AUSTIN OYIBODE, EDITOR
The Omu of Anioma, HRM Obi Martha Dunkwu, has revealed the historical background of the Omuship in Anioma Nation, giving reasons why she is bearing Omu of Okpanam and Omu of Anioma.
The highly revered woman in Anioma Nation gave the background of the Omuship in Okpanam and what led to her being referred to as the Omu of Anioma.
She spoke when a Masters degree student of the University of Ibadan working on a dissertation on the Omuship in Anioma Nation visited her Palace at the weekend.
In a long interview, stretching for almost two hours in her Opkanam Palace, HRM Obi Dunkwu said the Omuship was established by the Anioma elders over 700 years ago with various laws and principles for the Omu, the call for the Omuship and the roles the Omu plays in preserving the values and cultures of the community.
The 64-year-old Queen Mother, who was crowned Omu on January 26, 2002, said the Omuship is practiced in Ika, Aniocha and Oshimili communities in Delta state, adding that the Ndokwas had it but lost it centuries ago, is optimistic that they will buy in within the nearest future.
The Omu, who is a Media Practitioner and has been Media Consultant to prominent Traditional Rulers including His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba Erediauwa, CFR, Oba of Benin Kingdom (of blessed memory) and the immediate past Orodje of Okpe amongst others, before becoming the Omu of Okpanam, said no woman was ever consulted in Anioma Nation before the Omuship was set up, noting that it was set up by few wise old men who felt they should harness the potentials of women in the community.
According to her, the few wise old men took the decision and everybody bought into the vision and the women were crowned.
She said the elders felt there should be a Traditional Ruler and there should also be a woman who should be the Queen Mother of the community where it is practiced. The Omu is the custodian of the market and the Spiritual Guide of the community.
Obi Dunkwu said at the point of coronation, if the lady had married, she would leave her husband’s house and move to her father’s home where she will be crowned.
At the point of coronation, she is bestowed male rights. Hence, she is both man and woman put together.
Just as the Traditional Ruler has chiefs, the Omu also has chiefs attached to her palace. All the chiefs the Traditional Ruler has, the Omu has them. There are spiritual chiefs and executive chiefs in the Omu’s Palace.
She explained that as Spiritual Guide to the community, the Omu cannot live with a man, she lives a life of near chastity, away from the influence of men. The Omu is 70 percent spiritual, as part of her duty is to pray for the community, when she receives any message, she passes it to the Traditional Ruler of the community who in turn informs the community.
On why the Omu can’t live with a man, she said if a man slaps her, he has slapped the entire community, noting that the rites of crowning the Omu are not known to the public but after the process is completed, two or three elders will announce to the community that the Omu has completed her rites and rituals and could be presented to the public.
But while the Omu cannot live with a man, she can marry as many women as she wants who can bear her children, insisting that those children have the same rights as her biological children before she becomes the Omu.
The Omu who said she did not marry, said the Omu institution is kept to preserve the values and culture of the community.
Obi Dunkwu explained that the Omu is the Queen Mother of the community and by that she is in charge of women. Besides, she has rights to break kola nut in ceremonies in her palace.
On whether the Omu is paid by government, she said the Omu is neither paid by any tier of government nor the community adding that in the past, the Omus used to be women of 80 years old and above who live in small houses and who take care of themselves with proceeds from the market.
She, however, said on the issue of market being the sole prerogative of the Omu, the local government collects revenue from the markets.
She added that 80 percent of the Omus are living in their fathers’ houses, only few are living in palaces built by themselves.
Obi Dunkwu’s ascension to the throne has brought dignity to the institution of the Omu.
She explained that the Omuship was the handiwork of few wise old men who did not consult women before making the decision, they decide what the Omu should wear, where she should go and she must abide by all the principles guiding the Omuship.
She said every Omu is independent, adding that while she was crowned Omu of Okpanam in 2002, she was crowned Omu Anioma on January 15, 2010.
On how she became the Omu of Anioma thereby bearing the two titles of Omu of Okpanam and Anioma, she said: “Our Revered Traditional Rulers added to what Anioma forefathers did 700 years ago charging her to protect, project and propagate Anioma values, the various languages, the Akwa ocha and the food.
Following the development, she was given two certificates of Omu of Okpanam and Omu Anioma by Delta State Government.
She said the condition of Omuship are much, the Omu cannot marry, she loses her friends after coronation, she cannot have relationships, she doesn’t wear normal dresses as other women do, she doesn’t attend burial ceremonies.
To become an Omu, she said, is the decision of the community. In some areas, it rotates from quarter to quarter as few old men will pray and decide the direction the Omu will come from. In other areas, like Ogwashi Uku, it is hereditary to daughters of Agidi Ase. The Spiritual Realm decides where it should go and the individual is picked.
She explained that she was holding positions in the Catholic Church when the call came to her.
She said when the Spiritual Realm decides there is nothing like looking back.