The crisis in Nkerehi/ Umuchukwu Community in Orumba South Council Area of Anambra State on Tuesday took another dimension as protesters from Nkerehi stormed the State Government House, Awka, seeking government help to return their ancestral name.
The protesters who bore placards with various inscriptions are also asking Governor Chukwuma Soludo, to call the Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, Tonycollins Nwabunwanne to order over the development.
They alleged that a certain influential member of their community was using his wealth to intimidate many members of the community, including unilaterally changing the name of the community from Nkerehi to Umuchukwu
Among the inscriptions read; ‘His Excellency our compendium of petition is in your office, the aliens in our town are fighting to change our ancestral name Nkerehi to Umuchukwu’, ‘Governor please set up a panel to wade into Nkerehi/ Umuchukwu crisis’, ‘Our governor there is urgent need to avert further bloodshed in Nkerehi’, ‘Hon Collins Nwabunwanne harken to our cry, Nkerehi needs peace’, among others.
It would be recalled that efforts at changing the ancestral name of the community Nkerehi to Umuchukwu had started by few individuals in 2007.
It however later escalated to moves to impose a traditional ruler on the people.
Speaking during the protest, the Secretary General, Nkerehi Progressive Union, Joseph Anulobi said the name of the community was changed over-night without due consultation with indigenes and stakeholders in 2007, as persons acting on personal orders changed the sign posts in the community without due consultation despite court orders against the change.
According to him, those who insisted on retaining their true identity and ancestral name, have for the past 16 years, been treated as slaves in their own land.
“We had a meeting with the Commissioner for local Government, Hon Tonycollins Nwabunwanne over this issue earlier this year and he raised the issue of change of name. we immediately told him that the process was done without due process and no consultation with stakeholders.
“He gave us the assurances that he will summon us at a later date to see how a committee will be set up to look into the matter.
“Unfortunately, what we are now hearing is that they are about to present Certificate of Recognition to someone that is unqualified to rule over Nkerehi and that is why we have come to intimate our governor on the development,” he said.
Anulobi revealed that the Nkerehi people have duly presented the traditional ruler they elected, Chief Mathias Chidozie Anyadiegwu to the State Government in 2020 for recognition, appealing to the Soludo administration to do the needful.
Also speaking, an indigene of the community, Basil Igwike regretted that thousands of Nkerehi people have been side-lined in all programmes of the government and urged that all court processes must be respected in order for a peaceful resolution of the issue.
He said the forceful change of their ancestral name is most unfortunate, as a name is historical to a people.
Igwike lamented that besides clandestinely changing the name of the town, the traditional stool of the community has been cornered for one family, even though it is not hereditary.
He said; “Mr Governor, we are here as our brother from the same area with you, to beg you to intervene.
“How would you feel if someone wakes up one day and says your name is no longer your name?
“Nkerehi is the name our forefathers have borne since the olden days, but one man came up and changed it to Umuchukwu.
“We are here to beg you to please intervene. We have also heard that government plans to issue certificate of recognition to a monarch that was not elected by our community.
“We have written several petitions to your office, but we have not heard of any reply, that is why we decided to come here to alert our governor on what we’re passing through.”
Responding to the protesters, the Chief Security Officer of the Government House, Kingsley Nkuma assured that their request will be made known to the government for immediate attention.
He equally commended them for being orderly and not taking the law into their hands by causing mayhem or violence in their community.