By Emeka Okafor
The intrigues and bitter rivalry attending the struggle over the choice of next successor to sit on the exalted throne of the Olu of Warri in Delta State following the demise of His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli, generating serious tension in Itsekiri Nation.
Unlike in previous cases where differences are settled in inner circles among contenders, the divisions this time around have been blown open among the contenders and power brokers in Itsekiri, particularly the Olu’s Advisory Council headed by the Ologbotsere of Warri, Chief Ayiri Emami and the body of Princes who share influences over who becomes next Olu.
Although the demise of Ogiame Ikenwoli has not been officially announced since he reportedly joined his ancestors on December 20th, 2020, the process to select his successor has been enmeshed in crisis from the very beginning.
The battle to select a consensus candidate for the throne heightened on Monday following reports that the choice of a section of the Ruling House, Prince Tsola Emiko, was reportedly disqualified by the Chief Ayiri-led Olu’s Advisory Council.
Following reports of Prince Tsola’s disqualification, Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, Head of the Royal Family, announced the suspension of Chief Ayiri as the Ologbotsere and Head of the Olu’s Advisory Council.
The suspension of Ayiri as Ologbotsere, was almost immediately dismissed by members of the Ginuwa ll Ruling House and majority of Itsekiri who described the development as affront on the Itsekiri Nation.
Prince Tsola Emiko, son of Ikenwoli’s predecessor, Atuwatse ll, is one of the preferred choices for the throne despite his disqualification in 2015 in accordance with the customary laws regulating succession to the Olu of Warri throne.
Prince Tsola was disqualified from succeeding his father because his mother is a Yoruba. A copy of the edict obtained by our correspondent confirmed the position of the Olu’s Advisory Council, stating that a candidate to the Olu of Warri throne must have his mother as an Itsekiri or from Edo State (Benin Kingdom).
“To qualify, a candidate’s mother MUST be an Itsekiri or of Edo origin and his father Itsekiri”, it stated.
The Edict reads further, “The Ologbotsere summons a meeting of the members of the Ruling House to the Palace (Aghofen) specifically to choose a successor. The meeting is presided over by the oldest man in the Ruling House, failing which by the Olare-Ebi or Olore-Ebi. All the sons of demised Olu and members of the Ruling House below the age of eighteen are excluded from the meeting.”
“Succession is limited to Olu’s Company (Otolu’s) i.e descendant of the last three Olus. The descendants of the other Olus who had previously reigned are known and referred to as Omajaja Company.
“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. Females are absolutely barred”, Paragraph two of section eight of the 1979 Edict read.
Findings revealed that a section of the Ruling House was already making preparations to announce Prince Tsola as Omoba (Olu-Designate) next Monday against provisions of the edict which majority of Itsekiris insist must be followed to the latter.
However, Okotie-Eboh, while announcing the alleged suspension of Chief Ayiri, appointed the Iyatsere of the kingdom on acting capacity, saying, “The lyatsere, who is next in command, and in fact the most senior chief who accompanied Ginuwa I from Benin to found the Warri kingdom, is hereby appointed as acting chairman of the council of chiefs and the Olu’s Advisory Council.
“He is to take over immediately and steer the remainder of the process to give us an organized, speedy closure. Enough of Ayiri’s drunken antics and scatter brain approach to our affairs. These are serious traditional and spiritual matters, not meant for people without any strength of character, nor the mental capacity.”
Confronted over his choice for Prince Tsola against the edict specifying who should be selected as king, a Warri Chief, said the choice of the son of Atuwatse ll by some members of the Ruling House was affirmed by the traditional priest.
But an Itsekiri palace chief who confirmed the brouhaha in Itsekiriland to our correspondent said, “The suspension is ultra vires the powers of the self-acclaimed Regent.
“Furthermore, there is currently no Regency in Itsekiriland as the Olu has not yet passed on since there has been no formal announcement by the Ologbotsere whose duty it is or indeed any other traditional authority.
“It is most indecent and ill-decorous to be making pronouncements relating to succession when no vacancy has been declared.”