Will those asking for Biafra now lead like Ojukwu did?-HRM Igwe Kenneth Orizu III
Will those asking for Biafra now lead like Ojukwu did?-HRM Igwe Kenneth Orizu III
His Royal Majesty Igwe Kenneth Onyeneke Orizu III is the Obi of Otolo and Igwe of Nnewi. We were at his Nnewi palace some weeks after his 95th birthday and he bared his mind on issues. The excerpts are below.
PFM: You are the 20th Obi of Otolo and Igwe of Nnewi and you have ruled for 58 years. One begins to wonder, how long has Nnewi existed?
Igwe Orizu: (Giggles) Well Nnewi has been in existence since the 13th-14th century. Nnewi was a person who also ruled like I am ruling now. He lived in the wild (Agu) beside Nkwo at a place called Oyo. He had four children named Otolo, Uruagu, Umudim and Nnewichi. He lived for years and died, so his first son, Otolo, replaced him. From Otolo to Enem, to Nnofo and so on, up to Ezechukwu, Ezeukwu, Iwuchukwu, Eze Ugwuonyiamba; he is Orizu I. Orizu I began ruling Nnewi during the advent of the Whiteman. At his transition, Orizu II took over in 1925 and transited in 1962. After the traditional one-year gap, I took over leadership of my people in 1963 when the then Premier of the defunct Eastern region, Dr. M.I Okpara held sway. The exact day I ascended the throne of my Fathers, ndi Nnewi gathered from all parts of the country and presented me to Dr. M.I Okpara. It is important at this point to emphasize that the Kingship of Nnewi is never contested, it is purely hereditary. Upon the transition of a reigning King, his first son takes over after the performance of the necessary traditional rites.
PFM: Your Majesty, you just said that the Kingship of Nnewi is never contested but hereditary. We want to know, are there certain things that would happen and the stool will depart from a particular lineage? Has such thing ever occurred in the history of Nnewi since the 13th century?
Igwe Orizu: Kingship in Nnewi is from Father to Son except where the son misbehaves. Where there is such misbehavior, the stool leaves the first son and goes to his younger brother. Such things that amount to misbehavior include stealing; there was a particular generation in Nnewi where the first son who was to take over from his father had an affair with his father’s wife, that was an abomination so he lost the throne because of that. Anyone who is to take over must conduct himself properly knowing that eventually the stool will become his. Another time such happened was during the time of Enem to Nnofo. Enem was a hunter. There was this festival called ikwu aro. In those days during the festival, it used to be more celebrated than even the Christmas celebration. As part of the preparations, the walls of compounds in Nnewi were always decorated with uli. Before the festival commences properly, we go to Nkwo Edo to worship and consult with our gods about four times and the visit was to be made with the ofo. When the first visit was made, Enem who represented Otolo was absent because he was on his hunting expedition but Nnofo was present. It was agreed that the visit be rescheduled and on the rescheduled day, Enem was still absent so the three sub heads told Nnofo to inform Enem to be present in the next rescheduled day else they would take a decision. Nnofo informed Enem of the decision of Nnewi and Enem handed over the ofo used in communicating with Edo to Nnofo and asked him to represent him. When Nnofo arrived with the ofo, that was how the stool left Enem’s lineage. Another was when Ezeaya was king; he had sons but the problem was that his sons were so aggressive and violent. He couldn’t imagine any of them leading Nnewi and because he didn’t what that, he presented the son of Ezenwa his brother to Nnewi as the person to rule after him.
PFM: Our findings revealed that at a point in your Kingship, you allowed your people choose your title to avert a crisis. Tell us about this crisis.
Igwe Orizu: It was in 1996. Like I earlier said, Nnewi had four children and all the Kings of these four communities begotten by Nnewi were all referred to as “Obi”. At a time, there was an organization formed called Youth League and they fomented the crisis, they wanted the thing to be rotated but it wasn’t possible. My people didn’t want me to answer Obi as the other Kings so they suggested the title Igwe, to make our throne different from others. At that time, the title wasn’t common so it was unique to us, although the government later adopted it as a title for all traditional rulers.
PFM: When you abolished the Osu Caste System, was it just a verbal exercise? What gave you the push and how effective has it been in practice?
Igwe Orizu: I abolished the Caste system because in times past, those called Osu were feared and abhorred. No one dared do anything or relate with them, you couldn’t sleep on the same mat, walk, sit or eat with an Osu. Come to think of it, no one was born as an Osu, it was a creation of circumstance owing to the fact that these persons were maltreated by fellow human beings and when they could no longer endure it, they approached their shrine, took nzu in their mouth and dedicated themselves to the deity of the shrine. From that point, anyone who touched them had the deity to contend with. Now, majority are Christians and when you go to churches, you find out that the freeborn and the osu sits together. Some womanizers pretend to avoid the osu during the day but at night, they go to their chambers. After looking at all these, it didn’t make sense to me to sustain the Caste system so we decided to abolish it. On its effectiveness, it was widely accepted and effective.
PFM: At some point, you began to discourage the waste of resources during funerals and traditional marriages. People believe that is tampering with the age long tradition of the Igbo people.
Igwe Orizu: Well, that law is good and acceptable. If you have made money, there are so many ways to use it to develop your people and community, not to throw it lavishly. There are still so many persons who need to go to school. You can choose to sponsor such persons up to the university level. Ideally, the death of a loved one ought to be a painful occasion, requiring solitude, introspection and self-examination. It shouldn’t be a time to show that you have made money.
PFM: Nnewi is home to the largest number of Billionaires. What exactly is responsible for the business acumen of the average Nnewi man?
Igwe Orizu: I think we have to ask our God who created us that way. People of Nnewi are very enterprising and they have imbibed the apprenticeship style of business wherein an established Nnewi business man takes a younger Nnewi indigene to be his Boi and after some years, he opens up a similar business for that his Boi as settlement. The settled Boi, after a while becomes successful in business and he repeats the cycle again, circulating wealth in such way. We render services and it yields dividends, that’s all, there’s no magic. Our people are also very educated.
PFM: You lived through the time of the Civil War and years after, the Biafran agitation is still raging. Did you ever have the opportunity to speak with the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu before, during or after war? What was the conversation about?
Igwe Orizu: Emeka Ojukwu was Governor so I wouldn’t want to go into details of whatever I may or may not have discussed with him. As for the continued agitation, what I can say is that the vanguards should follow the appropriate way. Once there is a good case, there’s no reason why it won’t come. Getting Biafra is not the issue, the issue is the crop of those who will lead then. Will they lead like Emeka did? He sacrificed his father’s wealth; all demands of weapons were made to him as if it was easy. Nigeria won because of foreign powers, Biafra had most of the scientists, the ultimatum was 48hours but to the shock of Nigerians, it lasted for more than two years. I was a teacher then so I was privileged to be at the war front.
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