Amid the controversy trailing the whereabouts of the Olu of Warri crown, the Iyatsere of Warri Kingdom and chairman Olu Advisory Council, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe, has said preparations for the smooth coronation of the Prince Tsola Emiko as the 21st Olu of Warri had begun.
The senior Warri palace chief who disclosed this in Benin said the forced removal of the crown to be adorned by the new king during the event would not stop the process leading to the installation of the Olu-designate because the issue would soon be resolved.
He based his optimism on the progress the police investigating the matter had made.
Atserunleghe further said the Itsekiri people had given those who were in possession of the crown the option of returning it without further delay or be ready to face the gods of the land.
Since the announcement of Prince Tsola Emiko, the son of the late Ogiame Atuwatse II, as the Olu of Warri-designate, there have been concerns over the whereabouts of the crown. There were allegations that some chiefs opposed to the choice of Prince Emiko were behind the saga.
Emiko’s choice by the ruling house was particularly opposed by the suspended Ologbotsere of Itsekiri, Chief Ayiri Emami.
Despite the issues raised by Ayiri and his supporters, more traditional rulers and eminent Warri leaders have continued to endorse the young prince for the throne, which became vacant following the death of his father, Ogiame Ikenwoli.
He will be crowned after the mourning and burial rites of the deceased.
The choice of Prince Emiko has caused jubilation among the Itsekiris in Warri Kingdom and the Binis because of the affinity they shared. Added to this is the fact that the Olu-designate is also a son-in-law of Edo State-born billionaire businessman, Capt Hosa Okunbo.
The missing crown, which many feared could work against the installation of the new monarch, is being handled by the police, who have reportedly quizzed the prime suspect.
Palace sources said the police investigators who are working hard to unearth the circumstances surrounding the missing 410-year-old diamond crown and other items of the monarchy alleged that a prominent Itsekiri palace chief masterminded the invasion of the palace where the items were carted away.
The sources said the men of the Zone 5 Police Headquarters may find the crown before the coronation of the Olu-designate.
Last week, the prime suspect and a popular Itsekiri chief reportedly submitted the keys of the palace strong room where the missing crown and other items were kept to the police.
Another prominent chief, who craved anonymity, said, “Last Friday we were at the assistant inspector-general of police (AIG’s) office and we met the officer in charge of the matter and during the investigation, we were made to understand that the keys to the room where the crown and other royal monuments were kept were with one of the chiefs.
“The chief allegedly admitted that the keys were with him. I told the police that when our king passed on, the keys were with the Uwangue of Warri Kingdom, the No. 3 chief who is Gabriel Awala. By his title, he is in charge of the king’s wardrobe. Ordinarily, Awala should be with the keys.
“The chief who had the keys was not around when Baba passed on. After three days, when he returned from his trip, he took the keys from Awala without the consent of the kingmakers. He had been with the keys until they were recovered last Friday.
“He told the police that he didn’t give the keys to anybody and the doors leading to the rooms were not broken and after collecting what they wanted, he made a minor damage to the door to pervert justice.
“He was asked to make an additional statement and the police told him he is the prime suspect and they asked him to make sure that all the items that were removed are returned,” the source said.
The demise of the immediate past Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli, in December 2020, had created a succession tussle which eventually produced Prince Tsola Emiko as the Olu-elect (Omoba) in Warri.
When contacted, the Zone 5 police public relations officer, Tijani Momoh, said he was not part of the investigative team and could not confirm or deny if the keys had been found.