The Life and Times of Itsekiri Kings

Today, we shall be learning about the life and times of the Itsekiri people, and the kingship. past and present kings with their activities. but firstly, let’s tell you a brief history of the Itsekiri people.

Brief History about the Itsekiri people.

Prince Ginuwa
Prince Ginuwa the first Itsekiri King

The life and times of Itsekiri Kings is something every son and daughter of Itsekiri kingdom need to know.         Prince Ginuwa was the eldest son of Oba Olua the 14th Oba of the Benin kingdom. He was well-loved by his father the king but he was not the favourite by his father’s kingsmen, because he was impatient and stubborn of the taboos and traditional ethics of the times.

he never liked their ways of doing things, he has been nurturing the plan of ruling his people all this while, the kingsmen started planning on how to get rid of him as such child can bring disunity to the kingdom, unfortunately, the father heard of the plans by his kingsmen and due to the love, he has for his son he decided to smuggle him out of the kingdom.

That was how prince Ginuwa landed in Sapele with his entourage and stay there for a while before learning that his father’s kingsmen are still after his life, Sapele is very close to Benin that is why they are still planning to get him down, he decided to move far away from them this time he landed in a small inland town called Ode-Itsekiri known in the present day as “big Warri” when he gets to the town he met people living there already without a king, this is the real Itsekiri settlers sharing boundaries with Ilaje people, Ilaje is people from Yoruba town that settle close to the river in ondo as it is called today.

History did not tell us how prince Ginuwa manage to convince the Itsekiri people to accept him and become their king, my opinion is that prince Ginuwa told them how he rebels his father’s kingsmen due to their unpleasant taboos and traditions and how they plan to take his life, all this event lead to him running to this place for safety, as a crown prince from a well known Benin kingdom and as a clan without a king the people decided to make his dream come thru by crowning him prince Ginuwa as their first king.

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The Reigns of Kings in Itsekiri.

King of Itsekiri
Early King of the Itsekiri Kingdom


Prince Ginuwa was installed as Ginuwa1 the first king of the Itsekiri kingdom also known in present-day as the Olu of Warri, he reigns from 1480 to 1510, he died and was buried in the Ijala community which happens to be the burial ground for Itsekiri kings to date, in 1510 Ijejin Ogbowuru succeeded his father as the second king of Itsekiri kingdom, he rules till 1538.

The third King of Itsekiri was Irame, Irame succeeded his brother and he rules from 1538 to 1550, it was learned that he banished the three gods and the worshipers from Ode-Itsekiri for unnecessary noise making.

Ojoluwa becomes the fourth king of the Itsekiri kingdom, he succeeded his father Irame, he rules from 1550 to 1570, during his reign as king he started the process of integrating the Ekpen and Ekpenede Descendants of the Okere Community which he later succeeds in uniting both communities. Esigie becomes the fifth king from 1570 to 1597, he had no remarkable event during his reign.

From 1597 to 1625 was the reign of D.Sabastiao Atorongboye the sixth king, he was the first king to become a Catholic, due to his strong friendship with King Philip ll of Spain he sent his son to study in Portugal and the son came back with a degree and became the first graduate in the whole of sub-Haran Africa, king Atorongboye’s son was awarded a title Dom (D) by King Philip ll, the young prince pleaded with King Philip to also bestow his father the title as he can’t be bearing such title leaving his father behind, finally, his fathers and brothers were given the title Dom (D).

The Era of the Golden Skin King.

The seventh King was D. Domingos Atuwatse l, as a learned man and the first graduate that has traveled far and wide he returned home from Portugal with a noble Portuguese lady as his wife, he rules from 1625 to 1643, after the demise of the King his eleven years old son D. Antonio Domingos Oyenakpagha Obanighenren succeeded his father as the eighth King of Itsekiri kingdom from 1643 to 1654, he also got married to a Portuguese lady just like his father, the name Obanighenren was given to him as a nickname because of the color of his skin (white skin) Obanigheren In Itsekiri means “the prince with the golden skin” the ninth King D. Matias Ludovico Omoluyiri succeeded from his brother and he is also white skin, he rules from 1654 to 1674,  the tenth King also a white skin, rules from 1674 to 1701, D. Luigi Abejoye succeeded his father.

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From the eleventh King to the sixteenth King were free-born of Itsekiri, they rule in combined years of one hundred and forty-seven years in their different times from 1701 to 1848, the names of the kings that ruled at that time are, D. Sebastiao ll Akenjoye, D. Miguel Omagboye, D. Agostinho Sebastiao Octobia Akengboye, D. Manual Octobia  Atogbuwa, D. Manuel Sebastiao Octobia Erejuwa l, and the last but not the least D. Eyeolusan Joao Akengbuwa which is also the last Catholic King of Itsekiri kingdom.

The Crisis in Itsekiri Royal Household.

King Ikenwoli Godfrey Emiko
The life and times of Itsekiri Kings, Oba Ikenwoli Godfrey Emiko


After the death of the sixteenth King, D. Eyeolusan Joao Akengbuwa in 1848 the palace was thrown into chaos as there is no living potential successor to succeed the King, this now leads to a political crisis in the kingdom, during the crisis his son prince Oritsemena whom he births outside his marriage from a strange woman left Ode-Itsekiri to form his community known as Usele community, as the kingdom went into vacant with no replacement at the moment, a certain woman still from the royal family named Queen IYE Idolorusan ruled the kingdom for eighty-seven years, from 1848 to 1936 as a caretaker, though she was never crown or recognized as a Monarch.

During this period the Portuguese and the merchant prince dominated the leadership of the Iwerre Kingdom as they were fondly called, then arose the seventeenth King, Ginuwa II Emiko Ikengbuwa who succeeded his grandfather at the age of fifteen, he ruled from 1936 to 1949, the kingdom enters another vacant period but this time nobody rules the kingdom for good two years before the emerging of Erejuwa II Wilson Ayoronmitsi Gbesimi Emiko as the eighteenth King in 1951 to 1986.

In 1987, Atuwatse II Godwin Toritsejo Emiko was installed as the nineteenth King of the Itsekiri kingdom, he succeeded his father, he was a lawyer by profession, he rules from 1987 to 2015, before his death in 2015 he ordered the church he attends foursquare gospel church to be placed in the Palace but this didn’t go well with his kingsmen, Ikenwolli I Godfrey Emiko succeeded his brother and become the twentieth King, his reign was very short, he rules from 2015 to 2020, he died at the age of sixty-five years, he had three children.

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The Present King of Itsekiri Kingdom (Olu of Warri).

King Tsola Emiko
Present King of Itsekiri Kingdom

Atuwatse III Utieyinoritsetsola Emiko was born in 1984 to the family of Atuwatse II, he schooled at Havard University Uk, he succeeded his uncle to become the twenty-first King of Itsekiri kingdom, he bought himself a brand new Rolls Royce car to commiserate himself on his installment as the King of Warri, before his coronation there was a little misunderstanding between the kingsmen and one of his uncle called Ayiri Emami, Ayiri was appointed by the late king Ikenwolli I as the Ologbotsere of the kingdom which means the spokesperson of the kingdom, after the demise of the King, Ayiri said he is the one that is supposed to be the next King but the Kingmakers told him that the gods have already chosen and they choose his brother’s son that is the person of Atuwatse III, he got angry and left the kingdom for a while, he didn’t attend the coronation ceremony, but recently he has come to apologize to the King for his actions and the king forgives him, Atuwatse III was crown the twenty-first Olu of Warri Kingdom in August twenty-first 2021.


The Portuguese during the fifteenth century were the first to land in Big Warri Nigeria before the British, and the Itsekiri people established a great reputation as traders and middlemen due to their exposure to the western world and most learned amongst the nearby communities and West Africa in general, they engaged in supplying European manufactured goods to inland peoples in exchange for slaves and palm oil from the land, I believe you’ve learned one or two lesson from this article about the rich cultural heritage of the Itsekiri people of southern Nigeria. If you do, please drop a comment on the comments section, Thank you.

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