This is a biography of His Majesty, Mazi Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro, CFR, Eze Aro, 1995 – 2020.
Mazi Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro was born on Monday, March 6, 1932 into the family of Mazi Okoro Asi Eko of Arochukwu ruling house. At an early age of 6 years, he was enrolled at the Jubilee School, founded, by an educationist and nationalist, Mazi T. K. Utchay and later transferred to Aggrey Primary School, both schools in Arochukwu.
He was set to move again. His maternal uncle, F. C. Okoronkwo, a young graduate of Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone was appointed to nurture a new institution, Olu-Iwa College, Ijebu Ode. He sent for young Vin, as he was fondly called, and his younger brother, Nelson, for them to join him and continue their education. After his primary school education, he proceeded to Ibadan Boys’ High School for his secondary education. Young Vin excelled, not only in academic work but also in sports. He was a member of Ibadan Boys’ First Eleven and very popular among the secondary schools around because of his exploits in soccer. He mixed up very well at school and this partly accounted for his impeccable knowledge of the Yoruba language, and customs. He often looked back to those early days in Yorubaland with nostalgia. After his secondary education, he started his early working career at the Faculty of Agriculture, University College, Ibadan as a laboratory technician. Perhaps, his experience there informed his future vocation.
Like many young ambitious men of his generation, he took private tuition to qualify for admission into British tertiary institutions. In 1960, he left for the United Kingdom for the opportunities available for the fulfilment of his vast potentials. Luckily, there was a number of Aro people who had encouraged him to join them, and they made him feel at home in an entirely new environment. While in the UK, he faced his studies with great determination and focus. In the end, he gave a good account of himself. Among the awards, certificates and fellowships he earned or conferred on him included:
1. Advanced Certificate in Microbiological Techniques of City and Guilds, London.
2. Advanced Certificate in Laboratory Administration of City and Guilds, London.
3. Fellow, Institute of Science Technology London (FIST).
4. Associate Diploma, Institute of Medical Laboratory Technology, London.
5. Associate, Institute of Medical Laboratory, Sciences of Nigeria.
6. Member, Royal Society of Health of England.
7. Member, Birth Society for General Microbiology.
8. Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) in November 2000.
9. Certificate of U. S. Congressional recognition.
10. West African Merit Award.
11. Millennium Award of Excellence.
12. Certificate of Recognition by the Mayor of District of Columbia, U. S.
13. Certificate of Recognition by the U.S. Director of African Affairs.
14. Certificate of Recognition by the Governor of the State of Maryland, U.S.
15. Certificate of Recognition by the County Executive of Prince George’s County, U.S.
He also had a number of scientific papers published in learned journals. The late Eze Aro was also a man of letters, quite often discussing history and literature.
Having achieved so many laurels in his chosen field, he came back home just before the civil war and participated in the War Effort of his kinsmen and women. He joined Enugu General Hospital which later became Enugu Specialist Hospital. With the introduction of the Faculty of Medicine at The University of Nigeria, the Specialist Hospital became the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital. The future Eze Aro was made the pioneer Head of its Laboratory Dept. Eventually, he transferred his services to the Microbiology Dept. of the College of Medicine, working under the famous Professor of Microbiology, Prof Njoku Obi.
With the death of a previous Eze Aro in 1987, he was presented to the Aro Kingdom as their new Eze in 1988. After a period of interregnum, he was crowned as the new Eze Aro on May 31, 1995. Being a man of peace and humility, much of the period of his reign witnessed peace and harmony, progress and tremendous physical infrastructure. One of the first actions he took on ascension to the throne, was to create an Advisory Council under the chairmanship of Late Engr. Mathias Okoro. The members were drawn from leading citizens in the homeland and in diaspora and the Council met regularly to consider burning issues and offer necessary advice. He reconstituted Okpankpo Aro, the highest traditional governmental institution in Aro. On two occasions during his reign, Nzuko Aro advised His Majesty on the ways to strengthen the Okpankpo institution. Being the listening Eze that he was, he took immediate steps to implement the advice, consistent with the changing times. From time to time, he set up ad hoc committees to look into complaints that could hinder the smooth running of the kingdom. When Nzuko Aro inaugurated All Aro National Conference in 1996 to help cater for the interest of all Aro people wherever they may be, Eze Aro was a leading apostle. He attended the conference held in Aro in 1996, Aro Ndizuogu in 2000, Ajalli in 2005 and Owerri in 2011.
One of the achievements of his reign is the public marking of the Anglo-Aro War. In the first meeting of the Advisory Council in 1996, a leading member, Professor Chukwuemeka Ike, who later became His Majesty, Eze Ndikelionwu in Orumba North LGA suggested that the Kingdom ought to commemorate the centenary of The British invasion of Arochukwu in 1901 – 1902. On March 7, 1998, Eze Aro inaugurated the Planning and Implementation Commission which was later changed to Aro 2002 Commission to plan and organise the commemoration of the Anglo-Aro War. Engr Matt Okoro, Chairman of the Advisory Council was also made the Chairman of the Commission and Professor Chukwuemeka Ike was appointed Chairman, Planning and Implementation Committee, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, Chairman, Finance and Fund Raising Committee while Mazi Godwin Udoh served as the Secretary. Other leading Aro people, at home and diaspora, including Professors Okoro Ijoma, Oji Umozurike and O. C. Nwana as well as Dr Chukwuma Obioha and Mazi Kanu Ivi, among others, served in the commission. To carry the Aro people along, he undertook a tour of the Aro diaspora communities to sensitise them. He also undertook a tour of parts of the US, accompanied by some members of the commission, and was warmly hosted by the Aro sons and daughters there. Under his inspiration and encouragement, this great event took place between December 26, 2001 and January 6, 2002, with resounding success. An important book on Aro, one of the enduring landmarks, is the book, The Aro Kingdom and its Contributions to Civilization.
The Ohafia/Aro road was in a terrible state of disrepair during his period but he continued to press on the state and federal governments to fix the road. Some serious efforts were being made to rehabilitate the road before his demise. The Aro Civic Centre, an imposing edifice, was completed during his reign. He travelled to the important cities in Nigeria to encourage Aro sons and daughters to be involved in community development efforts.
As the Chairman of Arochukwu Council of Traditional Rulers and permanent member of Abia State Council of Traditional Rulers, he brought to bear on them his vast experience and peaceful disposition. At a personal level, Eze Aro was warm, polite, generous, and humane and of simple tastes. He was married to a pretty and accomplished school teacher, and the marriage is blessed with children, all university graduates. His is a true example of royalty without airs and boring trappings; a fulfilled, greatly endowed and an achieved Eze. His people all over will dearly miss him.