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Olu of Warri coronation and Nigeria’s renaissance – Part 2

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A kingmaker presents gift to Prince Tsola Emiko after being installed as the 21st king or the Olu of Warri kingdom and the Ogiame Atuwatse 111 during his coronation at Ode Itsekiri on August 21, 2021. – Thirty seven-year-old Prince Tsola Emiko, now the Ogiame Atuwatse 111, has been installed as the king or known as the Olu of Warri kingdom in Niger delta region, one of the foremost royal institutions in the country. Thousands of people in traditional red and white attire thronged to the riverine community of Ode-Itsekiri in southern Nigeria’s oil hub Warri to witness the ascension of their new king. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)


Two issues are key for me in the interrogation of the coronation speech of the new Olu of Warri. The first is the continuing significance of rethinking traditional institutions as agents of change and development. In development theory, it is an already taken for granted maxim that development is about the people. And the people can essentially be found at the grassroots where modern federal and presidential exigencies, especially in Nigeria, have voided their relevance. One of the significant discourses in Nigeria’s political development is the comatose status of the local government as the third tier of government. I suspect that it is rather too late in time to continue debating whether traditional institutions, like the monarch, is commensurate with furthering democratic ideas and ideals. I also think that despite our modernity, traditional rulership is not an outdated institution that ought to have faded away.

On the contrary, traditional institutions offer a fundamental basis for modern traditions that could foster democratization and modernization. This is one mode powerfully signaled by the Ooni of Ife, Obi of Onitsha, Alaafin of Oyo, Emir of Kano, and now the newly coronated Olu of Warri. In his magnificent speech, the Olu of Warri speaks to the need to “reposition the Ikwerre kingdom within the prevailing realities of today’s Nigeria and the world at large.” There is even a progressive symbolic transformation and modernization of the 
crown, from corral to silver and now gold. And this, for me, is also a signification of the expected spiritual, physical and developmental trajectory of the Itshekiri nation. The new Olu of Warri is poised to redefine what that throne signifies not in terms of anachronistic traditions but as to what could be done to make distinct progress. That, for me, is the implication of tradition metamorphosing through the dynamics of modern exigencies. 


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The second key issue which the speech of Ogiame Atuwatse III signifies for me is the search for 
an inter-generational link that locates a generational capital Nigeria can deploy in nation building 
and national development. Most poignantly, the new Olu of Warri had the presence of mind to speak directly to the Niger Delta youths who have been nearly damaged by bad politics and 
misdirected youthful energies. “We must look beyond oil and gas,” the new monarch warns. And 
we cannot afford to neglect the significance of women in charting a new developmental path that 
is not tied to the violent stakes that oil politics suggest. The youths constitute the most significant 
developmental force that Africa, and indeed Nigeria, can look up to now. As a youthful state in a 
youth continent, more than 70% of Nigeria’s population falls below 30 years of age. And yet, 
34.9% of these youths are unemployed. It therefore become significant that Ogiame Atuwatse III 
kept linking the past and the present as a seamless interconnected whole. And in addressing the 
youth of Itshekiri and the Niger Delta, he threw a fundamental challenge to the Nigerian state. The Yoruba holds the belief that the collective wisdom of the old and the new is what founded Ile Ife. 
Could that be less so for the transformation of the Nigerian state?

As a symbolic representation of 
the link between the present and the past, the Olu of Warri, with his educational background, 
competences and royalty, defines a framework around which traditional institutions can become significant development frames of reference for jumpstarting progress. “We must look beyond oil 
and gas” constitutes a gem of collective wisdom that not only links different generations in 
complicity to the debilitation of Nigeria, but also challenge us to forge an inter-generational alliance that will take us beyond that complicity. With the new Olu of Warri, and a cohort of other rejuvenated monarchs, we have a traditional institution that is rising up to its urgent responsibility of redefining the governance tasks that bind 
the government to the people in a crying call for true, inclusive, and sustainable development, leadership purposefulness and transformational remodeling of governance. 
Concluded.

Prof. Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary & of Public Administration, National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos.

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