September 11, 2013

24 hours after siege: Plan to sanction Olu of Warri crumbles

24 hours after siege: Plan to sanction Olu of Warri crumbles

His Majesty Ogiame Atuwatse II The Olu of Warri Photo by George Osodi

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South & Emma Arubi
WARRI—UNDERGROUND move by some Itsekiri opinion leaders to impose sanction on the Olu of Warri, His Majesty, Ogiame Atuwatse II, for supposedly embarrassing the Itsekiri nation with his September 4 denunciation of the ‘Ogiame’ kingship appellation that was reversed on Tuesday, has collapsed.

Lori-Ogbebor, Emami, Omolubi kick against sanction

The Igba of Warri, Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor, who led Warri chiefs to prevail on the revered monarch to recant his position, told Vanguard, emphatically, yesterday, on phone, “The Itsekiri cannot sanction their Olu.”

His Majesty Ogiame Atuwatse II The Olu of Warri Photo by George Osodi

His Majesty Ogiame Atuwatse II The Olu of Warri Photo by
George Osodi

Akulagba of Warri kingdom, Chief Ayiri Emami, also told Vanguard that it was a huge joke for anybody to think of penalizing the Olu of Warri over the matter that had just been resolved.

Also, prominent Itsekiri youth leader, Comrade (Prince) Omolubi Newuwumi, who led the four-day siege to the Olu’s palace, also told our reporters, “Nobody is going to sanction the Olu of Warri, he is our  father, as I told you, it is no victor, no vanquished. His children spoke, he listened, and that is the end.”

Pro-sanction group meets

A powerful Itsekiri leader is understood to be behind the move to sanction the Olu for his September 4 proclamation and supposed lack of consultation with the Itsekiri leadership.

His group was said to have held a meeting outside Warri on Wednesday, but the plan is not popular.

The pro-sanction group maintained that the monarch did not consult widely as he ought to have done before he made the pronouncement and, therefore, humiliated the Itsekiri people.

It is not known if the influential leader has the support of members of his group, but some of them contended that the action of the monarch had damaged the revered position of Olu, who the Itsekiri pride as one who speaks and never recants (Afomasin).

A leader of the group asserted, “Without consultation, he (Olu) issued an edict and recants. He has embarrassed the throne and embarrassed Itsekiri. So recanting now is not enough. If he had consulted enough he would have got our (stakeholders’) explanation.

“A situation where the monarch makes a statement and recants is not desirable. He has recanted, that is fine, but the danger now is that up to now he has been acting outside the checks and balances.”

The leader said the incident makes it expedient for Itsekiri leaders and traditional chiefs to resuscitate ancient mechanism used to put monarchs in check and ensure balance in the kingdom.

His words: “The Itsekiris now have a problem of reviving their checks and balances for controlling the Olu. Itsekiris can’t have an Olu who would be behaving as a medieval tyrant.

“A situation where he makes such far-reaching pronouncement, without wide consultation is most undesirable. Recanting because of the pressure is very good; but the Itsekiris would not want such a situation to arise again.”

Misconception over ‘Ogiame’

The king had anchored his rejection of the kingship “name and title” of Ogiame, which he and his ancestors had borne for over 500 years on grounds that “it connotes allegiance to Umalokun and other deities of the sea, all of which are false gods.

“He reversed his position after Itsekiri elders and chiefs told him bluntly on Tuesday that he was in error, as Ogiame does not mean goddess of the river, but king over a region (read riverside communities),  and had nothing to do with Umalokun, the water deity, which he referred to.”

Why Olu cannot be penalized—Lori-Ogbebor

However, Chief Lori-Ogbebor, who left the palace at about 1.52 pm for the airport to catch her flight back to Lagos, said in reaction to the move to sanction the monarch, “We do not have a culture of sanctioning the king, Ogiame Atuwatse II of Warri kingdom. We are completely loyal to him, he is our king.”

Her words: “We love him, we are carrying on with him, we are not prepared to subject the matter between the king and his children to any further argument, it has been resolved and there is peace.

“We, the chiefs and people of Itsekiri have reconciled with our monarch, there is nothing to sanction him for. That is the end of the matter.”

Newuwumi, who spoke to Vanguard from Sapele, said he was not part of any group canvassing sanction for the Olu of Warri, adding, “As far as I know, the matter has ended, I know that some chiefs and other people are meeting, but sanction is ruled out.”

According to Chief Emami: “If Olu says anything, he cannot take it back, once Olu has spoken, what he said cannot be withdrawn. He cannot withdraw his own words, but can take suggestions from his subjects or from people while mediating in a matter.

“That is what he had done in what took place in the last few days; he listened to his people and worked with their suggestion. Nobody, I repeat, nobody can sanction him. The main issue to me was his refusal to answer to the traditional salutation of Ogiame and cause of disagreement has been resolved.

“We have greeted Ogiame and he answered, so who is talking of sanction and what for.”

Normalcy returns

When Vanguard visited the palace, yesterday, 24 hours after the monarch bowed to the wish of his people, it was discovered that normalcy has, indeed, returned.

Everything connected with protest, including the canopies mounted for the soup kitchen and chairs had been dismantled.

Various meetings were held by Itsekiri leaders and chiefs, hours after the Olu retracted his statement up till yesterday, to reconcile their differences and point the way forward.

The open area, which was a beehive of activities since Saturday was empty and the  vicinity was also swept clean of sachet waterproofs, drink cans and waste materials that littered the arena in the last few days.

Mr. John Amadu, who spoke to Vanguard at the palace ground yesterday, said: “Nobody will know that the protest that happened for four days took place the way the place is looking clean this morning (yesterday).

“You can see for yourself, the place is empty, everybody had gone home, there is no sign of protest anymore, only the Olu and his family and maybe, some visitors will be inside the palace now, there is calm.”

Former Chief of Staff, Government House, Asaba, Mr. Solomon Areyenka, who hailed the monarch for listening to the voice of the people, told Vanguard that Itsekiri people were peaceful citizens and would not do anything to undermine their monarch.

Describing the volte face of the monarch as “pleasant and marvelous”, he said: “That is the end, as long as the monarch has accepted the wish of the people, he remains our king.”

Religious leaders hail Olu

Bishop-elect and national co-coordinator of Niger Delta Ministers Peace Forum, NDMPF, Rev. Duke Akpososo, told Vanguard, “I rejoice with the Olu of Warri for the withdrawal of his statement that he should not be addressed as Ogiame anymore. Like I said in my first reaction on this matter, which Vanguard published, the Olu is a forthright man and a man of courage.

“It is only a man of courage that can do what he has done, he is a man of peace, the Bible says follow peace with all men (Hebrew 12:14). His subjects say he should stick to the title, if not; there will be problem, so he obeyed their wishes.

“This is wisdom because he cannot preside over the liquidation of his own empire. Wisdom is the principal thing (Proverb 4:5-7). If this decision will cause such an unexpected uproar in the kingdom, then a wise king should say what the people want to hear.

“He has demonstrated a great sense of wisdom for peace to reign. Heaven will not hold him guilty. However, the people won’t enter into his mind to know what is inside, Heaven bears the monarch witness that he has made his point.

“His rescinding is an outward expression and not real expression of his inner mind, the monarch has done what is right to save his kingdom. Only a man of courage can say I am sorry.”

Also, international preacher, Rev. Stephen Gbejero of the Hour of Truth Ministry, Warri, in a statement made available to Vanguard, said: “I thank God He never hardened our King’s heart, as was done to King Pharaoh of Egypt (Exodus 7) to King Rehoaboam in Ist King 12, thanks to all wonderful chiefs in Warri kingdom.”