By CHARLES KUMOLU
His Royal Majesty, Pere S.P. Luke Kalanama VIII’s story presents an interesting result of turning missed opportunity into a success story. This, he was able to achieve by making the right choices, especially at a point when his major dream of becoming a soldier failed after being interviewed by a board headed by a former Head of State, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd), who was then a Brigadier General. The power of focus and persistence are brought to bear in his narrative. Today, apart from being a famous traditional ruler, he has achieved success in his endavours.
ON background I am His Royal Majesty, Pere S.P. Luke Kalanama VIII (JP), the Pere of Akugbene-mein Kingdom, Bomadi Local Government Area. I am the 2nd Vice-Chairman, Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers. I was born in the mid-sixties in Akugbene town in Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State. I was educated at Awobu Primary School Akugbene, and Akugbene Grammar School, Akugbene. Thereafter, I proceeded to Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Nkpolu, Port Harcourt, Rivers State and graduated with a Bachelor of Science, Biology (Zoology). I have an M.Sc degree in Corporate Governance from the prestigious Leeds Metropolitan University, now Leeds Beckett University, United Kingdom.
Were there turning points at some point in your life and what are the relevant lessons you think can be drawn from them?
The turning point at the early stage of my life was the death of my father when I was eight years, and being the last child out of 11 children, it aroused my curiosity concerning my environment. It happened because I found myself as a child without a father. I also saw the need to go the extra mile to ensure that I become a better person in the future and the lessons from that event made me to become humble in the society and to also strive to work harder and become circumspect in my utterances and dealings with other kids.
There was also another event that happened when I was in Primary School where my mother had an altercation with my school teacher because of her inhuman treatment of the pupils in the class. Because of that, the teacher refused to attend to any of my issues in classes. Thus, her attitude towards me emboldened me to take my studies more seriously in order to get promoted to the next class. One other remarkable achievement in my primary school days was that when I was in Primary five, my exceptional good character and self-esteem endeared me to my Head Master, Mr. Omoni, who personally approached my mother to allow me to stay with him at the school staff quarters for the rest of my primary school. These events helped me to have that self-discipline and that propelled me to strive for excellence. These were some of the things that shaped my life.
While striving to become this significant, were there people who inspired you or yours is a self-made story? ?
My mother is one of those who inspired me. After the death of my father, my mother single-handedly raised me and also worked assiduously to mold me into becoming a great person in the future. And being a trader, she inculcated those virtues of entrepreneurship skills which were further put into use after my secondary school days. Also worthy of mention is Alawei Joseph Tubodei Penawou (JP), who as a childhood friend and schoolmate in both primary and secondary school. He played a significant role in my life and was a source of inspiration. When I ascended the throne in 1997, HRM Obi (DR.) Emmanuel Efeizomor OON (JP), the Obi of Owa Kingdom, Chairman Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers saw the uniqueness in me and drew me closer to himself and began the role of mentorship by creating the enabling environment for me to excel as a Traditional Ruler. The present Governor of Delta State, his predecessors, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and Chief James Ibori also afforded me the platform to exhibit the leadership qualities in me by assigning responsibilities to me at the state level which enabled me to show my potentials.
What are the key standards of behaviour that brought you this far and how did you apply them?
They include hard work, dedication, honesty, integrity. All my life, I have always strived to be dedicated and committed to any responsibility assigned to me either as a group or as an individual. The urge to do the best has always been my source of inspiration. I am a goal getter, a bridge builder. As a result of my guiding principles I always strived to ensure that whenever responsibilities are handed to me, I try as much as possible to get the best out of me to achieve success. For me, failure is never an option.
Tell us about your journey to royalty
First, while growing up, I never knew I was going to be a traditional ruler someday. My desire in life had been to become a military officer and that propelled me to write the Nigerian Defence Academy exams in 1988 and 1989. In 1989, I was shortlisted for the 42nd regular course interview by the Armed Forces selection board in Kaduna for the one-month selection process in July of that year. General Abdulsalam Abubakar, former Head of State, who was then a Brigadier, was the chairman of the selection board. At that time Navy Captain Porbeni was also a member of that board.
I could not make the list at the final selection, hence I proceeded to the University in 1990. In 1995, my predecessor passed on to join his ancestors. Even then I never knew I was going to ascend the throne, until 1997, when Nicholas Mutu, OFR, who was the then Chairman, Bomadi Local Government Area summoned the king makers in line with the Gazette and gave them a time frame to select a successor to the throne. I was undergoing my one-year mandatory National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) in Jigawa State when I was called upon to contest for the throne since it was the turn of my ruling house to produce the successor to the throne. It was on this premise that I indicated interest to contest and was subsequently selected to ascend to the throne as Pere Kalanama VIII.
Frankly speaking, the task of providing good leadership as a traditional ruler wasn’t an easy task because it was a different terrain altogether, but because I grew up in a village setting and more so I was actively involved in the traditional means of dispute resolution which was more or less a springboard to my success story. I would not have recorded so much success in my nearly 20 years of reign if not for the Almighty God who has imbued me with the wisdom of King Solomon. All glory and honour should be to the Almighty God. It was quite painful not joining the military because it had always been my dream. At that time I had relatives, who were in the military and I looked forward to joining them.
My elder brother, who was a Captain then retired as a Colonel. You know when you have a childhood dream which didn’t come true. Since it did not work out, I accepted it that it was not God’s purpose for me.
There are some misconceptions about traditional institution in the country. How are you ensuring that you make a better difference away from such misconceptions?
Misconceptions are all part of governance. It all depends on your perspective about the traditional institution. Yes, it is true that most traditional institutions are intertwined with idol worshipping and in most cases, they are occupied by native doctors, and so also, some have links with deities, but most traditional rulers today have changed that narrative by submitting their kingdoms to the Almighty God, and that accounts for the building of churches in most of the Palaces in the Southern part of the Country.
Take for instance, in my Palace, the 30th day of December every year is declared as an All Night of Prayers, praise and worship to God Almighty to herald us into the proceeding year. This is aside other Christian programs organised in the Palace within the year. Suffice to say that the modus operandi differs from one palace to another. Virtually, about 80 percent of traditional rulers in Delta State have all embraced God Almighty because He is the King of Kings.
This is one area that gladdened the immediate past Governor and also the present Governor, who in virtually every fora can barely subsume his excitement that the Traditional Rulers in the State have fully acknowledged Jesus Christ as the King of Kings.
Are there things about yourself which you have never told anyone that you may want to share with us?
Laughs. Absolutely none, because if there is anything about myself which I cannot share with my family, then there is no point sharing such with the public.
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
God has placed me in a position where I’m able to provide for the needy in the society. Particularly, the Palace yearly scholarship program for both junior and senior secondary school students in my Kingdom that was orchestrated and inaugurated in 2012 has been my most exciting achievement. The fact that I am providing quality leadership and good governance to my subjects is another achievement. As a Traditional Ruler, I now interact with most of the notable and highly respected Traditional Rulers in the country which I used to read about back then in my primary and secondary school days, for instance, King Jaja of Opobo, the Alaafin of Oyo, the Sultan of Sokoto, the Oba Benin Kingdom, etc. This is yet another significant achievement for me. Due to my vibrancy, vision and constructive ideas which rise above chauvinism, I have been elected to hold some key positions. I was nominated to represent the Traditional Rulers in the WAEC Board between 2004-2006. I was also a member of the Federal Government Amnesty Programme between 2010 and 2011; Member of the Delta State Task Force on the Movement of Cattle and Cattle Rearers (2014-2015); Member, Delta State Boundary Adjustment Committee (2016); Member, South-South Monarchs Forum (2011 to date); Member National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN); Member Delta State Interim Advisory Committee of Traditional Rulers (2002-2006);Past National Secretary, Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCON) and also past Secretary, Delta State Ijaw Traditional Rulers Forum. In all these positions attained, my performance has been most remarkable. In the history of TROMPCON, no other past secretary recorded such success as I achieved.