences dating back to over 25 years just so to highlight the inherent danger of that uninformed decision and to sue for peace.
If I didn’t know Zik Zulu to be a thoroughbred, multiple award winning journalist and in particular an incisive Crime Reporter, I would have doubted the report.
So, I put a call yet again to Prince Ned to get his opinion on it. Again , his response was brief.
“I am not aware of such contributions”, he said. “I’m not aware that anyone took our development union to court. So, why would they contribute money for a case that has to do with individuals and not the union as a collective? I doubt that. I believe my people know better than that”, he said and begged that he wouldn’t say anything more.
Despite Prince Ned’s doubts, I am most certain that Zik Zulu’s source is authentic. I know how far he could go to obtain evidence for his stories.
And this is why I am alarmed. I believe that the Idumuje-Ugboko community should know Prince Ned their son better than some of us that read the incredible stories of his heroics from afar.
For many a Nigerian, Prince Ned indeed epitomizes that man of iron-cast will and steely courage. He is seen as an emblem of a robust character with an unflinching carriage of personal, professional and patriotic convictions.
This was the same man that dared to challenge one of the most powerful group of creditor nations on earth known as the Paris Club.
Members of this magnificent group include US, UK and Japan among other Western European and Scandinavian countries.
The job of the Club is to help find coordinated and sustainable solutions to payment challenges faced by debtor nations mainly third world countries.
Nigeria happened to be one of those countries with protracted debt issues. The Paris Club computed and structured the nations debt until Nigeria managed to wriggle out of this choking trap having completely paid her debt.
While the nation celebrated this massive achievement and relief, one uncommon character remained unexcited, cold, calculating what his country had coughed out in quantum dollars. It took this incisive mind, a man of luminous acumen, an eagle eye, to see that Nigeria had been short changed by the Paris Club through outrageous deductions running into billions of dollars.
That irrepressible patriot , is the Idumuje-Ugboko born International Lawyer, Hon Prince Ned Munir Nwoko.
Armed with hard facts, he confronted this club of very powerful nations. At great personal risk, he filed legal suits in New York, Paris, Switzerland and London among other countries.
After about 10 years of complicated legal battles, this authentic and selfless Nigerian patriot won the case. He defeated the world leading economic power houses.
The billions of dollars refund from Prince Ned’s legal victory has since become a life line for the three tiers of government in his country, Nigeria , particularly in payment of workers’ salaries and provision of critical social infrastructure . The refund which comes in tranches remains a saving grace for Nigeria till today.
So, why am I telling this long story. It is simply to give a little insight into the character of this scion of Idumuje-Ugboko, how ultra careful, diligent, conscientious and importantly how resolute he could be. He pursues his cause with single mindedness once his mind is made up. And that is after a razor-sharp analysis of his cause and choices.
This then is my fear, the Idumuje-Ugboko crisis has already established its conclave of victims. If this reticent but deep lawyer comes to terms with the fact that his folks are irredeemably ganged up against him over this terrorism suit, I am afraid this case may hit a point of no return. And he will prosecute the case with the same grit and granite will convinced that his cause is right and just.
I will pray that it doesn’t get to that baleful, foreboding point. Because, by the police report, by the available evidence, the outcome of this case may not only be sinister and doomy, it may be apocalyptic.
I pray for some act of providence that will reverse this direful moment and transform the echoing rankles of hate into a harmonious symphony of brotherhood to the eternal joy and benefit of that awesome community called Idumuje-Ugboko.
I truly pray and hope for that new dawn in no distant time.