ANAMBRA’S Monarchical Intellectual Elite
By Chiedu Uche Okoye
ANAMBRA State is one of the four states that make up the southeast geopolitical zone. It is part of the Igbo ethnic nation. The Igbo ethnic group is one of the three tripods on which our country, Nigeria, stands. And, a common denominator, which is shared by a majority of the Igbo people, is their profession and practice of Christianity. A vast majority of them profess the Christian religion.
However, before the advent of Christianity in Nigeria, the Igbo people practised animism and the African Traditional religion. The African Traditional religion, which the Igbo people practiced/practise, is a component of the Igbo culture. The Igbo people, who practise the African Traditional religion, believe that reincarnation is a reality. That explains why some newborns in Igboland are christened “Nnenna” (My father’s mother), “Nwa-abiachie” (My dead baby has returned) and others. So, those who postulate that the belief in reincarnation is oriental in origin are mistaken and dead wrong.
The Igbo people’s belief that reincarnation is a reality is a proof that the existence of Christianity in Nigeria has not totally extirpated our culture and belief system. However, culture is dynamic, and not static. More so, western imperialism in Nigeria could not totally obliterate our pre-colonial types of governments. The introduction and entrenchment of democratic type of government in Nigeria by white colonialists brought about the clash of cultures with its attendant devastating consequences.
The white people subjugated us and used warrants chiefs to administer Igboland during the colonial era. Chinua Achebe, an inimitable novelist, captured the culture conflict brought about by the colonization of Nigeria, especially in Igboland, in his anthropological fictive works. However, the Igbo people, who are very republican in nature, still abide by their cultural ethos and mores. And, unexpectedly western imperialism failed to wipe out the Igbo culture and the monarchical and traditional type of leadership in Igboland.
So, today, towns in states that make the entire southeast zone have their monarchs or traditional rulers, who are either called ‘Igwe’ or “Obi”. It is our culture heritage as a people. In time past, a man who was deeply immersed in the traditions of his people would be crowned an Igwe or Obi, irrespective of the fact that he was an illiterate. Such a person as the Igwe or Obi would be the custodian of his people’s cultural practices as well as rule over his subjects. Then, many ‘Igwes’ and ‘Obis’ were not lettered people.
But, every system of doing things changes with the passage of time. And culture is dynamic, too. Today, not only are the traditional rulers very educated, but also they are widely travelled. And, they possess the tools with which they can navigate their ways in our today’s technologically -driven world, and bring the dividends of democracy to their subjects. And, Anambra state teems with monarchs or traditional rulers, who achieved distinctions in their glittering careers and vocations. More so, although they are widely -travelled and robustly educated people, they are not deracinated. Rather, their feet are deeply and solidly planted in the cultures and mores of their people.
So, regarding the traditional rulers, who are the intellectual elite, my mind readily remembers Professor Chukwuemeka Ike. A Professor of English literature, Chukwuemeka Ike wrote novels that established him as a writer of note in Africa. Among his numerous works are these: Bottled Leopard, Potter’s Wheel, Expo’77, Sunset at Dawn, The Chicken Chaser, and others. He once served as the registrar of WAEC, and captured as well as documented his witness of examination malpractice during WASSCE papers in his fictive work, Expo’77. Professor Chukwuemeka Ike attended the University College, Ibadan; and he’s married to Professor Adebimpe Ike. Today, Chukwuemeka Ike is the traditional ruler of Ndikelionwu town in Orumba North L.G.A, Anambra state. Since his ascension to the throne, the bucolic and rustic town of Ndikelionwu has been witnessing monumental development in many diverse areas.
And, there is Professor Laz Ekwueme, a younger brother of the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, who was the vice president of Nigeria in the second republic. Prof. Laz Ekwueme, who was born on January 28 1936, attended Yale University, USA, Royal College of Music, London, and other schools. And he was an old boy of the famous Government College, Umuahia. An author, Composer, and music conductor, he was one of those who pioneered the teaching of music at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, many years ago.
More so, Professor Ekwueme is a delightful, talented, and brilliant actor, who can interpret perfectly any movie roles given to him. His film acting prowess has endeared him to millions of Nigerians. Today, Professor Laz Ekwueme is the traditional ruler of Oko town in Anambra State. And the people of the town are better off for it. He has been using his wide connections and contacts in the academia and government to bring about the execution of developmental initiatives in Oko town.
In addition to laz Ekwueme, we have another erudite traditional ruler, who rules over the ancient Onitsha Kingdom. Chief Obi Alfred Achebe deserves that bestowal of the title, ‘ Obi of Onitsha,’ on him considering his glittering and sterling academic achievements and career attainments. Born on May 21, 1941, in Onitsha, Achebe earned a degree in Chemistry from Stanford University, America. And, he possesses a master’s degree in Business Administration from Columbia University, America.
More so, Chief Alfred Achebe was once the managing director of Diamond Bank having worked in the bank for many years. More so, he was an executive director of Shell Development Company between 1986 and 1996. Obi of Onitsha, Chief Alfred Achebe, was crowned the Obi of Onitsha in 2002. Onitsha, a town that boasts revered personages, deserves to be led by no less a person than Chief Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, a great achiever and intellectual giant.
The above-mentioned traditional rulers and others represent the new crop and face of monarchs in Anambra state, a state whose slogan, “the light of the nation” captures its human and material endowments and other limitless possibilities. Now, Anambra’s monarchical intellectual elite constitute the compass that guides the political leadership in Anambra state. So, not surprisingly, Anambra state is developing at a very fast pace, and the security of life and property, which is a sin qua non for development in any society, is guaranteed in the state.
… Uche Okoye, a poet, Uruowulu-Obosi Anambra State
Okoye is a poet