By Nosa Akenzua
Trouble has been brewing in the past few weeks over the esteemed throne of Olu of Warri in Delta State.
An account says the first Olu was a well known offspring of the great Oba Olua who ruled Benin Kingdom successfully, and undoubtedly the biological father of “ Omonoyan” that was said to have been corrupted to Ginuwa which is now the Itsekiri ruling house.
The Olu stool or palace had been facing troubles allegedly linked to some heavyweights in Warri and Abuja, basically for political interests, with the throne polarized by their nebulous activities and abrasive politics that now seemingly threatens the unity of the kingdom itself if urgent steps are not taken to resolve the crisis.
Ginuwa, a great Prince of Benin Kingdom, was said to have moved out of the palace of his father, Oba Olu, when he was allegedly facing “domestic attacks” in the harrem, into the riverine area where he eventually sought comfort and was honoured by farmers who stumbled on him in the thick forest While the throne had been bubbling with true traditional values, it was gathered that some persons within Warri Kingdom with alleged political interests infiterated the royal family members thereby creating division and bad blood among them.
Several wounds of hatred were allegedly inflicted on key members of the royal family members.
However, controversy erupted again last Monday after the emergence, as Oludesignate, of Prince Tsola Emiko, son of Atuwatse11 and the 19th monarch of Warri kingdom.
Emiko’s emergence was announced by the Iyatsere of Warri and Acting Chairman of Olu’s Advisory Council, Chief Johnson Amatserunreleghe, at a ceremony at Ode-Itsekiri, the ethnic nationality’s ancestral community.
It is in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State. Amatserunreleghe also officially announced the passage of the Olu of Warri, His Royal Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli.
But Emiko who will remain Olu-designate until all necessary processes are completed, will be formally crowned as the 21st monarch of Warri on a later date as his emergence commenced a three-month mourning period in the Itsekiri nation with burials, marriages and other social activities banned until his installation.
Amid celebrations among some members of the royal family and the ethnic group as well as politicians among others, the purportedly suspended Ologbotsere of Warri, Chief Ayiri Emami, dismissed the announcement of Prince Emiko as Omoba (Olu-Designate), warning that whatever happened at OdeItsekiri was null and void. He called for calm among Itsekiri people and other concerned Nigerians.
He also warned that the revered Olu stool was not for the highest bidder. He added that of the seven kingmakers, only two were present at the ceremony held at Ode-Itsekiri.
The controversy surrounding the throne heightenedd following the demise of Olu Ikenwoli Godfrey Emiko. Ogiame Ikenwoli reportedly joined his ancestors in December 2020, barely a week after his fifth coronation anniversary, after he was said to have met with the late MajorGeneral John Irefin, who died earlier from complications caused by a virus.
The palace in a statement initially denied the demise of the first-class monarch, describing the story as untrue. Despite the denial, it was gathered that there has been tension in the area over who succeeds the monarch.
The crisis has also resulted in the suspension and countersuspension of some high profile chiefs of the palace.
Following the rejection and disqualification of Prince Emiko as the successor to the throne, a member of the royal family, Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh had, a few days ago, announced the purported suspension of the head of the Olu’s advisory council headed by the Ologbotsere of Warri, Chief Ayiri Emami. Shortly after the purported suspension, a popular Warri chief and member of the Ginuwa I family, Akoma DuduDimeyin, on behalf of the ruling house, countered the move, saying: “The Ginuwa I Ruling House has no such powers to suspend the Ologbotsere or any other chief. it is an individual or constituted authority that has the right to hire, that can fire.”
Speaking with The Daily Times, a traditional chief in the palace who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, confirmed the demise of the monarch saying that although it has not been formally announced to the public, the issue of succession is almost degenerating into a full-blown bloody crisis.
“Unlike in previous cases where differences were settled in inner circles among contenders of the throne, the divisions this time around have been blown open among the contenders and power brokers in Itsekiri, particularly the Olu’s advisory council headed by the Ologbotsere of Warri, Chief Ayiri Emami and the body of Princes who share influences over who becomes the next Olu.
“The battle to select a consensus candidate for the throne degenerated on Monday following reports that the choice of Prince Tsola Emiko was rejected by the Olu’s advisory council.
The 1979 Edict is very clear on the issue causing serious tension concerning the Itsekiri throne succession. Prince Tsola is not qualified to be enthroned.
“Prince Tsola Emiko is the son of Ikenwoli Emiko’s predecessor, Atuwatse ll. He is one of the preferred choices despite his disqualification in 2015 in accordance with the customary laws regulating succession to the Olu of Warri throne.
It might interest you to note that Prince Tsola was disqualified from succeeding his father because his mother is Yoruba.
The edict confirmed the position of the Olu’s advisory council that a candidate to the Olu of Warri hrone must have his mother as an Itsekiri or from Benin Kingdom.” Also speaking in support of the edict, another chief from the Olu’s palace insisted that Prince Tsola stands rejected and disqualified.
He disclosed that the enthronement of Tsola despite the edict will amount to a breach of peace in the land and if not urgently handled, will degenerate into a bloody crisis.
The source said: “Paragraph two of section eight of the 1979 Edict read made it very clear that succession is limited to Olu’s company (Otolu’s) i.e. descendant 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 it goes to a suitable member of the Otolus, provided that brothers are preferred to uncles, and uncles are preferred to grandsons and grandsons are preferred to other relatives within the Otolus.
Females are absolutely barred. “According to the Edict on how to select a successor, the Ologbotsere will summon a meeting of the members of the ruling house to the palace (Aghofen) specifically to choose a successor.
The meeting is presided over by the oldest man in the ruling house, failing which by the Olare-Ebi or Olore-Ebi.
“All the sons of demised Olu and members of the ruling house below the age of eighteen are excluded from the meeting.
To qualify, a candidate’s mother must be an Itsekiri or of Bini origin and his father, Itsekiri.”
Investigation by The Daily Times revealed that already, a section of the ruling house had been preparing to announce Prince Tsola as Omoba (Oludesignate) last Monday against the provisions of the edict which had disqualified him while some among the Itsekiri have insisted that the edict must be adhered to the letter.