His Highness, Emere Oji Awala
In the year 1935, a baby boy named Oji was born into an ancestry of warriors, traditional rulers and orators. His father, Emere Obe Nwafor Awala was the grandson of Emerengiri kindred in Ejii community and Awala Onwwaaka Obelewa of Ogale and mother of Okia Awala of Ojan Wai Ngejelewa of Alesa of Nchia City, Eleme Local Government Area.
Born with the blood of greatness, Oji was the third surviving child of his late parents at his passing in 2007. He had Alinah Mbaka, the mother of Chu Mbaka and Nwafor Awala, the father of Obe Nwafor as his older siblings.
He was full of adventure at his early life hence; he would hunt birds, trap animals and catch fishes. Those were his hobbies. His passion for them became so strong that he almost traded them for school. However, God intervened using ‘Sir’ Victor Achi Emereobo Ngochindo to influence him to pursue formal education.
Oji was a kind man who enjoyed supporting his parents and relatives. Chu Mbaka who lived with him for 43 years once testified to that and identified his friends as Gomba Ejii Ndo, Emere Samuel Awaa Obe, Michael Ollorma and Ebenezer Akarada.
Oji’s primary school education was between 1943 and 1950. It was said that Oji was unwilling to pursue western education because of his hobbies. Daily he was almost forced to school, the Holy Trinity School, Nchia – Eleme by Sir V.A.E. Ngochindo. He was forced to serve as a house boy in 1948 with the second Master of the school, Chief Ashiri. Two reasons informed the decision to force him to school.
- He was academically resourceful.
- His father’s contribution as the Head of the Task Force that saw the establishment of that school.
On completion of his primary education in 1950, he ventured into commercial education at Aba and Enugu. He later travelled to Cameroon in search of jobs in a bid to raise funds to further his education since his parents had become old to cope with the financial demand.
Oji reluctantly, joined the teaching profession in 1958 when he did the Preliminary Teaching course under the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Aba. He went on to enroll for the Northern Ngwa County College, Nsulu in 1960, to read for Teachers Grade III certificate and completely the study in 1961. Oji enlisted for a correspondence studies with the Rabid Results College and cleared six papers of the London G.C.E., ordinary level at a sitting including English Language and Geography. In 1964, he made another resounding success in his studies as he passed yet at a sitting, three Advanced Level papers in the same London G.C.E. examinations and they were History, British Constitution and Economic History. With these, he had removed the barrier to gaining admission into the University to pursue a degree programme. Unfortunately, the Nigeria civil war stalled this quest.
“As at the commencement of the war, several Nigeria Universities and the famous Furah Bay College, Sierra Leone had already admitted him. His Highness was admitted to study Political Science at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1971. He graduated with honours from the institution in 1974,” Chu Mbaka recalled.
Oji, enjoyed socialization and went on to marry his first wife, Owa Emere Rosaline early in his youth. He was open hearted and that attracted young and old, small and great and people of all walks to life to him. He was hard working as well and inspired many.
To his parents and relatives, he was special. His father made it so obvious that even as an adult, his aged father would always reserve part of what he ate for him. He never did that for the other two children and it was interpreted as a form of blessing for Emere Oji Awala.
Oji championed and promoted much social organization within Eleme and beyond. These include:
- Secretary General, Nchia Teachers Association.
- Secretary General, Eleme National Union
- Member, Land Use Allocation Committee at Bori Local Government Area, 1978 – 1980.
- Member, GOTELGA, Education Committee 1989-1991
- President General, National Union of Rivers State Students, 1972-1973.
- Chairman, MOSOP Electoral Committee, 1999.
- Member, Police Community Relations, 2000.
Emere Oji Awala was found to be selfless, dynamic and honest. These qualities compelled his people of Ogale to select and install him as the Oneh Eh Eta Ogale, the Paramount Ruler of Ogale at the passing of HRH, Emere Walter Gbute Ngegwe in 1970. Soon the Eleme people found the progressive way he was leading the people of Ogale and he was selected and installed as Oneh Eh Eleme in December, 1974.
Although, his acceptance by the Eleme people was not recognized by the Rivers State Government in 1979 as expected, yet he was said to be the true Oneh Eh Eleme until his passing in 2007. This is because his Ascension conformed to Government’s Standard on the matter. Tekena Tamuno Chieftaincy Review Panel which recommends that only Oneh Eh Eta of any of the communities of Eleme qualified to contest the chieftaincy stool of Oneh Eh Eleme.
“As Oneh Eh Eleme, Emere Oji worked assiduously to give Eleme people a place of pride everywhere in the scheme of things using the defunct Nyime Eleme Association as an umbrella. There was regular interaction among the Eleme people where the needs and aspirations of our people were considered for appropriate action. It was through his cooperative attitude of our people under the leadership of Emere Oji that gave Dr. Friday Nwator and Emere (Hon.) J.D. Osaronu resounding victory over their contenders then.” Nwator defeated Ken Saro-wiwa into the Constituent Assembly to ratify the 1979 Constitution while Emere Osaronu emerged victorious over Emere C.C. Okpa to become a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
Emere Oji single-handedly established the Nchia Motor Park and donated massive portion of Ogale farmland for the rehabilitation of returnees from Equitorial Guinea. He also, donated the Ogale community land for the building of Eleme Local Government Secretariat.
He was an accomplished Yam Title holder in Eleme and had five children – four males and a female.