Anthonio De Mingo

Anthonio De Mingo also known by native name Oyenakpara, or nickname Benighere, was the eighth Olu of Itsekiri, inquirer of science, who was described by English adventurers to the Benin River areas in 1644 as the “king of Warri, mulatto, or half black.” Anthonio’s Portuguese mother, Magheghoeye, whose Itsekiri name was Oyeomasan, was a daughter of the sixth Olu, Atorongboye and Anthonio was the child from her marriage to a Portuguese trader by the name Mingo.

Anthonio’s reputation as an inquisitive man and keen lover of anatomy is illustrated in the famous two of his researches. Once, he slaughtered a crocodile and prepared, as was customary of the Itsekiri, “a feast for his right wrist.” After this ceremony, he lanced his wrist with a knife and found quantities of the marched yam inside. With this experiment, Anthonio was encouraged in his style of reasoning, but a second experiment which was meant to confirm his positivism would account perhaps for his relapse into irrational belief. To show that it was useless to make sacrifices to sticks and other nothingness, Anthonio made a meat sacrifice to one of his canoes, strewing the marched yam to the forehead of the boat, and then asked that the food be washed out. He found, upon sawing the wood open, that the marched yam had been deposited there.

When his grandfather who was the Olu died, Anthonio who schooled in Angola, was, alongside his half-brothers, Atuwatse and Omoluyere shortlisted as possible successors, though he, being related to the Olu through his mother is by tradition not supposed to be considered. Eventhough Anthonio was described in some account as a staunch Christian, the story is told of how he consulted a spiritist friend to make supplications for a safe journey to Portugal when it was required for each candidate to the stool of the Olu to leave town pending the time a new king is decided. Anthonio was pronounced king in 1640 when he outdid his competitors and uncles with gift of pure rum from the cask, tobacco, provisions, pipes, and other fancy goods from Portugal. It was Anthonio who as king, or Olu of Itsekiri invited the Roman Catholic prefect, bishop, and priests to Warri. Due to the rivalry of Portuguese and Spanish powers, missionaries in Warri were starved of the support that was needed to thrive. When Anthonio died in 1648, and the mission in its fourth year, the church of Warri was dissolved.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer