•We respect the stool even more now —Gbenekama
•First Olu to visit Ijaw, Urhobo kingdoms
•Unites Itsekiri people
By Emma Amaize,
Regional Editor, South-South
ONE conspicuous item since His Majesty Ikenwoli, the Olu of Warri, Delta State, Godfrey Emiko, ascended the throne, December 12, last year, is that the relationship between the Itsekiri ethnic nationality and its neighbors, especially Ijaw, has turned for the better.
Before now, an average Ijaw man sees his Itsekiri fellow citizen as a persecutor, but the perception is gradually changing in the last six months. As it is with the Ijaw, relationship with other ethnic groups has also advanced from good to better.
The revolution is not external only; it is also sweeping inside the Itsekiri communities, both on land and in the remotest creeks, where the monarch is reforming the old ways of doing things in the sovereignty.
We respect the stool even more now-Ijaw leader
Ibibenimowe (Chief Mobilizer) of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, told Sunday Vanguard: We respect the stool of the Olu of Warri, we respect it even more now because of the persona, who currently occupies that stool. We see him as somebody who has a profile and who believes in live and let us live.”
Gbenekama’s blunt view of the monarch represents the opinion of many other Ijaw and ethnic nationalities, within and outside the state.
Bridge builder across ethnic boundaries
The bridge-builder king started cutting across ethnic boundaries soon after his coronation with a visit to the Ovie of Uvwie Kingdom, Uvwie local government area, His Majesty, Emmanuel Sideso, Abe I, at his palace in Effurun. He followed up with a stopover at the palace of an Ijaw monarch, Pere S.P Luke Kalanama VIII, Akugbene Mein Kingdom in Bomadi local government area.
The visit to the Ijaw monarch is the first since the Ijaw and Itsekiri conflict, which claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent citizens with property worth millions of naira destroyed on both sides.
Appealing for peace among all ethnic groups in the state, the Olu urged monarchs to continue to sustain the current peace in the state with a charge on youths to be patient and tolerant of their neighbours.
He said: “During my coronation, I promised to build bridges of love, peace and harmony between the Itsekiri nation and its neighbours. This is a display of such show of love.”
“My visit to Akugbene was an epoch event as no Itsekiri king had ever been there before. I am personally happy that I am making history.
“We may have differences but we must understand our difference. Anything that concerns you should concern me. By the time our subjects see us display such brotherly love, they will emulate us,” he asserted.
First Olu of Warri to visit Ijaw Kingdom
Describing the visit as historic, the Pere of Akugbene Kingdom likened the Olu’s visit to the 1982 visit of the Oba of Benin to the kingdom. He said: “Some people did not believe you would come, considering our past, but today you are here.”
Also in Ughelli, the Ovie of Ughelli Kingdom, HRM Wilson Ojakovo, said: “Ughelli has made history today because this is the first time the Olu of Warri is visiting us. I believe that this show of love will continue unabated in order to keep both kingdoms closer than ever.”
The Olu of Warri also took time off to take a trip to Ife with some of his palace chiefs to fraternize with the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi (Ojaja II).
Knock on sit-tight leaders
Back home, his critics agree that he has come out with good policies. In a moment, he dealt a big blow on sit-tight leaders. Previously, leaders of the management committees of different Itsekiri communities and other strata of leadership never want to quit office when their constitutionally approved tenure is over. They prefer to remain in power; he placed a ban on elongation of tenure, instantly sanitizing the system.
However, there are pockets of opposition to the well-intended order. A case in point is the rumbling over the Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL- facilitated Itsekiri Regional Development Council, IRDC, which he is still managing the fall-out.
He also moved against “old men” parading themselves as youth leaders, decreeing that even though a youth under normal circumstance is between 13 to 19 years, henceforth, anyone from 40 years and above should not parade himself as a youth leader in any Itsekiri community. Hitherto, adults between 50-60 years old claimed to be youths.
The monarch also said youth leaders should not aspire to run for a second term in office after their first tenure. They should give room to others and not create a monopoly.
Olara-Ajas relocate home
His Majesty also ruled that heads of the different Itsekiri communities, the most elderly man known as Olara Aja, some of who reside in Warri, Sapele and other cities, should relocate home and live with their people. The idea is for them to be on ground and manage issues in their areas, rather than being absentee leaders.
For a more effective leadership, the royal father, barely two months in the saddle, unfolded a 10-year master plan towards building a strong, united and peaceful atmosphere for the development of the Itsekiri nation.
He inaugurated a 26-man Olu-in-Council Committee shepherded by head of the 7-man Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption and constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay with Rights activist and Igba of Warri, Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor, Charles Ajuyah, SAN, and Chief Ayiri Emami as members to formulate policies to enhance development in Itsekiri land.
Ijaw/Itsekiri ‘ve no reason to fight
The monarch, who spoke in Itsekiri language at the inauguration, noted that his reign would witness strong and peaceful coexistence with her Urhobo and Ijaw neighbours as well as other tribes in the state.
He told Sunday Vanguard that Ijaw and Itsekiri were brothers and it was foolishness for them to be fighting each other.
He appealed to the council members to identify strategic ways of placing qualified sons and daughters of Itsekiri nation in position of power, in both govern ment and private institutions. “My vision for the Itsekiri nation is to harness human resources in Iwere land for sustainable development; a 10-year development master plan for Iwere land. Initiating a template for partnering oil companies and other entities for sustainable development”, he stated, “he said.
Itsekiri more united under him- Ekpoko
Chair of the Warri Study Group, WSG and Secretary, Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, ILoT, Mr. Edward Ekpoko, said: “The Olu has made a great difference in building friendship with our neighbors, especially the Urhobo and Ijaw. He is the first Warri monarch to visit the Ovie of Uwvie,our immediate neighbour.”
“At home, Itsekiri today are more united than ever. He is open to all, which is why the palace is now a beehive of activities. Many cases in court have been amicably resolved on his intervention. These are great virtues and the difference between him and his predecessor.
“A monarch who is at peace with his subjects and neighbors can only be described as God-sent. He could not have come at a better time,” Ekpoko ventilated.
Ikenwoli hit the ground running- Eyengho
National Coordinator of Warri Interest Group, WIG, Comrade Alex Eyengho, who appraised the monarch’s strides, told Sunday Vanguard: “His Majesty Ikenwoli, the Olu of Warri, has been able to make a difference in Itsekiri land since his coronation six months ago.”
He has been able to bring sanity to virtually all Itsekiri communities, which before now have been under the stranglehold of sit- tight leaders,” Eyengho said with a measure of satisfaction in his voice.
His words: “The monarch’s open and participatory leadership style has also opened up the space for capable Itsekiris home and abroad to add value to the kingdom. The proper institution of the Olu-in-Council and the Olu Advisory Committee are clear indication of his resolve to do things differently as the number one citizen of Itsekiri nation.”
He asserted: “I think his greatest achievement and virtue so far has been his capacity to hit the ground running and first building bridges internally in Delta state and across the country. He has reached out to virtually all the major kings in Ijaw, Urhobo, Isoko and Anioma areas of Delta state.”
“This is good for Warri Kingdom and a testament that he is a peaceful monarch, who believes in the principle of live and let us live. Largely, he has rebranded the Itsekiri nation and changed the perception of our immediate neighbours towards us,” Eyengho added.
He stated: “He is certainly different from the other Warri monarchs. In fact, no two Warri monarchs are the same. As the 20th Warri monarch, His Majesty Ikenwoli in just six months into his reign has stood out as a bridge- builder across ethnic lines within and outside the state, a peace lover and a monarch with an exceptional open door policy. Indeed, he is an exemplary monarch.”