By Gabriel Omonhinmin
Kingmakers on Monday, 5th April, 2021 at 10 a.m. in OdeItsekiri, the ancestral home of the Itsekiri in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State, announced the appointment of Prince Utieyinoristsetsola Emiko as the new Olu-designate.
But the move engendered controversy because it was in contrast to the then Bendel State Edict dated September 28th, 1979, which expressly stated the role and functions of the Ologbotsere (the traditional prime minister) during the passage of an Olu of Warri.
This role was assumed by the Iyatsere of the kingdom (the next in rank to the Ologbotsere), who took up the position of Acting Chairman, Warri Council of Chiefs and Olu Advisory Council.
He is Chief Johnson Amastserunereleghe who, after the purported suspension of Chief Ayiri Emami as the Ologbotsere of of the kingdom, announced Emiko as the Olu-designate as well as the official rite of passage for the immediate past king of Warri, His Royal Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli.
As the three-month mourning period for the immediate past monarch of Warri commences after which the Olu-designate will be crowned, there is an unusual calm in kingdom over the selection process that led to Emiko’s emergence.
An aggrieved member of the Olu Advisory Council, who did not want to be named for security reasons, said that the 1979 Edict, signed by one D.P. Lawani O.O.N K.S.O., for the then Secretary to the Military Government of Old Bendel State of Nigeria, entitled “Declaration Made Under Section 8 of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict 1979, stating the customary law regulating succession to the title of Olu of Warri,” was fragrantly violated because of some people’s pecuniary interest in this matter, thus breaking the age long selection process which was used for the father of Tsola Emiko and his brother, who just joined his ancestors.
The Warri High Chief, who expressed disappointment over the process that led to the selection of the new Olu designate, stressed that in accordance with the Edict in question, only children born by Itsekiri ladies or by women who are of Edo State origin to an Olu of Warri, are the Prince qualified to be selected to ascend the throne of Warri as Olu.
He said, it was on this aground the new Olu designate was disqualified from contesting the Oluship position five years ago. In his place, the junior brother to the father of the new Olu-desigate, His Royal Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli was appointed the Olu of Warri then.
The Chief explained that with the appointment of the new Olu designate, the custom and tradition of the Itsekiri people have been desecrated for no just reasons, because the mother of the just appointed Olu-designate, is a Yoruba woman from Ogun state.
This, he said is a bad precedent, which must not be encouraged and will do the Itsekiri nation no good. He stressed now that “our custom and tradition has been set aside, due to the greed and avarice of a very few, are we expected not to say something?”.
He says, if this anomaly is allowed to stand what are we going to tell our children, and our children children, that made us to alter a well laid down law? The sad aspect of this Shenanigan, is that 90 per cent of the Itsekiri youths are presently rooting for the new Olu-designate.
They are not bothered about the cogency of the argument that the 1979 Edict, which stipulates the process to be followed in the appointment of an Olu has been violated.
Anybody, who dares say to them, that Prince Emiko is not the right person to be appointed an Olu, is threatened with death.
To buttress his point, the Warri High Chief, then decides to take Palace Watch through the conditions stipulated in the 1979 Edict as follows:- 1-There is only one Ruling House in Warri Kingdom known as Ginuwa I. 2-Succession to the throne of the Olu of Warri, is limited to Olu’s Company (Otolu’s) i.e. the descendants of the last three Olus.
The descendants of the other Olus, who had previously reigned are known and referred to as Omajaja Company. Ordinarily, succession passes to a son of a demised Olu, failing which to a suitable member of the Otolus, provided that brothers are preferred to uncles, and uncles are preferred to grandsons and grandsons are preferred to other relatives within the Otolus.
Females are absolutely barred from ascending the throne of Olu of Warri. 3-It is the duty of the Ologbotsere to summon a meeting of the members of the Ruling House to the Palace (Agbofen) specifically to choose a successor.
In this particular instance, the Ologbotsere, Chief Ayari Emami, who was appointed by the immediate past Olu of Warri was suspended from office in a dramatic fashion, all to pave the way for the emergence of the new Olu designate.
The meeting which was supposed to be summoned by the Ologbotsere is to be presided over by the oldest man in the Ruling House, failing which by the ‘Olare-Ebi’. All the sons of the demised Olu and members of the Ruling House below the age of eighteen are excluded from this meeting.
Section 4 of this particular Edict expressly states, “To qualify, a candidate’s mother must be an itsekiri or of an Edo mother Origin. His father must be an Itsekiri.” In these two clauses, please note the word ‘must’.
He stressed, where lays the equity and fairness in this case? The new Olu designate mother is a Yoruba woman from Ogun State. With this act, we as Chiefs are deliberately helping to destroy our custom and tradition.
5-This Edict, stipulates the role any Chief is expected to play in the selection process of a new Olu of Warri. In section 5 of this Edict, it states “The oldest man of the Ruling House presents a candidate selected to the Ologbotsere, who in turn presents the candidate to the Olu Advisory Council, which is made up of the Ologbotsere himself, the Iyatsere, the Uwangure, the Ojomo, the Oshodi and a maximum of two other Ojoyes (titled noblemen) whose presence in the opinion of the Ologbotsere is essential.
In this particular case, it was the Iyatsere, who decided to take over the role of the Ologbotsere.
The Chief explained, as a matter of fact, I did not support the decision by the immediate past Olu of Warri, His Royal Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli, when he decided to make Chief Ayari Emami the Ologbotsere, but in spite of my earlier objection against the selection of Chief Ayari Emami as Ologbotsere, he is alive, he should have therefore been allowed to carry out his functions and responsibilities to the Itsekiri people.
Just because some people want to make quick money and enrich themselves, they decided to usurp the role of another chief, and foist on the Itsekiri people, an Olu, which is not supported by an existing law.
These are some of my quarrel. And in accordance with section 7 and 8 of the 1979 Edict, the Iyastsere on Monday, April 5th 2021, announced the passing away of His Royal Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli and the appointment of Prince Tsola Emiko as the successor to the throne of Warri as the new Olu designate. With this pronouncement, Prince Tsola Emiko as the new Olu designate, is expected to participate in the burial rites and ceremonies of the demised Olu, particularly, in the performance of the ‘Iken’ Rites at the royal cemetery at Ijala.
Failure to perform and complete these rites and ceremonies is a bar to the installation of the Olu-designate. Immediately upon interment of the demised Olu, the Olu-designate proceeds to the “Ideniken” where he remains for a period of three lunar months during which the burial rites and ceremonies are completed.
During the absence of the Olu-designate, the head of the ruling house acts as the regent from the time of the announcement of the demise of the immediate past Olu of Warri, until the Oludesignate is installed as the new Olu of Warri Kingdom.
Hours after the Iyatsere of Warri, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe declared Prince Tsola Emiko as the successor to the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli, the Ologbotsere of Warri, and Chief Ayirimi Emami, has denounced the appointment of Prince Tsola Emiko as the new Olu-designate.
According to Chief Emami, contrary to the announcement made by the Iyatsere that His Royal Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli, has joined his ancestors, “the Olu has not joined his ancestors.
As far as I am concerned, whatever was done on the 5th April, 2021 at Ode – Itsekiri was nothing but a kangaroo in search of power.
The person that has the right to pronounce the transition of the Olu of Warri, whenever that happens, is the Ologbotsere, which I am till this very moment by the grace of God.
“I must therefore add, that the 1979 edict has not been amended to give any other person the right to pronounce the passage of the Olu of Warri, apart from the Ologbotsere”.
The new Olu-designate, was born April 2, 1984, to the then Prince Godwin Toritseju Emiko, who later became Ogiame Atuwatse II and Gladys Durorike Emiko in Warri Delta State.
The 37 years old Prince holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in International Studies and Political science while minoring in History and Economics.
He also holds a Master’s of Science degree in Management. He is married to the daughter of Benin business mogul Captain Hosa Okunbor.