By Austin Ogwuda
Virtue is the one and only nobility, according to Juvenal, a Roman poet. That was what flashed through my mind when an 88 year-old monarch, Obi James Ikechukwu Anyasi II, the Obi of the ancient kingdom of Idumeje-Unor in Aniocha North local government area of Delta State began to share the secret behind his longevity, why he is waxing stronger day by day despite his age.
It was indeed, very clear that imbibing the right virtues in life is a leading path to stardom. As this reporter saw him bending down like a teenager while digging into his archives without optical aid for relevant literature materials about himself and the kingdom, shuttling from one place to the other in such an alacrity, shortly before the commencement of this interview, the inquisitive mind has no choice than to commence this way:
Your Royal Majesty, what really is the secret of your longevity?
The secret of my longevity is that since I was enthroned, I tried to be very careful with myself. In the olden days, traditional rulers used to marry many wives and from there, getting many wives became a stress in life. I avoided that. I never married many wives. I have only two wives, one is late and I have only one now. I am not a drunkard. I don’t drink, I avoid those things that can stress somebody. I don’t think much , I don’t think about riches. I just keep myself as God created me.
Doing all these made me to be much younger. But before then, I have to come back to say that when I was installed the Obi of Idumuje-Unor on the 9th of October 1946, I was already a Christian . But by the time I came into the throne, they started to drag me into idol worship. I managed to follow them up to 1958 and then, I decided to tell the community that I won’t be serving two gods. I want to follow one God.
The old palace which they built for many years, when my father died the palace was deserted. It became a bush but when I was installed, it was there that they made a throne for me. They asked me to move away from that place to come down to this area ( present palace) because of the evils they have done there.
I actually decided to follow one God and I told God that if I remove idol worship in that palace and keep it aside, God should renew me to start life again. I called Christian pastors and they helped me to remove them. After removing them from that place which was forbidden, I started to build a church there. And since then, God actually started to renew me.
Are you saying that you single handedly embarked on the building of the church at the old palace site?
Yes, but people are helping me. It is a chapel just closer to the old palace. Because I handed over to God, God started to make things to be better than when I was worshipping idol.
Wasn’t there opposition from at least some of your chiefs who were not willing to give up idol worship?
There was nothing like opposition because I didn’t deprive anybody from worshiping his own god. Before I did it , I called a town’s meeting and told them. In fact, this book I gave to you entitled, ‘The Dawn of a New Era’ says it all. There was no opposition.
What do you think would be the role of traditional rulers as amendment into the 1999 Constitution is about to be carried out?
Yes, in the South-South Monarch Forum, I was made the chairman to say something about the changing of the Constitution. I made a remark that traditional rulers during the colonial era were given a chance in Government. But since the presidential system , it never gave room to traditional rulers. We are now saying that the Federal Government should give them a place.
They should give us a place and maintain us because before the colonial masters came, we were the government, we were everything. With the colonial masters gone, politicians relegated us to the background; even though some traditional rulers used to go and lobby and find their way but that is not the proper thing in this country.
On quest for creation of Anioma State ?
I don’t believe in dividing the power. Why I am saying this is that after my installation in 1946, in 1950, myself and the late Oba of Benin were chosen by the colonial masters to go to a meeting at Ibadan to discuss the welfare of traditional rulers that time. We went in the name of Benin province. It was only myself and the late Oba of Benin, no other person.
In 1959 too, I went to Obas and Chiefs conference which was published in Southern Nigerian Defender. The Oba whom I went with to Obas and Chiefs conference have gotten their own states. Why can’t we get our own state? Being the second longest reigning king in the whole world, can’t they give me that right and honour. They should give me that right. I want a State, Anioma State .
From my interaction with one of your subjects, Chuks Egbe, I understand you want to embark on foreign trips to further broaden your horizon on cross culture. Which of the countries do you intend visiting?
Yes, it is true, I have decided because I have toured parts of Nigeria . This time now, I am preparing to go outside the country. Even the Queen of England, all the celebrations I have been doing, I used to invite her. My last invitation of 65 years on the throne was passed through the embassy. I have to go first of all to where there is monarchy. I will like to visit the King of Thailand which I am second to even though he is not well.
Can you please tell us the advantage of the monarchical system and other traditional systems of government?
The advantage is that where you have , monarchy , it’s just like the Queen, you know all the powers she has. If you come to Nigeria where you have monarchy in place , they have very good respect. They respect it more than where traditional rulers are appointed and rotated and whatever manner. But a hereditary system is more comfortable to the community.
How can dignity be restored to the traditional stool, what is really your advice to your colleagues?
Some of my colleagues don’t respect themselves. For instance, as I am saying now, some of them go about fighting to get contracts. Why should a traditional ruler be looking for money that way. It’s a shame. This will now make them to be insulated.
The advice I have for them is that everybody should mind his domain. Communities should not go against a traditional ruler recognized by government and dethrone him. That is an abomination . I have heard of some of the communities where they are making trouble that they dethrones this one, appointed another. That is condemnable.