THE HIDDEN TRUTH ABOUT IDUMUJE-UGBOKO KINGSHIP
By Walters Onyeisi Eziashi
Historically, Idumuje people trace their root to ancient Bini Kingdom, just like most of the Enuani people that left Benin in the 18th century. Idumuje Unor and Idumuje Ugboko are one people that settled in different locations. They went their separate ways following an Odogwu title dispute in which those who felt cheated left and wandered farther into the forest to their present location where they share boundaries with town like, Igbodo in Ika North East, Onicha Ugbo, Issele Uku, Ugbodu, in Aniocha North and Ewohinmi in Edo State.
Idumuje Ugbokoi is the epicenter of this analysis and it is said that to understand a people, you must look at their history, their mores, social and interpersonal relationship, religion, culture and other values that inform their world views.
Hence, they say that those who ignore the lessons of history would repeat its tragedy.
To understand the unfolding events, it is important to follow the historical trajectory of the hidden discontent and strictures in the Royal family and Idumuje Ugboko before the death of the king.
OBI NWOKO’S SON
OBI NWOKO’S BROTHERS
Nwoko’s sons and brothers made up the Umu-Ologbo Royal family.
When Nwoko, the first Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko died, his first son Nwabuokei being the crown Prince was to succeed him accordance with the tradition and customs of Idumuje and most Anioma monarchs. Unfortunately, that was the period of the Ekwumekwu war and Nwabuokei was busy organising a group of native warriors from within, including his best friend Osu (Osuozah, a renowned herbalist), to defend the palace from the invading colonialists.
When the colonialist over-powered and defeated the native warriors due to their superior arms power, Nwabuokei escaped to hide in a farm settlement called Agborma forest now located along Idumuje-Ugboko/Igbodo boundary. One of Nwabuokei kinsmen betrayed him when he led the colonialist army to Nwanuokei’s hideout at Agborma. Nwabuokei was, thereafter, arrested and taken as a prisoner by the colonial army. First, he was detained at Ogwashi-Uku before he was transferred with other suspect members of the dreaded Ekwumekwu warriors, including Onwuaduegbo (the legendary Idumuje-Ugboko warrior), Obi Idaboh of Issele-Azagba and Elumelu of Ogwashi-Uku among others to Bricksfield Prison, calabar.
While at the Bricksfield prison Calabar, words got to him that his pregnant wife had delivered a baby boy. Nwabuokei named that child Nkanya Emgwaim (when you grow up you will avenge this betrayal) abbreviated to Nkanya.
Nwabuokei was discharge and acquitted by the colonial court sitting in Calabar as he was found not guilty of the offences for which he was detained and charged. The news of his impending return caused apprehension of a possible revenge against those who betrayed him. A delegation was sent to meet him in Calabar and reconcile him with his relations. Their mission left more bitter taste in the mouth with the unexpected death of the Crown Prince. Nwabuokei as the first son of late Obi Nwoko and crown prince was buried at Idumuje Ugboko Royal Palace where his grave is till this day, signifying that his first son Prince Nkanya who was then a minor must succeed his father as the Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko when he was of age but that plan was aborted by several circumstances.
With the death of Nkanya’s mother who was Nwaobuokei, the late Crown Prince’s first wife and daughter of Oko-Oniyimi from Ogbe-Ofu in Idumuje-Ugboko, Crown Prince Nkanya after the burial of his father, Nwabuokei now without a breadwinner, was on the instruction of the family placed in care of his uncle Prince Biose Nwoko supposedly pending when he is of age to take over the throne of his forefathers. Ujormor, one of Nwabuokei’s brother inherited Nwabuokei’s second wife (Ibia) in marriage according to tradition and she had two female children for Ujomor (Sitee and one other). When Ujomor died, Esuzor the youngest of Nwabuokei, also in line with tradition, inherited Ibia and she had two sons for Esuzor (Nwokolo the father of Prince Alex Ikpontu Esuzor Nwoko and Ezenwani the first postmaster in Idumuje-Ugboko and father of Ambrose Ezenwani and his siblings).
During the post Ekwumekwu period, one Mokobia from Ogbe-Ofu was overseeing the administration of the town affairs until Omorhusi (one of Nwoko’s junior brothers) took over the obiship on acting capacity pending when Nkanya (Nwabuokei’s only son) will be ready to take over the throne of his forefathers.
After the death of Obi Nwoko I, Omorhusi one of his younger brothers inherited one of his wives from Ogbe-Ofu, the mother of Esuzor in marriage which was acceptable by tradition and she gave birth to Nkeze Justin Oreze for Omorhusi. It is worthy to note here that Omorhusi already had a son (Megai) from his first wife who was not from Idumuje-Ugboko before he had Nkeze as a son from an Idumuje-Ugboko woman. Megai as the first son from a non-indigenous mother did not succeed his father Omorhusi to the throne; instead the second son who was the first son of an indigenous Idumuje_Ugboko mother Ukwelenwa from Ogbe-Ofu village acceded the throne of his fathers and in succession to his father Omorhusi by the virtue of the fact that both parents were from Idumuje-Ugboko regardless of the fact that he was second born son.
How did Omorhusi takeover the obaship?
Mokobia from Ogbe-Ofu village (who was over-seeing the affairs of the town after the death of Obi Nwoko and during the post incarceration of his first son, Crown Prince Nwabuokei, and other elders including Osu (Osuoza) Nwabuokei’s friend and strong herbalist from Ogbe-Ofu informed Biose and other Obi Nwoko the 1st’s children and brothers through Biose (Nkana’s Guardian) that they were coming to sit Nkanya on the stool of his fathers as a king and that the Nwoko children and brothers should prepare Nkanya for the day. Biose promised them that Nkanya will be prepared and all will be ready for the coronation.
On the set date, Biose sent Nkanya and other children to his farm and when Mokobia, Osu and others arrived, Nkanya was not found rather Biose and others who were waiting for the elders from Ogbe-Ofu suggested that Omorhusi (Nkanya’s uncle) should stand in for him especially as Nkanya was still a minor, pending when Nkanya will be of age to assume the throne. The people agreed and Omorhusi was sat on the stool to hold brief for Nkanya.
Biose so frustrated and humiliated Nkanya to the level that Biose made sure he married wives for all his children including Utomi (his first son), Ogbe etc. who were all juniors to Nkanya. Nkanya, out of frustration as a matured man, impregnated a woman from Idumugo in Idumuje-Ugboko. Biose and co. saw this as an act of gross indiscipline and or disobedience to them and in total frustration, Nkanya left Idumuje-Ugboko and went to Calabar where he learnt carpentry trade. The woman later gave birth and the child was named Ogoli (she was the mother of Lucky Ikemefuma currently based in Lagos and others including Agiliga late Soki Moemeke’s wife). Nobody knew the whereabout of Nkanya until an Onicha-Ugbo man who lived in Calabar (Panya) with him informed his people. Nkanya eventually visited home after many emissaries were sent to him and his father’s friend Osu insisted he must take a wife before going back to his location in Calabar. Nkanya married Christiana Okpohobuogor (the grandmother of this writer) from Idumuokohue in Ogbe-Ofu, Idumuje-Ugboko.
After the Ekwumekwu war, the whiteman returned to Idumuje-Ugboko in early 1900s and Omorhusi who was sitting on the throne of Idumuje-Ugboko received and welcomed them to Idumuje-Ugboko. The whiteman was so impressed with Omorhusi’s reception that they took his second son Nkeze (who later became the Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko) to school and trained him in Western culture.
Nkeze was trained by the White missionaries who founded the Anglican Church at Idumuje-Ugboko in 1908. The C.M.S missionaries, as they were then called, were settled at Idumuje-Ugboko land where the present day Idumuje-Aniofu is situated. When the missionaries were relocating to Inyienu in Onitsha, they took Nkeze along with them.
By the time Nkeze returned back to Idumuje-Ugboko, he was already a full grown man and a very powerful individual who was an interpreter. At the death of his father (Omorhusi) Nkeze, the second son of Omorhusi but the first from an Idumuje-Ugboko woman, became the Obi and adopted the name Obi Nwoko II. Megai, though the first son of Omorhusi could not ascend the throne because of his mother was not from Idumuje-Ugboko.
Nkeze (Omorhusi’s second son but first son from an Idumuje-Ugboko woman) became king. In the absence of Nkanya (the original heir to the Nwoko throne), who was at that time had left Idumuje-Ugboko and nobody knew where to find him.
Nkeze was the next qualified person to inherit the throne since his mother was from Idumuje-Ugboko as well as original wife of Obi Nwoko granted that Omorhusi inherited her after the death of Nwoko.
THE NAME NWOKO
The name Nwoko became known nationwide and worldwide as far back as the 1930s to 1940s, when Prince Alfred Elumele Nwoko (a grandson of Nwoko and son of Prince Elumelu Nwoko, one of the sons of Nwoko and younger brother to Nwabuokei), the first most senior black police officer in the entire western Nigeria, was gaining rapid promotion in the force, the name Nwoko became a door opener for every Midwestern in Nigeria and in the diaspora.
Nkeze, who before the 1940s was bearing Nkeze Justin Oreze Omorhusi changed his name to Nkeze Justin Oreze Nwoko because the name had been popularized by Prince Alfred Nwoko’s influence all over the place. Obi Nkeze Nwoko II changed from Omorhusi to Nwoko in the 1940s and directed all his children and brothers to change to Nwoko.
Some persons including Late Obika (Ernest Nwoko’s father) refused to change to Nwoko rather he changed to his direct fathers name Chukwuka and that was the name he answered until his death last year or thereabout. Prince Martin Ezedimbu Nwoko knows what i am talking about and i challenge him to say i have lied. Onwuamaonyeukwu Esuzor is alive and i know he knowns the truth and he is one of the living proofs to this emerging truth. Eze-Dibie Sunday Ochei from the Aligbe lineage is also a living witness. Aligbe, who is Ojeanyegbe Sunday Ochei’s (Chief Priest) grandfather, is one of Obi Nwoko 1st’s younger brothers.
When Obi Nkeze died in 1955, there were questions as to who will succeed him. Finally, it was agreed after 26years of regency, that since Nwabuokei lineage was not ready to contest for their inheritance of the throne, which belonged to their grandfather legitimately, decision was taken as a compromise that Prince Albert Okwuwadiegwu Nwoko, whose mother was not from Idumuje-Ugboko but from neighboring Ugbodu town, should become Obi Nwoko III, on the condition that the first son must marry an Idumuje-Ugboko woman, who will bear a successor to the throne. But if his son refused, he himself must marry an Idumuje-Ugboko woman who will bear him a successor.
Prince Albert consented to marrying an Idumuje-Ugboko woman when his first son, Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko refused to abide by these guidelines, preferring to marry a non-indigenous woman.
Prince Albert Nwoko was crowned in 1981 and he married women of Idumuje-Ugboko origin with the hope of raising his successor, according to the agreement. Prince Uche Nwoko is the product of that arrangement or agreement being first son from a woman of Idumuje-Ugboko origin.
Before he passed on, the family historian, Prof. Som Nwoko wrote a letter to HRM Obi Albert Nwoko III, in 2015, reminding him of the terms of becoming the king in 1981 and the need to address the issues of who succeeds him. The late monarch called a meeting of senior members of the Royal family to tell them that issue would be addressed when the time came. Unfortunately, the king joined his ancestors on February 6 this year, at about 11am. He was buried at 12midnight.
The culture of communities insisting that the mother of the King must be an indigene of the town is not exclusive to Idumuje-Ugboko. For instance, the people of Ubulu Uku denied Crown Prince Edward Okwuchukwu Ofulue the crown because the mother is not from Ubulu Uku.
Laws are made for the entire community and not tilted to favour or set any individual or group of people at a disadvantage. Hence, when it comes to culture and tradition, caution must be exercised to avoid disastrous consequences in future.
Therefore, like Obi Nkeze, who became king not as a result of being the first son of Omorhusi and inheritor of the throne, but a child of circumstance, especially being a Prince of both an indigenous father and mother, therefore establishing a new protocol to the throne, Prince Uche Nwoko can and should succeed Obi Albert Nwoko III, his father, legitimately, under the same circumstance as his grandfather Obi Nkeze Nwoko II, being a son of both father and mother being indigenes of Idumuje-Ugboko, as Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko.
Alternatively, the Nwabuokei lineage being the first indigenous and overall son of Obi Nwoko I, in line with traditions and customs of Idumuje people, in particular and Anioma nation’s monarch in general, should step forward and take hold of the crown as their birth right if they are ready.
These are facts that anybody who wants to hold the highest political office in Idumuje Ugboko must be familiar with. We must respect our institution and values; we must not reduce our culture to slices of drama from the home video and make mockery of our history.
An individual cannot usurp the ancient throne of our forebears based on his own world view and interpretation of history and culture no matter how persuasive and powerful he may be.
The culture of rushing to the social media to propagate half-truth and outright falsehood cannot alter historical facts.