Eze Aro, Mazi Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro, CFR
Updated: May 12
His Majesty, Mazi Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro is the father of the Aro Nation.
Late Eze Aro, Mazi Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro, CFR, ascended the famous ancient throne of Arochukwu Kingdom in 1995. He was, in 1988, chosen to ascend the throne of his forefathers but was not officially crowned the Eze Aro until 31st May, 1995, about 7 years in waiting. He was crowned by the then Eze Ibom Isii (late Mazi Okorafor Imouh, whose duty it was to crown him), at a brief public ceremony held at Amaikpe Aro event square. The coronation of Mazi Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro on May 31st, 1995 automatically brought to an end the hitherto protracted Eze Aro stool tussle that had lasted for 7 years in the high court, Ohafia.
Born on 6th March, 1932 at Nde Oke, Oror, Arochukwu to the late Mazi Okoro Asi Eko Okenachi who died in 1952. His late grand father, Mazi Asi Eko Nnachi was the Eze Aro V of Arochukwu. Late Eze Aro, Mazi Vincent Okoro started his quest for education around 1939 at Jubilee School Arochukwu but completed his primary school education at Aggrey Primary School also in Arochukwu. He later left for Ibadan where he completed his Secondary School education at Ibadan Boys’ High School. He got employed by University of Ibadan and served as a laboratory technician in the Faculty of Agriculture. In 1960 he left Nigeria for London to further his education. At the end of his studies in several Colleges in London, he graduated with two Advanced Certificates (i) in Microbiological Techniques and (ii) in Laboratory Administration, both of City and Guild of London. He later became a Fellow of the Institute of Science Technology, (FIST) London. He is a holder of the Higher National Diploma (HND) Technical from the prestigious Paddington College of Technology, London. He worked in several medical institutions abroad. He returned to Nigeria and was appointed a pioneer Head of Department of Laboratory Technology at University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu and also a pioneer Technologist in charge of third year medical students of the MBBS class. Besides, he served as a part-time lecturer in Medical Microbiology at the School of Nursing also of the UNTH. He finally retired as Chief Medical Laboratory Scientist at the UNTH in 1988. He was motivated to retire by a written request, dated 1st August, 1988, and jointly signed by Dr Nwakama Okoro (now late), Mazi Elder Isaac Onoh and Mazi Ezumah Okoro (now also late), each as the then head of their respective kindred unions, namely: Okennachi, Ibom Isii and Ezeagwu, for the entire Arochukwu kingdom. They asked Mazi Vincent Okoro to retire and return home to become the next Eze Aro. Vacancy for the next Eze Aro became obvious after a full year observation of the traditional mourning period for the late last Eze Aro, Mazi Kanu Oji, CFR who had joined his ancestors on 26th June, 1987 after he had served Aro kingdom for 73 years on the throne. After Mazi Vincent Okoro retired from UNTH as requested by his people, he could not be crowned as Eze Aro on 26th December, 1988 Aro day, as was planned by both Nzuko Aro and Aro traditional leaders. Two controversies had erupted that worked against the planned imminent coronation of Mazi Vincent Okoro. First was the Ezeagwu Kindred’s complaint against the late Eze Aro, Mazi Kanu Oji, who they had accused of always denying them of their rights to a share of any animal slaughtered for Aro in the past. They insisted that unless their traditional right to a specific share was henceforth agreed to be given to them by Okennachi kindred, they (Ezeagwu kindred) would not participate in the ceremonies of both the final burial rites of the late Eze Aro and the planned coronation of the incoming Eze Aro. This controversy lasted quite awhile before a truce was reached through Aro intelligence dialogue mechanism. But soon after this truce was achieved, another dispute erupted that led to filing of a court case on 3rd August 1988 by Mazi Kanu Idei, just 2 days after Ndi Aro had sent their written request to Mazi Vincent Okoro to retire. Mazi S. G. Ikoku was the mastermind of that court action which eventually stopped the proposed coronation of Mazi Vincent Okoro slated for 26th December, 1988. Mazi Kanu Idei had made a legal claim that he was the proper person to occupy the Eze Aro throne instead of Mazi Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro. All efforts made by various Aro groups and some well meaning individuals to resolve this legal tussle amicably out of court failed. The case lasted for 7 long years in the high court but was technically struck out on 31st May, 1995, following the unfortunate sudden death of the complainant, Mazi Kanu Idei. To avoid any further embarrassment, some Aros, relevant to the occasion, quickly gathered at Amaikpe square that same 31st May, 1995, and publicly crowned the incumbent Eze Aro as Arochukwu custom demanded. The throne, which he occupies, is over 500 years old, having been established as far back as the fourteenth century A.D. Since the British invasion of Arochukwu (otherwise known as the Arochukwu Expedition) in 1901-1902, the British Colonial Government recognized the influence and prestige of the Aro King (the Eze-Aro) whose influence and prestige transcend the whole of Igbo land and beyond.
It will be recalled that Aro settle and constitute autonomous communities in various parts of Abia, Imo, Anambra, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Enugu and beyond with their recognized traditional rulers, but then these Aros and their traditional rulers pay true allegiance and annual homage to the Eze-Aro whom they recognize as their King. Because of his influence and prestige, the Eze-Aro was the first and only President of the then Arochukwu Native Court. Both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II awarded previous Eze-Aro’s certificate and medals of Honor in recognition of their immense popularity, influence and prestige throughout the former Eastern Region of Nigeria, more particularly for their role in quelling the Aba Women Riot of 1929. In the colonial days and after, the Eze-Aro was and still remains an embodiment of peace and exercised sobering influence over the other chiefs and Traditional Rulers in the area.
The Eze-Aro is one of the eight (8) Traditional Paramount Rulers in the former Eastern Region of Nigeria, and the only one in Abia State of Nigeria, whose positions as First Class Paramount Traditional Rulers were entrenched in the 1960 Constitution of Eastern Region of Nigeria as well as in the 1963 Constitution of Eastern Nigeria when Nigeria became a Republic. The other seven (7) First Class Paramount Traditional Rulers are the Amayanabo of Opobo, the Amayanabo of Bonny, the Amayanabo of Nembe, the Amayanabo of Kalabari, the Obi of Onitsha, the Obi of Oguta and the Obong of Calabar. Consequently the Eze-Aro of Arochukwu and the other seven (7) First Class Paramount Traditional Rulers named above were automatic and ex-officio members of the eastern Nigeria House of chiefs until the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War and subsequent creation of twelve (12) States in 1967. Thus the Colonial government and all subsequent Nigerian Governments, especially in the former Eastern Nigeria, have continued to recognize the influence, prestige and exalted position of the Eze-Aro as one of the few Traditional Rulers in the former Eastern Nigeria occupying a traditional stool with history. He was in fact, the only Traditional Ruler in Abia State occupying such a stool (i.e. a traditional stool with history).
Eze Ogbonnaya Okoro, who ascended the throne in 1995, died 25 years after at the age of 89 in 2021 after protracted illness. The Igbo weeklong rites of passage of His Majesty, Mazi Ogbonnaya Okoro, CFR, took place from Friday, 2nd to Monday, 5th April, 2021.
SOURCES: Mazi Emmanuel Kanu Ivi and www.aronewsonline.com