From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
The 2016 Christmas has come and gone, but for the people of Awka-Etiti town in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State, the memory is still frest in their minds and would take time to fade away.
For the people, it was a Yuletide season that ushered in good tidings and a new dawn, after a protracted crisis that stalled the town for 13 years.
The community had also been without a traditional ruler since 2013, after the demise of the second monarch of the town, the late Igwe Joachim Ojukwu.
However, on November 2, 2016, after a stringent selection process, Chief Michael Chidozie Ezeudenna was elected as the new traditional ruler and, a few weeks later, the election was given a final seal through the presentation of a certificate of recognition to him by Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano.
To herald the new order in the community, the town’s union rolled out the drums in a month-long celebration, from December 1, 2016, to January 1, 2017.
The programme featured special prayers, cultural carnival, celebration of longevity, pageants and women’s forum, among others. In all, the celebration of the coronation of the Obi of Awka-Etiti could be described as the climax of the whole jamboree.
It was a time of reunion of families and friends, convergence of eminent personalities and a general air of conviviality, beginning from the morning of each day till dusk.
The ceremony kicked off with the booming of cannons and prayers to God for a successful coronation, which was followed by the presentation of the staff of office (Oji Eze) and royal sword (Mma Ochiagha) by the Ezeani Oka, before the royal procession proceeded to the town hall.
The visit at the town hall was heralded by another barrage of gunshots in salute of the king as kolanuts were presented and prayers offered before the nuts were broken.
President-General of Awka-Etiti Improvement Union, Mr. John Unachukwu, in his welcome address, remarked that the day marked another milestone in the history of the community.
He recalled that the journey to the celebration of the day started on March 29, 2016, when the natives of Umunocha village, whose turn it was to produce the Igwe, in accordance with the 2004 Constitution of Awka-Etiti, gave the mantle of to Engr. Michael Ezeudenna in a free and fair election.
He commended the Umunocha Igwe Election Committee, headed by Sylva Abasailim, for doing the right thing as well as the Coronation Committee headed by Chief Innocent Anoliefo for working hard to record success.
The new monarch, addressed as Okagbado and Obi of Awka-Etiti, in an address, described the day as the beginning of a new era for the town as it signaled the end of the Obi selection process and the commencement of the reign of the new Igwe.
He said his acceptance to ascend the throne of Obi of Awka-Etiti was borne out of his desire to serve his people, having served the country meritoriously for 35 years and retired honourably from the Federal Public Service as General Manager (Design Construction) in the Transmission Company of Nigeria.
He perceived the great yearnings of his people for the sustenance of their revered traditional leadership at a highly enlightened level and concluded that it was time to give back to the community that contributed enormously in making him what he is today.
His words: “I promise to provide that leadership that our people crave for. A good leader is primarily a merchant of hope. Making people believe in themselves is pivotal to their survival in the face of the economic, social and political challenges presently facing Nigeria, Ndigbo, Ndi-Anambra, Ndi-Idemili South and Ndi-Awka-Etiti.
“To succeed in whatever we do, we must, at all times dream big and remain focused on the big picture, while acting strategically and systematically to actualise set targets. Through believing in ourselves and God, we will see our dreams fulfilled. Everybody is important, everyone counts, was one of my mantra during the Obi selection process. It remains a cornerstone in moving Awka-Etiti forward.
“I will invest time and resources in reawakening our survival instincts, success quotient and entrepreneurial dynamism. Motivation is the keyword here and you can count on me, the Igwe-in-Council and the town union on that score.”
Igwe Okagbado III also thanked Governor Obiano for his commitment to the development of the state, especially in infrastructural and human capital development.
He, however, reminded the governor of the need to pay attention to some of the town’s roads that are in deplorable conditions.
He emphasised that Awka-Etiti people have a tall reputation for embarking on self-help projects, including roads hence the unprecedented mileage of roads built by generous individuals and village communities in the past just as he regretted that some of the roads have fallen victim to the hard times Nigerians are facing today.
The traditional ruler noted that the were now levying themselves to raise money to patch the roads, but not much has been achieved.
He, therefore, appealed to the governor to come and help them, with the assurance of their support to his administration.
The monarch also declared that he would work with the town union and other interest groups and persons to sponsor students from the community in educational endeavors.
He hinted too that the culture, traditions and entrepreneurial ethos of the people would be revived while other key festivals in the community would be harnessed to attract tourists.
He promised that the royal drum of unity, love, peace, togetherness and communal self-help has sounded and urged all to come into the arena so as not to be left out.
Chairman of the Coronation Committee, Inno Anoliefo, lauded the Certification Committee, chaired by Chief Josephat Okpalafuluaku, Ikenga Awka-Etiti, who he said delivered on their mandate of ensuring that the new Igwe was certified by the Anambra State government before December 23, 2016.
Okpalafuluaku, in his own goodwill message to the new monarch, prayed that the new king would dispense justice without fear or favour while discharging his duties as the custodian of the people’s rich cultural heritage, pledging his full support to the traditional stool.
A stakeholder, Chief Elo Madubuike, prayed for the longevity of the new traditional ruler and urged the entire Awka-Etiti people to support his reign.
Also the chairman of Transglobe Pharmaceuticals, Chief Barth Eli, Ichie Ozuruigbo of Awka-Etiti, one of the cabinet chiefs, in a chat with Oriental News, described the emergence of Igwe Ezeudenna as the new Obi of Awka-Etiti as the coming on board of a new stage because of the resolution of all crisis in the community.
He said the people were now on level ground, without hitches and bumps, and prayed that the era of rancour was gone forever.
He also described the new traditional ruler as an intellectual and wished him all the best on the throne, even as he tasked him to ensure that peace and progress were maintained under his reign.
The reception at the Igwe’s palace was characterised by fanfare as Ezeudenna’s wife was also crowned, and the Igwe, stepping out in his first outing, danced and acknowledged the statutory homage by the town’s union, the regent, council of chiefs, villages in order of seniority, the various associations and other groups.