By Emeka Esogbue
Although the award has come and gone, PEN MASTER, in this story, brings you the details of everything you need to know about the rich and colorful ceremony held in the ancient Okpanam community with niceties inside the Obi Martha Dunkwu Palace, Delta State, Nigeria. Incidentally, not everyone knows that it was a two-packed event the Global Icon of African Cultural Heritage Award and the Niger Delta Peace Ambassador Award both as UN-related.
The “African Diaspora Living Legend Award” especially, is an international honour inspired by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution. The ceremony was to be held in Germany but shifted to the Anioma community of Okpanam to enable the Omu to observe her yearly New Yam Festival celebration. Notable guests and dignitaries from Anioma and beyond started to arrive at the venue as early as possible to participate in the event. Since it was an international event with UN recognition, the programme started with the nation’s National Anthem and was soon followed by an opening prayer said by Mr. Charles Umeni of the Pointer Newspaper. The traditional breaking of the kola nut was performed by the HRM Obi Kikachukwu, JP, the Obi of Ubulu-Unor, and the 2nd Vice-Chairman of the Delta State Traditional Council.
It was almost immediately time for the Chairman of the Occasion, Dr. Henry Nzekwu to offer his opening remark and he did not disappoint his audience with his speech, brief but relatable to the course of the gathering. The Ibusa-born Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Bridge Radio, Asaba, later did a tribute in which he praised the Omu, HRM Obi Martha Dunkwu as a woman of uncommon endowments and impeccable pedigree, beauty, class, and brains while congratulating her for the merited awards and recognition.
In another address, he described the event as a huge cultural significance that transcends time and a celebration of legacy, culture, and embodiment of excellence. Furthermore, the tribute descriptively held the event to be an epochal moment in the annals of Anioma history. For him, the honour was a further recognition beyond an individual but an appeal and significance of Anioma’s cultural basics.
The address read in part, “Her Royal Majesty, through her profound dedication and unwavering commitment, has upheld the mantle of custodianship of our culture and traditions with grace and fortitude, helping to preserve our cultural heritage and nurturing progress within our communities and beyond.”
He praised the award as a reminder of the value the world places on Africa’s rich traditions and socialization for future generations. Nzekwu observed that the Omu Anioma stands tall, not only as a revered figure within her community but as a global symbol of cultural preservation and advancement.
“Her Royal Majesty, through her profound dedication and unwavering commitment, has upheld the mantle the mantle of custodianship of our culture and traditions with grace and fortitude, helping to preserve our cultural heritage, and nurturing progress within our communities and beyond. Her leadership strips culture of its mystique, making it endearing and easy to embrace.”
“May it bring peace, unity, and progress to our beloved Aniomaland, Nigeria, and the world at large.”
It was not all about the Anioma people as High Chief Stanley Chukwudi, the Ezeudo Gburugburu of Ihiala, Otigbu Inyinya Okpata Ozuo Ora, a resident of Okpanam also sent in his tribute personally signed by him. In the tribute, High Chief Chukwudi from Ihiala congratulated the Omu on her honour as African Diaspora Living Legend, describing the award as another recognition of her immense contribution to the preservation of the rich cultural heritage of not just Anioma but Africa and the entire black race.
Since the Africans in the Diaspora delegated four of their members to honourably do the presentation of the award, Hon Kenneth Gbandi, the team’s chief representative did not waste any time in taking to the floor to address the audience on the nature and merit of the award. Going further, he formally presented the award to the recipient, HRM Obi Martha Dunkwu, the Omu of Okpanam/Anioma and Nneoha who was beaming with regal smiles. Shortly after, the leader of the Niger Delta team, Engr. Pedro Omo-Aghahowa benevolently and graciously did his own presentation of the prestigious Niger Delta Peace Ambassador Award to the Omu in which she was recognized as the Most Enviable Leader in 2023. The award itself is registered with the United Nations Organization. To back up the presentation, there was the rich profile of the Omu luminously delivered by no one but ace Anioma journalist, publisher of the Anioma Trust, and Media Consultant to the Omu of Okpanam/Anioma, Mr. Patrick Nweike Ochei. Mr. Patrick Ochei delivered with a mastery of words and Omu’s and personal understanding of Omu’s personal achievements.
The floor then became thrown open with goodwill messages from the guests and dignitaries. HRM Obi Henry Kikachukwu, JP, Ph.D., the Obi of Ubulu-Unor in his goodwill message recognized the cultural achievements of the Omu of Anioma. The monarch of the Ubulu-Unor Kingdom called for the protection of the Anioma values. He took to history to narrate the emergence of “the Omu of Anioma” almost in hungriness. He said HRM Obi Dunkwu met five Omu on the ground who suggested that they should constantly meet. However, their impossibility to meet was because they were unlettered and that led them to choose the Omu of Okpanam as their leader. The Ubulu-Unor monarch is fulfilled that Obi Dunkwu’s leadership has brought them recognition and value at long last.
“It shows that women have cohesion;” he emphasized satisfactorily.
Recalling that despite the antagonism that she faced, everybody now recognizes her because of the promotion she has given the institution singlehanded, the Ubulu-Unor traditional ruler was happy that the efforts of the HRM Obi Dunkwu invited foreign scholars and other enthusiasts to bear out for themselves whether Omuship truly existed.
“If there was anything that the Anioma traditional rulers have achieved, it is the creation of Omu of Anioma,” the Royal Father of the Day said after his goodwill message.
Member, of Delta State House of Assembly representing Oshimili South, Barr Bridget Anyafulu called on women to stand up and train women while the newly elected Nigerian Union of Journalists President, Churchill Oyowe promised to do anything to bring the Omu’s ideas to fruition.
The recipient, HRM Obi Martha Dunkwu’s acceptance speech touched mostly on the state of the nation but she also declared that the Anioma forefathers placed a curse that no Omu should be removed and imposed near impossible reasons for removing the institution’s bearer. The name, Omu has remained the name since history, she said. According to her, the government is in the market and even traditional rulers are also in the market where the Omu traditionally belongs.
“The Omu can function if the male leadership cabal in the community wants them to,” she said.
She did not fail to thank Major-General Raymond Ochei for finding her worthy and offering to pay for her travel ticket and that of her Aide to initially receive the award in Germany but couldn’t make the journey due to her New Yam Festival. Gratitude was also paid to HRM Obi Henry Kikachukwu, JP, the Obi of Ubulu-Unor, for being a pillar of support and for his wise counsel and his son, Dr. Afamefuna Dunkwu-Okafor for his love, support, and also for being a good son to her and a loving father to his children.
Delta State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Community and Social Development, Hon Dr. Princess Pat Ajudua eulogized the Omu as a worthy mother, noting that Anioma has a lot to do. She recalled that they met at Delta State University, Abraka. She took the opportunity to call for the acceleration of actions to end gender violence and ‘femicide’ and appealed to all to end the violence against women and girl children. She announced an upcoming programme of the Delta State Government-themed “Leaving No One Behind” to celebrate the activism against gender-based violence and promised to work together with the Omu of Anioma, HRM Obi Martha Dunkwu.
The Omu of Obior, HRH Onyebuchi Okonkwo praised the Omu. She said she didn’t know where she would have been if not for HRM Obi Martha Dunkwu. Witting, she sent the guests falling about with her humour that the HRM Obi Martha Dunkwu should have hailed from the Obior community. Barr Josephine Ada Kachikwu, the Ochiligwe of Onicha-Ugbo who was also present said it was good to teach for Anioma parents to teach their children the people’s language, culture, and values. She recalled that her experience outside the country shows that the people are lost overseas. The Okpanam Youth President, Mr. Lucky Okolo who led Okpanam youths to the event pledged the support of Okpanam youths to the recipient.
“The whole Okpanam is ready for you, Omu,” the Youth Leader said.
Next to speak was the representative of Onicha-Olona Development Union, Mr. Ochei who critically pointed out that in the past, Omus prevented calamities in their domains. He exemplified his argument with the Nigerian Civil war which he said some Omus made sure that soldiers were unable to invade some Anioma communities.
“What is happening now? Ochei queried.
In attendance at this event were Dr. Henry Nzekwu, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, of Bridge Radio, Asaba who was the Chairman of the Occasion, Barr Bridget Anyafulu, Member Representing Aniocha South at the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon Dr. Princess Pat Ajudua, Hon Commissioner for Women Affairs, Community and Social Development, HRM Obi Henry Kikachukwu, JP, PhD., the Obi of Ubulu-Unor, 2nd Vice-Chairman, Delta State Traditional Council, and Royal Father of the Day, HRH Onyebuchi Okonkwo, the Obi of Obior and Royal Mother of the Day.
Others were Obi Josephine Isioma Nwannabuogwu, the Omu of Ibusa, newly-elected NUJ Chairman, Comrade Churchill Iyuvwe who stormed the venue with 15 of his executive members, Mrs. Stella Macaulay, Vice-Chairman, South-South, Zone 4 of the Nigerian Association of Women Journalists who was represented, Hon Hilary Ifechukwude Okobi, Councilor in Ibusa, Jeffery Mordi and Lucky Okolo, President of Okpanam Youth Organization, among youths. There were also Okpanam women who were present at the occasion. Dr. Mrs. Precious Adigwe was on the ground to exhibit the Akwa-Ocha fabrics of the Anioma people.
The Omu of Okpanam/Anioma did not fail to quote several Anioma sources regarding the people’s Omuship which included Dr. Emeka Esogbue (this author). The statement quoted the Omu’s continuous promotion of Omuship to the world without support, grant, salary, or contract from the government but all by self-help. Another Ibusa-born Victor Utomi had also praised the Omu as raising the Omu bar and returning the institution to full swing while Augusta Impact called for the study of the tenacity, capacity, and virtues that made the Omu so admirable and honoured while hinting on HRM Omu Martha Dunkwu International Day.
The recipient, HRM Obi Martha Dunkwu received gifts from several guests present including Major-General Raymond Ochei, who was the Special Guest of Honour, Dr. Henry Nzekwue, HRM Obi Henry Kikachukwu, JP, Ph.D., HRH Onyebuchi, the Omu of Obior, Mrs. Eloka Udu, Dr. Mrs. Precious Adigwe, Mr. Lucky Okolo, President of the Okpanam Youth Organization and the body, High Chief Stanley Chukwudi, Hon Hilary Okobi, Mr. Tony Okonkwo and others.