BY Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South & Emma Arubi
*How Uduaghan brokered peace *Warri agog as peace returns *Chief Lori-Ogbebor sheds tears of joy …
WARRI—THE Olu of Warri, His Majesty, Ogiame Atuwatse II, Tuesday, bowed to the wish of Itsekiri people and repudiated his Wednesday’s proclamation, purportedly renouncing the 500-year-old kingship name and title of ‘Ogiame’.
His return to the status quo ante ended the four-day siege to his palace, which began last Saturday. Leader of the protesting Itsekiri, Comrade (Prince) Omolubi Newuwumi, confirmed to Vanguard, yesterday, that the siege had been lifted.
Atuwatse II now accepts Ogiame salutation
Ogiame Atuwatse II, who repented for the name and title of ‘Ogiame’, which he and his ancestors bore over the years, because “it connotes our allegiance to Umalokun and other deities of the sea, which are false gods,” confirmed the repudiation when he stood in front of his palace at about 12.40 pm, acknowledging cheers and the traditional salutation of Ogiame from his overjoyed subjects.
A youth leader had told Vanguard on Monday that the monarch rejected the ancestral Ogiame greeting, five days ago, when they visited him.
The Olu, who was majestically dressed and apparently waiting for the occasion, walked back into the sitting room with his chiefs and other Itsekiri leaders after accepting the Ogiame salutation.
His looks did not betray the emotions of the last few days and the crowd displayed their admiration of the monarchy, as they shouted Ogiame, Ogiame. He responded by waving his hands and with a smile on his face.
The Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, ILoT, led by Pa J.O.S. Ajomike, had, on Monday evening, asked the monarch to renounce his new edict, rejecting the Ogiame title of the Warri monarch.
The leaders submitted, “Ogiame has been the unchanged name of the Warri monarch since its creation in 1480 and Atuwatse II, the name of the reign that began in 1987. If the former is abolished, the monarchy would have been extinguished and if Atuwatse II ceases to be Ogiame, his reign as Warri monarch would have expired. Neither is possible.”
Our reporters in Warri reported that the entire Itsekiri nationality erupted with celebration at about 11.50 am when the Igba of Warri kingdom, Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor, clothed in white chieftaincy apparel, broke the soothing news to a waiting crowd at the palace ground.
Palace chiefs couldn’t hide contentment
Itsekiri leaders, including Chief Charles Ikomi, Chief Otimeyin Adams, Chief Francis Omatseye, Chief Heyman Emmanuel, Chief Thomas Ereyitomi and Chief Ayiri Emami, had stormed the palace, early in the morning, yesterday, for a fresh round of meeting with the monarch.
By 11.30 am when they emerged from the palace, there was an indication of good news, as the chiefs, principally the Akulagba of Warri kingdom, Chief Emami, could not conceal the victorious smile on their faces.
Three gunshots suggestive of accomplishment rented the air, as they took their seats waiting for Chief Lori-Ogbebor, who sauntered in like a conqueror with police escort.
tears of joy Chief Lori-Ogbebor, who spoke to the festive multitude on behalf of the chiefs in both Itsekiri dialect and English, said, “All we are doing is dancing in the rain to hide our shame, to hide our tail. We are not violent, we are civilized and educated people.”
She said Itsekiri people respect the crown (monarchy) and were in their homeland before the Europeans came centuries ago.
Her words: “His Royal Majesty has been hearing our cry in the past few days and for this singular reason, he has withdrawn his edict to heed to the cry of the people.”
As she uttered the words, ‘he has withdrawn the edict to heed to the cry of the people…,’ she went into a captivating dance with tears of joy all over her.
Chief Lori-Ogbebor, who was hailed as an Amazon by the crowd and her colleagues in the chieftaincy collection said the palace chiefs had not slept in the last few days, as they were troubled by the crisis and wanted solution urgently.
One of the chiefs, Chief Charles Ikomi, corroborated Lori-Ogbebor’s assertion.
Our source said the Delta State governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and the palace chiefs played significant role in the return to the status quo by the Olu.
The governor and the chiefs had separately pleaded with the protesters to give them two days, which expired, yesterday, to resolve the matter with the Olu of Warri peacefully.
One of the protesters told Vanguard, ‘If the Olu of Warri had remained adamant more than yesterday, I tell you he would not have believed the action we would have taken, but I thank God, he bowed to the wish of the people.”
How Uduaghan worked behind the scene
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, an Itsekiri native from Abigborodo community in Warri North Local Government Area, who was in Abuja when the protesters barricaded the Olu’s palace, last Saturday, flew down from the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, on Sunday to wade into the matter.
A source said, “He cannot afford to remain aloof while a section of his state and in particular, his Itsekiri ethnic group is on fire, particularly as he received information that the monarch had refused to meet with his worried chiefs.”
“He dispatched his Chief Protocol Officer, Mr. Godwin Abigor, himself an Itsekiri son, who had no choice but to stay back in Warri for four days to get the Olu to meet with the chiefs and hear from them.
“Uduaghan later spoke to the Olu on phone and it is noteworthy to mention that by this time, the Olu no longer acknowledges the traditional greeting of Ogiame from anybody. Before he visited Olu in the palace, the monarchs had already agreed to meet with the chiefs,” our source added.
Said the source, “Prior to Uduaghan’s visit, members of the royal family, the Emikos had come to dialogue with their son on the agitation of the Itsekiri nation, but the Olu did not acknowledge the appellation from them when they greeted him.”
Indeed, the cold war with the chiefs was broken by Chief Lori-Ogbebor, who flew down from Lagos on hearing the sad news. However, the road to the meeting was paved by the underground work done by Uduaghan. The chiefs at this meeting reportedly presented their position paper to the monarch, who still refused to accept the Ogiame saluation.
“Olu merely took the script from them and allegedly walked out on them, leaving the chiefs stranded as to what to tell the agitated protesters outside the palace gate,” the source added.
The same scenario of not responding to Ogiame salutation played out when Dr. Uduaghan visited. But the governor, who had a warm relationship with the Olu was not bothered, he knew his mission was to persuade him to change his position and went about it adroitly.
Vanguard learnt that many Itsekiri allegedly sent the monarch threat SMS messages and all contributed in making him angry. He was not also happy with the reaction of some of his chiefs.
“In fact, he got more provoked on the matter because more Itsekiri people were issuing him threat messages via SMS, telling him so many unprintable things. At a stage, he (monarch) alleged that some chiefs were undermining his authority.
Though he snubbed the intervention of some people, he could not rebuff the governor, who, borrowing from his wealth of experiences as governor, spoke to him on how to handle the matter.
“The Olu even came down behind his main building, took a stroll with the Governor behind the palace discussing the issue, while the chiefs were still waiting to see him for fresh consultations.
“What I can tell you is that while intensive consultation was being made across Itsekiri land by well meaning elders, chiefs and members of the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought to get the king to rescind his decision, it took the dexterity and political sagacity cum Iwere patriotism of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan to plead profusely with the Olu to get him to agree to maintain the status-quo that brought limitless joy to the entire Itsekiri nation,” Vanguard source disclosed.
He added, “Dr. Uduaghan spoke to him not as a governor, but as a son would speak to his father and after listening to his intelligent analysis of the situation and the way out. He spoke to him about many things and the Olu assured the governor that he would listen to the voice of reason.”
Why we lifted siege to Olu palace —Newuwumi
Itsekiri youth leader, Comrade Newuwumi, who was lifted shoulder high by the multitude when the news of the monarch’s renunciation of his avowed position was made public told Vanguard, as traditional gunshots boomed to signify peace, “What happened today (yesterday) is that a father gave listening ears to his children and his children are happy with their father for giving them a listening ear.
“What took us to the streets has been withdrawn, Olu of Warri retains his name and title as Ogiame.
“I am the head of the protesters who laid siege to the palace in the last few days and I am telling you officially that by the action of Ogiame Atuwatse II, this morning (yesterday), which we deeply thank him for, we are withdrawing our protest with immediate effect.
“I thank God for the security agents, they did not intimidate us, they did not cow us, they did not shoot or injure anybody. Our protest was the most peaceful against the action of any monarch in the country, nobody fought, nobody was killed, no house was destroyed and no vehicle was burnt.
“It is not in the policy of Itsekiri youths to disgrace their father and I want to tell you that our father did not disgrace us. We are proud of our monarchy and we will protect it jealously. That is just what you have seen, nothing more than that,” he said.
Newuwumi added, “My special thanks go to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, he came here to address us and cautioned that we should not allow criminals to hijack our protest. He played a strategic role in the resolution of this impasse, I commend his efforts.
“However, I want to inform you that Warri chiefs were with the people throughout the days of the protest, they proved it to us and we salute their courage. Without them, we will not be where we are today on this matter.
“You can see them, I know that most of them did not sleep because of this crisis, they appealed to us to be peaceful as they continued dialoguing with the monarch and the end result is the return to the status quo of Ogiame.”
Elders explained true meaning of Ogiame to Olu—Emami
One of the elated Itsekiri leaders, Chief Emami informed Vanguard that Ogiame Atuwatse II misinterpreted the meaning of Ogiame, saying, “Elders who know the meaning of Ogiame have explained the true meaning to him. It does not mean god or goddess of the River as earlier speculated, but king over a region. They explained everything to him and it is now clear to him.
“He was told the full meaning of Ogiame, which has nothing to do with any deity and our monarch has agreed to come back to the status quo ante,” Chief Emami asserted.
He stated, “Some of us stood to protect the monarchy, it is an institution that keeps us together as Itsekiri people. Ours is to safeguard the integrity of that institution and the monarch himself.”
Agitators unnerved Olu
Investigation by Vanguard revealed that the agitators also mounted suffocating pressure through their protest on the Olu, who was not comfortable with the stand of his people.
Number one, they spearheaded an unprecedented revolution against him over the planned change of the Ogiame appellation in such a manner that the entire Itsekiri nation spoke in one voice against the monarchy- first time in recorded history.
Secondly, Itsekiri chiefs and prominent sons in Diaspora flew to the country within two days, not to talk of those that came from different parts of the country to swell the massive opposition against him over the decision.
Thirdly, practically all the influential subjects he could rely on pitched tent with the opposing side and the agitators were able to break into the ranks of the chiefs that had already signed the controversial edict.
On Tuesday morning, all the palace chiefs told the monarch categorically that Ogiame does mean river deity.
It was gathered that the Olu had not formally signed the proclamation, supposed to have been signed by 10 of his chiefs. Six refused to sign, while four were alleged to have already appended their signatures.
But while two volunteered to withdraw their support in the face of the heated opposition, two were declared wanted by the agitators. The fear of what would happen to them made the duo that were declared wanted to succumb, signalling very clearly to the monarch that he was standing alone.
Storm is over
Rev. Dr. Stephen Gbejero of the Hour of Truth Church, Warri, who maintained that the monarch was not wrong in surrendering Warri kingdom to God Almighty through Jesus Christ, but faulted his claim that Ogiame means River deity, told Vanguard, yesterday, “The storm is over, our king has bowed to the wish of the people.”
Rev Gbejero, who conducted an open prayer before Warri chiefs briefed the multitude on the new stand of the monarch, thanked the Almighty for the wisdom He gave the monarch and his subjects to amicably resolve the problem.