Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Koko, the tiny oil bearing community and headquarter of Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State recently came alive with the burial activities of the late Olara-Aja (Community Head), Chief Victor Esimajemite Nanna who doubled as the Ereomala of Warri Kingdom.
The 97-year-old scion of the famous 19th century Itsekiri merchant, Nana Olomu, breathed his last on April 17. As tradition demands, his corpse was not taken to the morgue but embalmed at home for 31 days before the commencement of the final home journey.
The late Nanna was noted for the role he played in 1987 when an Italian company firm allegedly dumped a toxic waste at the heart of the sleepy Koko town.
Ignorant residents of the town at the time slept with the waste for nine months, as they thought that the strange consignments were miscellaneous construction materials until an Italian based newspaper blew the alarm whistle about the massive shipment of the poisonous substance into Koko.
The alarm raised by the foreign tabloid awakened the consciousness of the traditional authority and Nigerian government that attempted to forcefully eject residents of the riverine community to a safer haven until the toxic waste was evacuated.
But Chief Nanna who was not the Olara-Aja at the time, stood his ground when the immediate past Olu of Warri, Ogiamen Atuwatse II brought the relocation news after a meeting with the Nigerian military government of General Ibrahim Babagida.
Nanna told this reporter in 2014: “I told him that we have lived with the toxic waste for nine months, indeed, we are used to seeing it every day but we did not know it was toxic waste. Apart from the fright as a result of the news that the thing was poisonous, most of us thought it was paint because they came in drums.
“I said the choice of Koko people is that they have asked me to tell you, our king that we prefer to die here in our home if the thing was such a killer as people have made of it. If the thing was that deadly, you could imagine that most of us would have died by now but by the grace of God, we are not dead, we are not sick and we are going about our businesses. It is only in recent time that we were informed that it was toxic waste from somewhere.”
As a result of this leadership role and several others which he played in the community, the entire town stood still for his burial activities that were unique, creating opportunities for brisk businesses for food vendors, hoteliers, commercial motorcyclists and dealers on all manners of alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages.
Chairman of Koko Community Management Authority (KCMA), David Oniyeaburutan revealed that the late Chief Victor E. Nanna who was the immediate past community head (Olara-aja) was a unifying and stabilizing factor in the community.
Oniyeaburutan said despite opposition from his immediate Nanna family, the traditional chief of Warri Kingdom ensured that he brought the whole Iweroko and Ameren (gogo-meje) family that make up the community in unity.
He described the late Chief Nanna as a man of peace, impeccable character, integrity, trust worthy, endowed with sterling leadership qualities and a community leader par excellence.
The KCMA c hairman disclosed that Chief Nanna who retired as the Managing Director, Pamol, Sapele, one of the numerous companies of the United Africa Company, U.A.C. is the only Koko community head that has doubled as a Chief of the Olu of Warri with the title of ‘Ereomala’ created for the Nanna family.
“That account for why prominent Warri chiefs from the palace are represented here at the burial ceremony including other well-meaning sons and daughters of Iwereland across Nigeria and the diaspora,” Oniyeaburutan added.
He said it would be difficult to fill the vacuum created by the demise of Chief Nanna “because whoever emerges must be somebody that can surpass the achievement of the late community head.
“That person, apart from having learnt the intricacies and complexities enshrined in the arts and crafts of community brinksmanship from Chief V. Nanna must have been resident in Koko town for at least 3-years and must be sound in body, mind and properly fit as a person as guaranteed by Koko community constitution.”
He posited that with these stipulated criteria, getting a new Olara-aja would not come too easy but assured that there are certainly persons that can be looked upon to assuming the position at the appropriate time.
Oniyeaburutan thanked the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli, palace chiefs, particularly the Ologbotsere, Ayirimi Emami who led a retinue of traditional chiefs including the Uwangue, Oshodin, Edigbe, Ojogbojor and others to the occasion.
He also thanked all Itsekiri communities, sons and daughters of Iwereland who graced the solemn ceremony and made the community in general and the Nanna children/family very proud.