The Making of a King The Historical Significance of Olu Atuwatse III

Last year, Olu Atuwatse III’s coronation captured the public imagination and shifted the trajectory of Warri’s history. What is this history in the first place? 

Editor's note: This essay is available in our print issue, The Road to 2023. Buy the issue here.

When the golden crown was placed on his head at approximately 3:30 p.m. on August 21, 2021, Prince Tsola Emiko completed the process to become the twenty-first Olu of the Warri Kingdom. Tradition dictates that he shall no longer be addressed by his birth name, but by his regnal name and title: His Majesty, Ogiame Atuwatse III, the Twenty-First Olu of the Warri Kingdom. The Olu of Warri, the paramount ruler of the kingdom, is one of the influential ‘first class’ traditional rulers in Nigeria, a designation the federal government of Nigeria uses in referring to a handful of traditional rulers whose ancient kingdoms predate Nigeria’s existence as a geopolitical entity. In present-day Delta State, where the Warri Kingdom is located, the Olu of Warri and the Dein of Agbor are the only two ‘first class’ rulers in the state’s council of traditional rulers. Last year, a man in his late thirties ascended the throne of Warri and became an influential force with centuries of tradition behind him. Olu Atuwatse III has since modernized and energized the institution. His coronation captured the public imagination and shifted the trajectory of Warri’s history, but what is this history in the first place?

This essay features in our print issue, ‘The Road to 2023’ and is only available online to paying subscribers. To subscribe, buy a subscription plan here from N1,000 / month (students) and N3,500 / month (non-students). Already a subscriber? log in.



Every year, The Republic publishes the most ambitious writing focused on Africa, from news and analysis to long-form features.

To continue reading this article, Register for a one-week free trial.Already have an account? Sign In.