His Majesty, Ogiame Atuwatse III, the Olu of Warri Kingdom has initiated a new festival tagged Ghighó Aghọfen which has now been added to the Itsekiri culture and tradition. The maiden edition of “Ghighó Aghọfen” was hosted by His Majesty on Saturday 18th of December, 2021 at Aghofen (the Palace of the Olu of Warri Kingdom), Warri. Ghighó Aghọfen is a traditional change of guard ceremony involving all the communities that make up Warri Kingdom.
The Olu of Warri while addressing the audience, announced that Ghighó Aghọfen is a new initiative and a legacy project which is part of his plan to establish Warri Kingdom as a centre of tourism and development in Nigeria. To the Olu, this initiative presents an opportunity to demonstrate the uniqueness of each community as they present their history and traditions before their revered monarch and also to the entire world. After this edition, the Olu advised the name of the event would change to “Riro Aja n’Aghofen” which means change of community in the Palace with one community marching in while the other marches out.
While introducing the ceremonial watch, Ogiame Atuwatse III mentioned this would be a quarterly change of guard with the five aboriginal communities of Warri Kingdom (Ureju, Inorin, Omadino, Ode-Itsekiri and Ode-Ugborodo) taking the first set of watch for Ghighó Aghọfen. The Olu explained that the sequence of watches is expected to take over 50 years for it to come full circle due to the number of Itsekiri communities and as such, this is a legacy project that would transcend generations. Ureju community will commence the watch starting from the 18th of December, 2021 to 26th March, 2022 when Inorin community would take over the watch. After Inorin community, Omadino community would take over watching Aghofen, Warri on Saturday the 25th of June, 2022. They will be followed by Ode-Itsekiri community on Saturday the 25th of September, 2022 at Aghofen, Ode-Itsekiri and finally, Ugborodo community will take over from the 24th of December, 2022 and this will be held at Aghofen, Warri.
As part of Ghighó Aghọfen, it is expected that every community watching over the palace would have the Olu of Warri Kingdom paying special attention to the welfare of the community including all of the community’s needs. Ogiame Atuwatse III advised that he will spend time in the community keeping watch to help draw the necessary attention and resources needed to improve the wellbeing and standard of living of every Itsekiri son and daughter while also improving seeing to the development of that community. As a result of spending time at the communities, the Olu would be closer to his subjects and continue to emphasise the Palace remain the rallying point for the Itsekiri nation. It is also expected that with Ghigho Aghofen, the precious hidden beauty and potential of most of our communities that is most times overlooked would be brought to the front burner.
As part of the Olu of Warri’s speech during the event, the Olu announced the official naming of the three gates at Aghofen including the unveiling of the crests of the past three Olus’ that lived at Aghofen, Warri. Gate 1 would be known as Erejuwa II gate and this was unveiled by Chief Yalaju who was accompanied by Prince Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh (Previous Regent of Warri Kingdom). Gate 2 would be known as Atuwatse II gate and this was unveiled by Chief Dr Roland Oritsejafor who was accompanied by Prince Toritseju Emiko. Gate 3 would be known as Ikenwoli gate and this was unveiled by Chief Oma Eyewoma who was accompanied by Prince Yemi Emiko.
Ogiame Atuwatse III also announced the creation of a new society, the Royal Iwere Society. This society shall help coordinate and organise a central resource centre for all things in Itsekiri including our history, our identity and our ways. This is a very important announcement to most people who are working behind the scenes to ensure everything about the tribe is documented for generations yet unborn and to have resources to call upon when faced with varying challenges. As a result, most Itsekiris are super excited by what the future holds for the Itsekiri Nation.
As part of activities to mark the event, the history of Ureju community was read to the attendees present at the venue. There were two standout part of their history. The first was that Urowoli, the mother of Olu Ijijen and Olu Irame was from Ureju community. As a result of this, they are known as “Aja Iyi Olu”. Secondly, when Olu Ginuwa I visited Ureju community, a tree was planted in his honour as the Olu of Warri. As a result of this, all subsequent Olu of Warri had a tree planted in their honour at Ureju community. This shows that the Itsekiri Nation has been at the forefront of climate change and conservation for centuries.
Ureju community danced into the venue looking glorious in their lemon green wrapper and white blouses and kemejes. Furthermore, several tribes living in Warri were invited to perform and showcase their culture through their dancing before the Olu of Warri and other dignitaries present at the occasion. There were dance presentations from our Isoko neighbours, Ilajes, Yorubas, Hausas, Igbos, Benin, Igala and Ijaws who were all dressed in beautiful attires. This reminded several people of when Warri used to host such events which brought about togetherness and shared prosperity which is part of Ogiame Atuwatse’s rallying call during his coronation.
Three Ojoyes, Chief Francis Omatseye (The Edigbe of Warri Kingdom), Chief Prest Uudeyin (The Akwinitsokan of Warri Kingdom) and Chief Billy Besigiwa (The Osolo of Warri Kingdom) danced and entertained the audience to seek permission from Ogiame Atuwatse III for Ureju community to be given the approval to start their turn of Ghigho Aghofen. This was supported by the Ureju community delegation which was led by Chief Solomon Arenyeka (The Eson of Warri Kingdom) who happens to be from the community and is classified as the Olu’s eye in the community.
Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan (past Governor of Delta State) stated that the program is a big step in deepening the peace in Warri and Delta state. He was also excited with watching the various ethnic groups take turns to perform and showcase their culture before the Olu of Warri. The Former Governor opined that there is unity in diversity and he is most glad that peace and shared prosperity are germane to the vision of Ogiame for Itsekiri and her neighbours.
Attendees to grace the occasion are Pere Of Akugbene-Mein, His Royal Majesty, Pere Stanley Luke, Kalanama VIII (2nd Vice Chairman, Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers); His Royal Majesty, Owhorode of Olomu Kingdom, Ovie Dr Richard Ogbon Ogoni-Oghoro 1, JP, OON, PhD (Chairman, Urhobo Traditional Rulers Forum). The Command Controller, A Usman (Customs Area Commander of Edo and Customs Delta State) was also present at the occasion.