Controversy now trails the claim by the newly installed Olu of Warri Kingdom, Ogiame Atuwatse 111 who on Saturday August 21 during his coronation as the 21st Olu, revoked the curse he claimed to have been placed on Nigeria and Warri Kingdom by the duo of his grand-father, Ogiame Erejuwa 11, and the then Oba Akenzua 11 of Benin Kingdom, over an alleged injustice against the former.
Ogiame Erejuwa II was the 18th Olu of Warri who reigned from 1951 to 1964 and from 1966 to 1986, while Oba Akenzua 11, the 38th Oba of Benin, reigned from 1933 to 1978.
The Esongba of Benin Kingdom, David Edebiri, elder statesman and nonagenarian, has however debunked the claim. Edebiri, a former journalist and first Republic politician, told TELL exclusively that “there was nothing like that”.
Revoking the said curse shortly after being crowned, the 37-year-old Olu said “While not seeking to reopen old wounds, it is pertinent to recall the grave injustice meted out to Olu Erejuwa II. He visited His Royal Majesty, Oba Akenzua II of Benin and recounted his ordeal. In his reaction, a curse was placed on the land by both of them.
“As the spiritual, cultural, political, and traditional ruler of this land, I, Ogiame Atuwatse III, the 21st Olu of Warri, the first son of Olu Atuwatse II, the grandson of, and direct descendant of Olu Erejuwa II who was offended on this throne, hereby reverse the curse placed over this land.
“In its place, I release forgiveness and healing to the Federal Government of Nigeria whose might was used to propagate that offence; and I decree unprecedented and an uncommon peace, prosperity, progress, and development upon this land.
“I bring down the government of heaven unto this land and I direct it to flow as a course that can neither be sabotaged, slowed, nor stopped. It goes out as a strong ripple effect emanating from this kingdom to the rest of the Niger Delta, to the rest of the Nigerian nation, and even to the African continent.”
But in a telephone interview with the magazine, the Esongba claimed not to be aware of the saga, asserting that Oba Akenzua 11 was a nationalist. Edebiri insisted that “No, Akenzua cannot do that; not my Oba. I was almost like a political aide to Oba Akenzua 11, so there is nothing like that.
“I didn’t hear about it, and I didn’t know about it. Even when Oba Erejuwa 11 came to Benin sometime in the 1940s when the Benins were at loggerheads with their Oba to come and plead with Benin people, I was a small boy but I was in the palace. I didn’t hear about any curse”.
According to him, “Oba Akenzua has no reason to curse Nigeria; he was a nationalist. He fought for the independence of Nigeria so he couldn’t have cursed Nigeria. If Erejuwa cursed Nigeria, well, he knows what Nigeria did to him. But at the time he was banished to Ogbesse, (in Benin) it was not Nigeria that did it; it was their political issue there. So, I don’t know anything about it. When I read about it recently, I was amazed; that what? All those are not correct; Oba Akenzua has nothing to do with cursing Nigeria”.
According to history, as Olu of Warri, Erejuwa 11 was appointed regional Minister without portfolio and president of the Warri Divisional Traditional Council.
Following unhealthy rivalry between prominent Itsekiri leaders in the defunct Action Group, AG and the NCNC in the lead to the creation of a Mid-West region, Erejuwa 11, who perceived to enjoy the backing of AG, was deposed by the NCNC-led regional government in 1964 and deported to Ogbesse in Benin area. He was however reinstated in 1966 by the new military government of David Ejoor after some of the prominent Itsekiri leaders in the NCNC had been taken out by the new military administration.