By Oritsẹgbubẹmi Adrian Ẹdẹma 25/08/2021
On the 21st of August during the coronation of HRM Olu Atuwatse III, the king Of Warri took the mic and sang a lovely Christian song that was well applauded by the audience.
Shortly afterwards lot of Nigerians who saw Christianity as the religion of the captor / colonialist took to social media wrongly accusing the Olu of promoting the religion of the colonial masters over the African traditional religion and culture of the people.
The word culture is defined by Colins Dictionary as “the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action. Culture is the way things are done in a place.
Those accusing the King of Warri are definitely not knowledgeable enough about the culture of the Itsekiri people as it relates to Christianity. I am sure they are not aware that Warri Kingdom was built on the foundation of Christianity.
Christianity is part of the culture of the Itsekiri people. Needless to say that of the 21 Olu that have ruled Warri Kingdom more than half of them were Baptised Christians. This records goes back as far back as the 16th century.
Apart from the fact that Warri Kingdom has always been a Christian nation our cultural and traditional practice are interwoven with Christian traditions.
The founding of Warri Kingdom by our ancestor Olu Ginuwa around 1480 coincides with the visits of the first set of Portuguese to the Kingdom, these Portuguese came mainly for trade. They brought with them the Christian faith.
The first recorded case of evangelism was in 1515 when there was issues between the Portuguese traders / missionaries and some Itsekiri locals.
Let’s take a look at some historic records regarding Christianity in Warri Kingdom.
1. 1571-4 mission to Warri
1620 Pedro da Cunho: Ad limina report
Besides these three islands, there is a town of Christians on the continent in the kingdom of Warri, called St. Augustine, because its people first received the Faith from religious of the Hermits of St. Augustine. One of them, called Brother Franciscus a Matre Dei, baptized the present king at the time he was still a prince and successor designate.
2. 27-9-1584 Diogo da Encarnação: Appeal for priests
There is another king in Rio Forcado [= Warri] who is already Christian, but is calling for priests, because he has none in his kingdom.
3. 14-12-1584 Diogo do SS. mo Sacramento: The same
There is another king of what is called Rio Forcado, which is in alliance with the Priester John and Congo, who is already Christian. He also calls for priests so that they can do baptisms in his kingdom.
Olu Dom Domingo (Ogiame Atuwatse I) was a member of The Knight Temple.
Read Mesa da Consciencia letter below on how he was admitted into the Order of Christ ( Knight Templar – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_Order_of_Christ)
9-3-1609 Mesa da Consciencia e Ordens: admits Domingos to Order of Christ
Dom Domingos, son of the king of Warri, presented in this Council a message of Count Almirante that your Majesty should grant him and his brother and the king, his father, the habit of the Order of our Lord Jesus Christ, and he asks that they should have the provisions sent so that he can be vested in the said habit. That the said provisions may take effect, you should have the required provisions made, according to the Statutes of the Order.
We recommend that, in view of the quality of the petitioners and to that their petition may be granted quickly as befits the favour your Majesty is granting him, and because there is no presumption or suspicion of any kind of obstacle, your Majesty should be pleased to have made in this city the said provisions and the investiture according to the Statutes.
In the Council, 9 March 1609.�aa) A.o Furtado de M.a P./ J. Ferás/ Dom Ant.o Mãz/ Domingos Rib.o C./ B.or dias P.to/ Dõ J.o Coutinho.
The first recorded church in Warri Kingdom was a monastery called St. Anthony’s Monastery which was later corrupted by the Itsekiris to “Satoni” . It was designed by a monk Rev.Fr. Pattazio and built between 1620 -1692. The extract below from early visitors to Warri in the 17th century confirms this
“There is a church in the city , with an altar and on it a picture of Christ on the Cross with Mary and the Apostles, and beside it two candlesticks. And the negroes enter this church with paternosters in their hands all the while, like true Portuguese people, and they read these as well as other Popish prayers. They appear to be most godly, and can also read and write and are eager for Portuguese books pens, ink, and paper”.
The Portuguese did not came to our land with the intent of colonising the Itsekiri people, they never colonised us. They came for trade and commerce.
We also had free trade agreement with Portugal as recorded below;
23-11-1607 King Philip: Free trade allowed with Warri
I, the King, inform those who see this letter that, considering how much it will serve God and myself by opening the ports and commerce and trade with the kingdom of Warri, on the coast of Guinea, as well as to have divine worship celebrated there and our holy Catholic Faith preached there and to promote a true knowledge of the Faith among the indigenous of the same kingdom and the unbelieving idolators of those territories, as well as for the profit and usefulness which can result from it to my realms and to the indigenous themselves of that kingdom, I commanded my Financial Council to discuss the matter and to gather information about the persons who reside in or sail to that territory. Being in agreement with what the said Council recommended and with the great care they took in this matter, I am pleased with every aspect and, since Dom Domingos, son of the king of Warri, also asked me on behalf of his King, I grant him that all the ports of his kingdom be opened for commerce with all my vassals of these realms and the realms of Portugal, to trade there from now onwards, in the same manner as is done in our realms of the Congo. This decree shall be carried out entirely and exactly as it provides, without any delay or impediment. May this hold firm etc.
Francisco de Brito composed this in Lixboa, on 23 Novermber 1607.�Juan Aluarez was the scribe.
Around the 1700s the French, the Dutch, the Germans came to our kingdom for trade. These people where Christians and their stay help Christianity flourished in our land. They did not came to colonise us. They never colonised us.
Two Frenchmen built French Colony in Warri Kingdom. They had very large farm and a research facilities where Ambroise Marie François Joseph Palisot, Baron de Beauvois (1752–1820)world most renounced botanist assemble most of his collection for his book Flore d’Oware et de Benin, en Afrique (Flora of The Kingdom of Warri and Benin) published in 1804
The french colony was later burnt down when the British attack Warri kingdom in 1792 ( https://peoplepill.com/people/palisot-de-beauvois/ )
At this stage it’s right to talk about the British.
The first encounter we had with the British was around 1789 when they sponsored a set of our neighbours to invade Ugborodo. The Itsekiri got wind of the plan for this attack on time and got prepared. From the account of Jean-François Landolphe (1765–1825) we where told how Captain Okro (Iyatsere Okorodudu) lead a gallant contingent and captured most of the attackers and the Itsekiri where victorious.
The 2nd British attack lead to the complete burnt down of the French colony in 1792. The British came to Africa for conquest and colonisation. They brought Christianity for the first time around the 1800s to most part of Nigeria and lot of Africans resent their religion because of their barbaric act of conquest and colonisation as the religion was seen as a tool of enslavement.
To those of us that our ancestors have been Christians and dealt happily with Christian nations for over 300 years before the British atrocities, our Christianity is not a symbol of colonisation it is the faith and culture of our people.
HRH Ogiame Atuwatse III The Olu Of Warri did what lot of his ancestors (the past Kings) would have done in the past. Those criticising him should get their fact right and understand that Christianity is our way of life in Warri Kingdom.
History of Itsekiri By William Moore 1936.
Itsekiris By Dr P. C. Lloyd 1960
The Portuguese in Warri by P. C. Lloyd 1960
Benin by James Pinnock 1968
Materials for West African History in Portuguese archives by A. F. C. Ryder 1965
Missionary activities in the kingdom of Warri to the early nineteenth century by A. F. C. Ryder 196