New Olu of Warri likely Monday amid controversy

APRIL 5, 2021

By Shola O’Neil, Southsouth Regional Editor

All eyes are on Ode-Itsekiri (Big Warri), the ancestral home of Itsekiri people, as Warri Kingdom braces for the official announcement of Prince Tsola Emiko, son of Ogiame Atuwatse II, as the 21st Olu.

The ceremony will be preceded by the official announcement to the Itsekiri General Assembly of the transition of Olu Ikenwoli by the Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe, the acting Chair of Ojoye-Isan who has also assumed the role of Ologbotsere.

The ceremony involves the breaking of an earthen pot of native chalk (Alejefun) in front of the assembly to signify the end of one reign, commencement of the late monarch’s burial rites and journey to the coronation of a new Olu.

It was reliably gathered that in line with the 1979 Edict guiding the process, an Omoba (Olu-elect) cannot be crowned Olu if he does not participate in his predecessor’s burial rites.

Today’s ceremonies will be held under the shadow of a frantic search for two missing 400-year-old crowns that have graced the heads of the last 13 Olus since Olu Dom Domingos (7th Olu), who reigned from 1625 – 1643.

“The crowns (diamond for the king and silver for the queen) were whisked out of the palace by yet-unknown persons and the thought of a coronation without the crown is unthinkable,” an Ojoye (chief) told our reporter.

There are also concerns of protracted legal challenges over the qualification of Prince Tsola Emiko to be crowned 21st Olu of Warri unless Itsekiri leaders find a way to placate aggrieved contestants and interest groups.

Article 4 of the Edict, which guides the crowning of an Olu, bars princes not born by Itsekiri or Bini mothers from the throne.

Olori Durorike Emiko, the prince’s mother, is a Yoruba from Ogun State.

Despite this handicap, Prince Tsola enjoys the support of more than 80 per cent of respondents, including members of the Ginuwa I Ruling House, who believe that the Ifa (oracle) that chose him supersedes the edict.

His disqualification by Chief Emami-led Ojoye-Isan had sparked wild protests that culminated in the invasion of the palace last week, with calls for the dissolution of the Chief Emami-led Ojoye-Isan.

The Omoba was overlooked in 2015 (when his father transited) in favour of his uncle, who was crowned Olu Ikenwoli.

“There are germane questions over his qualification, which is at variance with the September 1979 Edict on succession in the kingdom.

“This is why the selection has been one of the most controversial and acrimonious in recent times in the Kingdom.

“If he was not qualified when his father departed in 2015, what has happened in the last five years that changed his disqualification.

“How did he now become the gods’ again?” one of the Otolus told our reporter on condition of anonymity.

Prince Bernard Emiko, the immediate younger brother of Ogiame Ikenwoli, was also unequivocal that today’s activities would not stand the test of time and possibly legal scrutiny.

Responding to our reporter’s inquiry yesterday, he said the General Assembly and whatever transpires at Ode-Itsekiri today would be “an illegal process that will come to nothing.”

Already, the issue of Prince Tsola’s suitability has also sharply polarised the Olu Advisory Council, the royal family and the Itsekiri people.

Atserunleghe was appointed Acting Chairman of the Council of Chiefs and Olu Advisory Council, by Prince Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh (Olori-Ebi) of the Ginuwa I Ruling House, the sole kingship line in the kingdom.

The appointment was preceded by the suspension of Chief Ayiri Emami, the Ologbotsere, whose position and roles Atserunleghe was asked to assume after the Ologbotsere and the Oyoye-Isan disqualified Prince Tsola from the succession race.

Princes Bernard, Yemi, Jaiye and six other sons of Olu Erejuwa II, as well as Oyowoli and Omatsuli, sons of the Olu Ikenwoli, kicked against the decision and affirmed that only the Olu can suspend the Ologbotsere.

Their call for another Ife Eyin (oracle) to be conducted by the representatives of Ojoye-Isan, Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, Itsekiri Nation Youth Council and independent observers were ignored.

Chief Emami also maintained that he remains the Ologbotsere, stressing that any General Assembly of the Kingdom called without his authority is a nullity in the face of the law.

It is against the above scenario that reports were rife that many factions in the dispute are considering their options, including the legal challenge of the process that produced Tsola as Omoba.

At the time of this report, the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought (ILOT), led by Chief Edward Ekpoko, a lawyer, was in a crucial meeting to deliberate on the situation.

It was also unclear whether the ILOT would send a delegation to today’s assembly given their key role in managing the crisis.

“We do not want to be seen as taking a side in this matter, our job is to find a solution that is acceptable to the people and avoid denigrating the throne and stool,” a member of the group said.

SOURCE; THE NATION

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