By Sam Omatseye

Few who follow the exploits of the Warri Kingdom will forget the moment when its new king, Ogiame Atuwatse III CFR, uttered the following historic words: “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, development upon this land.”

The words issued from the throne on his investiture as the 21st Olu of Warri on August 21, 2021, did not only mark his coming as a monarch of conciliation, but ushered him as a king ready to engage a community in the 21st century. He reversed a curse from his grandfather’s lips, Olu Erejuwa II and the then Oba of Benin Akenzua II.

Over two years in the saddle, the king marks his 40 years on earth as one of the youngest monarchs, but one of the consequences and growing potential in the country today. It is a measure of his grace and intelligence that he has put behind him some of the ripples that attended his ascension, and he has steered the affairs of the kingdom to calmer and grander times.

He also came to the throne with a modern hue as he inhabits, in his royal personage, a multicultural air with a Yoruba mother, an Edo wife, and Itsekiri father. He has amassed these traits without diluting his Itsekiri ancestry or compromising the historic cultural heritage of a proud and doughty race. All three making him an essentially Itsekiri king with a large and heterogenous facility. It is also a testament to the dynamic syncretism of the Itsekiri soul and its adaptability to a diverse world that is navigating the tensions of a mosaic and melting pot.

This is more so in a country where some errant elites are weaponising tribe and religion to sully the unity of our people with politics and bloodshed, and where settler dog whistles continue to inspire hate among otherwise harmonious people. Hence, he has introduced a quarterly cultural moment called Ghigho Agbofen (A Palace watch) that brings together different tribes residing in the kingdom to showcase their cultures with dances, songs, art and fashion. Tribes like the Hausa, Fulani, Igbo, Ijaw, Yoruba, Bini, et al, coalesce in a Nigerian blend.

But he also pursues a very 21st-century appetite: technology. He has instituted what is called the Tech Challenge, in which persons between 18 and 35 apply for funding to pursue their innovations. As many as 600 applicants are winnowed to less than 200 who partake in sessions such as a pre-seed incubator programme of mentorship, training, and ultimately support. It leads to a final winner.

One of such was Ogheneteriji Onosajerhe, who devised an accessible electronic book reader for the visually impaired. This programme is part of his Global Master Plan that includes entrepreneurship, housing, and education to position Warri as a pivotal hub in the global business and innovation. The Tech programme partners with Omoilola Oshikoya of Richer Woman Inc.

At 40, the king is young and has the energy to transform the Warri kingdom. He is on the same page with the state governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, who has taken the rebirth of the city as a task.

Warri was the glory of the Niger Delta but fell from grace under the depredation of the Itsekiri-Ijaw bloodbath that drove investments and goodwill away.

Ogiame Atuwatse III is fitting into what Governor Oborevwori described him: “A great image-maker and marketer of Warri Kingdom and Delta State.”