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A spokesperson for Ologbotsere’s Descendants, Alex Eyengho, stated this on Thursday while featuring on Arise TV’s ‘The Morning Show.’
He said Ologbotsere went to court to ensure the emergence and coronation of the new Ogiame (king) follow the edict.
The “Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict 1979” was signed by the military government of the defund Bendel State.
The genesis of kingship tussle
Trouble started in the oil-rich community when Tsola’s father, Godwin Toritseju Emiko, Ogiame Atuwatse II, passed away in 2015.
Some influential people in the town thwarted Tsola’s effort to succeed his father as the new Olu in 2015. They claimed his mother was Yoruba and that the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict provides that the mother of a successor to the Olu throne must hail from either Edo or Delta states. The kingmakers consequently disqualified him.
The kingmakers then picked his uncle Ogiame Ikenwoli as the 20th Olu of Warri. The monarch spent five years and eight days on the throne when he joined his ancestors on December 21, 2015.
Following the Olu’s passage, the Olori-Ebi (administrative head) of Ginuwa I Ruling House, the only ruling house in the town, Prince Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, took over the throne as a regent.
Another opportunity then came for Tsola to contest for the Oluship. Luckily, the Ginuwa 1 ruling house presented his name to Ologbotsere for approval and pre-coronation activities. Ologbotsere allegedly tore the letter containing the ruling house decision in public and returned the shreds to the palace.
The action culminated in his suspension, and the palace appointed the Iyatsere of Warri Johnson Amatserunleghe as the new Ologbotsere.
The new Ologbotsere has since been leading the processes for Tsola’s coronation.
The Olu-designate enjoys growing popularity and massive youth support in the Warri Kingdom.
Tsola’s high exposure, education and youthfulness are his pluses, which draw more Itsekiris to him.
Born on April 2, 1984. Tsola attended Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Primary School between 1995 and 2001.
He had his secondary education at Adesoye College in Offa, Kwara State between 2002 and 2006, before proceeding to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Political Science; with minors in History and Economics.
He also bagged a master’s degree in Science Management from the university in 2007. He returned to Nigeria for his NYSC in 2008.
In 2014, he married Ivie Okunbo, daughter of billionaire Capt. Idahosa Okunbor, in a lavish wedding ceremony.
The suspended Ologbotsere reportedly admitted that 90 per cent of youth were on his side. His main concern was that Warri youth showed disdain for the traditions of Warri and the edict, which requires that the Olu’s parents must come from only Edo and Delta states.
Tsola’s late father’s three sons are from Yoruba women
Meanwhile, Tsola late father’s three sons, who are heir to the throne, were born by Yoruba women.
One of his wives, Gladys Duro Shaw, is from Ogun State. She gave birth to Tsola and his brother Toritseju, and the other wife, Durojaiye Kazeem, hails from Lagos State. She gave birth to Prince Omatsola Emiko.
Ologbotsere will accept reconciliation
Speaking on the Arise TV programme, Eyengho said the Ologbotsere’s faction would accept reconciliation. According to him, former governors James Ibori and Emmanuel Iduaghan and other prominent people in Itsekiri were making efforts to reconcile the parties.
“I believe we will resolve this matter internally as Itsekiri people. It is just important to come and clear the air as regards a lot of misinformation over this issue,” he said.
Tsola may seek protection in local, regional, international law to which Nigeria is a signatory
He also said of the planned inauguration for Tsola: “August 21 or any other such date will only happen by the efforts of these mediators. I am aware of such efforts daily.
The outcome of that effort will determine whatever date that has been penned down for the coronation.”
Section 42 of the Nigerian constitution says nobody should be discriminated against based on their ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion.
Tsola can only seek protection from the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights or the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But the spokesperson said the constitution did not cover traditional matters.
He said section 42 of the Nigerian constitution could not function in the matter, but only extant laws applied to succession to thrones in the country.
Eyengho queried the programme anchor: “What you are saying if you are going by that Section 42 is that you, Dr Reuben Abati, because you are guaranteed, you should not be discriminated against, that means you are qualified to contest for the throne of Olu of Warri Kingdom.
“That is what it means. It means that every female too is qualified to contest for the throne of Olu of Warri Kingdom when we know that women are totally barred from contesting or from putting themselves forward for the throne of Olu of Warri Kingdom because it has extant law like every other kingdom.”
He said his group had sought experts opinions on the matter, including eminent lawyers within the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, before heading to court.
He said the 1979 Edict was followed in 1987 when the Ogiase Atuwatse II was crowned, and in 2015 when Ogiame Ikenwoli Emiko became king.
According to him, the Ologbotsere was not acting alone. Six of the seven members of Olu Advisory Council supported his action, he said.
He also said that 50 members of the Council of Chiefs, making up 70 members, supported the Ologbotsere.
He said it was for the same reason Emiko was disqualified in 2015 that he was being disqualified this year; his mother is Yoruba.
He said what produced Tsola for the coronation was a palace coup.
According to him, there are two contenders to the throne who are observing idanike (seclusion) to ascend the throne; Tsola and prince Oyowoli Emiko, the eldest son of late Ogiame Ikenwoli.
He cited instances where omoba (prince undergoing seclusion) who went through the idanike process never became king, not because of death but through disqualification.
The spokesperson listed Olu Akengbuwa, 16th Olu and the longest-reigning Olu in Warri’s history, never participated in idanike.
He said it was his elder brother that performed all the rites, and he was never crowned.
Erejuwa II (15th Olu of Warri) too did not perform the rites, he said, adding that his elder brother did the seclusion.
“It is very wrong and misinformation to say when you are omoba, you are Ogiame. Omoba is omoba, Ogiame is Ogiame,” Eyengho said.
The powers of Ologbotsere
The Ologbotsere is a foremost chief in Warri who heads the Ojoye-Isan, the group vested with advising the palace and selecting the new Olu. They contact the ife (oracle) on who is most fit for the throne and carry out the seclusion rituals, which involve tutoring the king designate in the values, practices and norms of the Itsekiris. The seclusion lasts for three months.
In Warri, no other person announces the passage of Ogiame, except the Ologbotsere. The announcement is preceded and followed by rites which he leads others to perform.
Eyengho’s submissions that at least two Olu had emerged without participating in the seclusion process could nullify the involvement of Ologbotsere in the succession process. But, he was quick to state the two incidents happened before the edict came into effect.
He declared the suspension of the Ologbotsere as a nullity. According to him, the only authority that can suspend any chief in Warri is the Olu of Warri.
He said Ologbotsere “is the number one in terms of chieftaincy in Warri,” stressing that no sitting Olu of Warri could suspend him. “That is a historical fact. That is the culture and the tradition of the people,” he said.
He said his suspension was carried out to execute the planned installation of Prince Tsola.
“It is the Ologbotsere that will supervise that process…Because a palace coup was in the offing, they purportedly, laughably, suspended him to give way for their person to come and perform the function that is statutorily embedded in the functions of Ologbotsere of Warri,” Eyengho said.
Meanwhile, what still remains a mystery is the theft of the Ogiame’s crown at the palace. The crown has existed for centuries and has been used by all the past Olus in the town. The crown allegedly became missing after Tsola’s nomination as the next Ogiame.