Obi of Issele-Uku (Oligbo) Kingdom in Delta State, His Royal Majesty, Obi Nduka Ezeagwuna, in this interview with OVIE OKPARE speaks about life before and after ascension to the throne of his forefathers and the custom and tradition in his kingdom
Even though you did not know that you would ascend this thrown so early, when the reality dawned on you, what came to your mind?
I had no clue that I would ascend the throne at this young age. I think somewhere along the line while growing up when I had my sense of awareness, I knew that I was the heir apparent to the throne but never knew I would ascend the throne as a young man. This only happened 2014 when my father passed away and at that point, I knew then it was time.
How has it been since you became the ruler of this kingdom?
It has been a very great experience because of my age. I get a lot of attention from my people, the media and the general public at large. A lot of people see it as a burden that is entrusted on my shoulders but I see it as reality waking up every day to live my life. And at this point, I have to be very grateful to the people of Issele-Uku because without them, this would have been a very difficult task. I thank God that I have men and women out there who are willing to work hard for the progress of the community, who are willing to see the development of the community. Like I said, my age is also an advantage for me as so many people see me and take me as their son. They try as much as possible to give me word of advice. They try as much as possible not to overburden me. You will see that in the town, we have most men and women who are taking responsibility to make sure that I have a very good reign. So, I’m having a great experience. It has been a very good learning curve for me because at this young age, I am exposed to a whole lot of things and I am gaining a lot of knowledge.
Before you ascended the throne, what were your plans after graduation?
It is like every other young man’s dream. I had the intention after graduation to go for the normal youth service. After that, I had plans of furthering my education which I still have plans to do and then have a good job, good family and build upon my life. That was the dream.
Before the demise of your father, did he at any point prepare you for this task?
That was not possible because at the point when we were getting to know each other, when he could open up to me and tell me certain things, we did not have that time. Remember I said in the beginning, that I was taken away at a very tender age from my family because that is what our tradition says. By tradition, when my father was around, I was not supposed to be in the same room with him. I was not supposed to see the traditional rites that he performed but that does not mean I could not face or talk to him. As a young child, there was nothing really my father could talk to me about at the time when I was coming of age. But we lost him when he could tell me something meaningful.
What would you say are the last memories/conversation that you had with your father?
The last conversation I had with my father was a week before his death. I was still at the University of Ibadan and he was preparing for his grand 60th birthday and I remember him telling me to prepare to come home for his birthday celebration. I think I was supposed to have exam at that period and in his usual self, he laughed and asked me ‘I, your father, am inviting you for my birthday and you are telling me about exams, what is bigger than my birthday?’ With my father, there was no dull moment.
In terms of culture and customs of the Issele-Uku people, would you say you are at home or some people have to guide you through the process?
With all I have said, I have to be guided but I think when I got my sense of awareness, I noticed that I had a flare naturally for history. So while I was around the town, I made sure that I learnt more about our history, culture and customs. My paternal grandmother was helping in that light because when I returned home. I always stayed with her. Then, I could not stay here at the palace and any time I had the opportunity, I always asked questions. Truly, because I was the heir apparent then, there were certain things she could not open up to tell me. She would just say this is what happened but she would not go into details. So, yes, I am at home when it comes to culture and tradition but I still have to be put through in some particular things. I wouldn’t say I don’t know about our culture and tradition; I know a whole lot but I would say perhaps before my coronation, it was just on the surface but after the coronation, I need the people to put me through in some areas.
What would you say confronted you in terms of challenges on ascending the throne?
Sincerely, Issele-uku is a peace loving town and united. So when I was ascending the throne, I was not thinking of the challenges being the leader of the town. Instead the challenge for me was thinking of how to bring development to the town. There was unity already because by the special grace of God, the former regent and the people of Issele-Uku took it upon themselves to see that there was unity before I came in. It was not necessarily about how to resolve conflict between certain individuals, certain villages or between Issele-Uku and other towns. The town was in order, so my challenge now is to bring about further development to the town.
Can you tell us a little about the Issele–Uku Kingdom?
If you look at our history, we are descendants of the great Benin empire and as the history goes, on or about 1230 AD, Oba Eweka of Benin the first sent his second son, Prince Uwade towards the Eastern part of the Benin Empire first of all to check the influx of the Easterners into the kingdom and secondly to expand the empire. So Prince Uwade came along with his wives and some delegate warriors towards the eastern part, they settled here in the present Issele–Uku. So they settled and practised the same pattern of ascension to the throne like that in Benin. So after him, Prince Uwade became Ogewade and after him, his first son took over. So, that has been our brief history. We are descendants of the great Benin Kingdom.
What are some of the things you will love to achieve during your reign?
In terms of goal, Issele–Uku is very rich in culture and tradition some of which have been eroded. So, my short term goal is to revive a society which we call the “Omu” society, a peaceful united society. My long term goal is to see that our rich culture and traditions are preserved. I want to create an awareness on the need to revive and sustain our rich traditions for the world to see.
As a young man, did it occur to you that by becoming the monarch, you would have to live the rest of your life here?
Yes, I think I knew that and like I said, it’s not something I thought would come earlier. As a young man, I do not see it as punishment as several people would say; it’s just my life as every other person is living his/her life.
Is it not boring for you as a young man to be a monarch and how do you kill boredom because most times you are secluded and cannot mingle the way you would love to?
I entertain this question a lot and the simple answer is that I thank God that I was able to pass through the university. Like I said, while I was away I had the opportunity to go to school, pass through a higher institution, travel far and near and see a whole lot of things. So I think I have seen and done a whole lot of things that every youth out there would have to do, so coming back to town and being the Obi, I am not bored because I have so many responsibilities on my shoulders and so much to attend to. There is never a dull moment for me.
Generally, how is your normal day?
Since my coronation, my normal schedule has been to wake up, pray to God, I have my schedule set up for me by my secretary which involves sixty per cent of the time, meeting with the general public mostly the Isele-uku. It is not all issues that can be handled in a single day. Some are handled for days, weeks and even months so at every point in time, there’s always something to attend to. Being the kind of person I am who is not complacent, I try to make sure that whatever issue we are handling is dealt with as soon as possible and we always follow up.