Paul Osuyi, Asaba
In recent history, Ogwashi-Uku Kingdom in Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State was the headquarter of the Asaba division, and since 1910 housed most of the divisional offices of the colonial administration.
However, in the past 40 years, the town has experienced relative stagnation believed to be rooted in both external and internal factors.
Community stakeholders traced the external factors to the removal of Ogwashi-Uku as a divisional headquarter with the resultant effect of a shift of all government institutions to Asaba and a net outflow of resources.
But what is more worrisome is the internal factors that have to do with the squabble for the ancient kingship stool among princes of the royal family of Umu-Obi Obahai.
Despite the Supreme Court judgment that handed the monarchy to the Umu-Obi Obahai royal family, members within the family still fail to have unanimous opinion on who should be installed as king as every given period.
The development has retarded growth because of the near absence of a traditional authority to galvanise forces for socio-economic growth and progress.
However, this may become history very soon as the new Obi, Ifechukwude Chukwuka Okonjo II, a financial expert, has promised to turn the kingdom around for good.
Obi Okonjo who was traditionally coronated by the Ikelike and Agediahei kingmakers in September this year following the passing of his father, Obi (Prof.) Chukwuka Ben Okonjo, last week received his official staff of office from the state government.
The new king, a younger brother to the former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, thanked Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for taking the bold step to present him with the staff of office at a colourful ceremony.
Fully aware that the throne was under contention after his father’s death, the Obi vowed to work assiduously to bring back unity not only to the royal family but also to the entire kingdom.
“Starting from today, great efforts would be directed at mending fences in our kingdom. All parties irrespective of our differences in terms of ideology, background and current affiliations would be heard and their petitions fairly dealt with.
“To achieve this objective, I intend to consult widely on all contentious issues both internally and externally. I also intend to set up a truth and reconciliatory body that would advice on steps to be taken,” he stated.
The monarch promised to promote all levels of education; develop the agricultural sector; establish cottage industries; beautify the environment; promote the culture of the people; and build infrastructure.
“We will take active steps to build a lasting legacy based on the promotion of our rich and unique culture. To achieve this objective, I intend to commence within the first year of my reign the construction of a cultural centre.
“Our songs, dance, language along with various aspects of our culture would be taught here. It is my aim to bring back the pride that we once had in our culture and heritage by introducing it early in our children’s education and development,” the king said.
He told the governor that he is aware of the “high expectations and hopes that our people have with my appointment and rightfully so. That fact that I am relatively young gives the youth hope that their voices would be heard, and their contributions incorporated in our developmental drive.
“Let me assure you that we would not let them down, we would earn their trust through a systematic process of inclusion, engagement and implementation. As we seek to convert our youth from being passive recipients of dispensed benefits into active agents of change.”
The Obi called for the support of his subjects for him to be able to actualise his vision of developed kingdom during his reign.
Presenting the staff of office, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa warned that his government will not tolerate any illegal traditional stool in any part of the state and will also never dabble into the selection of traditional rulers.
Represented by his deputy, Kingsley Otuaro, the governor reiterated that government would continue to support the traditional institution through the provision of conducive environment for their leadership to thrive.
“It is my belief that this is one way that will galvanize our traditional rulers to support government policies and programmes. I therefore call on all and sundry to continue to support the efforts of this administration by contributing your quota in the sustenance of peace, unity and harmonious co-existence in the state.
“According to the laws of the state, it is statutory for the government to present staff of office to traditional rulers after due installation and enthronement by his people. The event is in compliance with the statute, hence it is been appreciated by Ogwashi-Uku people.
“Obi Ifechukwude Okonjo II was selected by the Ogwashi-Uku kingmakers to succeed his father who passed on recently. Let me congratulate the royal father for emerging as the new Obi of Ogwashi-Uku Kingdom. I am confident that though very big shoes to wear, you will be meticulous in using divine wisdom to handle the affairs of the Kingdom,” he said.
Okowa also congratulated the people in the area for passing through the processes leading to the selection of their king, just as he urged the monarch to see his elevation as a call to contribute his quota to the development of Ogwashi-Uku Kingdom through peace building.
“I also implore all the people of Ogwashi-Uku Kingdom to give maximum support to His Royal Majesty to enable him create opportunities for socio-economic activities to thrive for the benefit of the kingdom, Delta State and Nigeria at large. The joy of the event today should translate into demonstrating love, understanding and cooperation for both His Majesty and the throne,” he added.
Executive chairman of Aniocha South Local Government Area, Isaac Anwuzia, told the crowd of persons that graced the event that the day marked a milestone in the history of his people.
Anwuzia gave the assurance that the traditional rulers in the council area and the entire people would support the new monarch for him to succeed.
It would be recalled that after his traditional coronation rites, monarchs in the local council endorsed him as the new Obi of Ogwashi-Uku, an endorsement that also has the political backing of the council chairman before the state government approved his appointment as king.