After four days of intense pressure from his subjects, the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse II, yesterday capitulated. The royal father capitulated about 11:20pm after much pressure by various groups and Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State.
Thousands of youths and women had laid siege to the Olu’s palace (Aghofen), Ugbori located in Ajamimogha area of Warri, in protest over the declaration of the monarch entitled “The New Order of Iwere Kingdom”.
The elders and leaders of thought had told the monarch point-blank that if he failed to rescind and recant his declaration immediately, he should be prepared to face the wrath of the people.
In a position paper obtained by LEADERSHIP last Monday night, the Itsekiri leaders under the auspices of Itsekiri Legacy Rebirth, a prominent Itsekiri elders/opinion leaders group, had dissociated themselves from the contentious declaration, saying it was not binding on anybody in the land.
The paper was signed by Pa J. O.S Ayomike and Chief Israel O. Jemide. They said that about eight of 19 Olus got baptized as Christian and, as such, the Itsekiri nation cannot be said to have a covenant with “Umalokun” (goddess of the sea).
While saying a pocket of people may have had covenant with the “Umalokun”, the leaders insisted that everyone has freedom of worship as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution, adding that “religion is a personal matter” that should not be forced on the people.
They said that no one has stopped Atuwatse II from being a “devout” Christian as the country’s constitution gives him the fundamental right to practise a religion of his belief without let or hindrance.
Even the presence of heavily armed security agents mobilised to the palace at Ugboren in Ajamimogha area did not deter the protesters as they turned out in thousands from their various communities in both upland and riverine areas to resist the “new order”.
LEADERSHIP observed that an indication that the royal father had yielded was first manifested when cannon shots were fired at about 11:30pm, which was very unusual.
Shortly after, the Warri Council chiefs emerged from the palace to drop the cheering news to the protesters amidst wild jubilation.
Spokesman of the council Chief Charles Ikomi told the crowd that the Olu of Warri had accepted to “drop the issue”.
Chief (Mrs) Rita Lori-Ogbebor commended the angry Itsekiris comprising old men, women and youths for their peaceful protests in the past few days and urged them to return to their various homes because “our monarch has dropped the issue”.
The message was terse but the protesters were satisfied and went into wild jubilation, while the masquerades spiced the occasion with different traditional dances.
Another round of cannon shots was fired after the message was delivered, signalling the Itsekiris’ acceptance of the new position of their royal father.
LEADERSHIP observed that the Council of Chiefs thereafter returned to the palace to thank the monarch for the decision while the celebration lasted amongst the indigenes.
It was gathered that the monarch yielded to the demands of his subjects following deferent pressures from various groups and the 48 hours’ ultimatum given by the elders of the kingdom for the Olu of Warri to rescind his position.
LEADERSHIP learnt that he saw the need to listen to the cries of his subjects following the desertion of three of his cabinet members, who said that they did not know the reason for appending their signatures to the document; one escaped to Port Harcourt to escape the wrath of their kinsmen and women.
The Itsekiri elders under the aegis of Itsekiri Elders and Leaders of Thought, after several hours of deliberations and consultations on Monday, had given the Olu of Warri 48 hours to rescind his declaration or abdicate the throne.
Before the monarch yielded to the demands of his subjects, a heavy security web was weaved around the palace yesterday with the presence of soldiers, navy, air force, police and civil defence personnel.
The crisis rocking the Itsekiri community in Delta State has assumed a new dimension as some members of Itsekiri ethnic nationality want the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse II, to honourably step aside, alleging that the monarch was dragging the name of the Itsekiri nation to the mud.
Besides, 22 palace chiefs of Olu of Warri have also added their voices to the demand of the Itsekiri community, urging the traditional ruler to withdraw his declaration.
The Olu of Warri had on September 4, 2013 renounced the Ogiame tittle and other traditional rites being practiced by the Itsekiri people.
In a statement released yesterday evening,Warri Council of Chiefs said the Itsekiri monarch was being deceived by a few powerseeking individuals with hidden agenda but have finally abandoned him (Olu) in the heat of the unwarranted and unacceptable declaration allegedly made by the monarch.
In the statement, signed by 22 of the palace Chiefs present and read by Chief (Mrs) Rita Lori-Ogbebor, they maintained that the name Ogiame has nothing to do with any deity, noting that in "Warri Kingdom, there are Christians, Muslims and pagans to the extent that the Olu appointed an Itsekiri as a Chaplain for the Kingdom.
She said now that the game was up "the authors of the edict have abandoned His Majesty and gone into hiding and admonished the royal father to toe the path of honour and withdraw the declaration, noting that "to use force or law or edict will be counterproductive."
"The truth of the whole scenario is that a few selfish and power-seeking individuals with hidden agenda masterminded the crafting of this said edict. Now that the game is up the authors have abandoned the monarch and have gone into hiding.
" The hand writing on the wall is now clear that the monarch has been deceived and consequently the Olu should follow the path of honour and withdraw the declaration."
" Thereafter he will settle down to reign as a dedicated missionary and whosoever will, may become converted . To use force or law or edict will be counter productive," the statement concluded.
Meanwhile, thousands of Itsekiris from within and outside the state had since last Saturday, laid siege on the palace of the king preventing people from coming in and going out of the palace.
It was gathered that as at yesterday, the protesters were yet to drop their demand for the Olu to step aside since he has refused to rescind his decision. Also, there was a free -for-all between those who were supporting the royal father and those against the decision.
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