Traditional rulers in Orlu, Imo State, have openly declared their support for Governor Hope Uzodinma and his party, the APC, ahead of the November 11, 2023 governorship election in the state. This departure from the traditional role of apolitical guardians of Igbo culture and values has sparked widespread condemnation and concern.
Traditionally, Igbo traditional rulers are expected to remain neutral in politics, offering blessings and prayers to all candidates, regardless of party affiliation. However, the recent actions of these prominent traditional rulers have not only endorsed a specific candidate but have also taken the extreme step of invoking ancestral curses on their subjects who do not support Uzodinma’s bid for a second term.
Igwe Simeon Osisi Itodo, the grand patron of the Enugu State Traditional Rulers Council, expressed dismay at the involvement of traditional rulers in politics. He cautioned his colleagues against allowing politicians to exploit them, emphasizing the importance of upholding the dignity and values of the Igbo culture.
Bishop Sunday Onuoha, co-chair of the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace, echoed the sentiment of allowing people to freely choose their candidates in a democratic society. He emphasized the need for traditional rulers to avoid compelling their subjects to vote for specific candidates and warned against the use of ancestral curses as a means of coercion.
Prof. Madubuike Ezeibe, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Igbo Think Tank, stressed the importance of traditional rulers maintaining neutrality in political matters to preserve the respect and integrity of their positions. He also raised concerns that some traditional rulers might be induced or manipulated by politicians to make partisan statements.
Traditional ruler involvement in politics has led to negative consequences in the past, as seen in the suspension of 12 traditional rulers in Anambra State during Governor Willie Obiano’s administration. Community leader Christian Okeke emphasized the importance of traditional rulers remaining politically neutral, regardless of government interference.
Christopher Muo, a legal practitioner and prince, condemned the use of ancestral curses by traditional rulers and called for a repeal of outdated laws in South-East states that do not protect traditional rulers who choose to abstain from partisan politics.
Chief Johnson Okolo blamed the misbehavior of some monarchs on the political manipulation of communities by governors for their own interests. He highlighted the importance of responsible and respectable traditional rulers maintaining their cultural and traditional values.
In the face of these actions by Orlu monarchs, elder statesman Chime Nzeribe attributed their behavior to hunger and fear but strongly condemned it. He criticized the endorsement of Governor Hope Uzodinma for another term and argued that the governorship has not been beneficial to the people of Orlu and Imo State as a whole.
Overall, these actions have ignited concerns about the erosion of traditional values and the potential consequences of traditional ruler involvement in partisan politics in Igbo land.