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OLU OF WARRI:  Itsekiri heritage meets Yoruba royalty

•As Ambode, Akiolu restate commitment to common ties

BY CHARLES KUMOLU

THE reports heralding a proposed  visit by the Olu of Warri, Ogiame  Ikenwoli Emiko to Lagos simply triggered enthusiastic feelings among those conversant with the historical narrative of the Itsekiri ethnic group.

With activities lined up for the royal tour indicating that that the monarch would be visiting the Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode, Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu and National Leader of All Progressives Congress,APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, it was not difficult to deduce that the trip may turn out    historically remarkable.

Such import was anticipated to profoundly impact on inter-ethnic harmony and by extension act as the much desired stimulant for peaceful co-existence in a nation of reoccurring inter-ethnic rivalry.

The timing was also considered to be sufficiently promising considering that it was a time when the harmonious relationship among leading traditional institutions in Southern Nigeria seems threatened by divergent interpretations of historical developments.

With the totality of these, the general mood simply indicated that the royal visitation would be amply significant and momentous.

Indeed, the arrival of Ogiame Ikenwoli on March 13, 2016 in Lagos, confirmed such prognosis of an epoch-making visit.

 Deepen existing socio-cultural ties

Accompanied by most of his chiefs and other subjects, the 20th  Olu of Warri, made a regal entry into Nigeria’s commercial capital amid fanfare for a trip that would for a long time deepen existing socio-cultural ties.

Adorning his royal regalia, the custodian of the over 500-year Itsekiri monarchy, arrived the Bourdillon residence of Tinubu to a warmth welcome by the latter, who is married to an Itsekiri woman.

Amid exchange of esteemed pleasantries and chants of  Ogiame  by the entourage, the King of Warri was ushered in for the interface with Tinubu.

On the heels of this, was the call on Oba Akiolu which greatly turned out as one of the high points among the activities marking the tour, as it literally passed for the convergence of the Itsekiri monarchy and Yoruba royalty.

Interestingly, the colorful event commenced at 10 am on March 14, amid display of cultural formalities by the visitors and the hosts.

The sight of the Oba, his chiefs and Yoruba women leaders playing host to the Olu, his chiefs, princes and other subjects, was excitingly a spectacle to behold.

While the Oba was praying over kolanuts, the intermittent chants of  Kabieysi  blended with the sporadic echoes of  Ogiame  to produce a remarkable blend of both cultures.

It was indeed a scenario that perhaps confirmed Prof Obaro Ikime’s observation that:  “Though distance might be long the Yoruba and the Itsekiri have common and spiritual bond.”

Remarkable blend of both cultures

An elated Oba Akiolu at the forum, said: “By the grace of God, I pray for peace and progress. Olu of Warri, this is your home. It shall be well with you. God will grant you a peaceful and prosperous reign. You were not poor before you became the Olu, I have been blessed more than I was before I became the Oba, and you will also be blessed beyond measures

In his response, the Olu said:What I have seen here is to show that you are a father indeed. You have accepted us with open hands and demonstrated brotherhood. You are much older than me but instead of seating on your seat, you came to sit close to me. You came out today and prayed for the success of everyone. You also commended our daughter, Senator Remi Tinubu that, she is a good ambassador of the Itsekiri nation and that is how we are.

Ogiame Ikenwoli, Olu of Warri Kingdom
Ogiame Ikenwoli, Olu of Warri Kingdom

“I want to appeal that we see Lagos as our own state too, that is why we are all here to see you and you have demonstrated that from your spoken words. I want to appeal that the love you have exhibited towards my children who are here in Lagos, should continue. Any time they come to you, accept them as your children. They will continue to contribute their best towards the prosperity of Lagos. I want to tell you that Warri is also your home. We are looking forward to seeing you in Warri.”

From the  Idugaran Palace of the Oba, the Itsekiri monarch, who is regarded as an epitome of goodwill, headed for the Aluasa Round House to see Governor Ambode.

Aside the call for harmonious co-existence by the duo of Ambode and the Olu, the visit witnessed  emphasis on the historical ties between the Itsekiri and Yoruba ethnic groups.

In recognition of the need for the sustenance of such historical link, they urged both tribes to continuously dwell on issues that would further strengthen the bond.

 Peace and  harmonious relationship

Ambode, who expressed delight at the visit, urged both tribes to continuously emphasise issues that would further strengthen the bond.

He further congratulated the monarch for peacefully ascending the throne, noting that he is confident that the king would turn around the fortunes of the Itsekiri nation. His words: “We believe so much in him and his community. We believe just the way he has said that we are brothers and that anything that concerns the Warri community is the concern of the Yoruba community and like he rightly said, this visit once again emphasized the need for all of us to foster peace and harmonious relationship.

“We are strongly committed to the needs of the people of Itsekiri land because we know that by history, the coming of Olu of Warri to Lagos from Ile-Ife is significant to show the Yoruba hegemony that we have always wanted and we will continue to preach about. “There is nothing we want to say about the history of the Yoruba nation that we can afford to leave out the Itsekiri. If you look at our titles, our languages and our culture, you will obviously find a symbiotic relationship between us which we must guard jealously and also improve upon as we proceed.”

Earlier, the Olu thanked Ambode for identifying with the people of Warri during the mourning period of the late monarch and during his coronation.

He said:”I came in from Ile-Ife to this place and the way the Ooni of Ife received me and my entourage confirmed the fact that we are from the same heritage. As a matter of fact, I had the honour to first receive and bless his new wife. And when I got to the palace of Oba of Lagos this morning, the reception too was like home coming.

“The Oba of Lagos left his throne and sat with me and this is just a confirmation that we are brothers and must not be separated. I am happy sitting with the Governor as a member of the same family. My appeal is that we are part of you not minding the geographical distance. There are lots of Itsekiri in Lagos and there are lots of Yoruba in Warri. I want such relationship to continue and pray that we should sustain it.”

Friends of Itsekiri nation

The activities on the itinerary of the visiting king did not just end with the visit to Ambode, as Itsekiri indigenes resident in Lagos hosted him at a colorful traditional ceremony.

Held at the Metropolitan Club, Victoria Island, the forum was not just a gathering of sons and daughters of Iwere land, it was a melting point for friends of the Itsekiri nation.

In their numbers, they gathered to honour the monarch for embarking on the historic visit a few months after he ascended the throne.

In his remarks at the event, the monarch cautioned the various communities in Warri against engaging in communal clashes.

He also advised against wasting so much money on litigations over communal issues. In addition, the monarch said his subjects would often be consulted before vital decisions are taken. He said: “Recently, we had an issue over land tussle and the lawyer charged us N40 million, we had to beg him to collect 20million. Why should we spend so much money on litigations when such money could be spent on the developmental projects in our communities? “During my reign as Olu of Warri, I will consult with subjects before making any pronouncement and I am also using this opportunity to call on people stealing funds meant for community development to stop forthwith. “I am also using this opportunity to thank all those who stood by me during my coronation, I pray God in his infinite mercies will stand by them as well.”

Those at the event include: Chief Philip Asiodu, Prof. John Pepper Clark, former governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba, Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Sam Amuka, Chief. Mrs Rita Lori-Ogbebor; Amb Patrick Dele Cole, Tee Mac Omatshola Iseli, Henry Boyo, Amaju Pinnick and Miss Temi Harriman.

Others are Chief Brown Mene, Chief Kofi Kate, Chief Prest Udenyi, Chief Emmanuel Jones, Chief Ayirimi Emami, Prince Yemi Emiko, Prince Toju Emiko, Prince Moses Emiko and others.

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