By Gabriel Omonhinmin
The drama and intrigues which have become a daily occurrence in Itsekiri land since the passage of the immediate past Olu of Warri, HRM Ogiame Ikenwoli, are not not about to end despite numerous efforts by various groups to make peace in the ethnic nationality.
A group known as the Warri Leaders of Thought, which claimed to be neutral in the crisis, is said to be in the forefront of efforts to bring all the warring factions to the negotiation table.
In one of the recent meetings in Warri, an olive branch was allegedly extended to the Ologbotsere, the Traditional Prime Minister of the kingdom, Chief Ayiri Emami’s group.
The group said that one of the conditions for which it will embrace peace, is that the embattled Ologbotsere should be reinstated as the Chairman of Warri Council of Chiefs and the Olu Advisory Council, a position now held by the Iyatsere of the Warri Kingdom, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe.
The group maintained, that the Ologbotsere should be allowed to carry out all his functions in accordance with the 1979 edicts.
These conditions, the Atserunleghe group rejected bluntly, saying that they will only reconsider the reinstatement of Chief Emami as the Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom after the coronation ceremonies of the new Oludesignate.”
There have been several other meetings since that deadlock.
For example, one of such meetings was held on Friday, 23rd April, 2021, involving the Warri Council of Chiefs chaired by the Iyatsere, to deliberate on various issues in the kingdom.
On Saturday, 24th April, 2021 another meeting where positions were allocated to members of the Council of Chiefs for the forthcoming coronation of the new Olu of Warri, took place in Warri.
As the intrigues continue, a reliable source in the Warri Palace, revealed more facts about the happenings there. He alleged that in a desperate attempt to gain legitimacy, a letter was done by the Iyatsere group, which was promptly dispatched to Oba Ewuare II of the Bini Kingdom in Benin City.
The letter was sent through a former confidant of the Oba of Benin, who made attempts to reach the monarch personally without success.
Oba Ewuare II was alleged to have seen a copy of the letter, even though it was not formally acknowledged by his palace.
The Oba, “being strict on rules and who also believes very strongly in doing what is right without sentiments,” sent for the Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom (Emami) as the most senior chief in Warri Kingdom, who briefed him fully on the happenings.
The Oba was said to have allegedly given the Ologbotsere directives on what he expects them to do to maintain peace in Warri Kingdom. Details of the Ologotsere’s discussions with the Oba were not made public.
The group that originally wrote the letter to the Benin monarch was said to have felt slighted by the Oba’s move, and decided to ignore whatever directive he gave to the Ologbotsere as he was no longer in charge of affairs in the kingdom.
As the drama continues, there is no sign that peace will return to Warri or be brokered before and after the coronation of the new Olu-designate.
In the search for more recognition for the new Olu-designate and to further validate the actions that the Iyatsere has so far taken, a decision was reached in one of the numerous meetings in the Warri Palace to visit Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in Asaba, the Delta State capital.
The governor, before the visit, had maintained a dignified silence, in spite of the announcement of the passage of the immediate past Olu of Warri, Ogaime Ikenwoil and the selection of a new Olu-designate as he was never known to make a public statement on the matter, which was a great source of concern and worry to the Iyatsere group.
On Thursday, April 22, 2021, nine Warri chiefs, who introduced themselves as members of the Olu Advisory Council led by the Iyatsere, accompanied by one of the brothers of the late Ogiame Ikenwoli, who is alleged to be pulling all the strings for the enthronement of Prince Tsola Emiko as the new Olu, paid a courtesy call on the governor.
The chiefs formally informed the governor about the proclamation of 5th April, 2021, when the passage of Ogiame Ikenwoli (Godfrey Emiko), the 20thOlu of Warri was announced.
They seized the opportunity to introduce the new Oludesignate, Prince Itieyinoritsola Emiko to the governor.
The chiefs also mentioned to Okowa, that funeral rites concerning the late Ogiame Ikenwoli were ongoing, while preparations for the crowning of the new Olu were also in top gear.
Although, the governor consoled the chiefs and the Itsekiri nation over the demise of Ogiame Ikenwoli, whom he described as a peace-builder during his relatively short reign, he still refused to congratulate the Oludesignate. The governor ended his remarks at the meeting with prayers for continued peace in the Itsekiri nation and wished them all well.
A confidant in the Olu’s palace refers to section 9 of the 1979 edict, which he says has been the main instrument used for the coronation of any Olu of Warri.
The Palace Watch source said that, regrettably, the way and manner some chiefs brazenly violated section 4 of the 1979 edict which expressly states “that any Prince, who is to be made Olu of Warri mother must be either an Itsekiri woman or a woman of Benin origin,” ignited the unabating controversies witnessed today in the Itsekiri Kingdom.
These same chiefs, our source stressed, have again carried their illegality a step further as they are now allegedly violating section 9 of the same edict which reads as follows: “Upon the demise of an Olu, the Oludesignate must 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 the burial rites and ceremonies is a bar to the installation of the Olu-designate.”
According to Palace Watch sources, the Oludesignate has allegedly refused to perform some of these rites, saying that he is a Christian, and is ,therefore, delegating the functions to some persons, which is not supposed to be.
Our source stressed further that the final part of section 9 of the 1979 edict states as follows: “Immediately, upon interment of the demised Olu, the Olu-designate proceeds to the ‘Ideaniken’ where he remains for a period of three lunar months during which the burial rites and ceremonies are completed.”
Our source says it at the Ideaniken, the secluding period for the new Olu-designate, that he will be taught the nitty-gritty of Itsekiri customs and tradition, “especially for an Olu-designate like Prince Tsola Emiko, who can’t speak the Itsekiri language fluently.”
Our source alleged that a prince (one of the contenders for the throne) sneaked out to London to book for a new crown, even though the crown of the Olu of Warri, which has been in use for centuries now, is still missing.”
The mystery of the stolen crown, among other issues, our source maintained, is presently being investigated by the Nigerian Police, who recently extended invitation to some chiefs in the kingdom.
Our source further revealed that even when the stolen crown is found, Prince Emiko is not likely to wear it. His reason for allegedly jettisoning it is that both the good and bad Olus of Warri Kingdom have all worn the crown in question.
Our source also disclosed that until very recently, the body of the late Ogiame Ikonwoli, which is being preserved somewhere in the Warri Palace, was not properly attended to.
Expectedly, the late Ogiame Ikenwoli’s wife, Olori Mary Emiko (Nee Omoghomi), who relocated from the palace some days after the passage of her husband to the house of his niece in Oghowode area in Warri, became very worried about the state of her husband’s body because of what she heard.
At the same time, attempts were made by some thugs to break into the palace, in a calculated attempt to harm her two sons, Prince Oyowoli and Prince Omashowoli, who were still living there.
Our source said the Olori was left with no other option than to cry out for her children to be rescued from the place saying “I can’t loose my husband and loose my children at the same time.”
The Olori is said to have three children for the late Olu. Princess Omawumi is the only girl in between the two princes. They all finished from Bright Success University in London.
Palace Watch sources confirmed that the coffin for the burial of Ogiame Ikenwoli, has been procured from a company in Sapele known as Angelly Gallowa, owned by a man, whose mother is half Itsekiri and father, half Ghanaian.
Our source said that the father of this man made the coffin for the late Ogiame Erejuwa II, while the son, who is presently in charge of the company built the one for the late Ogiame Atuwase II and the immediate past Olu, Ogiame Ikenwoli.