In Eleme Local Government Area in Rivers State, when a child is born and the parents decide to name him or her after someone they so admire, tradition demands that certain rites be performed on the child by the person the child is named after to show acceptance for and appreciation of the child for taking up his/her name. The paramount ruler of Okori Eleme in Rivers State, His Royal Highness, Appolus Chu recently performed such rites on several children that have been named after him. Mary Ekah writes
Some parents name their children after people who perhaps have been good to individuals or community at large to serve as role models and mentors to them. When such happens, the child at all times strives to live a good life and to impact the community positively. Some parents also name their children after persons who have done the family a favour as a way of immortalising that person they admire so much as well as cement their friendship with the person.
When such happens a traditional rite must be carried out on the name-bearer during the lifetime of the person he/she is named after. If the person who the child is named after dies without performing this traditional rite to those persons named after him or her, his or her family must perform the rite before they can lower his/her body into the grave. This means that it is a necessity that once a child is named after you, you must perform the traditional rite before you die. This rite is performed few months after the birth of a child, as part of his or her naming ceremony.
It was in line with this that the paramount ruler of Okori Eleme in Rivers State, His Royal Highness, Appolus Chu and in promotion of ancient Eleme traditional rites, recently performed this old traditional rite on the children named after him. He also performed the rite for some kids named after his wife, Rev. Grace Appolus Chu, even though the rite came so late in the lives of the namesakes as they had all grown beyond infancy. His Royal Highness was quick to apologise to the families of these children for doing the needful so late.
“In Eleme, it is a tradition that when a man is generous and good to others in the society, people voluntarily show honour and respect to such a man by naming their child after him. It is considered one of the highest honours and sign of respect an Eleme man can display to the one honoured. In fact, one’s value in a traditional Eleme society can be measured by the number of namesakes (Edee or Ngoo) one has,” he said
Amazingly, Emere Appolus Chu has got several. Emere Appolus Chu who was recently conferred with the traditional title of Emere Nkukuma Eleme (The Great Philanthropist of Eleme) by the King of Eleme Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Sir S.O. Ejire expressed joy and satisfaction for the opportunity to meet with his namesakes and blessed them one after the other. He expressed hope that his namesakes will all grow to be greater and also have people named after them, spreading the name far and wide across many generations.
Appolus Chu, the Egbere Emere Okori I of Eleme donated one of his properties as a seed sown to God on behalf of his namesakes. The property, an estate was donated to a nearby church that share common boundary with it. Announcing the donation, he said the purpose was to attract God’s favour upon his namesakes and apologised for the delay in performing the traditional rites of Okere Ekpii Edee (Acceptance and appreciation of namesakes). He said the houses on the estate should be removed and the land used to build a structure for the children section of the church. He also gave a token sum of One hundred thousand naira to each of his namesakes who were six in number and three others who were named after his wife, Rev. (Mrs.) Grace Appolus Chu, the Queen of Okori Eleme.
Those named after the Emere Appolus Chu and his wife include: Master Appolus Simeon Olaka, Appolus Samuel Nwolu, Appolus David, Appolus Ngei Chu, Appolus Obo Ebie and Appolus Obo Nwolu. Others are: Miss Grace Owa Emere Sunny Ogbu, Miss Grace Owa Emere Yeye Mbaka Nwafor, and Miss Grace Owa Emere Saturday. While two of the namesakes are of Kogi and Edo origin respectively, the others are of Eleme.
While receiving and appreciating the children named after him, the Paramount Ruler explained that traditional rulers are the sole spiritual heads in communities. He said: “As an intermediary between God and the people, the main role of the traditional ruler should be making pronouncements and blessing the people. God will not hold the Bishop responsible but the king of the land because the king is next to God.
“The King is the sole spiritual head of his community. As the traditional ruler, blessing his people is one of his paramount duties to his subjects. He is the mediator between God and his people. Before the coming of Christianity and Western civilisation, the kings were the spiritual heads of their communities. They led the people in prayers. They offered and poured libations to bless the people and the land. Such role still exits till date and will continue to be there from generation to generation.
As nature has placed children under the care of their parents as their direct responsibility, so it has placed the people in the community under the King as his direct responsibility. He is accountable to God over his subjects, even when there are bishops and pastors in that community. God will not question the bishop and pastors but the king over any calamity that befalls the land or any misrule of his subjects. People come to him for blessings and prayers when he is seated on the throne because they understand that the throne is the citadel of blessings and that the king has been vested with the authority and power to bless and utter positive words upon them.
So, it is my duty to pray, bless and intercede for my community both in my private chamber and in public. As it is in the interest of the father to bless his children in order to see them prosper in good health and long life, so also is it the in the interest of the king to bless his subjects in order to see them prosper in good health and long life,” the royal father noted.
Speaking further, he said, “When I make pronouncement upon my subjects that God should bless them, it runs into the future and manifests in their prosperity and well-being. The act is to secure the future of my people, I am pronouncing blessing upon them on behalf of God.”
He said therefore that the hand of the king must always be clean so that when he goes before God to intercede on behalf of the people, God will hear him, adding, “But when the king is not clean, his prayers attract God’s wrath. In the ancient days the traditional rulers do libation and they were committed but with the advent of civilisation, kings now pray and approach God in a modernised way. So, the king should pray for the land otherwise there would be disaster and calamity because if you don’t pray and bless your subjects today, you should not expect prosperity amongst them tomorrow.”
He said therefore that the king should be involved in chains of prayers and endless pronouncement of blessing, adding, “When the king is not at peace with God and the gods of the land, there will be calamity, but when the king is at peace with God, there will be peace and prosperity. So, the king is key, he is a counselor, an educator, a consultant and a judge of the people, one that promotes and maintains the culture and tradition of the people.”
Emere Appolus Chu who performed the Okere Ekpii Edee traditional rite in his palace at Eleme also used the occasion to bless several of his subjects and other individuals and groups who visited him in his palace to pay homage. Amongst those who received his royal blessings were members of Eleme women, members of the Eleme youth council, members of National Association of Eleme Students (NAES), and beneficiaries of the HRH Appolus Chu Foundation and many others.
Parents of the namesakes of Emere Appolus Chu, the Abachun Emere I of Eleme who were visibly elated thanked him for the royal blessing given to the namesakes and pledged to contribute their part by bringing up the children in the fear of God to ensure that they represent the name, guide and protect it jealously.