Anambra Royal Fathers Explain Why They Received Atiku At Government House
Following eyebrows raised over Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe’s reported reception of the Peoples Democratic Party’s Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, outside of his palace in Onitsha, Anambra Council of Traditional Rulers on Saturday released a statement signed by its Secretary-General, Igwe Pius Omachonu, in which the royal fathers said the choice of where to receive Atiku was because Atiku’s visit was to the council and not personally to Obi of Onitsha, who is the Council’s chairman.
It would be recalled that concerned observers had queried why the Obi of Onitsha, in particular, should leave his Palace and agree to receive Atiku at the Traditional Council Chamber, Government House, Awka?
The council said in the statement: “The monthly meeting of the Traditional Council normally holds on the second Tuesday of every month at the Traditional Council chambers at the Government House, Awka. However, the meeting would often be rescheduled to other convenient dates to fit with exigencies. The meeting for December 2022, which should have been held on Tuesday, 13th, was shifted to Thursday, 15th, in view of the attendance of the Chairman and two Deputy Chairmen of the Traditional Council at the annual general assembly of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria on Monday, 12 December 2022, and the participation of the Chairman at the events marking the 45th Anniversary of FESTAC 77 on Tuesday, 13 December 2022, both in Abuja. The change of date had been decided well before the request for the visit by the PDP presidential campaign team.
“On 10 December 2022, High Chief Ben Obi, Chairman of the Anambra State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Council wrote to the Chairman of the Traditional Council stating that the party’s presidential candidate would visit Anambra State on Thursday, 15 December 2022. The letter further stated that part of the visit ‘would be a courtesy call on you and members of the Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council under your chairmanship at the Council’s chamber in Awka on the same date, Thursday, 15 December 2022’.
“It would be recalled that four years ago, both His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, GCON, met with the Anambra State traditional rulers at the palace of Obi of Onitsha, Obi Nnaemeka Achebe, chairman of the Traditional Council during their presidential campaigns. Following the visits, misunderstandings involving the highest level of the State Government ensued as to whether both courtesy visits were personal to the Obi of Onitsha or to the traditional rulers of Anambra State. The fallouts of these misunderstandings still linger in the mind; hence the Traditional Council had since resolved that all visits to the body should be at the Traditional Council chambers at Government House at Awka, and preferably during its regular meetings.
This distinction is strictly in line with what obtains everywhere in the country. For instance, the Northern Traditional Rulers Council meets in Arewa House, Kaduna, not at the palace of its Chairman, the Sultan of Sokoto. The Osun State Traditional Rulers Council meets in Osogbo, not at the palace of its chairman, Ooni of lfe, etc. Persons wishing to interact with the respective traditional councils would necessarily do so at their meeting venues. On the other hand, the visits of politicians to the palaces of traditional rulers are strictly for direct interaction with the respective monarchs and do not involve other members of their State Traditional Councils.
The convergence of the diaries for the 15 December 2022 for the PDP courtesy call on the Traditional Council was fortuitous and convenient for all parties, including the Chairman of the Traditional Council who only returned to his domain from Abuja on the previous day. The logistics for the Chairman of the Traditional Council, Obi of Onitsha, to first receive the PDP campaign team at his palace at Onitsha and thereafter wade through the normal hours heavy traffic in the city to Awka to preside over the regular meeting of the Traditional Council, including receiving the PDP team, would have been horrendous for all.
It is noteworthy that the PDP presidential candidate was not the first to visit the Traditional Council at its chambers at the Government House, Awka.
“Indeed, His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi, CON, Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party, former Governor and a most worthy son of Anambra State and Nigeria, first declared his intention to run for the Presidency on the platform of the PDP at the regular meeting of the Traditional Council at its chambers at Government House, Awka, in March 2022. The Traditional Council considered it a distinct honour that our son accorded the traditional institution due respect by choosing our forum as platform to declare his intention to the whole world.
“The Traditional Council as a body prides itself studiously on political neutrality, always praying for the electorate to choose the best candidates to lead the country. This principle is manifested in providing a level playing field to all candidates running for a particular office, admonishing them on the imperatives of free, fair and transparent elections, and praying that the electorates exercise their franchise in favour of the best candidates. The Traditional Council also strives to support the elected candidates with advice and constructive criticisms.
It is in this spirit that the Traditional Council received Alhaji Atiku Abubakar on 15 December and Mr. Peter Obi in March 2022 and will do so for other presidential candidates if they so request, without prejudice to the personal political inclination of individual traditional rulers.
“The courtesy visit was necessarily brief. Following an introduction by the Chairman of the Traditional Council, His Majesty, Obi Gibson Nwosu, Eze Uzu Awka, offered traditional prayers with Kolanuts, following which the Presidential candidate was introduced by his team members for his brief remarks. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was statesmanlike in his remarks, acknowledging that traditional rulers should not be entangled in partisan political issues. He merely requested for prayers for the nation and the candidates so that the best would emerge.
His message on his verified Twitter handle reasonably summarizes the visit as follows: ‘I just ended a consultation meeting with the Anambra State Council of Traditional Rulers, led by His Majesty Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe, CFR. I am happy for the opportunity to address the audience, and I’m most appreciative of their blessings.’
“The Traditional Council believes that democracy, particularly in plural nations such as Nigeria would best be advanced if political variances are based on philosophy, ideology, and manifesto, not on ethnic, religious, or personal sentiments. That is the strength of such large and diverse democratic nations, such as India, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, etc. We believe that Nigeria has all the attributes to become a great democracy through mutual understanding, respect for fundamental human rights of every citizen, and justice and equity for all.
“The Traditional Council holds its Chairman, Obi Nnaemeka Achebe, CFR, mni, in highest esteem and is very proud of his services to the country. The Traditional Council holds his character and diverse leadership roles in the country as sterling and beyond reproach. They are proud of his disarming humility which a few may interpret as weakness, but the majority rather see it as a reflection of his amazing but understated dignity. For instance, as a 21st century progressive monarch, he has no qualms standing up to address his fellow traditional rulers on serious issues, with or without visitors.
“The Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council trusts that the foregoing provides adequate background to and clarification of the reception that it accorded His Excellency, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, GCON, Presidential candidate of the PDP in the Traditional Council chambers, Government House, Awka, on 15 December 2022.”
Photo Credit: Kemi Filani