On Pele’s Warri ancestry

CultureOn Pele’s Warri ancestry
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By Tony Afejuku

Today in an un-peculiar sense I want to halt infuriating my wondrous readers’ patience by admitting them into a little knowledge of the recently late King Pele’s Warri ancestry. Since I hinted what I hinted in this regard two Fridays ago, running to last Friday as a matter of fact, I had inevitably (but not surprisingly so) received more than numerous calls and messages from diverse readers and customary and uncustomary followers of this column. For their sake I am amputating several matters in my thoughts in order not to delay further their collective curiosity. Thus, I am offering now only what may amount to a slice of Pele’s Warri ancestry or descent.

Before my thoughts go to the subject earnestly, let me provide two pertinent species as follows:
“What we know is a droplet. What we don’t know is as the ocean” (Albert Einstein).
And:
“I am not a teacher but a fellow traveller of whom you ask the way. I pointed ahead, of you as well as of myself” (George Bernard Shaw).

Jacob Akindele, a top pen pusher and a welcome judge of this column, drew my valuable and measured attention to the quotations uttered respectively by two white- blooded intellectual giants of universal renown named above. The import of each quotation is germane to at least a lump of this undertaking. I shall begin with a spiritual exposition which involves the columnist who will try as best as he can to pay heed to the “death of the author” in the telling of the spiritual tale as it involves Pele, and his Warri lineage. The tale has as well socio-historical dimension and tendency.

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I discovered Pele’s Warri ancestry in 1981 in an unusual sort of way. But at that time I didn’t give much thought to it. In fact, I was not the only one who discovered it – although I was the only one by intellectual and academic training who could give it invariably scholarly reflection and contemplation – spiritually, historically, politically and otherwise at the material time. The year was 1981 – early 1981 to be exact. And it was after the Africa Nations’ Cup which Nigeria hosted and won. My younger brother, the dreaded magical left-winger Prince Afejuku of Bendel Insurance of the glorious years, was among three or so members of the inaugural Junior Eagles who were invited to the Green Eagles to be part of the senior team. The others were Sylvanus Okpella and Henry Nwosu. But he sustained a spiritual-induced knee injury in camp before D-Day, and consequently was eventually not included in the team. After the Nations’ Cup which the Green Eagles won, he won an athletic scholarship offered by a university in the US. In fact, two US universities offered him two athletic scholarships: North Carolina State University and Appalachian State University, the late Thompson Usiyan’s (former pre-1980 Green Eagles great centre-forward) University. He chose the former (Frank Moniedafe’s University) against my wish and advice. Before then plans were on for him to be admitted by Ahmadu Bello University (where I was then lecturing) on athletic scholarship as well.

On the eve of his setting forth to the US, an elderly cousin of mine, a civil engineer, still resident in Sapele in advanced age, advised and insisted that we subject his journey and quest to divine interpretation and guidance. Out of curiosity I gave him the nod – although as at that time I was thoroughly perplexed by what I quietly called his idealistic thought and belief, that is, his conception of being (essence) rather than that of engineering, a realistic product of science of becoming (praxis). Three of us in a quiet dry evening in Sapele visited three diviners – two of whom were female Christian prophetesses while the third and last was a traditional Itsekiri male diviner. I admired our elderly cousin for being completely immersed in Itsekirio-Christian culture. Of the three diviners, it was the traditional diviner we visited last at sun-down that won our admiration (and mine in particular). Like the female Christian diviners, he was meeting my brother and I for the very first time (and final time as well). With his first throw of his divination cowries in a traditional white chalked-circle that housed two equally white diagrams of triangles and seven straight lines, also drawn in white chalk, on the floor of his sitting-room, he knew correctly the reason why we were before him. Without a word from any of us, after exchange of pleasantries he pin-pointed everything that was related to my brother and his impending journey and the challenges that he would be beset with. He offered a simple solution of little monetary value when our cousin asked what could be done for my brother to overcome the challenges that would confront him in America. But this was after he said that my brother should have instead gone to Appalachian State University.

From the blues his cowries revealed that my brother was like Pele without initially mentioning Pele by name. He merely said in an off-hand manner that my brother was in the profession of our Potoki brother. It was then our cousin who was very proficient in Ifa divination pointedly pinned him down and committed him to dwell on Pele. Initially, I thought he was referring to Eusebio of Portugal when he talked of “Potoki brother.” When our cousin pinned him down, Ifa (Ife in Itsekiri) revealed Pele’s Warri (Itsekiri) ancestry. Pele’s ancestor, Ifa revealed, was a sojourner, a royal sojourner from Warri on earth, what one may liken to “homo viator.” His ancestor, as Ifa revealed, was an adept at recreative exercises of religious, that is, of Itsekiri traditional meditations and metaphysical matters. It was then I challenged the Ifa priest – although politely. I told him point-blank to revisit Pele’s roots beyond what he had said. He replied that he understood our doubt. But he insisted that Pele’s ancestor had our family’s that is, my ancestor’s royal blood. He did not stop there. He said Pele would live a long life but that he would pre-decease his mother. Not only that. Towards the end of his existence on this earthly plane he would be in and out of hospital until he would go back to the un-forbidden beyond. Furthermore, he would get a sky-burial – whatever that meant then when he uttered it. Everything the Ifa priest said now makes sense to me.

But this is not the end of the revelations. For now let me say this: I raised this issue with the late Itsekiri historian, J.O.S. Ayomike. We needed archaeological as well as solid historical backings to back Ifa’s claim or revelation. This was one argument I tabled before the famed historian in the late 1990s. He agreed. But we had our hindrances. However, through my historical researches I was able to discover as follows:

Several Warri Princes, apart from the son of the reigning and ruling Olu, Don Domingos, journeyed to Portugal “to be instructed in sacerdotal duties.” This was in the sixteenth century. Pele’s ancestor from his own branch of the royal family, if the Ifa priest was right, probably went to Portugal at this time through Sao Tome en route to Portugal from where he probably ended up in Brazil.

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At this time in Warri Kingdom commerce and trade were not particularly and peculiarly buoyant thus Itsekiri business ethics and traditional economic philosophy were affected. But Itsekiri philosophy of living still thrived in the right direction. And the missionaries who visited the Kingdom were the envy of several royals who were imbued with the spirit of adventure and journeys to other lands, especially Europe. Let me side-step at this juncture this factual history and other archeological considerations in the form, for example, of royal correspondences of Kings of Warri to the King of Spain and the Pope to support our contention.

What titillates my imagination and creative consciousness with respect to Pele’s Warri ancestry is the Ifa priest’s religious and essentialist and dialectal revelation which Itsekiri socio-historical and political circumstances as at that time certainly did not disavow. And if I add here what the Ifa priest reveals about me, revelations which are exceedingly true about my being and genesis of being you cannot but endorse my contention. The notion of Roland Barthes’ theory of “the death of the author” precludes me from saying more than I should say. What you should know “is a droplet” from your “fellow traveller” in creation. By the way, the solution of little monetary value that the Ifa priest offered to counter my younger brother’s challenges in America was carelessly jettisoned. The offshoot of that is a sad, sad history. We better forget it. But it has since played a major role in my visionary universe.

Pele’s Warri ancestry is real. But what I have just tabled is a slice and a tip and a lump of a gem. My readings continue….
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

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