Back to Top
Onitsha Kingdom is endowed with a rich cultural history and unique Kingship and Traditional Institution like their Benin Ancestors, which dates back to the 16th Century (about 600 years ago).
The Obi of Onitsha Kingdom occupies the highest position in the entire length and breadth of the Kingdom. As the Grand Custodian of the rich Onitsha customs and traditions, the Onitsha Monarch is invested with the powers of intercession and meditation between the living, the ancestors and the gods.
As a natural ruler, Obi is regarded as first among equals and maintains a delicate balance between tradition and modernity.
The Institution of Obiship is essentially mystic. And in the word of R.W. Harding of the famous Harding’s Report on Onitsha Obiship Tussle of the 60’s, wrote inter alia, “The Obi embodies all virtues and is regarded as symbol of purity. He combines in his person some of the attributes of a King, some of an arch Priest and some of a god. He is not one, nor the other. He is something of the three: a protector and the president of an ancient cult whose mysteries are elaborate and still largely unexplored”.
The Obi is a King with divine assignment and is regarded as a sacrificed victim and an object of atonement. The aspiration to the revered, sacred and sacrosanct stool of Obiship is limited to only those who belong to the Umuezechima Royal Dynasty which is made up of mainly ‘Okebunabo’ and ‘Umuezearoli’. While, the ‘Ugwunaobamkpa’ is renowned to be the only clan to present the Obi with ‘Offor’ (Staff of Office) which is the symbol of Authority in Onitsha Kingdom from time immemorial.
A Monarch of outstanding distinction, the Obi is held in high esteem. It was considered taboo in those days for an Obi to go beyond his palace. He would not receive or talk with mortals directly but through the palace go-between.
Obi’s palace popularly called ‘Ime Obi’ is the seat of power in Onitsha Kingdom. It is regarded as a sacred place. Visitors to the Royal Court as a sign of honour and respect to the Monarch must remove some certain gears like certain types of caps and charms to avoid a boomerang effect.
The Onitsha Monarch is regarded as a fountain of justice. He cannot be deposed, does no evil, touches no unclean thing (so, is never wrong and owns the final decision).
Thus, the Obi’s Royal Power is dressed in so many appellations that depict the mythical concepts of his deity. These extreme terms of old are used today purely in symbolic terms due to modernity that has overtaken such power.
‘Igwe’: implies His Highness, His Royal Majesty. In Igbo language ‘Igwe’ means sky or firmament meaning the Obi is above everyone, hence His Majesty is shown in a nature that is celestial.
‘Muo’: The ever-knowing spirit with mystical powers who by initiation symbolizes life and death.
‘Agbogidi’: The voice of thunder. As such, he is regarded as one who hardly angers or one without anger.
‘Onye Nwe Obodo’: The supreme and maximum ruler and owner of Onitsha. The custodian of the people’s rich tradition, customs and prosperity.
‘Aka M’elu Igbo’: The commander of the victorious Onitsha army or warriors.
‘Ogbuefi’: One who initiates ceremony by the killing of a cow.
‘Ogbu Onye Mbosi Ndu N’aguia’: One who can judge life during time of extreme pleasures and joy. An arbiter of who shall live.
‘Ogbondu N’eli Ntu’: The fire-eating canon that devours gun power.
‘Aka Enyi ka Olu Ukwu’ia’: The hand of the elephant that is stronger than its hinds.
‘Okwusie Obee’: The one with the final decision, the ultimate judge.
The administrative structure of Onitsha kingdom is hierarchical and headed by the Obi with well spelt out responsibilities shared amongst the different levels of the Obi’s cabinet made up of three different ranks of Chiefs, ‘Ndichie’.
In the ancient times, the ‘Ndichies’ were warriors whose role then were defence and advisory taken stock of the fact that the Obi does no wrong and thus cannot be corrected.
By Onitsha customary practice, they are the traditional red cap and recognized chiefs as well as traditional political heads of the various clans to which they belong.
They are categorized into three groups each with its own level of authority within the kingdom.
The category of ‘Ndichie Ume’ consists of senior Chiefs and is top in rank in the Obi’s cabinet.
They are six in number: Onowu, (Iyasele; Onuiyi; Ngadaba; Orumili), Ajie (Isagba; Ukadiugwu; Ide jiogu), Odu (Osodi; Nkataukwu), Onya (Ozoma; Ukanagbaoji; Asakalakpobi), Ogene (Onira; Ukpaka) and Owelle (Osowa; Anya). Their symbolic characteristics epitomize Chieftaincy. They possess the royal orchestra, ‘Egwu Ota’.
The ‘Ndichie Okwa’ is the second group. They traditionally comprise of thirty Chiefs and can be substitute for the senior Chiefs in their absence. These includes: A Ndichie Ukpo; Osuma (Ma; Akankposi) Adazie (Ogulani; Alibo), Omodi (Daike; Alumaga), Ozi (Odamagwe; Ogwuya), Odua (Ngu; Alamuzo). Others are: Akpe (Olodi;Jebogwu), Ede (Ogbugbugaga), Ojudo (Enema), Ike (Nkpuma) Ozizani (Obi), Ojiba (Inwagwe), Oboli (Boja), Gbosa (Obi), Ojiabu (Ugala), Ogbuoba (Anyalagbom) Ozizani (Dei), Ojogwi (Eze), Omodi Obele (Eze), Odua (Balala), Osuma Obele (Ogwa), Ojiede (Eze), Odu (Oke), Obioba, Okwuagwe.
The ‘Ndichie Okwaraeze’ are junior Chiefs who are more fully in the Obi’s service. They are: Onoli (Ogwuada Na Iyele), Akwe (Isama), Eseagba (Agbala Udobi), Agba (Oriogu), Igwuoba (Akalam), Asagwali (Omeikpo), Ojiba (Ogbuagada), Ijagwo (Obi), Ajako (Obi), Uboh (Negbasele), Asagba (Obi), Agba (Obele), Isama (Osuji), Onika, Ike (Obele), Okwuagwo, Ajako, Unwolu, Oza, Ojugani, Ogbaiko, Igedu, Abi.
The activities of the ‘Ndichie’ are moderated by ‘Diokpas’ who are spiritual heads, thus providing safe value against autocracy. This has from time immemorial provided guidance to the Obi-in-Council, offered wise counsel as well as encouraged participation in the art of governance from all spheres of the Kingdom.
Prominent traditional institutions such as the ‘Agbalanze Onitsha’ and the ‘Otu Odu’ also exist within the Kingdom’s socio-cultural setting.
The ‘Agbalanze’ is an ancient institution for men who have excelled in society. They are known for the plumes (eagle feathers) adoring their hand woven caps while the ‘Otu Odu’ is ornaments worn on their wrists and ankles.
Another vital hierarchy within the polity is the Age-grade Societies. It is an association of men and women born about the same period usually three year interval.
Since the founding of Onitsha Kingdom, the baton of succession has been passed through 21 Onitsha Sovereigns namely: Obi (Eze) Chima, mid-16th Century; Obi Oreze, 16th-17th Century; Obi Chimaevi, 17th Centruy; Obi Chimukwu, 17th Century; Obi Chimaezi, 17th Century; Obi Nafia, 17th Century; Obi Tasia, 17th Centruy; Obi Eze Aroli, 17th-18th Century; Obi Chimaedia, 18th Century; Obi Omozele, 18th Century; Obi Ezeolisa, 18th Century; Obi Ijelekpe, 18th-19th Century; Obi Udogwu, about 1820; Obi Akazue, 1840-1873; Obi Diali, 1873-1874; Obi Anazonwu, 1874-1899; Obi Samuel Okosi, 1901-1931; Obi James Okosi, 1935-1961; Obi Joseph Okwudili Onyejekwe, 1962-1970, Obi Okechwuku Okagbue, 1970-2001 and the current monarch, Obi Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe, 2002 to date.