Controversy has been surrounding the succession of the throne of the Olu of Warri, Delta state following the demise of the monarch, Ikenwoli Godfrey Emiko.
The monarch died in December 2020, barely a week after his fifth coronation anniversary after he was said to have met with the late Major General John Irefin, who had died earlier from COVID-19 complications.
The palace in a statement initially denied the demise of the first-class monarch, describing the story as untrue.
Despite the denial, it was gathered that there has been tension in the area over who succeeds the monarch.
The crisis has also resulted in the suspension and counter-suspension of some high profile chiefs of the palace.
Following the rejection and disqualification of Prince Tsola as the successor to the throne, a member of the royal family, Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, had few days ago announced the purported suspension of the head of the Olu’s advisory Council.
The council is headed by the Ologbotsere of Warri, Ayiri Emami.
Shortly after the purported suspension, a popular Warri Chief and member of the Ginuwa I Ruling House, Akoma Dudu-Dimeyin, on behalf of the ruling house, countered the purported suspension of Emami as the Ologbotsere of Warri, saying, “The Ginuwa I Ruling House has no such powers to suspend the Ologbotsere or any other chief, it is an individual or constituted authority that has the right to hire, that can fire.”
Speaking with our correspondent, a traditional chief in the palace who spoke on condition of anonymity however confirmed the demise of the monarch saying, though it has not been formally announced to the public, the issue of succession is almost degenerating into a full-blown bloody crisis.
“Unlike in previous cases where differences were settled in inner circles among contenders of the throne, the divisions this time around have been blown open among the contenders and power brokers in Itsekiri, particularly the Olu’s advisory council headed by the Ologbotsere of Warri, Chief Ayiri Emami and the body of Princes who share influences over who becomes the next Olu.
“The battle to select a consensus candidate for the throne degenerated on Monday following reports that the choice of Prince Tsola Emiko was disqualified by the Olu’s advisory council. The 1979 Edict is very clear on the issue causing serious tension concerning the Itsekiri throne succession. Prince Tsola is not qualified to be enthroned.
“Prince Tsola Emiko is the son of Emiko’s predecessor, Atuwatse ll. He is one of the preferred choices for the throne despite his disqualification in 2015 in accordance with the customary laws regulating succession to the Olu of Warri throne. It might interest you to note that Prince Tsola was disqualified from succeeding his father because his mother is Yoruba. The edict confirmed the position of the Olu’s advisory council, a candidate to the Olu of Warri throne must have his mother as an Itsekiri or from Edo State (Benin Kingdom).”
Also speaking in support of the edict, another chief from the Olu’s palace who insisted that Prince Tsola stands rejected and disqualified disclosed that the enthronement of Tsola despite the edict will amount to a breach of peace in the land and if not urgently handled, will degenerate into a bloody crisis.
The source said, “Paragraph two of section eight of the 1979 Edict read made it very clear that succession is limited to Olu’s company (Otolu’s) i.e. descendant of the last three Olus. The descendants of the other Olus who had previously reigned are known and referred to as Omajaja company.
“Ordinarily, succession passes to a son of a demised Olu, failing which it goes to a suitable member of the Olotus, provided that brothers are preferred to uncles, and uncles are preferred to grandsons and grandsons are preferred to other relatives within the Otolus. Females are absolutely barred.
“According to the Edict on how to select a successor, the Ologbotsere will summon a meeting of the members of the ruling house to the palace (Aghofen) specifically to choose a successor. The meeting is presided over by the oldest man in the ruling house, failing which by the Olare-Ebi or Olore-Ebi.
“All the sons of demised Olu and members of the ruling house below the age of eighteen are excluded from the meeting. To qualify, a candidate’s mother must be an Itsekiri or of Edo origin and his father, Itsekiri.”
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that already, a section of the ruling house has been preparing to announce Prince Tsola as Omoba (Olu-designate) on Monday (today) against the provisions of the edict which have disqualified him while the majority of Itsekiris have insisted that the edict must be adhered to the letter.