Chief Cyprian Azubukwu Mosindi is the Ozah of Onicha Ugbo and a member of the inner caucus of the Obi-in-council of Onicha-Ugbo town in Aniocha North local government of Delta State. In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, Chief Mosindi provides insight into the political and cultural significance of the Odogwu traditional title in the political structure in one of the prominent towns in the larger Eze Chime Kingdom.
By Hugo Odiogor
What is your background?
My name is Cyprian Azubukwu Mosindi. I am privileged to be the Ozah of Onicha-Ugbo which is produced by the Umuolo village in Onicha-Ugbo. I took my title in 1987. I am one of the caucus members of the Onotu in council; I am a member of the Onotu-in-Council of Onicha Ugbo.
What is the function of the Ono otu in council in the political administration of Onicha-Ugbo? What is its political significance today?
The primary responsibility of the Ono -Otu in council is the internal security of the town. They are the military arm of Onicha Ugbo. We have been in a core kingship situation, the military or the coercive arm of state is a very key factor, in the management of the total environment because in those days when the king spoke his orders must be carried out, there was no room for a second thought.
It is our duty to enforce the order of the king or execute the laws as they are decreed by the king. Over time, however, as modern society evolve, our roles have continued to modify but it remains as military force even though we do not have the arms and armoury of modern army, equipped to fight wars. So our roles have been modified, but just like any military institution, our role is to ensure internal security, ensure protection of our people and to ensure the honourable living of our people, because that is part of protection.
Our role is to protect the monarchy, that is the position of the king and also to protect the incumbent monarch, because there is a difference between the monarchy and the monarch. The monarch, is the position occupant and our role is to ensure that anything that borders on peace and war, that Onicha Ugbo is safe and secured.
Then if we cast our minds back into the old, the Iyase of the town will not go to war, it is the Odogwu and the Ozah that go to the battle field, that is why you have the statement.
“Ozah Zado Odogwu” So up till now, we have this principal role, that if the town is under siege, it is our role to restore normalcy, to make sure that there is peace and security.
If you look at it from the angle of the modern state, the military cannot be pushed away.
What is your view on the controversy that marked his selection as the Odogwu?
Let me make my view on this, well the Ndi Ono-Otu are regarded as the Olinzele Ani – title holders of the land, it is the entire land or town that owns them even though they are selected by the various villages.
For example, the Iyase is produced by Ogbekenu, this Odogwu is produced by Ishiekpe, the Ozah is produced by Umuolo and the Isama is produced by Ogbe-Obi. So it is the duty of the villages to produce their representatives. We have two classes of chiefs in Onicha-Ugbo.
The ones sent by the land as the representatives of the major villages, and the ones nominated by the Obi. Odogwu and the three others fall into the category of Olinzele Ani, they are the chiefs sent by the town to govern with the Obi as members of the Obi-in-Council. Now each village has a responsibility to nominate its own candidate and present to the Obi and Ono-Otu in council. It is the duty of the village to determine who the various constituent quarters should participate in the selection of their representative.
They set their own criteria, the other villages do not interfere in the choice of the Olinzele Ani by the various quarters, you can look at the quarters that we have unfortunately, it seems that Ishiekpe did not evolve a strategy of succession or that they did not organise themselves properly, to ensure rancour free selection of its candidates, whenever the Odogwu stool is vacant, because if you come to Umuolo, we know the next family the Ozah title will pass on to when my time is done. So we know, it is not subject to debate.
What it means is that Ishiekpe did not organise itself ab-initio on the succession arrangement. So when there is no such clear cut process of selection whenever there is vacancy in the Odogwu stool, every quarter wants to take its claim, which is what results in conflict.
The people of Umuoshomi made their claim Umu Nyemuah claimed that it was theirs and other people will never have it etc.
There was when the controversy broke out, we recogised that it is only Ishiekpe that can produce the Odogwu when some people came to lobby me, I told them that there is no way I can vote on the issue, I told them that there was no point coming to lobby me because my vote on that issue is zero. I am from Umuolo and I have nothing whatsoever to do to advance their cause. *It is entirely on Ishiekpe affair.
Our laws made it clear that it is Ishiekpe and not Izu-ani that should select an Odogwu, so we rejected that arrangement. If they produce two persons and we take one, it means that the ultimate choice was not made by the people of Ishiekpe.
It means that the Obi has made a choice of Ishiekpe people, which is not permitted to do. So we objected to that and thank God it worked out.
Because ultimately, Ibe Kachikwu was selected by Ishiekpe people at the last minute. We have a video testimony to that effect, but I do hope that after this, they will go back and organise themselves properly.
Some people may want to say that the choice of Dr. Kachikwu was because of the money factor?
I don’t think so, like I said before, he has been instrumental to the development of the town through empowerment programme and development of infrastructures in the town. This is not the issue of money, it is the issue of capability love for the people and integrity, because for you to take a traditional title in Onicha-Ugbo, you must have your people, if you have all the money in this world and you don’t love your people, you are not welcomed. Ibe Kachikwu had been a very humble person.
He has empowered the town.
He has the capacity to influence so many things positively, he is a blessing to the town, he was not chosen because he has money. I am a member of Trustee of this Foundation, he gives out scholarship every year, to make sure that people in our environment are empowered. So in that way, he can be said to be protecting our people through economic empowerment and human capital development, because a person that is not empowered cannot be said to be protected.
Has any move been made to reconcile the aggrieved contestants over their inability to assert their claim to the Odogwu title?
Well, I will believe that he has done so. In my discussion with him, I have advised him on the need to do so. We must not practice any policy of exclusion because if we do, it will create conflicts. All these people I have mentioned Umu Okpai and Umu Inyenmue have been in Onicha-Ugbo for centuries. I think they should have the capacity to be whatever they want to be. We have Ono otu before that is from all segments of the town.