Did You Know?
The IWERE (Warri) Kingdom was established in the year 1480 by King Ginuwa l, one of the princes of the Benin king – Oba Olua, the 14th Oba of Benin.
Titled as the Ogiame (an Edo word meaning ‘ruler of the sea or king of the waters’) the Olu of Warri is the cultural and traditional leader of the Itsekiri ethnic nationality, located in coastal parts of Delta State and some riverine parts of Edo State, in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria.
Due to its advantageous proximity to the sea, and estuaries around the Bight of Benin, the kingdom of Warri acquired immense wealth accumulated through trade and cultural exchanges with European explorers and Trans Atlantic seafarers over the centuries.
The original and ancestral Olu of Warri palace built by Ijijen, the first son of Olu Ginuwa is located at the center of Ode-Itsekiri, an island further away from the mainland of Warri. Ode-Itsekiri is also known as Big Warri. Traditional rites and coronation of all Olus are held at the ancestral abode of the king in Ode Itsekiri.
According to Prince Pius Ebiyemi Emiko, “The Olu of Warri is a Benin man; maybe a lot of people don’t know this. He is Benin by blood relation and lineage because the very first Olu of Warri was a son to Oba Olua; his name was Iginua. He left Benin about 1480 to come down here to establish the Warri kingdom. He went by the title of Ginuwa I. When he passed away his son, Ijijen, succeeded him as the second Olu of Warri. Ijijen was actually the one who founded Big Warri, Ode-Itsekiri. Ginuwa did not make it to Big Warri; he passed away at Ijala, somewhere behind the Warri refinery.”
The exodus of Prince Iginua from Benin was a movement of royalties and nobles including the eldest sons of 70 chiefs of the Benin Kingdom in the 15thcentury.
The palace on the mainland of Warri serves as a private residence for the Olu of Warri (the king). It is located at Ekurede Itsekiri area of Warri (close to Ogunu). The sprawling royal quarters adorned with numerous apartments and various sizes of reception halls, is designed in a European style. Furthermore, only a portion of the palace is opened to the public. With well manicured lawns and spacious environment, some areas are designed as a private residence for the king while the palace has been redesigned by successive kings as they take over the reign thereby making the palace look as modern as can be with global trends in royal architecture.
The Olu Palace also has presidential suites which has housed prominent visiting royalties including the present Sultan of Sokoto during A royal trip to the kingdom of Warri. The royal court of The Olu of Warri also has helipad that can accommodate two or three choppers at any single moment.
The Olu of Warri palace is well administered by Chief Maleghemi, the Obaloye of Warri kingdom.
Festivals & Activities at the Palace
The palace plays host to lots of activities almost daily, however, the annual events attracts more visitors to the kingdom.
Disputes between families and communities are resolved at the palace by the Olu. A major attraction is the coronation of new chiefs by the king as the exercise is done yearly on a date fixed solely by the Olu. The palace also plays host to the Awankere Festival which is done to unify every descendant of Warri.
The occasion features a masquerade dance, humour, drinking and eating, and a performance by Itsekiri children.
First written for Alice, the in-flight magazine for Air Peace by Henry Omoregie