[Guest BlogPosts] History of the Onitsha Monarchy

8 Sep

The Obi of Onitsha* 

Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, Agbodidi, Obi of Onitsha

Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, the 21st Obi of Onitsha

Obi Eze Chima being the first, Obi Nnaemeka Achebe is the twenty-first in a dynasty that has thrived for more than four hundred years. He occupies an important position among the people of Onitsha and he is personally associated with the conduct of essential aspects of Onitsha local affairs.

Though, there are further requirements for a candidate for the Obiship of Onitsha, the monarchy is reserved for the male descendants of the ‘Founder of State’ – Eze Chima. These descendants are known as Umuezechima or ‘Children of Eze Chima’. This classification encompasses many villages in Onitsha , and in modern times, it produces a hotly contested Obiship whenever there is a vacancy.

The semi-divine or spiritual nature of the Obi is expressed in how his subjects address him. He is addressed as ‘Igwe’ or ‘Sky’. The other terms used are ‘Agbogidi'(All Powerful), ‘Enyi'(Elephant) and ‘Agu'(Leopard). He is also greeted as ‘Nkpu'(Ant-hill), for just as ant-hill has many openings so the king has many eyes, being aware of whatever happens in the town. Being semi-divine, he is the embodiment of the spirit of the ancestral god. Traditionally, he confines himself to his house.

Obi of Onitsha, Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe CFR

HRM Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, Agbodidi, Obi of Onitsha

This confinement sets the stage for one of the most cherished events in Onitsha- The Ofala Festival. Historically, it is the only occasion that the Obi presents himself publicly to his subjects. It is also the occasion for Obi’s subjects to pay or reaffirm their allegiance to the monarch. Leaders of every clan, including Ndichie(Red Cap Chiefs), Agbalanze(Ozo title holders) and other participants, decorated in regalia and accompanied by special musical groups, converge at the Obi’s palace annually for this joyous event. This festival attracts monarchs and spectators from other parts of Nigeria.

Presently, the monarch’s ruling functions are diminished, however he wields a great influence within Onitsha and beyond.

[*Sources: Harding Report of 1963 and Groundwork of the History and Culture of Onitsha] 

 

The Ndichie (Red Cap Chiefs) [By Ifeka B. Uwechia]

Onye Ichie (An Onitsha Red Cap Chief) - From:Photos from Ambrose Ehirim's post in The Nigerian Nostalgia 1960 -1980 Project

Onye Ichie (An Onitsha Red Cap Chief) – From:Photos from Ambrose Ehirim’s post in The Nigerian Nostalgia 1960 -1980 Project

At the apex of the political and social organizations in Onitsha, is the institution of Ndichie. Ndichie are the ‘red cap chiefs’ who hold positions of authority and influence. These men are the Obi’s(King’s) main administrators of policies that emanate from his palace. These titles were originally bestowed on men who distinguished themselves in war, however, the amount of money payment has emerged as the dominant feature today.

It is the prerogative of the Obi to install a new member of Ndichie. It occurs when there is a vacancy due to death. There is a presumption that a candidate must be a member of ‘Agbalanze’ (Ozo title holders) society but the Obi can use his discretion to confer this title on a non-member of the society. An example of this was when Obi Okosi installed Agbakoba Ezenyelugo of Umuasele as the Asagwali. The process of installing a new member of Ndichie remains an elaborate one that can strain the financial resources of the aspirant.

There is a hierarchical structure within this group. The stratification is as follows: Ndichie Ume; Ndichie Okwa; and Ndichie Okwaraeze. Ndichie Ume, with a maximum number of six, are the most powerful and are considered the senior members of the Obi’s inner circle. Prominent among this group is the ONOWU, who is likened to a Prime Minister. He performs the administrative and social functions of the Obi during an interruption in continuity of the monarch. Such an interruption can be as a result of abdication or death. Members of Ndichie Ume function as war chiefs while the other classes, Ndichie Okwa and Ndichie Okwaraeze, serve as their assistants. The remaining members of Ndichie Ume, in order of seniority, are AJIE, ODU, ONYA, OGENE, and OWELLE.

Regardless of the class, the Ndichie constitute the Obi’s Executive Council. They act on behalf of the monarch in their various localities and perform law enforcement duties as well as being the arbiters of customs and traditions.

[Ifeka B. Uwechia, Atlanta, Georgia, July 1999.]

[Guest Blog Post - Akinyode Soyoye] Governance in the Old Oyo Empire

4 Sep

By Akinyode Soyoye

At the apex of the administration of the government was the king who was known as Alaafin. He was usually referred to by his subjects as Kabiesi – Alaseikeji Orisa meaning one who no one dare questioned – authority next to the gods. Despite this divine tag, the Alaafins were not autocratic. This was because their position and activities as king was checked by some council of chiefs known as the Oyomessi.

The principle of checks and balances is not alien to African culture and tradition. Available historical evidences abound on societies in Nigeria that had maintained a sophisticated government with the adherent pecks of principle of checks and balances before the emergence of the colonial era. Ignorance and insolence (or both), that must be responsible for the much trumpeted ‘homegrown democracy’ by Nigerian politicians.  Most times these politicians give impression that Africans are modeled to be tyrants. History shows that we are no strangers to checks and balances; it is ingrained in our political-social system of governance.

Now the question; are these measures still alive in African societies? Do African societies still have some measures they respect and that makes them accountable, just and fair in administering their people and society? Is it a “taboo” if we go back to the root and revive some measures which are part of our culture and tradition that can bring development to our societies in Nigeria and Africa at large? Let us go back to the roots, by peering at the system of government of some societies in Yoruba-land.

HRM Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III,  Alaafin of Oyo

HRM Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, Alaafin of Oyo

Historically speaking, old Oyo Empire grew to be the dominant power and a wealthy kingdom among other kingdoms in the Yoruba-land in the 16th century. The principal factor that made Oyo supreme was its centralized system of government. One of its paramount features was the “principle of checks and balances”. This made old Oyo empire to be referred to in history as one of the centers of African civilization in the 15th and 16th century A.D.

At the apex of the administration of the government was the king who was known as Alaafin. He was usually referred to by his subjects as Kabiesi –Alaseikeji Orisa meaning one who no one dare questioned – authority next to the gods. This impression given to the king by his subjects made the position of the king divinely. Despite this divine tag, the Alaafins were not autocratic. This was because their position and activities as king was checked by some council of chiefs known as the Oyomessi.

The Oyomessi were saddled with the responsibility of enthroning a king after the demise of the incumbent and also, dethroning any king that was not responsible and violated the regulations attached to his position as king of empire. Also the Oyomessi had the authority to dethrone any king that reneges on the being of his sovereignty which included peaceful co-existence in his realm and defending the empire from within and without. Any breech in these sacred functions by the Alaafin signifies the beginning of the end of his reign.

The Oyomessi dethroned the kings by sending an empty calabash to the king, with some incantation that “the people reject you, the earth reject you.” On receipt of this gift, the king is expected to commit suicide. This was the case of Alaafin Odarawu and Alaafin Jayin in the 17th century when they violated the regulations attached to their positions as kings. They took their rejection mildly and committed suicide. The council of the Oyomessi was headed by Bashorun.

The Oyomessi on the other hand were not unchecked or arbitrary. They dethrone kings based on concrete reasons and were no slave to whims. They had too as their heads could be called for by a council of chiefs known as Ogboni. The Ogboni was a cult saddled with the responsibility of performing rituals to the gods and checking the activities of the Oyomessi. If the Oyomessis erred, they were sanctioned by the council of the Ogbonis. In this view, the Ogboni served as a watchdog to the Oyomessi. As a result of the strong measure of checks and balances that was present in the system of government of Old Oyo empire made the activities of the people in governing council to be just and fair which brought development of the kingdom and made it grew large to become an empire and a dominant power in the Yoruba land in 17th century A.D.

With the knowledge of the role the principle of checks and balances played in the development and growth of Old Oyo Empire, why can we not learn from history? Why can’t we go back to the root and revive some dead principles that brought growth and development to our societies in the past?  This principle served as a watchdog that checked the activities of the people in the governing council of these societies. People in the governing council been aware of this measure and the penalty they will face if they violate the regulations attached to their positions as members of governing council made them to be just, fair, and accountable to their subjects and also engaged in any activities that will bring satisfaction to the interest of their subjects.

Taking a cursory look at the situation of leadership and act of governance in Africa and Nigeria to be specific, could it be said that there are measures that check the activities of our leaders in Nigeria? The absence of institutional lids on governance in our democracy is certainly unAfrican. Never has power revolved around one person or a group of vested interest.  Who are the ‘Bashoruns’ in our government today? Who are the ‘Oyomessi’? Who plays the role of ‘Oluwo’ in the process of checks and balances in our government today?

If Nigeria will be a nation bound with freedom peace and unity as postulated by our past heroes, if we do not want the labour of our past heroes to be in vain, then we need to go back to the root, we need to revive our past and learn from history.

 

 

Reframing Nigeria’s Terror Narrative

17 Jul

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

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Boko Haram (BH) recently claimed responsibility for another terrorist violation of the Nigerian people. However, this time around, BH’s leader, Abubakar Shekau was incensed that they were not given due credit for the explosions in Lagos: “A bomb went off in Lagos. I ordered the bomber who went and detonated it, you said it was a fire incident, well if you hide it from people you can’t hide it from Allah.”

With such a display of insensitive arrogance, do we need any more proof that BH loves being in the media spotlight? The fact that the Lagos explosions were either hidden from public gaze or were better managed in the media, hit a raw nerve in Shekau’s media thirsty ego. Unlike the Niger Delta MEND which had an “apparently” efficient media presence via their constant media alerts of impeding bombings via emails, BH seems to feast on indirect publicity. There lies the irony, that Nigerian citizens, victims of BH’s attack, are the mouthpiece of the terrorists. Clearly, BH’s “haram” does not extend to publicity. On the contrary their tech-savvy uploading of YouTube videos and their dispersion through a certain foreign channel suggests a clear western media “halal” and indeed, a growing obsession with such publicity.

Soon after Shekau’s admittance of being behind the Abuja and Lagos bomb projectiles, I had an interesting conversation on Twitter. It started with this tweet:

I advocated a media blackout on BH terror and this naturally ignited a heated tweet-convo:

 

Obviously, the thrust of my suggestions of snuffing off BH’s relishing of deaths from the news was not generally accepted. It had generated similar sentiments some years earlier in a public relations seminar. We[1] had advocated, among others, the following:

100% Media blackout on all Boko Haram activities

As it stands, Boko Haram has won the psychological warfare by instilling fear amongst Nigerians. Boko Haram has used the media to issue threats, spread the details of their successful activities and promise more attacks. We therefore suggest a radical change in this information war: a total media blackout.  

Centralized Media Mouthpiece

We propose an integrated and synchronized communication strategy for BH. As such, all media briefings, press conferences, interviews, press releases, reactions, etc and on whatever platform MUST receive the implicit endorsement of the Head of Media Team on Boko Haram. The head of this team will also be the exclusive spokesman on Boko Haram issue in Nigeria. However, there will be an alternate head – who he can delegate this duty to – only when the head is not available or indisposed. (Nwogwugwu, Egbunike, Ajayi, Lawal, Salako and Olanipekun, 2013)

Many disagreed with this approach and I must admit that those who opposed the blanket media silence had strong points. Their fear, which was quite reasonable, was that the government would definitely go to sleep. These were not unfounded considering the apparent institutional decay and the cynicism with government’s ‘truths’. Also it was argued that it would be a grave injustice to the victims and their families if their plight were to go unnoticed. This additional wound of lack of public empathy would be too much for people already devastated, the argument continued. Faced with such valid objections, I had to change my original propositions to:

I do not claim to have all the answers. Besides I am not deluded to think that Nigeria’s war on terror will be won via media strategies alone. Nonetheless, literature on media and social movements has confirmed the importance of news framing. Frank Luntz’s[2] apt statement which captures the essence of framing: It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it (as cited in Scheufele and Tewksbury, 2007:7). It is significant to dwell on news framing because audiences depend on media not only for information but also to make decisions. As such the media – old and new – provide ‘windows’ for audiences to ‘understand’ an issue.

How then do we reframe the terror single story without falling into the trap of propaganda or gagging the victims of BH’s terror? Do we have the courage to side step our entrenched political convictions to face the common enemy, BH? Or is this an impossible task, laced with the inherent danger of gagging free speech? I admit that a total blackout is untenable based on the prevailing circumstances. However, a reframing of the narration on terror is long overdue.

 

 

[1] Nwogwugwu, D.; Egbunike, N. A.;Ajayi, T;Lawal, A; Salako, Y. and Olanipekun, T. (2013) Rebranding Nigeria, an MA PR Group Presentation, Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, unpublished

[2]  Scheufele, D. A and Tewksbury, D (2007) “Framing, Agenda Setting and Priming: The Evolution of Three Media Effects Models” Journal of Communication 57 (2007) 9-20

 

Ethics of Justice, the Responsibility of the Fresh Executives of the Nigerian Bar

16 Jul

By Ikechukwu Onuoma and Joshua Nwachukwu

“The price of greatness is responsibility.” – Winston Churchill

Mazi Afam Osigwe (Secretary General of the NBA)

Mazi Afam Osigwe (Secretary General of the NBA)

The Nigerian Bar Association has elected a new executive to pilot its affair. The fresh mint chariot riders of the Nigerian Bar have our warmest felicitations, especially Mazi Afam Osigwe (the recently elected Secretary General of the NBA). However, a call to service in any association necessarily entails grave responsibilities. Nonetheless, without an ethical compass, it can be rather difficult to navigate the complexities that necessarily come with leadership. This is the price of greatness that currently faces the new executive members of the NBA.

In every democratic system – of which Nigeria claims to be one – a vital aspect of its governmental system is doctrine of the rule of law. With this doctrine comes the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, through which the rule of law is upheld and sustained. These two principles are not only intrinsically united but their union can be referred to as a Catholic marriage, which is they cannot be divorced.

In this process of dispensing justice, there is an indispensable role, which is left to the lawyer, who acts as a representative or advocate for clients. Going down the lane of history, it would be discovered that the lawyers in England acted as intermediaries between the adverse parties and the royal family, which formed members of the judiciary, and their services were rendered pro bono. In Nigeria, the constitution by virtue of S.6 (6), has opened its doors wide for the disputants to bring their case rather than result to self-help, and this has to be done either by the aggrieved party or with the assistance of a legal practitioner, which is a fundamental human right provided for in S. 36(6)(c) of the 1999 constitution as amended.

The legal profession just like every other profession has its code of conduct, which regulates and controls the affairs of its members. These codes express, in the broadest of terms, the standards of professional conduct expected of lawyers in their relationship with the public, the legal system, and the legal profession. In Nigeria, the particular legislation in question is the “Rules of Professional Conduct in the Legal Profession”.

In the wave of corruption and financial difficulty, there has been an upsurge of degradation of work values and ethics by lawyers: vigorous advertising. Some have done this through the print and visual media; online advertising, while others send letters to organisations and clients, offering their services. Most of these acts are not in keeping with the rules of professional conduct.

Against the backdrop of the global financial crisis, there is an apparent reason to seemingly overlook the real reason for our trade. The real question that begs an answer is; what is the reason for this condescending act? Would it be wrong to infer and conclude that the legal profession is not only losing its ethics and values but also needs to double its effort in affording legal practitioners with the adequate preparation and continuous legal education.

In relation to the legal profession, legal ethics is defined as “the minimum standards of appropriate conduct within the legal profession, involving the duties that its members owe one another, their clients and the courts[1]”. Values on the other hand refers to moral principles, standards, ethics, ideals, traditions, code of conduct, norms, etiquette etc. that need be observed. In a sense, ethics and values may be used interchangeably.

It is our humble but firm view that, the drafters limited the advertisement as provided in S.34, for some specific reasons. One of such reasons is to instill and imprint on the mind of legal practitioners that the profession is essentially a call to duty and service. Though concerning the need for financial remuneration, our duty to do justice, amid balancing the duty they owe to the court, to the client, and to the public cannot be underestimated. By limiting this act of advertising, the drafters in their natural wisdom did not want the legal profession to condescend to a modernized or ‘learned’ market where counsels fight and struggle for clients. Legal practitioners earn their clients based on how they had exercised their legal skills in previous cases. This new trend leads legal practitioners to be obsessed about winning cases at all cost, with dire consequences to the bar and the bench. With this, not only will the sanctity of the legal profession be defiled, but also the average Nigerian citizen, who looks up to legal practitioners with the potentials to repositioning , the justice system will be disappointed.

Some lawyers may try to legalize this illegality by attributing this frenzy to the need to satiate their financial obligations, and as such have to reach out to clients as their counterparts do in other jurisdictions such as United States of America. A comparative analysis of different legal jurisprudence show how this ethical decline, even in these jurisdictions has affected their laws. Lawyers should lay more emphasis on working hard, if this condition is met, then naturally other things like prestige and money will follow, in fact, a good lawyer would be overburdened with cases.

It goes without saying that the corruption of the best is the worst. Over the years in choosing leaders who will be custodians of the Bar (Nigerian Bar Association) we have always conducted the elections with some degree of decorum worthy of emulation by other professional bodies. In recent times any delegate can agree that, this hallowed system is gradually condescending to a war, not of superior reasoning but bello ad hominem-war against persons. This to our mind shows the degradation of ethical values.

Unfortunately this mentality of making money is gradually creeping into the thoughts of law students in the university, who do not see the act of advocacy as participating in the temple of justice in order to see that justice and equity are enshrined deeply in the territorial entity of Nigeria, but see this profession as an avenue of enrichment only. This line of thought will occasion more violations of professional ethics in future.

We assert that the enforcement of this act should be taken with a renewed energy and avenues where educating lawyers and aspiring lawyers on this ethics should be utilized. As the scope, of legal practice changes and as new situations create new ethical challenges, both the senior members of the  bar and bench ought to be proactive in giving guidance to practitioners and offer a high profile example of the optimal standard.

Finally though acquisition of values pertains in a very high degree to several extrinsic factors rooted in nurture and nature, very senior lawyers may have to double their effort in training lawyers attached to their law firm as these qualities apply both to office practice and to litigation. A lawyer should be mindful of the need to protect the judicial system and the legal profession. This is fundamentally so when we keep in mind that our profession is one of the few practiced in public glare. Again, members of the disciplinary committee have a duty to show good example and bring these principles to the attention of other lawyers when appropriate.

Ikechukwu Onuoma Esq., is a legal practitioner in A. J. Offiah & Co Enugu while Joshua Nwachukwu is a law student in the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus.

Parts of this post was originally published here

[1] See Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th ed., p.913

 

AND SOME CAME HOME, BUT……….

7 Jul

feathersproject:

Arome, these are exactly my thoughts… but alas to ask questions is to become a villain! Chai, this Chibok abduction is turning into high drama!

Originally posted on WELCOME TO IN AMEHS WORDS:

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There are questions, oh yes, there are questions that must be asked, and yes I speak for myself, and that is why I write by myself, but I want you to read, and maybe, just maybe you might have the same questions going through your mind.

The nobility, not mobility oh, sorry Mr. mobility I had to clarify that, now where was I, oh yes, the nobility of the cause to bring back the kidnapped Chibok Girls is quite laudable, and admirable, and oh well you get the point, and while there have been demands and cries and appeals and so on, the fact still remains that the girls have not been brought back, and more have been taken, although we have been made to believe, or rather an attempt to convince everyone that no recent kidnaps have been carried out, we know better don’t we?

Anyway, back to the…

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Dora Akunyili – Ijele Nwanyi!

7 Jun

A Dirge by Nwachukwu Egbunike

Late Professor Dora Akunyili

Late Professor Dora Akunyili

 

THE SULTAN, NIGERIAN MUSLIMS AND BOKO HARAM Letter 4 from Rome: 27 May 2014

4 Jun

Originally posted on visionvoiceandviews:

THE SULTAN, NIGERIAN MUSLIMS AND BOKO HARAM

Letter 4 from Rome: 27 May 2014

By +John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja.

 Image

“Terrorism has no place in Islam….We must rise up as always, with one voice to condemn all acts of terrorism, condemn those terrorists wherever they are and try our best as Muslims to ensure peace reigns in our community”.

 

This is the core of the message of the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’adAbubakar III, and President of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) during a special prayer session last weekend organised by the same NSCIA at the Abuja National Mosque, an event that was widely covered by the Nigerian media. It was also given very wide and positive media coverage here in Rome, starting from the Vatican Radio. I congratulate the Sultan for his bold statement. This has given me the courage to voice out, with…

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