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The Itsekiri people whose kingdom is Warri, their homeland is Awyri which over time had variously been spelt Iwere, Ouere, Oere, Warree, Wari. and now Warri. The Edo and the Yoruba call them Iwere. The people who constitute the Itsekiri tribe have diverse origins: early settlers from Ijebu, some from Igala and Aboh came to settle in various communities such as Omadino, Ureju, Ugborodo , Inroin, etc at various times out of human memory . Then a party from the Benin Royal family about the end of the 15th century set up a monarchy which constituted these erstwhile autonomous mini-communities into a nationality which it is today.
Itsekiri kingdom was founded by the royal party from Benin, but by the early sixteenth century through the seventeenth, it had done so much overseas trade to match or exceed that of the mother – kingdom; the reason being its advantageous position within the empire on the rim of the Atlantic. The Itsekiri people speak Yoruba dialect whose vocabulary has been widened by the infusion of a large number of Portuguese, Bini and English words.
Histories agreed that Ginuwa, a prince, found the Iwerre (Warri) Kingdom about 1480. At the beginning of the 17th century, a son of a reigning Olu went to Portugal for ten years (as the Oba’s ambassador went to Portugal between 1481 and 1495 to be educated in the best schools and returned with a Portuguese lady of a high birth as his wife, their son , Antonio Domingo was Olu of Warri in the 1640s. The site of the Catholic Cathedral (St. Anthony) built in Ode-Itsekiri.. is still called (Satoni).
The Warri throne, being a direct off-shoot of the Benin monarchy, bears all its attributes. Historically, the Olu of Warri, like the Oba, is the personal focus of the people’s loyalty and affection. The crown, highly glamorised, is the symbol of supreme authority in both kingdoms. The Olu, like the Oba (aiguobasinwin) does no wrong and can not be queried or challenged (Afo massin; Afo were tse were); he is the keeper of the corporate conscience of his people. The Oba is titled Uku-Akpolokpolo, which literally means high and extremely very large. In essence, it means next to God, divine and infinite. He is also addressed: Ogie N’Ogbomwan be edge uwuikomwam; i.e king who can confer life a n d death. A similar title of the Olu of Warri is Ogie-uwu i.e , king over death. The Oba is also addressed: Ekpen N’uwa i.e the tiger at home. The main Itsekiri chieftaincy titles are Iyatsere, Ologbotsere, Uwangue, Olisan, Otsodi, Osula, Ojomo and Ero .
According to the custom, the Oba’s eldest son, on reaching maturity is shown round to the people and installed as the Edaiken, or heir to the throne. He will then be sent to live in Uselu, a village which was outside the walls of the town but is now incorporated in Benin City , to be trained in the dignity and responsibilities of kingship” Today, the Edaiken is one of the seven Uzama chiefs (Uzama nihairon) – a distinct branch of the Bini traditional government. In Warri, Daniken is the three lunar- month period of restriction imposed on an Olu-Elect during which, as in Benin he gets trained in the dignity and responsibilities of kingship. The title in Warri, as shown, refer not to a person but to a period. Meaning hold with care.
As soon as the Edaiken leaves Uselu to ascend the throne, his mother becomes known as Iyoba, and goes to live in Uselu. As head of the village, she has her court, like the other Uzamas, and confers titles. Itselu (Uselu) is regarded as the quarters of the Olu’s mother and is beyond any attacks by the Olu himself. There is this saying in Itsekiri: “Aja te je oba jija reje Itselu” meaning the town that the Olu can never attack is Itselu (Uselu).
In royalty and chieftaincy areas vast numbers of Itsekiri words are coined or borrowed from Bini. Other words such as Ugbo (forest) Idimi (quarters), Ighele (adult man), Odibo (steward) have Bini roots. Others are Ugha (compound), ekete (throne) and Igedu (timber).
All Ibiogbe dance songs are in Bini language. Ibiogbe is a kind of military dance generally performed at all Itsekiri funerals, and come after Ukpukpe, another military funeral dance. During Ibiogbe dance, seven songs are generally rendered.
Benin and Warri developed vast overseas trade, which made them prosperous and famous. Both experienced slave trade, welcomed overseas missionary workers, dealt with foreign kings and their ambassadors, exchanged correspondences with them, but at the end of the nineteenth century, suffered unwarranted humiliating defea ts in the hands of British Imperialism. These events in both Benin and Warri had their appropriate ripple effects in the neighbouring communities.

 

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