By Uche Amunike
I had never met him before in person even though I had heard so much about him from his lovely daughter in the United States. She always told me about the amazing friendship between her parents even in their old ages, the values they impacted in their children, their love for God and the things of God and the peace in their home and by extension, their peaceful town of Nnobi.
The first time I eventually caught a glimpse of the man I write about was on the occasion of his 50th Wedding Anniversary with his adorable wife a couple of years prior. I remember that on that day, I just concentrated on having myself a good time and enjoying all the fanfare that came with events that took place in a royal setting like theirs. When I finally caught a glimpse of him, I was awe struck as I saw a very handsome man in all his glory and the very beautiful woman seated next to him. They are a most admirable pair and I saw, in a flash, the source of the beauty of their daughter, my friend, Endee. They cut a true picture of love, royalty and class.
And so, on this warm beautiful Monday morning, as I drove into his compound, I was excited that I would finally meet with him in person. And when I did, I felt enriched as I listened to him talk about his life, his struggles, his achievements, his love for a town that chose him as Igwe and his victory when his traditional stool was being struggled for by another.
I bring to you, the number one man in the ancient town of Nnobi, Anambra State. He is the erudite Monarch, His Royal Majesty, Igwe (Engr.) Muodum Nick Obi. He is as fair and comely as they come and royalty truly suits him. He cuts the picture of a quiet and humble gentleman. He is soft spoken and his mien is that of respectability, dignity and finesse.
For formality sake, kindly introduce yourself to us.
My name is His Royal Highness, Igwe (Engr.) Muodum Nick Obi. Omenyili Igwe Nnobi.
There has been this tussle for the traditional stool of Nnobi which gave rise to the Nick Obi group and the Etudo group. This matter ended up in court and subsequently, the case was ruled in your favour, resultantly making you the recognized Igwe of Nnobi. Tell us, have you tried reconciling with the warring faction and indeed carried everyone along, since then?
Thank you very much for the question. Actually, it's only on paper that there are two groups. You see, I believe in the Rule of Law and Due Process. Nnobi is made up of three quarters. They are Ebenesii, Ngo and Awuda. The last Igwe was from Ngo quarters and I am from Awuda. We had an Okpala or Onowu as is called in some places who just passed on. He was from Ebenesii .
So, when the last Igwe passed on, it became the turn of Awuda. We have rotatory Igweship and rotatory Okpalaship too and the constitution says that the quarter that has the Igwe cannot have the Okpala and the quarter that has the Okpala cannot have the Igwe. So, it was obvious when the last Igwe passed on that it was the turn of Awuda. The Okpala-in-Council, as we call them, because in the absence of the Igwe, he answers Okpala -in-Council and the town union, Nnobi Welfare Organisation met and had a meeting. They asked Awuda to give them somebody who will be the Igwe of Nnobi and I was chosen.
As for the other guy who is from Ebenisii, there's no way they could choose him because the Okpala was from that quarter and the Okpalaship or Ichieship is for life, mostly in Igboland. So, that is just a short history. What I mean is that the Nnobi Welfare Organisation is the only recognized town union in Nnobi and by the traditional rulers' law. You cannot be presented as an Igwe or Igwe-Elect unless by the town union. It is what is in Section 456 of the Traditional Rulers' Law.
So, have you had any problems in the past from the opposing quarters? Have they in any way tried to frustrate what you do as the Igwe?
He is called Igwe September because he comes in every September, gathers some young people, some riff raffs, gives them drinks and disappears for another twelve months. So, that is the only problem, if you can call that a problem. However, it is the misguided people. The young people who want some drinks and food. You know the hunger in Nigeria is so much, not to talk of our area.
Let's talk about the traditional Identity of Nnobi. Your Ofala comes up in a couple of weeks, for instance. Tell us, what are the cultures that Nnobi is known for?
Nnobi is in Idemili South Local Government Area. Nnobi is the principal town where we have the Idemili itself. Then, we have the python which we venerate. We don't kill it. If anybody kills it, the person is in trouble. You have to mourn it somehow. And it's everywhere. Infact , in the whole of Idemili North and South Local Government which consists of 17 communities and Nnobi is the premier. It is where the shrine of the Idemili is. Secondly, it is the only community that has three local government wards in Idemili North and South which include Obosi, Nkpor, Ogidi, you name it. Also, Idemili is a woman.
This is a very important point because people keep saying that women are subjugated and all that and I say no! In Igbo land, a woman has a very high position because our god here, Idemili, is a woman. Her daughter which is Edo is a woman and the progenitor of Nnewi, Ichi and Oraifite. So, these are women. You know, you hardly hear about their husbands even though they were married. You see, we have the male god and the female god. The husband to Idemili is Ahor. That's where the Nnobi people originated from. The names I mentioned earlier (Nnewi, Oraifite, Ichi, etc) are the Anaedo area. Idemili is supposed to be the mother of Edo. In 1952, a teacher killed a python and all the local women had to come to her and mourned their python for about two weeks. She had to cook and feed them.
Are there any taboos in Nnobi Town?
I already mentioned that we do not kill the python. It is our mother. It is a deity and we revere it. However, because of Christianity, a lot of taboos are being forgotten.
When was the last time you had an Ofala Festival?
It was in 2016.
You're also about celebrating your 80th birthday. How do you feel? Do you feel fulfilled as a family man, as a traditional ruler and a son of the Nnobi soil?
As a family man, I definitely feel very fulfilled. My children all have their own families now. We celebrated the 50th year of our marriage two years ago as well. Again, at an advanced age, I accepted to be the Igwe of Nnobi which is a sacrifice and a service to the community. So, yes, I feel fulfilled.
How long have you been the Igwe?
That's a good question. Let me divide it into two. I have been the Igwe-elect, because if you fulfill the conditions in the law and if your people choose you, you become an Igwe-elect or traditional ruler. If the government at their convenience gives you a certificate, then you can answer Igwe. That's part of the law. Otherwise, you will answer Obi or Eze. The certificate says 'I am giving you this certificate based on your people's recommendation.' Let me make it clear. It is not the government that creates the Igwe.
It is the community. I just want to buttress the fact that somebody who claims that he is a rival Igwe but was not picked by the community isn't one. So, I have been there since 2006, then I was given certificate in 2011 by Gov Peter Obi.
What's the relationship between traditional rulers in the state and the people/government?
Well, the people are alright. But you know that Igbos are basically Republican. However, even in our Republicanism, there must be some leadership. Before now, maybe a hundred years ago or so, we had the Nze and Ozos. Even among the Nze and Ozos, we had leaders. For instance, in Nnobi, we have what they call EZEISI and then, ISI OKPALA.
So, when you take Ozo title in Nnobi, you are either an Ezeisi or Okpala. So, we had leadership in the past, although there is an argument now that it is the white man that brought the Warrant Chiefs which is true to an extent. Then, at the state level, our governor is trying. We have our seminars. We have our meetings, but it is nothing compared with say, Yoruba land or Hausa land. You know, we're still fortunate in Anambra state that number of Igwes is constrained a bit unlike Imo, Abia and Enugu state where you have autonomous communities, so you have autonomous Igwes. In Anambra state, we can only have a maximum of around 180. Imo has about 800. Abia has about 600. Enugu state has about 600 too because they have autonomous communities. Once you have autonomous communities, then you multiply. For instance, if Nnobi had autonomous communities, there would be three Igwes in Nnobi. Ebenesii, Ngo and Awuda will have one each.
So, what will be the highlights of your 80th Birthday anniversary and your 5th Ofala festival? What should Ndi Anambra and all your invitees from all over the world expect?
Well, I told you that Nnobi is Ananso, that is, a holy land. And this is not just because of Christianity. So, when they all come, they will expect peace, merriment, entertainment, masquerades and every good thing.
How will you assess the government of Chief Willie Obiano?
Well, it is our government. He is doing fine. You know we had an election in November. I think he's still trying to recover from that election and there is another election coming in February. So, he has done quite well. When you were coming here, you would see the roads which were done about ten years ago by the Peter Obi/ Etiaba administration. So we would like to see more. We have some uncompleted projects. We ask His Excellency to kindly complete those projects. Apart from that, he is doing fine considering the economic recession. He pays workers' salaries regularly, which is important. Some states don't pay, so I commend him greatly.
Thank you very much for your time, Igwe. I feel enriched .
You're welcome, Uche.
I hope you enjoyed this, dear readers. I look forward to witnessing the 80th birthday and Ofala of this wonderful Monarch on New Year's Day. I also wish him a very happy birthday and a successful Ofala festival. See you all there!!! Cheers!!!!!