By Anthony Obi
The identity of any society is established based on the norms, mores and the taboos guiding its socio-cultural existence. Other factors include arts, music, literature and rites (marriage, funeral etc). These make up what is called culture. Culture is the identity of a people. It is therefore, a veritable tool in societal reorientation, rejuvenation and above all unification.
Our fore fathers in their wisdom seeing the similarities in the culture of the five states that make up the South East geo-political zone decided to come together and form a loose federation leading to the present day Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
It is a foundation that is worth building on. This is what the Anambra State Council of Ndi Onowu Title Holders Association (traditional prime ministers) proposed Saturday, September 30, 2017 event set out to do. It is to continue to build on the foundation of unity through strong, dedicated and purposeful representation in the royal hierarchy, being the second in status to the Igwe, Eze or Obi (king) of the community.
Without any doubt, the catalogue of responsibilities attached to Onowu title stands the titleholder out as a stellar performer. Onowu is head of the royal court (Ndi Ichie), and held in high esteem as the link between the Igwe, Ndi Ichie and the people.
He therefore, assumes the position of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the land. He owes the obligation of protecting/promoting the culture and traditions of the people from abuse and possible extinction, now that the culture and tradition of Igbo are threatened by renewed religious incursions, which have soiled the pride of Igbo culture.
Like the popular saying that it is better late than never, Onowu Aku-Ubom, Sir Anthony Enukeme (Onowu Neni), took the bold step of uniting these traditional prime ministers from the 179 communities of Anambra State through similarities in culture. Culture being the common denominator of these towns is no doubt the most potent tool to achieving this much-sought after unity, cohesion and cooperation.
The Ndi Onowu Anambra was inaugurated at Neni on Friday, March 16, 2007, and will celebrate its 10 years anniversary on Saturday, September 30, 2017. The council was allocated a 10-plot of land by Governor Willie Obiano for the construction of a civic centre, which work is on-going in recognition of members’ immense contributions towards the promotion, protection and preservation of Igbo arts and culture, above all, the peaceful coexistence between them and the traditional rulers council in the state.
When Onowu Joe Nwegwu (Onowu Ebenebe), Secretary of the council called to inform Ogbuefi Ray Ifeme of the association’s interest in publishing his work, Onowu Title, Origin, Grandeur, Respectability and Functions, as part of publication to mark the council’s 10th anniversary, it dawn on him that Onowu Enukeme of Neni’s initiative in saving Igbo chieftaincy institution from the past state of atrophy is not only novel but timely.
The Onowu Council acknowledged the role he played through his work by creating imagery with words, taking them back to the old Igbo society that was built on sound moral values, high sense of communalism and deification of community icons that exhibited valour, courage and cant.
The idea of the Anambra State Traditional Prime Ministers forum was born out of the desperate need to save Igbo culture, defining correctly the original traditional duties of the Igwe (King), Onowu title holder and that of the Akajiofor-Obodo in the traditional administrative set-up of a community.
It is pertinent to now that not all traditional prime ministers are addressed as Onowu. Some communities have other title names for such office holders. In Obosi, Igboukwu, Nnobi and Oba Ofemmili for example, the traditional prime ministers in these towns are addressed as Iyasele, Oji, Ikenga and Onosolueze respectively.