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Igwe Lawrence Agubuzu, an epitome of leadership by example

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Igwe Lawrence Agubuzu, an epitome of leadership by example, By Abia Onyike

His Majesty, Igwe LAWRENCE Okolio Chikezie Agubuzu, Eze Ogbunechendo of Ezema Olo Kingdom in Ezzagu LGA of Enugu State is a man highly respected for his single-mindedness , keen intellect and moral courage. He is widely celebrated in Igboland today for his exemplary leadership credentials, having distinguished himself as a unique leader of his people.

After a sterling career as a professional diplomat, spanning from 1971 to 2003, he retired as an Ambassador Special Grade from the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2006, the responsibility to lead his people in Ezema Olo Kingdom fell squarely on his shoulders. He was given the staff of office as the first Traditional Ruler of the community by the former Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani.

This write-up is a befitting tribute to Igwe Agubuzu for his vantage contributions to humanity, especially his efforts in stabilizing the principle of power rotation in the South-East Council of Traditional Rulers.

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Igwe Agubuzu was born on 27th October, 1942 at Awene village in Ezema Olo, Ezzagu LGA of Enugu State. He passed out of St. Joseph Primary School in Olo town in 1955 at the top of his class, thereby setting a high standard of hard work and brilliance which became his lifelong benchmark. He became a school teacher in Olo, Ogurugu and Umerum towns in the 1960s before entering the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he read Political Science. He graduated in 1967 as the best graduating student and prize winner in his Department. He would go for his post-graduate studies at the University of Lagos, Howard University in Washington, USA and at the University of Besancon in France.

He became a Foreign Service Officer from 1971-1996; Commissioner for Local Government, Rural Development and Chieftaincy Matters in the old Anambra State(1984-86); Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations in New York(1989-91) and as High Commissioner/Ambassador of Nigeria to Zambia and Malawi(1991-99). He was also the Assistant Secretary-General of the defunct Organization of African Unity(OAU-1999-2002); Commissioner of the African Union(2002-2003). He also held the following positions: Pioneer Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria(2015-2021); First Chancellor, Federal University of Kashere, Gombe State(2021 to date). He was the first person from the old Enugu State to be ever appointed as Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1988. He was honoured with the national honours of Officer of the Order of the Niger(OON) and Commander of the Oder of the Federal Republic(CFR).

Throughout his illustrious and glorious career as an accomplished diplomat, Igwe Agubuzu always admonished Ndigbo in all the cities of the world where he worked to avoid the unnecessary and subversive attitude of infighting which arises from sit-tight-syndrome or the tenacity of office holding. From Monrovia in Liberia to Brussels, Vindhoek, Lusaka(Zambia), Mozambique, Lebanon, Bangkok, Malaysia, Tokyo or in Washington DC, Agubuzu faced the embarrassment of seeing his Igbo brothers and sisters embroiled in such internal squabbles in their various organizations or associations. Sometimes, according to him, such unhealthy struggles resulted in mysterious deaths for the victims.

As a first class Traditional Ruler, Igwe Agubuzu came face to face with such leadership challenges at the level of the South-East Council of Traditional Rulers. He then decided to confront the monster of sit-tight syndrome there. A certain Chairman of the Council had perpetuated himself in office, employing gimmicks and shenanigans including intimidation and bribery to overstay his tenure. Igwe Agubuzu and his other well-meaning royal fathers decided to introduce far-reaching reforms which resulted in the following decisions: One: “It is the state and not an individual that holds the Chairmanship position in the Council at any given time”. Two: “The two-tenure of Chairmanship was reduced to only two years”. Three: “whoever is the Chairman of the state council of Traditional Rulers assumes the Chairmanship of the South-East Council of Traditional Rulers when it is the turn of his state to chair the Council and he automatically hands over the South-East Council of Traditional Rulers Chairmanship to his successor in his state once he ceases to be Chairman of his state council”.

Ironically, the person who became the first beneficiary of this power rotation arrangement attempted to truncate it by refusing to step down when his tenure expired. This prompted Igwe Agubuzu and his fellow compatriots to quickly return to the trenches and they routed him out in ignominy with the support of the South-East Governor’s Forum. The second beneficiary of the reforms was a true symbol of royalty, patriotism, decency and integrity. He strictly abided by the tenets of the rotational arrangement and handed over to his successor. Then came another person who tried another effort at tenure elongation but was promptly stopped by the Council members.

An important element of the reforms is that states and not individual persons hold the Chairmanship position at any material point in time.The real test of the sincerity of Igwe Agubuzu came on Monday, 27th May, 2024. On that day, he still had two months left to complete his two-year tenure as the Chairman of the South East Council of Traditional Rulers. But the inauguration of his successor as the Chairman of the Enugu State Council of Traditional Rulers took place same day. Igwe Agubuzu happily and promptly handed over to his successor, HRM Igwe Samuel Ikechukwu Asadu (Ogadagidi), the Traditional Ruler of Edem-Ani in Ogwugwu ancient kingdom in Nsukka LGA of Enugu state. It was indeed a colourful ceremony which took place at the hallowed chambers of the historic House of Chiefs at the defunct Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly. The handover event from Igwe Agubuzu to Igwe Asadu followed the inauguration of a new Council of Traditional Rulers by the Governor of Enugu state, Dr. Peter Ndubuisi Mba.

Igbo culture was marked with pomp and ceremony. Igwe Agubuzu has endeared himself to his fellow Traditional Rulers and Ndigbo at large for midwifing a creative and dependable system of power rotation at the highest echelon of Igbo traditional leadership. This has restored the sense of dignity and greatness for which Ndigbo are known in history. Agubuzu has shown himself to be a man worthy of emulation – a pathfinder and one who leads by example.

Abia Onyike, the national secretary of Alaigbo Development Foundation and former Commissioner for Information in Ebonyi State, wrote from Abakaliki

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