All is still not well in Akwa Ibom State, following the recent law passed by the state house of assembly on the leadership structure of the Akwa Ibom State Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers. Paramount rulers from the major ethnic groups, apart from the Ibibios have given signals of a looming chaos in the state.
Paramount Rulers of Annang, Oro Nations and other minorities in the state are not happy with the state government in its handling of the matter. But TNN findings seem to show that a former governor of the state is trying to display muscles against another former governor, two of who are from different ethnic blocs in the state.
The current governor, Pastor Umo Eno, has however been trying to exonerate himself from the crisis that has greeted the new law since it was passed by the state assembly. But Eno had ignored the protests from royal fathers of Annang extraction and went ahead to sign the law.
Last month during the anniversary celebration of Akwa Ibom, Eno had denied any direct involvement in the processes leading to the contents of the amended law entitled Akwa Ibom State Traditional Rulers Law Cap 155, explaining that he did not mastermind the enactment but only facilitated its passage by the House of Assembly and warned against interferences on chieftaincy issues by the people.
“The law that has just been passed by the House of Assembly is not my law. The Paramount Rulers of this State sat together, I was there at that meeting and I did not say anything. They agreed on what that law is. They themselves agreed. I said it yesterday and I am saying it today on this altar.
“If any paramount Ruler that was there, let the Paramount Ruler prove that he uttered a voice. The only paramount ruler that raised a voice and said something to add was the Paramount Ruler of Itu. No one Paramount Ruler, whether Ibibio, Annang or Oron, none of them said anything. All I did was to implement their decision. You couldn’t implement a law without going through the House of Assembly.
“If they feel that is no more their position, it is a simple thing. They are our fathers. It is to call the Governor and say, please, what we did, we did not understand. This is what we now think we should do. It has nothing to do with ethnicity. It has nothing to do with favouring one tribe over the other. I will never have sided one tribe over another because I belong to Jesus. We all belong to one kingdom and it is the kingdom of God.”
But royal fathers from Annang, Oro and other minority ethnic blocs in the state have warned that the state may be playing with fire, as the matter was not well handled, especially by the state legislators who they alleged, ignored their presentation at a public hearing that preceded the passage of the law.
In a letter they addressed to the governor, the royal fathers said “we are in receipt of the address presented by the Governor of Akwa Ibom State at the 36″ Anniversary of Akwa Ibom State creation, and wish to present our side of the story and our position as follows:
“It is true as stated by Your Excellency that a few days to end of tenure of the last administration in May 2023, there was a breakfast get together called by the former Governor Mr, Udom Emmanuel where all the paramount rulers and the former governor of the state interacted, together with Your Excellency who then was the governor-elect. At that meeting the former Governor made remarks and mooted the idea.
“Since then, we the Paramount Rulers had been hoping to have a meeting with Your Excellency after your inauguration where further details will be given on the structure and tenure of the
President-General. That never happened until we received a letter of invitation to a Public Hearing by the State House of Assembly to be conducted on the 19th September, 2023 upon a proposal to amend the traditional Rulers law, earlier amended in 2022.
“Upon scrutiny of the proposed amendment, we saw that the custodian of the President General of the new Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers was exclusively preserved for the Oku Ibom Ibibio as a life long tenure without any provision for rotation whatsoever amongst the entre Local Government Areas or the major ethnic groups in the state, even upon the death of the Oku Ibom. Same was the position In respect of Vice Presidents 1 and 2.
“Your Excellency, never at any time was it ever discussed and agreed that the position of the President of the Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers was to remain in perpetuity with the Ibibio ethnic group to the extent that if the present Oku Ibom dies, the position of the President will remain vacant until another Oku Ibom is selected, which is the intendment of the new law.”
“Your Excellency, the law as passed has already caused serious disaffection, disunity, divisions, protests, tensions and lack of trust amongst indigenes of our various ethnic groups and even the traditional rulers of the State and has the propensity to further cause more tensions, violent protests, confrontations and attendant break down of law and order, with possible loss of lives and properties of our citizens in our much beloved peaceful state.”