His Majesty lgwe Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe was born in Onitsha on 14 May, 1941, the first child of Akunne Anthony Chinwuba, and Chukwuebuka Winifred Ogbenyeanu Achebe. He is a direct and unblemished descendant of Ezearoli, through the lineage of Chimedie, Oreze Obi, and Aguzani. His mother hails from Umu Olisa in Odoje, whilst his wife Chinwe Ngozi (nee Ononye) is from Umu Osodi, Inosi Onira of Ogbeabu. His paternal grandmother is from Umu Onuma of Obikporo whilst his maternal grandmother hails from the royal Ornozele Sineage of Umu Ezearoli. He has six children – four daughters and two sons – Ezennia Odiakosa, Chinedu, Eziamaka, lfunanya, Uchenna and Chinwe.
lgwe Achebe has had a sound preparation for life through his education. With excellent results from his primary and secondary schools, he gained admission in 1963 to the prestigious and world famous Standford University in California, USA, where he took a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. This was followed with a Master’s degree in Business Administration in the equally famous Columbia University in New York City, also in the USA. He continued to develop his ‘skills and abilities through the opportunity of many local and overseas in-service training programmes during his entire career. His educational attainment was crowned when he was 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, which is aimed at developing high-level leadership in the public and private sectors in Nigeria.
After a brief working experience in the USA during the period of the civil war, lgwe Achebe returned to Nigeria in 1972 to begin a long and fulfilled career with the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria. Over a period of 30 years, he held positions in several strategic functions, including Human Resources, Operations, External Relations, General Management and international Representation/Reputation Management.
He demonstrated very early the potential to rise to senior levels in the global Shell group of companies and was appointed to the board of directors of Shell Nigeria barely nine years after joining the company. This was a record achievement that has remained unequaled in the company. His other achievements include the management of the Eastern Division of the company with responsibility for hundreds of millions of dollars and the production of one-quarter of the nation’s oil output (500,000 barrels per day).
As Head of Human Resources Development, he set up a manpower planning and development system that gave young but competent Nigerians the opportunity to rise fast to commanding positions in the company. The system is still in place and provides for up to 200 Nigerian staff of Shell Nigeria to be on overseas posting with other Shell companies at any given time. It is gratifying that several Onitsha indigenes have benefited from this scheme.
As the pioneer General Manager and Executive Director for External Relations, lgwe Nnaemeka Achebe set up the policy and framework for relationships with external stakeholders, particularly in oil producing communities of the Niger Delta. His undoubted vision and foresight made it possible for the company’s expenditure on community development to grow from $12 million in 1991 to over $40 million when he left the position in 1996, and some $60 million today.
On reaching the normal retirement age of 55 years in 1996, the company requested lgwe Achebe to continue to provide his invaluable experience and expertise to the organisation by a special arrangement. He was transferred to Shell International in London, where he effectively acted as “ambassador at large” for Shell Nigeria with the title of Senior Corporate Adviser until his coronation as Obi of Onitsha. This position brought him in close working contact with international figures in politics, business, the academia and civil society. He has travelled and lectured widely, including universities and professional organisations, and featured on international electronic and in print media, including CNN, BBC and Reuters.
In Nigeria, he has over the years, by personal development and through his professional and other connections, nurtured effective access within the highest levels of government, the public service, and the private sector. His membership of the Alumni Association of the National institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, with such fellow members as General lbrahim Babangida, has been invaluable in this regard. In particular, he has acquired an impeccable knowledge of the oil industry and the role of petroleum In the political, economic and social dynamics of Nigeria and the world at large.
Among other marks of Igwe Achebe’s achievements in Shell Nigeria was the fact that his career included three overseas working assignments, a situation which was earned only by competitive merit within the world-wide Shell organisation. He was the first Nigerian to earn the distinction, which remains rare in the organization. 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. During 1985 to 1987, as Area Business Coordinator in Shell International Limited, he supervised the Shell Group’s businesses in Angola, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Gambia as well as the National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company in Nigeria.
Besides Shell, lgwe Achebe has held directorships in other organisation including the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun, Warri, and the Nigerian Employers’ Consultative Assodation. He belongs to a string of social, professional and voluntary (non-profit) organisations in Nigeria and overseas, where he has made invaluable contributions in various capacities, even as he also found them as opportunities for continued learning and self-development.
He is a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management, life member of the Nigerian Economic Society, and member or the Nigerian Institute of Personnel Management, Nigerian institute of Public Relations and Nigerian Environmental Society. Overseas, he belongs to the Commonwealth Institute and the Academy of Management (USA)
lgwe Achebe has always proved himself to be a true Onitsha indigene at every opportunity, notwithstanding his international career. He visited Onitsha regularly and participated actively in matters affecting his homeland. He has a sound grasp of Onitsha tradition, culture, history, politics and governance, both written and oral. He acquired much of this by learning from his late father and other elders, including his maternal relatives. In addition, he is modestly aware that there is never a limit to knowledge and thus always shares views with other leaders of thought in the community on an on-going basis.
He is a member of the lfenkili Age Grade Society, the Onitsha lrnprovernent Union branches in Lagos and the UK, and the Umu Ezearoli Welfare Association in Lagos, He was initiated into the prestigious Agbalanze Onitsha in April, 1996, with the cognomen, Nnanyelugo, and thereafter acquired the status of Ugonabo, when his eldest son took the Ozo title. He was a member in good standing of the branches ofAgbalanze Onitsha in Lagos and UK.
lgwe Achebe has always demonstrated a good track record of fighting for, and assisting, Onitsha indigenes whenever and wherever possible. He facilitated the employment of a fair number of Onitsha indigenes in Shell Nigeria in particular, and the oil industry as well as other sectors of the economy in general. He has also always demonstrated equal zeal with regard to contracts, consultancies and admission to universities. In general, he has provided mentoring, professional guidance and advice to a host of Onitsha indigenes in various walks of life. He is a strong believer in the power of education, personal development, hard work and the leveraging of one’s attributes as prerequisites for success in life, both as individuals and as a community.
lgwe Achebe has portrayed a vision for Onitsha, which identifies the most singular challenge today as the need to reverse the decline and restore the foundations for development and growth in this great and historic town. He believes that Onitsha must be restored to its past supremacy by keeping abreast of change whilst upholding and preserving its identity as a people. He also believes that Onitsha must be part of the mainstream in Nigeria and should maintain and strengthen its ties and links with the world around it.
He has a clear understanding of the role of the Obi, namely, to defend the territorial integrity of Onitsha, provide selfless, honest, peaceful and impartial leadership to his subjects, represent and project the image of Onitsha amongst its neighbours far and near, preserve the culture and traditions, encourage enterprise and productivity, and be a pure and total embodiment of what it takes to be an Onitsha indigene.
Today, Onitsha faces the challenges of reconciliation and peace, preservation and enhancement of its culture and tradition, community development and self-help, re-focussing the youths towards functional education and gainful economic activity, and generally harnessing it’s resources and energy at home and in diaspora for the good of Onitsha.
Addressing these issues and challenges calls for a leader who possesses a unique combination of attributes. First and foremost, he must be god-fearing and morally upright. He must have the strength and courage to lead by example and the humility to seek and ensure the support of his subjects in all his undertakings as monarch. Furthermore, he must have the magnanimity and wisdom to heal all quarrels and divisions within and amongst Onitsha people, experience, tact and diplomacy to build bridges and relate to Onitsha neighbours in Anambra State, Nigeria and the world at large, and pride to stand up for Onitsha at all times.
All these attributes Onitsha has found in lgwe Nnaemeka Achebe. He is ever gentle in demeanour, easy of address, but firm, resolute and fair. He does not shirk responsibility for his own actions and those of his delegated subordinates. He had excellent managenal skills as well as local, national and international exposure and connections. He Is a man of principles and is open, transparent and diplomatic. He is well experienced in peace building, issues and conflict management and community development. Above all, he is well versed in and committed to upholding the ancient customs and traditions of the proud people of Onitsha.
My Dreams for Onitsha— Igwe Achebe
“I have chosen as my theme, Peace and Reconciliation Based on Truth and Transparency as a Foundation for Sustainable Development”. It is my belief that Onitsha is at crossroads, faced with the dual challenge of being a relevant part of a rapidly changing and more competitive world and that of preserving and promoting those qualities, norms and practices (our culture and traditions) that have earned us respect and distinction as a people.
There is no doubt that Onitsha has been in decline since the civil war. The myriads of factors that have caused this decline are, to some extent, outside our direct control. However, it is fair to say that we, the indigenes, have also been responsible for many of our setbacks.The most singular challenge facing us today, therefore, is to reverse the decline and restore the foundations for development and growth in our great and historic town. In other words, we must restore Onitsha to its past supremacy by keeping abreast of change, whilst upholding and preserving our very identity as a people. We owe it to ourselves to maintain and strengthen our ties and links with the world around us. We must be part of the mainstream in Nigeria as the country marches forward in the quest for democracy and development.There is need to refocus our children towards quality education and gainful enterprise, and away from crime.
Considering its strategic commercial importance in Nigeria, Onitsha should be well served with good roads, water supply, electricity, telephones, and a clean environment, to say the least. Though as Obi I do not exercise executive political responsibility; I should, like other senior monarchs in the country, be able to exert adequate influence towards the accomplishment of these necessities.All these are daunting tasks and cannot happen in one day. But we must make a new beginning. I will be in no better position than to engender the sense of determination among our people to change direction. The monarchy should be a critical factor in the transformation of Onitsha.”