Olu of Warri Stool: Issues surrounding emergence of Olu-designate Tsola Emiko
Victor Sorokwu Asaba
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.
His mother, Princess Gladys Durorike was the daughter of Oba Sijuade Okunade, the Ooni of Ife.
His father, Olu Atuwatse II was Olu of Warri from 1987 to 2015. He was the 19th Olu of Warri Kingdom with the title Ogiame Atuwatse II.
He was born Godwin Toritseju Emiko and succeeded his father Erejuwa II as the Olu of Warri. A lawyer by profession and recipient of the Commander of the Niger (CON) award from the Nigerian Government.
Ogiame Atuwatse II was crowned on May 2, 1987 in historic ceremony, recorded as the last official engagement of renowned Yoruba leader, politician and publisher, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Awolowo died on May 9, 1987, a week after attending the Ogiame Atuwatse’s coronation in Warri.
Atuwatse II died at 70 in a hospital in Lagos in early September 2015, after suffering a domestic accident.
Unlike Ogiame Atuwatse 11, who succeeded his father, Ogiame Erejuwa, his son, Prince Tsola was opposed to succeed the father.
He had been presented for installation but certain powerful forces within the Council of Chiefs insisted that his brother, Prince Godfrey Ikenwoli should ascend the throne.
Ogiame Ikenwoli’s reign lasted barely five years (2015-2021) but heralded the wake of a new noveau rich political class which dictated the appropriation of the commonwealth of Itsekiri.
This scenario was reminiscent of the Erejuwa reign, when the control of the commonwealth and patrimony of Iwereland was in the hands of the political class.
Then was the era of flamboyant politician, Chief Alfred Rewane, then Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, who held sway in the then Midwest and later Bendel politics; an associate of the political sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Until the ascension of Ogiame Atuwatse 11 to the throne of Itsekiri kingdom; a very lettered Olu of Warri who seemingly contended and unclutched the vicegrip of the political class from control of the common patrimony of the Itsekiris; especially royalties from oil companies for oil and gas exploitation in Iwereland.
It took passage of time and eventually the demise of Chief Alfred Rewane, the then Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom for peace to be restored over communal battles for the control of the royalties from government and oil companies.
But the political class staged a comeback in the running of communal affairs of Iwereland with the emergence of Ogiame Ikenwoli, regarded an acolyte of a now formidable political bloc in Itsekiri nation, who assumed the sobriquet, the “12 Disciples”.
Ogiame Ikenwoli, it was who conferred one of the most powerful chieftaincy titles, the Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, on one of the 12 Disciples, Emami Ayiri.
Now the Olu’s Advisory Council is headed by the Ologbotsere of Warri, Chief Ayiri Emami, who wields influence over who becomes the next Olu.
It was the Ologbotsere who disrupted the ‘Omoba’ (Olu-designate) selection process and announced that Prince Tsola Emiko, erstwhile heir apparent to Ogiame Atuwatse 11, cannot ascend the Olu throne over his maternity, insisting a certain customary law must be followed to the latter.
Prince Tsola Emiko, son of Ikenwoli’s predecessor, Atuwatse ll, had remained the preferred choice for the throne despite his disqualification in 2015, purportedly in accordance with certain customary laws regulating succession to the Olu of Warri throne, which many regarded as a phantom customary law targeted at the succession genealogy of Ogiame Atuwatse 11.
Prince Tsola was disqualified from succeeding his father because his mother is a Yoruba.
The 1979 Edict being hinged upon by the Ologbotsere to disqualify Prince Tsola Emiko posited that a candidate to the Olu of Warri throne must have his mother as an Itsekiri or from Edo State (Benin Kingdom).
Paragraph 2, section 8 of the 1979 Edict read in part: “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”.
On how a new Olu should be selected upon the demise of an Olu, the Edict reads further: “The Ologbotsere summons 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 Edo origin and his father Itsekiri.”
But in swift counter, a larger section of the Ruling House insisted on Prince Tsola as Omoba (Olu-designate) in defiance of the provisions of the Edict and maintained that a barely 41 year old ‘concocted’ law cannot obliterate the age-long traditional sanctity of Iwereland.
Following reports of Prince Tsola’s disqualification, Chief Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, Head of the Royal Family, announced the suspension of Chief Ayiri as the Ologbotsere and Head of the Olu’s Advisory Council and called on the Iyatsere, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe to assume traditional authourity.
The suspension of Chief Ayiri as Ologbotsere, was almost immediately dismissed by members of the Ginuwa ll Ruling House, orchestrating a temporal stalemate.
But majority of 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.
In accordance with the Itsekiri customs and traditions, the high chief symbolically performed the breaking of three earthen (native) pots containing white native chalks, one after the other on the floor at the royal precints.
He exclaimed “Alejefun-ooooh”, after each pot was broken, which was accompanied by twenty (20) cannon shots. The twenty cannon shots signified that twenty Olus had reigned over Iwere (Itsekiri) land so far, of which the departed Olu Ikenwoli was the twentieth.
At the end of the traditional rites, Chief Atserunleghe announced Tsola Emiko as the Olu-designate, which was accompanied by wild ovation from Itsekiri sons and daughters present at the event.
Chief Johnson Amatserunreleghe performed the ceremonies at Ode-Itsekiri in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State.
Ode-Itsekiri is the ancestral home of the Itsekiri people.
Interestingly, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II was conspicuously represented at the ceremony by Oba Akinola Oyetade Aderera, the Olubosin of Ife and Adekunle Adeayo Adeagbo, the Ore of Otun Eketi.
Shortly after the pronouncements and ceremonies, President Muhammadu Buhari sent in his condolences and congratulatory messages, through his media adviser, Femi Adesina, indicating presidential approval.
But the embattled Ologbotsere of Warri kingdom, Chief Ayiri Emami, in spite of the president’s tacit approval of the actions of the Itsekiri traditional authorities, insisted the ceremonies were mere nullity.
“President Muhammadu Buhari would not support illegality surrounding the purported announcement of the passage of the 20th Olu and subsequent announcement of a successor”, Chief Emami countered.
Emami maintained it was foolery for anyone to drop the name of President Buhari in the crisis bedeviling Itsekiri nation, addng that Buhari will not be party to illegality as he is a law-abiding citizen.
Emami insisted he reserved the traditional authourity to convey a General Assembly of the Itsekiri nation at Oade-Itsekiri, ancestral home of the Itsekiri people to announce the purported demise of Olu, His Royal Majesty Ogiame Ikenwoli and name his successor as stipulated by the 1979 Edicts governing the Olu throne.
He declared that the Itsekiri nation would not allow meddlesome interlopers to change their tradition overnight or railroad them into going against the gods and ancestors of the land in a desperation to control the throne.
He advised President Buhari on processes and procedures for the enthronement of a successor to the throne, which according to him were still ongoing, restating that anyone parading Prince Utieyinoritsetsola Emiko, son of the late Ogiame Atuwatse II as Olu-designate, have no clue about the customary laws, norm and tradition of the Iwereland.
“I want to state categorically clear as before that Olu of Warri, His Royal Majesty Ogiame Ikenwoli, has not joined his ancestor as being alleged. I have not convey any General Assembly of the people as tradition demands to state the contrary. So if His Royal Majesty Ogiame Ikenwoli has not joined his ancestor, where does Olu-Designate evolve from.
“Anyone who want to use President Buhari’s name to draw ethnic and political colouration to the Olu throne issue should be wary of the danger of such actions. We are Itsekiri people and not any other tribe. We will not allow outsiders to come and dictate for us. We have our customs and traditions and the Nigerian constitution evolves from the peoples’ norm, values and tradition.
“I will formally issue a statement on this and will formally brief Mr. President on our tradition in a later date”, Chief Emami, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) stated.
Another prominent member of the 12 Disciples, a former member of the Delta State House of Assembly and currently the chairman of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Hon. EvangelistMichael Diden, corroborated Chief Emami’s position in his sermon last Sunday, titled: “Kingship: Time To Let God Direct Our Path In Itsekiri Kingdom”.
Evangelist Diden, a church founder and General Overseer, Mega Praise Church of Christ International Sapele, Delta State, said he had rallied some men met in Lagos shortly after the passage of Ogiame Ikenwoli to make Prince Shola the king of Itsekiri.
“But after some time, God came to me and spoke to me and said You, Ejele and your boys, you are not the ones to choose the king. I, God, will choose him. Therefore, I have no option than to stay and follow the laws that will birth a king”, Him. Diden, called Ejele in political circles disclosed.
“What should my Itsekiri brothers do now? They should remove their hands, they are not to make one a king. They should seek the face of God and pray for justice to come.
“It is in the Bible. In the past, Itsekiri people got it wrong, but this is the time to put things right”, he posited, while listing the apostles of change in the current debacle as Prince Michael Diden, Chief I. Erayitomi, Chief Omonubi Newumi, Chief F. Omatieseye and Prince Godwin Ebosa. Others are Chief Ayiri Emami, Mrs Tony Eguado, Prince N. Akoma, Barr Richard Omani, Barr Misan Ukubeyinje and Omasan Mabuakun.
“Together, we will drive the change to a new Itsekiri Kingdom anchored or God’s word and put our people on the path of grace and blessings.
I urge Itsekiri people not to make an idol worshipper a king, but a man after God’s heart”, he added.
Meanwhile, Delta state governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa and the state traditional rulers council have remain mum over the brewing royal rumble and the state government has not made any official statement with respect to the pronouncements by the Warri Council of Chiefs on the passage of Ogiame Ikenwoli and the installation of an Olu-designate.
Prince Utieyinoritsola Emiko was born in April 2, 1984 to Godwin Toritseju Emiko (the late Ogiame Ikenwoli Atuwatse 11) and Gladys Durorike Emiko in Warri, Delta State.
He attended the NNPC primary school Warri and his secondary School education was at Adesoue College, Ofa, Kwara State from 1995 to 2001.
Prince Emiko got admitted into Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA where he obtained a Bachelor of Art degree between 2002 and 2006, majoring in International Studies and Political Science and minoring in History and Economics.
He further earned a Master’s of Science in Management from Case Western Reserve University in 2007.
He returned to Nigeria for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme in 2008 and served in the Public Affairs Department of the National Petroleum Investment Management Service (NAPIMS)
From 2009 to 2010, he worked as Officer at the Shell Nigeria Closed Pension Find Administrator (SNCFPA) and also worked for Sahara Energy as Government Relations Officer (2010-2012)
Emiko, veered into private venture and founded Noble Energy Ltd and Corral Curators Ltd. He is also the chairman, Ocean Marine Security Ltd and Director, Golf of Guinea Ltd and Vessellink Nig Ltd.
Prince Utieyinoritsetsola is married to Ivie Uhunoma Emiko and blessed with three children – Oritsetsemaye, Oritsetemisan and Oritsetimeyin
Emiko’s emergence was announced by the Iyatsere of Warri and Acting Chairman of Olu’s Advisory council, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe, who
also officially announced the passage of His Royal Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli.
Emiko, 37, will remain Olu-designate until all necessary process were completed, will be formally crowned as the 21th Olu of Warri in a later date.
His emergence commences a three-month mourning period in Itsekiri Nation with burials, marriage and social activities remain banned until his crowned.