By Jesutega Onokpasa
Now that wise, thoughtful and courageous Itsekiris have been bold and forthright enough to do the needful and reveal an Olu-Designate for their kingdom, one would had expected the naysayers to have had a rethink, come to their senses and embraced the will of the people. Unfortunately, Ayiri Emami (even though he has already been sacked by the Regent of Warri, Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh and indeed by the entire Ginuwa I Ruling House, the one and only royal institution in Itsekiriland) is still insisting, in concert with certain quite clearly misguided Itsekiris, that the young prince and now Olu-Designate, Tsola Emiko, can never be king.
It seems to be the destiny of certain people to keep acting foolishly, conducting themselves in the manner of compound fools and multiplying their transgressions, iniquities and stupidities until they finally meet with the inevitable disaster they invited upon themselves.
In the few days since I felt compelled to make my intervention in this matter, I have received all manner of feedback from a variety of quarters, mostly positive, commendatory and quite appreciative but some, rather petty or even beyond the pale. Indeed, one obviously very poorly educated fellow even had the nerve to call me up wondering what an Okpe man could possibly really know about Itsekiris?
Well, probably as much as one quarter, if not more, of all the Itsekiris in existence today reside in Okpeland. The politics of Warri North Local Government Area is basically determined in Sapele! Perhaps as many as one-third of all Itsekiris are related, one way or the other, to Okpe. I cannot count the Itsekiris I know, who are partly ancestrally from Mereje, alone, so why should it be a surprise that people who, while dwelling in close proximity, must end up regularly interacting with one another, should come to know one or two things about one another?
The Itsekiris have been accommodated, harboured and given refuge by Okpes for generations. Indeed, if an Itsekiri man should, for whatever reason, feel endangered wherever he is in Itsekiriland, his destination of choice is usually Okpe where he is sure to feel safe, protected and no longer in danger!
An Okpe man can confidently boast that he has been a very good neighbour, great friend, big brother, and, most accommodating and tolerant host to the Itsekiris for a long time. Indeed, the Okpes can claim to be the chief benefactors of the Itsekiris more than any other ethnic nationality including the Binis or the Yorubas!
An Okpe man owes no apologies to Ayiri Emami or any other Itsekiris of similar misguided disposition; the Okpe man has been a good samaritan and true fellow Niger Deltan compatriot to the Itsekiris and what he deserves is thanks from noble-minded Itsekiris, not insults or innuendos from ingrates and ignoramuses amongst them.
Yet another clown had called me from Warri asking why a lawyer would refer to a law as a “load of crap”. Well, this lawyer has an even worse term for it: the 1979 Edict is more worthless than the toilet paper of its architects. The Itsekiris might not know it but many people were quite incredulous when that insane edict came to limelight, knowing full well it was all a cookedup broil of poisonous crap contrived by a bunch of self-seeking power mongers contrary to the entire origin and authentic tradition of the Itsekiris.
Who do this people think they can just keep fooling all in a bid to keep feasting and feeding fat on what really belongs to the Itsekiris as a whole? What is that kindergarten nonsense about someone’s mother having to come from Benin or Itsekiri? What, if one may ask, is the very origin of the Itsekiri Monarchy and the beginning of Ginuwa I Ruling House, in the first place?
Ginuwa, a Benin Prince started his dynasty by marrying an Ijaw woman and producing his successor. Ginuwa I Ruling House is essentially a Benin-Ijaw dynasty! At any rate, there is certainly more Ijaw blood among the Itsekiri royals than Itsekiri blood! Perhaps if a genetic profile of the House of Ginuwa were to be undertaken, we might even end up finding more Okpe blood amongst them than Itsekiri blood.
Indeed, during the Warri Crisis, I was consistently mystified and aghast that people who are all closely related were nevertheless busy slaughtering one another! Who, in Warri, is not related to his nextdoor neighbour from an adjacent ethnic group? Yet some fool thinks he can just brandish a worthless sheet of paper he calls an edict and on the basis of that seek to deny a prince his throne while insisting it is his privilege to singlehandedly impose a monarch on his fellow Itsekiris!
If the original mother of the Ginuwas was Ijaw and not Benin or Itsekiri, why must the Ginuwas of today be constrained to be born of Benin or Itsekiri mothers or be effectively rendered illegitimate? If my mother is from Okpe, who are you to tell me I cannot marry from the same Okpe or indeed anywhere else of my choice but must look for a wife specifically from either Siberia or Antarctica or my child will not be allowed to inherit my property? What a most stupefying demonstration of utter insanity!
If the young man, Prince Tsola Emiko is oppressed and ganged-up against, all over again, and not allowed to mount the throne of his forefathers, neither should Ayiri’s stooge be allowed to do the same! Itsekiri cannot have sunk so low that thugs should now be able to pick and choose a king for an entire nation. This highly infuriating crap about an edict must stop before it leads to something else entirely in Itsekiriland!
If Ayiri, in concert with certain clearly misguided and rather quite shameless members of the Emiko family, who seem to have forgotten that they are royals and it is an abomination for them to be kowtowing to a commoner like Ayiri, go ahead to deny their own brother and Crown Prince, Tsola Emiko his throne, well, I have a better, more comprehensive and potentially more lasting solution to the debacle. However, those Emikos now conspiring with Ayiri should not for one moment think that it is going to benefit them; far from it!
Whereas you might think that by keeping your doors firmly shut, your curtains down and your windows shuttered, you are safe from the prying eyes of the outside world, more often than not, your neighbour, without even looking, might end up actually knowing more about your own household than you, the owner, head and master of that house. Indeed, if the Itsekiris who know will not tell their fellow Itsekiris the truth, then they might as well hear it from their Okpe neighbour and ber grateful for it!
Is anyone out there in Itsekiriland pretending not to know what led the Itsekiri nation into its present highly embarrassing though quite avoidable circumstances?
Does anyone want to pretend he is not familiar with the history of Olu Akengbuwa and his two wives who were actually sisters or how Akengbuwa’s youngest son (but firstborn of his first wife), Prince Ogbe Yowuren, had to leave Ode Itsekiri to seek refuge in Ugbuwangue?
What of the dimension regarding the Ifa priest Akengbuwa had invited from the Yoruba country to perform divination regarding his successor, who was then intercepted, ambushed and assassinated though not until he was able to place a curse on the land, never to know peace until justice was done and it had been cleansed?
Is it really a secret how Yowuren’s two elder brothers, sons of the second wife died; how their sister, Princess Iye, then insisted on becoming regent; how she ended up unraveling; and, how the nation then descended into interregnum?
In this neck of the woods that it has pleased God to bring us all together as our common homeland, our cultures are essentially the same and only accidentally differentiated. The Itsekiris are not the only or even the first tribe to incur a monarchical interregnum. How such matters are usually resolved is to restore the monarchy by crowning a king from where it was truncated in the first place.
Thus, here in Okpe, for instance, when the monarchy was reinstituted under the encouragement of the colonial administration, it was restored back to Esezi Ruling House, from where it had been severed in the first place, before it was then allowed to begin rotating amongst the four ruling houses.
In defiance of this compelling logic, the Itsekiris somehow decided to correct a mistake by repeating the mistake with most unpalatable consequences for the average Itsekiri till date!
Since it was the prevention of Prince Yowuren from ascending the throne of his ancestors that led to the interregnum, then the proper, lasting, sustainable and only viable solution to the problem was to have simply restored the throne to the same Yowuren branch of Ginuwa I Ruling House and after that to begin rotating it with the branch of the Akengbuwa line the Emikos belong to.
If Ayiri and his collaborators amongst the Emikos insist that Tsola Emiko must not become king on account of their junk edict, then neither should those other Emikos become king either, for they are not in any way more suitable candidates for the throne according to the true and ancient Itsekiri culture and heritage which were basically bastardised by the obnoxious and self-serving edict in question.
In that case, and if it were up to me, I would simply ask the Yowurens to produce a candidate and promptly proceed to have him crowned Olu in the hope that this would cleanse the kingdom of the atrocities and abominations that led to the interregnum which were not corrected upon the restoration of the monarchy and are yet to be remedied till date thus leaving their consequences still hanging over the destiny of the kingdom like a sword of Damocles.
However, it is not up to me and unlike Ayiri and his co-travellers who always insist on having their way, I am a man of reason, dialogue and aggregation for the purpose of arriving at just and equitable resolutions to issues
So instead of anyone being imposed on anyone, my humble suggestion will be to let each branch of Ginuwa I Ruling House bring forth a candidate and let the right person emerge as king, indeed in accordance with the ancient customs and traditions of the Itsekiris, provided that the processes are transparent, credible and acceptable to all, and, not subjected to crooked manipulation or corrupted by sharp practices in any way, shape or form.
This, to me, is a fair and balanced solution capable of addressing the problem from its very root rather than the application of mere palliatives to an issue of truly weighty dimensions. This approach to the resolution of the debacle should prove attractive to anyone whose hands are truly clean, who does not have a hidden agenda and who genuinely wishes Itsekiri well.
Addressing the issue of Olu Akengbuwa is the key to the overall resolution of recurring problematic succession among the Itsekiris. Indeed, I believe what led to the interregnum and the failure of the Itsekiri ethnic nationality to resolve it justly and equitably has been of grave and onerous damaging impact to the fortunes of the Itsekiris in general.
Before the interregnum, the Itsekiris were consistently on good, amicable and amiable terms with all the surrounding tribes and the sort of interethnic strife, tribal belligerence and native wars we are living witnesses to were unheard of then.
The phenomenon of proletarian potentates who would arise to fill the vacuum of the interregnum did not yet exist so no one resented or opposed the Itsekiris on account of the excesses of commoners who would later rise to prominence in Itsekiriland and who, lacking the nobility, skill, tact and finese of royals would end up making enemies of the neighbouring ethnic nationalities.
The inclination toward laying claim to what belongs to others while ignoring what actually belongs to you had not yet attained prominence in Itsekiriland. Indeed, at that time, it was a thing of pride for members of other tribes to want to be associated with the Itsekiris, unlike today that many are just shaking their heads wondering how art the mighty fallen!
A situation wherein their Royal Family has become the recurrent victim of blackmail and manipulation by ambitious commoners like Ayiri and those that came before him should no longer be tolerated by the Itsekiris.
Yet, who is truly to blame for leaving this problem unattended for so long? Frankly, I would blame the Yowurens, themselves, first and foremost, for having rather curiously ignored their inheritance and entitlement while the Itsekiri nation kept going down under the onslaught of thugs and other rascally elements.
The Emikos, on their part, ought not to have become comfortable with ruling successively knowing full well that their Yowuren flesh and blood have a superior traditional claim to the throne and ought to rule for the mistakes of the past to be finally corrected in the land. They could at least had proposed a rotational arrangement and solved this problem for the Itsekiris long ago instead of simply enjoying the throne with the kingdom increasingly losing its prestige.
Yet, the greatest share of the blame must go to the Itsekiris in general. It is most ill-advised for an entire ethnic nationality to be engaged in a conspiracy of silence wherein the truth is well-known by key persons and stakeholders yet actively suppressed or pointedly ignored by them, while miscreants and hustlers wave meaningless edicts and pompously claim that the succession to the Oluship is restricted to the children of three kings from one family as if within the House of Ginuwa, though all Ginuwas are equal, some Ginuwas are more equal than others!
Let those of the Emiko Royal Family presently in league with Ayiri and others plotting to cheat Tsola Emiko out of his inheritance not, even for a moment, think they can have their way and get away with it. If they are not careful, the kingship of Itsekiri will simply move from their family to the Yowurens who ought to have had it long ago and averted the interregnum or, at any rate, upon the reinstitution of the monarchy for balance to be restored to the kingdom.
Whatever the Itsekiris choose to do, Ayiri must not be allowed to produce a king for them or they will continue walking in circles in the wilderness of things needlessly left undone, quite apart from the fact that they would have lost what precious little respect they still had in the ever widening eyes of their neighbours.
Onokpasa, a lawyer, wrote from Sapele
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