Even among some Igbo elite, there have been strong arguments as to whether Ndigbo have kingship institutions that are venerated by the people, and that have the potency of upholding the values and traditions of the people. In this report, Leradership’s MIKE UBANI, MATTHIAS NWOGU, OKECHUKWU OBETA, OBINNA OGBONNAYA, and NNAMDI MBAWIKE, examine the origins and concepts of the institutions.
Nri Kingdom – one of the oldest kingdoms in Nigeria – is located in Anambra Central Senatorial District of Anambra State – one of the five states that constitutes the South-East geo-political zone – which is home to about 50 million Igbos.
According to historical account, Nri kingdom was founded in 900 AD by Eri – who hailed from the tribe of Gad in Israel. As the account goes, his first son – Nri-Ifikwuanim, was the first ‘Eze Nri’ (king of Nri kingdom), and he reigned between 1043 and 1158.
OBI OF ONITSHA
The traditional ruler of Onitsha kingdom is known as Obi of Onitsha, ‘King or “Monarch’ of Onitsha Kingdom.
In addition to exercising power as the custodian of the culture, tradition, norms of the people, he is also the spiritual head of the people of the kingdom.
The origin of Onitsha kingship of Obi can be traced to the migration of a group of people from old Benin Empire to the present day Onitsha town towards the end of early part of the 16th century as a result of waves of unrests, war and displacement unleashed on them by the Islamic movement from North Africa.
EZEOGO OF EDDA
‘Ezeogo’ is the title of the paramount ruler of Edda clan in Afikpo South local government area of Ebonyi State. Edda is composed of about 10 autonomous communities which include: Ebunwana Edda, Nguzu Edda, Ekoli Edda, Owutu Edda, Amangwu Edda, Oso Edda, Etiti Edda, Ogbu Edda etc. Its official headquarters is at Nguzu Edda, which is also the ancestral capital of the Edda people.
The ‘Ezeogo’ kingship is hereditary, but that does not suggest that the kingship passes from father to son. The oldest man from the ruling house may become the ‘Ezeogo’
IGWE ODEZULUIGBO OF NIKE
Odezuluigbo is the paramount ruler of Nike Kingdom in Enugu East local government area of Enugu State. The town is made of 24 villages.
The Odezuluigbo is a highly respected traditional ruler in Enugu state, and beyond. Currently, Igwe Julius Nnaji, a lawyer, is the Odezuluigbo 111 of Nike.
He succeeded his late father, Igwe Edward Anike Nnaji, the Odezuluigbo 11. While the traditional stool is hereditary, no one could say exactly why the stool resides within the family.
EZE ARO OF AROCHUKWU
Eze Aro of Arochukwu kingdom is the title of the traditional ruler of Arochukwu kingdom, the third largest town in Abia State, after Aba and Umuahia, the State capital.
Arochukwu is one of the towns in Igboland named after God apparently because of the people’s belief in one Supreme God. The word Aro means spear, while Chukwu means God, and put together, this means the ‘Spear of God’.
The first king (Eze Aro) of a unified Arochukwu was known as Akuma Nnubi, but after his death, Nnachi’s son – Oke Nnachi, succeeded him, and his descendants have occupied the throne of Eze Aro since then. The reigning Arochukwu Monarch is Mazi Ogbonnaya Okoro Asi Eko Oke Nnachi VIII CFR
OKPI OF ITEM
His Royal Majesty, Eze Silas Okeofia Igwe, is the traditional ruler of Item in Bende local government area of Abia State. He holds the traditional title of ‘Okpi of Item.
Item, made up of nine villages, is the largest town in the council area, while Bende is one of the oldest and largest local government areas in the country.
The Okpi remains the cultural and traditional symbol of unity for the people of Item.
Okpi’s stool is an ancient, sacred and highest traditional institution in Item. The occupant of the stool is the father of Item people; the paramount ruler and clan head of Item. He is head of the executive, legislature and judiciary in Item traditional system of government.
Whenever a vacancy exists in the Okpi stool, the next senior man in Ndi Okorocha in Apuanu Item assumes the office of Okpi of Item, and where he declines, the stool moves to another person.
IGWE OF ORLU
The current Igwe (king) of Orlu in Imo state is Eze Dr Patrick Chinedu Acholonu, the X1. Igwe Acholonu is the occupant of Ishiobiukwu Gedegwum, the residence of the traditional monarch of Orlu kingdom.
The Orlu kingship is not rotational, but when the holder of the traditional title dies or is incapacitated to the extent that he is unable to perform his traditional functions, his oldest son mounts the traditional throne of Igwe.
The Igwe rules in consultation with the heads of the other villages of Orlu, who are the descendants of the founding father of Orlu as well as listens to the people. Thus the Igbo’s say Oha na Eze: the people and the king.