The Itsekiri nation yesterday formally confirmed the death of their traditional ruler, His Royal Majesty Ogiame Atuwatse II, the Olu of Warri, and immediately announced a new successor to the throne, Prince Godfrey Ikenwoli Emiko, who was officially presented to the public.
Consequent upon this announcement, a 90-day mourning period was declared as a traditional mark of respect to the 70 years old monarch, who reigned on the throne of his ancestors for 28 years.
Within this period, every adult male and female of Itsekiri nation will tie their wrappers upside down, just as there will be no burial ceremony, drumming or any other form of party within the 90 days mourning period.
The unveiling of the new Olu of Warri, was announced in the presence of a mammoth crowd of Itsekiri nation at Ode-Itsekiri popularly called the big Warri, Warri South Local Government Area, by the most senior Chief and a member of the Olu Advisory Council and the Ojomo of Warri Kingdom, Chief Tesigiweno Yahya Pessu, after performing the required traditional rites.
Chief Pessu performed a traditional rite of smashing on ground for about three times a substance tied in red cloth symbolising the end of the era of Ogiame Atuwatse II.
This was greeted by several cannon shots fired into the air as mark of respect to the late Warri monarch according to the custom of the Itsekiri people.
Speaking after the official presentation of the Olu designate, Chief Pessu, said the jubilant mammoth crowd, who spontaneously jumped into celebration in spite of their mourning mood, signifies mass acceptance of the Olu designate, Prince Godfrey Ikenwoli Emiko.
“You can see the mammoth crowd of acceptance. It is evident of acceptance. The significance of the rite I performed is to tell the Itsekiri people the passing away of the king. And when a king passes away, a new king is installed immediately. So that is the way we announce the passing away of our monarch.
“All Itsekiris all over the world should be in mourning mood. They should be mourning until the burial ceremony is performed. This will take up to three months (90 days). All Itsekiri adult male and female should tie their wrappers upside down, but the Chiefs don’t do it.
“Then no parties, drumming, no burial for these period of 90 days. We are in a mourning situation now all over Itsekiri land until the burial rite is performed and a new king is installed.”
Other Itsekiri Chiefs who were at the ceremony were Chief Thomas Ereyitomi, the Akatigbi-Ayeola of Warri; Mr. Edward Ekpoko, Secretary Itsekiri Leaders of Thought and Chairman, Warri Study Group, Chief Otimeyin Adams; the Aguinode of Warri and Prof. Jim Omatseye Nesin.
But Ereyitomi said, “The significance of today’s event is very clear. It is to clear the rumour that is in circulation over the demise of the Olu of Warri and that which the Itsekiri nation has done today by letting the whole world know that we have lost Olu, that the Olu has joined his ancestors and to present a successor.
On the selection process, Mr. Edward Ekpoko said that the choice of Prince Godfrey Ikenwoli Emiko as Olu designate was as a result of non-qualification of the first son of the late Olu of Warri, Prince Tsola.
This he said was largely due to the fact that Prince Tsola’s mother was not from Itsekiri nation neither is she from Benin kingdom.
It was gathered that Itsekiri tradition is clear on who becomes the Olu of Warri, which lucidly states that the person’s mother must be Itsekiri or come from Benin Kingdom before he can be chosen.
The document was produced following a commission of enquiry set up by the state government in 1977. Besides being a prince born by an Edo or Itsekiri mother, the document specifies that he must be born by one of the last three Olus.
The Olu designate, Prince Godfrey Ikenwole Emiko is Graduate of Business Administration from the University of Benin. Prince Ikenwoli Emiko fulfilled the requirements in the 1979 Gazette of the defunct Bendel State (applicable to Delta State).
A seven-man committee, comprising the five members of the Olu Advisory Council and two other members, usually nominated by the Ologbosere of Warri, chose the Olu-designated.
Besides the Ologbosere, other members of the advisory council include the Uwangue, Iyesere, Ojomo and Osodi of Warri Kingdom. Only the Ojomo and Otsodi stools are currently occupied; the last Ologbotsere, Pa Alfred Rewane, has not been replaced since his demise in 1995.
The Iyesere, Chief Gabriel Mabiaku, died recently and his position too has not been filled.
The process of choosing a new Olu fell on Chief Isaac Jemide, the Otsodi, and Chief Pessu, the Ojomo.