SOLDEIR SET TO MOUNT THE THRONE IN NNEWI COMMUNITY
For the people of Akwa-Ihedi in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State, the moment they have been waiting for would come on August 27, when their respected son, Lt.-Col. Wisdom Onebunne (rtd) would mount the throne of their fathers as Obi 2 of Ebe-eteghete Kingdom.
When their traditional ruler joined his ancestors some years back, the nine communities of Akwa-Ihedi had urged Col Onebunne to hold forth until such a period they would select a new ruler. They had seen in the retired soldier, the qualities they desired of a new traditional ruler and are convinced that he is the one who the cap fits.
The new Obi of the Akwa-Ihedi people is reputed to have been the first person that had cleaned up Onitsha, when he was the head of the Taskforce on Environmental Sanitation in the commercial city.
The retired soldier-turned traditional ruler had joined the army for the love of it as a boy and had enjoyed the profession that today he wishes that his children take up from where he stopped, but not as 'toddler soldiers.'
In this exclusive interview with Daily Sun, Onebunne speaks on what inspired him to join the Nigerian Army as a boy, the things that his people found in him that made them decide to make him their traditional ruler, his vision for Akwa-Ihedi, the issue of kidnapping and insecurity in the South-East, and other issues. Excerpts:
My name is Wisdom Onebunne. I am a retired military officer. I retired in the rank of a lieutenant colonel. I am at present the traditional ruler of Akwa-Ihedi town in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State. I joined the Nigerian Army in 1965 and there I served in various capacities. I commanded units, formations and held various appointments both commanding and staff. I commanded a regiment in Onitsha here in Anambra State. I commanded a regiment in Zaria. I was the director of research and production in Nigerian Army School of Engineering. I was officer grade one in charge of training at the Nigerian Army headquarters in Bonny Camp, Lagos. I was also an instructor in the school. I also attended many seminars both within and outside the country while in the army.
What my people saw in me
Well, I feel that what my people saw in me before they decided that I should be their traditional ruler was my leadership qualities. When I was working in government I had a firsthand encounter of the challenges confronting my people. I saw what they were lacking and I tried my best to provide them. Some of them include roads from the neighbouring town to our own town. I also provided water. Hospitals were brought in and many people from my area were brought into public service. It was then that I was conferred with the title of Omeziribe. When I retired from the Army, I was living a solitary life and unfortunately, our amiable traditional ruler died and they said that I should hold the position for them.
I knew it would be a continuation of serving the people because standing there means serving the people just like our Lord Jesus said that he that shall be the leader shall be the servant of all. They probably saw leadership quality in me.
In some towns there are struggles over who should be the traditional leader, but I feel that arises mainly if the town does not have a constitution that guides them. But if it is well articled, properly outlined and streamlined such would not happen. In my town, we are obedient and God fearing people. We don't like trouble. We are very peaceful. We know that if trouble arises in any town, there would be no development, that is, what our people have seen and decided to follow our constitution. Our own case is rotational traditional institution. We are not stagnant. If it gets to a community, they would be asked to select an acceptable person to mount the throne.
Clearing dirt in Onitsha
Before I was made the head of the Taskforce on Environmental Sanitation in Onitsha, the town was very dirty. Nobody believed that the town had drainage system because they were all blocked. I was made the head of the taskforce and my mandate then was to clean up Onitsha, repair roads, make water available and make telephone services available to people. I was also mandated to make sure that power supply was available. We were able to discharge our duties very well that Onitsha was judged the cleanest town in the then old Anambra State. So, we were able to clean up the place and people then discovered that Onitsha was not a jungle as most people had thought, but a well planned town. The drainage was opened up. Water began to flow and life returned to the commercial city. I know that the reason why we were able to achieve that feat was because we were dedicated. We had the political will to serve the nation and that is what is lacking in the country at the moment. Right now, people are after their pockets, they are no longer dedicated to serve. Right now, people are being asked to pay before the refuse in front of their house would be taken away. But when we were doing the job, it was not so.
Then people were freely donating tippers and other equipment to us because they knew that we were committed to our duty. People were treated very well. I feel that the present administration under Peter Obi is doing something about it. Onitsha now is becoming clean. The drainage is being opened up; the refuse dumps are been cleared and so on. There is a lot of improvement now. I worked under three military administrators in the old Anambra State then. But the problem with our people is that they don't consult. We are not asking for jobs, but to give our experiences on how to sanitize the environment because we have done it before and we did it very well.
Why I joined the army
I joined the army as a boy soldier in Zaria. When I was in the primary school, when I see boys in the military school, the way they look, how smart they appeared and behaved attracted me. I had to take the entrance examination to the Nigeria Military School, Zaria and was selected. I did not tell my parents then because I knew that if I told them, they would not agree. So, I just joined and then later told them that I had joined the army and then there was nothing they could do about it.
My civil war experience
As I said, I got admission into the Nigeria Military School, Zaria in 1965, I did my secondary one and two before the killing of the Igbo in the North started. We were used to some of the problems in the region, but when it escalated, we were sent back to the Eastern Region and were not allowed to return to the school again. We were distributed to government colleges in Umuahia and Afikpo respectively to continue with our education.
We were there until the civil war started and we were drafted into the various training schools in Biafra. I was a commander in the School of Infantry at Orlu. Later, we were commissioned and sent to the various warfronts. During the war, I fought at the Okigwe sector under Brigadier Ginger Emos. After the war; I went back to my people in Zaria to continue with my education. I finished in 1975 and was commissioned into the Nigeria Army. The same year I passed the entrance into the Nigerian Defence Academy.
Why I returned to Nigeria army after fighting for Biafra
The reason I went back to the Nigeria Army after fighting on the Biafran side was because I was part and parcel of the Nigeria Army before the war began and I was under aged. So, it could be interpreted that I did not know what I was doing.
Kidnapping and insecurity in South East
It is a very difficult question. But I know that the traditional rulers have been advising government on the areas of job creation. It is very painful that after going through the institutions of learning, they would not have anything to do. Their parents spend high amount of money training them only for them to come out and stay at home. You know that idle minds are devil's workshop. Government should try to engage them. We should not allow the graduates to be roaming about the streets or thinking of how to survive the next day. We should have a plan that would ensure that they are engaged immediately they graduate. The major thing is creating employment opportunities for them.
My coronation is on August 27, 2010 and I will be given the title of Obi 2, Ebe-eteghete Kingdom. Akwa-Ihedi comprises nine communities.
My children and their career
I cannot decide for them, but from what I am seeing some of them may be joining the army when they graduate. They will not join the way I joined, that is, a boy soldier.