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Published On: Sun, Sep 8th, 2013

Christianity: Crisis Rocks Itsekiri Royal Throne, Monarch Under Pressure to Abdicate

Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse II

LAGOS SEPTEMBER 8TH (URHOBOTODAY)-Some Itsekiri of Delta State have turned against their paramount ruler, the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse II.
His offence: banning traditional religion and planned Christianisation of the Kingdom.
A section of chiefs, youths and women leaders are consequently pressing for his abdication of the throne.
The development has sparked tension across Warri and other Itsekiri towns and villages.

The monarch has changed the traditional title of Ogiame, banned the worship of deities, pouring of libation and other traditional practices he considers to be fetish.
Antagonists of his new-found religious disposition say he should vacate the palace if he is constrained by his Christian religion in the performance of his duty as their traditional leader.
The monarch, who is a top member of the Foursquare Gospel Church, in the edict, described himself as a “royal priest in the order of Melchizedek”, who has destroyed all ancient and new altars in the land.
It was gathered that trouble started on Wednesday after the monarch changed the historic title of ‘Ogiame’ to one he was yet to announce yesterday, because “it connotes our allegiance to Umalokun (goddess of the sea).”
He also changed the Itsekiri anthem and the pouring of libation and renounced all altars of idolatry in communities of the land.
A copy of the edict, entitled ‘The New Order In Iwere (Warri) Kingdom’, which was obtained by our reporter, made sweeping changes to the tradition of the Itsekiri (Iwere) people.
He said: “I also repent for the name and title of “Ogiame” that my ancestors and I have borne, as it connotes our allegiance to Umalokun (goddess of the river) and other deities of the sea, all of which are false gods.
“Today, I renounce our allegiance to Umalokun and other gods of the sea, land and sky. On behalf of the royal bloodline, the throne, the people of Iwere land, I publicly enter into a new covenant with God.”
The pronouncement has not gone down well with some of his subjects.
Some members of the royal family, prominent Itsekiri leaders and top chiefs of the kingdom opposed the declaration and urged the Olu to step aside if he is unable to carry out his duties as the Olu.
It was gathered that over 30 members of the royal house have also dissociated themselves from the edict and advised the monarch to abdicate. Their position was taken after a meeting in Warri.
It was gathered that the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought (ILT) have also scheduled a meeting for today in Warri to take a stand on the decision.
A member of the ILT, who spoke with our reporter on condition of anonymity, said the forum was most certain to endorse the call for the monarch’s abdication.
Our source said, “The leaders of thought feel saddened by this development, because the ILT was visibly active in the selection and coronation of the Ogiame. He cannot come and change the title that is synonymous with the Itsekiri people.”
The meeting of the princes and princesses was followed by wide protests by Itsekiri interest groups from within and outside the country. Hundreds of youths who stormed the Olu’s palace openly denounced it as anti-Itsekiri, saying it will rob them of their identity, history and culture.
They made bonfire in front of the monarch’s expansive palace and prevented vehicles from moving in and out of the Ugbori enclave.
An Itsekiri youth leader, Mr Omolubi Newuwumi, who was sighted at the entrance to the Olu Palace (Aghofen) declined comment, even though he was said to be a leader of the protesting youths.
An eyewitness said youths from communities across the three Warri local government areas of the state besieged the monarch’s palace as early as 7:30am to express their displeasure with the document.
Meanwhile, prominent Itsekiri leaders have expressed concerns that the latest crisis will not augur well for the kingdom.
“The Itsekiri ethnic group has prided itself as one nation under one monarch; but I am afraid that with what we are seeing this may soon become history. This is the first time that the people will openly challenge the decision of the king,” one source said.
The Ovie of Emede Kingdom in Isoko South Local Government Area of the state was chased out of the kingdom by his subjects because of a similar clash of religion.
The monarch, Johnson Omote Egbo, went into exile after refusing to worship the Oniyose deity of his forefathers because of his religious belief.
He has since returned home to his people.
The Nation

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