ACTIVITIES marking the final funeral rites for the late Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse II, continued, yesterday, at Ode-Itsekiri in Warri South local government area of Delta State with entertainment and homages in honour of the departed monarch.
The 14 days final rites, which began with a vigil, Friday night, turned out to be a gathering of the Itsekiri nation as natives, joined by neighbors and well wishers, trooped into the Itsekiri ancestral home to share the joy of the event.
Chief Yaya Pessu, Ojomo of Warri and Chairman, Traditional Council of the Warri Kingdom, speaking on the significance of the occasion, said it is all about entertainment and sharing in honouring the departed monarch.
Pessu said, “The interment has already been done during the Iken rites, but we believe the soul of the dead does not journey to final rest until all the rites are performed. The final rites are the reason we are gathered now”
Robinson Ariyo, lawyer and development expert, said, “For many persons, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. I was so young and obviously a spectator 28 years ago when the kingdom observed these moments before the late Atuwatse II was crowned.
“Today, many present may never be alive to witness the passage and funeral of another Olu, and the significance is the opportunity for the younger generation to learn and imbibe the tradition because tomorrow will be their turn to take charge of carrying these functions.”
To Dr. Duakpemi Ayu, head of the royal family, the moments also afford the kingdom to close ties with neighbors whose support and concern help to make the celebration worthwhile.
“You have seen the spread of condolence visits during our mourning periods. People came from far and near and our immediate neighbors in the Ijaw, Urhobo and Isoko, not forgetting our Benin and links from the West all coming to share the grief with us is something remarkable. Now in these celebrations we will also enjoy their company”, Ayu stated.
Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor, Igba of Warri prayed, “I may never witness another final funeral rites for an Olu. Given my age and that of the Olu in waiting, I certainly pray I don’t witness another of these moments. It is a thing of joy that the man who is taking over is loved by all too and promises good tidings for the kingdom.”
Above all other expressions of the mood and significance of the occasion, Prince Yemi Emiko declared that the beauty of the celebration is the symbol of unity it presents for the kingdom.
“As a people, Itsekiri can not all be one in politics, economic or social lives. It is not wrong to have differences at this levels, but the crown binds us all. When it comes to the royalty, Itsekiri is one, all differences are collapsed. So from this passage through the coronation of the successor, it is constant reminder that we are one family, one language, one crown.”
Over the celebration, Ode-Itsekiri has experienced outstanding facelift. The palace grounds were wearing new paintings and robust decorations, so were other residences and the arena crafted for the entertainment and rites.
At the time of filing this report, able bodied men dressed in white wrapper on bare upper body and bearing swords were performing the sessi-on, a sublime dance of homage before a catafalque covered with red clothes.
Chief Charles Ikomi, Ero of Warri, said, “In a few hours the catafalque containing the body of the late king will be opened and people will begin to pay homage. The catafalque was copied from the burial ceremonies of cardinals in the Catholic church and we have observed it since then.”
From the takeoff Friday till the next 14 days, the final funeral rites continue with all Itsekiri communities expected to display dance and entertainment homages in honour of the late Olu.
Immediately following afterwards in a few days will be another chapter of celebrations to install the Olu designate, Prince Godfrey Ikenwole Abiloye Emiko as the 20th Olu of Warri.