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OLU OF WARRI TUSSLE: Prince Emiko has come to stay as Olu–Chief Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh

• Whatever they’ve done is mere window-dressing, says Ayiri Emami

The last is yet to be heard about the succession tussle, which recently dovetailed into ‘the missing crown crisis’ regarding the Olu of Warri throne in the Kingdom in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State. The supremacy battle within the ruling house and the discordant voices among the ruling class of the Olu Advisory Council, have left nothing to be desired in the last two weeks as two warring factions have continued to engage themselves in an unending war of words over who holds sway in the ancient Itsekiri kingdom.

While the faction of the embattled Olu-designate, the 37 years old Prince Tsola Emiko, the son of Atuwatse ll, the 19th Olu of Warri, supported by the Iyatsere of Kingdom and Acting Chairman of Olu’s Advisory Council, Chief Johnson Amatserunreleghe and the Head of the Royal Family in the kingdom, Chief Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, have maintained that the process leading to his emergence was in line with the custom and tradition of the people since the Prince did not fall from heaven or is a bastard, the opposing faction of the embattled Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, Chief Ayiri Emami, who was suspended in a turbulent circumstance, has described the supposed process that led to the emergence of Prince Emiko as the Olu-designate as a “window-dressing”.

The controversy did not just start with the current succession tussle. It started with the installation of the announced and unannounced dead Olu. The same Prince Tsola Emiko who was in the succession race was passed over then for the dead HRM Ogiame Ikenwoli. But he did not make trouble out it. Another opportunity has come now and he is in the race to possess his possession.

A source in the ruling house told the Saturday Telegraph this was not the first time the elders (kingmakers) had goofed. He said in 2015, it was a similar story. The source said, “Prince Tsola was also disqualified in 2015 in a controversial circumstance by this same factional elders from succeeding his father because his mother hails from Yoruba land in accordance with the customary laws regulating succession to the Olu of Warri throne, despite that he was one of the preferred choices for the throne that year. They forgot in a hurry then that laws were made for man and not man for the laws.

But now, it has dawned on them. They should lick their wounds by carrying their cross. What they sowed against Prince Tsola in 2015, is what they are reaping now. I guess some of them later realized themselves and are now trying to make amendment.

It was no fault of his that his father married a Yoruba woman and that should not in any way make the opposing kingmakers portray him as a bastard in the palace.” Also, the unannounced demise of the Olu Ikenwoli, on December 20, last year when the news of his death was greeted with controversy after it went vital, strengthened the political will of interested parties and gave room for permutation and intensive lobbying. Then, the Ologbotsere who was in the good books of Prince Emiko’s faction, and whose duty it was to announce the passing away of the monarch, said the Ikemwoli was only “indisposed” and not dead.

Saturday Telegraph gathered that the Princes that are qualified to be Olu-designate swung into subterranean moves and engaged the kingmakers in the politics of a cold war over who to be the next Olu. The cold war soon culminated in the suspension of the substantive Ologbotsere (Ayiri) allegedly for being rigid on the stipulations of the Edict of 1979, concerning the kingdom by Chief Okotie-Eboh. The Edict is said to have it on Paragraph 5, Sec 8, that a candidate to the Olu of Warri throne must have his mother as an Itsekiri or from Edo State. This means Benin Kingdom.

“To qualify, a candidate’s mother must be an Itsekiri or of Edo origin and his father Itsekiri”, it read, and that the Ologbotsere must be the one to summon a meeting of the members of the Ruling House to the Palace (Aghofen) specifically to choose a successor. Females are absolutely barred. “Ordinarily, succession passes to a son of a demised Olu, failing which it goes to a suitable member of the Olotus, provided that brothers are preferred to uncles, and uncles are preferred to grandsons and grandsons are preferred to other relatives within the Otolus”.

Accordingly, the Edict also has it that, the meeting to select a successor must be presided over by the oldest man in the ruling house, failing which by the Olare- Ebi (Olore-Ebi) where all the sons of the deceased Olu and members of the ruling house must be present with the exception of those below the age of 18. But the Head of the Royal Family, Chief Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, who announced the suspension of Chief Ayiri, appointed the Iyatsere of the kingdom to act in his capacity, and maintained that, “the lyatsere, who is next in command, and in fact, the most Senior Chief, who accompanied Ginuwa I, from Benin Kingdom, to found the Warri kingdom, is hereby appointed as acting chairman of the council of chiefs and the Olu’s Advisory Council.”

Okotie-Eboh said the Iyatsere is to takeover immediately and steer the remainder of the process to give the king-dom an organized, speedy closure to the emergence of the Olu. He said, “Enough of Ayiri’s drunken antics and scatterbrain approach to our affairs. These are serious traditional and spiritual matters that are not meant for people without any strength of character nor the mental capacity.” Amidst the logjam, the revered crown of the kingdom was declared missing. Till date, nobody has announced whether it has been found.

But another palace source, who declined to mention which faction he belongs, said the crown was not missing but it was removed for safe-keeping by those who know what it stands for. A die-hard supporter of Ayiri who pleaded anonymity however said “the suspension of the Ologbotsere (Ayiri) has rendered ultra vires the powers of the self-acclaimed Regent (Olu-designate).

There is currently no regency in Itsekiriland as the Olu has not yet passed on. There has been no formal announcement by the Ologbotsere whose duty it is or indeed any other traditional authority.” He insisted it is most indecent and ill-decorous to be making pronouncements relating to succession when no vacancy exists. “As a result, a 400 year old crown, which was first worn by Ogiame Atuwatse (Dom Domingos) that reigned from 1625 to 1643, which was said to be a parting gift from the King of Portugal after Dom Domingos completed his education in the European country in 1611, has been stolen”, the source said.

Despite, the dangerous twist the matter assumed, Prince Tsola Emiko’s emergence as the Olu-designate was announced by the Iyatsere, who has assumed the position of Ologbotsere and is now the Acting Chairman of Olu’s Advisory Council, Chief Johnson Amatserunreleghe, at a ceremony held in Ode-Itsekiri – the ancestral home of the Itsekiri people, in Warri South Local Government Area of the state. The matter has remained unresolved.

The embattled Ologbotsere (Ayiri) is threatening fire and brimstone and considering legal redress. He said it not over until it is over despite that the 37 years old Prince Tsola Emiko has been welcomed on board by the Presidency.

He said the President Muhammadu Buhari would be advised soon to distance himself from the messy situation. But Prince Tsola Emiko is fast gaining acceptance among his people. Surprisingly, the state government had kept mum on the monarchical tussle. But a Justice of the Peace (JP) in the state, a legal luminary and a Human Rights Activist, who is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe, who addressed Ayiri as “the former Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom” stated without any ambiguity that he has lost out in the scheme of things in the kingdom after failing in his bid to singlehandedly impose the 21st Olu of Warri on the Itsekiri people. He disowned Ayiri and his co-travelers after reading the masterpiece of Barrister Jesutega Onokpasa on the controversial subject matter.

He said, “I nodded in truism that there can never be a bastard or illegitimate child in Nigeria, talk more of a free born Crown Prince of Iwere Land.” According to Fred, “Jesutega while dwelling on the supremacy of our federal constitution, compared to a mere Edict, captured the exact state of affairs in Itsekiri nation, and emphasised the potency of the grundnorm the supreme law of the land far and above a mere Edict which Ayiri relied upon to ignorantly declare a bonafide Nigerian and a Prince of Itsekiri as illegitimate son and unfit to ascend the throne of his ancestors. The Edict is essentially inconsequential and also repugnant to natural justice and good conscience.”

He hailed President Mohammadu Buhari for expressing his condolences to the Itsekiri nation and also recognized the Olu-Designate in the person of Prince Tsola Emiko. However, a Prince in the kingdom, Omolubi Newuwumi, Prince Mode Akoma, supported by a few other princes, has insisted that anything done without reference to the succession edict of 1979 which stipulated among other things, the process to select a new Olu of Warri is an aberration. Omolubi, who is also a first-class chief in the kingdom, said what those who are insisting on jettisoning the edict have done was like “shifting the goal post while the match is still on and such must be condemned by all good Itsekiri blood.” “My view over the kingship of Warri kingdom has been clearly stated in my first publication titled “Itsekiri Must Get It Right This Time” and I am tagging this write-up as “Da-tse-ru-to-jor” that is “let us do things right”.

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