Facts about the forces behind the crisis that followed the emergence of Tsola Emiko as Olu of Warri-designate, have emerged. Contrary to what is in the public domain the real reason goes deeper.
The issues involved are not only about whether the Olu-designate is qualified or not or whether due process process was followed in his selection or not but also about oil politics, power and the clash of vested interests.
No sooner had Emiko been announced as the Olu-designate on 5 April than the Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, Chief Ayiri Emami and other chiefs opposed the choice, saying that due process was not followed, which makes it null and void.
Emami, citing the Chieftaincy and Traditional Edict of 1979, also said the Olu-designate was not qualified because a section of that that same edict had disqualified him in 2015 since his mother is neither a Benin nor an Itsekiri woman as the edict stipulates. According to Emami and those opposed to that choice it was because the Olu-designate was disqualified was the reason he didn’t succeed his father, Atuwatse 11 in 2015.
“Tsola happens to be Atuwatse’s son who was supposed to be the king in 2015. But he was disqualified because of Article Section (4) of the Edict in 2015. We now have two sections that are against Tsola that I’m talking about. Section (2) which says succession goes from father to son; if the son is not suitable, it now moves to the brother; if the brother is not suitable, it goes to the Uncle; if there’s no uncle, it goes to the grandson; if there’s no grandson, it goes to other family member where Tsola belongs,” Emami maintained.
While it is true that that due process must be followed, there is more to it than meets the eye. The truth is, the crisis is not only about whether the Olu-designate meets the criteria or not- though that is part of it – but about who gets what, how and when, as the American political scientist, Harold Lasswell defines politics.
It all started during the reign of his father, Ogiame Atuwatse 11. When Ogiame Atuwatse became the Olu of Warri in 1987, he kickstarted some reforms that not only democratized power in the kingdom but also saw the then political class lose grip on the royalties accruing from multinational oil companies in Itsekiri land.
Ogiame Atuwatse 11 made sure the royalties were democratized and spread out so that everybody could benefit. However, that did not sit well with the political class, which was made up of powerful figures in the community and profiting from those royalties. The kingdom was plunged into crisis, and it was alleged that peace was not restored until after the death of the then Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, Chief Alfred Rewane.
When Ogiame Atuwatse passed on in 2015, and his son, Tsola, who was then 31 couldn’t succeed him, power changed hands. Ogiame Ikenwoli was then coronated Olu. The emergence of Ikenwoli, who was Olu between 2015 and 2020 saw the return of the political class and a new power bloc known as the “12 disciples.”
Ogiame Ikenwoli then conferred the title of Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom on Emami. It is also alleged that Emami was one of the 12 disciples who wielded enormous influence then. As the head of the Olu’s Advisory Council the Ologbotsere of Warri,i Emami, wields enormous influence over who becomes the next Olu.
However, it is obvious, where the Ologbosere’s loyalty lies. It is also clear that with the death of his principal, the late Olu of Warri, the possibility that he may lose his influence if power falls on an Olu to whose emergence he is not instrumental. That explains the reason his is insisting that the status quo must not only be maintained but also due process followed and must be allowed to play a key role in the emergence of the Olu as stipulated in the Chieftaincy and Traditional Edict of 1979.
It is also a fact that anyone who becomes the Olu of Warri wields enormous power not only over the oil-rich kingdom but also over oil companies doing business within its territory. That explains the reason there is much ado about who occupies the throne. That also explains the reason the identity of who sits on that throne matters, whether not just government but also oil companies will be able to do business with him.
However, on the other side of the divide – those supporting the emergence of the Olu-designate are the Ginuwa 1 Royal House and other chiefs loyal to his father, Ogiame Atuwatse 11. And one cannot also rule out the Oodua connection.
Aside from the fact that the Itsekiri nation is part of Oodua, it is believed that Tsola’s mother – the reason he was disqualified in 2015 because she is a Yoruba woman – is the daughter of the late Ooni of Ife Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse 11.
Ironically, the factor that had stood on his way to becoming the Olu in 2015 when he was disqualified is the same factor that has aided his emergence six years after.
Little wonder, no sooner had Tsola been announced as the Olu-designate than the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi quickly made his support for the Olu-designate public. In a statement released by the palace Director of Media and Public, Moses Olafare, the Ooni praised the Itsekiri people for for their adherence to norms, culture and inherited traditions in the selection of the Olu-designate.
“From the sacred throne of Oduduwa at Ile-Ife, we rejoice with Omooba Utieyinoritsetsola Emiko as the new Olu of Warri and Itesekiri people all over the world.
“We look forward to peace, concord and progress across Itsekiri land during the reign of the new Olu of Warri.
“All the descendants of Oduduwa all over the world look forward to a progressive reign of the new monarch,” the Ooni said.