Tsola Emiko: The journey to the Warri throne
On April 5, 2021, 37-year-old Tsola Emiko was unveiled at Ode-Itsekiri, the ancestral home of the Itsekiri people, as the Olu-designate and would become the 21st Olu of Warri, and perhaps, the youngest, when he finally ascends the throne today during a colourful coronation ceremony.
The Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe, while declaring him as the Olu- designate, said he was the popular choice and had the blessing of the Ifa Oracle. Holding Tsola Emiko’s arm, Atserunleghe raised it high to thunderous applause by a large crowd of supporters.
As tradition demands, the Iyatsere also announced the passing unto eternal glory of His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli, the Olu of Warri, to the solemn assembly of the Itsekiri nation by symbolically breaking three native earthen pots containing white native chalks on the floor, one after the other.
This was followed by the firing of 20 cannon shots to announce the departure of Ogiame Ikenwoli to join his ancestors and signifying that 20 Olus had reigned in Iwere land so far.
When Ogiame Ikenwoli passed away in December last year, after just five years on the throne, Warri Kingdom was suddenly thrown into mourning and the search for another Olu was automatically activated.
A few candidates, including a son of the immediate past Olu of Warri, Oyowoli Emiko, indicated interest to occupy the coveted stool. Prince Yemi Emiko, a brother of the late Ogiame Ikenwoli and an uncle to the Olu-designate, said the selection of Tsola Emiko was easy because “there was simply no serious competition around him” as he was “the most qualified with a stable character, strong mental capacity, clear understanding of the sensitivities of our people, deep, calculated thought processes and skillful analytical mind on kingdom matters.
However, the process was not without rancour, disagreements, and protests.
Palace sources said the kingmakers selected Tsola Emiko because he was by far the popular choice and that the ancestral Ifa Oracle approved of his coronation.
However, some concerned Itsekiri core traditionalists queried his mother’s Yoruba origin, insisting the Itsekiri tradition prescribes that the mother of anyone aspiring to be Olu of Warri must be of Itsekiri or Benin descent.
More so, son of the immediate past Olu, Prince Oyowoli Emiko, and his uncle, Prince Bernard Emiko, among others, went to court to challenge the emergence of the 37-year-old son of the Ogiame Atuwatse II (19th Olu) as Olu-designate.
But Prince Yemi Emiko said the court cases would have no effect on the coronation. “There is no restraining order whatsoever on us. God Almighty has by Himself chosen this king for us”
There were more thorns on the path of the Olu- designate, as the Ologbotsere of Warri, Chief Ayiri Emami, rejected him, despite his popularity, saying only two kingmakers out of seven were involved in the selection process and that provisions of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict of 1979, which prescribes specific steps to follow in the selection of a new Olu of Warri, was not adhered to. After disqualifying the Olu-designate, the Ologbotsere headed to the court.
The rejection of the Olu-designate by the Ologbotsere instantly drew the anger of a section of the Itsekiri nation, who led a protest to the palace and court premises to condemn Emami’s stance.
The Regent of Warri Kingdom, Prince Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, blamed the Ologbotsere for the protest by disqualifying the popular choice of the people and announced his suspension as the Ologbotsere of Warri.
However, the suspension of the Ologbotsere was faulted by another influential group, comprising offsprings of a preceding Olu, the late Erejuwa II, who claimed that those who announced the suspension lacked such powers.
The entrenched differences notwithstanding, all seem set to herald a memorable coronation festivities for Omoba Tsola Emiko as the new Olu of Warri today, eight months after the passage of Ogiame Ikenwoli.
The Olu-designate was educated in Nigeria and abroad. He was born on April 2, 1984 to Prince Godwin Toritseju Emiko (the late Ogiame Atuwatse 11) and Gladys Durorike Emiko in Warri, Delta State.
He attended the prestigious NNPC Primary School in Warri and for his secondary education, he went to Adesoue College, Ofa in Kwara State from 1995 to 2001.
He got admitted into Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, United States (US) in 2002, and in 2006, he graduated with bachelor’s degree in Art, majoring in International Studies and Political Science.
He went further to earn a Master’s of Science degree in Management from the same institution in 2007.
Tsola Emiko returned to Nigeria for his national service in 2008, serving in the Public Affairs Department of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS).
Between 2009 and 2010, he worked at Shell Nigeria’s Closed Pension Fund Administrator (SNCFPA) and later at Sahara Energy as Government Relations Officer from 2010 to 2012.
The Olu-designate, an entrepreneur, is the founder of Noble Energy Limited and Corral Curators Limited; Chairman, Ocean Marine Security Limited and Director, Gulf of Guinea Limited and Vessellink Nigeria Limited.
It is believed by many that he honed his good business acumen from his late father.
In 2014, he married Ivie Okunbor, daughter of billionaire Capt. Idahosa Okunbor, who passed away recently, and they have three children- Oritsetsemaye, Oritsetemisan, and Oritsetimeyin Emiko.