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The Burial of HRH Obi James Okosi II

The burials of popular and titled men and women and powerful aristocrats were grand ceremonies that engulfed entire communities and froze day-to-day activities to a complete standstill, as can be seen by this 1961 newspaper publication which documents the death and burial of HRH Obi James Okosi II, the Obi (traditional ruler) of Onitsha.

As a nationalist and peacemaker, Obi Okosi II was much more than a mere ruler, but a pioneering leader who worked to harmonize the ancient traditions of his people with the realities of a modern world, thus placing them on the path to dominate and exercise their influence on their young Nigeria. Although said to be soft-spoken and quiet, Obi Okosi II’s fatherly qualities and warmth helped transform Onitsha into a hub of progressive political thought, intellectualism, and education, making it the “light of the nation” - a nickname which has since come to describe the entire Anambra people.

When asked to speak about the late King, a spokesman for an Onitsha newspaper wrote: “Obi Okosi was a King with more than a nationalist blood. In Nigeria he found a leader of the African race, and in Africa, he saw a towering force in the solution of international problems. He believed in ‘charity begins at home,’ and towards the achievement of internal unity, peace and security he dedicated himself…. And so, in Onitsha, King Okosi II worked ceaselessly silently towards solidarity and mutual understanding and respect among all tribes within his domain. In and out of the Palace, his aim was to weld all diverse opinions together with a view to carrying a crusade of peace and unity outside his territorial boundaries in this country and, eventually — all Nigeria thus blended in common understanding — to carry all Africa with her into the front of all the world powers.” “Obi Okosi II, among all his predecessors, lived to see a united Onitsha, an Onitsha where all tribes not only fraternized but lived as of one parent, regarding the problems and difficulties of one as those of the other. He was a loving and lovable ruler. Height — enchanting. Voice — commanding. Life — exemplary.”



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