YES International! magazine reported exclusively in our last edition (Vol. 3 No. 27) that soccer star and one-time Super Eagles captain, Joseph Yobo, is yet to perform his delectable wife, Adaeze’s traditional marriage rites. Known as Igba Nkwu in Igboland, people from the Eastern part of the country don’t joke with it. In fact, one of them told us categorically that: ‘No Igba Nkwu, no marriage’. And as a follow up to our first story which went viral as soon as we hit the stands, our Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, AZUH ARINZE, again sought the views of Mr. Chris Ekejimbe, Chairman, Iru Owelle Community, Lagos Branch, on the matter. And like his other kinsmen, the firebrand film maker and MD of 4screams International Limited equally stated that as far as they are concerned, Yobo is not yet their in-law. Undone, he also itemized what and what the Bayelsa State born footballer who currently laces his boots for Norwich City Football Club (in the United Kingdom) must do in order to be classified as one. Their encounter was on Tuesday, February 18, 2014, in his office in Surulere, Lagos…
First, let us meet you.
Yes! Yes! Yes! (General laughter). My names are Elochukwu Chris Ekejimbe or Chris Ekejimbe, Jnr. But I’ve rebranded myself. Initially, it was Chris Ekejimbe, Jnr. But I’ve rebranded myself as Elochukwu Chris Ekejimbe as a true African. I’m a media specialist, I’m into media. I am one of the pioneers of Nollywood; started film making in New York. I’ve been everywhere, hustling to Hollywood, learning film, to Universal Films. So, basically, I delved into movies way back; when the men were boys.
Can you tell us some of the works you’ve done?
I did Bottleneck, but the problem is I had a terrible experience. I’m a very principled, disciplined person. While on the set of Bottleneck, I had a very terrible experience. My expectation was to come out with the finest in Nigeria, which I did. Then, it was very challenging doing that kind of movie; when the industry was just at its inception; incubation stage. A lot of people had to contend with my very unusual style of directing, very unusual style of everything and I worked with my friend and brother, Phillip Trimnel and I actually had issues. The man who owned the movie, after shooting the movie, he went into the studio and wanted to edit the movie himself. First of all, I had an issue with him because he said he wanted the whole action sequence in the movie to be released as a separate film and he wanted the whole dialogue to come as another film. That’s crazy. So, that was where I fell out with him and of course, he had his way. He told me: ‘Oh, boy, this is my money; I do what I want to do with it. You wait until you have your own money’. So, I now said to myself, I won’t make any film again until I have my own money. I tried to argue with him, but late Emeka Ogoh; may his soul rest in peace. Dolphin Studios. Emeka came to me and said Chris, are you mad? How much money did you put in that film? Leave the man, that’s his money, that’s his property. Let him go! And that was it. The man’s name is JBM. Of course, the movie was a doom! Because when it came out in the market, it was with depleted sequence. One part was Bottleneck, the other one was Evil Ambition. One film!
Can you tell us where you come from and some of the schools you attended?
I’m from Iru Owelle, Awka Etiti, Idemili South local government area of Anambra State. Was in Zaria. From College of Advanced Studies in Zaria as an arts student, I went to America. I got into what I call summer classroom school. It’s more like a talent school – something equivalent to Berlin Talent Campus and learnt cinematography, learnt directing, learnt music. Although in 2009, I perfected my music skill; I still had to go for additional courses in Hollywood. In 2009, I spent a lot of money upgrading myself. There’s this particular movie called The Invention of Lying, I went to intern myself from the making of the film in LA to the premiere of the film.
You happen to be the chairman of your community (Iru Owelle) in Lagos…
(Cuts in) Yeah! Iru Owelle is one of the seven communities that make up the entity called Awka Etiti.
One of your daughters is married to soccer star, Joseph Yobo, but the information filtering out is that they’ve not done the Igba Nkwu and that your people are not happy about that? Is that correct?
Well, I am not aware that one of our daughters is married to Joseph Yobo. Joseph Yobo is one of my favourite footballers; I love him with a passion. He’s a G. He’s a very talented footballer. But, yes, I know he has a wife and I know the girl in question is my sister, from Iru Owelle. One of the grandchildren of Ide Awka Etiti. The towering godfather, a living legend in Awka Etiti. Ide, Chief J.O. Igwe. Adaeze’s father is Ikechukwu Igwe; presently the chairman of Iru Owelle in Iru Owelle, Awka Etiti. And I am not aware that Yobo formally married Adaeze. There’s no Igba Nkwu, there’s nothing. We will be excited to have Yobo in Awka Etiti. Let him come to Awka Etiti and fulfil all righteousness.
Why do you think Yobo has not come for the Igba Nkwu?
The reason is best known to Yobo. He should know why, but I’m surprised that Yobo hasn’t bothered to go find out where his wife is from.
So, how is the Igba Nkwu done in Iru Owelle, Awka Etiti, Anambra State? Maybe he doesn’t know the requirements…
Igba Nkwu is the traditional part of marriage. Like I said, in spite of my Western adventures, I’m a staunch believer in the African traditions. I believe a lot in African mystics, myths. Igba Nkwu is a kind of ceremony that first of all acknowledges the union between two people. It’s the first process that acknowledges the union between the two people; the union is traditionally acknowledged. In the olden days in Igbo land, it’s believed that when there’s no Igba Nkwu, you are not properly married to the lady. So, the gods of the land will be against you…
Does that still apply today?
I honestly believe it still applies today, because of the processes involved – the pouring of libation, announcing your intention to the family, joining you both and making it all formal. There is a saying in Igboland that only an Ofogeri (wasteful person) marries without Igba Nkwu, without performing the proper marriage rites.
So, how is this Igba Nkwu done specifically in your place and for your daughters?
The Igba Nkwu in my place is not different from what obtains in Igbo tradition; it’s not different from what obtains in Igboland. I did one myself. First of all, you need to pay dowry; paying dowry makes you a true custodian of your wife. I paid dowry and I know you paid dowry for your wife too. I’m aware of that. Paying dowry makes you a true custodian. By customary laws of Anambra State, even by Nigerian laws, when you’ve not paid dowry on your wife, the marriage is not yet traditionally legal. The marriage is not complete. But I’m not a lawyer, let me talk about customs and not legal matters. But I know your marriage is not complete without the Igba Nkwu in Igbo land.
What formalities do those who come to Iru Owelle to marry go through?
The formality they normally go through is you identify your bride, come over with one or two of your kinsmen, come with some drinks and kolanuts and announce to the family that you spotted a jewel here that you want to obtain. Let me use the word obtain. And consequently discussion ensues. The negotiation ensues. It’s a whole traditional process. I have to tell you that my very good friend and godfather, Chief I.K.B Igboanugo, also from Awka Etiti; when some Yorubas from Ondo State came to seek his daughter’s hand in marriage, I was one of those that presided over the traditional process or negotiation. It’s very customary.
One of the things that your people are complaining about is that they don’t do Igba Nkwu in Lagos; is that correct?
So, where is it supposed to be done?
Igba Nkwu is supposed to be done on the soil where the girl is from. You see, it’s believed that traditionally and even in Western mystic; there are elements where you come from that determine your destiny. The totality of where you are from, your life, is determined by where you hail from. There are certain things you need to do where you are from. Let me give you an example – I’m not from Lagos State, I’m a visitor. That’s why when we are having events here in Lagos State, we look for a son of the soil to break kola nuts. By traditional rites, I as an Igbo man cannot perform a kola nut rites in Lagos first without the son of the soil. Until given a go-ahead to do it. So, consequently, the Igba Nkwu ritual or rites must be performed in the home state, the home land, the home soil of the supposed bride.
Couldn’t this have happened because Adaeze’s parents (Ikechukwu and Abigail Igwe)are no longer together? The mom is alleged to be married now to ex-footballer, John Fashanu…
That’s inconsequential. In Igbo land, the father owns the family; in the Igbo tradition, men give out their daughters in marriage, not their mums…
One other thing your people are complaining about is that John Fashanu is not Adaeze’s father and has no right over her?
Well, the truth of the matter is that Adaeze’s father, my lovely sister, Adaeze’s father is Chief Ikechukwu Igwe, Ide Omelora 1 of Awka Etiti. That’s the father of Adaeze. Not any other person. Any other person is an impostor. He (John) does not have any legal or traditional custody over Adaeze. Only Chief Ikechukwu Igwe has the right, the supreme right to give out the hand of his daughter in marriage.
What is the way out of this whole logjam now? What must Yobo do for your people to be happy?
He needs to come to Iru Owelle, Awka Etiti; he needs to come there, go to the family, go to Chief J.O Igwe’s family, see the big Ide; Ide of Awka Etiti, the godfather himself, the living legend, the chairman of GMO Group. GMO was one of the biggest groups of companies, one of the biggest industrialists in Nigeria then. These were the Dangotes of their time; the biggest in Nigeria; not even in Igboland.
Your people said Yobo doesn’t even know where Iru Owelle is. That he hasn’t been there; is that also correct?
It’s very unfortunate, but the next time I see Yobo, I’m going to give him an invitation to Awka Etiti (Laughing). The last time I saw him was in Abuja, in the Super Eagles camp. I guess he was busy then and I didn’t want to distract him. But the next time I see Yobo, I will make it a point of duty to tell him or invite him to Iru Owelle and personally host him. I will also encourage him to go formalize his marriage rites; the rites that accompany traditional marriages in Igboland. It’s very important; very, very important.