We mentioned that one of the main differences between the Benin and Warri Constitutions was the part of the UWANGWE over the regency at the demise of a King.
In Benin, the UWANGWE became a regent until a new Oba was crowned. This was not the case of the Warri Kingdom.
At the demise of an Olu, a regent called the “OLOTU”, was appointed from among the members of the Royal Lineage, not from among the Chiefs. Although he was supposed to be in charge of National Affairs, yet he was not granted the full Monarchical Power.
“The OLOTU, was, however, politically a figurehead in the Council, as his functions were purely sacerdotal in character. He was more a Religious High Priest offering sacrifices to the demised OLUS, than a Political Leader running the internal and external affairs of the Country – the Administrative and Judicial Powers being virtually in the hands of the OLOGBOTSERE”.
When a new Olu was being installed the general behaviour of the OLOTU during the interregnum generally determined the fate of the latter.
If he was just and unselfish the new Olu on taking the throne would reward him with a small Kingdom somewhere outside the Capital; but if wicked and he sought to thwart any move to elect an Olu, as soon as the coronation arrangements were completed, he was warned to ‘take the Scarlet (Gba Ododo)’ – an idiom signifying that the unpopular OLOTU should immediately commit suicide or he should be prepared for the gallows.
The post of the “OLU OF WARRI” was hereditary, even though the principle of strict primogeniture was not accepted.
Preferably, the Eldest Son born to the late King while he was on the throne succeeded. But for some reasons, the Junior Son or any of the late King’s Sons; whether born on the throne or not, could be chosen. What was most important was that a decision was made as to which Royal House should present a Candidate for the Throne.
Preference was generally given to the house of the late Ruler and that of his immediate predecessor.
For the purpose of deciding which of the two Royal Houses should present Candidates, the Itsekiri National Council consisting of all the traditional Chiefs was summoned by and met under the Chairmanship of the OLOGBOTSERE.
At that meeting the announcement of the passing of the OLU was made. The National Council then made a resolution, requesting a Senior member of the Family of the late Olu, who was not a member of the Ruling House to produce a Candidate.
This Senior member was somebody who, in normal circumstances, would have presided over the sharing of the property of the late Olu, were he not a King. The National Council ensured that the person invited had no personal stake in the appointment.
The man invited then summoned a meeting of the Royal House, and after some consultations named the Candidate for the vacant post after the ‘Ife Oracle’ had been consulted to determine the Candidate’s suitability.
Sometimes, the Royal House was unable to make up its mind as to which two Candidates should be presented. The two Candidates were therefore, sent to the National Council, after consulting the ‘Ife Oracle’. All the rituals and consultations were made in ODE-ITSEKIRI.
As soon as the Candidate was approved by the National Council, the Olu-elect was then dressed as a Warrior to Lead the Regatta accompanying the remains of the late King to the Royal Cemetery at IJALA.
After all the ceremonies connected with the Royal Burial, it was his Religious duty to bring back the “IKEN” to ODE-ITSEKIRI. It was only after the return of the IKEN that public proclamation was made about the vacancy to the ITSEKIRI THRONE.
As soon as all the Funeral Rites were over, the Olu-elect was presented to the Assembly of the ITSEKIRI People where he asked whether he was accepted by the ITSEKIRI People. If he was, there was a public ovation.
From that time, he ceased to bear his usual name, to shake hands with people, to eat from the same plate or pot with any ITSEKIRI Person and nobody was allowed to sit on the same Chair on which he has sat.
He became the “DANIKEN”, the word which was the corrupt form of an “EDIAKEN” meaning, “Crown Prince” in Edo.
After this introduction to the people, the DANIKEN was sent for Ninety (90) days to a Village not far from the Capital for Ritual Purification preparatory to his coronation. At the end of the Ninety (90) days, he was required to return to ODE-ITSEKIRI for some more rituals and ceremonies.
On the appointed day of his presentation, the DANIKEN arrived while the important Chiefs and the ITSEKIRI Personalities were assembled. They proceeded with him in a gaily and sumptuously decorated Canoe where the title of DANIKEN was dropped.