Thursday, August 26, 2021 2:54 pm
By Osagie Jacobs, FCA
Itsekiris saw the light very early through their early contacts with the Europeans by virtue of Warri being a veritable seaport. They are essentially Yoruba but their monarchy is Bini. A prince of Bini kingdom, Ginuwa, was the first Olu of Warri.
They had early western education and thus became civilised before their neighbors. Rewane, Alinson Ayida, Boyo, Alele Williams (maternally), Awani, Amuka Pemu, Prof Bajah, Prof Oritsejolomi Thomas are Itsekiris.
They were strong Action Group members. Their capital was at Ode Itsekiri, a settlement on water. The king’s title was Olu Itsekiri. Awo told them to let their king build his palace in Warri and change the title to Olu of Warri.
He said you have Alafin of Oyo, Ooni of Ife, Oba of Lagos etc. Kings in the western region were identified with towns and not tribes. The Urhobos and Ijaws with combined overwhelming majority in Warri town were very bitter. They kicked against this move. They were NCNC supporters. But AG was in power in the West. Itsekiris were fervent Awo supporters.
And so the Olu moved to Warri in 1952 from Ode Itsekiri and the title was changed to Olu of Warri from Olu of Itsekiri. Without this move Itsekiris would have been almost anonymous in Warri today.
Okotie – Eboh, a prominent Itsekiri, was NCNC. Rewane, another prominent Itsekiri was AG. Itsekiris voted AG which made Okotie – Eboh and other Itsekiri NCNCers uncomfortable. At the referendum for the creation of the Midwest Region in 1963 Itsekiris voted against the new region. They felt being with the Yoruba will shield them from the ‘hawks’ – Urhobo and Ijaws.
Midwest came to be, courtesy of the federal NPC/NCNC alliance. So the Olu of Warri who championed ‘No Midwest’ must be punished. He was exiled to Ogbesse a settlement between Benin and Owo. Okotie – Eboh people had their way. Awo could not be of help because he was in prison. The Olu on his way to exile branched to see his cousin, Oba Akenzua. They both cursed the land (Nigeria or whatever you may call it).
A man called Igbene ‘reigned’ during the exile period. His son in Edo College then was my elder brother from another mother.
Gowon came into power and released Awolowo. He became the nation’s number two. Trust Awo he will take a revenge. All those kings who were pro Akintola, Olagbegi of Owo, Oba Akran of Badagry and Zaki of Arigidi – Akoko were deposed. The Olu of Warri who was a friend was returned to power. The exile was from 1964 – 1966. But the “Curse” remained. It was this curse the new Olu of Warri claimed he reversed.
Osagie Jacobs , FCA