Grand farewell for Olu of Warri
A CULTURAL carnival best describes the 14-day entombment rites in honour of the 19th Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse II, who mounted the throne on May 2, 1987 and joined his ancestors on September 3, 2015. He is believed to be the most celebrated king that has ruled the Itsekiri nation in view of his exposure and foresight with which he ruled for 28 years.
Ode-Itsekiri, the ancestral home of the Itsekiri, were the ceremonies took place, wore a jubilant ambience. The significance of holding the rites at Ode-Itsekiri instead of main Warri, according to Prince Ebiyemi Emiko, younger brother to the late Olu, is that Ode-Itsekiri community is the traditional headquarters of the Itsekiri kingdom, where the real Warri started before migrating to other communities.
As the curtain fell on the burial rites last Friday, the Itsekiri people have reverted to their traditional way of dressing to signal the end of the mourning period for their revered king. Immediately after the demise of Olu was made public, Itsekiri people turned their clothes upside down as a mark of mourning.
Encomiums were poured on the monarch, who the Itsekiri still believe is asleep but not dead. Prince Ebiyemi Emiko likened his late elder brother to the Shakespearan quote: “Some are born great; some achieve greatness, and some have it thrust on them. Ogiame Atuwatse II was not a bust made of bronze. He was a man of blood and flesh, a son and a husband, a brother and a friend, a father, our king. That is why we learned so much from him and we are still learning.”
General Yakubu Gowon (Rtd), former Head of State, who earlier kick-started the commendation service that heralded the burial rites, described the late king as a humble, selfless, hardworking and God-fearing leader, who ruled his people with the fear of God. Gowon, who was represented by the Secretary-General of the Bible Society of Nigeria, Richard Ajiboye, revealed that when the Itsekiri Bible came on board in 2015, the late king donated handsomely to support the project.
Friday, November 20, marked the end of the rites when an all night prayer was held. Speaking on the significant of the ceremony, a prominent Itsekiri women leader, Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor, the Igba of Warri Kingdom, described the occasion as a unifying factor for the Itsekiri people, saying the crown is the only thing that holds the Itsekiri people together.
She said: “I can tell you that when it comes to the Itsekiri crown, we are one united people. We may quarrel among ourselves and have our differences, but when the Olu tells us to come together we will obey. When he tells us to stop fighting, we stop immediately. That is the beauty of an Olu in Warri kingdom.”
Robinson Ariyo, an Itsekiri custom connoisseur, said Warri Kingdom, which has been around for over five hundred years old, has a rich cultural heritage, adding that witnessing the burial of an Olu is a gifted experience that cannot be taken for granted because it does not happen often.
“What is happening today is divinely ordained. A lot of Itsekiris have had issues of disunity for a very long time. For me the only one point agenda of the new Olu of Warri is unification of the Itsekiris. I believe he is the only person that can spearhead that unity now. This period is a period that God has made to redress all injuries and to heal all wounds of all Itsekiris.”