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Ooni on historic visit to Olu of Warri

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The Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, in his resolve to unite people of Yoruba ancestry all over the world, travelled to Warri three days after playing host to Oba Ewuare II of Benin in Ile-Ife.

The Ooni arrived Warri in Delta State on Monday, May 7, 2018 with a large entourage and was received by the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli and his chiefs in his palace.

For long, the meeting of the two monarchs has been on the drawing board, but whenever the Olu of Warri was set for the visit, the Ooni of Ife would not be available and vice versa. But after several months of altering their dairies, the two monarchs finally agreed to meet on Monday in Warri.

Palace Watch wondered how come Warri is part of the Yoruba nation…

Prince Yemi Emiko, the Personal Assistant to Olu of Warri, explained that the Itsekiri people of Warri have a close blood relationship with Yoruba people, especially Ile-Ife, through Oba of Benin.

He said: “In about 1480AD, the founder of Warri Kingdom, Olu Ginuwa the First, was the first son of Oba Oluwa of the then Benin kingdom. Ginuwa left Benin to found Warri, and since then, Warri kingdom has produced the 20th Olu of Warri in Ogiame Ikenwoli.

The Warri kingdom has one ruling house: The Ginuwa House. That is why transition process in Warri is very smooth and devoid of any major rancour.

The process is from father to son or from father to brother. Thus, all the Olus we have had in Warri up to date are all direct descendants of Ginuwa. And this particular House I am talking about is from Benin.”

He stressed that Oba of Benin’s affinity with Ife people is well known to all and as such; the Itsekiri people’s link with Ile-Ife people is through Benin kingdom. So, Ooni Ogunwusi Ojaja II’s visit to Warri is part of the bonding process.

In his opening remarks, the Ooni of Ife spoke extensively about the relationship between Ile-Ife people, Benin and Warri. He stressed that the sitting Olu of Warri is not just Olu for the Itsekiri people; he is also an Olu for Yoruba people, because of the relationship existing between the two kingdoms.

He explained that the relationship between Ile-Ife, Benin and Warri is so thick that anybody could feel it, and that the relationship is not ordinary but a blood lineage.

Ooni Ogunwusi said it is because Warri kingdom is over the waters that the Olu is called “Ogiamen,” which means ‘king of the waters.’ He explained that the kingdom is strategic to Oduduwa descendants, considering the fact that Warri people left Ile-Ife for strategic locations on the fringes of Atlantic Ocean.

For him, this cannot be considered an accident, but an obvious design of the Almighty God that the Oduduwa Kingdom should be established at that very point. He said Warri was very important in the national scheme of things.

The Ojaja II concluded by saying: “Any country that refuses to take its culture and tradition seriously is bound to fail.”

He thereafter offered prayers to the Itsekiri people, Warri kingdom and the Niger Delta Region as a whole for peace to continue to reign, because the region was very important to national development as per its resources.

In his response, the Olu of Warri expressed joy that the Ooni of Ife came visiting his kingdom, and confirmed that he had been looking forward to playing host to the Ooni.

He said: “As the Ooni has said, it is true that Warri Kingdom came from Benin Kingdom, which has strong ties with Ife kingdom. The relationship between Benin and Ile-Ife is well known to all historians.

I am very sure that the Ooni’s visit will bring peace and tranquility to the land of Warri. Peace is what I stand for, as the reigning Olu of Warri.

The peace the Ooni brought to Warri will also go with the Ooni to Ile-Ife. It is time traditional rulers in the country came together in promoting the tradition, culture and heritage of our people.”

He explained that a point that must not be lost on the Ooni’s visit to Warri is that now that traditional rulers in the country are working more closely together in all areas, any government desiring to succeed needs to work very closely with traditional rulers.

He said: “In Warri areas, for example, whenever there are issues of militancy, oftentimes the government is helpless. All they do is run to traditional rulers for help because with all the military, Army, Naval and Police, government still cannot conquer the mind of people involved in these acts.

“As has been proven times over, one of the gateways to reach these people is through their traditional rulers or the institutions - the kings, the Obas, Obis and Emirs, who are the natural rulers.

And once traditional rulers step into such matters, positive response follows immediately. These children listen to their natural leaders.

In Warri here, most of the militants listen to whatever the traditional ruler says, except if they have reason(s) not to trust such a leader.

That is when they act to the contrary. The element of trust is very important in that we do. When these youths know that the king has no personal interest in the matter at hand, and all that he wants is peace, they listen to whatever he has to say.

“The traditional rulers are, therefore, key to good governance in the country. Hence, we are calling for what could be known as the 5th Realm of governance in Nigeria.

It could be called the ‘Nigerian Traditional Council.’ We used to have what was then known as House of Chiefs in Nigeria.

Even if this body is going to be consultative or advisory, it should be established. Traditional rulers need to be given some kind of formal role in governance, which will help the country a great deal in its quest for good governance.

“It is wrong to continue to run to traditional rulers, only when political leaders have crises in their hands. This is not the best approach for now.

For example, when oil companies operating within Warri kingdom have issues with their communities, they run to the palace. Once the problem is solved, you don’t get to see them again. So, there has to be some kind of institutionalised approach that will give traditional rulers in Nigeria some role in governance.”

Expectedly, a colorful Yoruba cultural troupe was on hand to entertain guests. Surprisingly, the Odua People’s Congress (OPC), the Yoruba militant group, was also present, donning white attire and beads. They came from towns and other areas of Delta State, and really had a good showing.

In a brief remark, they said: “When we heard that the Ooni of Ife was visiting Warri, we immediately sought permission of our leader, Aare Gani Adams, to make an appearance at this occasion, which he granted. So we are here to welcome the Ooni.”

Prince Emiko said he was particularly happy about the Ooni’s visit, as it will further promote the cordial relationship between Yoruba resident in Warri and their host communities.

The Ooni had appealed to all Yoruba people resident in Warri and environs to endeavour to play by the rules, and that he was sure they were in safe hands, as far as the Olu of Warri is concerned.

Prince Emiko stressed that of paramount importance is the rekindling of the relationship between Ife people and Warri people. He said many of the young men and women - the youths who were probably not aware of this type of relationship between the Itsekiri and Yoruba - will now begin to understand that Warri, Benin and Ile-Ife are inter-related.

They will, therefore, know why we must be our brother’s keeper and be there for one another.

But why hasn’t the Oba of Benin then found time to visit the Olu of Warri in his palace, since he ascended the throne?

Prince Emiko said: “As everybody knows, the Olu of Warri was at the Oba’s coronation in Benin. I am also aware that Oba Ewuare II was supposed to have visited Warri at some point, but unfortunately, the Olu of Warri was not available at that time.

He was outside the country. Captain Osa Okunbor was making that arrangement. He was the one working to put the visit together. That visit will come.

The Olu is also very anxious to go and visit Oba Ewuare in his palace in Benin.

“The Oba is embarking on a ‘thank you tour’ of all those that came during his coronation. Of course, we are just next-door neighbours and brothers. I believe that at some point, this visit will definitely come. After that, the Olu of Warri will reciprocate the visit.”


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Olu of WarriOoni of Ife
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