Prof. turned monarch takes on traditionalists: ‘The vain moves to dethrone me!’

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•Obuzor of Ibuzor says Africa’s greatest problem is inferiority complex
•JSS II students in my community were unable to read ABC’

By Emmanuel Fejokwu

THE Obuzor of Ibuzor, Oshimili North Local Council, Delta State, Obi (Prof.) Louis Chelunor Nwoboshi, spoke to Sunday Vanguard against the backdrop of his alleged dethronement. He described the allegations against him as the handiwork  of his opponents.  The monarch also spoke on other issues. Excerpts:

As an academic, a professor, you seem not to have been involved in local politics of Ibuzor. How were you made the Obuzor?
On the approval of Obuzor of Ibuzor stool on May 20, 1995 by the then Delta State governor, Group Captain Ibrahim Kefas, the first Obuzor was zoned to my ruling house. At that time, I was lecturing at the University of Ibadan. Immediately after the announcement, I was inundated with calls and visits from friends and relations informing me that the youths and elders of my community had resolved that I should be the one.

The call to be the Obuzor of Ibuzor was essentially unanimous as captured by a correspondence between my ruling house, the Otu Odogwu,  and Ibuzor kingmakers: “That although the guidelines specify that four candidates will be presented to the kingmakers, we the entire members of the Otu Odogwu citizenry accepted to present only one, unanimously elected, in the person of Prof. Louis Chelunor Nwoboshi, an Nkpalor titled man.

He is ready to take the Eze title during the process of enthronement.” The subsequent election of the kingmakers in which 25 out of 26 voted for me with one abstention is another testimony.

Soon after your coronation, there were some challenges, criticisms and attempts to unseat you. How did you cope, given the difference between the university system and the traditional way of doing things?
I was most welcomed by the community. Even the then state governor marveled at the unanimity of the community. The only challenge which reared its head on the 12th day after the coronation came from those who were benefiting from the gerontocratic system, surrogating for the Diokpa, the oldest man in the community.

The proceedings of the commission of inquiry, which preceded the creation of the Obuzor institution, showed that some of them had been in opposition to the proposition to have the Obuzor system replace the Diokpa system. One of them punished members of the committee that sent the proposal to government. He followed that up with a counter petition to government not to create the new system.

He wanted to retain the gerontocratic system where the traditional ruler was the oldest man to the next oldest person in the community. I later came to understand that he had since 1985, when he was the spokesman for his uncle, made a proposal to Bendel State government to approve for him the position of Okwuluoha (spokesman-general) for all senior Diokpas, irrespective of the ruling houses from where the traditional ruler may come from and so replace the then situation where each new senior Diokpa selected his spokesman.

He argued his position at the inquiry but was credited with only 7% as against 93% of the proponents of the change to the new Obuzor system which sought to reduce the age of succession to the traditional rulership. With this result, the government answered the prayers of Ibuzor community that the age of the traditional ruler be reduced and that the erstwhile traditional ruler or senior Diokpa position be converted to a traditional chieftaincy position with some defined functions.

On board
As I said above, the call was unanimous from all the sides and shades of opinion of my ruling house and was also accepted by Ibuzor kingmakers. Unrelenting, however, the Diokpa spokesman vowed to see that the new institution was brought down; before it took root as was done to the first king of the community, Ezesi. Exploiting the emotion of the masses, he dished out accusations on what the Obuzor had done wrongly in his 12 days of reign.

However, I remember that during my acceptance speech, I had, more or less, prophesized that I was engaging on a social re-engineering that was not going to be an easy task and, on the coronation ground, the governor had warned: ‘I am engaging on a seriou experiment which if successful would pave the way for those communities in Delta State that are still using the gerontocratic system to move on to something much more modern.’

I therefore was determined not to engage in rhetorics with him but to attempt to lay a solid foundation through documentations so that the gimmicks he is using today would not be repeated by people like him to my successor.

As a result of his action, I have written a book entitled: Obuzor Dynasty – the birth and the teething problems, emanating from his antics. I have also gathered, for the interest of those who care to read, about 20 different tissues of lies and falsehood, he used to orchestrate his so called Obuzor crisis,as there was no crisis other than what he was generating and answering, to carry the people along, in Obuzor Crisis: Matters Arising.

In addition to the documentation, the case was taken to court and was decided at the Supreme Court in favour of the new institution. Today, based on his antics, we have got about eight documents in the Obuzor institution. With them these detractors will not only be known to the present but also to future generations of Ib’uzor community as guides to avoid such distractions.

Away from traditional matters, how do you feel leaving the university environment and what’s your view on the current educational system vis-à-vis graduate unemployment?
My opinion is that every conceivable problem we have in this country today is attributable to education, bad or wrong education. On arrival in my community, I was shocked to find 110 out of 180 pupils in JSS II in public schools were unable to read ABCD to Z let alone form two or three letter-words.  But after two to three weeks of remedial teaching they could not only read ABCD but could spell any word that was properly pronounced.

This indicated that something must be wrong somewhere in our school system. Our small demonstration also showed that the fault was not with the pupils but in the manner in which they were taught. My studies in the last one or two decades here appear to show that the lack of reading habit as well as the exam malpractices in our schools are symptoms of the wrong systems of child upbringing or education.

Here in Nigeria we confuse literacy for education; are they the same?  Literacy is the ability to read and write, the symbols that represent sounds, be it in English, Greek,  Arabic or Chinese language. On the contrary, education is a learning process through which the basic knowledge of the environment, skills and habits that influence the development and welfare of group of people are transferred from one generation to another by teaching, apprenticeship or by self-tutoring.

Education conveys wisdom while literacy is a vehicle to acquire education but not education itself. Education is also not an English upbringing process. It is universal and used in every culture to learn the life support system, the history, traditions and human relationship in one’s environment or life zone which are basic to acquisition of more global scientific and technological education.

Nations that equate literacy with education have already scripted their life history, their life support system and processes before they could rely on reading as a means of learning and it is only in such countries that their children can learn about their  environment and their life history through books. Nigeria is not yet one of them.
Oral traditions in Nigeria show that upbringing before the advent of schools or before 1914 involved inculcating in the child, right from birth, a good dose of knowledge in humanity, supremacy of God, the father and the various components of life support system, their  working processes and management systems through association or apprenticeship.

The youths then learn how to interact with people, how to grow, and harvest, process, transport and market useful components for their welfare. This was the form of upbringing or education Africans had from time immemorial to about 1900. With this method, the youth, by the time he is ready to start his own life, has become well equipped with sufficient ideas on how to get on with life in his environment.

Today, youths produced from our school system have not found their feet, they are mainly groomed to weigh and measure, buy and  sell. They are ill-equipped with little or no ideas on the production, processing and transportation of what they are marketing.

We are producing youths that have global perspectives with little or no foundation in our life zones be it marine, forest, savannah, grassland or the mountain, in our country. Lamentations of how our leaders are pleased to see the nation floating while other nations come in to tell us what we have in our backyard and how to exploit and make use of them or dump whatever pleases them on us, all because of the wrong upbringing or system they have adopted, is the subject of my recent publication entitled, ‘Awake O Africa, Your Skyscraper is an illusion.’

This call through Awake O’Africa is limited to education and youth upbringing, bearing in mind that education policies are products of political ideology.

How do you rate politics and political development, democratic and Africans democratic consensus in Nigeria?
My constituency is more in education than in politics and as I said earlier all our problems including political ones are hinged on the quality of our education. More specifically, your question on politics and political development, democracy versus Africans democratic consensus is wonderful. In as much as I am not a partisan politician, I know that polity in our own context in the Nigerian nation and the states and local government areas are sub and sub-polities of this great nation.

Politics also  is the scramble for power to manage the resources of the polity at any of these levels. The scramble is based on some ideological strategies on how best to achieve the development of that polity.
Today I do not need to be an expert to see that the politics of this nation is not based on any ideology that people will base their choice or preference of one group compared to the other and there is no way a nation will entertain over three dozen different ideological strategies.

So, real ideological party politics is yet to start in Nigeria.In similar vein, we have adopted democracy in place of oligarchy or dictatorship as our form of government system. Democracy is said to be government of the people, for the people, by the people, which in the Nigerian context should mean the laws (government) of Nigeria made by Nigerians and for the welfare of Nigerians. Again, we are yet to have this.

So far, we have been copying the laws developed under the British or the American experience and trying to tinker with them to suit our situation simply because we misunderstood what adopting Western education means.
The lack of originality of our Constitution has reduced it to a subject of constant review. At the age of 40 years in  2000, the Nigerian Constitution had been reviewed five times or at eight yearly intervals and, thereafter, it has been pastime with every regime of  government.

The British Constitution, derived from their own life experience, has been there almost from time immemorial with little or no major amendments, which underscores the fact that until we have a Constitution that is indigenous to us derived from our own experiences, constitutional instability will continue to be our watchword.

What we have is called Western democracy in contrast with what existed in Africa and still exists at the traditional institution called the African Democratic Consensus. The Western democracy is a majoritan government as the majority wins and the minority views are lost. In African democracy, there is no victor, no vanquished on any issue as most issues are concluded by a compromise solution between the majority views and the minority views.


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