Igwe Orizu I (Eze Ugbonyamba) was the 18th Obi of Otolo and the Igwe of Nnewi. He was born in 1881 and was crowned the King of Nnewi in 1904, he died in 1924. One of the remarkable events of his reign was the arrival of the British in 1905.
Eze Ugbonyamba was a young man when his father died, the British army led by Major Harry Moorhouse and Hugh Trenchard entered Nnewi in the same year. When the White man (Major Moorhouse) and his army marched into Nnewi in 1904, the young Igwe, whose father had just died, was spirited away for fear that the White man would kill him. His uncle Nwosu Odumegwu, who was the richest man in Nnewi then, received the visitors. They thought he was the Igwe but he told them no that the Igwe was in mourning and should not see visitors while mourning the late Igwe. Given that Ezeodumegwu was wealthy and influential, the White man sought to make him the Warrant Chief of Nnewi, but he vehemently refused. The White man was said to have expressed his surprise that an African would refuse to be made the Warrant Chief of his people by the White man.
When Nwosu Ezeodumegwu and other elders got a firm assurance that the young king would not be harmed, they arranged for a public meeting between the Igwe and the White man at the Nkwo Nnewi Square. On the appointed day, Igwe accompanied by the other three Obi of the three quarters came out to meet with the White man in the presence of the Nnewi People. Igwe was a young man of 23 years then. The British agreed to support the young King and Nnewi laid down arm soon afterwards.
It was also in 1904 that Trenchard was involved in bringing Igboland under British control. Initially many of the inhabitants refused to surrender weaponry to the British and Trenchard’s political advisor, R M Heron, arranged for the destruction of the houses of those who harboured weapons. In light of this policy, many guns and other arms were surrendered to Trenchard’s soldiers at Nkwo Nnewi where they were destroyed. During this time the Igbo nicknamed Trenchard Nwangwele, meaning young lizard in Igbo, on account of his figure.
|Igwe Orizu I (Eze Ugbonyamba)|
|Predecessor||Igwe Iwuchukwu (Eze ifekaibeya)|
|Successor||HRH Igwe Josiah Nnaji Orizu II|
|Full name||Igwe Orizu I (Eze Ugbonyamba)|
|House||House of Nnofo|
|Father||Igwe Iwuchukwu (Eze ifekaibeya)|
|Burial||1924 Otolo, Nnewi|
Nnewi thrived during his reign through land gains from neighbouring towns like Ichi through wars, He also resettled soldiers in Abubo, Nnewiichi & Akabukwu. His reign marked the beginning of Christianity in Nnewi and his family and people would later gradually become Christians. He took the prestigious Nri Ozo title, with the Ozo name, ‘Eze Ugbonyamba’.
Eze Ugbonyamba married about a hundred wives among whom were (i)Uzoagbala the mother of Josiah (ii)Ejeagwu (iii) Mgbugo noted for her dazzling beauty and command of respect (iv) Uzumma (v) Nwabudu (vi) Afuekwe (vii) Esomeju (viii) Amini (ix) Anyaku (x) Oyilidiya (ix) olieukwu (xii) Onyeanu (xiii) Odife (xiv) Oliemma (xv) Akuzulumba (xvi) Ogbeanu (xvii) Ojinukanu and (xviii) Alozo.
Legacy and memory
Before he died in 1924, he had a pleasure car bought for him from Lagos. The European Provincial officer at Onitsha was invited to see the vehicle and share with the chief in his joy. He came to the palace on a motorcycle, inspected the car which, thereafter, had ON1 (that is Onitsha 1) as its registration number. Thus, it was the first car in Onitsha Province and, probably, in all Eastern Region of Nigeria.