The 12th Obi of Nsukwa, in Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State, Kenneth Ezegbunem I, tells OCHEI MATTHEW about his experience on the throne and why he erected a statue of Jesus Christ in his palace
How would you describe your experience on the throne as the traditional ruler of Nsukwa?
Well, I have had ups and downs as somebody who God has enthroned as the king. It has been full of experience and many things. But I thank God today that I am doing fine. I have been on the throne for over 10 years. God is wonderful and I’m doing fine. My kingdom is also doing fine.
What has been the most interesting part of being the monarch?
In some Kingdom, you won’t see the things you can see here; that is the most important thing that I have achieved. Also, God taking me into consideration, controlling me and guarding my kingdom have been important to me. For me, that is the most important thing. Apart from that, every other thing is secondary because when God is in charge, other things you need will follow suit.
What were you doing before you became the traditional ruler?
I was a teacher and also a footballer. I left the classroom to become the traditional ruler of my kingdom.
How much do you miss your old life?
Well, it is part of life. The life of a crown prince is full of ups and downs, crisis and so on. You cannot compare it with being on the throne. So, there is a difference. I do tell my people to thank God that what I suffered for is what I inherited today. So, it is not easy. I was a teacher and I left classroom to become a monarch. I am a graduate of Business Accounting. But in all, today is better than yesterday.
Jesus Christ is wonderful! You see, I was a drunkard when I came to the throne. I was a drunkard. I used to drink around 2010, 2011 and 2012 before God said ‘my friend, do away with drinking, let me show you road’. And since then, no alcohol, not even a drink with 1% alcohol, can ever enter my mouth. That is even why my colleagues call me Pastor, Bishop, this and that, but I thank God I don’t drink again.
What has been the secret of your strength as your responsibilities are many?
God has been my source of strength. The Bible says for by strength shall no man prevail. His word has been sustaining and directing me since I encountered Him.
What have been your biggest challenges since you became the ruler?
Oh my God! You see, my biggest challenges in the community are the people who want to control the king. In a community, a new king will come to the throne, people will make him their king, and they will still want to pull him down. Do you know why? They want him to be like them. For instance, for 10 years, I have not worshipped anything but God. So why do you think I will join you to worship something else that you are worshipping? I know that the God we are worshipping today is a jealous God. And He told me that He created me in His image and He asked me to take dominion. That means everything is under me. If God could give me that and I agreed to follow him, it means that any other person talking about anything contrary to that is on his own. So those were the things they fought me about. But they failed. For 10 years, I have been watching them and there is no shrine they worship in this community apart from annual festival (Uje Festival). It is only celebration I do here. But this year, because God did many things for me, I erected a statue of Jesus Christ in my palace to tell the world that I worship him. That was on January 20, 2019. I don’t worship idols and I will never worship them in my life. Jesus Christ is the man I call the planner and executor, the Alfa and Omega. This year, I don’t want to go far to be looking for God, so I brought God into my palace.
How have you been able to ensure that there is peace in Nsukwa?
Yes, like I said, I don’t worship idols. There is something they call division of labour. When I came in, I had to delegate responsibilities to the chiefs, to say I put you in charge of this and I put in charge that. So, if there are any issues, they will come and complain to me and we will put heads together to solve the problems. If there is no peace in any community, that community is in trouble. And before peace can reign, there must be security. So, I have a standby security team that always ensures that there is peace. Whoever wants to cause trouble can be arrested and brought to the palace to be cautioned. So there is peace in Nsukwa kingdom today.
What is the history of Nsukwa?
The people that settled at Nsukwa migrated from Benin Kingdom and first settled in Umunede in search of a peaceful environment to stay. They stayed at Umunede for a while and left for Kwale, but couldn’t find peace there as the heat was too much to bear. Then they later moved to Uso-Ukwa (beside breadfruit tree), where they found peace and settled at where is known today as Nsukwa Kingdom. I am the 12th Obi of the kingdom.
In terms of culture and tradition, what are some of the unique things about Nsukwa?
Well, you heard me when I said before that there are no peculiar things here. The statue that my father erected in front of the palace is called Nnem-omai. When I look at it; I think it is so embarrassing. I am not worshipping it. Why should it remain there? So I have to remove it. And if there is any specific culture, I’m the custodian of culture. I have to appoint the people that can be in charge of culture and tradition perfectly on their own or even advise them that if there is a need for innovation, we should do that because any community without culture and tradition is finished.
What kind of life did you have while growing up as a prince or someone who would one day become a ruler?
There were three things my father told me: one, he said I should be wary of women. Two, he said that I should be careful with money and three; he said I should also be careful with land. So when I was growing up, I didn’t get involved in anything criminal. I was once a footballer and my father told me that if I broke my leg, I would never become a king because it is hereditary. Even after me, it is my first son, who is not living with me, that will take over or succeed me. The first son or crown prince cannot live with the king or even spend one night under the same roof together; that is our tradition. Even me, I was living like I had no father and no mother. It was just me and my God; it was God directing me in all I did. Even before I became a teacher, I went to a teachers’ training college and later went to federal college, where I got my Nigeria Certificate in Education. If I had someone to train me, I would have been able to further my education. So many things happened when I was growing up, but today I give God all the glory. After the training, I was able to come to the throne.
Did you receive special favours or get away with things because of your royal lineage?
The reward I got as a prince was before I came in. Everyone in the community was saying ‘this is our crown prince; this is the man to be crowned as the new king’. So before I came, they had gone to Ogwashi-Uku where I was teaching to get all my belongings down to the palace. It was recognition. After all my suffering, my people from the village came to ask me to come and be the king after my father passed on.
We often hear that the traditional rites for new kings involve a lot of rituals, what was your experience?
That is true, but when I came in, we had what we call statue chairs (Ojukpo), which are moulded for kings to sit on. My father built those things but because I didn’t know what he used in moulding them, I ordered that they should be destroyed and that a new one should be built. My coming is also about embracing God. He brought me in. God told me in my dream that He made me the King of Nsukwa. He talked to me in the dream. He said, “I have made you King of Nsukwa, what are you going to do for me?” So I said God, I will open a chapel for you and worship you. So now, you can see the chapel I built for God in the palace. I have now erected a statue of Jesus Christ to replace the one my father built, which I don’t know anything about and cannot worship.
Can you talk about the traditional rites you performed before ascending the throne?
I did not perform any ritual or make sacrifices, not one, and I will never perform anything like that. Like I said before, I removed all the deities in the palace and took them to the river because I cannot serve two masters. He is a jealous God and I have already followed Him. One with God is a majority.
What festivals are celebrated in Nsukwa and what significance do they have?
We celebrate Uje Festival, which is our annual festival. There is no shrine where people in the community go to make sacrifices. During the festival, we dance and dance. That is just the significance.
What are the taboos in your community?
Yes, the only taboo we have is when somebody dies, for the corpse to become swollen is a taboo. It will be taken away to the evil forest for burial. But as a community, we are still looking at how we can amend it.
Recently, Delta State has been in the news for something bad – alleged stealing of ladies’ pants. How bad is the problem?
It is a big problem in our society today. I will advise parents to be extremely careful with the raising of their female children. Sometimes, some of our girls are careless; they have many friends and they don’t really know the friends they go out with. It is terrible to have such stories in our communities. I don’t know where we are going as a people. For some people to be using other people’s pants to make money is a bad omen. So, the advice I will give them is to be careful and the advice also applies to married women. Women and their daughters should be careful so that they will not become victims.
What is being done about it?
Nothing! It is getting worse every day.
Why do you think the state is one of the places where the problem is considered as rampant?
It is not only happening in Delta State, it is happening everywhere; other states have the same story.
What are the things you cannot do as a king?
Like I said before, I used to drink, smoke, go to parties, and do many bad things but I cannot do those things again. Now, you cannot see me drinking or see me in a beer parlour. And before, wherever I went, once it was late, I would stay there until the following morning but now I must return to my palace, no matter what.
How has your dressing changed since you ascended the throne?
My dressing has changed as a monarch but sometimes, I dress as an accountant. When you see me, you will not know I’m a monarch. So my dressing is okay.
What are the things you used to enjoy doing but now miss doing because you became a traditional ruler and can no longer do them?
I used to play football but now, I cannot do that again. I love playing football.
How did you meet your wife?
Well, you know that a king does not just see a woman and marries her. It takes a lot of time. This is unlike in those days when a king would see a beautiful lady and marry her immediately.
What attracted you to her?
What attracted me to my wife was truthfulness. I am a truthful person. I hate lies.
Since traditional rulers are restrained from doing many things, how do you relax?
Yes, I relax is in the palace. You can see that when you got here, a lot of people were waiting for me. After attending to them, I relax with my family and take some juice. I love my family so much. If it was when I was drinking, I would go to a bar and refresh but that era is gone because Christ now lives in me.