Atuwatse III: Brand new king makes a grand entry
By Okofu Ubaka
As lawyers would say, ’equity looks at substance and not form’. Events culminating in the emergence of the 21st Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse 111, earlier known as Utieyinoritsesola Emiko, have shown that both form and substance were advertently considered.
No doubt, Utieyinoritsetsola Emiko was born a blue blood. But being born a Prince alone did not guarantee a place for Prince Tsola Emiko as a successor of Ogiame Ikenwoli 1, the immediate past Olu of Warri who died only a few days after the marking of his 5th anniversary on the throne as the 20th Olu of Warri.
Prince Tsola Emiko was born on the 2nd of April, 1984 to Prince Godwin Toritseju Emiko who reigned as Olu Atuwatse 11, and the 19th Olu of Warri. Prince Godwin Toritseju Emiko was the son and heir apparent to Erejuwa 11, the 18th Olu of Warri. With the uninterrupted flow of succession from Prince Wilson Ayonronmitsigbesimi Emiko, Olu Erejuwa 11 to his son Atuwatse 11, Prince Tsola Emiko was full of expectations on the demise of his father who passed on, on the 16th of October, 2015. But, he was unlucky as the Oracle was said to have rejected the then 31 year old Prince in favour of his uncle, Prince Godfrey Emiko who was also seen as more mature and prepared for the throne back then. However, a section of Itsekiri elites were said to be unhappy with the rejection of Prince Tsola Emiko whom they considered to be better exposed and educated for the throne even at that material time. But everyone submitted.
Tsola Emiko was brought up to be a king. Immediately after his primary education at the elitist NNPC primary school in Warri, he proceeded to the prestigious Adesoye College at Offa in Kwara state. Adesoye College was ranked the best boarding college in the country at the time. It was not a surprise that Prince Tsola Emiko left the shores of the country for tertiary education in far flung Case Western Reserve University, Cleverland, Ohio, USA where he begged a first and a second degree in International Studies and Political science, after which he returned to the country in 2009 for the compulsory National Youth Service Corp, (NYSC).
Tsola Emiko worked briefly in the public sector before venturing into private businesses. He is the C.EO. OF Ocean Marine Security Ltd and the Director of Gulf of Guinea Ltd and several other firms.
It is imperative to state that the same Oracle (ife) which denied Utieyinoritsetsola Emiko the crown in 2015 has now paved the way for his emergence as the Omoba and Olu designate five years after he first made the move to succeed his father.
Also imperative is that the emergence of 21st Olu of Warri was greeted with controversy, and was also the first time aggrieved parties headed to court to stop an Olu designate who was already chosen by the Oracle, ( ife). Perhaps, because history was beckoning and there was an urgent need to have the people fully involved in the making and crowning processes of their king the controversy was seemingly stretched beyond expected border line. Again, it was the first time the voices of the people otherwise known as Omajajas would count.
Basically, the guiding tradition and customary principles were; being born of an Itsekiri or a Bini mother, the acceptance of the oracle, (ife), and lastly to be of good conduct. Olu Atuwatse 111 was born of a Yoruba mother. By the stipulation of the 1979 Edict, a customary agreement of the Itsekiris as to what should be a condition or conditions for the emergence of an Olu, Prince Tsola Emiko it was argued by some, was not properly qualified.
His Father, Godwin Emiko Olu Atuwatse 11 and the 19th Olu of Warri was born of an Edo mother. The case of Olu Atuwatse 111 became complicated to the Ginuwa Ruling house which is assigned the traditional role of picking an Olu designate. But, the task, the doubt and the fear were assuaged when the oracle pronounced Prince Tsola Emiko as the Olu designate. This, of course led to the royal squabbles and the legal fisticuffs which is still on at as the time the Olu was crowned on the 21st of August.
With the crowning, and the goodwill message from President Muhammadu Buhari through the Deputy Senate President, Sen. Ovie Omo Agege who represented the President who was busy attending to his son’s marriage to a Kano Princess, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Speaking through the Deputy Senate President, Buhari urged all dissenting voices to coalesce for the unity and progress of Warri kingdom.
By this, there is no doubt that the arrow head of the dissenting voices and opposing camp, Chief Ayiri Emami, the suspended Ologbotsere of Warri kingdom would heed the call for peace by the President. Him being a top notch of the All Progressive Congress, ( APC), the same party which the President also belong to, there is less doubt that Chief Ayiri would give peace a chance by very likely moving to withdraw the pending suit in court.
It is only normal to have dissenting voices during the selection process of an Olu designate. However, the controversy that followed the emergence of Olu Atuwatse 111 was unprecedented. The question on the lips of most people was why did his father, the 19th Olu of Warri did not move for an amendment of the customary Edict that had arguably foreclosed a Prince born of a Yoruba mother from becoming a crowned Olu of Warri? It was more worrying knowing that Olu Atuwatse 11 was a UK trained lawyer who also made legal marks during his brief stint within the profession in Nigeria.
Olu Atuwatse 11 had all the opportunities to have amended the controversial section of the Edict. Two of the Olu’s kinsmen were governors of Delta state during the latter’s reign, and it would have been fairly easy to have amended the Edict by simply adding a Yoruba mother to the list that had provided for an Itsekiri mother or a mother of Edo origin. James Ibori was maternally Itsekiri and would have availed Olu Atuwaste 11 the request to have the restrictive Edict amended. Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan took over from Ibori as governor in 2007. Being paternally Itsekiri, he wouldn’t have declined to make things right by amending the Customary Edict on a request of the Olu.
The Edict was the basis of the disagreement between the embattled Ologbotsere of Warri and the Ginuwa Ruling house. Chief Ayiri Emami wanted the Edict to be followed stricto sensu, and would have had Prince Tsola Emiko disqualified and thereby paved way for Prince Oyowoli Emiko to succeed his father, Olu Ikenwoli 1, the immediate past Olu of Warri who passed on , on December 21st , 2020. It should be noted that the Oracle that chose Prince Tsola Emiko had rejected Prince Oyowoli.
This has left the people with the choice of obeying the gods and confronting the offending section of the Edict, or upholding the stipulation of the Edict and incur the anger of the gods. The Ginuwa Ruling house chose to err on the side of the gods.
As a result of the squabble, Chief Ayiri Emami was suspended for what according to the Ginuwa Ruling house was his effrontery to arrogate to himself powers which he ordinarily did not possess as the Ologbotsere of Warri. Chief Ayiri and his followers went to court for a pronouncement on the 1979 Edict, and very many are waiting to hear the outcome of the court case.
How Tsola Emiko emerged as the 21st Olu of Warri was understandably providence and the power of the people. As soon as the Oracle was consulted and an Omoba proceeded to IDANIKEN ( an isolation for the fortification of an Omoba and a place where he is expected to go through the teaching and schooling of the A-Z of Itsekiri sociology) all hitherto dissenting voices (known as ‘Otu meje) are expected to join or close ranks with those in support of the Olu designate or Omoba (known as ‘Otu moje’) and work together for a successful coronation of the Omoba.
In the case of Olu Atuwatse 111, the people knew what they wanted given the leadership crisis in the land, and particularly the lesson from the historical interregnum when the Warri kingdom was without king for 88yrs (1848-1936).
Now that Prince Utieyinoritsetsola Emiko has been crowned as Olu Atuwatse 111, and another interregnum averted, what does the reign of this Olu holds for the people of Warri Kingdom?
No doubt, the reign of Atuwatse 111 is the beginning of an era which promises to witness great stride in economic development. He is well groomed for the onerous task, and his oversea’s training would be added advantage. However, history had not been magnanimous in recounting the time and life of all Olus that previously bore Atuwatse as title. The first to have borne Atuwatse was Prince Eyeomasan (1625-1643AD) also known by the baptismal name of Don Domingos. He was an elitist monarch and the first gradual king in the west of Sub Sahara Africa. He attended both Coimbra college and Jsesuit college in Lisbon, Portugal and graduated in 1611. He was a Catholic and a Christian monarch. Prince Godwin Toritseju Emiko who was the father of the new Olu Atuwatse 111 reigned as Atuwatse 11 (1987-2015). He was a British trained lawyer king and a great publicist before ascending the thrown. So much was expected from him. Unfortunately, his reign, like that of Atuwatse 1 witnessed wars and so much unrest that very little progress was recorded during their reigns, their education and foreign exposure notwithstanding. The fate and reign of Ogiame Atuwatse 111 does not look like it would take the same trajectory of his forebears.