By Wilson Ruvwoghor
Despite the strong resolve to resist the lure of meddling in the shame the Itsekiri nation has subjected her once pristine Olu (King) of Warri throne over unfolding succession tussle, the attendant oddities have made it impossible to turn blind eye.
Since restoration of the Olu throne with ascension of Emiko Ikengbuwa who succeeded his grandfather, Olu Akengbuwa after 88 years interregnum, succession to the throne has hardly come without tussles but the Kingdom manages to resolve the grievances, divisions internally to pick an Olu in the end.
The selection of an eventual 21st of Olu will go down in history as one in which Itsekiri nation desecrated the throne, washed her dirty linens in public, but most of all, one in which the laid down tradition and customs were jettisoned and external forces made to dictate the choice of Olu.
Needless to debate the moral justification for the sidetaking Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the Dein of Agbor and other prominent individuals have expressed in the contention over the selection of the next Olu of Warri. They have liberty to make choices, but the honourable thing to do for these individuals would have been to first mediate in mending the broken fence the Olu throne has become before taking sides.
However, the partisan role the Delta State Government and the police are playing in this ugly saga is most reprehensible. It’s most appalling that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa who earlier put up a neutral face as the Olu crisis gathered momentum has indefensibly, and tacitly so, proven which party he supports.
Okowa has his full weight pulled behind Prince Tsola Emiko to see him crowned over rather more deserving Prince Oyowoli Emiko, heir apparent to the throne his father, HM Ikenwole, the 20th Olu just vacated to join his ancestors earlier in the year.
As Chief Security Officer of the state, Okowa must be happy to be supervising the deployment of 1000 policemen, aside his personal security details, those of his aides and other VIPs that would join the official 1000 to watch over the crowning of an Olu. So for 24 hours or more, policing the rest of Deltans would be further compromised by absence of normally inadequate security presence around the populace, just to crown an Olu.
Under Okowa’s watch, sponsored hoodlums invaded a court of competent jurisdiction, chasing out the judge and everyone on sight who had to run for their lives in the extrajudicial desperation to prevent hearing in a suit challenging the selection of Tsola as Omoba (Olu designate).
The miscreants court invaders were not faceless, but the police has yet to pick a single suspect for trial. Okowa as Chief Security Officer doesn’t see the seditious threat to the Judiciary as a threat against the government. Under Okowa’s watch, the Police rather considers a missing Olu crown more incriminating than the invasion of a court.
And so, a partisan police, playing judge and prosecutor, has pronounced two sons of demised Ogiame Ikenwoli guilty of stealing their father’s crown. The elder of both wanted Princes, Oyowoli reserves right of first refusal and most qualified in the selection of who succeeds his father under the edict guiding selection of an Olu.
Both Princes were in the Olu Palace when sponsored hoodlums invaded the palace in a looting spree resulting to loss of the missing crown. There have been rebellious protest against the palace, but no near history has resulted in looting of royal property. The Palace is seconds away from the Warri Area Command of the Nigeria Police. The Police, probably alerted to intervene, didn’t consider the invasion a security threat to lives of the two princes.
The invaders, again, obviously like those who later sacked the court in same vicinity as the Warri A Division of the Police were presumed lawful in the act of hooliganism. It’s not possible they stole the missing crown. But it’s a factional Omoba (Olu-Designate) and the younger brother that have been found guilty before trial and declared wanted in two page advertorials of the gazetted warrant for arrest profusely published in national media.
Several known hardened criminals, kidnappers, killers, organs sellers, cultists waste innocent lives on daily basis across Delta. The police don’t consider them serious enough to be declared wanted in the media. It is two Princes of Warri Kingdom that the police are ridiculing as the most wanted persons in Delta at the moment over a dirty royal struggle induced by external sponsors.
Rules of ascension to the Olu throne may be intricate but certainly not confusing. It is not in dispute that by the gazetted selection process, Prince Tsola isn’t qualified to succeed Ikenwoli as Olu, his mother not being Itsekiri or Benin by birth. In compliance with that edict, Tsola couldn’t succeed father, Ogiame Atuwatse II when he passed on in 2015.
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Needless to say that Tsola’s father, Atuwatse II had been Tsola’s nemesis on this saga. As Olu, he had all the power and influence to modify the edict if he wanted his son to succeed him. He didn’t. If nothing has changed between then and now, how does a Prince Tsola that was disqualified in 2015, now qualifies to be Olu?
In the desperation to override the laid down process and find answer to the basic poser, the domineering new force in the Olu in Council may have justifiable pointed to the edict as inconsistent with the supreme Nigerian Constitution which, they stress, guarantees that no citizen shall be discriminated against based on state or place origin.
By turning the extant law on succession to the Olu throne on its head, the forces imposing an unqualified Prince as Olu may have had their way, but they have created an ugly precedence have unavoidably induced fiercer tussle to the throne in near future.
By quashing the maternal restrictions in the edict for an Olu designate, they have as well nullified other restrictions over who becomes an Olu. By the edict, only offerings and siblings of the last three Olus can be crowned Olu. In short, that the Nigerians Constitution abhors discrimination of any sort is being applied to the selection of an Olu means any Nigerian can be nominated and crowned an Olu.
While the roforofo fight lingers, the talking point for years to come is that any Nigerian is now free to contest for the Olu thrown. Weighing my option, I just might present self to be the 22nd Olu, realising I’ve been qualified from birth, all said and done, even as a none Itsekiri. All I need is prayer to be alive at the appropriate time and then flag the ugly precedence that has been set as my right to be Olu. I just might succeed.