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Ireland’s first Igbo king is crowned despite opposition

Last update - Thursday, December 11, 2008, 12:06 By Chinedu Onyejelem

A Dublin-based solicitor was last Sunday crowned king of the Igbos in Ireland by Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, a socio-cultural group in Nigeria’s south-east region of Igboland (formerly Biafra).The coronation of Matthew Emeka Ezeani as Eze Igbo of Ireland went ahead successfully in spite of strong opposition and threats of violence from some members of the Igbo community in Ireland.

Speaking before the ceremony in Dublin, which was preceded by the establishment of the Ireland chapter of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo and the appointment of its executives, Col Joe Achuzie said that the main aim of the organisation is to promote Igbo language and culture among the diaspora.
Col Achuzie, outgoing secretary general of the pan-Igbo group, said it is his hope that the new executive would work with the Irish Government to establish an Igbo cultural centre in Ireland to “enable Igbo children here to know their culture”.
On the importance of the Eze Igbo of Ireland title, Col Achuzie said the holder is a custodian of the Igbo tradition and culture, who has been entrusted to look after every Igbo in Ireland regardless of whether he or she is a member of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo.
Lagos-based Eze Samuel A Udo of Alimosho crowned Ezeani and two others as Eze Igbo of Ireland and Eze Udo (king of peace) for Dublin and Dundalk respectively.
Ezeani later told Metro Éireann that he would use the office to “promote and maintain our cultural values in the diaspora”, adding: “I have the support of my people in Ireland and I have the support of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo. A lot of people are fascinated that we have set up this voluntary organisation. I have been receiving solidarity calls from Igbos across the country.”
However, as reported in Metro Éireann on 20 November, a number of Igbo organisations across Ireland say they are opposed to the coronation on the grounds that Ezeani was imposed on them without following due process.
At a meeting in Dublin’s Clondalkin a few hours before the coronation, several Igbos resident in Ireland voiced their concerns about the ceremony, but resolved not to attend the event to avoid possible confrontation.
“As far as the Igbo people in Dublin and Ireland are concerned, it is fake,” said Chike Okebugwo, spokesperson for Igbo Union Ireland, an umbrella organisation for Igbo groups opposed to the installation. “The so-called Ohaneze representative who coronated Eze Igbo of Ireland and his cabinet has not got the power to do so because he doesn’t have the authority from Ohaneze Ndi Igbo.”
Okebugwo added: “We disassociate ourselves from that inauguration and coronation… When Igbo people in Ireland are ready to inaugurate Ohaneze, we would inform the incoming executive to come and everybody would be inclusive.”
Speaking from Nigeria, the president-elect of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, Ambassador Ralph Uwechue, confirmed to Metro Éireann that the new executive was not in support of the inauguration and coronation. He said that there is no hurry for such, adding that the “time of the old executive has expired”.
However, Col Achuzie said he does not need anybody’s permission for what he has done. “It is the secretary-general’s prerogative to promote and extend the frontier of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo and no one else’s.” He added that the inauguration and coronation process began months ago.
He also denied rumours that he refused to coronate Stev Orji, former chairman of Igbo Union Ireland, as Eze Igbo when he came to Ireland last August on his invitation.
“No one, including Stev, made such a request,” he said.

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