Wednesday is that day of the week where we get to appreciate women that have distinguished themselves in any facet of life, consequently altering the status quo. Today’s post is dedicated to one of Onitsha’s delectable woman that set herself apart from the crowd. Her name, Nwagboka Egwuatu of Ogbeotu, the last Omu of Onitsha.
In a world where patriarchy has been the order of the day, the Onitsha society had some sort of representation for female folks. According to Onitsha tradition, the Omu is the Queen Mother and is selected and installed by the Oni from among the entire women population of the town.
To be qualified for this post, the woman has to be recognized for her high social standing in the community. She must possess a proven ability for patriotism and dynamic leadership. Most times, the lady chosen for the Omu title may come from any kindred group in Onitsha irrespective of affiliations.
The Omu who is a member of the Obi’s cabinet was responsible for looking after the public affairs of women folk generally, ensuring that women organisations are peacefully run, supervising village markets, settling disputes mostly of maritime nature, disseminating information of public interest, ensuring strict observance of customary practices and rendering social and political services.
Omu Nwagboka in 1886 led the Ikporo Onitsha (Association of Onitsha wives) in a strike against Obi Anazonwu. This all-woman boycott of social duties was intended to remind the community that no society can function without the duties and tasks performed by its women.
After her death in 1890, there has been no successor to the position of Omu. However,Onitsha has always had a strong female leader who spearheads the cause of women in the society.
The Omu is still in existence in Delta State. The reigning Omu Anioma and Okpanam is Her Royal Majesty Obi Martha Dunkwu.
Prior to her becoming the Omu, she was a media practitioner. She studied in England, the United States of America and returned 36 years ago. She was a media consultant for the late Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty, Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa, of blessed memory and the late Orodje of Okpe. At some point, She consulted for the Asagba of Asaba and about seven traditional rulers.
She was in the consultancy business but when she became the Deputy Omu, she decided that the best thing was to start working for traditional rulers. She was Deputy Omu for three years and became substantive Omu for 17 years, thus she has done the work of Omu for 20 years now.