All Hail The New Olu Of Warri
IT is no longer news that Ogiame Atuwatse II, Godwin Toritseju Emiko, of the great Kingdom of Warri is no more. His demise was officially reported to the Itsekiri nation in Ode-Itsekiri (Big Warri, the real capital and traditional headquarters of the very ancient Kingdom of Warri) a couple of weeks back. The Ojomo of Warri and current Olu Advisory Council and Warri Council of Chiefs’ Chairman, Chief Yahaya Pessu, announced the worthy monarch’s demise through the symbolic breaking (hitting on the ground of a traditional earthen pot containing white chalk and other pertinent items) followed by a very audible exclamation of ‘Ale je efun!’ (The earth has eaten white chalk!). It was an exclamation of severe anguish followed by a prolonged high-pitched cry of the crowd of Itsekiri from far and near in Ode-Itsekiri. On that day that Chief Pessu wailed the sad news, even the wind uttered their mournful sounds in conjunction with the wailing crowd of subjects of the departed paramount ruler.
From that day, Saturday, September 19, 2015 that Chief Pessu broke the weighty news of the gone Olu, Itsekiri began officially the mourning of their once beloved departed Atuwatse II. But the mourning of three lunar months is over with the recent termination of the full burial rites for the departed traditional ruler.
The end of the final rites of passage no more makes Ode-Itsekiri and every stretch of the homeland/kingdom the wailing land, and Itsekiri both at home and abroad are ready, are set to start a new beginning with the crowning of a new Olu, a new monarch and Ogiame of the rich rivers and mangroves in their one and only homeland of Warri.
Who is the new monarch whose crowning is ushering in a new hope in Itsekiri? Who is the new monarch whose crowning is rekindling in Itsekiri people a new feeling of joy of a new age of faith reborn? Who is the new monarch whose crowning is already igniting in Itsekiri-land a fire whose light is expected to illumine dark memories and imaginations of experiences that henceforth shall know nothing but the contagion of mirth?
The new monarch of Warri Kingdom is His Royal Majesty Godfrey Abiloye Ikenwoli Emiko, who history henceforth shall record as the third university-graduate Olu of Itsekiri-land after Dom Antonio Domingo (Olu Oyenakpagha or Obanighenren (1625-1643)) and the immediate past Olu (Ogiame Atuwatse II (1987-2015)). His two predecessors have gone down in Itsekiri recorded history as Christian Monarchs as well. The first, Dom Domingo (Atuwatse I), who ruled and reigned in the 15th century is rightly believed to be the first black university graduate-king and person South of the Sahara. His Royal Majesty Godfrey Abiloye Ikenwoli Emiko’s royal destiny marked and chose him for his present state when right from his infant years, none but his father, His Royal Majesty Gbesimi Emiko, Erejuwa II, saw his destined star and appropriately named him ‘Abiloye’ (The begotten one for the throne) and ‘Ikenwoli’ (“The prince has entered the throne.”).
Twenty-eight years after his father’s demise, the Itsekiri Ifa Oracle consultation affirmed his circumspective father’s pronouncement and affirmation which the royal selectors and Itsekiri people are happy about. Without prejudice to other thoughts related to his choice for the throne, there is no dot of doubt that he is popularly accepted to succeed his brother who has joined our royal ancestors as Olu of Warri. As already observed, the affirmation of the Ifa Oracle helped a great deal to underscore his wide acceptance as “the spiritual head and the only custodian and symbol of the Itsekiri Culture.”
Now, one question that may enter the crystallized thoughts of Itsekiri and their friends is this: Will the new monarch be a real modern king who wants to reign and reign and fit his kingdom with the visible excitements of the wealth of modernity which he will attract to his subjects and their homeland – or, will he desire to rule and reign with the attendant lack of beauty of the politics that the desire to rule and reign entails in a democratic society and nation that has no solid constitutional provision(s) for paramount rulers?
Obviously, based on his varied experiences His Royal Majesty Godfrey Abiloye Ikenwoli Emuko shall perforce recreate in Itsekiri, their friends, neighbours and cousins affecttuoso sensibilities and emotions that will enervate everyone perfectly to plant and replant in Warri Kingdom and environs different items, crops and foods for thought that will make it difficult and impossible to crack the kingdom. I have no doubt that throughout his three months in Daniken (his mandatory period of royal seclusion), his royal thoughts did not wander outside the boundary of moments of simple but grand ideas that would benefit his kingdom and people (and their neighbours and friends and cousins who mean well for the homeland).
Clearly, he would need positively articulate men and women, worthy princes and princesses of the royal families (especially of the Ugogo-Maru stock) and exemplary chiefs to articulate his vision selflessly for the benefit of all. In this the land shall reap bountifully the true meaning of the divine rights of monarchs. And the faith the people shall have in their monarch/paramount ruler shall be immeasurable, and be forever the subject and subject and theme and theme of poets, playwrights, novelists, biographers and historians of all ages and of all colours and of all climes.
Itsekiri expect their monarch’s thoughts to contain subjects of profound and universal significance and meaning. In other words, that His Royal Highness will create and re-create anew, the power and spirit of the faith of greatness in the unique Kingdom of Warri. Expectedly, the power and spirit of this faith shall surpass whatever that existed before His Royal Majesty gained accession to his royal throne. It is the wish of every parent, every father or mother that his or her offspring should surpass him or her in every endeavour.
As I utter these words, I remember the immortal words of the Italian painter, sculptor, architect and engineer, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), who has been described since timeless time “as the most versatile talent of the Renaissance.” His immortal words referred to and recalled here are these: “Poor is the pupil who cannot surpass his master.” May His Royal Majesty’s profound and sublime statements move his subjects to move for the Kingdom of Warri of unique culture and extraordinary human beings who over the centuries have been engaging in the how and how of how to tame their marshy environment as best as they can. May hagiographers and hagiologists never leave His Royal Majesty out of their writings and collections, O saintly king-to-be in the eyes of mirth!
But who am I to offer these words to His Royal Majesty? Who am I to mount the thoughts expressed here before His Royal Majesty? Who am I to share these open thoughts with His Royal Majesty?
Aformasin (He who talks (utters words) without disputation from no one), I salute you on this greatly splendid and radiant occasion and season of your crowning as Olu of Warri. The season is ripe and fertile in line with our high renaissance yearnings. May your reign be ever ripe and fertile in line with our high renaissance yearnings and sensibilities, O monarch of monarchs! And may you last and last on the magnificent throne of Warri.
Tony Afejuku, a poet and professor of English, Department of English and Literature, University of Benin, Benin City, Edo State, is also of the Warri Royal family