The Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom and Chairman, Council of Chiefs, Chief Johnson Amatserunleghe JP, appears to be the man of the moment with his feat in resolving the royal rumble by unveiling the Olu-designate, Prince Tsola Emiko on behalf of the Itsekiri Council of Chiefs and the Itsekiri National Assembly at the ancestral home of all Itsekiri, Ode-Itsekiri (Big Warri) last Monday. He speaks in this interview with EBENEZER ADUROKIYA on why the decision will stand as against the dissenting voices of the Ologbotsere, Chief Ayirimi Emami. Excerpts:
Why have you people usurped the power of the Ologbotsere from midwifing the selection of Olu of Warri-desigbate?
The claim of the suspended Chief Ayiri is faulty and to be honest with you, it’s not only Ologbotsere that can announce the demise of an Olu. In the beginning of Warri Kingdom, there was nothing like Ologbotsere. Prince Ginuwa, the son of Oba-Oluwa is the first Olu of Warri. Prince Ginuwa left Benin with 70 Chiefs led by Ogbalaka, the Prime Minister, first Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom. The Iyatsere led the 70 Chiefs to found Warri Kingdom with Prince Ginuwa, the first Olu. From 1480 when Warri Kingdom was founded till 1760, there was nothing like Ologbotsere. Iyatsere is the Prime Minister. It was 1760 during the reign of Erejuwa 1 that he introduced Ologbotsere and Ologbotsere become number one Chief. After the demise of the first Ologbotsere (Ologbotsere Eyimisan) till 1951, no Ologbotsere again. In 1951, you have Ologbotsere, Chief John Mayuku, Ologbotsere O.N Yowani then you have Chief Ayiri Emami the suspended Ologbotsere; we only have four Ologbotsere from 1480 till date. That is to tell you that Ologbotsere is not with the kingdom. The Olu that just passed on is the 20th Olu of Warri. I speaking, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe J.P, the Iyatsere of Warri, I’m the 18th Iyatsere of Warri. So Iyatsere is always on board as far as Warri Kingdom is concerned. Ologbotsere may be there, he may not be there. So Ologbotsere has only crowned one king out of the 20 Olus. So when Ayiri (the suspended Ologbotsere) is saying that he was supposed to raise the hand and all that is not true. With the emergence of Prince Tsola Emiko, we followed the due process.
When something of this nature happens in the kingdom, the family (The Ginuwa Ruling House) is to nominate somebody and bring to us, we the Chiefs. It is our own duty to take the person to Ifa, the Oracle. We the Chiefs are not involved in the selection process neither do we have the right to disqualify what is brought to us by the Ruling House. Ayiri was interfering with the selection and the responsibility of the Ruling House which ought not to be. They brought Prince Tsola Emiko to us and we took Tsola Emiko to Ifa and the oracle confirmed him that he is the next King. He is the long-awaiting king; that is, the one that will bring the unity, peace and progress to Itsekiri; to Iwere land. So you can come and see that the whole of Warri all Itsekiris are jubilating and celebrating. For Ayiri to say that it’s faulty, it’s not true. I don’t know Tsola before. I knew him casually when his father was alive; he was still a young boy then. I’m not close to them. We are not close to them. They are king’s children. Even the family went round and all the names of the male children and the Oracle rejected all of them. They went to the grandchildren before they went for Tsola. The message was delivered to us by the leaders of the Ruling House, like Barr. Eroro Emiko, Barr. Toju Emiko, Prince Tsola Emiko, Dr. Ayu, all of them in the Ruling House came and introduced Tsola to us that this is their nominee. We as the Chiefs have no right to disqualify or to involve ourselves in the selection. What Ayiri did was excessive interference with the responsibility of the Ruling House.
He said his own argument is based on the 1979 Edict…?
That Edict is fraudulent, it is traditional fraud.
It has been faulted by many people some people even went to Court.
Has it been amended or abrogated?
When the grandfather of Prince Tsola Emiko came as the king, the edict was not followed. When Atuwatse came…. What do you mean by edict? In most cases the leaders of the ruling house will sit down and deliberate on who to ascend the throne.
Yes they will follow the edict but in most cases, the leaders of the Ruling House will sit down and decide who is to ascend the throne
What is Ayiri saying? He is not a member of the Ruling House. You can’t be crying more than the bereaved. So, my advice to him is to leave exile and come home and resolve his problem with the Ruling House. He has no problem with us- the Chiefs. It’s the Ruling House that suspended him. So he should come home and resolve the issue with the ruling house instead of wagging with the problem; that is my advice to him as a friend, brother and a co-chief.
He said the suspension is null and void because it is only his family the Ologbotsere, that can suspend him..?
Ologbotsere family? Who gave him the title? The Ruling House has the power. Let me tell you one thing, if a man marries a woman and after sometimes the man joins his ancestors and the family says “our wife, we are sorry your husband is dead, go home,” will the woman not go home? Will she say that since you are not the one that married me, I will not leave?
So, he better be advised to retrace his track and think of how to resolve with his kingdom. His suspension stands!
He said that when he was nominated for Ologbotsere position that initially he was rejected and there were publications that the Oracle didn’t choose him…cuts in…
Nobody said the Oracle didn’t choose him; they said he’s too young. The Itsekiris said he was too young to occupy such position, that the position is bigger than him. And that is the character he is displaying now to the whole world. The Itsekiri people said Chief Ayiri Emami, who was the Akurakpa then, cannot be the Ologbotsere. But the Olu said he was his friend and he has already pronounced it before so he went on and bestowed the title of Ologbotsere on him. So we expect him to change. The entire Itsekiri, 100 per cent Itsekiri are with Prince Tsola Emiko. They are all rejoicing. It’s now Ayiri Emami vs Itsekiri Nation. It’s not proper.
Since he is still your son, what are your plans to calm him?
I have spoken to his brother who is also a Chief that he should tell him to return from exile; that he should come home so that we can find a way to resolve the matter. I’m not happy that he is being suspended. We have a lot of things to do in the palace. We need him and he needs us. Once he comes and we see that he is remorseful, I think we will find a way to beg the Ruling House to resolve the matter and call off the suspension.
What is your message to the Itsekiri nation?
My message to the Itsekiri Nation is to remain calm, quiet and join hands together to see that we crown the Olu-designate.
Do you want to reassure the world that the selection of Prince Tsola Emiko was authentic based on the pronouncement of the Oracle? Because some people still believe that that issue of Oracle is also fraud?
Prince Tsola Emiko is the choice of the entire Itsekiri and the choice of the Oracle. The voice of the people is the voice of God.
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