– By Patrick Ochei
Climaxing the 2022 Ine Aho Festival, His Royal Majesty, Agbogidi Obi Nduka (MNSE), Obi of Issele-Uku Kingdom has sent a strong message of peace and harmony to world leaders in general, and particularly political leaders in Nigeria, Delta State and Aniocha North Local Government Area, to always eschew bitterness and embrace peace in the interest of the socioeconomic growth and development of the various global societies; and specifically urging politicians in Nigeria to seek peace and rule of law ahead of the coming general elections in 2023.
He made this call while granting interview to newsmen on his Ine Festival, which is the major feast amongst the series of activities within the Ine Aho Festival.
Obi Nduka affirmed that a peaceful world is a world that is safe, secure and one that can only usher in more in development and security of the sanctity of life and dignity of man.
The amiable Monarch also sent a message of condolence to the British Monarchy and Government over the transition of Queen Elizabeth 11, the Queen of England, affirming that she was such a fanciful global personality that the world would miss for a long time.
He said while respect and tributes are being paid to her memories, the world should also accord reverence to the new King Charles 111 by praying for him to succeed in doing much more that the world would equally appreciate and celebrate at the end of time.
Without mincing words, Agbogidi Nduka admonished politicians to put themselves in check as election is close to call, maintaining that the country including the State cannot afford to face crisis in a period of contest which is supposed to symbolise sportsmanship.
It was indeed a busy day for the intelligently classy King who concluded his five days of intense spiritual exercise, having been in a solitude state praying for his people and blessing them with nzu (white native chalk). The morning of the Ine was when he came out from that solitude mood (Ipu Nzu) by visiting the Ishu Ani to pray for a number of times before a gunshot indicated that he had concluded his five days period of fasting and praying (Ino Nzu). It was a period that the entire community was compartmentalised into quietness in strict observance of the holy days, otherwise any live animal around could be killed at one’s expense or seizure of one’s property as value for the offence of noise making.
Now the town can celebrate as Obi goes inside to freshen up in readiness to receive homages from the warlords (Onotu Chiefs) and other well wishers.
The sound of the gun tells the warlords that the king is out of his solitude mood and they too can fire their own guns at their various quarters, indicating an agreement that the period of noiselessness had ended and the people can now celebrate. With that mindset, they will dress in their regalia, gather their people to eat and drink and then dance to the Palace to pay homage, report their war experiences to the king and then receive the Royal handshake in commendation for their heroic exploits at their various internal and external security assignments. This is what is known as “Inaka”.
Issele-Uku is made up of nine villages – Umueze Issei, Ogbe-Owele, Ogboli, Ukpai, Idumuinei, Ogbe-Utu, Ogbe-Ofu, Idumu-Ahaba and Ute. Majority of these villages if not all, have chiefs who represent them as warlords who go to fight in moments of external aggressions. And so, their gathering in this manner at the Issele-Uku Royal Palace is to report back to the King the events of the season.
While the dance is ongoing at the Palace Ground (Uge Obi), the chiefs would go in to usher the king out for the “Uje” which is the mimicking of the ancient nature of Issele-Uku king in times of war as Commander-in-Chief.
Before the chiefs and the Obi could emerge from the Palace chambers, the Omu; Omu Beatrice Onwodi in this instance and her Ilogo Omu had danced from the Uge into the main Palace, performed some rites just as the king and chiefs stepped out by the door and there was a rousing ovation and ecstatic shouts from the crowd awaiting his appearance.
The Obi is then led to the main centre of attraction with the Royal Dance (Egwu Issoh); and while in that procession, he prays to his ancestors through the performance of some rites along the way. Sitted at the Ukpo after another round of spiritual cleansing by the Omu and Eze Dibie, the chiefs began to come dancing in their order of seniority to take the Royal handshake.
For this year, the Onotu Chiefs that came for the “Ime Uje” performed exceptionally well as they were conducted in the act of “Inaka” in their order of seniority.
First, the Iyase of Issele-Uku Kingdom known as the Traditional Prime Minister, Chief Innocent Etenmua Ashiedu, representing Ogbe-Ofu Village took the lead. He was praised as “Oyibo na nma”, a handsome whiteman. Of course as an American resident with a career in Aeronautics Engineering, he has done well for himself in family, business and love for the culture of his forebears.
The second Onotu Chief is the Okwalegwe of Issele-Uku Kingdom, Chief Dr. John Ochei representing Idumuinei Village. The Okwalegwe Chieftaincy Title was first given to Ochei Unewu as a brave and energetic young man who was a bosom friend of the then Prince Egbune. The young Prince had lobbied his father to appoint Ochei as the commander of the Issele-Uku troop that fought against another enemy community in a war. Due to his exploits that earned Issele-Uku victory in that war, Obi Usifo then bestowed the Title of Okwalegwe to Ochei and his offsprings in perpetuity. Chief John Ochei is the fourth in that lineage from Ochei to his son, Nwabunoh Ochei, to his grandson, Charles Chiemeke Ochei and now to another grandson, John Ochei. The current occupant is a retired Laboratory Technologist from the University College Hospital, UCH Ibadan, from where he moved to work at the University of Oman for years. He later returned to work with the Bowen University in Nigeria, and then Global Funds before joining the Babcock University, Ogun State as a Chief Lecturer.
The third is the Isama of Issele-Uku Kingdom, Chief Hon. Krees Njiokwuemeni, representing Idumuigwe. He is a renowned lawyer and former Majority Leader of the Delta State House of Assembly. His displays at the Inaka rituals would prove to you that he is indeed a warlord of repute.
The fourth is the Inene of Issele-Uku Kingdom, Chief Dr. Felix Nwani, representing Idumu-Ahaba Village. He also represented very well, being a son of the former Inene of Issele-Uku.
The fifth Onotu Chief in line is the Agujiegbe of Issele-Uku, Chief Sunday Gabriel Ebite representing the Ishiekpe Quarters of Umueze Issei Village. When you see his appearance, it is obvious he has things to do behind rifles. As a retired police chief, the title of the lion with the gun is befitting and he hasn’t been found wanting as he has been instrumental to the security of the town and control of the youths against the use of dangerous weapons.
The sixth Onotu Chief is the Esogba of Issele-Uku Kingdom, Chief Fidelis Jigide representing the Ogbeidibo Quarters of Umueze Issei Village. He is fondly called the dancing Chief and he has never failed to make the Ine Aho a fun to watch. Of course, his grandfather was the great Isagba of Issele-Uku in the days of Chief Nwalia, Chief Ufoegbune, Chief Charles Ochei and others.
The seventh Onotu Chief and last in line for the day is the Olotor of Issele-Uku Kingdom, Chief Ignatius memeh representing Idumu-Ahaba Village. He is an astute politician who is respected among his folks. He has shown enormous interest in the culture of Issele-Uku being an ancient kingdom with roots in Bini Monarchical Dynasty.
Take note that after the chiefs had paid homage to Obi Nduka, they moved round to share their fraternal greetings with their fellow chiefs who are palatial and social in nature and other dignitaries sitting inside the Uge as the show was on.
After the chiefs had done their part, then came the king who danced majestically to pay homage to his forebears at the Ishu Ani by the market square. On his return, he greeted his beautiful wife, Anasi-Obi Chukwudumebi Rosemary Nduka who had been dancing and eulogizing him along with other wives in the Royal family.
Dancing into the Palace, Obi Nduka retreated to prepare for the main moment – the moment of Igbu Agboh. The Ukpo (traditional seat) was also taken inside by the Isekute, meaning that he was done with the celebration inside the Uge for the day.
While the celebration was still ongoing outside, the next emergence of the Agbogidi was fierce and warlike. He appeared in red regalia in an obvious mood of war, wielding cutlass while the able bodied Igbebors and Idimes were close to prevent him from actual bloodshed.
Obi Nduka is indeed an enigma, Godsent and graced in all ramifications as a wise Royal Father and firm king. On his return from the Igbu Agboh, performed inside the Afor Market, he bade the people goodbye as he retired into his Chambers, calling it a day from his own end.
The Ine does not stop at this point but continues into the night and the next day. The beauty of the Ine Aho Festival is in the “Igba Ine” itself; an experience that is never wished to end.
However, the grandfinale of it all will happen on the 16th September, a day set aside for the final sacrifice and homage to the forebears of Issele-Uku at the Ishu Ani, known as Ishu Onicha. This is where the Palace, Honorary and Social chiefs will have their date to receive their own royal handshake from the king. The Onotu Chiefs who will come will be with the king as he performs the rites of the day.
The 2022 Ine Festival was indeed colourful, glamorous and resplendent as a result of the clemency of the weather. It was equally well attended with music at every corner and the dignitaries who graced it included the Odogwu of Obior representing the Obi of Obior, Chief Ike Odoe, the Ojioba of Issele-Uku Kingdom, Chief Barr. Mrs. Josephine Ada Kachikwu, the Ezinne of Issele-Uku Kingdom, Chief Sunday Monye, the Osodi of Issele-Uku Kingdom (one who guides and protects the Anasi-Obi), Chief David Siunoje, the Olikeze of Issele-Uku Kingdom, Chief (Barr.) Tony Nwabuotu, the Ide of Issele-Uku Kingdom, Chief Victor Egbune, the Inwengwe of Issele-Uku Kingdom, Chief Brian Odiakosa, the Osigie of Issele-Uku Kingdom, Chief Egbo Adigwe, the Chi-Obi of Issele-Uku Kingdom, Chief Uche Ngbanwa, the Ashi-Obi of Issele-Uku Kingdom.
Also gracing the colourful cultural event were, Hon. Engr. Emeka Emmanuel Nwaobi, Member of Delta State House of Assembly and PDP candidate for Aniocha North Constituency, Mr. Bazim Sally Biose, the APC candidate for Aniocha North Constituency, Prince Ibe Ozoma, CEO of Fidelity Fortunes Group of Companies, Prince Mike Akeh, a corporate czar, Mr. Chiedu Kogos (Marketing and Events Consultant), Mr. Onyeisi Mokogwu (National President of Issele-Uku Progressive Youth Association), Prince and Princess Mrs. Nwoko, Diokpa Frank Mordi and wife and others too numerous to mention.