Behold HRM Ogiame Atuwatse III….King With Vision And Mission
By Jemi Ekunkunbor
Yesterday, history was made as the Itsekiri people trooped out en masse and converged in their ancestral home, Ode-Itsekiri popularly called big Warri, to crown their new king. Known for their elegant and flamboyant dressing, the Itsekiri put up the finest of their rich culture and tradition as colourful boat regattas displayed on Warri high seas, an event specially reserved for special occasions such as the coronation of a king, preceded the coronation rights.
Prince Tsola Emiko, who, until yesterday was referred to as Omoba, after spending 90 days in seclusion in which he was educated on Itsekiri culture and custom, as well as kingship etiquettes was crowned the 21st Olu of Warri after picking the royal title of Ogiame Atuwatse III.
Born Utienyinoritsetsola Emiko in Warri, Delta State, on April 2, 1984, to Prince Godwin Toritseju Emiko, the late Ogiame Atuwatse II, and Gladys Durorike Emiko, he had his early education at Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Primary School and Adesoye College in Offa, Kwara State between 1995 and 2000.
In 2002, he then proceeded to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Political Science with minors in History and Economics. He followed it up with a Masters degree in Science in Management from the same university in 2007 before returning to Nigeria for his NYSC in 2008, where he worked in the Public Affairs Department of the National Petroleum Investment Management Service (NAPIMS).
The handsome king who social media enthusiasts tagged “pretty king” for his good looks, is married to Ivie Okunbo, now Olori, the daughter of billionaire Capt. Idahosa Okunbor who recently passed away after battling with pancreatic cancer.
An accomplished businessman and CEO of Noble Nigeria Souvenir Limited now Ogiame Atuwatse III, he speaks exclusively to Vanguard on the stormy journey to the throne and his vision and mission to his beloveth Itsekiri people.
Your Majesty, let me start by congratulating you on your acension to the throne of your forefathers as the 21st Olu of Warri. It’s your Thanksgiving ceremony today. What are you most grateful for?
Life. Health and a dream come true.
Yesterday, history was made in Itsekiri land. As the person at the center, what was the whole experience like for you?
It was dreamlike, surreal, and inspirational for myself and many others who I’m sure are encouraged that something promised, no matter the obstacles or setbacks, that it can, and will, come to pass.
Yesterday’s colourful ceremony is a testament of the rich heritage of the Itsekiri people. How and in what ways do you intend to continue this legacy?
I think we witnessed some new things that we introduced by way of organization, procession, music and visuals in the ceremony. Those are a testament of many more additions to come. I plan to do many unprecedented things that will enhance, and promote, the rich heritage of the Itsekiri people.
Your father and grand father were Olus who reigned long and enjoyed the love and support of the Itsekiri people. Do you fear if their shoes might be too big for you to fill?
Well, certainly, they’ve left huge boots to fill. However, I know that God’s hand is very much in my ascension to the throne. The same One who saw it fit to put me here will keep me, and help me to lead and serve the people He has called me to.
If HM Atuwatse were here, what would he be most proud of?
He would be proud that I trusted God. I kept my peace and pursued peace. He always said a baby elephant doesn’t struggle to grow. Without struggling, here we are.
One of the things you had going for you was the fact that you grew up in kingship and had the privilege of seeing your late father administer his kingdom. What was it like growing up in the palace as a young prince?
To be honest, it was a very normal household. My parents did their best to keep us “grounded” and raise us just like any other children. They were intentional, to ensure that we didn’t grow up proud or entitled because of our status. However, as they say, greatness is never taught, it is caught. While nothing was formally taught, I observed everything about my father: his unwavering love for his people, his ethics, his integrity, his speech, his demeanor and his carriage. I like to believe I caught all these principles from him.
What fascinated you most?
The grace by which he appeared to carry it all with so much ease and poise.
As a king in a digital age, how do you hope to cope with the rigid demands of culture and tradition?
Technology is here to make our lives as a race easier. So, we will find ways to apply technology to enhance and ease our already numerous responsibilities. Open mindedness and willingness to adapt will make all the difference.
Your journey to the throne was quite a stormy one. What was it like being in the center of it all?
To quote a song, “In the eye of the hurricane, there is quiet”. There was a certain peace I had in the eye of the storm. A peace I still very much have.
Now that the storm is over, what plans do you have to bring all Itsekiris together again as one?
No victor, no vanquished. We are one big body, and there are different parts that have different functions: we will ensure those suited to roles are given those roles; and a giant toe that feels it’s so prominent because of whatever blessings it has, shouldn’t feel it must be the center of the forehead because it’s a giant in its sense. Everyone has a role to play, and we will ensure those roles are well applied. We will function together as one to bring progress and development to our kingdom.
One major problem facing Itsekiris is community crises, you also have crises between youths of the three major ethnic groups in Warri. What plans do you have to ensure a permanent end to these crises?
For a people to co-exist, there must be mutual respect for each other as individuals. Mutual respect for each other’s boundaries, customs and culture. It’s a shared environment, we should see our problems as the same. We should also see our development as a shared and mutually intertwined one. That way, we are invested in ensuring there is peace all around. I am a man of peace and I will seek to bring peace and unity between the Itsekiris and our neighbours.
Lack of employment is a huge problem in the kingdom. How do you plan to help these teaming youths in order to prevent them from youth restiveness?
Being a young king, I have particular interest in the youth in my kingdom. They are our Nation builders, and will help build the Itsekiri Nation of the future. I have a few unconventional initiatives in the pipeline to address the issue of youth restiveness. Without giving away too much, I will say this; there is profit in every labour. Not everyone can get into the IOCs or banks or telecoms. With innovative thinking, we will create our own local economy without trying to over saturate what is already on ground. We will also set up schemes and structures to enable optimal output of large, medium and small scale industries already in operation.
Share with us your immediate plans for the Itsekiri people?
A reorientation of the mind. A wise man once said, to know where you are going, you must know where you are coming from. The warri crisis made many of our people to lose the essence of themselves. As the primary custodian of Itsekiri culture and an avid lover of history, I desire to bring a renaissance of our identity and purpose as a people. We will revisit foundations to enlighten and educate the people of our true identity. If we don’t get those foundations correct, whatever you attempt to build will not be sustainable. We will get our foundations right.
You experienced one of the worst forms of discrimination by reason of the circumstances of your birth. Going forward, how would you ensure that no law or edict carries such descriminatory clauses?
The motto of our reign as revealed yesterday is Righteousness and Justice. We will use that foundation to view everything that concerns us as a people. And with God guiding us, we will effect the necessary change that ensures equity among our people.
To ensure a good relationship with all Itsekiris, in what ways would you like them to support you? What should they be doing and what should they not be doing?
They should know, that I am here to serve them. In everything I do, my intent is to always improve and add value to them, by making things better for them. Even, if it may not immediately appear palatable, because sometimes improvement can be uncomfortable or strange, they should trust that it’s with good intention that I take an action or a decision. To conquer new frontiers we must be willing to embrace the foreign sense the unprecedented brings. I am also very open to feedback, and I welcome my people’s input in my assignment to make things better for us as a people.
What would you miss most now as the Olu?
My anonymity! People want to be celebrities so bad in this generation. I’ve always appreciated my “anonymity”. Now that it’s been obviously taken away from me, I think that more than anything, this is what I will miss the most.
I thank you for your time and wish you a peaceful reign.