Page last updated at 18:52 GMT, Thursday, 7 January 2010

Derbyshire businessman elected Nigerian king

Christopher Ejiofor
Mr Ejiofor plans to retire to Nigeria to rule his province

A businessman from Derbyshire has been crowned king of a Nigerian province.

Christopher Ejiofor fled to Littleover from Nigeria as a war refugee nearly 40 years ago.

The 63-year-old built up a successful aircraft maintenance firm and sent thousands of pounds back to Ezeagu, in Enugu state, where he was born.

In recognition of his contributions he was elected the first Christian ruler of the province and crowned in an elaborate coronation at his £4m palace.

The coronation saw thousands of guests bring him gifts including rams, giant portraits and a cow.

Mr Ejiofor said he initially turned down the role because of the distance, but was persuaded to take it when the other candidates dropped out.

The committed Christian has now built a 10-bedroom palace where he plans to retire with his wife and four children.

When I left Nigeria it was on the last plane, which was being shot at
Christopher Ejiofor

As king he will organise a local government, oversee conservation projects, pardon criminals and bestow knighthoods.

Mr Ejiofor was forced to flee the country in 1970 after being arrested because he was a military adviser on the losing side of a civil war.

He started work at East Midlands Airport and was handed British citizenship.

He said: "It's a great honour and privilege to recognised by your people.

"I did not want this position but in the end I was convinced to put my name forward and I was unanimously elected.

"When I left Nigeria it was on the last plane, which was being shot at.

"We were refugees in Gabon and had lost everything.

"But hard work has been part of my ethos and although we were very deprived, we worked hard.

"England was a place of recuperation. It provided me with the platform to recover and expand my life portfolio because there are so many opportunities.

"I hope the experiences I have gained from England will help me to bring some sort of order out of the chaos which exists in this part of the world as there is so much potential."

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