Journalism prepared me for the throne- Atah Manyan of Ossomala Kingdom
December 28, 2016, made it a year since Victor Igwe Chukwuemeaka Awogu, the traditional ruler of Ossomala Kingdom in Ogbaru Local Council of Anambra State, ascended the throne of his forefathers, as the Atah Manyan of Ossomala Kingdom.
Awogu, a veteran broadcaster cum editor, who was in March 2015, presented with a certificate of recognition and other paraphernalia of office, by an aide of Governor Willy Obiano, has been overseeing the affairs of Ossomala Kingdom, a community made up of nine villages.
Before ascending the throne, Awogu at various times held several editorial positions in the media. Among others, he served as managing editor of the defunct New Nigeria Newspapers, executive director of Daily Times, and a senior editorial member of the African Independent Television (AIT), before quitting the scene.
Igwe Awogu was also an active and prominent member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), and a member of Ikoyi Club, Lagos. He is married to Patricia, and they are blessed with children.
The monarch spoke to Palace Watch on his experience on the throne.
What has been your experience transiting from the newsroom to the palace?
In both places you have to deal and manage human beings. But the setting here in the palace is quite different. In the newsroom, for example, when an issue or topic is brought before a group of people who are very intelligent, with analytical minds, in the editorial conference, the issue is weighed on its merit and thrashed out. Then, people are assigned to do the job. In the newsroom, nobody harbours any ill feelings, if his or her suggestions or topics are shut down. Life goes on, but that cannot be said of the traditional institution. In the traditional setting, I have come to realise that human beings are the most complicated machines God Almighty created. So, managing human beings is not a tea party. It takes patience, wisdom, sagacity, if you like call it savvy, to be able to galvanise people and model them into one group and move them towards a particular purpose or objective. The key to this is one’s ability to bring about peace and understanding among the people. Once you are able to establish peace and understanding among your people, you would be able to take-off and make progress, culturally, economically, politically and otherwise. I must confess that the newsroom is a good place for the training of any would-be traditional ruler. I honestly miss the newsroom.
Since you ascended the throne, what has been your major challenge?
We are a riverine people; we live right on the waters, and our challenges are numerous. As an agrarian people, we are challenged by the unavailability of good roads. Our people would want to stop running around in the waters or rivers to evacuate their fishes and farm products.
Erosion is another major challenge we are facing here. I don’t know if you have ever been to a riverbank? They say “water no get enemy”, but when water is bottled up, or when waters cannot flow straight and does not have adequate outlets, you need to see the kind of devastation it causes in such an area. Erosion has eaten up the major parts of our land. The Ancient Kingdom of Ossomala has been buried over the decade underground, unattended to. Erosion is therefore, one of our major concerns. We have arable land where we grow a great deal of food items.
Ossomala kingdom is a food basket; the area called Ogbaro to which Ossomala belongs is a food producing area. The basic or grassroots occupation of our people is fishing and farming, but because of the riverine nature of the place, the Europeans passed and went ahead to trade on the Niger.
You remember the Royal Niger Company; its operations began from this area. We therefore, had contacts very early with the Europeans. Just like Warri and Sapele, and all the other areas, where you had river transport in the days of yore. Those were the days the Europeans were coming, colonising and evangelising. In those days that we traded with them, we exchanged goods, and most importantly, we got education.
Education is the biggest industry in Ossomala. As early as the 16th to 18th century, we had contact with Europeans, and one of the earliest missionaries among them were those from the Roman Catholic Mission and the Anglican Mission. Bishop Ajayi Crowther, if I remember well, once passed through here. The Roman Catholics and the Anglicans were the two basic educational pioneers in this place.
How did you come about the title Atah Manyan?
The title, Atah Manyan, which you said does not sound like an Igbo title, simply put, is a combination of Igala and Jukun words meaning “Atah the Great.” Our progenitors were of Igala and Jukun descents. Hence, the title Atah Manyan. My salutation name is “Okakwu.” Ossomala is therefore an ancient kingdom.
As a journalist, what are you missing?
Having spent practically all my life in the newsroom, our minds over the years have been trained to be analytical, curious, and fact-finding so that we can analyse and arrive at conclusions, and think of ways of solving different problems. That analytical mind cannot now be asked to stop probing; that inquisitive mind wanting to know why, how and where of the journalist is still there in me. And when one is bottled up into a place as a journalist, you see, it is difficult to adjust, but I have no other option, I am adjusting. One thing is clear, with time; I will still find a way to vibrate.
What are the ways in which you now keep yourself busy?
Apart from constantly reading and watching different television channels, I am still intellectually active, and as such I might look for a way to let out steam. I am therefore looking for things that will titillate my intellect. Things that will make that person that I have always been over the years.
As a traditional ruler, there are issues or cases that are sometimes thrown at you that can be equated to walking the minefield. As a journalist who is already a master miner, once you are confronted with such situations, you know how to mend, and devise ways or methods to gingerly step on, or not to step on the mines.