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On March 17 and 18, the two local newspapers announce details of the imminent funeral. Onitsha branch will offer a cow and purse to the king’s family at the palace square; the prominent invitees will arrive; the Onitsha senior chiefs will make their processions into the square; traditional dances will be performed by groups from neighboring towns; there will be a twenty-one gun salute; three appearances will be made by the Prince, representing the late Obi.” The list — aside from its emphasis on European more than African traditions — is noteworthy, first, for its formal assignment of a ritual role, not to the Onitsha Urban County Council (whose members include representatives of the several political parties as well as of several non--speaking ethnic groups), but to the dominant political party of Eastern Nigeria, the NCNC.
The Observer speaks first on the 17th, front-paging the OUCC’s decision that “all markets, schools and shops close on the following Monday”: On the 18th, the Spokesman devotes most of the paper to various announcements and tributes,but also inserts the feature regarding market and school closure on the 4th page: Both articles emphasize the point of “full respect”, “fitting tribute” as the basis for this public gesture. While the OUCC takes actual charge of the major technical arrangements for the funeral, its own representation is of course dominated by the NCNC, and the latter takes most of the media credit for the spectacle that occurs en scene.
Having established relatively stable relations with the Inland Town, in the early 1960s they were consistently called “Riverine people” ( Note especially Chief Oduah’s singling out of the “industrious Ibo traders and businessmen”, expressly calling on them to “rally round” and participate in the mourning process.
On Saturday, March 11, the Nigerian Spokesman publicly proclaims: and thus the period of fictional vitality comes to an end. Obanye (an ) — states that the OUCC will “shoulder the responsibility of inviting prominent personalities including the Premier and Ministers of the Region and also high ranking government officials” to the funeral, now scheduled for March 19.
The March 18 Spokesman provides a schedule of the “official events” of the funeral: “Saturday evening: there will be a tolling of church bells; Sunday morning: there will be religious services in all the churches; Sunday afternoon: the N. Second, a prominent position is given not only to major actors among the Onitsha people but also to “groups from neighboring towns.” The traditional conclusion of the formal announcements includes a series of ritual procedures not described in the newspapers, but which constitute the beginning of the burial process.
According to Onitsha tradition, the night before the drums, a pair of sacred wooden gongs that are played every morning during his lifetime to assert the coming of the dawn, were now played in fading twilight, calling out in rhythm the names of ancestral Onitsha kings to notify them of the event.
Let the swampy high forests in Ogbaru and Anambra Districts pay tribute to the great ruler of the Ibo land.
Let the twinkling stars and the moon exhibit their beauties in adoration to the king.
Chief Oduah’s eulogy also considerably expands the Onitsha king’s domain beyond its traditional range of the Onitsha community and contiguous farmlands, proclaiming him the king of all Igboland (a title which — as we would eventually recognize from our research — is historically more appropriately associated with the Eze Nri of the eastern hinterlands).