OLA ‘KIYA and RITA ENEMURU, who discreetly monitored the activities that highlighted the colourful first coronation anniversary of the 21st Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse III, lay bare their impressions.
PERHAPS currently the most delectable and candescent among his contemporaries across the black race, the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse III, ascended the exalted throne of his forebears on the auspicious and metaphoric day of August 21, 2021 as the 21st Olu of Warri for a reason.
In numerology, every number has its own significance. Olu of Warri was crowned August 21 in year 2021 as the 21st monarch of Iwereland! This is significant. At the risk of sounding esoteric, we can see the triple number of 1 as well as 2, both of which appear three times each. According to numerologists, Joy, faith, and confidence are all related to the number 2. It also provides a sense of direction and direction in life.
Number 1, on the other hand, is associated with leadership, individuality, inspiration, and fresh starts. It is described as a sign of self-expression and creativity. It’s a sign of God’s grace and favour! Wow!!!
Given the above, one is, therefore, not too surprised at the blessings and honour and grandeur that have characterised the last 365 days reign of Ogiame Atuwatse III as the comely concepts enumerated can be seen finding loud expressions in the Warri monarch.
To refresh our memories, the monarch emerged after the sudden passage of Ogiame Ikenwoli amid controversies, ranging from the suspension of Chief Ayirimi Emami, deposed Ologbostere (Prime Minister) to the stealing of the Royal Crown, and the eventual coronation of Omoba Tsola Emiko as the new Olu Of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse III.
The coronation of Prince Tsola Emiko as the 21st Olu of Warri took place at Ode-Itsekiri, the ancestral headquarters of the Itsekiris on August 21, 2021 making it a reverberatingly significant event in the history of the Itsekiri nation with the event rated one of the 10 top events that rocked the globe in 2021 according to the BBC.
- The Five-Day Anniversary Celebration
About a week to the commencement of the celebration to mark his first year anniversary, the wisdom-filled Atuwatse III, declared a five-day celebration – August 17 – 21 – with several spirit-filled and fun-filled events across Iwereland. This was besides earlier engagements he had had in other parts of the kingdom ahead of the anniversary. Below are highlights of the five days:
- Day 1 of praise and play
The anniversary celebration started on Wednesday, August 17, 2022 with the Iwere Praise day. On the praise day service, many Iwere natives showcased different cultural dances with joyous and precise, frenetic moves. The Praise Service took place at the Aghofen (Palace) Church in Warri at 2:00p.m. The service featured talented and great performers from various gospel singers from the great Warri Kingdom. The people of Iwere came out in large numbers singing, dancing and giving thanks to God for a great and successful first year of the reign of their king on the ancestral throne.
The wife of the Olu, Olori Ivie Atuwatse III, made a post on her official Instagram Page that there is too much to be thankful for in the past one year.
“I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.
“Today, my husband, the Ogiame Atuwatse III, @oluofwarri led the entire nation of Warri in a praise offering to the Lord. We sang, we danced, we offered incense to the Lord with the fruit of our lips
“There is too much to be grateful for to our God and our Father who has kept us and perpetuated peace in Iwere land in the past year.
“Warri will continually praise the Lord and make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted,” she posted.
Earlier in the day, a Novelty Match between Ebiren Olori Vs Dynamic Ladies Club among other teams had held, and as expected, thousands of Itsekiri turned up in jubilant mood to see the match at Nana Model College, Warri.
It was an interesting and joy-filled match as joyous Itsekiris watch their handsome king play soccer with the assistance of his Olori and Super Eagles legend, Victor Ikpeba, to their admiration.
The female match held between Ebiren Olori FC and the Dynamic Ladies Club and ended 3-3, while the main match of the day, featuring star-studded Chevron Football Club and the Itsekiri National Youth Council FC, ended 1-1 draw according to a report on Stonix News. The day’s event, however, climaxed with a game between Chevron FC Vs INYC which also ended one all.
- Day 2 of Paint Ball and Music Concert
The activities of the second day of the coronation events included a Paint Ball Competition, a kind of novel sport in this part of the world, which started around 11:00a.m on Thursday, August 18, at the Palace Field and Iwere Music Concerts which started around 5:00p.m at Brown Hill Event Center, Ogunu.
The music concert began with the grand entry of radiant Ogiame Atuwatse III and his elegant Olori, Ivie Atuwatse III in dashing Royal White and Blue apparel. With an opening prayer, the Nigerian National Anthem and the Itsekiri Anthem following in succession, the ambience became saturated with angelic voices reenacting legendary German-British Baroque composer, George Frideric Handel well known operas, oratorios, anthems, concerti grossi, and organ concertos! Partly from hymnal renditions by the royal choir, some distinguished individuals had their solos that could match any such performance across the globe.
The individual poetic and panegyric recitations extolling the Olu and the rich history and culture of the Itsekiri heritage, to the melodious songs rendition to God by the Itsekiri Royal Choir, were the breathtaking performances that marked the day special! The atmosphere was, as usual, resplendent and colourful with hundreds of Iwere sons and daughters in attendance in awe decorum. The event, which held at BrownHill Event Centre, ended with the official unveiling of the Royal Iwere Society by the Olu himself.
The society, according to the Olu will be the hub that will harness and promote the Kingdom’s immanent identity, history, artifact, arts and culture.
Unveiling the Royal Iwere Society, the Olu of Warri affirmed:
“Itsekiri has potential and the choir is an example of the treasure embedded in Itsekiri. This is what we can be and will be. We will submit ourselves to God and surpass what we are doing now.
“In many ways, this is something we have been looking at and this shall inspire in you, unprecedented greatness.
“This society shall help to coordinate and organize a central resource central for all Itsekiris. This is the hub that will catches initiative that will promote our identity, arts, history and cultural practices.
“This Society has the aim to revive the Iwere Identity and bring it to the era of the 21st century.
“It shall help our children identify with our heritage. Values such as honour, respect, diligence and loyalty are timeless and cannot be over-emphasised.
“Royal Ogiame Society will be the hub to ensure that our society evolves We must continue with what keeps us loyal and true to our origin.
“Prior to today, there are some who have said as the unofficial records pertaining to Itsekiri.
“Today, I am calling for every piece of literature written about or in the interest of Itsekiri in whatever form to be brought to the society.
“Every degree, judgement, treaty, document about or in the interest of should be submitted.
“We shall come up with detailed image history and how various individuals are tired to their communities.
“We shall come up with detailed history of all the chieftaincy titles that has been in existence and the names of the individuals who have held the status at various times.
“There will be debate, lectures, plays, dance dramas and specific examination of our relations and interaction with all of our neighbours- Urhobos, Ijaws, Isoko, Nembe, Benin, Yorubas Igalas and so on.
“This will be a centre to look at our past, to live in our present and chart out the path of our future. This society will be chaired by myself and the various individuals who will be heading departments of the society will be communicated in due time.”
- Day 3 of medical outreach
The third day of the anniversary celebration, Friday August 19, 2022, was celebrated in Koko, one of the ancient communities of the Itsekiri nation in Warri North Local Government Area where the Iwereland extends.
The indigenes of the community and its environs came out in a humongous numbers to receive His Majesty, Atuwatse III and his Olori. There were different groups of cultural dancers and singers, who, with happiness written all over their faces, took delight in performing for the king. Some royal gun salutes, to express the boundless joy of people, rented the air.
One of the memorable things that happened on this day was the presentation of 600 birth certificates to the children of the community by Olori Atuwatse III to mark the Health Day at the Community Town Hall.
The presentation of the certificates, according to the Olori, is to give the children a form of identification as part of the initiatives set aside to mark the king’s first year coronation anniversary.
Presenting the certificates, and rolling out the significance, Olori said:
“When we decided to do this in celebration of our king’s first year coronation anniversary, we felt it important that we do it differently.
“It beats my knowledge that most of our children don’t have an identity. Internationally, it is part of a child’s right to have identification.
“What do I mean by they don’t have identity? Their children are born and there are no birth certificates to correspond with their births, the dates they were born and their names.
“I felt it very important that we make amends for that and so I began to make provisions for about 600 birth certificates to children in Koko community.
“And as part of this initiative, we would make sure to do that in the other communities that we visit. Once you have an identification (birth certificate), your child has a future.
“The child is more likely to have a passport, to have a job and to apply for things he could not apply for otherwise.
“As a mother of the great Itsekiri people, I believe this is the first step in ensuring that Itsekiri has a future and a voice.
“In honour of our great leader and king, Ogiame Atuwatse III, I want to encourage you that we are here to promote the future of the Itsekiri which is our children.”
Speaking at the event, elated Olu of Warri called on members of the community, who are embittered and have grievances to reconcile ahead of the development that is coming to the community.
- Day 4 At Ancestral Home
The activities of the fourth day of the coronation anniversary took off at Ode-Itsekiri (Big Itsekiri), which is the ancestral home of the Iwere people where the Olu was historically crowned on Saturday, August 21, 2021.
The day was set aside specifically for paying of homages to the king and, as usual, the venue was filled with people. From Warri Club in Warri mainland, it’s about seven to eight minutes ride on a flying boat.
Itsekiri sons and daughters, as early as 8:00a.m, appeared in large groups, donning elegant dresses and displaying a wide variety of Itsekiri culture through their speeches, dances and other forms of cultural expressions.
The chiefs and folks from different Itsekiri communities ranging from Omadino, Ijala, Aja-Igba, Aja-Okugbawa and others, were present to honour their king in ritual dances and songs. Itsekiri groups like Warri Progressive Society, Association of Drivers, DESOPADEC Staff, Itsekiri Renaissance Group, Warri Ladies Vanguard and priests and bishops of Itsekiri extraction were also not left out in the homage-paying that held in the gorgeous hall which was started by Ogiame Atuwatse II and being completed by Ogiame Atuwatse III.
Most notable highlight of the event at Ode-Itsekiri was people of Inorin, an aboriginal community in Warri Kingdom, who were led by Chief Rita Lori Ogbebor’s daughter, presenting a sculpture of the late Ogiame Atuwatse II to the 21st Olu in memory of his father. It was a moment of sober reflection as the Olu gazed at his father’s statue in awe and somewhat astonishment. The presentation was greeted with an uproarious chants of eulogies on the late Ogiame, whom the people loved.
Special dignitaries from other parts of the country, who graced the occasion at Ode-Itsekiri, included the Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado Bayero and the Dein of Agbor Kingdom – a somewhat close friend and ally of the Olu of Warri.
- Day 5 of Thanksgiving to God
The day, Sunday August 21, 2022, which is the actual anniversary day, started with an age-long ritual worship. Thus, in the early hours of the day, inside the over 500 years old Aghofen (palace) of the Olu of Warri at the ancestral home of the Itsekiri nation – Ode-Itsekiri (Big Warri), Ogiame Atuwatse III received, in audience, members of the Ugogo-Maru (Ruling House) as It’s customary of an Itsekiri king.
As gathered, it is a tradition for the Ruling House, at dawn, to be the first to pay homage to the Ogiame at the wee hours of his coronation anniversary. The Royal Family is, willy nilly, expected to appear in white traditional attire to pay the ritual homage – a century-old tradition that has also been upheld and accentuated by the youngest 21st Olu of Warri Kingdom.
Being the day of the grand finale, which was also the Thanksgiving Service of the coronation anniversary, the Palace Church was packed full with dignitaries and people from all walks of life. The entire palace and environs appeared bursting with hordes of heads of Itsekiri who, perhaps after their ritual worship service in their various churches, practically mobbed the palace and desiring to catch a glimpse, and of course, fun, of the happenings at the grand finale event.
In a rhythmic plot, the event swirled from hymns rendition, praises and worship to the sermon by the General Overseer of Word of Life Bible Church, Pastor Ayo Oristejafor, an Itsekiri himself, to prayers for the Olu, Warri kingdom, Delta State and Nigeria, to offerings and Thanksgiving. These were followed swiftly by homage-paying at the palace hall amid conviviality that’s not devoid of the usual human inadequacies in the area of shoddy preparation against crowd containment.
In another slide, the grand finale availed political juggernauts jostling for political offices ahead of the 2023 general elections to register their gregarious presence. Among them were Delta State governorship candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ovie Omo-Agege, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Great Ogboru and Social Democratic Party (SDP), Kenneth Gbagi, whose presidential candidate, Prince Adewole Adebayo, was also in attendance. Incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Speaker Sheriff Oborevwori and other government functionaries were not left out at the event.
- Accomplishments in 365 days
One year of the youngest Olu of Warri ever was characterised by incredible achievements across Iwereland. Since his enthronement, the Olu has spent time visiting different communities of Iwere kingdom as well as settling disputes and bringing up great innovations for the development of the Iwere Kingdom. Notable among his strides include:
- Establishment of Ghigho-Aghofen
His Majesty, Ogiame Atuwatse III introduced a significant event known as Ghigho- Aghofen (Palace Watch) exactly four months after he mounted the exalted throne.
Ghigho-Aghofen is a socio-cultural initiative that was introduced into the affairs of the Warri Kingdom by the Olu in December, 2021. The initiative was created to showcase the long existing and rich Iwere cultural heritage to the world and other ethnic nationalities, and also to renew the interest of the kingdom’s rich history in the people of the Itsekiri nation.
One of Ghigho-Aghofen’s mandates is to encourage love, social connectivity, and peaceful cohabitation among the various ethnic groups in and around the Warri Kingdom.
In December 2021, when the event with the Ureju community first started, there were great cultural displays by other ethnic nationalities in addition to the community’s amazing cultural display.
- Establishment Of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Another significant thing that His Majesty, Atuwatse III did was to set up a seven-man panel on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Conflict Management on April 2022, which is headed by retired Chief Judge of Delta State, Justice Zai Oritsematosangbemi Smith.
The panel, according to the Olu, is responsible for addressing intra-community and individual disputes and individual in Warri Kingdom. The duties of the panel, as reeled out in the Royal Proclamation by Chief Brown Mene, included investigation and settlement of disagreement between individuals and groups.
They also perform additional duties that His Majesty, the Olu of Warri, may, from time to time, assign to it, provided they are properly incidental to the aforementioned duties.
- Donations of POS machines to individuals
Also in April 2022, the Olu, together with his Olori Ivie Atuwatse III in partnership with Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, gave out 1, 000 Point of Sale (POS) machines to individuals in Warri and its environs for the purpose of starting up small-scale businesses of their own. The recipients of the philanthropy cut across ethnic, political and cultural divides.
- Free treatment for cataract
In July 2022, the Olu of Warri and his Olori, in their philanthropic ministry, began a one-week free medical eye treatment programme at Agbowus Hospital, Ekurede-Itsekiri for indigenes of Itsekiri, which included 500 cataract procedures.
The exercise was facilitated by Africa Cataract and Eye Foundation and Elena Baraquer Foundation, two Benin City-based Non-Governmental Organisations.
Patients, including women, children and the elderly, flocked Agbowus hospital in droves, starting at 6:00 a.m everyday while the free medical care lasted.
Accolades for Ogiame
Apart from His Majesty, Atuwatse III, being honoured with a grand reception by diasporic Itsekiri in Calgary and Toronto in Canada, his courtesy visits to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, top government officials and chiefs, among others, have drawn some memorable remarks about his first year on the throne.
Joining the people of Iwereland in celebrating the Olu, the governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, commended him for his finesse in keeping and managing the culture of the Iwere people by promoting harmony, socio-cultural cooperation, communal camaraderie among the Itsekiri and other ethnic groups in the state.
“I join the people of Iwere nation in celebrating a great monarch and wishing him good health, wisdom and strength as he continues with the responsibility of leading his people traditionally and culturally.
“In the last one year on the throne, Atuwatse III has provided exemplary and impactful leadership by living above board, while remaining as the rallying point and inspiration for the Itsekiri people in particular, Deltans and Nigerians in general.
“I must commend your dexterity in keeping and managing the culture and tradition of Iwere people by promoting harmony, socio-cultural cooperation, communal living and peaceful co-existence among the Itsekiri and other ethnic groups in the state,” the governor enthused.
The immediate past governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, himself an Itsekiri, reeled out some actions the Olu has taken that have contributed positive impacts on Itsekiri and Warri Kingdom.
“Action to reawaken the spirit of love for each other by the people of the Itsekiri nation. Action to kill and bury forever the spirit of hatred and pull-down syndrome that was beginning to eat deep into the fabric of the Itsekiri people.
“Action to give hope and restore the confidence of the Itsekiri people. Action to rebuild the economic base and empower the Itsekiri people. Action to promote good neighbourliness and reassure our neighbours that God did not make a mistake of putting us together in this geographical location.
“Action to move our people closer to Almighty God. Ogiame, we shall continue to thank God for giving you the opportunity to lead us as our king at a time like this,” he noted in a congratulatory message to the Olu on his maiden coronation anniversary celebration.
The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Delta State, Senator Omo-Agege lauded the Olu for his role in promoting national unity and enriching the cultural values of Nigeria at large.
“Our people deeply cherish Your Majesty’s distinct place of honour as the symbol of the pristine cultural heritage and values of our Itsekiri people.
“Your special regard for the value of positive human relationships and clear vision of a modern, well-governed and organized society that is driven by the power of godly living, innovation and constructive, mutually respectful and excellent engagements across boundaries endear you to the people in unique ways,” he averred.
Omo-Agege Obarisi of Urhoboland, while paying his homage, affirmed:
“I humbly join our good people to thank God Almighty for graciously keeping you in good health and sound mind to celebrate your First Coronation Anniversary as the youngest Olu of Warri Kingdom to lead the itsekiri ethnic nation in over 500 years.”
The Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom and the most senior chief in the Warri Council of Chiefs, Chief Johnson Amatserunleghe, described the Olu as God’s blessing to the Itsekiri nation.
According to him, the Olu’s first year of reign on the throne
“has been fantastically impressive in all ramifications.
“All the Chiefs in Warri Kingdom and the Itsekiri people are very proud of our monarch. The Olu is greatly admired by everyone.”
Apart from government officials and chiefs who had wonderful things to say about the first year reign of the 21st Olu of Warri, a medical doctor at the Warri General Hospital, Dr.Felix Omatseye, who was present at the grand finale of the anniversary decked in most spectacular colourful traditional costume cum attire, has this to say about the Olu:
“We are all happy, since the day that he was crowned till now, it has been peace and happiness in the whole of Warri Kingdom.
“He brought a Golden Era to us. He sat on a golden chair when he was crowned. We have seen gold being reflected in our spiritual and financial life.
“God’s blessing, happiness, growth and positive increase are what we are expecting in all spheres of our lives in the years to come.
“He is a modern and digital king and he has met a lot of expectations. We are blessed to have a king like this and that on its own has surpassed all our expectations.
“For the 60 years I have been in existence, this is the first time I’m seeing a king that is all embracing, all-caring and spreading peace and happiness even beyond the Itsekiri Kingdom,” he said.
It will be worthy of note that during the five days that marked the first year coronation anniversary of Ogiame Atuwatse III, perhaps by sheer Providence and signature to the divine endorsement of the new Olu of Warri, the weather and sky wore the bright, clement smile of the sun, with the symbolism of some occasional drizzle, making all the activities uninterrupted, underscoring the semiotic statement that his, will be a peaceful, gracious and glorious reign.
By and large, in Ogiame Atuwatse III and his elegant Olori, royalty is seen in its grand radiance and beauty, interspliced with the fear and reverence for the King of kings. Lucky Itsekiris! The Ogiame throne is being redefined in a luminous, gracious and gorgeous manner with God at the centre stage.
Photos: #OluofWarri #Facebook