“To deny people their human rights are to challenge their very humanity.” …Nelson Mandela
Its no longer news, that the 20th Olu of Warri, His Royal Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli, has joined his ancestors. I want to use this medium to sincerely commiserate with the Itsekiri nation on the demise of Ogiame Ikenwoli. May his departed soul rest in peace…Amen.
What is news is that the print and social media have been awash with commentaries and controversy surrounding the selection of the Olu-designate, a thirty-seven (37) year old Prince Utienyinoritsetsola Emiko. He has been selected by the Ruling House of Ginuwa 1, for the exalted traditional stool, in accordance with long age traditional practice.
Monday, April 5, 2021, will forever remain indelible in the hearts of the people of Iwereland, as the two most important statements were made on that day, by Chief Johnson Atserunleghe, the Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom, at their ancestral home of Ode-Itsekiri, in Delta state. The first was symbolic breaking two earthen pots adorned with red garlands and filled with white chalk (efun) to signify (Alejefun), the transition to eternity of His Royal Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli, the 20th Olu of Warri Kingdom, after five years and eight days on the throne of his ancestors. The next statement was the presentation of (Omoba) Prince Utienyinoritsetsola Emiko, as the Olu-designate for Warri Kingdom. There was a thunderous ovation of acceptance, as the young Prince, is seen by his people as god-chosen, with a ray of hope for prosperity for the Kingdom.
Prince Utieyinoritsola Emiko was no doubt born into royalty three years before his father; Prince Godwin Toritseju Emiko succeeded his father Ogiame Erejuwa in 1987. Prince Utieyinoritsola’s father, Olu Atuwatse II, was Olu of Warri from 1987 to 2015. He was the 19th Olu of Warri Kingdom, with the title of Ogiame Atuwatse II. He was crowned on May 2, 1987, at a ceremony recorded as the last attended by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Chief Awolowo died on May 9, 1987, a week after Atuwatse’s coronation. Atuwatse II died at 70 in a hospital in Lagos in early September 2015.
Issues surrounding the emergency of Olu-Designate, Prince Utieyinoritsola Emiko, under the Declaration Made Under Section 8 of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict 1979
However loud was the ovation of acceptance of Prince Emiko, as the Olu-designate of Warri Kingdom sounded at Ode-Itsekiri, on Monday, April 5, 2021, there was a dramatic twist of events. The selection of Prince Emiko was “rejected” by a “protagonist” group, led by Chief Ayeri Amami, the Ologbostere of Warri Kingdom. Chief Amami and his group are advocating the strict adherence to the laid down traditional process of occupying the vacant traditional stool, as prescribed by the “Declaration Made Under Section 8 of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict 1979”, which was signed by D.P. Lawani, for the then Secretary to the Military Government of the defund Bendel State of Nigeria, stating the customary law regulating succession to the Title of Olu Of Warri. The declaration expressly asserts the procedures of customary law regulating the succession to the title of Olu of Warri. A careful glance at the aforementioned 1979 Declaration, it is obvious that is being erroneously referred to as “edict” (bylaw) rather than a Declaration, and its also numbered in “Paragraphs” and not in “sections” as it is inaccurately referred to as well. This document was put together during the Military interregnum in defunct Bendel State of Nigeria in 1979, for administrative expediency for the succession of various traditional thrones in the entire defund Bendel State, and this was not peculiar to the Olu of Warri traditional stool. The interpretation and meaning of this declaration unambiguous. Nevertheless, only law courts in Nigeria are statutorily empowered organ of government responsible for the interpretation of legal documents.
Suspension of Chief Ayiri Emami as the Ologbotsere of Olu of Warri kingdom
Chief Ayeri Emami articulated his disenchantment over the flaw procedure that led to the choice of the new Olu designate and stressed that in accordance with the “edict” in question, only children born by Itsekiri women or women of Edo origin to an Olu of Warri, are the Princes qualified to be selected to ascend the throne of their forefathers. He stated that, it was on this ground the new Olu-designate was first disqualified from contesting the Oluship position five years ago. In his place, his uncle, the late Ogiame Ikenwoli was appointed Olu-designate and subsequently crowned as the 20th Olu of Warri. Chief Emami further 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 appointed Olu-designate, is a Yoruba woman from Ogun state.
Chief Emami buttressed his arguments as conditions stipulated in the 1979 “edict” as follows: –
“There is only one Ruling House in Warri Kingdom known as Ginuwa I. 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, if 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. 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”. Prince Emiko was subsequently disqualified by Chief Ayiri Emami’s group.
When the Ruling House of Ginuwa 1, presented Prince Tsola Emiko to Chief Ayiri Emami, as the then Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, as stipulated by the 1979 Declaration, it was learnt that the Ojoye-Isan met and asked the ruling family to present another candidate. The decision was conveyed to the family by the Ologbotsere, who asked for another candidate, but the Ruling House of Ginuwa 1 insisted on Prince Tsola Emiko, as its sole candidate. The Olori-Ebi (administrative head) of Ginuwa I Ruling House, Prince Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, as was the norm, further sent a letter to the Ologbotsere informing him of their decision as well as directing him to kick start the process towards Alejefun, and ultimately installation of the candidate as the Olu of Warri Kingdom. The Ologbotsere publicly tore the letter and returned its shred in an envelope to the Ruling House; an action that was widely condemned by the Itsekiris. They described Chief Ayiri Emami’s action as “not mature of his (Ologbotsere’s) position or any civilized and educated person.” It was however learnt that the rash act was the manifestation of a no-love-lost relationship between the Ologbotsere and some members of the Ruling Royal family. In response, the Ruling House held a press conference and announced the suspension of Chief Ayiri Emami as the Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom and the dissolution of the Ojoye-Isan. A new Ojoye-Isan was constituted with Chief Johnson Amatserunleghe, the Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom, saddled with the role of Ologbotsere and the task of completing the succession process. His position was greeted by thunderous applauses by backers of the Olu-designate, while others commended the Olori-Ebi for taken action to prevent a greater harm or prevent injustice. Okotie-Eboh is being hailed as the messiah whose action has unshackled the tribe from the grip of the Chief Ayiri Emami’s group. Prince Toju Emiko stated: “Chief Ayiri Emami, having exhibited actions and tendencies unbecoming of the position he occupies, and having proven himself unworthy of the Ologbotsere stool, is hereby suspended from Warri Council of Chiefs.” The Warri Traditional Council of Chiefs headed by the Iyatsere, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe, proceeded to formally announce the passage of His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli, the Olu of Warri. The Iyatsere, Chief Amatserunleghe, who is also the acting Chairman of the Council of Chiefs and the Olu Advisory Council, said the Regent of Warri Kingdom, Prince Okotie-Eboh, and the Ruling House had written to notify the Council of Chiefs of the suspension, adding that the council would set up a committee to investigate the infractions levelled against the suspended Ologbotsere. This eventually paved the way for the emergence of Prince Tsola Emiko, as the Olu-designate. Supporters of Chief Emami, the suspended Ologbotsere questioned the Ruling House’s power to unseat him and replace him in the process, while others query the power of the suspended Ologbotsere and Ojoye-Isan to disqualify a candidate chosen by the House.
However, according to Chief Emami, the “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 is 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. This “edict” stipulates the role any Chief is expected to play in the selection process of a new Olu of Warri. 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 case, it was Chief Johnson Atserunleghe, the Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom, that was directed to act and take over the role of Chief Emami, the Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, after being suspended by the ruling Ginuwa House for gross misconduct.
Hours after the Iyatsere of Warri, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe declared Prince Tsola Emiko as the successor to the throne of Olu of Warri, the announcement was immediately opposed by the Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, Chief Ayiri Emami, who contended that there had been a breach of law. According to him, “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 of 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”. This, he said is a bad precedent, which must not be encouraged and will do the Itsekiri nation no good. Now he stressed 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 said, if this anomaly is allowed to stand, what are we going to tell our 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”.
Royal Rumble: Itsekiri Prince Takes Case to Court Over Disqualification.
Prince Harrison Jalla, a contender to the Olu of Warri stool, has filed a lawsuit before a Warri High Court in Delta State, asking the court to annul steps taken so far in the process for selection of a candidate to occupy the royal seat. Prince Jalla, a descendant of Akengbuwa (1), the Olu of Warri who joined his ancestors in 1848 and a member of the sole Ruling House in Itsekiri kingdom known as ‘GINUWA’, brought the suit pursuant to order 38 Rules 1(2) & 2 and order 39 Rule 1 of the High Court of Delta State (Civil Procedure Rules 2009. Joined as defendants are Prince Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh (for himself and on behalf of the GINUWA 1 Ruling House of Warri Kingdom), Chief Ayiri Emami, the Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom (for himself and on behalf of the members of the Olu Advisory Council), Prince Oyoewoli Emiko, Prince Tsola Emiko, the Executive Governor of Delta, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice and the State Executive Council who were listed as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 defendants, respectively.
Specifically, the plaintiff has asked the court for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 1st and 2nd defendants jointly or severally or their agent, servants from taking any steps, actions, conducts for the purpose of nominating, selecting, or electing, screening, installing, coronating and crowning the 3rd or 4th defendant or any other person as the Olu of Warri to the exclusion of himself. An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 3rd and 4th defendants from putting themselves or presenting themselves as a candidate to occupy the throne of Olu of Warri. And thirdly, an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 5th to 7th defendants from deliberating any report submitted by 1st and 2nd defendants relating to the choice of a candidate to occupy the throne of Olu of Warri pending the determination of his substantive suit.
Chief Ayiri Emami is the 2nd Defendant in the suit marked No W/ 46/2021 filed by Prince Harrison Jalla.
Several princes and sons of Olu Erejuwa II, including Prince Benjamin Emiko, Jaiye, and those of Ikenwoli, Oyowoli and Omatsuli, took side with the suspended Ologbotsere. Prince Bernard Emiko position is that the processes leading to the emergence of Omoba Tsola Emiko were illegal. Prince Benjamin had earlier called for an independent, transparent process in the selection process, insisting that the consultation of the oracle must be done in the open to convince all aspirant to the throne of its sincerity. Similarly, an aged Itsekiri community leader from Ubeji said the position of an Ologbotsere “is not one that can be given and taken at will. We have had occasions where the Olu and Ologbotsere do not agree – they do not have to always agree – but that does not mean that the Ologbotsere can be removed.” Chiefs Thomas Ereyitomi (National Assembly member representing Warri Federal Constituency), Francis Omatseyi, and Newuwumi, Hon Michael Diden, a former member of the Delta State House of Assembly, Prince Akoma Dudu, and his son Mode, are also among opponents against the emergence of Prince Emiko.
Other aspirants in the race are Oyeowoli (Ikenwoli’s son), who is reportedly favoured by the Ologbotsere; Jaiye Emiko son of Erejuwa (18th Olu), Samuel Gbesimi Emiko, and Bernard Emiko, the only Muslim in the race and Ikenwoli’s younger brother, who faced a steep climb on the road to the throne because his Muslim background.
Historical nexus of the Itsekiri to Edo and Yorubas kingdom
No doubt about the fact that the Itsekiris of Ginuwa 1 was a Prince of Benin Kingdom who arrived and established Warri Kingdom (Iwereland) in 1480 AD with the children of seventy Benin chiefs. They met Yorubas indigenous communities in Omadinor, Igborodo, Irigbo, and okontum. The context of “Edo origin” I believe transcend beyond present-day Edo state, which was created in 1991 from the defund Bendel State. The present-day Edo state with Benin City as its capital has a long history of civilization. Historians have traced the history to as far back as prehistoric time. Benin City was seat of government of the ancient Benin Empire one of the most powerful Africa Empire during 15th and 16th centuries. Its authority and influence spreading to the coast of the Benin Republic. This can be legally and historically argued that the Edo people of “Edo origin” share a common origin, cultures, religious worships, and ancestors traceable to the ancient Benin Empire, which encompasses the present-day Yoruba ethnic and linguistic group. The ongoing discourse of origin of the Benins and the Yorubas, which sprang up between the 11th and 12th centuries, alluded to the fact that there a nexus between the two ancient kingdoms. While some argued that the Benin ancestry is from Oranmiyan through Ekaladerhan and direct to the Ogiso dynasty the ancient Benin Empire. Others are of the view that the Benin kingdom was one of the kingdoms founded by Oduduwa who descended from heaven to Ile-Ife with four hundred deities. That is a topic for another day.! The concept of ‘Edo origin’ in the 1979 “edit” or Declaration, could be argued to include the people of Yorubaland. Itsekiri is most closely related to the Yoruba dialects of southwestern Nigeria with which it shares close similarity in grammar, lexicon, and syntax. Itsekiri represents one end of a continuum of Yoruba dialects from the northern Yoruba lands of Oyo and Offa to the western reaches of the Niger Delta. There are also phonetics similarities in Itsekiri and Yoruba names like Abimibola, Alero, Bolawa, Durodemi, Eyiyemi, Tsola, Omowunmi, Ariyo, Oritsefemi etc.
The bone of Contention: Constitutional and Legal Implications
On the argument that the “edict” supports only children born by Itsekiri women or women of Edo origin to an Olu of Warri, are the Princes qualified to be selected to ascend the throne as Olu of Warri. And the previous disqualification of Prince Tsola Emiko as the Olu-designate from contesting the Oluship position five years ago. According to section 18 subsection 3 of the evidence Act 2007 as amended, for customary law to be applied in any given circumstance or situation, it must pass through a litmus test of repugnancy. In order words, it must not be repugnant to natural justice, equity, and good conscience. The repugnancy test has failed in this instance.
Consequent upon the above analyses, it could be inferred that the new Olu-designate, Prince Utienyinoritsetsola Emiko, is eminently qualified to vie for the Oluship of Warri Kingdom, even though his mother, Gladys Durorike Emiko is of Yoruba origin, from Ogun State. Unlike Ogiame Atuwatse II, who succeeded his father, Ogiame Erejuwa, his son, Prince Tsola Emiko, was opposed as successor to his father. He was presented for installation but certain powerful forces within the council of chiefs insisted that his uncle, Prince Godfrey Ikenwoli, should ascend the throne, instead. On the ground the new Olu-designate was first disqualified from contesting the Oluship position five years ago, he cannot be seen to have slept over his fundamental rights. Prince Tsola was disqualified from succeeding his father because his mother is a Yoruba woman. Under the Fundamental Human Rights Enforcement Procedures Rule, there is no statute of limitations or statutes barred. If a wrong was inadvertently committed five years ago, what stops it from being right now? Just a rhetoric question. Legally speaking, this amount to discrimination which is prohibited by various international; regional, and national statutes of which Nigeria is a signatory to. For example, Article 7 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination. The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Article 2 state: Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth, or any status. While Article 28 states Every individual shall have the duty to respect and consider his fellow beings without discrimination, and to maintain relations aimed at promoting, safeguarding reinforcing mutual respect and tolerance. Section 42, subsection (2) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 as amended provides as follows: No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth. Furthermore, section 1. of the Nigerian Constitution states: This Constitution is supreme, and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria. While subsection (3) states If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.
Age-Long Rivalry Between Iyatsere And Ologbotsere: The Battle for Supremacy
The Ologbotsere is regarded as the Prime Minister of Warri kingdom, the highest ranking chief and one of the most powerful members of the Council of Chiefs and the Olu Advisory Council. Its a prestigious title of sort. The chieftaincy title of Ologbotsere and other traditional titles of Warri Kingdom like Iyatsere, (Iyase) the Uwangure (Uwangue), the Ojomo, the Oshodi (Oshodin) are all replica from the Benin Kingdom. No doubt about this fact, because the Itsekiris of Ginuwa 1 was a Prince of Benin Kingdom who arrived and established Warri Kingdom (Iwereland) in 1480 AD with the children of seventy Benin chiefs. However, In Benin Kingdom, the ancestral home of the Itsekiris, the Iyase is the Prime Minister of the Kingdom and the most senior chief in hierarchy.
The Ologbotsere, contrary to popular belief, is not the Prime Minster of Warri Kingdom, according to sources. The title grew in significance and influence when Chief Ogbemi Rewane held it, during which time the 1979 “edict” or declaration was drafted. The late Chief Ogbemi Rewane, was the influential older brother of Chief Alfred Rewane, the late NADECO chieftain Chief Ogbemi Rewane remains one of the most powerful Ologbotsere in the Kingdom’s history. So, it is not impossible that men like that could have influenced the ‘edict’ and given tremendous powers to the title,” according to those opposed to the powers of the Ologbotsere. It was remarkable that the last public duty Chief Rewane performed, was the crowning of late Ogiame Atuwatse II, in May 1987. He died before the first anniversary of Ogiame Atuwatse II, who reigned for 28 years without an Ologbotsere. According to Chief Johnson Amatserunleghe, the Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom, who was appointed by the Ruling House as acting head of the Olu Advisory Council, said: “he is the original Prime Minister of the Warri Kingdom.” He downplayed the influence of the Ologbotsere and explained that “going historical, he stated: “We are the kingmakers, I, as the Iyatsere, I am the original prime minister of the Warri Kingdom. The Iyatsere in 1480 led the 70 chiefs with the first king, Prince Ginuwa, to found the Warri kingdom in 1480 and the Iyatsere is the Prime Minister. “From 1480 to 1760, there was nothing like Ologbotsere in Warri kingdom. Ologbotsere was introduced by Prince Ginuwa the first in 1460. That is to say for 300 years there was no Ologbotsere. After the first Ologbotsere in 1760, there was no Ologbotsere till 1951. The first Ologbotsere was in 1951 by name Chief John Mayuku. Then we have others like Ayiri who came in 2017. “Therefore, in the history of Itsekiri kingdom, which is about 700 years, we only have four Ologbotsere. That is to tell you Ologbotsere was not always in the kingdom. “So, if Ologbotsere is not there, I as the Iyatsere would take the leadership as the Prime Minister. “If I am not there, we have the Uwagwe, if he is not there, we have the Ojomo (Number 4), and if he is not there, we still have other chiefs”. “Ologbotsere is not always in the kingdom. I am the 18th Iyatsere. The past Olu is the 20th to reign. Ayeri is the fourth Ologbotsere in the kingdom.”
Despite the Iyatsere’s assertion, the 1979 “Edit” or Declaration confers enormous power on the Ologbotsere in all processes from the selection to the crowning of an Olu. Paragraph 7 of the “Edict” is unambiguous that it is the responsibility of the Ologbotsere to present the new Olu. “After the approval of the candidate by the Olu Advisory Council and the oracles, the Ologbotsere summons at his residence meeting of the Ojoyes (noblemen) and there he announces the passing away of the demised Olu and appointment of a successor who then is presented to the Ojoyes by the Ologbotsere.”
Ogiame Atuwatse II avoided the backlash that greeted his successor’s choice because although he reigned without Ologbotsere, he relied on the wisdoms and counsels of the members of the Council of Chiefs and the Olu Advisory Council. When the 19th Olu joined his ancestors in 2015, Chief Tesigiweno Yahya Pessu, the Ojomo of Warri Kingdom and oldest serving member of the Olu Advisory Council, ‘acted’ the role of Ologbotsere. He midwifed the process that produced a successor, until the final day when the golden crown was placed on the head of Ikenwoli by the Olare-Aja of Jakpa, Pa Ajofotan Oparokun. The octogenarian Chief Pessu’s ambition afterwards was to be named Ologbotsere by Ogiame Ikenwoli. This was never to be. Chief Oma Eyewuoma, a retired director of CONOIL Nigeria Limited, from Iye stock of Ologbotsere was also interested in the Ologbotsere title.
However, forty-six (46) old Chief Ayiri Emami, a businessman, politician, and the chairman and chief executive officer of A & E group, a company with investments in oil and gas, construction, haulage, entertainment, and the hospitality industry, got the prestigious title of Ologbotsere, despites series of protest. He is loved and unloved in almost equal measures by his supporters and opponents respectively within and beyond. His first chieftain title of Ajuwaojiboyemi of Warri was conferred on him by the late Olu of Warri Ogiame Atuwatse II, the father of the new Olu-designate, Prince Utienyinoritsetsola Emiko, in April 2012. While the immediate past late Ogiame Ikenwoli conferred on Chief Ayiri the title Ologbotsere (Prime Minister) of Warri kingdom. Ironically, Ikenwoli was among Itsekiri elders who kicked against the installation of Emami as a chief in 2012. Five years later, and before his second year of his reign, he presented Chief Emami, the Ologbotsere as the kingdom’s highest-ranking chief. Expectedly, he came under intense and scathing criticism for this. It was against this fear of the tremendous power an Ologbotsere wields that there was a loud outcry when Chief Ayeri Emami, was announced as the Ologbotsere in October 2017, just five years after he became a member of the traditional council. His rise to the position was astronomical five years after he was conferred with Ajuwaojiboyemi on 28th April 2012 (two days after his 37th birthday). Some Itsekiri leaders believed that he was inexperienced and unprepared for the responsibilities and challenges of the title. Those who fought, in vain, to stop the conferment of the title on Chief Emami in 2017 are now unanimous in support for the Ruling House’s decision to suspend him, in a deft move that is seen as part of a bigger plan for his deposition and expulsion from the council of chiefs.
Internal Economic Indices and Political Forces for Control of Power and Resources
The control of resources and influence is at the heart in this crisis rocking the Iwereland. Power-play politics of who get what, when and how according to Harold Lasswell, forms the integral parts of the crisis surrounding the selection of Prince Utieyinoritsola Emiko as Olu- Designate for Warri Kingdom. Itsekiri nation is one of the richest in the Niger Delta region with hundreds of communities like Ugborodo, Abiteye, Otumara and others hosting multi-billion-dollar oil and gas installations. The $9 billion EGTL and Chevron Nigeria Limited tank farm is in Ugborodo and a few of the key players in the power play are long time friends and adversaries whose sides have hardly changed. There are also other external forces, which are reportedly sponsoring a faction for both economic and other strategic reasons. The Itsekiri nation has been a divided house for years, the influence of oil wealth and quest for patronages from oil companies and control of the commonwealth of the people by key players who are also very visible in this issue had created a very delicate balance that is now being threatened by the latest debacle. Some players behind the scene are believed to be aligning with sides that guarantee their interests and align with their bias. The underground power play surrounding the factions for a role in the emergence of the Olu and by extension the influence they would have in is reign.
Chief Ayeri Emami, the suspended Ologbotsere and his friend, Chief Thomas Ereyitomi (member representing Warri Federal Constituency in the House of Representative) have bias for Prince Oyowoli, the son of the immediate-passed Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli. Prince Tsola Emiko, on the other hand, is promoted by some chiefs and politicians, including former House of Representatives member, Mr. Daniel Reyenieju (who Ereyitomi unseated in 2019), his close associate, Mr. David Tonwe, among others were close to the 19th Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse II, the father of the Olu-Designate, Prince Tsola Emiko. The two factions have their agenda – real or perceived – and partisan politics and political ambition of the actors cannot be ruled out. Those against Prince Tsola Emiko are afraid that he could be used by his backers against their opponent and vice versa.”
External Forces Within the Crisis for Economic and Strategic Reasons.
There are some enormously powerful external personages behind the scene of this crisis. Some of these “interest parties” are involved in this crisis, simply for promoting their economic interest, self-aggrandizement, and expansions of their frontiers. The battle is beyond who sits on the throne of the Olu of Warri, but about business interests and strategic political influence. Shortly after the pronouncements of Prince Utieyinoritsola Emiko as the Olu-Designate of Warri Kingdom, President Muhammadu Buhari sent in his condolences and congratulatory messages, indicating presidential approval. Do not forget Prince Utieyinoritsola Emiko’s mother, Princess Gladys Durorike is the daughter of late Oba Sijuade Okunade, the Ooni of Ife. The present Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, is very unequivocal in his determination to have the issues resolved – in favour of Prince Utieyinoritsola Emiko. Ooni of Ife was conspicuously represented at the Ode- Itsekiri ceremony by Oba Akinola Oyetade Aderera, the Olubosin of Ife and Adekunle Adeayo Adeagbo, the Ore of Otun Eketi. The Oduduwa kingdom would want to extend their traditional influence into the Itsekiri nation, to see one the sons of their own, becoming a King in an oil-rich Niger-Delta region. The Olu-Designate, Prince Utieyinoritsola Emiko is married to Ivie Uhunoma Okunbo, the daughter of politician-billionaire Capt. Idahosa Wells Okunbor, and the marriage is blessed with three children – Oritsetsemaye, Oritsetemisan and Oritsetimeyin. It will not be out of the wishes of Capt. Okunbor to have his daughter as a Queen (“Olorì Ọba” Princess Consort to the King); a King as a son-in-law and have grandsons as future designated Kings in the Warri Kingdom. Capt. Okunbor is awfully close to the Oba of Benin, HRM Oba Ewuare II. He has a vast economic interest in the Oil and Gas sector within the Itsekiri nation. Coincidentally, The Olu Designate, Prince Emiko, work for Ocean Marine Security Ltd, an oil service company, owned by his father-in-law, Capt. Okunbor, which provides vital static asset protection and logistics services to the oil and gas industry, in the oil rich Niger-Delta region. The company also operates within the territories of Itsekiri nation. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Jagaban of Borgu and national leader of the All-Progressives Congress (APC), who is presumed to be one of the leading contenders in the struggle for the 2023 Presidential ticket, has congratulated Utienyinoritsetsola Emiko. Asiwaju Tinubu, former two-term Governor of Lagos State, prayed that the kingdom will experience rapid development and prosperity under Prince Emiko. “His eventual emergence is a testament to the fact that he is indeed ordained to mount the throne of his fore-fathers,” he said. Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Abiodun Ige Adams, has also congratulated the Olu- Designate of Warri kingdom, Prince Emiko, describing his emergence as a testimony of God’s will for the people of the kingdom. “It is with great excitement that I congratulate Prince Utienyinoritsetsola Emiko, on his emergence as the Olu- Designate. Stating “history has been so kind to the people of Warri, having a historic bond and antecedents with the Yoruba and Benin people. The Erelu Oodua of Aye Kingdom, HRH Tinuade M. Onaneye has also congratulated Prince Tsola Emiko on his Royal selection as the next Olu of Warri. In a statement released on Thursday, 08 April 2021, the Warri kingmaker also deserves commendation for their unity of purpose. “Warri kingdom is greater than all of us and we must all work together for his greater upliftment,” she said. According to Erelu, the role of traditional rulers in nation building could not be overemphasized, adding, “the traditional institution must restore their dignity by appreciating their rightful place in the society for national growth. She urged Prince Tsola to emulate and build on the good works of the late Olu of Warri in the cause of uniting the people. She also added that the Yoruba race will support his reign.
Thursday, April 23, 2021, the Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who holds the final approval (official recognition and staff of office), has congratulated the Olu-designate, Prince Utienyinoritsetsola Emiko, on his emergence and called on the Itsekiri people to give him their full support. The governor who also commiserated with the entire Itsekiri ethnic nationality on the demise of its monarch, Ogiame Ikenwoli, the Olu of Warri. The governor stated this, when members of Olu of Warri Advisory Council, led by the Iyatsere of Itsekiri Kingdom, Chief Johnson Atserunglehe. visited him at Government House, Asaba, the state capital.
The Criminal Case of theft of over 400 years old Royal Crowns and other Artefacts.
There is a mystery surrounding how over 400 years old royal crowns and other traditional monuments and artifacts the were stolen from the Olu’s Palace, in a case of theft and burglary. These precious age-long Royal Crowns and artefacts have been an ever-present feature of the throne since the 17th Century when the 7th Olu, Ogiame Atuwatse, received it as a parting gift from Portugal where he studied from 1600-1611 before returning home with a Portuguese wife, and became the first graduate in sub-Saharan Africa. The whereabouts of the coveted pair of crowns, comprising the King’s that is made of diamond and the queen’s (hewn from silver), remain unknown.
In a petition dated 3rd April 2021 and titled “Threat to Life, Breaking & Entering, Burglary, Theft of Royal Artifacts, Monuments Etc. And Conducts Likely to Breach Public Peace: A Formal Petition Against (1) Chief Ayiri Amami (2) Chief Richard Macgrey (3) Prince Oyowoli Emiko (4) Prince Omatsuli Emiko And Other Cohorts, signed by Precious Friday, Esq, on behalf of Warri Council of Chiefs, and the Olu Advisory Council, addressed to the Director of the Department of State Security, Warri, Delta State and Assistant-Inspector General, Zone 5, Benin City, Edo State. The petitioner stated in Para. 1, “that the above named Chief Ayiri Amami is the suspended Chairman of the Warri Council of Chiefs and Olu Advisory Council. Chief Ayiri Amami suspension was a result of his serial breaches of the relevant provisions of the Code of Ethics and Conducts of the Chiefs of Warri Kingdom”. In Para.11 “that in the afternoon of 31st day of March 2021, the above listed persons and their cohorts, vide the Facebook account of Chief Richard Macgrey, initiated a campaign that was apparently designed as an alibi for the execution of the under scored offences; as they alleged through the said Facebook account that the Palace of the Olu of Warri had been broken into by unknown persons and some valuable carted away, few hours before the execution of the actual offence”. In para. 12 “that Chief Ayiri Amami having been suspended by the Council of Chiefs, a few days before the incidence aforementioned and decided to seize the keys of the store where the artifacts and monuments were kept”. In Para 13 “that it is forbidden for the artifacts and monuments in the Palace to be moved by any person except by the King or by a resolution of the Council of Chiefs and Olu Advisory Council”. Para 16 “that given the antecedent of the above listed persons and especially that of Chief Ayiri Amami, their threats is capable of igniting unrest and occasioned the avoided destruction property and the taken of human lives if pre-emptive measures are not taken forthwith”. The petitioner finally “urged the Director of the Department of State Security, and Assistant-Inspector General, Zone 5, to use their good office to wade into the case in a timely manner, such as is capable of staying any further threats or degeneration of the situation”. Tijani Momoh, spokesman Nigeria Police Force, Zone 5 Benin City acknowledged the receipt of the petition.
The disappearance of Royal Crowns and artefacts may not be unconnected with the intrigues over the emergence of a new Olu in the Kingdom.
In the meantime, the crowning of the Olu-designate, Prince Utienyinoritsetsola Emiko, as the 21st Olu of Warri kingdom, has been slated for Saturday, August 21, 2021, in Ode-Itsekiri, Warri South council area of Delta state. This was announced by the acting Chairman of the Olu’s Advisory Council and the Iyatsere of Warri kingdom, Chief Johnson Amatserunleghe, in a press conference, held on Thursday, May 27th, 2021, in Warri. He emphasized that the Omoba’s choice came after a “rigorous process, which included a painstaking search within and amongst the descendants of the last three Olu of Warri, as required by tradition, custom and extant laws “as well as several consultation and eventual confirmation by the Ifa oracle…”
He added, “It is my singular honour to declare to you on behalf of the Warri Council of kingmakers, that Omoba Prince Tsola Emiko, will be crowned and formally installed as the 21st Olu of Warri on Saturday, the 21st day of August 2021, by the grace of God,” he stated.
Recall that Chief Johnson Amatserunleghe, the Iyatsere of Warri kingdom, had proclaimed on Monday, April 5th, 2021, Prince Tsola Emiko, as the Omoba, (Olu-designate of Warri Kingdom) after disclosing the peaceful passing away of HRM Ogiame Ikenwoli
Present at the news conference were the Regent of Warri Kingdom, Prince Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh; the Iyatsere of Warri kingdom, and acting Chairman of Olu’s Advisory Council, Chief Johnson Amatserunleghe, Chief Gabriel Awala, Chief Brown Mene, and Prince Yemi Emiko.
It is my fervent wish that the differences over the selection of Omoba Prince Utienyinoritsetsola Emiko, as the 21st Olu of Warri, be resolved amicably among stakeholders, for peaceful reign, coexistence, and prosperity of Iwereland.
My heartfelt congratulations in advance to the Itsekiri nation, for the peace and prosperity of Iwereland.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Jan 5, 1929-April 4, 1968
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