Igwe Kenneth Onyeneke Orizu III (born 1925) is the 20th Obi of Otolo and Igwe of Nnewi kingdom though of seventeenth generation. He is the traditional supreme ruler and spiritual leader in Nnewi, an Igbo city in Nigeria. He is a member of the Nnofo Royal lineage and the successor to his father Igwe Josiah Orizu II, his grandfather Igwe Orizu I (Eze Ugbonyamba), and great-grandfather Igwe Iwuchukwu Ezeifekaibeya. Unlike most Igbo monarchies, there were kings of Nnewi before the arrival of Europeans. In Anambra State, Igwe Kenneth Orizu III is the Vice Chairman of the Anambra State House of Chiefs and as of 2012 the longest-serving monarch in Nigeria.
The Nnewi monarchy, like the British monarchy, is a traditional inheritance of the throne based on Paternal sonship heredity. In Nnewi, the traditional monarch is called the Igwe. The Igwe is born and not made or elected, and the institution of inheritance is the traditional right and privilege. The position is neither transferable nor negotiable. The present reigning monarch is His Royal Highness Igwe Orizu III is the 20th monarch in the Nnofo Royal lineage.
The present incumbent Kenneth Onyeneke Orizu succeeded his father as Igwe Orizu III in 1963 after the death of his father Chief Josiah Nnaji, HRH Igwe Orizu II, Obi of Nnewi. He was educated at Hope Waddell College, Calabar. and completed his education at New Bethel College, Onitsha in 1942. Before his enthronement, Kenneth worked as a Representative of the then Eastern Nigerian Outlook Group of newspapers, in the defunct Eastern Region of Nigeria. He was also a very successful businessman in Kano.
So far the reign of Igwe Orizu III can be summarized in one short phrase- a glorious era of amazing Transformation and Development. It has been a period of momentous and phenomenal reawakening, rediscovery, progress and unification. It has been a period of reconciliation and reconstruction of the people and the land. The reign of His Royal Highness has ushered in tremendous transformation in all facets and phases of the town.
The King is the first of Nigerian Monarchs to abolish the Osu caste system, thus making everyone in the province of Nnewi free-born. Igwe Kenneth also discouraged wastage of resources at traditional marriage and funeral ceremonies and constituted elders that prepared bylaws to that effect.
First and most importantly it was RECONCILIATION – healing of the wounds and bringing the people together and forging a united front for reconstruction, development and progress. The Igwe knows and understands the wise dictum that united we stand, and that there cannot be any progress without peace and unity. The philosophy of reconciliation, peace and unity has been the cornerstone and the secret of the success of the Igwe’s every agenda. This has richly paid off and has created the very salutary and conducive socio-political and socio-cultural climate for amazing progress and prosperity. And this has been the foundation of the development and progress that have transformed Nnewi into a great industrial and commercial centre.
The King dealt with a political crisis in Nnewi by allowing the town in a general assembly to choose a title for him to restore peace in the town. Thereafter, the community named him the GENERAL OF PEACE. His other title is, Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON). The King is a one Star Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International.
Development of medical and health delivery services
The Igwe has been very instrumental in the development of medical and health delivery services. Nnewi has one of the best University Teaching Hospitals in the country. The Igwe was very instrumental in this spectacular development. His regime has been a period of great transformation and development in education. Okongwu Memorial Grammar School, Nnewi High School, The Anglican Girls Grammar School, Maria Regina Girls School, to mention some of the big ones. The Igwe was very instrumental in the development of the pipe-borne water scheme and also the introduction of rural electrification. At his accession, Nnewi had a very small and miniature one-room postal agency. But that has since developed into a full-fledged modern postal business system equipped with modern International Communication technology.
|Igwe Kenneth Onyeneke Orizu III|
|Coronation||May 25, 1963|
|Predecessor||HRH Igwe Josiah Nnaji Orizu II|
|Heir Apparent||Crown Prince Obianefo Orizu|
|Full name||Igwe Kenneth Onyeneke Orizu III|
|House||House of Nnofo|
|Father||HRH Igwe Josiah Nnaji Orizu II|
The King was instrumental in the establishment of a Teachers Training College in Nnewi; now Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nnewi. He also advocated the siting of the College of Health Sciences of the University by encouraging Nnewi people to make significant financial contributions. He personally donated most of the land for the establishment of the school.
Clearing of the Agbo Edo forest
Igwe Orizu II was instrumental in the clearing of the Agbo Edo forest. His Uncle, Prince Nwafor Orizu was Nigeria’s first republic senate President and his grandfather, Igwe Orizu I (Eze Ugbonyamba) was the first Igbo man to own and drive a car in the entire Eastern Region. The Ofala Nnewi is a cultural festival held every year to celebrate the coronation of the Igwe of Nnewi.
On the cultural plane, the Igwe was very instrumental in the stoppage and curtailment of the extravagant ostentatious and offensive criminal wastage of resources at traditional marriage and funeral ceremonies.
And perhaps, most importantly on the commercial scene, His Royal Highness was directly instrumental in the reclamation of the Edo jungle shrine, and the transformation of it into the largest, the most important, and busiest trade centre on the African continent. Remarkably, this was a direct blessing of the Nigeria-Biafra Civil war.
Ordered the relocation of the central market
The King facilitated the establishment of New Nnewi market and this market gave Nnewi prominence as one of the largest commercial cities in Nigeria. Before the civil war, the present Edo Market Center was a virgin forest dedicated to the deity of the clan. During the civil war, the Nigerian bombers and jet fighters were bombing and strafing everywhere and everything indiscriminately including churches and market places. In order to save the civilian population and protect the vital Nnewi central market, the Igwe ordered that the central market be relocated to under the protective canopy and dense foliage of the Edo shrine forest, and all vehicular traffic be diverted away from that make-shift arrangement. While the war ranged for three years, the makeshift market grew and developed into a marvellous commercial centre.
This was how the present commercial centre was born, from bomb shelters to the greatest and busiest trade centre on the African continent. Today, this centre is an international world trade centre, with trading partners and branch offices. This trade centre is a brilliant testimony to the wisdom, initiative, foresightedness, dynamic leadership and creative revolutionary spirit of the Igwe.
To summarize, the greatness and the success of Igwe Kenneth Orizu III, have been possible not because the Igwe is an extraordinary genius, or that he has the wisdom of Solomon. The Igwe has been very successful because he has a very large heart, very listening ears, and very admirable and charming dynamic leadership qualities. He is so very approachable and full of humility and magnanimity. His mind and his palace are always open and receptive to all ideas: modern and strange, but also very mindful and respectful and protective of the people’s intrinsic social, moral and spiritual values.
Above all, His Royal Highness is highly religious and God-fearing. This is why His Royal Highness is always seen and revered as the symbol of the Unity and the Strength of his people.