After over ten years without a king, the people of the ancient kingdom of Bille finally came to a decision on April 4, 2021 as the new Amanyanabo of the kingdom, His Majesty, Igbikingeri Ngowari Cornelius Herbert was coronated.
Since 2009, when the last Amanyanabo, King Justus Henry Igolima-Dappa joined his ancestors, the kingdom of Bille has remained like a ship without captain.
Although Chief Beneth Okpokiye Dokubo Opu Abekene (XVII), an erudite legal practitioner and Chairman of the Bille kingdom chiefs Council, tried to provide leadership as regent of the kingdom, the need for a substantive king was inevitable.
For a kingdom notable for its valiance and noble men, whose kingship succession is not hereditary, the necessity to get a king to lead the development effort of the kingdom became a project that must be realized. And for twelve years, the search was intensified for the person with the suitable qualities to lead the Bille kingdom into the 21st century without rancor, chicanery and debauchery.
On the 12th day of the 12th month of 2020 was a special day of dedication as it was the climax of the great search for the prospective king of Bille when Chief INC Herbert emerged as the Agbaniye-Jike XVII after going through various stages of screening.
To say that the coronation of the new Amanyanabo of Bille kingdom, His Majesty King, Igbikingeri Ngowari Cornelius Herbert was a convergence of humanity in the island, in celebration of an epoch is not an understatement as the history of Bille goes as far as parts of northern Nigeria.
Men and women from various states trooped into this tiny island to partake in the celebration of the coronation but much more to behold the ancient town and culture of the Bille people which was on display in the weeklong event.
At the epochal event that attracted people from all walks of life the Rivers State Governor Chief Nyesom Wike, was represented by the former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Austine Opara.
The coronation activities began on Monday, March 29. With cultural displays and processions by various groups.
The entire kingdom was in festive moods as visitors filled the town square. The kings residential building and the Kingdom Council hall wore new looks while sitting arrangements for dignitaries and visitors went into frenzy of decoration.
The coronation proper began with a procession into the town square by the Bille Kingdom Chief’s council led by its Chairman, Chief Beneth Okpokiye Dokubo, the Amanyanabo-elect, INC Herbert was led into the coronation arena, accompanied by over a dozen able-bodied warriors shoulder elephant tusks as the cheering crowd ushered the king into the square.
Decked in royal attire, the Amanyanabo was greeted with loud ovations amidst booming canon salute as he ascended the throne.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State who was represented at the event by former Deputy speaker of the House of Representative Chief Austine Opara expressed appreciation to the people of Bille for their resilience and unity of purpose in choosing and coronating their new king.
The governor also announced the upgrading of the Bille kingdom stool to 2nd Class status.
Bille has no doubt set the pace among communities in Kalabari and Rivers State in general by showing that choice of leadership can be made without crises.
Bille kingdom is rich in culture that can be tapped to develop its tourism potentials. The traditional displays including the exciting boat regatta should get the attention of the state and federal authorities.
The land reclamations being carried out also requires expansion and the assistance of the oil companies operating in the area and the state government.
Chairman of the central planning committee for the coronation, Prof. Kontein Trinya emphasized the point as he appealed to the state government and the oil companies to dredge the swamps and link the community to their nearest neighbors Touma.
Elder Ajumoyeowiga Cephas Diri of Logofa Community described the Amanyanabo coronation as a new chapter in Bille kingdom.
He emphasized that the new king will tackle the various challenges of the kingdom and appealed to the Niger Delta Development Commission and the oil companies to assist the community by building roads and sand filling the swamps.
Former youth president of Bille kingdom, Asatubo Oburabi Sanipe Sylavnus spoke of the joy of the people in having a new king in the community. “A community without a leader is lacking. We will now get whatever we want. We have lost so much and the community is backward,” the youth leader stated.
On his part, Chief Owei Jacob challenged the state government on the development of the community, stressing that the state government and the visitors at the event would be exposed to the challenges confronting the people of the area.
One of the visitor to the event, Chief Oniminin Batubo Quakers who is the Se-Tombo I of Kalabari kingdom argued that Bille kingdom has set example for others in the peaceful selection and coronation of a king adding that the emergence of the Amanyanabo after twelve years is an indication of his acceptant as the new king.
It was indeed history made in the ancient kingdom blessed with great roots in various parts of the South-South and Northern Nigeria.