Meet Princess Okwei Opene, The Omu of Ossomari...The Who Is Who In The Igbo Land
The Igbo land is home to Jewels and geniuses the world has ever known. But not too many are women. The Igbo patriarchal society suggests a role for the women and, they should find that in their husbands' house, with little ambition for sucess and financial independence. It was unbecoming therefore, to have few extra-ordinary women achieve the uncommon. A revisitation to our history, reveals this woman with a rare character atypical of the Igbo society.
Born as Ifeoma Felicia Ekejiuba, in 1872,. Princess Okwei was a cherished daughter of Prince Osuna Afubeho, son of Ezedegwu of Osomari and his beautiful wife, daughter of Obi Aje, son of Obi Ossai of Abo. And so, she was a descendant of the royal families of Ossomari and Aboh in the lower Niger.
Princess was part of the scarce few that shook the ancient city of Onitsha from 1910 to 1943.
Though a lady, faced with the many injustices and constraints women faced in the then very patriarchal Igbo society, Princess defiled odds as she distinguished herself in sound wisdom and Leadership which were part of the qualities that earned her uncommon respect and esteem in the Igbo land.
She was consulted by both the Obi of Onitsha, District Officer and Resident of Onitsha Province and Adviser to the Atamanya (King of Ossomari), thanks to her unmatched senese of sound judgement and powerful spirit of discerment. She was soon to earn the revered crown Omu (head of women) of Ossomari in 1935.
Before venturing into the literary journey that distinguished her in history, Pirncess Ifeoma took off her marital adventure from the royal family of Nembe where her marriage could barely last many years before she later got married to Opene of Abo.
She went into partnership with her mother-in-law, Okwenu Ezewene (1896 – 1904) and became a big time wholesale trader and agent to the Niger Company in Onitsha and a major transporter in the Niger Delta.
Her tenacity and hardwork would soon bring her the deserved breakthrough. Shortly afterwards, the Princess ventured into writing producing evergreen materials such as The Aro of South eastern Nigeria Ifeoma Ekejiuba; Ritual address in Aro sacrifice : a preliminary analysis of Aro religious rituals and belief system Ifeoma Ekejiuba; Currency instability and social payments among the Igbo of Eastern Nigeria and many others.
By the 1920s, she was already one wealthiest and most influential women in colonial Nigeria. Her influence festered much all over the Igbo land that she had the honour of declaring open the African Tennis Club, Onitsha and was personally informed (through a circular) of the abdication of King George V in 1937.
At her death, her son was the Amayanbo of Nembe and she “owned several houses and more than a third of Onitsha land on the banks of the River Niger”.
Her grandson, Ambrose Ezeolisa Allagoa Mingi XI was the Amanyanabo (King) of Nembe-Ibe from 1980 to 2003.
Princess Omu Okwei joined our ancestors in 1943.And of course, we cannot deny her the well deserved honour of inducting her into our hall ofd fame.
Welcome, Princess Okwei to our WHO IS WHO IN IGBOLAND