Edo State-born billionaire businessman and philanthropist, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, passed on recently. Before his death, he shared his thoughts on the emergence of the Olu of Warri-designate, Prince Utieyinoritsetsola Emiko, who, coincidentally, is his son-in-law.
What is your take on the ascension of the new Olu, your son-in-law, to the royal stool of his forebears?
First of all, I want to give all the glory to God for everything. Prince Tsola Emiko happens to be my son-in-law, as you people would call it, but I call him my son, because that is how I see him, since the day he got married to my daughter. Prince Tsola is a well-brought-up child; he was nurtured and brought up as a king. And for us in our family, we are very lucky to have Prince Tsola because he has conducted himself over the years as a prince and a well-brought-up child. He has given us peace; he has not given me any reason to differentiate between my biological children and him. That is why, before this whole thing about the Olu of Warri stool, I had no inhibition at all about taking a step back in my company and making him the chairman. I appointed him the acting chairman of my company because of the confidence, trust and uprightness I have in him. The new king-designate, who happens to be my son, is now going to be my father. He is a man of good integrity.
This is about the first time in living memory that the build-up to the coronation of a new Olu of Warri has attracted some controversy. As the father-in-law to the new king, what role did you play in dousing tension among all the stakeholders?
To be very honest, when this happened, I was very scared, very scared for Prince Tsola and my daughter, because it happened all of a sudden. We never expected it and I had a very good relationship with King Ikenwoli Godfrey Emiko, the late Olu of Warri. He was a father and a confidant; we had a very good relationship even before he went to Ode Itsekiri and what eventually happened. We had a chat and I always paid regular homage and respect to him. He was a father and a peaceful man. King Ikenwoli joining his ancestors was a shock to me personally; there was this fear for my children, because I have an idea of what the respected stool was all about. For me, the best thing to do was to stay away from everybody. I didn’t discuss it with anybody, but focused on God. All I did was to pray to God to take charge and, you know, whenever God takes charge of a situation, it is sure and simple. That was why I refused to speak with anybody. There is nobody that will tell you that I spoke to him concerning this matter, not even Ayiri Emami, who happens to be a friend that I had worked with. I just wanted the will of God concerning this matter to take place, and God took charge.
What quality or attribute influenced your decision to give your daughter, Ivie, as wife to Prince Tsola Emiko about seven years ago?
Well, I was not the one to see the quality in the young man. It was for my daughter to see the quality of whom she brings to me and we should all pray for our children to also make the right decisions because I am not the one to choose a husband for my daughter; it is for me to accept. When I met him, just like I said earlier, it was easy to accept Prince Tsola as my son-in-law. He was properly brought up and I knew he was a different person ready for the royal task that he is about to assume. Of course, you know my daughter is also well-brought-up to take up the challenge of looking after her husband and, by her name, Ivie, she belongs to the palace.
What would be your advice to the monarch’s wife, given that becoming a king is an enormous task?
My advice to Ivie, who will now be the queen, is to completely support the king. I expect her to give him all the support and make the kingdom a blessing onto others. We will also be there to give them necessary support and prayers all the time as parents. But, you know, when he ascends the throne, he becomes our father.
Historically, what is the link between the Benin and Itsekiri kingdoms?
I am not a historian. However, it is on record that the Itsekiri ruling house is from the Benin Kingdom, that lineage with the Itsekiri people is there. The history is there for everybody to appreciate, and we thank God for that.
What are your expectations of the new king?
I expect that his reign will usher blessings, peace and prosperity to his people. I believe that being a king is not only for the people to continuously serve you but it is for you to serve them; it should be both ways. People should be able to feel the impact, and when things come his way, he should be able to dissipate them to the community and also expect that the people should equally give him the support to succeed. We are all praying and we will continue to pray for him to succeed.
What would you say of Chief Ayiri Emami’s opposition to the emergence of the new king?
Like I said earlier, Ayiri Emami is someone I know and I had expected him to have seen the direction of things, rather than taking the position he took. All the same, we thank God for what has happened. His (the new king) ascension shall usher in peace and unity in the kingdom.