Prince Utieyinoritsola Emiko was no doubt born into royalty three years before his father, Prince Godwin Toritseju Emiko succeeded his father Ogiame Erejuwa in 1987. His mother, Princess Gladys Durorike was the daughter of Oba Sijuade Okunade, the Ooni of Ife.
Prince Utieyinoritsola’s father, Olu Atuwatse II, was Olu of Warri from 1987 to 2015. He was the 19th Olu of Warri Kingdom with the title of Ogiame Atuwatse II.
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He was born Godwin Toritseju Emiko and succeeded his father Erejuwa II as the Olu of Warri. A lawyer by profession, he was a recipient of the Commander of the Niger (CON) award.
Ogiame Atuwatse II was crowned on May 2, 1987, at a ceremony recorded as the last attended by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Awo died on May 9, 1987, a week after Atuwatse’s coronation.
Atuwatse II died at 70 in a hospital in Lagos in early September 2015.
Unlike Ogiame Atuwatse II, who succeeded his father, Ogiame Erejuwa, his son, Prince Tsola was opposed as successor to his father. He was presented for installation but certain powerful forces within the council of chiefs insisted that his brother, Prince Godfrey Ikenwoli, should ascend the throne, instead.
Ogiame Ikenwoli’s reign lasted barely five years (2015-2021) but heralded the wake of a new noveau rich political class that dictated the appropriation of the commonwealth of Itsekiri.
The Ogiame Atuwatse II of Itsekiri kingdom, a very lettered Olu of Warri who seemingly was contended, unclutched the vice grip of the political class from control of the common patrimony of the Itsekiris; especially royalties from oil companies for oil and gas exploitation in Iwereland.
It took the passage of time and eventually the death of Chief Alfred Rewane, then Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, for peace to be restored over communal battles for the control of royalties from government and oil companies.
But the political class staged a comeback in the running of communal affairs of Iwereland with the emergence of Ogiame Ikenwoli, regarded as an acolyte of a now formidable political bloc in Itsekiri nation, which assumed the sobriquet, the ‘12 Disciples’.
Ogiame Ikenwoli conferred one of the most powerful chieftaincy titles, the Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, on one of the 12 Disciples, Emami Ayiri.
Now the Olu’s Advisory Council is headed by the Ologbotsere of Warri, Chief Ayiri Emami, who wields influence over who becomes the next Olu.
It was the Ologbotsere who disrupted the ‘Omoba’ (Olu-designate) selection process and announced that Prince Tsola Emiko, erstwhile heir apparent to Ogiame Atuwatse II, cannot ascend the Olu throne over his maternity, insisting a certain customary law must be followed to the latter.
Prince Tsola was disqualified from succeeding his father because his mother is a Yoruba woman.
The 1979 edict held onto by the Ologbotsere to disqualify Prince Tsola Emiko said a candidate to the Olu of Warri throne must have an Itsekiri mother from Benin Kingdom.
Following reports of Prince Tsola’s disqualification, Chief Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, head of the royal family, announced the suspension of Chief Ayiri as the Ologbotsere and Head of the Olu’s Advisory Council and called on the Iyatsere, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe, to assume traditional authority.
The suspension of Chief Ayiri as Ologbotsere was almost immediately dismissed by members of the Ginuwa ll Ruling House, orchestrating a temporary stalemate.
But the majority of the Warri Traditional Council of Chiefs headed by the Iyatsere, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe, proceeded to formally announce the passage of His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli, the Olu of Warri.
In accordance with the Itsekiri customs and traditions, the high chief symbolically performed the breaking of three earthen (native) pots containing white native chalks, one after the other on the floor at the royal precincts.
He exclaimed “Alejefun-ooooh”, after each pot was broken, which was accompanied by 20 cannon shots. The 20 cannon shots signified that 20 Olus had reigned over Iwere (Itsekiri) land so far, of which the departed Olu Ikenwoli was the 20th.
At the end of the traditional rites, Chief Atserunleghe announced Tsola Emiko as the Olu-designate, which was accompanied by wild ovation from Itsekiri sons and daughters present at the event.
Chief Johnson Amatserunreleghe performed the ceremonies at Ode-Itsekiri in Warri South LGA of Delta State. Ode-Itsekiri is the ancestral home of the Itsekiri people.
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, was conspicuously represented at the ceremony by Oba Akinola Oyetade Aderera, the Olubosin of Ife and Adekunle Adeayo Adeagbo, the Ore of Otun Eketi.
Shortly after the pronouncements and ceremonies, President Muhammadu Buhari sent in his condolences and congratulatory messages through his media adviser, Femi Adesina, indicating presidential approval.
But the embattled Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, Chief Ayiri Emami, in spite of the president’s tacit approval of the actions of the Itsekiri traditional authorities, insisted the ceremonies were mere nullity.
“President Muhammadu Buhari would not support illegality surrounding the purported announcement of the passage of the 20th Olu and subsequent announcement of a successor,” Chief Emami had countered.
Emami maintained that it was foolery for anyone to drop the name of President Buhari in the crisis bedevilling Itsekiri nation, adding that the president will not be a party to illegality as he is a law-abiding citizen.
He advised President Buhari on processes and procedures for the enthronement of a successor to the throne which, according to him, were still ongoing, restating that anyone parading Prince Utieyinoritsetsola Emiko, son of the late Ogiame Atuwatse II as Olu-designate, has no clue about the customary laws, norm and tradition of the Iwereland.
“I want to state categorically clear as before that Olu of Warri, His Royal Majesty Ogiame Ikenwoli, has not joined his ancestor as being alleged. I have not convened any general assembly of the people as tradition demands to state the contrary. So if His Royal Majesty Ogiame Ikenwoli has not joined his ancestor, where does Olu-Designate evolve from?
“Anyone who wants to use President Buhari’s name to draw ethnic and political colouration to the Olu throne issue should be wary of the danger of such actions. We are Itsekiri people and not any other tribe. We will not allow outsiders to come and dictate for us. We have our customs and traditions and the Nigerian constitution evolves from the peoples’ norms, values and traditions.
“I will formally issue a statement on this and will formally brief Mr. President on our tradition in a later date,” Chief Emami, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) stated.
Another prominent member of the 12 Disciples, a former member of the Delta State House of Assembly and currently chairman of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Hon. Evangelist Michael Diden, corroborated Chief Emami’s position in his sermon last Sunday, titled ‘Kingship: Time To Let God Direct Our Path In Itsekiri Kingdom’.
Evangelist Diden, a church founder and General Overseer, Mega Praise Church of Christ International Sapele, Delta State, said he rallied some men in Lagos shortly after the passage of Ogiame Ikenwoli to make Prince Shola the king of Itsekiri.
“But after some time, God came to me and spoke to me and said You, Ejele and your boys, you are not the ones to choose the king. I, God, will choose him. Therefore, I have no option other than to stay and follow the laws that will birth a king.
Meanwhile, Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and the state traditional rulers council have remained mum over the brewing royal rumble. The state government has not made any official statement with respect to the pronouncements by the Warri Council of Chiefs on the passage of Ogiame Ikenwoli and the installation of Olu-designate.
Prince Utieyinoritsola Emiko was born on April 2, 1984, to Godwin Toritseju Emiko (the late Ogiame Ikenwoli Atuwatse 11) and Gladys Durorike Emiko in Warri, Delta State.
He attended NNPC Primary School Warri and had his secondary school education at Adesoue College, Ofa, Kwara State from 1995 to 2001.
Prince Emiko attended Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree between 2002 and 2006. He has his Master of Science in Management degree from Case Western Reserve University in 2007.
He returned to Nigeria for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in 2008 and served in the Public Affairs Department of the National Petroleum Investment Management Service (NAPIMS)
From 2009 to 2010, he worked at Shell Nigeria Closed Pension Fund Administrator (SNCFPA) and at Sahara Energy (2010-2012)
Emiko, veered into private ventures and founded Noble Energy Ltd and Corral Curators Ltd. He is also the chairman, Ocean Marine Security Ltd and Director, Gulf of Guinea Ltd and Vessellink Nig Ltd.
Prince Utieyinoritsetsola is married to Ivie Uhunoma Emiko and blessed with three children – Oritsetsemaye, Oritsetemisan and Oritsetimeyin
Emiko’s emergence was announced by the Iyatsere of Warri and Acting Chairman of Olu’s Advisory council, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe, who also officially announced the passage of His Royal Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli.
Emiko, 37, will remain Olu-designate until all necessary processes are completed, and be formally crowned as the 21th Olu of Warri at a later date.
His emergence commences a three-month mourning period in Itsekiri Nation with burials, marriage and social activities remaining banned until he is crowned.