HRM Eze Samuel Agunwa Ohiri (Obi 1 of Obi Orodo) is the Chairman Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers and also the immediate-past Chairman of the South-East Council of Ndi-Eze. The 54 year-old First Class traditional ruler is an epitome of Igbo culture and tradition. He spoke to The AUTHOORITY on Sunday on his concerns on the gradual extinction of Igbo cultural and traditional heritage, roles of royal fathers and Governor Rochas Okorocha. Excerpts:
Born 54 years ago to Chief Festus Osuamadi, and Evelyn Ohiri, they named me Agunwa (lion son) as if they knew I will be a very important personality some time in future. Despite challenges and difficulties, God has always supported me to emerge victorious. I did my early education here in Imo and thereafter at the US. God has blessed me and as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Hi-Tek diagnosis LTD, the only company in Nigeria that manufactures HIV Test Kits, Hepatitis Test and also Hi-Tech Trading Company, doing business with oil companies. We have one of the best Medical Laboratories in the country named Hi-tech Diagnosis Laboratory Ltd.
As traditional ruler, God has helped me. I have been on the throne as Obi of Obi Orodo Autonomous Community in Mbaitoli LGA about 14 years now. I was elected by my peers as the Chairman of Orodo Traditional Rulers Council, a position I am still holding. In the same manner, my peers in Mbaitoli LGA also found me worthy to be elected as their chairman, a position I held till June, 2011 when I was appointed as Eze-Imo by Governor Rochas Okorocha, who said that my appointment was divinely inspired.
Chairman of Ndi Eze
Interesting, challenging and rewarding. God graciously used Governor Rochas Anayochukwu Okorocha to give me the opportunity to serve my people, as the Chairman of the State Council of Traditional Rulers. It was challenging, but God gave us the Wisdom and strength to confront the challenges. God has also elevated me as the Chairman South East Council of Traditional Rulers even though the period was not much as my predecessor’s. I assumed that position for few months before the position was rotated to Abia State and our brother, HRM Eze Eberechi, took over from me.
I am also the President of Imo State Traditional Parliament. Through this, we assisted to churn out wonderful government policies. For instance, promoting our culture and traditions, promoting the speaking and writing of Igbo language to the glory of God Almighty.
Extinct Igbo culture?
Any true Igbo son or daughter of should be concerned. For the protection and sustainability of Igbo culture and tradition, it is time for us to start to minimize the effects of Western cultures on our society, Igbo. Our culture and traditions are under serious threat even our cultural values, norms, aspira tions and folkways are under serious threat from western civilization. To me, I think it has come to a time we should declare a state of emergency on our culture so as to avoid future perpetual regrets. That is how serious this issue is to me as a royal father and as an Igbo man.
It is important for us to know that when God created us as Igbo, he made us very, very distinct from other ethnic groups in Nigeria and the world at large. To justify this, there are certain unique things God bequeathed to the Igbo race: our language, the type of food we eat, our mode of dressing, the type of wine we drink, our ways of resolving conflicts and interact with each other, the way we live with each other in a community, etc. Certainly, our cultural and traditional practices are distinct and unique, but it seems that we have dumped those cultural and traditional ways of doing things in preference to Western ways of doing things. This is an aberration and unacceptable even to our ancestors.
I believe if you don’t speak the same language with your children, you don’t eat the same type of food, definitely the things that hold you in common are no longer there.
If you don’t speak the same language, you don’t believe in the same norms, values and aspirations, definitely, you have no cultural or traditional things in common. There is a big divide between us and the next generation of Igbo race. Igbo language and our befitting cultural and traditional practices are gradually dying. Our cultural festivals are giving way to Western carnivals: Brazil and Caribbean world where young ladies expose their body contours and dress nude or half naked.
Last December, in an effort to promote and preserve the rich cultural and traditional heritage in Imo State, Governor Okorocha spent a lot of money for the State Cultural Carnival as well as other carnivals. I think it is time we need to declare a state of emergency on this particular issue of infiltration of foreign culture to the detriment of our cultural heritage because it is really becoming very, very dangerous. If we don’t take time in the next 15 to 20 years, there would be nothing like the Igbo culture and tradition anymore, not to talk of our language.
Imo Community Government Council (CGC) controversy
I will sing the praises of Governor Rochas Okorocha, whether I am the Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers or not. I have been a traditional ruler for a while and I have seen governors come and go. I have not seen any governor before Okorocha that have worked up to 30 per cent of the efforts this man put on daily basis to ensure that Imo state is better. Look, earlier before this administration my heart bleeds for late Dee Sam Onunaka Mbakwe. The traditional rulers in Imo state are the only traditional rulers in the federal republic of Nigeria that are being paid security votes. He created the Community Government Council (CGC) and made traditional rulers the chairman of the CGC in their various autonomous communities or kingdoms, making them undisputed head of their community. Before the era of the Rescue Mission administration, there was this power tussle between the traditional rulers and the President-Generals of the various autonomous communities on who is the number one citizen of the community.
Then, you can see some President Generals that will come and insult their traditional rulers over unjust cause but Owelle came and cleared the air on that and made it pointblank that the traditional rulers are number one citizen, head of community government, custodians of the peoples cultural and traditional heritages and chief security officers of their kingdoms and to drive it home he started paying the traditional rulers security voters so that there will be no symptom of skepticism as for who is actually in charge of any community. He set up the CGC and made the traditional rulers the life chairman of the council and he pays them not only weekly allowance but also monthly allowance. Before now, what we have was the State Council of Traditional Rulers which comprised the representatives of the 27 LGAs. They were virtually on-lookers; they never participated in any decision making or discussions I have gone round the country and I have visited my fellow traditional rulers in the North south, East and West honestly speaking the Mbari Traditional Complex remains the best in the country I foresee a situation Imo State example will be adopted at the national level for a constitutional role for traditional rulers.The Authority