The Ogbia tribe remains a special and formidable ethnicity in the Niger Delta were its geographical location and people are enormously imparting the socio-political and economy of Nigeria. It is noteworthy to say, the ogbia land pioneered oil and gas activities from 1956, produced the first Executive Governor of old Rivers state and a President of Nigeria. Likewise the ogbia kingship stool (Obanobhan as traditionally called) has produced great minds as monarch since it was coined in 1958. These Monarchs in conjunction with the Ogbia Brotherhood fostered education, unity and gave the ogbia man a sense of belonging. Therefore, it is wise to eulogies them and also narrate the journey so far about the Obanobhan stool for education purposes.
The history of Obanobhan ogbia dates back to the second half of the 20th century. This is because centralized institutions of traditional government were not developed in Ogbia until 1940 where the Ogbia Brotherhood was founded through the instrumentality of Reverend George Amangala. The system of democratic village republics held sway, and as a result the benefits desirable of large state systems could not be harnessed by the ogbia people. However, with the new constitutions of 1951 and 1954 that recognized and made definite provision for a House of Chiefs in Eastern Nigeria, things were to change. Some paramount rulers about eight in number were also appointed first class chiefs and members of the former Eastern Nigeria House of Chiefs, the second chamber in a bi-camera system of democratic government in the former Eastern Region.
1. KING (REV) GEORGE I. AMANGALA
HRM George Amangala hails from the Olobiri community of the Oloi group in ogbia kingdom. Most especially, he was a foremost priest of the Ogbia extraction; trained in Eastern Nigeria by the Anglican Communion. From in the late 1930s, he served exceptional as a priest at several communities in the Niger delta. One of such was in Kaiama archdeconary. He was a quintessential and respected gentleman that fostered education for the ogbia people. In addition, he was the father of foremost revolutionist late Captain Amangala that fought alongside with late Major Isaac Adaka Boro for the liberation of the Niger delta during the Nigeria Biafra war.
Before the initiation of the unified Kingship of the ogbia kingdom, there were eight (8) recognized Kings in the eastern region featuring the house of chiefs. These eight paramount rulers appointed were the Obi of Onitsha, Obi of Oguta, Eze of Aso, Amayanabo of Kalabari, Amayanabo of Nembe, Amayanabo of Bonny, Amayanabo of Opobo and Obong of Calabar. That development motivated the Ogbia people, then consisting of the three clans of Anyama, Emayal and Oloi under the united umbrella body – Ogbia Brotherhood to appoint and install Rev. G. I Amangala as the First Obanobhan Ogbia (owner of Kingdom), with a view of having representation at the regional level of government. Though the Obanobhan stool at the time wasn’t classified or recognized by the Government (colonial government).
Rev. G. I Amangala was invested with the insignia of royalty and office on 31st March, 1958. Unfortunately, he died on 29th January, 1960, two years after his investiture and could not fulfill his dream of being a member of the Eastern Region House of Chiefs to represent his people. At his demise the stool became vacant for two years.
2. KING BENNETT A. ISIKI
HRM Isiki was from Otuasega community of the Emeyal group in ogbia kingdom. He was a former police officer and notable fellow fought for the interest of the ogbia people in old Rivers state. He was a notable friend for friend; foe for foe so far as the ogbia interest was concerned. He went extra miles for the Ogbia kingdom. He was installed Obanobhan Ogbia II at Otuoke community and his coronation took place on the 18th of May 1962. However, during his reign, precisely 1978 the then rivers state government appointed a Chieftaincy Review and Classification Committee under late Professor Tekena Tamuno.
The government white paper that was issued after the committee’s assignment accorded first class statue to the Obanobhan Ogbia Chieftaincy stool on 25th May, 1979. Therefore, from 1979 to the 1991 the year of his death HRM Isiki enjoyed the benefits of the throne as so suggest. He reigned 30 years and died precisely on the 1st October, 1991.
3. HRM EMMANUEL JOEL IGONIWARI (OBANOBHAN-ELECT)
After his demise, the Obanobhan stool by the rotational policy was ceded to the Anyama Clan. HRH Paul I. Nathan, Obanomar of Anyama Clan was mandated to serve in an acting capacity pending the election and installation a substantive Obanobhan. He was a former school teacher and principal who held sway as the regent to the stool, Anyama clan conducted election for the position of Obanobhan. Three persons namely: HRH Awell Eruani from Emadike, Chief Balafa Ase from Otuegwe and Chief J.P Igoniwari were subsequently presented to the ogbia brotherhood to select one.
Unfortunately, the three of them were not chosen by the screening committee of the ogbia brotherhood. In the course of the search for a more credible candidate for the throne, the Anyama clan settled for late Hon. Justice Emmanuel Joel Igoniwari (as he then was a high court judge of old Rivers state). Thereon, Emmanuel Joel Igoniwari was Obanobhan-elect in preference to his elder brother, Chief E. J. P Igoniwari polarized and raged brotherhood and gave rise to litigation on the subject. However, Emmanuel Joel Igoniwari won.
Following the creation of ogbia local government area by the federal military government in 1991, the Iduma people of Abureni clan were transferred to join their kith and kin in the created local government area. Their merger with the ogbia local government area, therefore, altered both the demography and character of the local government area, and increased the number of clans to four namely: Oloibiri, Anyama, Emeyal, and Abureni. At the death of HRH Paul I, Nathan in 2003, his regency also came to an end. Hon. Justices Emmanuel Joel Igoniwari could not be crowned yet as Obanobhan, since he was waiting to serve out his years in office and formally retire as Chief Judge of Bayelsa state. Read more about Hon Chief Justice E. J Igoniwari here.
In the circumstance, Hon Chief Justice E.J Igoniwari appointed HRM G. A. Lawson, Obanobhan, Emeyal Clan to serve in his place in acting capacity, pending his formal retirement from government service. It is pertinent to mention that the committee appointed by the Bayelsa state Government under the Chairmanship of Late Dr. Gabriel Okara on recognition and classification of chieftaincy stool in the state, derecognized the Obanobhan Ogbia stool. Dissatisfied with the outcome of the Bayelsa state Government White Paper on the subject, Ogbia people challenged the decision in court and secured a favorable judgment.
In 2011, the Obanobhan Ogbia Constitution was amended by the Ogbia Brotherhood, after the 2008 amendment. These amendments introduced reforms in the process and procedures for the election and installation of Obanobhan Ogbia, and still provided the rotation principle amongst the present four clans in ogbia. The death of HRM Hon Justice E. J. Igoniwari Obanobhan Ogbia elect – elect without formal coronation and presentation of insignia of office, saddened the entire Ogbia. However, in the spirit and letter of the Obanobhan Ogbia Constitution (2011) as amended, it became the turn of Oloi Clan to select and present three candidates for the Obanohban stool.
4. HRM DUMARO CHARLES OWABA
Following the successful screening of several aspirants, three candidates emerged, namely: HRH Dumaro Charles Owaba, Mr Aresuo Iruo and Chief Alfred Egesi Eto-Okoin. Due to wrangles and misunderstandings between different interest groups with attendant court cases, the electoral process was delayed until September 2016, when the election was finally conducted under an electoral committee headed by Dr. Agih of Otuabula II (now a Professor at the Niger Delta University) in the current tenure of Chief Benson Agadaga who was in the National Executive Council of Ogbia Brotherhood.
To the admiration of all Ogbia people, HRH Dumaro Charles Owaba was elected sometime in September by unanimous votes following the voluntary withdrawal of the other two candidates. The election, which was witnessed by the observation team from the Bayelsa State Council of Traditional Rulers was peaceful, free and fair, and devoid of any rancor. He is an amiable gentleman and a retired civil servant of the Bayelsa state.
The coronation of HRM Dumaro Charles Owaba took place on the 25th of March, 2017 as Obanobhan Ogbia III is the culmination of a tortuous journey of 25 years.
“One For Each, and Each For All”.