Her Royal Highness Princess Alu Ibiam,
Late nationalist, Akanu Ibiam was the traditional ruler of his native Unwana-Afikpo, Ebonyi State, until his death. His first daughter, Alu Ibiam emerged the traditional ruler of the town after her father’s death, writes Agha Ibiam
Notwithstanding the long-walk and dilly-dallying by some handful of people who felt dissatisfied that a woman should be a leader over them, recently, Princess Alu Ibiam was coronated as Unwana-Afikpo’s traditional ruler by popular majority of the community.
The Princess was crowned 17 years ago as the Regent of Unwana and she had functioned in that office creditably leading to her coronation after fulfilling the regulations of the traditional council, including standing for an election during which titled men, youths and women endorsed her election.
Princess Alu Ibiam is the first daughter of former governor of Eastern Region, late Dr. Akanu Ibiam. She had spent a greater part of her life in the United Kingdom and Canada but retuned to Nigeria for what was to have been a brief stay, as her father, Eze-ogo Ibiam by then a widowed octogenarian, began showing signs of failing health.
Princess Alu then delayed her return to Canada long enough to assist in the hectic round of activities assigned to Ibiam who was the then Chairman of Abia State Traditional Rulers Council. Within that period, it turned out to be the final three years of the life of Dr Akanu Ibiam. He later died in December 1995.
But while she was in the process of returning to Canada, Unwana Community took the decision to appoint her as Regent until a substantive Eze-ogo emerged. With a profound sense of duty, but reassured that the position would be a brief interim measure. To honour their request, the Princess became Regent of Unwana community.
The Regency sufficed to refocus the people, lower pressure and eliminate crises of confidence on account of the huge vacuum created by the loss of the great patriarch, Akanu Ibiam. It was the dawn of democracy and civilian rule but, ironically, also yielded its share of acrimonious power struggles over politics, the economy, business, customs and traditions, even religion, for example, in Unwana, Christianity vs Ogo tradition controversy.
Alu, an Elder of Reformed Presbyterian Church of Nigeria and Lady of Bethany of the Anglican Communion, made human capital development a top priority. It was a means to raise morale and knit the fabric of society. The Princess has sponsored candidates through secondary and tertiary institutions and continues to assist in advocacy, job placement and areas of critical need.
In the 17-year period where the Regency has interacted with a multiplicity of governments, military and civilian, federal and state executives and other officers, Princess Ibiam has been drafted into committees and boards and has received various awards. One of such awards is the prestigious national award of member order of the Niger (MON).
As a matter of commitment, she has carried a ten year campaign for an indigenous Ebonyi State Rector for Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic Unwana, and this is reaping its reward for the environment. She has also attracted a local government development centre and an extra ward and demonstrated that the concept of the dividends of democracy was realizable even at the grassroots.
She has made it possible that sons and daughters of Unwana gained political office at local, state government and the House of Assembly. They will also make their indelible imprint on the state and federal map in the not so distant future. Through the auspices of the federal government as well as Ebonyi State government under Chief Martin Elechi, respectively, vital infrastructural projects have delivered access roads, bridges, health, commercial and other facilities.
According to her, soon to be erected in Unwana would be a federal-sponsored scheme to revitalise marine activities with attendant multiplier effects such as the hospitality, tourism, leisure and entertainment sectors. Healthy host community/Polytechnic relations have garnered positive benefits in form of increased student admissions and senior and junior staff recruitment at Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic Unwana.
To her, these are grounds for the forfeiture of the calm and quiet life to pioneer and build a prosperous and sophisticated Unwana-land and neighbouring communities. When time permits Princess Ibiam spends time with her children, grandchildren, family and friends in Canada, USA and UK.
The Princess, a quite and caring individual, loves her community with an unmistakable and uncompromising feeling of concern for its corporate existence.
“If some people who felt aggrieved that she stepped into her father’s shoes could shield their sword, honestly they have a lot to gain, not only in terms of the developing the community further from what the father did, but also the co-existence of the people to pursue common goals,” keen observers said about the princess.