The elegance displayed during the coronation of the 21st Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwaste III serves as a reminder of the glory and beauty of African monarchies, writes ELO EDREMODA.
Nestled in Nigeria’s mangrove forests is the Warri Kingdom, a kingdom of one people, one tongue, (Itsekiri also known as the Iwere) and one king, the Olu. The kingdom, which dates back to 1480, has had 20 traditional rulers. It was the coronation of its 21st Olu that saw thousands of people, indigenes and non-indigenes, throng the riverine Ode-Itsekiri community, the ancestral abode of the Iwere people on Saturday, August 21.
As early as 6 am, activities had begun on the Warri River, which spreads out to the Atlantic. Regatta boats and canoes from different Itsekiri communities and families were piloted to the Warri Club/ Boatyard in Warri South council area of Delta State, the departure point to Ode-Itsekiri for the ceremony.null
The new king, born Utieyinoritsetsola Emiko on April 2, 1984, is the eldest son of the 19th Olu of Warri, Atuwaste II. His coronation ceremony, filled with pomp and pageantry, will no doubt be talked about for many months, and even years, to come.
Speedboats and barges, filled with hundreds of people, later escorted the Olu-designate to Ode-Itsekiri. Like a carnival, men, women, boys and girls, all dressed in colourful traditional attires, with beads adorning their heads (for ladies), shoulders, wrists and ankles, danced to traditional drum beats, songs and chants in Itsekiri language as they approached the ancient island, about 13 minutes away from the oil city, for the coronation rituals.
A special boat painted and decorated in red and marked ‘Olu of Warri’, awaited the soon-to-be-crowned king. It would later, convey the Olu-designate, alongside some traditional chiefs, to the ancestral home. As has been the tradition, on arrival at Ode-Itsekiri, some chiefs and priests, concerned with the duty of conducting the rites, led him to the traditional palace where he performed some chores, such as the axing of a piece of firewood, fetching water in a calabash, then smashing it and finally, paddling a canoe. The significance of these actions, it was gathered, is that never again would he carry out such menial tasks.
After this, blindfolded, the Olu was guided to a point where Uda (swords), bearing the titles of past Olus, and a new one were laid out. He picked one with the title Atuwaste, a title borne by his father, Atuwaste II, drawing cheers from the teeming crowd.
Next was the crowning proper. A red carpet was laid out from the palace to a marquée where hundreds of special guests were seated in adherence to COVID-19 protocols, anticipating the moment that would reshape Itsekiri history.
Cultural singers stretched out on both sides of the walkway, praising the monarch as he walked by, decked in a hat and royal regalia, including a cape. He walked the walk to royalty with such finesse – shoulders held high, a look of purpose on his face and a little nod here and there.
Atuwaste III sauntered into the hall exuding confidence and nobility, drawing screams of excitement from his subjects. The air, as Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, would later remark, was “charged with energy”, as he finally settled into his royal seat.
Without further delay, the national anthem was sung by one of Nigeria’s leading arts, Omawumi, followed by a welcome address by Chief Johnson Amatserunleghe, the Iyatsere of Warri and Chairman, Olu Advisory Council, and then came the long-anticipated moment. At exactly 3:25 p.m, the 21st Olu of Warri was crowned by the Uwangue of Warri, Chief Gabriel Awala, and his title, Atuwaste III, was announced shortly after.