WARRI, Nigeria – Tensions are escalating in Warri, the bustling commercial center of Delta State, following the Olu of Warri Kingdom, His Majesty Ogiame Atuwatse III, reportedly moving to abolish several long-standing Itsekiri customs and traditions.
According to report, the proposed changes have sparked division among local youth groups, who are already in a volatile stand-off.
The most contentious of the Olu’s alleged plans is to cease the celebrated Awankere Festival of Okere Community, a move that has sparked outrage among the city’s youth.
The public became aware of the brewing discord on April 27, 2023, when gun-wielding youths reportedly affiliated with the Itsekiri National Youths Council (INYC) fired shots and destroyed a banner celebrating the birthday of Chief Ayirimi Emami, the Ologbotsete of Warri, in Okere Market Square.
“There is a real fear of violent clashes between youth groups loyal to Emami and those supporting the Olu if a meeting is held in the Okere community town hall,” a local source revealed.
Tensions have been on the rise since the controversial installation of Chief Oma Eyewuoma as Ologbotsere on April 16 by the Olu of Warri.
This move has been met with resistance from Chief Emami, who maintains his rightful position as Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom despite a contested suspension.
The tension has been further exacerbated by the INYC’s unexpected decision to hold its meeting in Okere Community Town Hall on the same day as a meeting of the “Omajaja” descendants.
The latter group, supported by several former Okere youth leaders, vehemently opposes the Olu’s reported plans.
“The Omajajas are enraged. The Olu’s proposal to stop the Awankere Festival, especially after he used anointing oil in a manner we consider abominable at Ode-Itsekiri, is unacceptable,” an anonymous source said.
The source added that the INYC, under the leadership of Weyinmi Agbateyiniro, seems to be acting on the Olu’s controversial orders.
In contrast, the Omajajas, who were already upset by the Olu’s recent pronouncement abolishing the Omajaja title and reclassifying Itsekiri indigenes into five groups, have sworn to resist any attempts to erase Itsekiri tradition and customs.
As the tension continues to simmer in Warri, the city awaits a resolution that will ensure the preservation of their rich culture and traditions while avoiding any outbreak of violence.