Port Harcourt — The Chiefs, elders and residents of Kula community in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State were delighted recently, when 40 years of disagreements and grudges over who should be recognised as the Monarch were put to rest.
The Guardian gathered that the chieftaincy disputes had resulted in the creation of different factions of council of Chiefs and elders, with each claiming to be in charge of the throne.
Sadly, the lack of unity and long years of dispute caused many setbacks for the oil-rich community, especially in terms of development. It also brought about unabated crises.
Interestingly, at a peace parley initiated by one of their sons, Jack-Rich Tein Jr., the factional traditional rulers, chiefs and community leaders from the Sara Royal House Oko Royal House came together and agreed that the warring factions be incorporated into one single body, which would be referred to as Kula Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers to pave way for peace, development and progress in the community
So, at the peace and unity meeting, held at the Faith Anglican Church Field, Kula, the two warring Monarchs embraced themselves and King Kroma Elekiye of Sara Royal House and King Bourdillon Ekine Allen of the Oko Royal House officially dissolved and collapsed their Council of Chiefs into a new body known as the Kula Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers.
Prior to this time, The Guardian observed that at events, the two monarchs avoided each other. They would also speak in discordant tunes. It was so obvious that even visitors noticed that something was wrong with the community’s rulership.
However, with the peace pact, HRH King Kroma Elekiye Amabibi, Sara (XIV), Amanyanabo of Anyame-Kula became the Chairman, Kula Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers, while HRH King Bourdillon Allen Ekine, Oko (XXVIII), the Amanyanabo of Opu-Kula became the Secretary.
Addressing hundreds of indigenes at the peace meeting, which started with praise and worship, King Kroma Elekiye Amabipi, now the overall Traditional Ruler and Chairman of the Kula Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers urged all Kula sons and daughters to promote love, unity and brotherliness, and eschew hatred, disharmony and all divisive tendencies capable of causing disaffection amongst them.
Similarly, King Bourdillon declared that the peace pact had ended the lingering tussle and consequently, all divisions in all the kingdom’s leadership organs, including youths body, women organisation, community development committee (CDC) and the two council of chiefs are now one.
He said: “I am so happy today over this new found peace and unity. I want to urge all chiefs, residents, men and women to forget their differences and join me and my brother, King Sara, to ensure that this peace lasts forever.”
Also, King Amabibi expressed hope that with the peace pact, progress would be quickly entrenched in the oil rich community.
Investigation also revealed that some persons joined the tussle in ignorance and had continued the ‘royal’ fight till the peace meeting.
King Ekine said: “Kula is made up of brave and strong people that enabled it conquered others. But that division in rulership set it backward over the years. I have no personal problem with my brother, King Kroma Eleki. It is just that his father told him that he is the king and my father also told me that I am the king.
Today, we have decided to work together and the community will move forward. I am calling on all men, women and youths to work with us for the community to move forward.”
Chief Olagbele regretted that the prolonged chieftaincy dispute threw the people into serious chaos for the wrong reasons.
He said: “This is a community that has been in chieftaincy dispute for almost 40 years, which really hindered this community’s development. For the wrong reasons, we were on the front burner of various media houses.
“Today, we have decided to work together. The two principal actors have decided to come together in the people’s interest, so there will be peace, unity and progress.”
The Community Development Chairman, youths’ forum, women, and other indigenes described the meeting as historic and promised to disseminate the message of peace and unity.
The two royal fathers thanked the peace initiator, Jack-Rich Tein Jr. for the great move, describing him as the Moses of Kula kingdom.
The stakeholders urged Rivers State government to support the peace move in Kula, by recognising the newly inaugurated Kula Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers as the highest decision-making organ and authority of Kula Kingdom.
The Guardian gathered that the kingship dispute in Kula kingdom, an isolated riverine community with about 20,000 population started brewing in 1981, when King Aaron Sokubo Igbe Sara, who occupied the number one chieftaincy stool died.
The succession issue became a problem, when the late king’s son, Hewart Aaron Soku Igbe Sara, was installed the king. But his brother, Kromo Amabibi Eliki of the same family lineage went to court to challenge the installation, arguing that kingship stool rotates and does not move from father to son, hence, he (Eliki) should be made king.
While the legal battle was on between the two brothers, another family in the community, the late Sokubo Oko joined in the suit, protesting that the royal seat should be rotational.
Indeed, this development made the leadership position in Kula to become a major challenge, as it engendered various crises that refused to go away.
In the early 80s, the position of the Amanyanabo of Kula was beset by series of complex litigations. The royal battle was between two “warring brothers” (Chief Iwarisoibiba Aaron Sukubo-Igbe and Chief Kroma Amabibi Eleki) of the Sara Royal House on one hand, and between the latter and the Oko Chieftaincy House on the other hand. This led to series of legal battle with its attendant losses and instability.
However, after Oko joined in the case, the suit lingered and eventually, the High Court ruled in favour of Sara House. The Oko family and Hewart appealed. But while the appeal was on, Sokubo Igbe Sara died.
It was gathered that his death propelled a chief in Oko House to file a rejoinder to substitute Oko with two others, with the aim of finally conveying the kingship stool to Oko House. But the case, as narrated by a prominent chief in Kula, His Highness, Anabs Sara-Igbe, was thrown out by the Court of Appeal.
Anabs Sara-Igbe disclosed that Oko House also went to the Supreme Court, but the apex Court also rejected their appeal, indicating that the Oko family lost the battle. The family, however, discarded the court judgment, which brought about the leadership tussle that divided the community.
The chieftaincy battle continued till Hewart died. After his death, the incumbent Amanyanabo (King) Dr. Kroma Amabibi Eleki from the Sara Dynasty of Kula was installed king on January 31, 1982. But his reign could not attain the goal because of insurmountable hurdles that had divided the community.
King Eleki could not bring his community together, as the dispute became unmanageable. “You see different heads springing up and claiming to be in charge,” Anabs Sara-Igbe said.
It was gathered that the ugly state of affairs was worsened by the emergence of youth restiveness and militancy in the area. It was not until early January 2010 that the Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi-led administration waded into the matter.
After much scrutiny and critical analysis of the circumstances surrounding the kingship crises, as well as available relevant documents/legal records, it endorsed the incumbent (King Kroma Eleki) as the rightful Amanyanbo of Kula.
The state government, according to Chief Anabs, has been complying fully with the supreme Court judgment by recognising Kuruma Eligi as the king and accorded him required rights.
However, despite the graveyard peace brokered by Amaechi government, the skirmishes continued unabated, with the Sara and Oko families parading themselves as monarchs, until last week, when their illustrious son, the peace initiator, said to have come from both families, Jack Rich Tein Jr. waded in and called for a peace meeting.
The Guardian findings revealed that the peace initiator, who is in his 40s and the president of an indigenous oil company in Niger Delta, Belemaoil Producing Limited, was able to achieve the peace pact many have described as incredible, following his philanthropist nature.
He is said to have attracted development to Kula, just as he is engaged in community development and other philantropic gestures to the community.
Indeed, the people describe him as their ‘Messiah,’ saying he has employed over 1,000 Kula youths, empowered women, brought electricity and water, and is currently making plans to construct bridges to the area. These are things the people saw and said since multinational oil companies, such as Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and others operating in their domain have not given them such since they started 1, 000 years ago. So, the people listened to him.
Anabs Sara-Igbe said: “Jack Tein is from both families. He is from Oko and Sara Houses. In Kula, we do not run like other communities. We are inter-related by marriage. His mother’s father is from Sara House while his grandmother is from Oko House. He has been a philanthropist, and has been trying to push the community forward. Obviously, you cannot push a divided community forward, because the leaders will be speaking in discordant tunes.
So, I believe the initiator of the peace meeting was prompted to bring unity and peace to the community to enable him attract more development to Kula community.
“The recent peace move has also enhanced the Supreme Court judgment. Every Kula person wants peace. We want to work together as a united community. We are happy that today, we can talk with one voice. We hope both parties cooperate with this move and work together to achieve progress.”
On her part, the Kula Women leader, Mrs. Goba Iwo, said the women are over-joyed with the peace meeting, stressing it was her first time to see Sara and Oko families shake hands and embrace one another.
She said: “On behalf of the women in Kula Kingdom, we are happy and grateful to God and the peace initiator. We want this peace to be sustained for our sake, our children and even generations unborn. This is an isolated riverine community. So, if there is crisis, where do we run? We accept the unity.
Similarly, a youth leader, Emmanuel Butrobo, said the peace pact would end all hostilities and ensure oneness and development.