If I emerge the Odogwu of Ibusa, I will transform the Ani Igbuzo to a monument
- Chief Charlie Okonkwo
As part of bringing events closer to our doorstep, today Umuigbuzor forum caught up with Chief Charles Osita Okonkwo AKA Charlie Coupe, one of those vying for the soon to be vacant seat of Odogwu of Ibusa. Read on as we take on him.
UMUIGBUZOR: Diokpa Igwekani, In the usual tradition, few of us may not know you, please can you give us a brief information about yourself?
CHIEF: Thank you very much for your efforts. I am Charles Osita Okonkwo, I am the first Son of Late Onowu Joseph Okonkwo and the grandson of late Obi Okonkwo Ikediashi of Umuwai. The late Obi was one time Senior Diokpa of Ibusa. We all started from Umejei. I schooled in the famous CKC, Onitsha and can proudly say that I was one of the three Altar Boys that excelled under Cardinal Arinze (the Bishop of C.K.C. Parish, Onitsha), between 1974 to 1977. I obtained my B.Sc in UNILAG and my M.Sc in USA. Currently I am a final year Law student at the National Open University. I have numerous other certifications in security and business. I got married to my beautiful wife in 1995 but before marriage, I have already started a security company which I co-owned with an Ibusa friend. I am grateful to my mentor, Chief (Dr.) Nnamdi Okonkwo under who we all understudied all about security in his company, Boyson Securities. After that I left for Canada briefly in 1993, came back to Nigeria in 1995 to get married to my wife and also opened my own personal Security company. I relocated back to Nigeria in 2007 as I wanted my Children to learn more about our Nigerian culture. I joined the Atiku Abubakar Campaign team during his quest for the presidency. I relocated to Abuja to be able to do the job effectively and further my business expansion.
UMUIGBUZOR: There’s no doubt that you are vying for the position of Odogwu Ibusa, pls can you tell us what prompted this decision?
Okonkwo: This is a call to service. This idea was first mooted to me by my kinsmen who met and saw in me a worthy Son and Ambassador to take up this Mantle. I feel honored and took up the Challenge because a Child listens to voice of reasoning. Thanks.
UMUIGBUZOR: When you mooted this idea to your wife and Children, what were their reactions?
Okonkwo: The first day I told my wife about this decision, she kicked against it as women would always do. She frowned at it but I took my time to explain to her the reason why I have to serve my people. She went further to do her personal research and gradually bought the idea, she keyed into it and has been my strongest supporter. As for my Children, they are in support and have always prayed for my success.
UMUIGBUZOR: From the answer above, if today, the Otu Odogwu people decide that the next Odogwu must take the Obi title, will you be willing to do so.
Okonkwo: My dear friends, this is a smart question and coming from a lady, your team is really prepared. I have said it to my wife from day one of this marriage that I will take the Obi title in future. My late grandfather was an Obi, my father didn’t because he was a dedicated Catholic but for me, it is a done deal. So whether I am Odogwu or not, I will soon take the Obi title if the tradition permits the combination. It is painful that we do not have any Obi in my place presently but I am willing to sponsor anyone who wants to do so. This is our culture which we must preserve.
UMUIGBUZOR: Sir, this is surprising as we all know you are a Christian?
Okonkwo: To be Honest with you, I am A Christian, I have gone to almost all different Churches and discovered that when I kneel on my own and call on my God, He answers me better than these day to day Church. I am not condemning Churches but I feel strong calling on my God in my own way and He has not failed me. My own Christianity does not forbid the tradition of my people.
UMUIGBUZOR: Sir can you tell us briefly the History of this Odogwu title, most Ibusa young ones would like to know?
Okonkwo: Thank you very much. I am a child of one of the best Historians Ibusa ever had. My dad wrote books. So from what my father and grandfather told me, the first Odogwu was late Odogwu Okwugbe from Ezukwu in the present Anyalobum. This Odogwu title came about in the early 18th Century when Ibusa was facing what we call Nwankebeli which we know as kidnappers. These Nwankebelis come into Ibusa through the border towns, picked up our people and took them into slavery. Our fathers then met and decided that the major boundaries of Ibusa be guarded. They then assigned each area with a leader who acted as warlord of that area. It was then we had the Odogwu, The Uwolo and Iyase. The Ogbes were divided into these three leaders. So at that time, Ezukwu which off course have Ikwele who serves as the spiritual head of the town by virtue of her position was asked to produce the first Odogwu. This they did and it became rotational. After the death of the first Odogwu, It came to Umueze. That is how it has been rotating and don’t forget to add that the last one who was buried recently was from Ezukwu though at a point it was controversial. I remember that even the state government has to wade into this issue and a meeting was called at the town hall where the then Diokpa of Ibusa, Late Obi Ajudua and other leaders of our town met with the government officials, I can remember very well the roles played by my late father and even Onowu Nwaigbo. At the end of that meeting, the whole tussle was settled and Ezukwu was asked to produce the Odogwu which they did.
UMUIGBUZOR: Sir, if you become the Odogwu of Ibusa, what will you do to bring in fresh ideas to the position:
Okonkwo: My brother, this is the beauty of it. Remember in the time past, the Odogwu is a Warlord but this present age, we no longer go to war but that does not mean there might not be one tomorrow, but we all pray against it. If I become the Odogwu, I will start off immediately by teaming up with other leaders and see to the end of this peace move currently going on in Ibusa. I must thank those who have done much so far, with me joining up with them, it will be achieved 100%. I will fight to the end to see that peace returns to Ibusa. Our youths must be carried along in my government. As Odogwu, off course I will have my own small cabinet and the youths must be among them because they are the warriors. I will use my network and contacts both in government and private sector to attract further development in Ibusa. I have been doing so quietly but with this new position it will be open door. My dear when I am coming to approach anyone to do something for Ibusa, it will be smoother when that person gets to know that I am coming on a higher task. I will also look into some of our outdated traditions so we modernize them. Take for example, our Okanga, we have to add more colors to it, we need to stop the youths using cutlasses, we also have to look into some of the mourning processes and other traditional processes which does not meet today’s life and modify them. I also have plans to turn Ani Ibusa to a monument. It is a pity that most people do not know the site. By the grace of God, ani Ibusa will become a tourist site. I am already working with Ibusa youth President on the beautification of Ani Ekpele. We have other sites which must be modernized. Ani Udo too and many others. As a security guru, I will work more on the security of our town. This is a promise and I am ready for this task.
UMUIGBUZOR: Sir, are we going to have an Odogwu in Diaspora if you emerge?
Okonkwo: (Laughs) My dear please tell the whole world. I am home-based. I can confidently tell you that since 2016 after I buried my mum, I have relocated to Ibusa. I have attended 70% of Izu Umueze, Izu Umunna and other functions. I now control my business from Asaba where I have my head office now. The Odogwu task is more time consuming so I have moved in and this house we are seated is my house, I will always be with our people.
UMUIGBUZOR: Is position a door or die affair?
Okonkwo: Thanks my dear, it is not a do or die affair. I am ready to give 110% support to whoever emerges as Odogwu Ibusa. He has to contend with me at Izu Umueze. I have spoken to Obiekea on phone, we are all brothers, this position will not tear us apart. We all might end up not being the choice of our Elders who are wiser and know how to do their thing.
UMUIGBUZOR: Sir can you tell us few things you did to bring development to Ibusa?
Okonkwo: I have always tried to avoid this question because I am a silent doer. I would have preferred you ask people around this question but just a few, in 1998, I spent #700,000 to bring light from Umuwai down to this area where I built my house. If I am right i think it was when CP Charles Akaya was the CP of this State, I bought and donated two plots of land to Ibusa for the building of Police Station in Otu Odogwu axis. The land is still there and documents handed over to Obuzor Ibusa. When I sunk borehole in my house, I connected the water into Ibusa Girls Secondary school and they were using it until when Dr Obidi graciously dug one for them. Twice I have graded this road from Asianta through Umuwai to uzo Umeze towards the present St Thomas College. My brother, let me don’t count. As long as I live and can, it is a continuous thing.
UMUIGBUZOR: Ibusa has no Omu, we understand that the last Omu was from Umueze but then there was crisis, what you will do to help solve this?
Okonkwo: Thanks for that question, let me say it here that there is no crisis on the Omu issue. I have asked the Obuzor this question in the past and he emphatically said that it is the turn of Otu Uwolo to produce an Omu and that everybody is waiting for them to bring one. If I become Odogwu, I will work closely with the Uwolo so that we will give Ibusa one of the best who can do wonders as that of Okpanam.
UMUIGBUZOR: Finally, you what do have to tell the people of Ibusa?
Okonkwo: Ibusa is a blessed town, I love my town and will do all in my power to make Ibusa better than it is presently. Thanks
Interview was conducted by Umuigbuzor Yeam