By Gabriel Omonhinmin
Barely a week after being doused by the Delta State Police Command, tension and anxiety are rising again in Itsekiri land over the Olu of Warri’s crown. The crisis rocking the ethnic nationality over the recent announcement of the passage of Ogiame Ikenwoli and the selection of Prince Tsola Emiko as the Olu-designate is reaching a boiling point.
Some of the Itsekiri nobles and chiefs have vowed that the alleged illegality committed in the process of the emergence of new Olu-designate can never be allowed to stand, not when they are alive.
A new dimension to the crisis is that the Itsekiri abroad are now being dragged into the imbroglio by various factions to take sides. On Saturday, April 17, 2021 from noon to 5.30 p.m. (Nigerian time), a meeting via zoom was held with the Itsekiri people in the United Kingdom by one of the chiefs, who is at the centre of the crisis. During the meeting, the chief struggled very hard to explain the rationale behind the actions he had so far taken that threw the Itsekiri nation into turmoil.
The most senior Itsekiri chief in the UK. was allegedly excluded because of his uncompromising stand on the matter. The chief in the eye of the storm was said to have struggled throughout the meeting to appease the Itsekiri in the UK. He kept on appealing to the Itsekiri in diaspora to cooperate with him, to save their Itraditional institution from humiliation.
As the crisis raged, the power mongers among the chiefs accused the others in the Warri Counci of Chiefsl of unnecessary outburst and leaking of vital information from the palace to the media, especially Palace Watch.
They are presently doing everything within their powers to cow the chiefs who disagree with them. In a meeting fixed for Wednesday April 28, 2021 in Warri a range of issues will be discussed, which include the allegations of information leakage and outbursts.
To this effect, formal letters of invitation from the palace of the Olu of Warri, signed by a lady. have been dispatched to the chiefs accused of the aforementioned infractions. In the planned meeting, some of the nobles and chiefs accused of wrong doing and information leakage and unnecessary outbursts would be subjected to the code of conduct allegedly drawn up for the Council of Chiefs by the immediate past Olu, the late Ogiame Ikenwoli.
The opposing chiefs, however, argued, that the code of conduct in question was still in the works as it was being drafted, before the sudden death of Ikenwoli. They also argue that it was never presented to the Council of Chiefs and that it was also never ratified nor signed by the late Olu before his death.
Therefore, they argued, “there is nothing like a code of conduct for the Warri Council of Chiefs. Expectedly, some sections of the unsigned code of conduct are to be invoked to discipline the chiefs in question, who must be forced to keep quiet, whether they are in agreement with what is being done or not.
The chiefs claiming persecution said: “we are marked to be pulled down because we stand for the truth and nothing but the truth. We will not be attending the meeting in question on that day because of the illegality and the reckless manouvre to nail us at all costs.
No chief has the powers to discipline another chief in Warri Kingdom as the powers to discipline a chief rest solely on a sitting Olu- in-council. In this instance, as they say in law, you can’t give what you don’t have. It is only the Olu, who has the powers to make or remove a chief.
The present action is sad and a bad omen, as some chiefs are now over-reaching themselves in this matter. It is very wrong and inappropriate for a chief to attempt to discipline another chief, especially when the instrument they are relying on was never signed by the late Olu before his passage.”
As to be expected, the planned disciplinary action has further polarized and heightened the tension in the Itsekiri nation.
The chiefs told Palace Watch: “this act of intimidation will never make us back-down from telling the truth, even at the risk of our personal lives. It’s about time the Itsekiri people get to know the truth and the whole truth about what is happening in their kingdom and the deliberate manoeuvre by a few reckless chiefs to sidetrack and exclude the eldest son of the immediate past Olu, Prince Oyowoli Emiko, from the throne, where he is the rightful heir and first in line..
The Itsekiri monarchical system is primogeniture in nature, as this cannot be changed now after 33 years in practice. In the same breath,, these same people have come out to say, that the crown of the Olu of Warri is presently missing.
They have gone to the police station to incident the case. Who would have stolen the crown from the strong room where it is kept in the Warri Palace? The people in question are the only persons who had access to the inner sanctuary of the Olu palace since the passage of Ogiame Ikenwoli.
“in a calculated and desperate attempt to prevent Prince Oyowoli Emiko, the rightful heir from ascending the throne of his forefathers, these renegades chiefs alongside one of the junior brothers of the late Olu, who was very close to him up to his death, led a selected number of thugs who were armed to the teeth to besiege the Olu Palace. They stormed the palace continually for a period of one week unhindered.
They broke into all the inner rooms in the palace including where the remains of the immediate past Olu are, to disturb the peace of a man, whose death they have refused to account for. They are saying, the immediate past Olu died of Covid-related ailment. But the wife of the late Olu, who shared the same pillow with him every day until his sudden death, up till now has not tested positive to Covid-19.
Some of the chiefs causing all the troubles today in Warri were the ones who related daily and whispered sweet nonsense into the late Olu’s ears every day while he was alive, and yet none of them have tested positive to the Covid-19.
In one of the attacks on the Palace, on Wednesday, 31st March 2021, one of the chiefs at the centre of all this crisis, kept on calling Prince Oyowoli on his phone to find out where he was hiding in the palace. He was recorded during the conversation that ensured between him and the young Prince at the main hall of the Palace.
This same chief’s deceptive antics came into play when he arrived at the main hall of the palace a day earlier, on Thursday, 1st April, 2021, in company of one of the contenders for the throne and others with a truckload of thugs, to conduct the ritual of Ifa Oracle. It was therefore, not a surprise when he announced Prince Tsola Emiko as the Olu-designate some days after on the 5th of April 2021 at Ode Itsekiri, the ancestral home of the ethnic nationality.
This was the same chief, when the palace was under siege some days earlier was seen in company of the thugs, while Prince Oyowoli was making frantic calls to the Police and the Army for help. When he was eventually confronted, he said, he met the OPC and IYC thugs at the entrance of the Warri Palace trying to break into the place, which is not true. If we may ask, what is the business of the OPC in Warri as we are no Yoruba?
The siege continued on the Palace, for three days in the one week attacks, According to the chiefs, the 29 years old Prince Oyowoli and his junior brother were trapped in the ceilings in one of the rooms in the palace, where they were hiding. When Prince Oyowoli and his brother could no longer stand the humiliation of what was happening to them, as they had not eaten for days during these incidents, Prince Oyowoli put a call through to another chief who is a major actor in the crisis calling for help.
This chief asked the young Prince to send a driver to get him and his junior brother some food to eat. Unfortunately, when the driver sent by the Prince arrived at the palace gate some hours later, the thugs that were on guard at the main entrance on that day, refused the driver sent, entry into the palace.
With the forgoing, when the two young Princes could no longer bear what they were experiencing, they again made frantic efforts to reach the Police. They were lucky when the Nigerian Police and the Army, finally helped to ferry them out of the Palace through the back door to safety. This was how the two young Princes escaped being harmed.
Even at that, the junior Prince ended up injuring one of his fingers. The intentions of the invading thugs is not far to see. They were sent to the palace to do bodily harm to the heir to the Warri throne, Prince Oyowoli. Itsekiri customs and traditions are abundantly clear about the physical appearance of an heir to the throne.
A Prince with deformity can never be made an Olu of Warri. If the thugs had succeeded in deforming Prince Oyowoli during one of the attacks on the Palace, the issue of him still being in contention for the throne would have been over as their desire would have been met.
“If not an act of desperation, why should a chief in Warri kingdom engineer the desecration of the Palace? Nothing like this has ever happened in the Itsekiri Kingdom since 1840.
In carrying out this damning act, all the doors in the palace were broken down, up till the particular room where the remains of the late Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikonwoli, were still being kept, thus, refusing the departed revered monarch the peace he very well deserved on his death bed. With all these acts, one can only imagine the pains the young Prince and his other siblings have been going through, especially, now that their father is yet to be buried.
The most preposterous thing, about all this drama, is that nobody from the larger Emiko family so far, has deemed it fit to speak against the injustice being perpetrated and perpetuated as well as also come out to defend the wrongs being done to Prince Oyowoli by these chiefs and the Olori-Ebi.
They have all refused to speak up, because some of them have been compromised. This is sad and shameful. The question being asked, is, have they all been bought? We know, there are still some Princes in the Kingdom with conscience.”
The Chiefs stressed that, as if enough harm has not been done already to the collective psyche of the Itsekiri people, a deliberate and calculated attempt is being made daily by these chiefs, to denigrate the image of Prince Oyowoli and to de-market him, so as “to make way for the wrong person to ascend the throne as the Olu just because he has the means.”
The chiefs went on:”The stupid and frivolous allegations being made against Prince Oyowoli, is that, he is among other things a drug addict, an allegation that is unfounded. This is a Prince who has never been known to smoke or drink. The soft drink Prince Oyowoli takes is Ferouz; this is known to all. We have, however, asked them to show proofs of their allegations against the young man.
Sadly, they have not been able to up till now. Is this not pathetic that some chiefs in Warri Kingdom have decided to go this low, all to deny a Prince his rightful throne?
The sad thing about this shenanigan is that the Omo ba, head of the Warri Prince, who once vehemently opposed Prince Tsola Emiko’s inclusion among the names of the Princes of the kingdom, who were to be considered for the Olu’s throne five days ago, saying ‘he is not qualified for the throne of Warri, because his mother is a Yoruba woman,’ is the same person who is in the forefront championing Prince Tsola enthronement and has now helped in the selection of Prince Tsola Emiko as the new Olu-designate just because a lot of water has passed under the bridge.
“The truth about the 1979 edict, which has been in operation for 33 years now, they say, is that, the same edict was used to install Ogiame Atuwase II, the father of Prince Tsola and Ogiame Ikenwoli, they are both beneficiaries of this edict. The throne of Warri kingdom, just like that of the Benin Kingdom, where Ginuwa I, came from, is primogeniture and hereditary, it is from father to son.
It is only when a son of an immediate past Olu of Warri is not qualified or the late Olu has no male child that is when another option is sought for. What happened in the case of Prince Tsola Emiko five years ago when he positioned himself for the throne as the first in line, after the passage of his father was that he was disqualified in accordance with the stipulations of the 1979 edict.
Sadly, all desperate efforts are now being made to steal the throne from a qualified Prince, and give it to the prince who is not qualified to ascend the revered throne of Warri Kingdom. In this very case, the immediate past Olu of Warri Ogiame Ikenwoli’s eldest son is qualified and is fit to ascend the throne of his father. This is the case we are making.
“Now let us examine the 28 years reign of the late Ogiame Atunwase II, the father of Prince Tsola Emiko, for 28 years that he reigned and was on the on the throne, to be factual he did not make any major attempt to tempter with the 1979 edict as the Itsekiri people continually kept watch over his actions and body language.
Even though, he was a brilliant London-trained lawyer, who could have change the law, if he wanted to, but for his respect for the Itsekiri people and tradition he did not attempt it. He left the edict the way it was.
In the late Ogiame Atunwase II case, he had a unique case in his hands. As two of his senior sons Prince Tsola and one other Prince were given birth to by two different Yoruba women.
The second Yoruba woman who gave birth to the son next in age to Tsola Emiko for Ogiame Atuwase II, is a woman very well known in Sapele then called Duro Kazeem, whose parents are from Lagos State.
The alleged statement by some of these chiefs that is mischievously alluded to as ‘Afomasin’ proclamation that effected a change in the 1979 edict, is nothing but a mere address during Ogiame Atunwase II 18th or 26th anniversary celebration speech on the throne.
“Do you ever have a proclamation by a king without a seal of authority? Let them show us the seal of authority, where Ogiame Atuwanse II altered the 1979 Edict to accommodate the Princes that are born by women not accommodate in the law in accordance with the stipulation of the 1979 edicts; this they have not been able to produce.
“Their line of argument now is that, if Prince Tsola Emiko is not made the Olu of Warri, his fundamental human right would have been violated which is laughable. This is not correct. If this is the case, all Itsekiri women, whom the edict excluded from the Warri throne, can now approach the courts to be allowed to ascend the throne as Olu.
It’s crazy for anyone to say that the Itsekiri people are among the children of Oduduwa. The Yoruba and Oduduwa trumpcard now being played is political, and to draw the sympathy of the Yoruba race. This, we must say, is dangerous and must be discouraged.
Well, this is a matter for another forum and for another day and another time. What these people have failed to realize is that, in an effort to annull the law that has been in operation for 33 years, which has produced two Olus, is that in the process, these same people will end up annulling the reigns of Ogiame Atuwase II and Ogiame Ikenwoli which were produced by this same edict.
If this is done, every bonafide son and daughter of Warri Kingdom, can now equally go to court to say that they are qualified to ascend the throne and should therefore be allowed to assume the position of the Olu as a constitutional right. It will no longer be restricted to the Ginuwa ruling house, as it is the case now.
Hence, they, the renegade chiefs should be very careful about what they are trying to do, because it will have a boomerang effect on the kingdom, tradition alongside the dignity of the entire Itsekiri people in the final analysis. In resorting to the constitution and trying to force Prince Tsola Emiko on the Kingdom whether the law and the Itsekiri people approves of it or not, is extremely dangerous.
“At some point the late Ogiame Atunwase II, made a decree that the Itsekiri people awee free to marry their third cousins,. The Itsekiri nation rose in unison. There were protests all over Itsekiri nation for some days over the proclamation.
The Itsekiri people, said what Ogiame Atunwase II wanted done, is not only unacceptable but an abomination which must not be tolerated. They went on to dare the late Ogiame Atuwanse II to do what he directed the people to do first, and wait for the consequences.
He never followed through his proclamation, even though he was the sitting Olu. Another attempt by the late king to temper with the customs of the Itsekiri was when he came out again to say that he would no longer want to be addressed as Ogiame.
The Itsekiri people rose and told him, he has no right whatsoever to change the customs and traditions of the people. They continued to address him as Ogiame Atunwase II during his reign and after his death. Anybody in doubt, should check out the brochure of his burial. Here lies the power of the Itsekiri people over any Olu.”
The Chiefs added: “The people arguing that the Itsekiri are part and parcel of Oduduwa or part of the Yoruba are now doing so, to curry favour and sympathy for Prince Tsola Emiko. Why have they just woken up from their long slumber?
The Ooni of Ife sending two Obas from the Yoruba race to witness the announcement of Prince Tsola Emiko as Olu-designate in Ode Itsekiri, is a calculated attempt to drag other races into what was supposed to be the exclusive affairs of the Itsekiri people.
If one may ask, do the Itsekiri people need external assistance to resolve their affairs? Anyhow, what is at stake at the moment is not where the Itsekiri as a race came from. The matter at hand is the Itsekiri Monarchy.
And as we are all aware, Ginuwa 1, the first Olu of Warri, came directly from the Benin ruling house, this is not controvertible. The practice in Benin where Ginuwa came from, is that the throne of Olu of Warri is by primogeniture – as the first son of an Olu is the first in line to the throne of his father. This practice has been deeply rooted in the Warri Kingdom.
This deep-rooted practice of primogeniture is still in force in Benin kingdom till today where the Itsekiri copied it from. There are two laws in Benin Kingdom guiding this practice, the Oriagba and the Oba Ewakpe Promulgated laws. These laws are still in force in Benin today.
They have now become an integral parts of the Benin traditions and that is why there have never been an undue crisis in recent times in the selection process of Benin Obas. As everyone knows, the throne goes from father to son.
This tradition, the Benin people have continually adhered to. It is the same practice here in Warri Kingdom for almost 600 years. Every noble knows this to be the truth, but the greed of some few chiefs is what is trying to destroy the Itsekiri customs and traditions which is sad. We will not allow them to destroy our customs, traditions and heritage no matter how hard they try.
‘For the people using the affinity between the Itsekiri and Yoruba as a power weapon to enthrone Prince Tsola Emiko at all costs, we ask: do the Yoruba parade chieftaincy titles of Ologbotshere, Iyatsere, Oshodi just to mention a few? No! They don’t. These titles belong to the Benin Kingdom, and that is where our monarchy came from.”
In an effort to ensure balance and fairness in the coverage of our stories, Palace Watch has reached out to the Olgbotshere and Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom, Chief Ayiri Emami and Chief Johnson Atserunleshe, who have promised to speak with us. We shall also endeavour to bring to our readers, the side of the story of the Olori-Ebi (Administrative Head of the Ginuwa Ruling House), Prince Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, in our subsequent editions. So stay with us for more.