King Onyeama of Eke
The King of Agbaja, Onyeama n’Eke was the greatest king in northern Igboland. He was probably the greatest Igbo king in living memory. From his palace in Eke, Onyeama reigned over the entire Agbaja, from Oji River though Udi and Ezeagu to the present-day political capital of Igboland, Enugu, and even Nkanu and Ogui communities.
Onyeama was born circa 1870s, the youngest of the ten children of Özö Omulu Onwusi, a polygamous titled man of means, and an only son of his mother – Chinazungwa Ijeonyeabo of nearby Ebe community.
Brought up by his half-brother, Amadiezeoha Nwankwo-Onwusi, Onyeama worked hard and made his mark in business. He traveled to famous Aro-controlled trading centers including Abiriba, Arochukwu, Arondizuogu, Bende, Oguta, Uburu, etc. When British rule reached Eke in 1908, Onyeama was rich enough to buy his way into the Ozo title society and to marry a local beauty, Afia Nwirediagu, and later Gwachi Ebue.
Onyema attended the British Empire Exhibition in May 1924 and was invited to Buckingham Palace. His two-month sojourn so impressed him he vowed to prepare his people for the future through education and economic development. Onyeama invested in education, sending his own sons and others to institutions of higher learning in the country and abroad. Onyeama’s guidance and influence opened up northern Igboland of Nsukka and beyond for the Catholic Church and colonial governance. Thus he paved the way for the eventual establishment of Nigeria’s premier indigenous university at Nsukka and bequeathed on Ndiigbo a political capital, the Coal City of Enugu.
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