HRH, Emere Walter Gbute Ngegwe
Ngegwe Oloo hailed from Onua-Oka kindred of Ejii Community, Ogale Clan in Eleme Local Government Area. Ejii has its ancestry from Ajoor, one of the extinct communities of Eleme land. Ngegwe Oloo was the husband of Osila Torchii who was married from Ejamah community in Ebubu Clan. Together, they had three children namely:
- Walter Gbute Ngegwe
- Oloo Ngegwe and
- Osila Ngegwe.
Oloo Ngegwe was Gbute Ngegwe’s younger brother whose name his first son bears. Gbute Ngegwe’s oldest son Loveday Oloo Gbute Ngegwe was born in 1916 and the oldest man at Ogale as at 16th June, 2020. Osila Ngegwe, Gbute’s only sister got married into Okerewa community, Aleto Clan.
Gbute Ngegwe had no formal education as a child, but he conquered illiteracy through a private night study he had from a Roman Catholic at his own residence, years later.
Emere Gbute Ngegwe married two to three wives annually and at certain times, he had about five children born into his home in a month.
At the time of his death, his wives totaled 25. It was reported that his marriages were hinged on different reasons at different times.
It was common for men to be polygamous to aggregate and muster human resources for agricultural purpose which was mainly labor-intensive and the major business at that time.
However, this was not the case with Emere Gbute Ngegwe’s multiple wives. He actually had the wherewithal to adequately provide for their needs and he performed this role creditably. He was a peace loving man and at some point, he ate food prepared only by his first daughter, Patience Ebiti to forestall some challenges attributive to feeding from multiple women. This does not mean that his wives and indeed his family did not contribute to his farming business.
One of the motives for his marriages was to consolidate his relationship with his friends and his people.
He also, married out of compassion to assuage acrimony as was in a divorce case brought before him when he was the President, Eleme Customary Court. After fair hearing of the petitions made by both the complainant and defendant, necessary considerations were made. It was then, ruled that a certain man should reinstate his wife but he objected. Emere Gbute Ngegwe, married the woman out of compassion for peace to reign.
There was particular case, where he married a maiden for the purpose of elevating her social status for she was from a humble background. Emere Gbute Ngegwe married the maiden into Royalty.
Two of Emere Gbute Ngegwe’s wives married him wives. They were Mmama Goote who married him Ogbodien and Sarah Okanje who later married him two wives being Ngozi and Ogbodien.
In those days, it was common for women to marry wives for their husbands for various reasons including in cases where a wife considers herself barren, or had delay in child bearing and for the purpose of fulfilling other traditional obligations.
When his daughter Patience Ebiti got married, Emere Gbute Ngegwe married yet another lady whose appearance was likened to his daughter, to replace her in his immediate family.
Emere Gbute Ngegwe Wives:
- Mba-Ada from Osaroada family, Kaagwe kindred, Mbuma-eta community, Ogale.
- Mmama Goote, from Owi-Aken family, Alueken community, Ogale.
- Felicia Mba Ngegwe from Okpa community, Agbonchia.
- Ego Odele from Urhobo, Delta State.
- Ngegwe-Okunmba from Igbo land.
- Mmama Olaka from Aluebo community, Ogale.
- Jenny Tegbe from Akarada family, Aluebo community, Ogale.
- Rose Ngegwe from Ejamah community, Ebubu.
- Mmama Chu from Ejamah community, Ebubu.
- Titi Njuba from Onne.
- Sarah Okanje (Princess Pat Adudua’s mother) from Okanje family, Akpajo.
- Ngozi Ngegwe from Akwa Ibom.
- Ogbodien Mmama from Omonoha, Imo State.
- Esther Chu from Egbalor community, Ebubu.
- Mmamada (Mother of Prince of Africa)
- Macirindia from Njuru community, Agbonchia.
Emere Gbute Ngegwe worked with a Construction Company by the Imo River for a while but was not satisfied. This motivated him to take a long walk, on foot to Ahoada, where he sought for a better employment. His effort was crowned with success as he was employed as a Chief Labourer. His days as the Chief Labourer coincided with the passing of Emere Awukwa Okpabi, Oneh-Eh Eta Ogale VIII and he was selected and installed as his successor, Oneh-Eh Eta Ogale IX.
~His role to the Development of Education
Having educated himself in private night class by a Roman Catholic, he used his position as the Paramount Ruler of Ogale, to profitably negotiate with the Roman Catholics, the acquisition of land and the establishment of Ascension High School, Ogale Eleme, AHS. This negotiation included award of scholarship to a certain qualified indigenes. AHS, Ogale was founded in 1962. At its inception, it was not co-educational but a male school.
In 1952, during his reign as the Oneh-Eh Eleme, the Ogbo Nkporon Eleme considered and approved a scholarship award to Mr. Solomon Akara Wai Ogosu. Mr. Wai Ogosu then left for England to study Law and years later, he became the first Judge of a High Court from Eleme ethnic nationality.
~His role to the Infrastructural Development of Eleme
In 1959 when Eleme County Council was inaugurated, with Emere Micah Ngelale as its Chairman, HRH, Emere Gbute Ngegwe used his office as Oneh-Eh Eta Ogale and Oneh-Eh Eleme to ensure that sufficient mass of land was provided at Ogale for its headquarters.
He also, acquired another parcel of land for the building of General Hospital, Nchia at Ogale.
At his reign, Daughters of Charity, a Roman Catholics’ charity home was established at Ogale.
~His role to Christianity in Eleme
Although Emere Gbute Negwe was of the Anglican Communion and worshipped at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Nchia, he supported the inauguration of the Roman Catholic Church in Eleme land. In those days, Eleme people spent one half a year at homestead and another one half at home. His love for the Seventh-day Adventist Mission in Eleme was felt when he withdrew his daughter Deaconess Patience Ebiti (nee Gbute Ngegwe) from a Catholic Primary School at Oyigbo in 1958 and asked his friend, Emere Abel Ejire-ada Nwogu whom himself was an Adventist to enroll her into the Seventh-day Adventist School, Nchia Eleme but she later completed that primary school education at the Holy Trinity School, Nchia. His son Sir (Dr.) Gabriel Oloo between 1958 – 1965 began and completed his primary school education at the Seventh-day Adventist School, Nchia Eleme. The same applies to Mr. Haliday Onuoha, also one of his sons.
~His role to the Development of Eleme Culture and Tradition
In 1948, Emere Gbute Ngegwe succeeded Emere Micael Igwe, of Alesa as the Oneh-Eh Eleme, VIII (Paramount Ruler of Eleme). He was chosen for his uprightness, industry and his passion for the development.
In 1952, Emere Gbute Ngegwe got a recognition by the Eastern Nigeria Government as a Second Class Chief and a Member of the Council of Traditional Rulers.
During his leadership as the Oneh-Eh Eleme, the quadruple of Emere Gbute Ngegwe, Emere Moses Ngei, Emere Kate of Alode and Emere Jonah Ollornta of Akpajo constituted the caucus of Ogbo Nkporon Eleme – Eleme Council of Chiefs and Elders. They ruled with wisdom as they were fair in judgment and exemplary in character. Hence, no one challenged their judgment once pronounced.
The Laws of Ogbo Nkporon Eleme as at today, are still unwritten but passed from one generation to another through the induction of new members and the replacement of the dead members with younger generation of Chiefs.
Ogbo Nkporon Eleme homogenised various cultural rituals during the headship of Emere Gbute Ngegwe. Such customary rites includes:
- Okon esa – Successful Yam Farmer,
- Odo nli – Burial modus operandi; and
- Ochu-owa – Marriage Procedures.
The various traditional musical instruments and dance groups such as Obaa-ogolo – Local piano, Nkpaa Egoni – For general traditional activities, Egelege – Traditional wrestling drum and Egbe-mba/Eson-Mba – The female traditional drum/dance
would eulogise and dance to celebrate Emere Gbute Ngegwe and others in his days.
~His role to Marital Sustainability
Emere Gbute Ngegwe was strict and a disciplinarian and these were testified in the way he managed his home, yet he cherished and honoured the marriage institution. He would do every right thing, within his jurisdiction, to protect and ensure that marriage endures.
At his reign as the Oneh-Eh Eleme, whenever a divorce case was filed at his Palace and tempers rage, Emere Gbute Ngegwe provided a temporary accommodation for the ladies being evicted by their husbands for up to months. In addition to shelter he also, provided food for them. During such separation, he would prevail on the parties involved, encourage and initiate genuine reconciliation to discourage divorce. He would explain to couples the consequences of divorce and especially its effects on children out of such marriage. This conflict resolution technique of his, restored love and bond not only between couples but also among families involved. He would only pronounce divorce when the parties involve prefer to be obstinate. Needless to say there were minimal marriage suits that ended in divorce.
Emere Gbute Ngegwe invested in Oil Palm Enterprise; he had large stock of personnel who worked tirelessly for him. This was because he understood the benefits of a motivated workforce. He was kind to his staff and treated them with respect. Hence, he was successful. His success in this venture, culminated in the establishment of an Oil Palm Production Estate.
Apart from the Oil Palm industry, he also, made profitable investment in rubber and plantain plantations.
Emere Gbute Ngegwe as well, delved into finishing. During his fishing days he utilised the fresh water, natural fish ponds known as Oken Ogale, at Ogale. He excelled in this business enterprise due to his commitment and diligence.
In timber business, he acquired, fell and milled timber. Its derivatives were utilised in carpentry.
He later went into Real Estate business as he owned a massive building at Ogale and Port Harcourt. In 1950’s during the oil exploration and production in Eleme land, part of his first storey building was leased to Shell Development Company of Nigeria, SPDC to accommodate some oil workers. The proceeds from it was then used to build his second storey building.
Crisis from the Biafra War
Crisis during the Biafra, forced many people across the Eastern Nigeria to relocate out of their homes for safety. Emere Gbute Ngegwe was one of those who reluctantly, relocated out of Eleme to parts of Ikwerre and Omoku-Ogba, Rivers State. He encouraged his son Oloo Gbute Ngegwe to enlist in the Biafran Army so that they could conquer and return home.
His movement out of Eleme land created a vacuum in leadership. Consequently, the people of Ogale who managed to remain in the Clan amidst the war, decided to choose an interim Clan Head. Emere Benson Ogboru Obe, also from Ejii Community was chosen. He would serve as Oneh-Eh Eta Ogale until the return of HRH, Emere Gbute Ngegwe.
However, at the return of Emere Gbute Ngegwe, after the war, Emere Benson O. Obe refused to step down for the former. This event troubled Emere Gbute Ngegwe as he considered it as an embarrassment from his own brother. Being a peaceful man, he tried to handle the scenario maturely but things could not workout as expected.
Emere Gbute Ngegwe’s Death
Following the shock from this turn of events, without being ill, Emere Gbute Ngegwe died on 16th July, and was laid to rest the next day, 17th July 1970 due to state of affairs from the Biafra war. His Royal Highness Emere Oji Awala, succeeded Emere Gbute Ngegwe as the Oneh-Eh Eta Ogale X.
In 1993, precisely, July 16, a ceremonial burial was marked in his honour. One of his daughters, Princess Patience Adankele Ajudua returned home and made obvious her love for her late Father and King who had passed on while she was child. Hon. Barr. Adankele Ajudua donated 25, 000.00 naira and one cow each to the 10 clans of Eleme and a corresponding donation was offered to the reigning Oneh-Eh Eleme IX, His Royal Majesty, Emere Ngei A. O. Ngei and his family.