High Chief Christopher Ndubisi, the Ikenga Umuawulu, ranks among global
personalties who place premium on selfless service to humanity rather than individual fame and honour. Importantly, for Ndubisi,
this begins from home, his hometown, Umuawulu in
Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State.
The Abuja-based businessman and philanthropist has not only transformed his home town, Umuawulu with numerous developmental projects cutting across road construction, renovation of schools and health facilities, among others but has also contributed in no small measure towards the promotion of his people’s cultural heritage. In this interview with OrientDaily’s Associate Editor, SIMON NJOKU and Reporter, LAWRENCE NWIMO, Ndubisi speaks extensively on the inaugural Iwa Ji or Iri ji festival of Enugwu in Umuawulu town, his philanthropic projects and issues pertaining to the Anambra 2021 and the 2023 general elections. Excerpts:
Can we meet you, sir?
My name is High Chief Christopher Ndubisi (Ikenga Umuawulu). I am a native of Enugwu Village in Umuawulu town, Awka South Local Government Area, Anambra State.
Could you talk about the origin of Iwa Ji festival of Enugwu Quarters of Umuawulu community?
The origin of Iwa ji in Umuawulu and Enugwu village has been an ancestral norm and has been in existence before I was born. It is a time for thanksgiving for a well-utilized and fruitful farming season. So, It is usually a significant event used to celebrate the harvest of what was cultivated in the last farming season. We use that to also rate those who are strong in farming.
How often do you hold this festival?
It is an annual ritual.
How does this festival promote your people’s cultural heritage?
The festival is a unifying factor that brings together different age groups, people from far and near, and all the indigenes of the community. You know, it has a way of uniting people in a simple manner. During the festival, sons and daughters of the community return and it gives one the opportunity to meet some persons one has not seen for a long time.
What of disputes, does it play any role in dispute resolution?
Yes. We often settle disputes during the festival.
In terms of development, has the festival contributed in any way towards the physical development of the town?
Yes! Igbo adage says, Afu anya ife emee ma n’ afughi anya, ife emene. So, we use this period to settle and plan for the year. There are usually so many meetings, deliberations that usher in developments that help the town grow.
With this inaugural celebration of Iwa Ji in Enugwu Quarter of Umuawulu, should one look forward to an autonomous Enugwu Community in Anambra state?
Well. Anambra state does not recognise autonomous communities. They don’t recognise that. Secondly, if you look at what is playing out in Umuawulu, you will notice that there is no peace. We have been enjoying peace for a while but as it stands, there is an issue of land dispute. Igwe Umuawulu is trying to create an impression that everything is okay but things are not okay. Igwe is the father of all and should play the role of father, not taking sides when there is an issue. We have a land dispute that involves Enugwu and Umuene villages of our community and Igwe is from Umuene village. A committee was set up but was not properly constituted. So, in the process of the hearings they have had, there were some persons who feel they know so much about the history of the town and do not want to listen to anybody. They had a premeditated judgment already and at that point, our people threatened to withdraw from the matter but we encouraged them to continue and that we would speak to Igwe.
I went to Igwe in my capacity as the Ikenga Umuawulu. I have been to Igwe severally, advising him to be neutral on the matter so that we will get the much-needed impartial judgment that would be acceptable to all. Each time I went to him, he would say he had no interest yet he was working behind the scene, showing that he has interest. When our people discovered that the Igwe had interest the matter was still ongoing. The Igwe suddenly gave judgment, without concluding hearing on the matter. This is despite the fact that the Chairman of the Committee was ill, and could not append his signature to the verdict. They still concluded that they have finished with the matter.
The dispute, actually, could have started since Easter but we asked our people of Enugwu to leave the matter to those of us that are close to Igwe to handle. Some of us who are cabinet chiefs had to go back to Igwe to see how we could talk to him to set up another committee to revisit the matter. When we did that, the Igwe never listened and our people continued to complain. At the end our people took their decision and I felt that since I have done my beat, I have to stand where my people stand. I am representing them and so should hear them out. That is what made us to boycott the Igwe’s new yam festival and organized our own. Normally, we hold our own festival at Oye Market, usually after partaking in the one at Igwe’s palace. But this time around, none of Enugwu sons and daughters went to Igwe’s palace. It was to register our displeasure. So, at this point, we are not talking about autonomous community. We are only showing our displeasure and that is where we find ourselves.
And the Enugwu people are open to a peaceful resolution of the dispute?
Of course, yes! We are peace-loving people and we will not also allow criminals to hijack the issue. If the needed dialogue is put in place, we will arrest the situation before it gets out of hand.
You are the Ikenga Umuawulu, could you mention some of the development projects you have brought to the community?
Actually, I have done a lot in my own little way. The things I have done cut across construction of roads, such as the road from Oye Market to Amaokwe which is still proceeding to Amaetiti. Again, the road from Oye to the adjoining road that leads to Holy Cross was constructed by me. The road that leads to where I am building a school for the needy was constructed by me; so is the road leading to Eziechee from Agbani and from Eziechee to upper part of Oye market. Also, the road leading to Ani -Eziokpo was done by me. I also built other feeder roads that do not require asphalt. The above mentioned projects were asphalted but there are other feeder roads that we have been able to open up and they are waiting for construction.
Apart from these roads, the new Igwe Ezeudo Palace, the Podium in front of the Igwe’s palace and the Civic Centre in Umuawulu were constructed by me. The road that leads to Igwe’s palace was constructed by me also. I have sunk bore holes at Umuawulu Civic Centre and in all the public schools in the community. The boreholes also include those at the three market squares in Umuawulu namely: Oye Enugwu, Oye Umuene and Nkwo Agbana. I single handedly constructed fence at Girls Secondary School, Umuawulu and renovated St. Mark’s Primary School, also in the community. Construction of 3 classroom blocks at the community primary school, Holy Cross High School, all in Umuawulu was done by me. I have empowered the youth of the community and the construction of school for the needy is still ongoing. There are other projects l cannot mention because there are some that I cannot remember again.
What inspired you to embark on all these projects for your community?
The inspiration came from feelings that my people were neglected by the government. I feel that Umuawulu needs government’s intervention projects but while they are still neglected, we had to take the bull by the horn by trying to do it by ourselves. If you look closely at the Oye Market, you will notice the street lights and it was done by me. The street light that leads to Igwe’s palace was done by me also. Again, the street light leading to Holy Cross adjoining roads was done by me. So, the passion was borne out of the yearnings and needs of our people.
Could you describe your people’s reaction to the projects you have installed in the community?
My people are very happy. They pray to God that more of these projects should come. They are very happy and thankful to God for giving me to them.
What is being done to ensure the community owns these projects and takes responsibility for maintaining them instead of depending on you?
The community is trying but the lack of resources is also a hindrance to them. But where we need to come in as individuals, we still do so to make sure those things that have been put in place do not deteriorate.