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Obi Achebe: Steeped in culture, grounded in modernity

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IGWE Nnaemeka Alfred Nnanyelugo Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha embodies the institution he represents and dignifies the culture he wears. The full measure of a monarch is not in stature, nor in mien but in the weight of his power and influence. Igwe Achebe typifies that and garnishes it with the aura of charisma.

He projects a dignified and famous  institution; the rich cultural heritage of the Onitsha people, where in spite of Onitsha cosmopolitan nature, Western culture and modern civilization has no place in displacing the institution in his custody.

Igbo people have tapped into the rich cultural heritage of Onitsha Ado, as indigenes would refer to Onitsha. Some titles in Igboland, such as the Onowo, the traditional prime minister, Agbalanze, Owelle, among others have their roots in Onitsha culture.  Onitsha is home to Ofala festival which many towns in Igboland celebrate today at different occasions.

Igwe Achebe, the 21st Obi of Onitsha was born in 1941. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Stanford University in 1966 and a Master’s in Business Administration from Columbia University in New York City. After a brief working experience in the USA during the period of the Nigerian Civil War, lgwe Achebe returned to Nigeria in 1972.

Agbogidi, as Onitsha indigenes would fondly call Igwe Achebe, began work in Nigeria with Shell Petroleum Development Company in 1972, where he held positions in several strategic functions, including Human Resources, Operations, External Relations, General Management, and international Representation and Reputation Management until his retirement in 1996.

During his career, he continued to develop his skills and abilities through various platforms and the opportunity of many local and overseas in-service training programmes, such as being nominated in 1979 to the maiden set of the Senior Executive Course of the exclusive National institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru, Jos. The institute aims at developing high-level leadership in the public and private sectors in Nigeria.

Igwe Achebe left notable marks of achievements in Shell Nigeria, such as being the first Nigerian to earn distinction, which remains rare in the organization for his work ethics; a rare feat earned only by competitive merit within the world-wide Shell organisation.

Besides his long tenure as director of Shell Nigeria, lgwe Achebe was a director of seven other Shell companies during his career, including the chairmanship of the board of Shell Sierra Leone. He served as Area Business coordinator in Shell International Limited. He also supervised the Shell Group’s businesses in Angola, Ghana, Liberia, and Gambia, as well as the National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company in Nigeria.

For his commitment and contribution to shell operations in Nigeria, upon retirement, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria requested he continue to provide his experience and expertise to the organization by a special arrangement. He was transferred to Shell International, London, where he acted as “ambassador at large” for Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria with the title of Senior Corporate Adviser, a position he held until his coronation as the Obi of Onitsha in May, 2002.

Understanding the danger poised to our culture by foreign influence, he cautioned against embracing western values to the detriment of Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage. “Western education in Nigeria is a positive factor but then, it is important also that we don’t let western influence make us forget our own qualities as Nigerians.

What is happening today in my own mind is that the forces of globalisation are tending to drive everything. CNN is all over the place, Manchester United and English football, blue jeans, and social media are dominating our attention, even in the rural areas.”

Igwe Achebe is an advocate of the Anambra State Government philosophy of Akulueuno, the call for ndi-igbo to think home and invest in the region, even as they invest in other parts of the country, “Ndigbo must think home and act home, in the spirit of Akulueuno to evolve a philosophy, ideology, strategy and action plans for self-sufficiency, self-reliance and contentment under any circumstance.”

The Obi of Onitsha is a firm believer in Nigeria’s unity and an electoral process devoid of sectionalism or religious coloration, stating that Nigeria does not need a regional President but someone who will provide basic needs of life for the entire country without bias.

“Nigeria has been drumming songs of division through advocating for Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa president.” He caution that the country will not get out of its woes until  there is a collective resolve to do away with ethnic and regional presidency.

It is a shame that we are talking about Igbo presidency, Yoruba Presidency and Hausa Presidency in this country. Nigeria should have a President that can best attend to the need of all Nigerians irrespective of where he comes from, that is very important.

We need someone who will supply people with basic necessities of life, employment for our children, good roads, food in our stomach, and health services, among others. He should be able to provide the basic things that government provides; whether Igbo President or Hausa President provides it, it doesn’t matter. We need a President that will be a President for all Nigerians, not a President for one section or the other.”

Igwe Achebe, former Chancellor of Kogi State University and presently, Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University, currently occupies the position of Chairman at Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council. He is married to Chinwe Achebe with six children.

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