On Monday and Tuesday, December 28 and 29, 2020, the traditional ruler of Nnewi ancient kingdom in Nnewi North Local Government Area of Anambra State, HRH Igwe Kenneth Orizu III, will be celebrating his 95th birthday and 57th year on the throne. In this interview with Echezona Okafor, the monarch explains salient issues about his life and reign, as well as activities lined up for the festival, among other issues…
What special activities shall guests and visitors expect on your 57th Ofala festival?
One of the major things that will be done during the festival is the unveiling of the historical monument of the palace. Having completed the ancient museum started years back, we shall, during the festival, open it officially.
The museum is where we want to preserve and display historical monuments and ancient relics of the Igwe Orizu I and Igwe Orizu II, as well as other significant relics from other villages in Nnewi and other communities around Nnewi.
Opening of the museum will afford those visiting Nnewi the opportunity to see old things used by former traditional rulers in Nnewi, especially the Igwe Orizu I and Igwe Orizu II, among other ancient monuments.
The purpose of preserving ancient monuments is to afford our children yet unborn the opportunity to see and appreciate what our forefathers used during their times. What we have today will be out-dated in the next 50 years, as new things will continue to evolve.
When relics and monuments are preserved, our children will know how our forefathers lived and things they used during their times visa-vis what is current. The former governor of Akwa Ibom State,
Godswill Akpabio, started the museum before Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State and other friends of the palace completed it. Akpabio, you may like to know, is a chieftaincy title holder in Nnewi, as well as a member of the Nnewi royal council.
How did you conceive the idea of building a museum, as it is not a regular practice in Igbo land?
I had the conception to build the museum after I visited my colleagues in the northern part of Nigeria.
After the visit to some Emirs, I found out that they all have museums in their palaces, where they preserve ancient relics. That was when I started nursing the ambition to have mine.
So, when I returned, I felt that we should have one here to also preserve old things used by the kings – my forebears. So, unveiling the museum on December 28 is going to be a dream come true. It is a special gift for the year, a big thing for my 57th Ofala festival and for my 95th birthday.
Are you expecting special visitors during the festival?
Specifically, I will be receiving ex-Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State and Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State. I want to give them special recognition and thank them, especially for their wonderful contributions towards the commencement and completion of the museum, among other contributions. I intend to name special halls after them.
Are there important people that will get chieftaincy titles during the event?
Yes, we are going to honour some citizens of Nnewi. The palace will bestow chieftaincy titles on some illustrious, sons, daughters and friends of the community, who have distinguished themselves in their areas of callings, and who have contributed to the development of the community in so many ways.
These include the former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu and the member representing Nnewi North, Nnewi South and Ekwusigo Federal Constituency at the National Assembly, Hon. Chris Emeka Azubogu.
Others will include Engr Dozie Mbanefoh of New Crystal Communications; Dr. Theo Okeke, and the Managing Director of Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr George Moghalu, among others.
You are currently one of the oldest monarchs in the country; what is the secret behind this longevity?
Of course, I am the oldest serving monarch, besides the Awujele of Ijebu land, who is a bit older. I feel good being old on the throne. I attribute everything to God. I am happy and my people are also happy. When one gets to this age; 95 years old and 57 years on the throne, one finds it difficult to express how he feels. I will only say that I am happy.
At 95, with the ups and downs of life, you are still strong. What is the magic wand? Do you abstain from certain foods and lifestyles?
Nobody will actually say this is the reason why he lives long. This is because; you may be avoiding certain foods and lifestyles, but some other persons doing the same thing may end up having other health complications and die from there. Basically, I think doing things in moderation has a way of contributing to my longevity.
Do you abstain from certain foods
? I eat everything, but in moderation.
How about your sexual life?
At this age, that is a no go area. How do you relax? I do regular exercise. Even at 95, I exercise regularly. I stroll and do jugging sometimes. As you can see me, I can read and write very well. My sight has not failed me. I also relax by reading books, exercising myself, having time with my old friends, and praying; I fellowship every morning and every evening.
What are your remarkable achievements since you ascended the throne of your forefathers 57 years ago?
My reign brought the Nnewi Central Market or what people call Nkwo Nnewi today. The central market is the nucleus of Nnewi development today. It started when one of my subjects, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, was the governor of the East Central State. He wrote me requesting that I should clear the place and see how we could start the market there.
That was how it started. After that, the NITEL people requested that they needed a place where they would site their communication project. I gave them that place they call ‘NITEL’ presently, and they set up their company. Even when some people were fighting over the land, I did go there personally every morning to make sure the work was progressing.
So, my reign also brought NITEL to Nnewi. I also played a significant role in the establishment of the Nnamdi Azikiwe College of Medicine and the Teaching Hospital in Nnewi.
Before the Teaching Hospital and College of Medicine started, the site was used previously as Teachers’ Training College (TTC). When the TTC came, the government insisted that Nnewi should provide the infrastructure as a prerequisite to have the TTC in Nnewi.
I ha to rally round, called my subjects and promised that any of them that erected a building at the TTC site would be compensated with a chieftaincy title. Many of them responded.
People like Osita Onyejianya, Chief James Oguchi, Mathias Onwugbenu, Nnewi Youth League of the Aba branch and many others built structures at the TTC site. That was how the TTC started in Nnewi.
So, when we attracted the College of Medicine, the problem we would have had then was the take-off point. But because the TTC structures were there, and before then, they had stopped the TTC programmes, we used the site as a take-off campus for the College of Medicine.
Under your reign, Nnewi is remarkably peaceful and prosperous. What is the magic wand?
First thing is my personal disposition towards issues. If you want to take something that belongs to me, and I see you really want to take it, I will allow you to take it, because I believe that you will eventually bring it back.
When a kingdom has fewer confrontations, it will enjoy more peace. When you are leading a people and you know that you are their servant, and you serve them, you will realise that people will willingly follow you; unlike a situation where, as a leader, you are also the lord.
Then you are the leader and the lord at the same time, that is when people will start having objections to what you do, and the kingdom will divide. By then, there will be no peace, and there will be no prosperity.
Again, it is also important to say that I understand the complex nature of Nnewi society and people. You can draw Nnewi people with a thread and they will follow you; yet, you can drag them with chains, and they will break the chains and go their different ways. It depends on how a leader understands his people.
It depends on leadership style. If you lead with compassion, people will follow you willingly; not when you force them to follow you.
What are your words to your subjects as you mark the 57th Ofala festival and 95th birthday?
People should learn that doing things in moderation will give you a better lifestyle. I wish everybody the best of the remaining days of the year, and the best of Christmas. I invite everyone to join me in thanking God for having led me this far.
I am also inviting all and sundry to join us come December 28, when I will be celebrating my 95th birthday and 57th year on the throne. It is going to be great.