Chief Jonah Ollor Ollornta
1905 – 2003
In 1905, the sound a new born baby was heard in the house of Ollornta Ollor and Pepe Ollor. That child was Jonah Ollor Ollornta. He was the only brother to his three sisters. Jonah was cherished and protected by his parents and the desire to make him succeed in life, motivated them to find him a mentor in the person of Emmanuel Goka, whose responsibility was to guide him through his early life.
Jonah became befriends with Philip Busor-Ogbo and David Ogugu, the sister of the latter became his loving wife years later.
He socialised with his peers and subsequently became the founder and chairman of two social clubs:
- Ijaw – a dance group.
Jonah had recalled that Christian Missionaries arrived at Akpajo – Eleme, his Hometown in 1912 and St. Luke’s Anglican Church was inaugurated two years later, in 1914. He was a founding member of that Church.
He also said that the present Church was an evil forest which challenged the Christian faith as the Elders who donated the forest to the Church had reasoned that all believers would die and thereby bring to an end Christianity at Akpajo. At that time, traditional belief held sway and it took only courageous people to believe in Christianity. Needless to say, Jonah Ollor Ollornta was a courageous man. He was a baptised and confirmed member of the Anglican Communion. He was a member of the Parish Church Council (P.C.C.) and Building Committee of the Parish. The dedication of that building committee laid the foundation of the present Church Building in 1972 and it was completed in 1985. Before then, the people worshipped in mud house.
Jonah was a member of Evangelistic Band which visited Districts and Parishes to raise fund for the Church.
It was from his Christian life that he received the light of education and he embraced it by enrolling in Primary School. That Primary education which terminated at Primary IV empowered him for his generation and generations unborn.
Career and Occupation
Chief Jonah’s first paid employment was with the Native Administration of the British Colonial Government of Nigeria, where he worked as a Road Labourer. During this role, he met and built a lifelong friendship with HRH, Chief Walter Gbute Ngegwe, who was at that time, the Head Labourer. Jonah was Chief Ngegwe’s Assistant Head Labourer.
Chief Jonah resigned from the Labourer job in 1932 and took up another employment as a Court Messenger until 1943 when he returned home to work as a community leader.
Having resigned the Court Messenger job in 1943, he also, became an entrepreneur and contractor. He was a contractor of sand and gravel at Akpajo Water Side. He supplied sand gravel to building and construction companies for several years. He was a contractor to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) where he supplied labour to maintain Oil Pipelines Right of Way for many years.
He began and sustained a Saw-Milling business. He sawed planks/woods on commercial scale. It was reported that all woods and planks used for the building of his family house were products of his Saw-Mill.
He obtained sales license from Nigeria Agip Oil Company and sold kerosene. He displayed kerosene tank by the Motor-Way from which he pumped and sold kerosene in various quantities (the equivalent of a modern day filling station).
In preparation to Nigeria’s Independence in 1960, political parties were formed and Chief Jonah joined the NCNC -National Council of Nigeria and Camerouns. That year, he was elected as one of the pioneer Councillors of Eleme County Council. He served in the Council as Chairman, Works Committee with Chief M. N. Ngelale as the Council Chairman. Eleme County Council which was delineated from Khana County Council had four (4) Electoral Wards and he represented Akpajo/Agbonchia.
A part from his integrity, he won the acceptance of the electorate through gifts such as salt, rice, palm oil but no money exchanges was involved during his campaigns. The use of thugs and ballot box snatching was completely ruled out. In fact, in contrast to modern day politics in Nigeria, candidates showed great respect for each other and elections were seen to be free and fair. Hence, the candidates readily accepted election results.
In 1962, Chief Jonah was re-elected as a Councillor for a second term having defeated his opponent of Action Group (AG) Party. Then, he recruited several persons into gainful employment. They include: Alakada Moses Ochindo, Dick Obelle, Adolphus Ngalaka, Chief Promise Alale as Post Master and Michael Oyor as Cashier.
Chief Jonah also, traded in goat. His goats sold one half price higher than what other traders sold due to the breed of goats he stocked.
He was a farmer for several years and cultivated yam, plantain and cassava. Although, he had all it takes to become Yam Title holder, he restrained himself from taking titles like Obo and Ao-achu due to his Christian belief.
“My father’s role in community leadership was that of a servant-leader. He saw his destiny as Akpajo’s destiny and vice versa. When there arose any threat to the community from her neighbours, he was in the first line of defence through legal and sometimes physical battles. He was prepared to sacrifice his life for Akpajo land. Indeed, my father lost his right eye in one attempt to defend Akpajo land against usurpation by neighbours from Elelenwo,” Prof. Ollor.
He was the witness-in-chief for Akpajo land disputes with neighbouring communities. His evidence-in-chief resulted, on several occasions, in court rulings that favoured Akpajo.
Within his community, Chief Jonah stood for truth and justice as he would trade nothing for his integrity. This earned several enemies. His leading role in redeeming fines and levies from those who failed to participate in community labour (service) increased his enemies as well.
Chief Jonah was the Traditional Oneh Nkporon (Prime Minister and Spokesman) to Chief Johnson Eba. At the passing of Chief Eba, Chief Jonah was selected and installed as the One-Eh-Eta Akpajo XII (Paramount Ruler of Akpajo) on January 24, 1976.
During his reign as the Paramount Ruler of Akpajo, electricity and water supply were extended to Akpajo. He was the leader who handed over the land for Eleme Petrochemicals Company Limited to Nigeria National Petroleum Company, NNPC in 1985. He participated in the negotiations that led him to the land acquisitions in Lagos and in the office of Prof. Tam David-West, the Minister of Petroleum.
At a time when little was known about the importance of education, Chief Jonah ensured all his children were educated. He led the community’s efforts in building the St. Luke’s Primary School building (and its transformation from mud house to concrete building) which has served many generations of pupils.
Chief Jonah was a high ranking member of Eleme Council of Chiefs until his demise. The likes of Chief W. G. Ngegwe, Chief Moses Ngofa, Chief Amos Kattey and himself, constituted the inner caucus of the Eleme Council of Chiefs. He was a confidant of HRM, A.O. Ngei. It is on record that Chief Jonah’s evidence-in-chief led the Chieftaincy Panel of Enquiry into Eleme Chieftaincy disputes to rule in favour of HRM, A.O. Ngei as Oneh Eh Eleme IX.
Jonah fell in love with Cecilia Lale Ngesia, sister to his bosom friend, David Ogugu. He was attracted by her fair complexion and beautiful appearance. It was love at first sight.
His marriage to his first love was under the Anglican Church Ordinance. The marriage ended in 1965 at the passing of Cecilia Lale Ollor. That marriage was blessed with ten (10) children including Chief (Mrs.) Pepe Ngofa, Mr. George Ollor, Mrs. Emily Jaka and Prof. Walter Ollor.
He later married Mrs. Agnes Ngajo Ollor in 1970 and blessed the marriage in the Church in 1998.
As a Traditional Ruler, he was married to three (3) other wives at various times.
He was survived by 32 children from five (5) wives, 54 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
His Life and Times
His generation had the ubiquitous Bicycle as a measure of wealth accumulation. It was customary that if a wife presented a bicycle as a gift to her husband, the neighbours gathered to celebrate that achievement. The bicycle aided his journeys. He travelled frequently between Akpajo and Nchia, the County Council Headquarters. He would often return late at night, due to his involvement in partisan politics. His children would wait for him even up to midnight. The unique sound of his bicycle bell heralded his arrival to their relief.
In 1950’s the incumbent Traditional Ruler of Akpajo, Chief Johnson Eba, was under sanction and a group of community leaders chose Jonah as the successor. This decision created division in the community leadership with those pro-Jonah and those pro-Johnson as rival group. Jonah chose a peaceful resolution of the conflict by tabling the issue before the Eleme Council of Chiefs. One would have naively assumed that, with Jonah’s friendship with HRH Chief Walter Ngegwe, who was also the Chairman of the Council of Chiefs, judgment was already predetermined in favour of the pro-Jobah group. In what was generally acclaimed as transparency and justice, the Eleme Council of Chiefs gave verdict that Jonah should step down for the incumbent who was directed to pay the traditional fines as the remedy for his misconduct. Chief Johnson Eba thus, was reinstated to the position of Traditional Rulership of Akpajo Clan, a position which he held until his demise in 1975.
Prof. Ollor recalled that the Chiefs-in-Council had deliberated on tradition and not politics. This has been the age long Eleme tradition which requires that a traditional ruler once installed should not be removed from the stool. He should be fined for acts of misconduct and be reinstalled in office.
Culled from Power and Tradition: the epic journey of Jonah Ollornta by Walter G. Ollor