By Egufe Yafugborhi
WARRI—IT was a day of tributes, yesterday, for the late Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse II, as his final funeral rites which will begin today, were heralded with a commendation service at the Olu Palace (Aghofen), Warri, Delta State.
Following a session of hymns rendition and bible readings, former head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, in his capacity as Patron General, Bible Society of Nigeria, BSN, opened the tributes, noting that the humility and selflessness of the exited 19th Olu of Warri during his life on earth.
Represented by the Secretary General of BSN, Richard Ajiboye, Gowon noted: “When the Itsekiri Bible was printed in 2005, he (Atuwatse II) donated sacrificially to support the project. He was the highest donor.
“The late Olu was a thoroughbred Christian monarch who used his reign to serve God with humility and inspired peace and harmonious relationship among his subjects and neighbours. His actions and character brought development to his people and respect to the over 500 years old throne.”
The BSN in honour of the late monarch, shared 400 copies of the bible on the occasion, revealing that the Olu was on the verge of committing more resources for the printing of more copies of the Itsekiri Bible when he passed on.
Harping on the humility of the departed Olu, former General Overseer, Four Square Gosdpel Church, Rev Wilson Badejo, in a sermon on “What is death?” said the Olu having lived beyond the biblical three scores and ten, did so with a fulfilled soul.
He said: “Our royal father is right now in a place of grandeur. He is a baptized, sanctified, tongue speaking, spirit filled, born again son of God and a king on earth. While still living among us, the Olu would enter into the sanctuary and remove his crown, telling you there is a king who is the King of kings, mightier and greater in all dimensions and should take His glory.”
In a tribute presented by Prince Yemi Emiko on behalf of the late monarch’s siblings, the royal family said: “Given the sweep of his life, the scope of his accomplishments, the adoration he earned, it is tempting to imagine that Atuwatse would be detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men.
“I recall how few years into his reign, we used to gather in his garden at Atuwatse Close to relive our growing up years in the palace. He taught some of us how to swim in the Okere Creek. He taught us how to catch fish in those happy moments you wish never come to an end. Instructively, those moments provided him platform to share his dream for his kingdom, even his miscalculations along with his victories.”
For Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, President, Christian Association of Nigeria, after closing a session of prayers by the clergy present for the Itsekiri Kingdom and Nigeria at large, he simply, in an ode to the late Olu, said, “Good night, we will see you in the morning.”
Today, all roads lead to Ode-Itsekiri, the ancestral home of the Itsekiri, also known as Big Warri, as the final funeral rites begin with dignitaries expected from the Presidency to state governors, traditional authorities, captain of industries and the diplomatic corps.
Chief Yaya Pessu, Chairman, Traditional Council in the kingdom who earlier announced the funeral date said, “The funeral rites for the late Olu will last 14 days from November 20.
“And by December 12, the coronation ceremony for his successor will begin with a regatta at the Warri Club jetty before the coronation rites at Ode-Itsekiri. We are expecting dignitaries from far and near and we enjoin all to cooperate with us through these moments.”