Itsekiri Are Yoruba-CAN Former President
Pastor Ayodele Joseph Oritsegbubemi Oritsejafor, fondly called
Papa Ayo Oritsejafor by many of his numerous admirers
is the founding and Senior Pastor of Word of Life Bible
Church, located in Warri, Nigeria. He became the
national president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of
Nigeria (PFN) on the 7 February 2005. He was elected
President of CAN, Christian Association of Nigeria.
In this interview, he speaks about the history of Itsekiri
people and other topics:
Q: What would you say is unique about the Itsekiri
people of Warri kingdom?
The first Christian missionary that came here was the
Roman Catholic. In fact, the first contact with a white
man was here. The Itsekiri people are the first contact
with the white man in Nigeria.
By the way, the second thing that many people in
Itsekiri may not elaborate on is that Itsekiri is Yoruba.
The Itsekiri language is a dialect of the Yoruba
language. Itsekiri people migrated from Yorubaland.
Some of them migrated directly from Ife.
Some migrated from the riverine areas of Ijebu, and
some migrated from Ondo. Some of them especially the
ones that migrated from Ife, they migrated with the
Ilaje. The Ilaje stopped at a point but the Itsekiri
continued and they ended up here in Warri.
Now, a few of them came from Benin Kingdom. The Benin
connection came from the palace. The palace
connection is still Yoruba at the end of the day
because the first Oba of Benin was a son of Oduduwa.
The first Olu of Warri was a first son of the Oba of
Benin. That’s the Benin connection. The Itsekiri, when
they moved here, they came with their Ife.
The upland Yoruba called it Ifa. We are the waterside
Yoruba. Our people will call the other Yoruba, Iroke.
They called the Oyo people Iroke and other Yoruba
Iroke but the Yoruba called them Ara Oke. This history
is very important because they are dying away. In
those days, the Ife which the mainstream Yoruba will
call Ifa was the god of divination.
The Ife had told the Itsekiri people that a prince would
come and become their king. Therefore, they stayed
without a king for a very long time, in fact for many
They were waiting for that prince, eventually this
prince who was the first son of the Oba of Benin was a
grandson of Oduduwa. He was very proud so he had a
lot of problems with Benin chiefs.
They were going to kill him. His father who was the Oba
of Benin, you know he was supposed to be the Oba of
Benin after his father, but for his own protection, his
father had to get him out of Benin Kingdom. He gave
him about 70 chiefs.
They smuggled him out, put him in a boat and they
performed all kinds of rituals. They put him in a boat
then sailed to Warri. When he ended up here, remember
our own people were waiting for a prince, they have
been waiting for years.
When he arrived, they consulted their Ife again and the
Ife says, “This is the prince”. So, that was how he
became the first Olu of Warri. That was how the first
Olu of Warri came about.
In those days, in the palace, in Warri kingdom, they
used to speak Yoruba. The palace was 100% Yoruba.
Don’t forget the Itsekiri language is a dialect of
Yoruba land and therefore a Yoruba language as it is
to this day.
The Benin are not Yoruba; they are descendants of
Oduduwa but the palace is Yoruba
Source ; Thestreetjournal