By Wilson Ruvwoghor,
I can relate with the suspension of a recalcitrant Ologbotsere, but to abolish the heftiest Itsekiri traditional title after the Olu stool, that I have not been able to process.
No matter how articulate the Palace rationalises it, you “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” is the universal guiding caution in critical moments as Iwereland currently witnesses.
I thought the desperation to give Chief Ayiri Emami a bad name to hang him had set enough negative precedences demeaning of the reveled Itsekiri royalty already.
With the heightened absolutism raised to pronouncing a towering Ologbotsere stool, from the second-highest traditional title into a mere “nickname”, the huge price the Itsekiri nation will pay is inescapable.
Under Atuwatse III, a couple of new chapters may have been written in the redefinition of the supremacy an Olu and his loyal Palace Chiefs. In the desperation to meet the exigency of the moment at all costs, the Olu, palace advisers and cheering crowd have become deliberately blinded to the colossal damage associated.
In anticipation, as usual, I will stand by, to see how friends and foes of Iwere descent will prove me wrong or right again. Even if they win the debate in the immediate, time will certainly manifest the damages ahead.
I’ve interacted with very informed Itsekiri opinion leaders who affirmed that an Ologbotsere is by the customs and tradition bestowed with power and influence, second only to the Olu, in the affairs of the land.
As a result, successive monarchs (Ogianme Ikenwole proving the most recent exception) would rather not replace a demised Ologbotsere, on purpose, to evade the pressures an uncooperative Ologbotsore can exert on the Olu stool, including the choice of a new Olu.
To go beyond the previous Olus disposition of restraining the replacement of a demised Ologbotsere, to drive the extremism to abolish the traditional chieftaincy, I see corresponding extreme danger ahead.
That Itsekiris, including those with deepest of sense of history, often speak of their monarchy’s interregnum with bloated pride is just for sheer display of the Iwere people primordial extreme pride, even in self-deceit.
There is nothing to be proud of about an 88 (14 June 1848 – 7 February 1936) dynastic crisis that arrested the running of the revelled throne. It could only have resulted from irreconcilable differences among power brokers over the throne.
Eighty-five years into the restoration of the Olu throne, another near century interregnum may not be what lies ahead as the kingdom starts another descent into the reign of impunity, similar to the oddities that forced the first interregnum.
Society seems to have advanced too much to allow another stalemate. However, the extreme humiliation of the Ologbotsere descendants in the abolition, by the Olu’s fiat, of the highest chieftaincy, exclusive to this lineage, the power brokers have, deliberate or inadvertent, overheated the simmering conspiracy for a split of the Olu throne.
The abolition of Ologbotsere is not the impetus that cannot wish away without instigating increased dissents. Over the choice of 21st Olu, hired hoodlums broke into the sacred serenity of the Palace of the Olu while mourning was still being held for demised 20th Olu by two of his sons, one of them denied deserved right of first refusal to succeed his father.
The thugs, not faceless, left in their wake, unrestrained vandalism, including missing Olu crowns. In that melee, the Nigerian Police, with both Divisional Office and Area Command, a stone throw from the Palace ignored, deliberately so, distressed calls from both endangered princes of the demised Olu.
But through the Benin Zonal Command, the same police which can’t fuel patrol vehicles unless the patrol teams extort on helpless victims was bankrolled to roll out two colour full pages of national newspapers, declaring the two princes of Ogiamen Ikenwoli wanted, guilty as charged for stealing the missing crowns.
Same power brokers claimed a successor Olu can’t be crowned till the missing crowns were found, the overriding sentiment to deny the deserving occupant to the throne his father exited. They would eventually crown the favoured prince as Olu, without the much indispensable stolen crowns.
Before it got to a head, the rental hoodlums who desecrated the palace would also invade a High Court in sitting, chasing out the Judge, the Plaintiff and his Counsel who had approached the bench to dissent perceived compromise of the Olu selection process.
The consequences of all of these extremes measures will not do good to the Itsekiri nation any good in the long run. Only time will tell.
Wilson Ruvwoghor, writing from Warri