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Traditional processes of changing lineage of Igwe, Obis or 1st sons in Nnewi

By Anayo M. Nwosu

I write this with the greatest sense of responsibility after a young man announced his intention to contest the current location of the OBI of his Ụmụnna in one of the villages in Nnewi.

I know that there are many people in the town who feel that their families ought to be the obi of their ụmụnna, community or the town. This well documented article would help calm their nerves.

The truth is that once your ancestors have lost the Obiship, it is gone for good. The best you can do is to start your own generational obi after all, Nnewi’s grandfather migrated from Oraeri so many years ago when Igbo Ukwu town launched an annihilating war against them.

The author, Anayo Nwosu

Nnewi history is dotted with one family or the other losing the Obiship of their ụmụnna to another family through intrigues, igbu ọchụ, nntọ and other mpụ dị iche iche. We have seen the first sons losing the Obiship to their younger ones or even to their cousins. Below are documented examples:

1. Okpala Nnewi whose descendants now live as Umumearam in Umudim Nnewi, was the diokpala or the first son of a man called Nnewi but he lost his position to Digbo, the second son. Digbo gave birth to Otolo and Ikwuabọ.

2. Enem who was the first son of Otolo conceded the headship of Otolo and Nnewi to Nnọfọ his brother and a warrior. Nnọfọ in turn bypassed Umuezena, his first son to give it to Udude, his second son.

3. Ezeagha, who was the first son and the Obi Nnewi, had to disinherit his sons and passed the throne to Ifeluonye his nephew, who later became Ezeoguine and whose family has not jumped any first son except any son who died before his father.

The current Igwe Nnewi proceeded from Ezeoguine and he has so many sons foreclosing the possibility of my own family becoming Ìgwè Nnewi as I’m about 2179th to the throne after my elder brother.

In our Nnewi recent history, the following dethronements have happened:

1. Ezeudohimili Dogonu of Umuenem Otolo Nnewi bypassed his first son and handed over his Obi to Justice Chuka Okoli (Itesieesu) who died recently. He was the former Chief Judge of Anambra State when Peter Obi was removed as the governor.

2. Dikeanagbaluizu, the grandson of Nwosu Ezeodumegwu, the last Ọnụ Ọra Nnewi, handed over his Obi to Ofili (Ebubedike) who just died. The first son is still alive. He has lost it forever. The headship of Obi Nwakanwa which Ofili held continues through Ofili’s lineage or next in line after Ofili’s lineage.

3.There is an unresolved issue over Dr. Nwafọ Orizu’s hand over of his Obi to Ọnwa Nwafọ Orizu who is not his first, son or the third son. Other sons claim that the vital announcement to the ụmụnna was not made by the late First Republic Senate President.


1. A father can choose any of his sons and make him the obi but he must say it before his ụmụnna. He will now “duo his Diokpala ana obi” while the anointed son occupies his father’s compound also known as nkọlọ and the Obi authority once the father dies.

2. Another way is that the incumbent Obi can nominate who succeeds him outside his own household as was done by Obi Ezeagha for Obi of Otolo and Nnewi. He could even choose a nephew or a cousin.

3. Also, during a war, a meeting of ụmụnna or community can choose a warrior or the highest contributor of nsị egbe (i.e gunpowder) as was the case with the current family that holds the Obi of Umuenem Otolo Nnewi.

Christians would recall how Abraham made Isaac his Obi instead of Ishmael; and how Jacob, aided by his mum and akpịrị nni or long throat of his brother, took the Obiship from Esua.

We can also see how Solomon succeeded David even with the efforts of Absalọm to be king; and how Jonathan despite being a good man didn’t succeed his father Saul.

I hope that above would help rest a lot of agitations for obi in Nnewi and nearby towns where headship of an Obi is by heredity.

On a lighter note, the reigning Odumejeje, the Liquid Metal, the Idabosky Bahose sị na “akpaa ghụ inye efe ka akpaa onye ọzọ. Ọ bụghị akpaa ghụ ị na-esi ọnwụ,” meaning that “let the person who has been beaten to it accept his fate and don’t cause problems as another person would soon fall victim in the game”.

My readers should please note that whoever becomes the Obi Otolo becomes the Igwe Nnewi; that person must also be the Obi of his father’s house, of his Ụmụnna and of his Community. For instance, Igwe Kenneth Orizu is the Obi of Josiah Orizu family, Obi Ụmụonyebuchi, Obi of Ezeoguine, Obi of Nnọfọ, Obi of Otolo and then Obi of Nnewi. Obi Nnewi is now known as Igwe Nnewi.

Also the any Obi of Uruagu, Umudim and Nnewichi must first be the Obi of his father’s house, his Ụmụnna and his community.

No one can’t be Igwe Nnewi without being Obi of Otolo or anyone becomes Obi Uruagu without first being the Obi of Ụmụezeafọgụ.

That’s how organised Nnewi has become in a peace time.

Therefore, as it stands now, the current Igwe could make his first son not to succeed him by simply announcing another son, a nephew or cousin his successor.

Yes! Because for the Prince to succeed his father as the Igwe, he must be the Obi of his father’s house. He must not annoy his father in obedience to the Nnewi saying that “onye fee Eze, Eze elu ya” meaning that if you serve the king well you stand the chance to succeed the king.

The current Obis of the four villages and fathers in all Nnewi families have same rights but they must follow the laid down rules.

The above doesn’t belly the fact that the state government has the powers to dethrone any traditional ruler in Nigeria as we have been seen in Sokoto and Kano of recent.

From the stables of Anayo Nwosu (Original Onye Nnewi) and Ikenga Ezenwegbu; anayonwosu@icloud.com.

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