From conception, the king is out of the ordinary-Ancient African proverb.And so it is with Benjamin Ikechukwu, Keagborekuzi 1, Dein of Agbor. And yet, even more so is the above proverb actually true of the reigning Agbor monarch.
Born on June 29, 1977 (the year in which Nigeria hosted the world under the aegis of the second edition of the World African Festival of Arts and Culture, FESTAC), Benjamin Ikechukwu was afterwards to set a global record as the youngest monarch in the entire universe at his installation in 1979, at a mere 28 months.
This historic event (recorded in the 1981 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records) set in the wake of the untimely death of his father and then reigning Agbor monarch, James Obika Ikechukwu, was later to set the pace for the trail-blazing life of the unusual king.
The succession to the ageless Agbor throne was in deference to the existing tradition of hereditary succession which began at the onset of the third dynasty of Agbor royalty in 1270 AD, during the reign of Dein, after whom the reverential title of the current monarchy is known and addressed.
Dein reigned for 37 years (from 1270 to 1307 AD), before his death, following which his son, Dein Owuwu, was instituted king. Owuwu reigned for 26 years (from 1307 to 1333). Keagorekuzi I was installed in October, 1979 after his father, Dein Ikechukwu, died in 1979. He reigned for 11 years.
Following security concerns-mainly in relation to the sustainability and stability of the stool-the 28-month-old monarch and a select few from the royal family relocated abroad where he (Dein Keagborekuzi 1), lived for the first two decades of his life.
The decision of the family to relocate abroad created inclemency in some aspects of the generic life of the kingdom, especially the copious lack of immediacy of a royal rallying point for the people. However, all that has gone with the return of the Agbor monarch to the ancestral kingdom, who has done a tour of the entire kingdom to rally his subjects round the ageless crown (which he symbolizes) and to facilitate individual and corporate reintegration among his people. The goal is to restore, to pre-eminence, the kingdom and its people and their essence.
At the instance of Keagborekuzi 1, intensive and extensive consultations and actions deployed by the royalty, coupled with a plethora of institutional and other reforms, have since started yielding fruits, with Agbor gradually regaining its stead as one of the oldest and most respected kingdoms in the country, and its people, well enamoured of their king.
Now, at 36, the kingdom is beginning to show irreversible signs of credible multi-dimensional visibility, within and outside of our shores, while its royal emblem, Keagborekuzi 1, already has a bagful of garlands to his youthful neckline. The evidence?
Keagborekuzi is one of Nigeria’s most exposed kings, in terms of trans-cultural interaction, liaison and activism. He has been guest of honour/ guest speaker, Belgium King’s Day celebrations; guest of honour at Spanish Day celebrations and Guest of the German Embassy, during the visit of the German Chancellor to Nigeria. He was also one of the monarchs invited by the Federal Government to receive the Queen of England during her visit to Nigeria. He is an Officer in The Order of Belgium.
His Majesty has also been invited to many African and European nations. One of Kaegborekuzi I’s huge regrets is that recently a trip he was to have made to South Africa with former President Olusegun Obasanjo to wish the ailing Nelson Mandela, on behalf of not only himself as a young African monarch but also on behalf of all black people across the world in particular, soonest recovery for what Mandela did and went through for the black people of the world.
In 2006, the Obasanjo Presidency named him the Chancellor of a University, thus making him, at 29, the youngest Chancellor of any university – public or private-in all of Africa. As if to consolidate his all-round appeal and relevance, the Delta State government once named him Vice-Chairman, Delta State Traditional Rulers’ Council, thus becoming, at his age, the youngest traditional ruler to hold such a position.
He has introduced myriad reforms to drive the kingdom, safe and sound, into the next millennium.
He has instituted cultural and traditional reforms such as would enhance the cohesion of the kingdom, hedge up its competitiveness, raise its visibility at the national and trans-national fora, and increase its strategic relevance in the increasingly relevant traditional institution in our increasingly dynamic polity.
That is the dream of the average Agbor man ; the hope of their traditional stool and the expectation of their well beloved man of history- Keagborekuzi I.
In the meantime, what else can one tell the pre-eminent monarch than to wish him well as he strives to recreate an ageless kingdom in alluring garbs of civilisation and relevance? Doo Dein! Doo Dein!! Nito ni-Enyi fe. Ogi Azun Gbomee Ohimii.