THE KINGDOM OF WARRI IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (PART 1) THE REIGN OF OLU AKENGBUWA

OLU EREJUWA who was beloved by his people died in 1808 and was succeeded by his Son who took the title of “AKENGBUWA”.
This was the last of the independent OLUS of Warri. No OLU in ITSEKIRI History has been so criticized as this OLU. Almost every book had referred to him as a tyrant. The main reason for this was that most of the sources from which the history of the period have been collected were traditionally hostile to a Ruler who was faced with the problem of inflation and took effective action to grapple with it.
The ITSEKIRI Constitution was designed to operate effectively in a City-State Complex. The situation had changed with the establishment of Settlements in the Benin River which were so far away from the Capital that some centralizing actions had to be taken.
There was the continued aggression of Benin and Lagos which produced a state of emergency and sharp reaction against those who were cooperating with the enemy.

First of all, the working of the ITSEKIRI Constitution had been hampered by new developments. According to ITSEKIRI Tradition, although there are more Older Claimants to the ITSEKIRI throne, One of OLU EREJUWA’s junior Sons, “EYOLUSAN” who had formerly administered the BOBI Customs Post had had a prophesy that he would succeed his father.
It was customary that where there was point of difference among the people over the Choice of a Successor to the throne, the issue was referred to the Oracle.
Strictly speaking therefore, succession was not by primogeniture. Brothers, half-brothers and Sons could qualify. The decision of the Oracle was final.
The problem was, was it possible to manipulate the Oracle so that it declared as Successor a Candidate who had the weight of the support of the most prominent of the Chiefs, especially those of the OLOGBOTSERE, the Chief Minister; the IYATSERE, the War-Lord; and the UWANGWE, the Custodian of the Royal Regalia and Chief Spokesman in the Council.

OLU EREJUWA’s eldest Son “IJEDE” was popular with some of the people. But “EYOLUSAN” was the most influential of all the King’s Sons and he was without doubt very ambitious.
He was favoured by the OLOGBOTSERE and the Chiefs who mattered most. These were perhaps influenced by the wealthy Prince name so they may have told the people that OLU EREJUWA before his death had told them that “EYOLUSAN” should succeed him.

EYOLUSAN had either luck on his side or his supporters may have done away with the elder Sons. As a result of the death of the late OLU’s elder Sons, the throne was open to EYOLUSAN and he was invited to proceed to ODE-ITSEKIRI at once.
He arrived there with seven (7) large Canoes manned by his slaves. The Chiefs were waiting for him and so as soon as he arrived, he was installed without the usual formalities, a process which because it was regarded as untraditional, could be used for blackmailing him in the future by those on top of whose shoulders he had climbed to the throne.
One individual who gave him strong moral and perhaps financial support during this time was “UWAKUN” who had succeeded him as the Chief Customs Official in BOBI and was consequently very wealthy. For this the new King exercised his prerogative of appointing an OJOYE (Chief) and made him the “UWANGWE (custodian of the Royal Regalia and Chief Spokesman in Council)”.

So “EYOLUSAN”, unchallenged, became King with the title of “AKENGBUWA”. He had been baptized and adopted the name “JOAO”. This however did not make him an ardent practising Christian.

It was a Warri Tradition that when a man died, his Wives were shared among his younger brothers and his Sons.
‪#‎OLU‬ EREJUWA had some pretty young Wives. One, “EMAYE”, taken over by the new King, had already had two Daughters by the late King. These were “UWALA and UDOLOROLUSAN (IYE)”.

*There was another girl who had not reached the age of puberty before EREJUWA died. She was still under instruction for some time in the harem. When she came of age, it was found that she had already lost her maidenhood.
This infuriated the new King who demanded who was responsible for tempering with one of his inherited Wives.

He was shocked to learn that it was one of his half-brothers, “OKUNUWA”, with whom he was on friendly terms. This was a Capital Offence according to ITSEKIRI Law.
Unfortunately, the OTON-OLUS (i.e. the Royals or Princes) were not immune from the due processes of the law, so that in spite of the fact that the King wanted to spare the life of his brother, the Council, as the highest Court in the Land, had to decide on this issue which amounted to high treason.
The new UWANGWE, UWAKUN, as Chief Spokesman in the Council, would not hear of condoning such a breach of the law and insisted that the King’s brother should be hanged. The Council of Chiefs when consulted decided that they could not accede to the OLU’s request to commute the punishment to fine.
*The King therefore decided that his brother should flee. The refugee settled near UGBORODO, but in despair of his disgrace, committed suicide.

END OF PART ONE

CLICK HERE TO GO TO PART TWO

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