Traditional Titleships In Obowo, Composition And Cultural Inferences
By UCC Staff
Consistent with its mission, Uhuri Cultural Centre (UCC) in a painstaking field work, research, interview and interactions with notable elders, His Royal Highnesses and cultural enthusiasts across Obowo has put together the following titleship, usage, meaning and leadership hierarchy in Obowo traditional context.
This composition, arranged in no hierarchical order is the outcome of that effort.
(Eze Augustine Adiele Nwigwe is ‘Eze-Ohachoro 111 of Umuariam Ancient Kingdom.)
The Royal Highness (Onye-Eze)
Every autonomous Obowo community has a traditional ruler (His Royal Highness) called Onye-Eze. The Onye-Eze itself is not a title, however upon coronation, the Onye-Eze choses or is given a title; sometimes corresponding to the title of his predecessor in office. In Umunachi autonomous community for instance, Eze Rufus Adindu is the ‘Eze Di-Oha Nma 1 of Umunachi. In Amato Alike autonomous community, Eze Val Nwosu is the’Eze Oha-choro 1 of Amato Alike. In Achara community Eze Kenneth Nnaji is the ‘Ogbuogu 1of Achara autonomous community.
In Agu-Na-Eke Avutu, Eze Sir Abel C. Chukwuocha is the ‘Olengalaba 11 of Avutu Obowo while in Umuariam Eze Augustine Adiele Nwigwe is ‘Eze-Ohachoro 111 of Umuariam Ancient Kingdom. And Eze ThankGod M.A. Adighiogu is the ‘Eze Ahurukwe1 of Nnebi-na Asonye’. Recently, Eze Dr. Uche Eze is the ‘Eze-Ala 111 of Alike’ autonomous community.
The stool of Enye-Eze in Obowo autonomous community is no longer hereditary. However, he must be a son of the soil. In some communities, the ‘Onye-Eze’ is rotated based on the community’s laid down guidance.
While in others, it is fiercely contested. Following an elaborate coronation ceremony, the Onye-Eze becomes the ruler and the Royal Highness of his autonomous community.
He forms members of his cabinet with whom, to the extent permitted by law and allowed by the government he administers justice to his community members. He represents his community among other Obowo Ezes and at any outside governmental traditional context invitation or arena.
The Onye-Eze is a life-time role. He is rarely deposed and upon death, a new Onye-Eze’ is not crowned until his community has given the late ‘Eze’ a befitting burial.
The Nze is a traditional leadership title in Obowo as well as in Igboland. They are the traditional king makers in Obowo.
To be named as Nze, the individual must be a son of the soil, a man of good character with exemplary qualities. He must be honest and truthful in all his dealings with his people. He must have performed the Iwa-Akwa ceremony.
Selected among the village heads, appointed and presented by their kindred and crowned to represent them in the Eze’s Council, they have the distinct role of crowning their community’s traditional ruler (the Onye-Eze) and thus becomes the representative of the Eze in their respective wards or kindreds and report the activities in their wards to the Eze.
In this regard, the Nze is the traditional head of his ward or kindred.
They settle disputes among their kindred and no one is advised to take a dispute to the Eze’s council without letting his Nze attempt a resolution. Authority follows up-wards from Nze to the Onye-Eze. An Nze title is therefore superior to the Eze.
Every “ward” or “kindred” in any Obowo community must have an Nze. In some Obowo communities, the Nze title can be hereditary. In pre-colonial days, there is a tribal mark embedded on the forehead of an Nze.
Until his death, late R. Obasi Akwuruoha was the Nze of Umuosiocha kindred in Umuokoro Umuarian community.
This is an Nze crown and horn
Okenze is same as Nze the difference being that Okenzes are a core group of Nzes that, should they out-live their Onye-Ezes may be the first second and/or third in successions to the throne.
In other words, an Okenze is a successor’s to the Onye-Eze depending on their rank in the Okenze hierarchy. In some Obowo communities, they are regarded as the speakers in the council of Ndi- Nze.
Such position elevates the Okenze above the Nze’s in the community. In Some Obowo communities, the Okenze title is only bestowed to an Nze who has outlived the Onye-Eze that crowned him Nze.
There is a remarkable importance, respect and honor accorded a person who is Okenze.
The Ichie is a leadership position is given to the most elderly in the ward or kindred. An Ichie must be very knowledgeable of the customs, norms and traditions of the people. He must possess good moral qualities, be truthful and fearless. The Ichie is the custodian of the “Ofo na Ogu” of his kindred, and is the one who can pour libation on their behalf. While the Nze is the leader of the ward or kindred, the Ichie holds the” Ofo-na Ogu” of the kindred. The title is not bestowed on the young.
Akin to the Ichie, this title can be found in some Obowo communities. In those communities, the Oji-Ofor is the custodian of the “community’s deity”. It is not conferred on a person by virtue of age, wealth, power or personality. The Oji-ofor plays a very significant role in the king making process and coronation of the community’s Onye-Eze. The Onye-Eze is usually deferential to the ‘Oji-ofor’ of the community.
Chief Dr. Sam Onunaka Mbakwe was the First elected –Executive Governor of Imo State during the second republic.) A worthy son of Obowo, he was elected for a second term to the office of Imo State Governor.
Chief Harold U. Ogbonna is the ‘Ihezi na Avutu Obowo.
A chief is a social leader in the community. The Chiefs are regarded as the people who ‘financed’ the welfare of the community. A chieftaincy title is not necessarily by merit but is given by the Onye-Eze and a select committee to those who has been helpful or are expected to be helpful in the Onye-Eze’s administration of his community. The title can be conferred to non-natives or ‘foreigners’, sometimes in an elaborate ceremony. They can and do command influence in the affairs of the community. Most times, the title is given by the Onye-Eze to an individuals based on their achievement or contribution in the progress and development of the community. It must be noted that in very limited occasions, the entire Obowo community represented by their traditional rulers (Onye-Ezes) would confer a chieftaincy title to a notable son of Obowo who has achieved something ‘great’. This was the case with the late Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe, former governor of Imo State.
Unlike in some other Igbo communities such as in Anambra, Obowo people are not conversant with the Oze title. In rare occasions would an Obowo person answer ‘Ozo’ or take the ‘Ozo’ title.
Cabinet rank chiefs:
Some Obowo communities have cabinet ranks chiefs. Chosen by the Eze in consultation with the people, they may not be title holders but vary in number and make up the Eze’s cabinet. They act as advisers, participate in decision –making, settling of disputes and the overall administration of communal justice by the Eze.