Obi Alfred Achebe: The Agbogidi who twinkles like a million stars

In the illustrious annals of Nigerian heritage, His Royal Majesty, Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe (Agbogidi), the Obi of Onitsha, stands as a paragon of wisdom, culture and progress, marking his 83rd year on mother Earth which is simultaneous with his 22nd year since ascending the throne. As the 21st Obi of Onitsha, his reign has been characterised not merely by the regal adornment of a crown, but also by the profound stewardship of his ancestral legacy, imbued with grace and vigor. As we commemorate this dual celebration, we reflect on his profound influence both nationally and globally, showcasing a life dedicated to the welfare of his people and the enrichment of their future.

Born into the revered Achebe family of Onitsha, Anambra state, on May 14, 1941, His Majesty’s early years were distinguished by sheer brilliance and insatiable thirst for knowledge that propelled him from the banks of the River Niger to the prestigious halls of ivy league Stanford University and later, Columbia University, all in the United States of America. It was in these institutions that he developed a profound understanding of chemistry and business administration skills that he would adeptly deploy in both his subsequent corporate roles and royal duties.

After a remarkable stint in the United States, Obi Achebe returned to Nigeria amid the tumult of the then raging Nigeria-Biafra war, opting to serve his homeland rather than pursue personal goals abroad. His return marked the commencement of a distinguished tenure at Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, where he excelled in various capacities, shaping industry standards and fostering community relations until his ascension to the throne on May 14, 2002.

On assuming the mantle of revered Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty immediately embarked on a transformative journey that interwove the threads of traditional values with the exigencies of contemporary governance. His leadership transcends the confines of administrative duties, evidencing a heartfelt commitment to the socio-economic development and upliftment of his community and his people at large. His roles as Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (ABU), and as chairman of both Unilever Nigeria and International Breweries emphasises his relentless pursuit of educational and economic empowerment for Nigerians.

His Royal Majesty’s commitment to peace and community engagements has had a spectacular positive impact on the society. Under his stewardship, Onitsha has witnessed a great renaissance of cultural pride, dignity and unity. His initiatives have skillfully bridged the gap between the old and the young, the rich and the poor; and the royals and the masses and proletarians. This has ensured that the ancient customs and traditions of Onitsha not only survive, but thrive amidst unpredictable global changes. His efforts in establishing peace and promoting dialogue have since earned him respect far beyond the borders of his kingdom to the nooks and crannies of Nigeria.

As we honour this remarkable and highly travelled monarch of many parts, we do so with deep respect and sense of admiration for a first class traditional ruler whose life’s works epitomise the essence of wise leadership. The words of the legendary philosopher Plato resonate deeply when considering His Majesty’s reign: “The measure of a man is what he does with power.” Indeed, His Royal Majesty, Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, Agbogidi, the Obi of Onitsha has wielded his power with a blend of majesty; profound benevolence and service, championing the cause of his people and leading with a vision steeped in tradition, yet forward-looking in scope.

In his 22 illustrious years on the throne, His Royal Majesty, Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, Agbogidi, the Obi of Onitsha, has been a bastion of progress and stability for Onitsha. He has fostered a community in which traditional values are cherished, while innovation and progress are vigorously pursued. His Obiship has stood as a pillar of strength in times of turmoil; and a source of pride during periods of celebration and festivities.

The cultural festivals of Onitsha, especially the now globally recognised Ofala Festival, have flourished under his Majesty’s reign. These festivals, which he often personally oversees and leads, swaying majestically and magisterially with royal dance steps to the rhythm of traditional music are not only a showcase for the rich heritage of the Onitsha people, but also serve as a magnet for tourists from across the globe, enhancing the local economy and promoting cultural preservation. His dedication to these celebrations of Onitsha culture reflects his deep commitment to his roots and his earnest desire to share this rich cultural tapestry with the world.

As we celebrate the remarkable journey of His Royal Majesty, Obi Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe (Agbogidi), we acknowledge his profound contributions not just to Onitsha or Nigeria, but to the broader world. His life and legacy offer a blueprint for leadership that is rooted in wisdom, marked by a commitment to service, and aimed at the holistic development of his people. As King Solomon once put it most luminously, “Wisdom is better than weapons of war,”. Indeed, His Majesty’s reign has been a testament to the power of wisdom and wise leadership over conflict.

Happy Birthday, sartorial and luminous Agbogidi! May your reign be long. May your legacy continue to inspire and usher in greater prosperity and peace for the Onitsha people, Anambrarians and Nigerians at large. Long Live the King! Long live Obi Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, the Agbogidi who twinkles like a million stars.

Professor Mike A. A. Ozekhome,

Abuja 

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