Uneasy calm reigned in Warri yesterday as protests by Itsekiri chiefs and youths against the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse 11, over his decision to renounce his traditional title, persisted.
The protests in the commercial hub of Delta State continued despite the intervention of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan. Already, the Itsekiri Council of Chiefs and leaders of youth groups have asked the embattled monarch to either rescind his decision to dump Itsekiri tradition or vacate the throne.
The Council of Chiefs, headed by the Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom, Chief Gabriel Mabiaku, expressed resentment that the monarch denounced the Ogiame title and asked him to abdicate as a viable option.
The chiefs, who met at the palace ground at Ekurede-Itsekiri, located in Warri metropolis yesterday, insisted that the monarch had no business remaining in the palace if he would not answer to the title of Ogiame.
In the alternative, they asked the frontline royal father to rescind his decision to dump Itsekiri tradition in favour of Christian faith in the administration of the kingdom. The Itsekiri monarch incurred the wrath of his subjects lately when he denounced traditional and cultural beliefs of the Itsekiri in the running of the affairs of the kingdom.
The protesters were worried by the monarch’s decision to abolish the ancient Itsekiri masquerades being paraded during traditional festivals. Atuwatse II had declared in a document entitled, “The new order of Iwere Kingdom,” that the “Ogiame” title, which had been in existence for over 500 years, would cease to exist following the recent consecration of the kingdom to God.
“Ogiame” means “King of the river,” according to the history behind the Itsekiri throne. The monarch, in the document, said he had renounced his allegiance to the “Umalokun”, goddess of the sea, land and sky as well as the “Ogiame” title to which his ancestors had pledged allegiance to “Umalokun” and other deities. This decision sparked riots by his subjects, especially the youths, led by a notable Itsekiri youth leader, Mr. Omolubi Newumi.
The palace of the monarch had been barricaded since the document was made public last week as protesters, including women and youths set up camp at the entrance of the palace. The protesters had remained there in the past four days as they carried out normal life activities at the scene.
Itsekiri masquerades were also mobilised to the scene apparently to give vent to the action being coordinated by Newumi. In another development, the Warri Council of Chiefs last night said the Olu of Warri was deceived by some power-seeking individuals with hidden agenda to renounce the tradition of his kingdom. Rising from a meeting at the palace, the council said those that deceived the monarch had abandoned him in the heat of the unwarranted and unacceptable declaration by the monarch.
A statement signed by 22 of the palace chiefs and read by the Igba of Warri Kingdom, Chief (Mrs.) Rita Lori-Ogbebor, the council said that the title had nothing to do with any deity, adding 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.
“Now that the game is up, the authors of the edict have abandoned His Majesty and gone into hiding. The royal father has to toe the path of honour and withdraw the declaration. 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 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 be become converted. To use force or law or edict will be counterproductive,” the statement concluded.
Meanwhile, Uduaghan, who is also an Itsekiri, has remained resolute in the resolution of the impasse. The governor, who was in Warri on Sunday, met the monarch and other stakeholders, including the chiefs and protesting youths. He called for restraint and barred the combatants from making public comments on the matter. It was also learnt that the governor is keeping tabs with the relevant stakeholders apparently to ensure that the parties keep their sides of the bargain to maintain the peace.
Culleed from NATIONAL MIRROR