Traditional rulers as custodians of culture occupy a central position in the life of their people. They serve as a bulwark against the decline of the culture of the people and chief promoter of the interests of the community.
However, the traditional ruler of Ihitenansa in Orsu Local Government Area, Eze Afam Justin Agugoesi, the Obi 1 of Akama-na-nansa is worried that the culture of Ndigbo is gradually declining because some individuals who were made traditional rulers are not very knowledgeable about Igbo culture. In tihis interview, he addresses this and other issues.
As the traditional ruler, what is your vision for your community?
I will continue to do what I have been doing for the community even before my people chose me as their traditional ruler. Basically, that is to ensure the development of the community. My major priority is to ensure that every girl child in my community is educated. I also intend to remove some of the obnoxious traditional practices that affect widows, and to ensure that the weak and the less privileged are given a sense of belonging in all ramifications.
There is this notion that the traditional institution in Igbo land has been bastardized, with the result that the cultural and traditional values of the people have been eroded. How will you ensure that the culture and traditions of your people are maintained?
If you look at my obi you need not be told that it is the palace of traditional ruler who is the custodian of the culture and tradition of the people. If you come into the palace, you will see a bowl of traditional white clay and those who know what it symbolizes in Igbo culture will know that it is a symbol of purity, which is what is used in welcoming a titled man. The titled man is expected to accept and make traditional prayers with it, indicating that he has come in peace with no evil intent or ill feeling.
So, as the traditional ruler, it is my responsibility to ensure that the cultures and traditions of our people are sustained. However, the problem we have now is that some of those who were made the traditional rulers of their communities were not rooted in the Igbo culture and tradition, because majority of them were born outside of Igbo land. To make matters worse some could not even speak the language. But in my own case, I am we’ll rooted in the culture and tradition of our people and I have also served the community and the entire Orsu people in different capacities both as the President General and the head of my clan. I was once the president of Ihitenansa clan in Lagos, the president of the presidents of Orsu and I was the last president – General of Ihittenansa.
Traditional rulers in the country have lamented that they have been relegated to the background in that they have not been given constitutional roles. Do you think the government should restore the House of Chiefs as we had in the First Republic?
It would be good for traditional rulers to be given a constitutional role in the affairs of the nation because if there is peace in every community, then there would be peace in the country. So, I support giving constitutional roles to traditional rulers, because they are the ones closest to the people and most of the problems in the communities are brought to them for settlement.
Do you think it is proper for traditional rulers to be involved in partisan politics?
It is bad for traditional rulers to be partisan politicians because they are supposed to be the father of all and once a traditional ruler takes side, there would definitely be crisis in that community. I think most traditional rulers who openly back a particular political party or candidate do so because of poverty.
Now, as a Christian, we know that there are some traditions that are anathema to Christian beliefs. So how are you going to reconcile both?
That is not a problem because these days, no traditional ruler in Igbo land has been crowned in the shrine of any deity. Again, it is also a personal choice because I know that majority of traditional rulers in this state are good and practising Christians, some are even knights of the church and if they are worshipping idols, their deeds will find them out because you cannot serve two masters at the same time. So, as I said, the time has gone when rituals were part of the crowning anybody as traditional ruler in Igbo land.
When I was crowned, the process began with a thanksgiving service at the church where the Catholic Bishop of Orlu Diocese officiated because it is God who makes leaders or kings and not the devil and so all glory must be given to him.
What were you doing before your people made you their monarch?
I was a businessman and I am still one to date. I was once the Chairman of New Alaba International Market Association (Electronic Section), Ojo Alaba. I, import electrical transformers.
How do you cope with your business now that you are the traditional ruler?
That is not a problem because technology has made business transaction very easy these days. I can conduct any business right from my palace with my mobile phone in any part of the world. So, I don’t even need to go to Lagos or overseas to do the business, all I need to do is to make a call and the goods will be sent to me. Again, payment is also easier now via the E-payment.
Are there any past traditional practices of your people that you would like to revive?
I wouid re-introduce the Asere festival which was last celebrated when I was a kid. It is a festival that brings everybody together. It is during this festival that all your relations, whether from your maternal home or from your grandparents maternal home come for a family reunion.
The beauty of it is that it helps each family to know their extended relations who they may not have known. Again, it is through this festival of reunion that those who are well to do can help others.
What other cultural festivities are celebrated in your community?
Like in any other Igbo community, we celebrate new yam festival in August, every year.
How many wives do you have?
As a Christian, I have only one wife and I don’t intend to marry another one because for 22 years, my wife did not bear me any child, so if I had any intention to marry another wife, I would have done so because I had the money. But now am blessed with five children from the same woman. The Sun