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‘Why kingmakers made Tsola Emiko Olu Of Warri’

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Yemi Emiko

Prince Yemi Emiko, a younger brother of the immediate past Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli, and an uncle to the Olu-designate, Omoba Tsola Emiko, spoke to CHIDO OKAFOR in Warri on the intricate issues that influenced the selection of the new Olu.

Describe the process involved in the selection of the Olu-designate, Omoba Tsola Emiko, who would be crowned Olu of Warri today?
Male descendants of the last three Olus meet to select one of them as the next Olu. The sons of the immediate past Olu are given priority, but where they are found unsuitable, other members of this group are considered. So, Omoba Tsola emerged by majority aggregation.

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The next step is to take him to the Ginuwa I Ruling House, then to the Olu’s Advisory Council- the kingmakers- who thereafter present him to the people in a general assembly.

Give us an idea of the kingmakers that selected the Olu-designate?
There are originally five of them, led by the Iyatsere, who is number two in ranking. Two were absent for whatever reasons. The other three were there, together with other members, whom the law allows the most senior chief in attendance to co-opt into the council through a doctrine of necessity.

Three out of the five original members were Iyatsere, Uwangue, and Ojomo.

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Why was Tsola Emiko chosen?
He was the most qualified- stable character, strong mental capacity, clear understanding of the sensitivities of our people, deep, calculated thought processes, and skillful analytical mind on kingdom matters. There was simply no serious competition around him this time around.

What should the Warri Kingdom expect from his reign?
The kingdom should expect a straightforward, kind-hearted, and sincere king, who will put the people first at all times. No one individual or group of persons would be able to put this king under their belt.

He will build on what His Majesty, the late Ikenwoli did in terms of building bridges across all divides in our communities and with our neighbours. He will also focus on most people issues, including training, education and job creation for the young people, economic empowerment, community development, and expanding the frontiers of our people in a massive way.

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Warri Kingdom cannot be sitting on black gold and yet the people languish in abject poverty. These, indeed, would be the guiding principles of his reign. We have had discussions around these issues several times.

What should people also expect on this day of the coronation?
Pomp and pageantry! Itsekiri are known for their beautiful women and coronation day will be another great opportunity to display this unique tradition and culture of our people.

The event will begin with a boat regatta on the Warri River for about one hour or so. Then the Olu- designate will proceed to Ode-Itsekiri in a brilliant formation of a boat armada. It will be a memorable sight to behold

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Who are the eminent personalities expected to grace the occasion?
We expect a gathering of who-is-who in Nigeria, including the vice president, ministers, governors, members of the National Assembly, first-class traditional rulers across Nigeria, members of the diplomatic corps, international guests, and Itsekiri from all over the world.

Some Itsekiri people say the Tsola Emiko’s maternal link to Yoruba land makes him unsuitable to be Olu-designate. How true is this?
No true-born Itsekiri person can say this. We are Itsekiri; we are Yoruba people. Itsekiri people have been in Warri as an offshoot of Ijebu, Ikale, even a wave from Ilaje, long before Ginuwa 1 came from Benin to establish a kingdom here. It was a mere system of government that is monarchical that he brought from Benin.

So, I don’t know where you got that from. At any rate, the Bini say Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race, is from Benin, and that his real name is Ekhaladeran or Izoduwa. The Yoruba say no, wait a minute, that the founder of Benin Kingdom is Oranmiyan, son of Oduduwa, who left Ife for Benin. So, what are we saying here?

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Give us an idea how the various court cases instituted by the Ologbotsere and the son of the late Olu of Warri Ogiame Ikenwoli could affect the coronation of the Olu-designate?
The court cases will have zero effect on the coronation. These are things that are not only traditional but profoundly octotus. There is no restraining order whatsoever on us. God Almighty has by Himself chosen this king for us.

People said there was an uneasy calm in Warri Kingdom ahead of the coronation. Do you share this view?
You need to define for me what uneasy calm means. The people are happy and jubilating that my family has given them the king 98 per cent of the people clamoured for.

What just happened in Warri is our own equivalent of ‘EndSARS protests.’ We are thankful to God it did not degenerate into violence and breakdown of law and order. The people wanted a clean break from the old ways, a system they have grown to be very suspicious of.

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Go and study the British monarchy and tell me what led to the watering down of the powers of their king. Dig into the causes of the ‘Glorious Revolution’ or what some call ‘the bloodless revolution’ and see how in 1688, a Catholic King James II was deposed and replaced with his Protestant daughter, Mary, and her Dutch husband.

This incident took away absolute powers of the King or Queen and changed how England has been governed since, giving more powers to the people through the parliament.

Times have changed, and if you don’t listen to the people, you end up biting your fingers in regret. My family is grateful to the Itsekiri people that the crown is still with us; that Emiko remains the king.
I understand the Olu-designate would wear a new crown different from his predecessors. Is this because the former crown was (is) missing?

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The Olu’s crown is never old or new; it remains in a state of agelessness. He will be crowned with the Itsekiri crown.

Before 1620, our kings were crowned with beaded crowns. But Dom Domingos, who became Atuwatse I, returned from
Portugal, upon graduation from the Cuimbra University, with a pair of silver crowns given to him by the King of Portugal, one of them studded with diamond stones. Those crowns are well over 510 years in perpetuity.

Our Olu remains the only king in the whole of Africa, apart from the King of Ethiopia, the last of which was Emperor Haile Selassie, who wears proper crowns in the real sense of that word. We are very proud of this distinction.

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Tsola Emiko: The Journey To The Warri Throne
From Chido Okafor, Warri

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.

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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.

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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.

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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, were 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.

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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.

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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 a 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).

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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 the 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.

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