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Prince Emiko is Olu of Warri-Designate


 The age-long Itsekiri Kingdom in Delta State opened a new chapter yesterday with the unveiling of a prince as Olu of Warri-designate.

As reported exclusively by this newspaper, Prince Utieyinoritsetsola Emiko, 37, a son of the 19th monarch, Ogiame Atunwase, was unveiled as the 21st Olu-elect of Warri, following the announcement of the death of the 20th Olu, Ogiame Ikenwoli. After his public presentation, he went into 30-day seclusion.

The official, Johnson Atserunreleghe, who announced the monarch’s passage, said the kingdom will go into three months mourning of the departed king during which time there shall be no celebration.

Itsekiri Leaders of Thought (ILOT) and other stakeholders are making efforts to prevent a split in the kingdom as some chiefs are opposed to the choice.

The presentation of the Olu-designate (Omoba) at the Itsekiri National Assembly in Ode-Itsekiri (Big Warri) heralded jubilation, singing and dancing.

The aggrieved include Ologbotsere, Chief Ayiri Emami, and some princes.

The Nation learnt that Emami, who headed the Olu Advisory Council and Ojoye-Isan before his suspension, is mulling a legal challenge.

The Emami-led Ojoye-Isan, a council of five high-ranking chiefs, disqualified Prince Emiko because his mother is not of Bini or Itsekiri ethnic groups, in line with extant edict. His mother is a Yoruba from Ogun State.

But, the Ginuwa I Ruling House, under the Olori-Ebi, insisted on the candidate.

The Olu Advisory Council chaired by Emami has been dissolved.

It was gathered that the suspended Ologbotsere considered a parallel Alejefun (ceremony where demise of a monarch is announced) to the one at Ode-Itsekiri yesterday, but for the intervention of some leaders.

A source said: “It is true that Ayiri wanted to perform his own Alejefun, but he was advised against going that route by some Itsekiri leaders and members of the leaders of thought.

“They told him that if he insisted on the edict as the legal backing for his action, he should not use another illegal action (rival Alejefun) to make his point.”

It was learnt that the ILOT had reached out to Emami and Prince Benjamin Emiko to ensure that the revered traditional stool is not undermined by internal wrangling over succession.

Emami, in a chat with our reporter after the ceremony, he refused to rule out a legal challenge.

He said: “As far as I am concerned, Ogiame Ikenwoli has not joined his ancestors. I am the Ologbotsere and I am alive and I have not told the Itsekiri people that the Olu is dead. So, what happened there is not Alejefun. When it is time, I will make the pronouncement and move from there.”

Emami was suspended by the Ginuwa I Ruling House after he disqualified Prince Tsola Emiko in line with the edict, which bars princes not born of Bini or Itsekiri mothers from the throne.

The ruling house later said Ayiri took the unilateral decision.

Prominent chiefs, including Pessu and the Otsodi, Chief Isaac Jemide, were absent from the ceremony.

But, Femi Uwawah, a protege of the Ojomo, said Chief Pessu was not against Omoba Tsola Emiko. He said: “He is about 80 years old and the journey (from Benin to Ode-Itsekiri) would have been stressful for him. He is always on the side of the Itsekiri people.”

Also, ILOT leaders decision not to attend the event was ostensibly due to the mediating role the group is playing.

Princes Bernard, Oyowoli and Tsuli Emiko sibling and sons of the late Olu who also stayed away from Ode-Itsekiri, objected to the ceremony, with Bernard describing it as exercise in futility.

According to a source, ILOT is making efforts to foster reconciliation among the aggrieved stakeholders.

The source added that the contentious September 1979 Edict would also form part of the discussion.

It said: “There are areas in the edict that are contentious, including the issue of maternal source. Excluding the Yoruba mothers that can birth an Olu is not in our interest because Yoruba and Itsekiri people have a very close link in language and interests.”

Prince Tsola was unveiled as Omoba by the Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom, Atserunleghe, who also performed the Alejefun rite for the late 20th Olu.

According to customs, 37-year-old Omoba will be in seclusion for three months.

“The Omoba will be in Ideniken – out of public view – for a period of three lunar (less than three calendar) months, but he is expected to actively participate in the burial rites of his predecessor, in line with the laws,” said a young Itsekiri chief.

The edict made it mandatory for an Omoba to actively partake in the burial rites of his predecessor. He risks disqualification if he fails to participate in the process.

Article 9 of the edict states, “failure to perform and complete the burial rites and ceremonies is a bar to the installation of the Olu-designate.”

Many Itsekiri people converged for the National Assembly at Ode-Itsekiri as early as 8am to witness the ceremony.

The Iyatsere announced the new Olu, a product of Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Ohio at about 11:50am to a cheering crowd of Itsekiri youths, women and elderly.

The declaration was accompanied by 20 mortar salute (one for each of the past Olus that have ruled) and chant of Alejefun.

Prince Emiko’s glowing biography was then read by his younger brother, Prince Toritseju.

The Olu-designate is married to Uhunoma Emiko daughter of Capt Hosa Okunbo, the Bini business mogul, Okunbo is a major stakeholder in Ocean Marine Security Limited (OMSL), which board he  chairs.

Announcing the mourning period, the Olu Advisory Council said there shall be no ceremony, dancing or celebration of any kind during the period, while Itsekiri sons and daughters are expected to wear their clothes inside out and wrappers tied upside down in honour of the late monarch.

During the period, the Olori-Ebi (administrative head) of the ruling house, Prince Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh is expected to act as Regent until the coronation of the Omoba.



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