Abavo, a peaceful and agrarian Kingdom in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State for the past few weeks has been in the news over an ascendency issue which seems to be taking new twist everyday as claims and counter claims on whether the incumbent Obi of Abavo, His Royal Majesty Uche Irenuma 11, is the one that is supposed to be on the throne or not.
In this exclusive telephone interview with an illustrious son of Abavo and founder/ Secretary General, Abavo Peoples Voice, Smart Ajaja, on Tuesday, 13th of June, 2012 from his residence in the United States of America, he said that the Abavo people are peace loving and do not want anything that will hinder their progress and as such are saying that justice should be done as regards the ascendency problem in the kingdom
What is your name Sir?
I am Smart Ajaja. I am from the family of Mr. Augustine Ajaja of Abavo Central ( Ogbe- Obi) quarters
Were you born and brought up at Abavo?
How was Abavo before you travelled to the United states of America?
It was peaceful, very progressive and very habitable.
Who was the Obi then?
The Obi then was His Royal Majesty S.E Jegbefume 11. I left Abavo for Kano in 1987. I was living in Kano until the death of Obi S.E Jegbefume in 1991.
What is your take on the ascendancy problem at Abavo right now?
Abavo has assumed a picture of a war zone, economically backward and infested with terrorists. It is not the Abavo I was born into and the Abavo that I used to know.
Are you from the royal family?
Not really, but I am a distant member of the royal family. You know if you are two or three generations away, you are no longer seen as a member of the royal family. However, every person from Ogbe-Obi i.e Abavo Central has one thing or the other to do with the royal family. In general terms, every central person is a member of the royal family.
Many Abavo people are not willing to comment on in the issue currently going on the kingdom saying it is only for the royal family members, but surprisingly you have decided not to keep quiet.
Whatever I am doing is for the interest of the Abavo people, so any Abavo person that is saying that he or she has nothing to say or do about what is going on in our place is not helping Abavo people, and is not acceptable by us because that was why we made the mistake we are suffering from today. The royal family is not the owner of the conglomerate called Abavo. So, if anyone is saying he will not make any contribution to what is happening at Abavo, the person is not sincere. That is unacceptable to the Abavo people.
There was this speculation that after the death of HRM S.E. Jegbefume, Late Prince P.I. Jegbefume came to the United States of America to appeal to you to become the Obi of Abavo.
Let me correct the statement, Late Prince P. I. Jegbefume only met with Prince Emmanuel Ekhator not me. Prince Emmanuel Ekhator is a direct son of Late Obi S.E Jegbefume. Prince Emmanuel told me sometime ago, that he was approached by Prince P.I. Jegbefume to become the king of Abavo but he turned down the offer because there are other sons of his father who are older than him
Sir, can you tell us exactly what happened after the demise of Late Obi S.E Jegbefume?
From what I was told and with the valid document available, some members of the royal family after the death of Obi S.E Jegbefume, connived with a few other Abavo people to enthrone somebody who was not in line to become the Obi of Abavo. The reason they gave for their action was that the mother of the heir to the throne at that time, Prince Sunday Ekhator was not from Abavo. They said they wanted a full blooded Abavo Prince to be the king. An action which was against the wish of Late Obi Jegbefume. The Late Obi Jegbefume as an intelligent man knew what will happen after his death and wrote a letter with an official stamp of the Abavo Royal Palace and his own signature, attaching to it the picture of Prince Sunday Ekhator. In the letter which was copied to all the traditional rulers in the then Ika local government area, the Oba of Benin, Governor of Bendel State, Commissioner of Police in Bendel State and some stakeholders in Abavo clan,Obi Jegbefume stated that after his death, his eldest son, Prince Sunday Ekhator Jegbefume should be made the king of Abavo. Generally speaking, the Abavo people are not discriminatory in nature. Those who denied Prince Sunday Ekhator of his royal right of becoming a king never meant well for Abavo people and we are dealing with the consequences today. The man that was illegally enthroned as the Obi of Abavo, James Irenuma was not supposed to be enthroned king . Even at that, he was born out of wedlock. According to the Abavo tradition, any child that is born out of wedlock cannot be king. Yet some members of the royal family went ahead to enthrone the wrong Obi, without the knowledge of the entire Abavo people.
Why wait till now that oil has been discovered at Abavo before saying that HRM Uche Irenuma 11 is no longer the Obi?
The discovery of oil has nothing to do with the ascendancy issue. We have been on the ascendancy issue long before oil was discovered at Abavo. Everything came to the fore with the mysterious high profile death of royal family members and illustrious sons of Abavo. We were able to know that the reason why members of the royal family are dying was because the gods are angry. The gods want justice to be done. Some of us who are Abavo indigenes were very young at the time the injustice was done and had nothing to contribute. Now, God has empowered us to stand up and do what is right, that is exactly what we are doing.
Does that mean that many of the Abavo indigenes know about what happened after Obi S.E. Jegbefume’s death?
They knew, but they were afraid of saying the truth. They are afraid of being intimidated or attacked. The intimidation actually started with the enthronement of an illegitimate monarch, whose son is now sitting on the throne. He took Abavo to the wrong direction. He destroyed Abavo. The destruction is what we are trying to rescue now and nothing will stop us.
HRM Uche Irenuma 11 in an interview with journalists in his palace said his throne is not subject to oracle manipulation, saying that he was enthroned by God and it will be only God that will remove him from the throne.That is to say that whatever the oracle said has no meaning to the Obi
You know when somebody is about to loose his position, he fights on. A lot of the elders at Abavo knew that he is not the legitimate Obi. Whether he believes what the oracle is saying or not, he should vacate the throne. Prince Sunday was denied fatherly love because he was supposed to be the Obi of Abavo. He was taken somewhere else to be trained as Obi. I knew him when I was young. He was older than me and very humble. He was really prepared to perform the role of an Obi but was denied of his right. And here we are now with someone that never cared about the welfare of the Abavo people. A terrorist that has taken the Abavo people to the wrong direction. You know Abavo is one of the biggest clans in Ika nation and when Abavo people have a struggle just like the one that is going on now, Ika nation will be involved in one way or the other. This ascendancy problem should not be seen as an Abavo problem alone. I am sure that a lot of Ika people are not happy with what is going on at Abavo, and I am enjoining them not to be tired of supporting the Abavo people. If you have visited Abavo recently, you will see thugs from different parts of Nigeria especially from the eastern and northern parts of the country. We are beginning to see Islamic fundamentalism at Abavo. As I speak with you right now, there is a torture chamber at the Abavo Palace. Go to Abavo and interview the common Abavo people on the street, they will tell you how scared they are. Even myself that is living in the United States of America, I am on the list of those to be assassinated. Something has to be done about it and the time to do it is now. We want Late Prince Sunday Ekhator to be post humously declared the Obi of Abavo. When we finish with that, we can start correcting other problems confronting Abavo.
Does Sunday Ekhator have a son that will succeed him in case of any eventuality?
Yes, he has.
In one of your statements, you said that Abavo has been put for sale. By who?
(Cuts in) By the illegitimate Obi. We know that he is not acting alone, as he is boasting that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State is on his side and that nobody will be able to arrest him. A few days ago, he went and vandalized the car and house of Prince Andrew Jegbefume. Immediately he did that, the police of Abavo was notified in order for them to go into action but up till now, the police has not done anything. This is not permitted in the Nigerian constitution. The so called Obi did not stop there, he again went to the house of one of the Olotu’s at Abavo and threatened him at gun point.
Since His Royal Majesty is saying that he is the legitimate king of Abavo, are you people going to force him out of the throne he said belongs to his ancestors?
That is why we are sensitizing the Abavo people first. We are not going to use force. The Abavo people are on the side of justice. It is a question of time. We are a very peaceful people and will not allow our people to continue to die
What if after exhausting all avenues, the Obi maintains his stand?
You remember the Ika proverb that says "when a dog is about to die, he stops listening to its owners whistle." Abavo is for the Abavo people and not the property of the Obi or the royal family. So, for one man to come and say he alone decides what will happen in the kingdom is wrong. The voice of men is the voice of God. All Abavo people are ready for justice. It is only a question of time .
Where you at Abavo when the late Obi Irenuma, 1 was installed?
No, I was 29 years old then and was not at Abavo. But I had always believed that one day, Abavo people will get justice. I am very happy to be at the peak of action of helping the Abavo people to resolve the quagmire. Even though I was not in Abavo when the mistake of the ascendancy was made, I knew that Ajeh Obi, James Irenuma was not supposed to be the Obi. His enthronement was fraud put on the Abavo people,
Since most indigenes of Abavo knew what happened after the demise of Obi S.E Jegbefume, that means they must have been praying in the past for justice to come one day?
To be very honest, we have been praying for justice to come our way. Ajeh was not caring for the Abavo people. My younger sister was a victim of Ajeh’s wicked rule. How she became a victim was that Shell Petroleum Development Company came to Abavo, to explore oil and they promised to award scholarship to qualified Abavo students. The scholarship form was given to the Obi (Ajeh) and when we went to meet him for the form ,he told us to bring money which we refused. To God be the glory, my younger sister whoAjeh denied the scholarship is today the first female Chartered Accountant to come from Abavo. Supposed we did not have the resources to train her in school, Ajeh would have killed her dream of going to school. That is one of the things we are fighting to stop at Abavo. We want peace and orderliness to reign at Abavo.
What is your message to your fellow Abavo people?
My message to all Abavians is that they should stop being afraid. We all have to come together to demand for justice and the time is now. They should get ready to take over Abavo Palace in a peaceful and non-violent manner. As for the illegitimate occupant of the Abavo throne, I want to tell him that he should vacate now before what happened to Saddam Hassein of Iraq, Muamar Ghadafi of Libya and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt will happen to him. These despots, despite their organized number of armies fell to the wish of the people. Uche has no organized army. I call him Uche because he is not my Obi and cannot withstand 30,000 Abavo people by the time they will be ready to take over the palace. Even Governor Uduaghan cannot stop Abavo people since despite the letters we sent to the governor and the Delta State Police Commissioner, have not done anything. The Abavo people have their backs on the wall and they have right for self defence.
Are all members of the Abavo Peoples Voice in support of the agitation for the enthronement of what you are now saying is a legitimate king?
Yes, they are on the side of the people. They are among those demanding for justice. They are at the fore front for the demand of justice for the Abavo people. I will say 99% of Abavo people are in support of the enthronement of a legitimate king.
What is your word for Ika people?
We have approached some Ika traditional rulers and they said when the Abavo people rise up for justice they will be on their side. I will not mention any name. I want to also use this opportunity to tell the Abavo people to stand up and define themselves because in the past, we have allowed foreign interest to define us. Before, we said that Abavo people do not have people, but now, we have thousands of people. The reasons we have been failing is that we are putting the wrong people in power both traditionally and politically. Even Ika nation as a whole does not seem to be moving forward. The revolution that is about to start at Abavo is Ika revolution. All Ika people have to support the Abavo people in order for us to re-write our history. We are very hopeful that we will get justice.
There is speculation that since you were not able to get a contract from Pan Ocean Oil, you decided to join other aggrieved Abavo people to call for the removal of the Obi?
That is a very good question. When the Pan Ocean Oil Company came to Abavo, we did not know about it. They came and met behind closed doors with Uche. He pocketed the money given to him which reports said was up to N80 or N60 million naira. They never involved any Abavo professionals. Abavo has about 21 petroleum engineers, no one was contacted. The first money by Pan Ocean caused the problem that led to the death of Chief Aminawon Chiyem, the late Eleme of Obi Anyima. We wrote a letter on the 3rd of November, 2011 to Pan Ocean and each time we approached the company, they said they have met with the Obi of Abavo. They provided a video of Uche collecting money from the oil company. He sold Obi Anyima to Pan Ocean. He told Pan Ocean to deal with Obi Anyima as an autonomous community. This is just a plan to deprive Abavo of any share from the money given by Pan Ocean now. But fortunately, the whole of Abavo right now has oil. What we concentrated on now is enthroning a legitimate king. We are not bothered about Pan Ocean. The new Obi of Abavo will decide what he will do. It is our oil and we will be the one to decide what to do with it.