Tuesday, April 6, 2021 12:02 am
The article below is a response to that.
*A cautionary heads up wink to Chief Ayiri Emami
By Ena Ofugara
Okonkwo could not believe that the white man was going to change all he had known and believed in. His ego told him to fight and fight he did. And that brought the demose of the great Ebubedike, of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
Some may dismiss this cautionary tale as mere fiction. History has shown that when a thing is destined to happen, it crushes all in its path. Oba Ovarenwen Nogbaisi, Chief Nana of Itsekiri, Jaja of Opobo and many more found this out, almost like Okonkwo did. The White man was unstoppable.
Being unstoppable is not limited to just the white man. James Ibori, Ayiri’s one time benefactor, also found this out the hard and painful way when he opposed the destiny of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, and tried to stop him from taking over as president, upon the demise of Yar Adua.
As my neighbours, the very radiant and colorful Itsekiris go about the succession rites of their revered throne, the antics and optics make for another lifetime worth of lessons, for those of us willing to study and learn. As a student of history, I invite you in, much like a silly youth who has found a peep hole in the neighbours door and can watch him as he invites different ladies home, to come and learn and enjoy while learning.
The Itsekiri right of succession was primogeniture. But recently, it seems the Ruling House gets to pick the person most suited for the throne. Olu Atuwatse II was not the first son of his own father. And upon his transition, the now transited Olu was not even his son, but brother. The young man, Prince Tsola Emiko, who would be King, is not the first son of Atuwatse II, nor is he the son of the last departed Olu.
The lack of certainty that primogeniture brings (not that it helped the ancient Bini Kingdom much in smooth transitions) makes it a task for the departed Olu and how he prepared his successor, the gods (Omale?) and her mouthpieces, the powerful of the ruling house and society at large. In other words, the activities of the Rita Loris and her like and the force of Michael “Ejele” Diden and of course the Ologbosere himself, Ayiri Emami come to play. And it is this play that I review in the actions of Ayiri Emami dispassionately and so those who love him can say “time to fall back”.
Ayiri Emami has made a name for himself nationally. Once the “boy” of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan while the young doctor was a tenant in Ayiri’s father’s compound, Ayiri was to rise to hero status fighting in the regrettable Ijaw vs Itsekiri war, and then be “brought close” by Emmanuel Uduaghan’s nephew/cousin, James Ibori, who was then the governor of Delta state with money oozing from every crevice of his body. Ayiri Emami was to know even more wealth under Uduaghan’s reign. And with his Chevron contracts and as Itsekiri community leader dealing with the oil companies, and of course access to the billions of contracts plus from Delta state, the flamboyant Ayiri bacame the doyen of Nigerian musicians. He “blessed them”. He helped youths and people. He was at Kefee’s graveside as she was buried. A national star and icon was born.
And then he even became the Ologbosere, number two man of the Itsekiri people.
But like every tale of great achievement, heroism/villany, and success, the protagonists and his supporters are the only ones that do not see that Achilles has a weak heel. Ego… ego… ego… hmmm.
Ayiri had made his first misstep when he opposed Okowa’s ascension as governor, and brazenly so. Okowa is said to have appealed to Ayiri to pipe low, even if not in support. Ayiri humiliated Okowa several times and in ways that require an article of its own.
Ayiri even tested his chi when he made comments that did not go down well with the Ijaw TOMPOLO, the RIVER god of the Niger Delta. Uduaghan and many others had to step in to ensure the Ibori-brokered but delicate peace continues to reign in the state.
Now again, Ayiri Emami is against the overwhelming choice of the Ruling House and Itsekiri people on who their choice of Olu should be. While Michael Diden is also said to not be too warm with the choice of Tsola, he, Ejele, as usual, does his silently and hides his hands. Ayiri, the way he opposed Okowa, is now openly seen to be opposing the crowning of this Tsola as Olu, and he bases his dissent on an edict, the purport of which takes no note of the historical consanguinity of the Itsekiris and Yorubas, especially the CRADLE, Ife. Attempting to disqualify an Prince from being Olu that his mother is not Itsekiri or Bini but from Ife, flies in the face of reason and history. The palmnut that falls into banga soup has only gone to be with family. Prince Tsola’s mother is from the family of the last billionaire Ooni of Ife.
And to worsen matters for Ayiri, the matters of succession goes to the Oba of Benin and to the Ooni of Ife.
And the Governor who will ultimately hand the staff of office to the Olu, is the very PDP Governor Okowa, who has no love for Ayiri at this time.
Yet, Ayiri is not reading the tea leaves or looking in the iron basin of the priestesses with their powder and gifts of divination to know when an unstoppable force approaches. Surely the priests and priestesses tell him the truth? Or they bow to his money and tell him what he wants to hear? Oh, just like his advisers and sychophants?
Surely, he should have called James Ibori that James might tell him “You dey look am, he dey enter, odidi gboi gbo” as his soundtrack became true of Jonathan and the presidency. Surely Ayiri must learn from this. No???
Esama was able to survive a fight with the Oba of Benin because Esama’s wealth was not dependent on his being Bini. The Esama had investments in Aircraft (Okada Air) Milk, Canada Dry, schools etc. Ayiri’s wealth is tied to his being ITSEKIRI. To be on the bad side of a popular Olu may not augur well for his businesses and dealings in and around Warri, should he not retrace his steps and realize what Chief Nana and Chief James Ibori did not… THAT THERE ARE FORCES BEYOND YOUR WEALTH AND INFLUENCE AND AMBITION. Sometimes that force is simply the DESTINY OF A MAN TO BE KING, be he a Jonathan, or a Prince Tsola Emiko.
-Ena Ofugara, lawyer, writer and public affairs analyst, writes from Texas, United States.