The coronation of the 21st Olu of Warri, set for Saturday, August 21, 2021, may not take place.
This, according to various sources knowledgeable with the situation, is not unrelated to the ongoing feud, which has been described as “unusual and tragic” in Warri Kingdom history. The battle over who would sit on the revered and ancient throne of the Iwere nation has deteriorated, with warring sides becoming increasingly adamant and unwilling to concede ground.
The last time the kingdom faced a similar fate, it culminated in an 88-year interregnum between June 14, 1848, and February 7, 1936, during which time the monarchy was without a king.
Following the death of the immediate past Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli, who joined his ancestors on December 20, 2020, a bitter succession tussle involving two interested groups started almost immediately.
On the one side, there was Prince Oyowoli Emiko, the eldest son of the incumbent Olu of Warri, and on the other, there was Prince Tsola Emiko, whose emergence as the Omoba and current Olu of Warri designate is in question. After the death of his father, Ogiame Atunwase II, in 2015, he was disqualified from ascending the throne for the first time.
As the August 21 coronation date approaches, a fog of doubt has descended across Iwere land’s landscape and riverine skies.
According to one insider, the insurmountable divisions are the result of “destructive intrigues of unprecedented proportions.”
“Let us be clear about this: succession to the monarch has never happened without a fight,” the person said. But when dangerous intrigues of this magnitude and unprecedented proportions characterise the tussle this time since the passing of Ogiame Ikenwoli, it is clear that the Olu of Warri stool is headed for another long interregnum unless the Itsekiri people, especially the elite, do something urgently to halt the current drift.”
Cases are still pending in the courts.
As of the time of writing, two big lawsuits had been filed in Warri and Asaba, with hearings scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, August 3, in Warri, and Thursday, August 5, in Asaba. They were both set up in opposition to Prince Tsola Emiko’s appointment as the designate Omoba and Olu of Warri.
On Wednesday, June 16, 2021, Prince Oyowoli Emiko, the eldest son of the immediate Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli, and his uncle, Prince Bernard Emiko, who is the Olori Ebi of the Ogiame Erujuwa’s Ruling House, approached a Warri High Court with a 17-page affidavit filed on their behalf by Chief E.L. Akpofure, SAN of E It’s also trying to prevent him from becoming the 21st Olu of Warri.
The second was by Ayiri Emami, the Ologbotsere of the Warri Kingdom, who also served as Chairman of the Olu of Warri Advisory Council before being purportedly ousted by some Princes of the Ginuwa 1 ruling house for claimed disrespect and disobedience to their family. Emami sought the court to interpret whether or not the Ginuwa 1 Ruling House of Warri had the power to suspend him as the Ologbotsere, the Traditional Prime Minister of the Kingdom, in a suit brought on his behalf and behalf of the whole Ologbotsere lineage of Warri Kingdom by Akpomudje, SAN.
He also requested the court to expand on the old Bendel State Government’s Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict of 1979, which is still in effect in Delta State.
He claims that the Edict grants the Ologbotsere, as the most senior chief in the Warri Kingdom, the powers as Ologbotsere and Chairman of the Olu of Warri Advisory Council to, among other things, announce the passage of an Olu of Warri, and summon a meeting of the Ruling House to the Warri Palace (Agbofen) for the Princes to specifically choose a su, in the absence of a sitting Olu of Warri.
He went on to say that the Edict gave him the authority to oversee the selection process, particularly the conduct of the Ifa-Oracle, up until the crowning of the Olu of Warri, after all of the edict’s processes had been faithfully observed.
He claimed that he was not able to exercise any of these tasks as a result of his putative suspension by some Princes of the Ginuwa 1 ruling house and that the proceedings that crowned Prince Tsola Emiko as the Olu of Warri designate were flawed, null, and void.
“SUCCESS TO THE THRONE HAS NEVER HAPPENED QUICKLY. BUT WHEN DANGEROUS INTRIGUES OF THIS MAGNITUDE ARE INVOLVED… THE OLU OF WARRI STOOL IS HEADING FOR ANOTHER LONG INTERREGNUM, AS THIS IS A CLEAR INDICATION.”
While Ologbotsere’s lawsuit was postponed until August 3, 2021, for a hearing at Warri High Court 3, Prince Oyowoli Emiko’s complaint, in which he claimed to be the genuine successor to the Warri throne, was postponed until August 5, 2021, for an accelerated hearing in Asaba, Delta State’s capital.
“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 the Warri Council of Chiefs,” the Ginuwa 1 Ruling House said in a statement suspending Emami as the Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom. The interim Chairman of the Olu of Warri Advisory Council is the Iyatsere, who is next in charge and, in fact, the most senior chief who followed Ginuwa 1 from Benin to build the Warri Kingdom.”
The Ologbotsere, on the other hand, was not going to let this go unnoticed as he made steps to maintain his high chieftaincy position. Apart from the legal action, he also wrote to Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, encouraging him to boycott Prince Tsola Emiko’s coronation as the 21st Olu of Warri, which is set for Saturday, August 21, 2021, at Warri/Ode-Itsekiri, the Itsekiri people’s ancestral home.
In the letter, titled “The Olu Of Warri Ascension Controversy: Needs Not To Encourage Illegality,” the Ologbotsere claimed that all he did was ensure that all actions were “in keeping with the tradition and customs of the Itsekiri people, as it relates to the announcement of our king, Ogiame Ikenwoli, the Olu of Warri Kingdom, after due convocation,”
“My concept was for the Itsekiri people to strictly observe the Edict, particularly after several famous Itsekiris told me not to act contrary,” Emami stated in his letter to the Governor.
“WHILE THE PROCESSES WERE IN PROGRESS, SOME PERSONS HIJACKED IT AND CREATED THE WRONG IMPLICATION THAT THE ITSEKIRI PEOPLE HAD LOST RESPECT FOR THE LAW AND TRADITION.”
While the processes were ongoing, some persons hijacked it and created the erroneous impression that Itsekiri people no longer had respect for the rule of law and tradition of the people.”
He stressed in the same letter that Prince Tsola Emiko was first disqualified from ascending the throne in the year 2015, immediately after the death of his father, Ogiame Atunwase II, when he first bedded for the Warri throne because his maternal lineage was Yoruba and not Itsekiri or Edo as a section of the 1979 edict specifically demands.
Okowa sues for peace, unity
Meanwhile, Okowa had, in April, condoled with the Itsekiri people in the state when members of the Olu of Warri Advisory Council formally visited him at the Government House, Asaba, although with Ayiri Emami conspicuously missing in that delegation.
Okowa had used the opportunity to call for peace and unity in the kingdom, saying, “It is only when there is a peace that we can have development, not only in Warri but the entire Delta State.
“I pray that the Itsekiri nation will continue to work for peace because he (the late monarch) was an epitome of peace.”
He had urged all aggrieved persons in the process of picking a new Olu to sheath their swords to ensure that everything was done peacefully and in unity in the overall interest of the Itsekiri people.
Escalating intrigues and divisions
But Emami, on Friday, 23rd July 2021, revved up his opposition to the choice of the Olu of Warri designate as he paid a courtesy visit to the Delta State Traditional Rulers Council, where monarchs were meeting in Asaba. He seized the opportunity to brief the traditional rulers about the goings-on in the Warri Kingdom. He reportedly advised the traditional rulers not to attend the planned coronation of Prince Tsola Emiko as the 21st Olu of Warri.
As if all these happenings were not enough drama already, Prince Tsola Emiko, who had yet to be crowned as the substantive Olu of Warri Kingdom, carried out his first function by installing Vincent Ebigbeyi Awani as the new Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, purportedly replacing Emami, the incumbent Ologbotsere.
Prince Tsola Emiko, still in “Idaniken” hibernating, according to some Warri Chiefs, was not expected to take such an action, especially, when he had yet to be crowned an Olu of Warri. Some Itsekiri Chiefs described Omoba’s action as abominable, adding that such a thing had never happened in the 541 years of Itsekiri tradition and history.
An Itsekiri chief who pleaded anonymity because of security reasons said, “It has become very clear to all Itsekiris, at home and abroad, the reasons these people who wanted Prince Tsola Emiko installed as the Olu of Warri at all costs, chased out Prince Oyowoli Emiko, the rightful heir to the throne from the Warri Palace.
“In their desperation to occupy the throne of Warri Kingdom, whether the right thing is done or not, they must have their way.
“In their desperation, they almost killed Prince Oyowoli, the eldest son of the immediate past Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli. Not done yet, they hurriedly buried his father, HRM Ogiame Ikenwoli, without the knowledge of Prince Oyowoli and his other siblings, to be able to carry out their illegal activities to the fullest, which was to install Prince Tsola Emiko as a supposed Omoba.
“I am ashamed that before now, I sat in the Warri Council of Chiefs meeting with some of these people who are behind these disgraceful acts. This is desperation taken too far. Itsekiri has been reduced to a laughing stock as this is a mockery to the ancient and prestigious throne of the Warri Kingdom.”
“Vincent Ebigbeyi Awani, whom Prince Tsola Emiko has just illegally made the Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, is from the female arm of the Ologbotsere descendants. He is, therefore, not qualified to hold such a title no matter the circumstances we are confronted with. His father, Ebigbeyi is from Usele, a shameful history has been made in the Warri Kingdom,” he cried.
Another Chief, Dr Sam Omamuli, who is the Akulagba of Warri Kingdom, said he was shocked when he saw the illegality carried out. “I had no other option than to place the piece of news in the Warri Council of Chiefs WhatsApp group, asking, ‘Is this what we have all been reduced to?’”
“Chief Eugene Ikomi, who is the Secretary to the Warri Council of Chiefs and others like him, are pretending as if nothing significant happened,” he said.
Ibori, Uduaghan’s fruitless intervention
Two former governors of Delta State with their roots in the Itsekiri Kingdom, The Point learnt, did their best to bring the feuding parties to a position of compromise without success. They are James Ibori, regarded as one of the power brokers and a major influence in the socio-political, cultural and economic activities of the state, and Emmanuel Uduaghan. Both were two-term governors in the state.
Ibori, it was learnt, consistently maintained a respectable distance and quietly observed the raging chieftaincy tussle since the outbreak of the crisis. His intervention has been measured.
Uduaghan, on his part, reportedly made several efforts, alongside other prominent Itsekiri sons and daughters, to resolve the lingering chieftaincy crisis without success. Understandably, several meetings were said to have been held at his behest and personal residence in Warri over the matter with no compromise reached, as the feuding parties held on tightly to their positions without any sign of yielding an inch to engender compromise.
Findings by The Point showed that Prince Oyowoli, the eldest son of the immediate past Olu of Warri; his uncle, Prince Bernard Emiko, who is one of his backers, have since gone underground and can’t be reached for now. This, it was gathered, was for the security and safety of the individuals.
Olu of Warri Designate, Prince Tsola Emiko go into hiding for safety
It was also learnt that of late, a new twist was suddenly introduced in which the Omoba and Olu designate started making overtures to pacify the aggrieved persons in the matter, perhaps because of the implications of a continued feud on the August date for the coronation.
However, his efforts, described by a source as “frantic and desperate” to reach out to his Uncle, Prince Bernard Emiko and his cousin, Prince Oyowoli Emiko, have been unsuccessful. The source said it was a move “for all to sit down and resolve whatever differences there is to the matter.”
“the meeting that started in a cordial and convivial manner at some point became tense and explosive. Some of the Itsekiri Princes… Had their egos deflated”
But Oyowoli and Bernard Emiko are said not to be cooperating because they fear for their safety.
Former Governor Uduaghan is also said to be reaching out. He reportedly appealed, cajoled and sometimes added subtle threats, where necessary, all to no avail.
But as the clock keeps ticking, an unhappy Uduaghan was said to have reported Ayiri Emami to Ibori, knowing that Emami was one of Ibori’s boys. Uduaghan, it was learnt, told Ibori that all efforts to track down Emami and reach him on phone had failed.
It was at that juncture that Ibori put a call through to Emami and asked him to see him on Friday, July 23, 2021, at his Oghara residence.
This, Emami did while returning from Asaba where he had gone to brief the Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers about the happenings in the Warri Kingdom, it was gathered.
A source privy to the meeting between Ibori and Emami said that Ibori asked the Ologbotsere what was happening in his kingdom. The Ologbotsere took his time to brief Ibori about all that had happened, up to date, and the role every individual had played in trying to resolve the lingering crisis.
He was said to have, in the process, expressed his disappointment over the role Uduaghan had played in the matter so far. The Ologbostsere was said to have accused Uduaghan of overtly taking sides with Chief Johnson Atseleghe, the Iyasere of the Warri Kingdom, who happened to be from the same stock with him, saying that, he, as the Ologbotsere, was not ready for anyone to play dangerous politics with the customs and tradition of the Itsekiri people, hence his decision not to pick Uduaghan’s calls over the matter again.
Ibori, it was learnt, pleaded with Emami to do all within his powers to ensure that the chieftaincy matter was resolved amicably in the general interest of the Itsekiri people.
tension soaked meeting
Several meetings were alleged to have taken place in Udughan’s Warri home as part of his attempt to broker peace, but they all ended in an impasse. A source gave a detailed summary of what happened at a recent conference.
“A meeting was set to take place on Sunday, June 20, 2021, at the Warri mansion of the former Governor, Uduaghan,” he said. The meeting was hurriedly reconvened in the same site on Friday, June 18, 2021, due to the pace and manner in which things were evolving.
Chief Gabriel Awala, the Uwuangue of Warri Kingdom; Chief Yayah Pessu, Ojomo of Warri Kingdom; Chief Isaac Jemide, Oshodi of Warri Kingdom; Prince Yemi Emiko, one of the power brokers and leader in the Ginuwa 1 Ruling House of Warri; Chief Johnson Atseleghe, Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom; Dr Edeh, D.D. of Warri Kingdom; Dr.
“Chief Ayiri Emami, the Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, was unable to attend the meeting because he allegedly missed his trip from Abuja to Warri. Another notable Itsekiri leader, Hon Michael Diden aka Ejele, was also absent from the meeting.
“The meeting began just after 5 p.m. and lasted approximately four hours, ending shortly after 9 p.m., before the attendees left for their supper at the same location as the meeting.
“However, the meeting, which had begun in a friendly and jovial manner, eventually grew heated and explosive. Some of the Itsekiri Princes, who had previously assumed the role of the Ginuwa 1 Ruling House’s alter egos, had their egos deflated when they were finally told the truth by a very animated Chief in the kingdom, who decided to put them in their rightful places in a way that no one had ever done in Itsekiri land.
“There were some semblances of reconciliations and exchanges of apologies by the parties engaged in the fight after the commotion.”
According to the source, the Friday meeting began when Atseleghe, the Iyatsere, was questioned about the outcome of the meeting that the house had mandated him, Emami, and Awala to convene among themselves and report to the general house.
“The meeting could not take place because Chief Ayiri Emami, the Ologbotsere, has not yet complied with the Omoba, Tsola Emiko, who ordered Emami to, among other things, send a letter of apology to the Ginuwa 1 Ruling House for insulting the entire Itsekiri people,” Atseleghe was reported as saying. Chief Emami had not yet submitted the letter of apology at the time of the meeting. When asked about the letter, Chief Emami stated that he never heard when Omoba Tsola Emiko instructed him to write an apology letter to the Ginuwa 1 Ruling House.
“Even though Prince Yemi Emiko and others who were present at Chief Emami’s meeting with the Omoba validated what the Omoba said, Emami said he did not hear the instruction.”
“Unless Chief Emami does the letter the Omoba ordered him to do, there would be no foundation to meet with him to settle any lingering issue or differences,” Atseleghe continued.
Emami had not only personally congratulated the Omoba on his nomination as the Olu of Warri designate, but he had also vowed to work with the Atseleghe group to enthrone Omoba Tsola Emiko as the 21st Olu of Warri.
Atseleghe, on the other hand, was unconvinced by these arguments, insisting that Emami write a letter of repentance to the Ginuwa 1 Ruling House as required by the Omoba. At this moment, Ororo Emiko emphasised the urgency of locating the missing crown as well as the location of the immediate past Olu of Warri’s two sons.
Olu of Warri Designate, Prince Tsola Emiko go into hiding for safety
Prince Yemi Emiko reportedly added his two cents, claiming that Emami’s congratulatory message to the Omoba as the Olu of Warri designate should suffice and be viewed as an apology. He went on to say that it should also serve the purpose and be considered as sufficient apologies to Warri’s Ginuwa 1 Ruling House.
At this time, Yayah Pessu is claimed to have inquired about Emami’s specific offence for which Johnson and others wanted him to apologise. Chief Isaac Jemide posed the same question once more.
At this point, Yemi Emiko is reported to have communicated to the house the governing house’s grievances against Emami. Emami’s offences against the Ginuwa 1 Ruling House, according to him, were:
- Denying approved personnel access to His Royal Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli’s body in the Warri Palace for four months while he was in Abuja on business.
That the Ginuwa 1 Ruling House was offended when they wrote Emami a letter, and instead of responding, Emami tore the letter up, stuffed it into an envelope, and returned it to them.
When Ogiame Ikenwoli’s death was officially confirmed, Emami reacted by claiming that Ogiame Ikenwoli had not died.
Prince Yemi Emiko is believed to have completed his argument by claiming that the Ginuwa 1 Ruling House granted the Itsekiri people a king and that as a result, the Ginuwa Ruling House has the right and power to suspend Emami as the Ologbostsere of Warri Kingdom.
At this point, Jemide is alleged to have asked Prince Yemi Emiko if they selected the Olu of Warri to designate in line with the established law or procedures. He was claimed to have inquired once more if Ogiame Ikenwoli’s eldest son, Prince Oyowoli, had been offered the throne initially, as the person of the first choice, before granting it to Omoba Tsola Emiko. And was the Ifa-Oracle consulted by the 1979 edict?
All of these questions were said to be answered affirmatively by Prince Yemi Emiko. Prince Yemi Emiko was reported to have made harsh remarks against Chief Richmond MacGrey’s family, particularly his late mother, to provide further insight into what happened and how Omoba Tsola Emiko was eventually thrown up as the Olu of Warri designate.
Chief MacGrey, who was in attendance at the meeting, became enraged, roared like a wounded lion, and jumped off the cliff. He descended heavily on Prince Yemi Emiko in the process, saying unprintable things about him.
“THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN THE WARRI MONARCHY’S HISTORY THAT WE ARE STILL HAVING TWO DIVISIONS EVEN AFTER THE OLU DESIGNATE’S EMERGENCE. IT HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE.”
Finally, the meeting decided that to fully integrate Chief Yayah Pessu, the Ojomo of Warri Kingdom, and Chief Isaac Jemide, the Oshodi of Warri Kingdom, into the mainstream of the Warri kingmakers, the Iyatsere should convene a meeting on Saturday, June 19, 2021, with all seven of the people he illegally appointed to replace the old kingmakers present.
Johnson was also directed to tell anyone who was trying to stop the original kingmakers from being reintegrated into the kingmaking process to give up their posts immediately.
In the meeting that the Iyatsere was invited to organise, Yemi Emiko, Edeh, Thomas Ereyitomi, and Emmanuel Ewetan Uduaghan were asked to witness the re-integration of the original kingmakers.
In I were land, there has been unprecedented growth.
Alex Eyengho, a spokesperson for the Ologbotsere Eyinmisanren Descendants globally, described the situation as unprecedented and terrible.
Without mentioning the case in court, he told The Point that the Itsekiri people were known to respect law and order, fair play, equity, and justice.
“They aren’t known for taking laws into their own hands,” he remarked. In this case, I believe people who have gone to court wish to err on the side of the law, and I do not condemn them in that regard. It is preferable to go to court than to walk down the street and take the law into your own hands.
“However, as an Itsekiri man, I believe we should not have gotten to this point of being in court. I’m not pointing the finger at anyone who has gone to court. It is their right to do so. We shouldn’t have gone to court on the Warri Kingdom issue. As it used to be, we have internal processes for resolving these issues.
“But make no mistake about it, there is never a period in the history of the Warri Kingdom when you don’t have two divisions when you wish to crown a King. It has always been that way, to the best of my knowledge, since time immemorial.”
“However, when the Olu designate emerges, the two factions invariably collapse to become one,” he continued. They also labour on the King’s funeral and the coronation of the Olu designate, who has gone to join his forefathers.
“So, I can state unequivocally that this is unusual; this is the first time in the Warri monarchy’s history that we are still divided after the appearance of the Olu designate. It’s unprecedented, and I know why, and it’s very unfortunate.”
“I am not aware of anything like a coronation before another coronation,” he responded when asked if there was any truth to a plan to have another coronation before the August 21 coronation. I can’t answer because I’m not a kingmaker. “I am nothing more than an Itsekiri noble.”
The Olu of Warri title is one of Nigeria’s most ancient titles. Itsekiri Oluship in Delta State has existed for 541 years, from 1480 AD to the present day, and the Itsekiri nation has produced 20 Olus of Warri Kingdom, ranging from Ginuwa 1, the Benin Prince who created the Warri Kingdom in 1480 to Ogiame Ikenwoli.
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Credit : The point Newspaper
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