At this point, we make bold to say that our emergence is not simply the filling of a role. We will be redefining the essence of the throne of Olu of Warri. – Ogiame Atuwatse III.
In his coronation speech, Prince Tsola Emiko made this declaration when he was crowned Ogiame Atuwatse III, the Twenty-First Olu of the Warri Kingdom. 365 days later, he has lived up to his words modernizing the institution and inspiring a new generation with his progressive attitude. As he marks the first anniversary of his coronation, he speaks to Konye Chelsea Nwabogor on the controversies leading to his emergence as King, being the voice of the people and his hopes for Warri youths.
Good afternoon your Ògíamẹ̀. It is indeed a pleasure speaking with you. It’s been a year since you ascended the throne. What has it been like so far?
It’s not unlike anyone in a position of great responsibility. It takes a bit of settling into. There’s a lot of jostling and demanding for one’s attention. But one must prioritize, identify the most important things, and give it your best. God gives one strength, grace, discernment & wisdom. And to those on the other end, he gives them patience and an open heart/mind.
Is this a role you have prepared for all your life? What was life like as a Prince waiting to be King?
One can’t say there was a conscious preparation. But in hindsight, because there’s always God’s hand or providence, it’s made clear that everything He allowed to happen ended up preparing one in ways that may not have seemed obvious or connected. And there was no clear indication that there was always an automatic situation where this would occur without any issue. So, it all comes down to the fact that it was God’s plan.
I can’t help but touch on the controversies from 2015 before you were crowned. There were talks of you not being qualified for this position. Please walk me through this, what qualifies a prince to sit on the throne of the Warri Kingdom?
Well, there’s a gazette that tries to put to paper what has been our age-long practice. And this paper was first written in the 19th century, but we have dealt with succession situations since the 15th century. The origin of the gazette wasn’t without controversy, but despite all its provisions, it made it clear that the oracle had the final say. The controversial bit in question; was that it said, the mother of the Prince should be Ìtsẹ̀kírì or of Edo origin. And my mother is Yoruba. So, the debate raged on. Was Yoruba wrongly omitted? Isn’t it obvious that there’s an inseparable and deep connection between Ìtsẹ̀kírì and Yoruba that doesn’t have to be stated? Since the oracle is the final authority, why not just simply place him in front of the oracle, and so on and so forth? So many questions, comments and concerns. But it was expedient to say that Yoruba was not explicitly mentioned in the gazette and, therefore, set the Prince aside for others to be considered.
We are here, so clearly, you were destined to be King, but I’d like to ask what it felt like moving past 2015 and then being called upon again in 2021.?
Moving past was not easy, but at the same time, God gave sufficient grace. Nothing forced, nothing lobbied, total submission to Him. It was down to trusting and believing that up until that moment in time, it was either God’s perfect will and purpose for me not to be crowned or accepting that He had a better life planned for me. Or, it simply wasn’t time, and still, trust that He wouldn’t allow me to see shame. Either thought still depended on trusting God and His perfect will.
I have seen videos and pictures that speak volumes of the joy and pride in the heart of the average Ìtsẹ̀kírì man/woman since your ascension. This comes with a lot of expectations. What difference do you believe your reign has had on the people of Warri? Especially Women and Children.
I think there’s a certain level of pride and confidence being restored in not just Ìtsẹ̀kírì people but all people who call Warri home. We have observed that many non Ìtsẹ̀kírì Warri citizens are proud and going out of their way to identify with our emergence, and this is something we are happy to accept with all humility. And I think it’s important for everyone to have a strong sense of identity and be proud of that identity. And this crown and throne are a great inspiration for that identity.
We are very deliberate in opening doors and opportunities to women and the youth because oftentimes, it’s very easy in Nigeria to associate thrones and traditions with the realm of men. Our women and youth must be an active part of this because there’s so much embedded in them that could only add value, and we will never extract that value if we do not invite them.
As for children, this role is one of being a father, a father to all, and young children are no different. It’s easy to project the image of a tough, disciplined and proving father, but the completeness of being a father is much more than that. It’s still a learning experience for me, but I know it’s important that our children see an example of a good father in their King and home.
Many are saying that you represent the new generation of monarchs in Nigeria. Do you agree?
Well, I don’t know why they’re saying that. Maybe because of my age. Perhaps the circumstances through which I emerged. Maybe my faith, my views, my “conduct”, carriage, or whatever it is.
For me, our world is changing, and while traditions are good and they’re here to guide us, one must find a way to incorporate the good that those traditions give us while we look to see how we improve and reinvent things, all to add value, of course. I believe I will be one of those who will lead the reinvention of monarchy in not just Nigeria but Africa. It’s unfamiliar to some and inspiring to so many, but the truth is, it requires boldness, courage, and focus. All to make it even more relevant and relatable in these modern times.
I remember in your coronation speech; you spoke to youths to play their role in moving the Niger Delta forward. What would you say is the greatest need that our youths have today to fulfil this mandate?
They need hope. They need to be believed in; they need to be encouraged. Because it’s been a long time of consistent discouragement and disappointments from all angles, they need to know and believe that they are better than the fears and stigmas that have come to be associated with the Nigerian youth. They need to know that they are loved, appreciated, valued and have so much more to give and contribute to their environment and society that doesn’t involve negative or destructive energy.
The Olú of Warri will often be the voice of the people to the government. What are the most critical areas the government needs to address for the people of Warri and the Niger Delta?
The cliché is employment. But even though the govt is struggling to create jobs, I would say a conducive atmosphere for education and enlightenment fosters out-of-the-box thinking. Once there’s an enabling environment that doesn’t lead to the usual rush for the usual jobs, I think that would solve more than half of the problem.
You recently said that your wife has won the hearts of the people faster than you. How important has she been to your journey as a King?
After God, she’s very important in the process. All men, even kings, NEED a supportive, encouraging, praying wife. They see things, situations, and perspectives that we may miss or not even consider. And that was God’s intention from the start. She sees what most will not be able to, in the private and vulnerable moments, and those are the difficult and most important moments. The interactions in those moments make or break any man in what he has been called to do and be. As the saying goes, if you marry the wrong woman, you are finished. But if you marry the right woman, you are complete. I married the right woman.
One thing that stands out about you is your deep Christian faith. Initially, there were concerns that you might be unable to balance your faith and commitment to the church with the traditional rites, beliefs and practices that come with the throne. How’s that going so far?
It’s going well. I have always committed myself to God. He led me throughout the process and still holds my hand. I have made it clear where my stance and non-negotiable are, and so far, so good. For me, it’s an opportunity for God to prove Himself. There need be no contact confrontation about it. He is more than able to keep and secure me and prove to everyone that He indeed rules in the affairs of men. He has as much stake in this. His name is on the line, but that name is a strong tower. To Him belongs all power. He kept my father here for 28years. He will keep me; of that I am sure.
Seeing as your role as Olú of Warri comes with enormous responsibilities, are there any social activities or hobbies you had to give up?
I was never extremely social per se, I had friends, but I was very private. So, a few things must be given up, but somehow, we are making it work.
It’s been one year on the throne; your message at the beginning was one based on unity. With the elections coming, what’s your message to the people of Warri?
Be peaceful, wise, circumspect, and open-minded.
PHOTO CREDIT – TY BELLO