By Emma Maduabuchi
Lagos — Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, Chairman of South-East Council of Traditional Rulers is on warpath, waging a war against what he chooses to call culture abuse, known generally as the Ezeigbo phenomenon.
Ilomuanya was in Lagos State recently, to, according to him, educate his kinsmen from the South East zone of the country, who parade themselves as Eze-Ndigbo in Diaspora. He believes that such title is a corruption of a monarchical system, the Eze-ship in parts of Igboland.
He insists that those parading themselves as Ezeigbo outside Igboland are people generally unknown by the Igbo in the localities they reside, chosen and recognised neither by anybody nor working for any group.
Ilomuanya, who is also Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers and a highly affluent traditional ruler, led a delegation of 10 other traditional rulers from the South East to the palace of the traditional ruler of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu. He told his host that the Eze-Igbo phenomenon was never anything cheery to celebrate, but rather an abuse of culture. "There is nothing like Eze-Ndigbo; rather it is an abuse of our culture and tradition," he further said.
Ilomuanya went on to request from Oba Akiolu and Lagos State Government to stop granting such people recognition as Eze, because "it is contrary to Igbo culture."
However, Ilomuanya seems not to be alone in this struggle to restore what some call the dignity of Igbo traditional institution. Many Igbo sons and daughters see the thriving Ezeigbo phenomenon outside Igboland as a misnomer, and a mockery of Igbo culture.
Yet, a group of commentators criticize Ilomuanya's crusade as starting on the wrong plank, and wondered if he was not merely playing the Ostrich.
Those on this divide center their argument on the fact that Igbo culture is not in its entirety a monarchical system.
"The Eze-ship, as being held by Ilomuanya and his contemporaries within Igboland itself was not a culture prevalent in every Igbo community to necessitate such platforms as, State Council of Traditional Rulers, or South East Council of Traditional Rulers," one critic noted.
The critics argued further that Ilomuanya should have started his crusade by campaigning against the "dubious" conferment of autonomous communities to people, and the Eze stools that go with it, which have, in most cases bred rancour and division within those communities.
Incidentally, Ilomuanya is said to be a beneficiary of this proliferation, having benefited from the creation of Obinugwu autonomous community, which he is the first traditional ruler. His critics thus question the morality in his creating a kingdom for himself, and seeking to restrain others from doing same, even if, in Diaspora.
A concerned Igbo who chose to speak on condition of anonymity said: "Yes Ezeigbo outside Igboland is an aberration and not our culture. But, is it not necessary to have a body outside Igboland to preserve Igbo culture? Some would say it is necessary, but the name Ezeigbo does not go down well with a lot of people. So they can consider such titles as Nna-Udo, Eze-Udo, but not Eze-Igbo."
Ikenga Nnewi, Dr. Dozie Ikedife though supporting recognition of a leader wherever there is a large Igbo settlement, frowns at what he calls a desecration of revered Igbo traditional title.
"There is a need to have a leader of Igbos wherever they are in good number. But, it is wrong to go with the title Eze-Igbo, which is a reserved title for autonomous communities. You don't go desecrating the thing everywhere," Ikedife advised.