Elder Obele Te-Nwaji
28th Nov., 1930 ~ 8th Dec., 2011
Birth and Early Life
The marriage between Late Mr Akarada Nwaji of Osaro-Ejii, in Ejii Community and Late Mrs Yorowa Osaro-Oluka of Okori Community both in Ogale, in the present day Eleme LGA led to the birth of Obele Te-nwaji on the 28th November, 1930.
Obele Te-nwaji was the first born in a family of 5 male children.
Obele Te-nwaji grew up with a childhood that prepared him to live with personal torments and public success.
Te-nwaji farmed with his parents and did other domestic chores.
His excellent talent in singing traditional songs led to his being initiated into Eson-okeya’ebie group. Eson-okeya’ebie is a traditional corrective song or songs with critical themes.
Te-nwaji sang these songs with great passion and zeal till 1946 when he decided, out of his own conviction to go to school.
While singing Eson-okeya’ebie, Te-nwaji got to a place where they were doing this local meeting or rather weekly contributions.
In that meeting, they would have a clerk who takes minutes of the meeting. On that day, their clerk, Pastor Simeon Job Okochi, was ill and could not stand up. He had a big sore on his leg. They had to go and carry him on his sick bed to come and take records of the meeting. Te-nwaji watched with keen fascination and enthusiasm as Pastor Okochi wrote the minutes of the day with so much ease and perfection.
It was on the strength of this therefore, that Te-nwaji dropped the ‘ekere’ and became friends with Pastor Okochi who became his motivator and generous benefactor.
Te-nwaji, though a teenager of about 16 years, through the help of Pastor Okochi, enrolled for his primary education on the 11th February, 1946 at the Seventh Day Adventist School Nchia to start standard one!
Although, he started standard one at the age of 16! He vowed that all his children would finish secondary school at that age and so it was.
In 1952, six years after, Te-nwaji proceeded to St Paul’s School Diobu to read standard six which the Seventh-Day Adventist School did not have then.
In December 1953, Te-nwaji obtained his First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) after the manager’s examination which he came 9th out of 70 pupils.
In January 1954, Te-nwaji attended the Seventh-Day Adventist PTC School Aba to qualify as a ‘C’ teacher.
From 1958 to 1959, Te-nwaji attended the Nigeria Training College (NTC) Ihie, via Mbawsi, at the end of which he obtained Teacher’s Grade Three Certificate.
From 1963 – 1964, he went back to the same Teacher’s Training College to complete his course for the award of Teacher’s Grade Two Certificate.
In June 1971, Peesir as he was then called, became a foundation student of the Rivers State College of Education, Port Harcourt. He registered for English and French, the latter, French, he had practically no knowledge of.
By 1974-1975 academic session, he went to the University of Dakar, Senegal to do a one year French course after two short summer courses in Lome, Togo.
Peesir obtained Nigeria Certificate of Education (NCE), English/French in June 1975.
In October 1979, he was admitted into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka on a three year program to read French.
In 1980-1981 academic session, he went on a year abroad program at the University of Grenoble, France.
In 1982 he came back with an award of a Bachelor of Arts Degree (B. A Hons), French.
1956 – 1957 – Classroom Teacher, SDA School, Nchia Eleme.
1960 – 1962 – 2nd Headmaster, SDA School, Emii Owerri.
1965 – 1966 – Classroom Teacher, SDA School, Elele.
1966 – 1969 – 2nd Headmaster, SDA School, Nchia Eleme.
1969 – 1970 – Headmaster, St Barth’s Anglican School, Ebubu.
1975 – 1976 – Senior Tutor, Ascension High School, Eleme.
1977 – 1979 – Classroom Teacher, Holy Rosary Secondary School, Port Harcourt.
1983 ~ 1985 ~ Classroom Teacher, Government Girls Secondary School, Harbour Road, Port Harcourt.
1985 ~ 1989 ~ Principal, Community Grammar School, Sime Tai.
1990 ~ 1992 ~ Principal, Upata II Community Secondary School, Odiabidi, Ahoada East LGA.
Te-nwaji retired on 1st January 1992 as Principal, Grade Level 1.
Peesir joined the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in 1946, the year he enrolled in the SDA School.
While in the SDA school, he was an Evangelist, a song writer/composer, a chorister and a choir master.
He became a choir member in 1946 through 1974 in The Seventh-Day Adventist Church Nchia under the leadership at some point of Elder I. O. K. Eyi and late Pastor S. J. Okochi before he became the Choir leader.
While in the choir, he composed songs in Eleme language. He also translated songs to Eleme language because of his passion for Eleme language.
He led a unique and exciting choir throughout his reign.
He however handed over the choir successfully in 1974 to Elder Jacob Nkpa and Elder Promise Abbey.
During the Biafran war, Peesir joined the Biafran Army as a private solider.
After the war, he resigned from teaching, according to him: “out of my own intuition and deep feeling for deliverance from the war front I wish to become a Church Evangelist”. Hence he became an Evangelist at The SDA Church Degema.
He however, left The SDA church in 1974/1975 due to what he termed “injustice”!
WHY OBELE TE-NWAJI LEFT THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH?
Between 1974~1975 while he was undergoing his studies at the University of Dakar, Senegal, he was saddled with the responsibility of finding out the history and origin of Eleme language. Due to this enormous task, and with very scanty information on the subject matter then, he consulted notable deities like Ejilee, (ejor ‘eka), Onura, Ndowa and others. Their spirits were invoked by him through their priestz and he interviewed them on the history and origin of Eleme and Eleme language. He got some information in that regard.
The SDA church then, felt he was fraternizing with these deities and without proper investigation, suspended him in his absence.
Peesir got angry with this development and left the church where he had done well as an Evangelist, a chorister, a choir master who composed, wrote, sang and taught so many songs that are being sung today in the church.
Peesir’s love for the Sabbath led him to Jeremiah Osaro who with Bishop Tikili, started The Church of GOD 7th Day in State Primary School, Ogale in 1975.
He later gave them landed property where they have a permanent church building.
Although, the church has metamorphosed into the Liberated Church of GOD where he worshipped, served as an elder till his demise on the 8th December, 2011.
Peesir got married to Mrs Festa Obele Te-nwaji (nee Nkpa) his first wife, on 19th March 1961 from Obari Nkpaa’s family in Alode Eleme. That marriage produced a female Child. Unfortunately, Mrs Festa Obele Te-nwaji his first wife died.
After the death of Mrs Fester Obele Te-nwaji, Peesir got married again on 16th August 1966 to Mrs Love Yeye Te-nwaji, (nee Maduagu”), from Okundowi Compound, Ogologbaa Community, Agbonchia Eleme.
Peesir believed in music as a philosophy. To him, every chord, every word tells a story. If you listen carefully, you will understand and know its meaning. To him, music was a passion. He was a great vocalist, a dramatist, a dancer, a cultural poet as well as an interpreter of Eleme culture and traditions.
Te-nwaji’s social life was centered around songs, literature, Eleme traditional religion, Eleme cultural heritage cuddled from norms, values, conventions and general legitimate way of life, as well as translation of the Bible and Hymns.
Peesir joined politics in 1983. He pinned his tenth with late Elder Gomba Osarollor in the United Party of Nigeria (UPN) where he contested the councillorship position for Ogale/Alode/Aleto ward. Though, he lost the election, Peesir with his impeccable extra ordinaries, introduced great splendor into campaigns and rallies. He composed campaign songs, sang and danced in very unique styles.
Later on, Peesir joined the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) where he composed songs, sang, taught and directed songs for MOSOP programmes.
Peesir left the comfort of classroom, school administration and management to take active part in farming activities.
He planted yams, vegetables, maize, sugar cane, cucumber and plantain in commercial quantity.
He engaged actively in the deforestation of Okulu-Ebo at Ogale, Nchia Eleme, where he has adequate farmland.
Once you call the name Te-nwaji, one thing that spontaneously strikes your mind is Eleme. As a linguist of international repute, Peesir was Eleme personified. Peesir was a great connoisseur of Eleme language, history, Eleme tradition and Eleme culture.
1~ Peesir composed, wrote, sang and taught the Eleme Anthem: “Nno b’ eta Eleme”.
2~ Peesir is the only Eleme person dead or alive that has read news in Eleme language in the broadcast media.
3~ Peesir pioneered the writing of Eleme Language Book, ‘Nsan Ekan Eleme’ which was approved as part of the curricular of the Rivers State Ministry of Education as a study book.
Books he authored:
1~ The History and Origin of Eleme.
2~ The Traditional Marriage Ceremonies in Eleme.
3~ The Traditional Burial Ceremonies in Eleme.
Poems he wrote:
1~ Nno b’ Eleme Bai – This Is Our Eleme.
2~ Eson Eloi Mbate – Mbate’s Story Song.
3~ Echiri Ekpo On’ebe – An Ancient Man’s Riddle.
4~ Eson Eloi – Story Song.
5~ Nkpaa Egoni – Eleme Traditional Drumming at Feast (Yam titles, god’s and goddesses feast and burials).
6~ Olea Ra – My Prayer.
7~ Ngala Ejorkpor Oku Eleme – Ngala Ejorkpor of Eleme.
8~ Egbere Akara’olu – The Great Akara’olu.
9~ Egbere Ngajo – The Great Ngajo.
Peesir was a prayer Warrior.
Peesir was always handy during research.
Peesir was so many people’s generous benefactor.
Peesir loved education so much that he contributed immensely to human development and educational growth of the people of Eleme.
Peesir held Eleme language, culture and traditional religion in high esteem.
His life was a mecca of sort.
People trooped in and out of his life in search of knowledge.
His life was a pilgrimage, so glorious from start to the end.
His life was a journey so rich in conquest.