MILDRED EUROPA TAYLOR
All teenagers are not the same. But apart from studying, many enjoy doing things like watching movies, going to parties or the beach, shopping, being with friends, and not bearing the weight of a community on their shoulders. Five years ago, Noah Chukwuka Ofulue’s life changed when his father was kidnapped and murdered by gunmen.
At just 15, Ofulue, a secondary school student and first son of the late king, Obi Edward Ofulue III, had to take over his father’s throne in the Ubulu-Uku Kingdom, a community in the Delta State of Nigeria. Installed as king on February 20, 2016, after the traditional rites were performed, Ofulue took the title of Obi Chukwuka Noah Akaeze.
A prince, he was now king, bringing an end to his teenage life. Crowned as king by the kingmakers of Ubulu-Uku, he was first presented to the members of the royal family before his presentation to the council of elders at the palace as the new ruler of the kingdom.
Prominent people attended the ceremony, including the President-General of Ubulu-Uku Development Union and a member of the House of Representatives representing Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency. Also present were traditional chiefs and titleholders, the Chairman of Aniocha South Local Government Area, religious leaders, women, young people and other stakeholders in the kingdom.
People of the Ubulu-Uku Kingdom were at the time mourning the murder of their former king but the installation of his 15-year-old son as the new king brought joy. At the time, the Secretary of the Palace, Joseph Obazei, described the ceremony as “wonderful”.
“This is a young man who was not even looking up to this position because his father was young and vibrant. Unfortunately, this bad event occurred. He has now been thrust upon the throne taking up the mantle of his late father. Ubulu-Uku people are very happy that we have somebody who has taken up the throne because the king never dies,” Obazei said.
In other words, according to the custom and tradition of the people, a king can only be said to be dead only when a new one is installed.
Obazei further explained to the Punch that per Ubulu-Uku tradition, there were not too many rites to the installation of a new king. “By our tradition, you can wake up in the morning and see the heir apparent sitting on the throne and issuing commands which will be obeyed. That will tell that something happened in the night and something has happened now.
“So, this young man has taken over the stool of his father, and now he can begin to give direction to the town.”
Young monarch Akaeze appealed to his subjects to give him the support he would need to make the kingdom grow. During the ceremony, it was revealed that a regent would be appointed to manage the stool while the boy-king paid attention to his education.
And that is exactly what Akaeze did. In July 2019, as his father’s immediate younger brother continued to act for him as a Regent, Akaeze was conferred with a law degree at the University of Exeter, England, Vanguard reported. He was 21.
Being a constitutional democracy, Nigeria elects its representatives, however, the hundreds of ethnic communities scattered across the country still acknowledge their own traditional rulers. In most communities in the northern Delta State, including Ubulu-Uku where Akaeze is king, primogeniture is practiced, where the firstborn son succeeds his parents, according to reports.
Ubulu-Uku, also known as Ubulu-Ukwu, is an Igbo town that shares boundaries with Ogwuashi Ukwu to the east, Obior to the west, Isselu-Ukwu to the north, and Ubulu-Unor to the south. Farming is the main occupation of the community, with its major produce being yam, cassava, cotton, cashew, maize, and palm produce. Men are usually palm wine tappers and hunters while women are known for their cloth weaving.
Security became a major issue in the town of about 10000 people but during his installation, Akaeze assured the people that he would do all he can to ensure that security is enhanced in the kingdom while attracting the needed development to it.