David Diai

ASAGBAAll is now set for the formal grand celebration of the birthday of his Royal Majesty, Prof Chike Edozien, CFR, JP, Asagba of Asaba, who turns 90, on July 28 2015. The Asagba was born on July 28, 1925. His father was Nathaniel Okafor Edozien a direct descendant of Nnebisi the founder of Asaba, and one of the most senior indigenous officials of the Nigerian Coal Corporation in Enugu. His mother, Nwakuso Edozien née Odogwu, was the daughter of a prominent Asaba chief, and a notable trader.

Reeling out the comprehensive itinerary of special events and activities slated for the official celebration, the Chairman of the organizing Committee of the Asagba’s birthday celebrations, Prof Epiphany Azinge (SAN), said: “We decided to roll out the drums because it is given to a few to celebrate 70 years and given to fewer people to celebrate 80 but to celebrate 90 and in good health is worthy of celebration at the highest level.

“For us, it is not just an ordinary celebration because we never can say when there will ever going to be another monarch that would be 90 and a monarch who has distinguished himself so well and to the admiration of his subjects, believing that this is an opportunity to say thank you to him”, he enthused.

The month long celebration, which had already commenced with the preliminary and qualifying stages of the football, quiz and essay competitions, amongst others, will officially kick off with a ten-10 galaxy of selected activities starting on Saturday July 18, with a golf tourney which tees off in the morning and a guided tour of tourists sites especially traditional tourist sites like Anchorage, Lander brothers, Mungo Park building early cemeteries and missionary schools.

The celebrations continue on July 21 with the formal induction of the Asagba into Hall of fame in Asaba, to appreciate the peaceful and transformational reign he has ushered in the last 24 years.

A World press conference has also been slated for that day for the Asagba to give account of his illustrious reign and this will be complemented with a cultural exhibition that will be ongoing through-out the duration of the celebrations, to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the great Asaba kingdom .

July 22 has been designated as the special day of homage to the revered Monarch when residents, institutions, corporate bodies and well wishers will troop to the Palace of the Asagba of Asaba to pay homage to him in his full majesterial grandeur and splendour. This will be followed by a dance carnival and musical float at famous oshimili arcade, in Asaba.

The grande finale of football competition comes up on July 23 and the Asagba of Asaba, Asagba (Prof), Chike Edozien will be the special guest of honour and will present the trophy to winners as well as other awards to deserving participants.

A fishing festival on the historic River Niger has been slated for July 24, while intellectual activities like quiz, essay competition, folklore and music concert among secondary schools, will also be held to mark the ceremony.

Expanding on the selected set of activities slated for the 10-day celebration, Prof. Azinge said: “We have tried to blend tradition with scholarship and fanfare. We are mindful of the fact that we are not going to make the events too elitist, so that we can galvanize our people across all strata of society to participate fully in the celebration of our Monarch.

“Our desire and objective is to re-invent the wheel and try to capture those times when as growing up kids, most of us enjoyed moonlight tales. But sadly, those things are no more, so we want to use this celebration to attract our children to their natural habitat and put them in the right frame to understand their history. We will also have cultural exhibitions which will enable us promote and showcase our traditional artefacts to the global community”, he said.

Speaking further on the activities, the Chairman said: “There will a public lecture delivered by Professor Oladipo Olujimi Akinkugbe, CON, MD, NNOM, who it may interest you to know, followed in the footsteps of our great Asagba of Asaba, when on promotion to a chair of the college of medicine at the University of Ibadan at the age of 35years, became the first Professor of medicine that has ever been appointed by any African University, and this is in addition to his numerous sterling academic achievements nationally and internationally, just like our own dear Asagba.

“We will also have a book presentation chronicling the rich biography of the Asagba and this will be followed by the unveiling of a larger than life statue of the great Monarch that will be mounted and positioned at a strategic place in Asaba metropolis. Hopefully this statue will become a tourist attraction in years to come. The Asagba will also be inducted into the Asaba Hall of Fame,” he said.

“Football matches are already ongoing as part of activities marking the birthday celebrations and this will climax into the final on the 26th of July. A golf tournament starting on the 18th July and a traditional wrestling competition are also part of the sporting menu to be served in the course of the celebrations. The finals of a quiz competition that will be screened live, as well as an essay competition among secondary schools in Asaba, both of which have reached advanced stages, will also hallmark the ceremony and provide our children with the platform to fully participate in the birthday celebration of their revered Monarch. This celebration is an opportunity for us to bring our children back to their origin, history, and cultural setting. Intellectually, we have tried to engage our children at that level,” Azinge affirmed.

Highlighting the overall essence of the celebrations, Prof. Azinge, who is the former Director-General, Nigerian Institute for Advanced Legal Studies and member Commonwealth Arbitration Tribunal and chairman, told Niger Delta Report noted that the Asagba stool means everything to the people of Asaba, adding that the Asagba is revered by the Asaba people as God’s representative on earth.

He said: “I believe that induction the Asagba into the Asaba Hall of Fame is likely to create some doubt in the minds of people. Ideally it should be the other way round, since it is the Asagba with his royal patronage, who confers chieftaincy; he is the symbol of authority, the reigning monarch that would do things for the subjects. But this time around at 90, we believe that it is only proper and right for us to do something that would seem to be honouring him for a change.

“I do not think the Asagba can ever be honoured again because from 1991 when he mounted the throne that seem to be the highest achievement anyone can aspire to. He has gotten that for almost 24 years. We want to use the opportunity to demonstrate how highly we treasure him so we conceptualized this Hall of Fame idea”, he averred.

Speaking further, the distinguished legal luminary, who is also the Okilolo (Great thinker and Philosopher) of Asaba, a title conferred on him by the Asagba himself, said: “We are given to believing that the best time to eulogize people is when they are no more. For us that belongs to the past; we believe it is fitting to celebrate people when they are alive. For us it is more proper to celebrate someone whom we consider a living legend in his own right and one whose actions, utterances and activities seem to have helped in sharpening the destiny of our people and one we have benefitted immeasurably from his intellect and acumen and for us, the Asagba has fulfilled and accomplished all the excellent attributes”.

According to him, “There will be a Hall of Fame whether it will be a museum or any other thing we will set up. But it will go down in the history of Asaba that Asagba Prof Chike Edozien, Asagba of Asaba, will be the first Asaba son, living or dead ever to be inducted into this Hall of Fame which will be a symbol of excellence and a footprint that will invite other Asaba indigenes to look forward to the fact that when you do well in life, and live life of incorruptibility that there is something that awaits you.”

Describing the induction modus operandi, the distinguished Asaba son and Chairman of the Asaba birthday celebration committee said: “The chiefs and all the other nobility, as well as the Asaba people will induct the Asagba. Citations will be read, plaques will be unveiled and other formalities will be performed, after which the Iyase of Asaba, Chief Patrick Isioma Goodluck Onyeobi, will read out a statement and the Asagba will then be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

Azinge equally stressed that, “Ultimately this induction will be the beginning of the process in the history of Asaba. Asaba people, in our traditional folklore, are said not to acknowledge and applaud heroes, so for us it is a beginning of a new dawn. Time has come for Asaba people to acknowledge what is their own. Contrary to our historical past, if you do not eulogize great people may be you are failing in one respect. You are not invigorating or motivating people to continue in their path and continue to excel. So the thinking is that we may have Asaba sons and daughters that have distinguished themselves and though they may or may not be chiefs in Asaba, may have actually done exceptionally well to be inducted to the Hall of Fame. For us it is a stepping stone for what every Asaba son and daughter should look forward to.

“The celebration is a full package. We will have a street carnival that will take us through the length and breadth of the city. We are modeling our carnival after the Calabar Carnival and Rivers State Carnival so that we can get the attention of the people and awaken their consciousness as to what we are doing. A musical festival will take place which will cater for our youths so they will be fully entertained. And finally, an inter-denominational service will climax the formal ceremony grand celebration of the 90th birthday anniversary of the Asagba of Asaba, Prof. Chike Edozien,” he concluded with an air of satisfaction.


Originally reported by Okungbowa Aiwerie, The Nation Newspapers July, 2015


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