highly poor family. My father married 10 wives; my father was one of
the traditional title holders (Onye Ichie) in this community.
Enwelana the first. He was also an Eze Nri. He was the 10th Eze Nri.
I’m the 26th Eze Nri in this kingdom.
know what that meant. But my father died in 1943; I was only a couple
of months old when my father died, so I did not get to know my father,
and I did not get to know my mother either. My mother passed on after my
very tender age. There was a lot of problem, a lot of challenges. I
never got that parental love, so I grew up all by myself. There was no
person to take care of me. Nevertheless, God guided me to grow up. I was
then thinking that maybe something is waiting for me in future.
school in this community. The primary school I attended had no roof, and
I had no slate to write on, so I wrote on the ground and the teacher
would come and examine my work on the floor. I used to wear one cloth
for over a month and most times, the cloth would get torn on my body. No
one was responsible for me, so I did everything by myself. It was a
difficult world, but I managed to grow up.
we were small, I would walk naked and you could even see the ribs in my
body. To eat was a problem and even when I managed to eat, it would be
once a day. No one took care of me in that very large family. I went
through primary school without books. I was just guided by my own
left this village for Hope Waddell, Calabar. I did not last in that
school however, because I had to leave again. After Hope Waddell, I went
to another school in Port Harcourt, and that was where I finished my
secondary school in 1964.
tried my luck in playing football. After a while, the war broke out in
1966, and we were recruited in the war. I served at Nsukka sector and I
was lucky to join an organisation that took us to Dakar Senegal.
universities in America. I studied Mechanical Engineering and then I did
my Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering and did another Master’s
degree in Industrial Management- that was in New York University. I
stayed in New York after for a long time.
teacher and taught in the Engineering Department in the university. I
left with the intention to start doing something for myself, so I later
came back to Nigeria. I came to Port Harcourt and I founded my own
construction company and worked there for a while. That was where I was
till my predecessor, Tabansi Udene, passed on in 1979.
when a traditional ruler passes on, we have to stay seven years without a
king. Those seven years will give the people time to know which person
would occupy the throne. They would look for signs and signals.
produces, and then another does. There are three villages here. So the
lot fell on my village to produce the traditional ruler and my village
needed someone who would occupy the seat. In 1987, while I was in Port
Harcourt, my people invited me home and I came, only to be told that the
position of Eze Nri had shifted, and that I was likely going to be the
person to occupy the throne.
the king is not through election; it is divine. We would have to
perform what we call ‘Afa’ (divination). The gods would have to say who
it would be. Whoever the gods appoint for that position cannot refuse
it. The gods were consulted and the lot fell on me. I could not believe
it. I was like, ‘how can a poor man be the traditional ruler?’ I was a
young man and I had nothing. I had just returned from the US and was
looking for a way to earn a living. Let me also say that before you
become a candidate for Eze, you must have taken all the titles.
taking all the titles one after the other. I finalised it by taking the
Ozo title. When that ended, I took a higher one – the Oba title. The
long and short of it is that there are so many titles one has to take to
become Eze Nri. You have to visit all the shrines in this community and
all the ancestral homes. We are the descendants of Eri. All the Eri
communities and all the shrines in the communities had to be alerted of
the emergence of a new Eze Nri. It took us about three years to take
all the titles.
die symbolically, and after three days, the person will wake up. During
the person’s death, he takes a new body and when he wakes up, he must
shine like a star.
exaggeration but I tell you, it is the truth! The candidate must die!
When the candidate dies, he will be buried in a shallow grave for three
days; his body will be buried, but his head will be left outside the
grave. During that period, he will undergo a transformation; pass
through a stage, from human being to spirit, after which he will wake up
and his body will be adorned with white chalk (Nzu) and he will shine
like a star.
compound. He will not leave through the door. It is presumed that he has
grown above passing through the door.
climb over the fence and I landed outside and I left my father’s
compound. This happened like 28 years ago.
being mourned by your family and the entire village will be in festive
mood, eating and dancing every day. After that traditional mourning,
when you wake up again, you take a new body and you are now a spirit.
go to a confluence river. The nearest to our community is the Ezu River,
which is in Aguleri. At that confluence, they employ divers, who go
down deep into the sea to scoop clay, which would be used to mould a
pot. The Eze will drink from it and we call that pot, Udueze.
pot would be seen as a very precious pot because the clay used in
moulding it was got from the depth of the sea, from a confluence of two
want to test your agility and spirituality as an Eze. If the diver does
not come out, well, that is it! But if the diver comes out with the clay
that would be used in moulding the pot, then you are Eze (king).
confluence rivers where an Eze Nri could be taken. There is Lokoja and
there is Aguleri. Since Lokoja is far from us, we have to go to Aguleri,
that is Ezu na Omambala, Abanaba.
communities that are descendants of the Nri Kingdom and then you go home
triumphantly as a king. Then you embark on another visit to Umueri
clan, which contains 118 settlements. You have to visit as many as you
can, and they will know that a new Eze Nri has emerged.
stay in a hut that is akin to half room, and will return to the spirit
world for eight days, before he will now become a human being again.
does not receive visitors because he is still a spirit. But after the
two market weeks of eight days, he could receive visitors.
served food from underneath the door; no one is permitted to see him
physically. When he leaves the Obi after eight days, he moves to his
palace, which at that time, must not be a zinc building but would be
built by a certain leaf, called Uma, which is usually broad. That is
where he would stay for two years before his palace would be changed.
first performance must be Iguaro (annual ritual). The purpose of the
Iguaro is to give all the communities the opportunity to see the Eze for
the first time. Before then, there is a transfer of authority from the
previous Eze to the current Eze. This is usually done by the children of
the former Eze. While that is done, no one enters the room where it
is happening until everything has been done. Thereafter, the Eze has
completed all the requirements, and he could then begin to take
elevator platform, and anytime he wants to make decisions, he has to sit
on that platform. The throne you now see is a new innovation.
because I did not school in one school. I schooled in Hope Waddell for
some time, then I moved to another school, and I think that school is
demised now. I think the school is called Enitona High School; it was a
big school back then.
Nigeria, and afterwards we got married and I took her to New York, and
we had our first child in 1977 and we lived there and then visited
Nigeria again in 1981, and went back. During my young days, I did not
spend my life in Nigeria; it was from the warfront to Senegal and to
America. It was in 1976 that I came back to Nigeria to look for a wife,
and when I married, I went back to America. I had my four children
there, and there was nothing like courtship with my wife or doing the
usual boy/girlfriend thing because I did not have time for that.
is the centre of creation of taboos. We pride ourselves as people with
tradition. Taboos in our community are graded; there are ‘nso’ and
‘alu’. ‘Alu’ are those taboos pertaining to human lives. Taking people’s
property, making someone to do what they ordinarily would not do is
‘alu’. We have 124 taboos, which we respect in Nri. We were observing
all these until it went through abrogation. My predecessor, Tabansi
Udene, abrogated a lot of taboos. It was a taboo for Eze Nri to go out
of his kingdom, Eze Nri cannot pass through water, he cannot travel. You
are not even supposed to see Eze Nri, you can only hear him but you
cannot see him. Now, Eze Nri can go out. I can even shake people’s hands
now. If it were before, you will not see me; we cannot sit and talk
this way. When I took over, I also abrogated a lot of taboos too.
marry at least four wives. In all, I abrogated 100 taboos. My
predecessor did the same thing, and we kept doing this, so that our
people can fit into today’s world.
attend a funeral, and that is still standing up until now. He cannot eat
or sleep in people’s houses.
least the Eze Nri can at least sleep in a hotel. As you see me, I don’t
go to people’s houses, I cannot go to market and I cannot carry
something on my head. All these have not been abrogated. I cannot do
menial job and so many other things I cannot do as Eze Nri.
University in the whole world, for now. I have set a precedent in that.
Many others can now follow after me. Before now, Eze Nri would not go
to hunt for what to eat with his family, the community provided. But
now, it is tough for the community to provide for Eze Nri, so Eze Nri
has to look for what he and his family would eat.
recognises the traditional ruler, and we have to attend government
meetings. My predecessor refused to attend meetings of traditional
rulers in Enugu, because they added a woman and he would not attend any
meeting with a woman.
system in 1932. Nri does not believe in Osu anyway, we believe that all
people are created the same.
that cut the upper teeth before the lower teeth. That child was
regarded as ‘nwa alusi’ (child of the deity) and that child would be
thrown away. But that has been abrogated. Another is the killing of
twins, which has also been abrogated. People were killing kids, just
because there were twins. If a family had twins, they were packaged and
taken to the evil forest where they were disposed of. But now, any child
that is found in Ajofia (evil forest) is brought here, nursed to life
and also trained.
human being from the spirit level, he faces the same challenge any other
human being faces. He has to look for a way to take care of his family
like every other person. As I told you, I have only one wife and four
children. My own is even better because I am educated, I work, and I can
always feed myself. But for previous Eze Nris, the community had to
fend for them and feed their families. But now, things have changed and I
take care of myself and my family.
management-wise. We have the Ndialo Eze, they are the political wing of
the people in our cabinet. We also have the Nze ma Agboo – 12 of
them. They are the ones that take care of the tradition. The Ndialo Eze
are titled and non titled men, who are experienced in politics, who do
the politicking while the Eze and his Nze ma Agboo take care of
tradition. So they don’t mix. When you come here, the other people are
taking care of their own responsibilities and same for the others. The
Ndialo Eze go to represent the community in government functions while
the other arm takes care of traditions.
choose someone; the person does not have to be rich. Only the gods know
the criteria they use to select an Eze. Once all the signs have been
detected, you do not have to be rich nor have many wives. I started with
nothing; I was only 30 years old then when I was chosen.