By Jeremy Nwachukwu
Eze Michael Nwabueze Opara began the journey home through a one day Lap of Honour which began in Aladinma Mortuary in Owerri, Imo State capital to Mbaise where his kinsmen joined the procession at Big Tyre Bus Stop at Enyiogwugwu, Imo Airport Junction area.
The Lap of Honour first had a major stop at the palace of Eze Reginald at Ngwuru who released cannons and poured libation to wish Ubaoha 1 farewell.
The procession had brief stopover at Old Eke Nguru where more Eze’s saluted him with cannons. The procession went straight to Aboh Mbaise Local Council Hall where all the Ezes in Mbaise received him and held Session for him.
The Local Council boss, Barr, Sir Emmanuel Njoku, who gave a major speech, said Eze Opara must be a remarkable personality to have successfully served the government to retirement, to be found worthy to be the first monarch of his people, and to be found worthy to be a Knight of St John (International).
His words: “He must be a devout Christian for him to be a Knight of Saint John International and a Sir. It is noteworthy that he retired successfully and was elected as an Eze. All this shows that he was a very worthy man. He must have laboured very much in the vineyard of the Lord.
“I console his family and all Ezes and Mbutu people. We know he has joined his ancestors. Let the burial processes go in peace as an honour to his legacy.”
The Chairman, Mbaise Council of Ndi-Eze, HRH, Eze Leo Nwokocha, coordinated the proceedings and poured encomiums on the late highness. He said the Ezes would not find the late Eze guilty in judgment as was the tradition but would rather commend him through speeches and wave him bye to be taken to his palace instead of being taken away by ‘prison warders’ as was the symbolic practice.
Several Ezes who spoke poured encomiums on Eze M.N Opara and called him father of all. Some said he always laughed at every remark and doused tension with mirth and laughter.
Others said he never dragged his subjects to police and court but found ways of making peace.
Eze Nwaigwe said dieing at this time was abnormal and that anything that went wrong was abnormal, though some Ezes insisted on judging Eze Opara and finding him ‘guilty’ as was the practice. Eze Nwokocha ruled that whatever was agreed by the council of Ndi-Eze was acceptable to all because rule was made by man and not the other way round.
Most Ezes said Eze M.N Opara symbolized peace and his subjects must ensure that his burial activities and other conducts would be in peace. “Let all meetings still be held in his palace until one year after his burial. His first son will open the palace for any meeting of the cabinet and close it after.
“If this procedure is not followed, Ndi-Eze will frown and react. Let his replacement also follow peaceful process and let the next Eze be a person of good stature.”
One particular Eze observed that death of Ndi-Eze is becoming rampant. “Let us pray to God to change this trend.”
The Lap of Honour proceeded to Mbutu Secondary School where the Mayor, Evang Leo Nwaigwe, received him with the Ezes and chiefs on behalf of Mbutu people to say goodbye to Eze Ubaoha 1.
The Lap of Honour took an exciting twist when it got to Ama Umuobee in Ubahi where the chairman, Mazi Okechukwu Jombo Opara, led the men to sing old songs of heroism to the admiration of the visitors.
At Jombo family house, Mazi Emma Jombo Opara received the body in tears but kept saying bye-bye until the microphone left his hand.
The hearse eventually arrived at the Ubaoha palace where Eze Nwaigwe, Mayor and Rev Father Anthony Ibe rendered different eulogies to welcome the king back to his palace. The Prince, Obinna Opara, in tears, welcomed his father.
Cannon shots kept trailing the convoy from place to place as women and children flocked to witness the way kings are buried.
The rest of the burial activities would continue in the evening and the next day.