By Ovie Okpare
Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, has called on Urhobo leaders and politicians to unite and build a common ground for the growth and development of the Urhobo ethnic nationality in Nigeria.
He said the seeming division and lack of unity among Urhobos contributed largely to the lost of her position in the Nigerian political space where it played prominent roles in the pre and post-independence of Nigeria.
Senator Omo-Agege spoke on Monday at Uvwiamuge-Agbarho, Delta State, while delivering a lecture at an event as part of a week-long activities marking the 90th Anniversary of the apex socio-cultural umbrella of Urhobo people worldwide, Urhobo Progress Union (UPU).
Speaking on the topic titled, “The Challenges and Prospects of Urhobo Progress Union in Contemporary Times”, Omo-Agege challenged Urhobo leaders to rise up and confront myriad of challenges including the Urhobo Language from going into extinction.
The lawmaker said Urhobo people lost their voice in the nation’s politics owing to failure of political and economic actors of Urhobo extraction to speak collectively on matters affecting Urhobo Nation.
He, however, said it was time for Urhobo elites and politicians irrespective of their political affiliations to work together like their forebears such as Chief Mukoro Mowoe to reclaim its lost glory.
He added that the day Urhobo Nation decides to speak with one voice, nothing can stop her glory in the social political space of Nigeria and the worldover.
Omo-Agege, who represented Delta Central at the Senate, said Urhobo people must be very conscious and strategic ahead of the 2023 governorship election in Delta State to produce the next governor of the state.
The Obarisi of Urhoboland insisted that the governorship seat in Delta State must be rotated among the three senatorial districts.
He also charged Urhobo people worldwide to return home to invest and set up industries that will ensure the development and growth of Urhoboland.
“As we move towards another election season in 2023, it is most appropriate to be conscious and strategic. In recent months, there has been considerable apprehension over attempts to short-change Delta Central Senatorial District in the rotation of the governorship position in 2023.
“The strong opposition of the UPU to this surreptitious and dangerous move to manipulate the political process in the State against Urhobo political interest is commendable.
“I sincerely applaud Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) Worldwide, for insisting that it is the turn of Delta Central Senatorial District to produce the next Governor of Delta State. I am also pleased that UPU emphasized the need for the Ijaw nation to support the 2023 gubernatorial quest of Urhobo Nation.
“Also worthy of note is UPU appeal to political parties in the State to sustain the rotational arrangement of the State’s governorship position based on senatorial districts. They have spoken the mind of all Urhobos irrespective of political platforms.
“My dear Urhobo people, I am hoping for a change, a change in our view of each other and our community. We need to emulate the good examples and legacies of the heroes of Urhobo nation and realize that we are one people. That the Urhobo interest is far greater than our individual interest and political alliance. We can come together as one big Urhobo family to defend Urhobo interest and still pursue our individual dreams”, Omo-Agege stated.
While commending the Olorogun Moses Taiga-led Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) for building on the successes of the body, he charged them to reinvent itself and unite all Urhobos to work and speak with one voice on issues affecting the Urhobo tribe.
“These meetings were presided over by Chief Ayomanor of Okpe-Sapele. Jereton Mariere (later Governor of Midwest Region) served as the Honorary Secretary of these perennial sessions of Urhobo leaders of thought. And because they worked together, there was no challenge they could not overcome.
“That is the spirit we are called to show once more, especially now when we face similar challenges: lack of unity, falling educational standards, loss of economic power and political marginalization. We are also faced with new challenges such as violent crimes, herders – farmers clashes and rising youth unemployment that is fuelling insecurity in Urhoboland, and threatening our way of life.
“These challenges did not come about overnight. But because we failed abysmally to build on the foundation of unity and brotherhood which our forebears – Chief Mukoro Mowoe, T. E A Salubi just to mention a few – laboured to establish for us, we watched helplessly as the pendulum swung too far towards individualism. And now a nation that was once the envy of other nationalities can no longer speak with one voice.
“This strong sense of individualism that is rooted in the republican nature of Urhobo communal affairs and politics was and would always be detrimental to any effort to mobilize the Urhobo people for group defence and protection, especially in the political arena. That is why the UPU, right from its early days, was positioned to provide leadership and work to promote the consciousness of a common political identity of Urhobo nationhood.
“In that same address of October 29th, 2016 to the Ighele r’Urhobo, I also did say that “Individualism and the crab-like tendencies of connecting enemies from without to pull down fellow Urhobo people in business, politics, faith-based organizations, sports, academia, professional careers and other aspects of human relations, are beclouding and diminishing the glory of Urhobo in such a despicable manner.”
“The UPU of today is seemingly united but we all know that we have an insurgent group that is laying claim to the leadership of UPU. This group remains so belligerent and continues to carry on despite the fact that the rest of us have moved on with the Olorogun Moses Taiga led Executive of UPU. This situation has resulted in conflicting press statements on national issues to the embarrassment of the Urhobo nation.
“We also have multi-subgroup organizations, which are competing with UPU for relevance and visibility in defending Urhobo or speaking for Urhobo. Many Urhobo leaders now move in opposite directions and speak with different voices; a situation which is inimical to the advancement of Urhobo national interest. This is rather unfortunate and it must stop.
“We have seen several successful and unsuccessful attempts at the structural balkanisation of Urhobo into autonomous clans or kingdoms. The rising agitation for Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality in Nigeria should be of great concern to all Urhobo people.
“Okpe, Ughelli, Uvwie, Udu, Orogun, Agbarho, Agbarah, Abraka, Oghara, Ovu and other Urhobos are one. We have a symbiotic and inseparable relationship as one people of same ethnic nationality, working together and winning together for the greater good of the Urhobo nation.
“Finally, I urge every Urhobo son and daughter, particularly the youth, to play their part in the quest for the socio-economic and political advancement of our ethnic nationality and work towards the growth of the Urhobo nation always.
We should all join UPU to take steps to remedy the lack of unity and underdevelopment of Urhobo land relative to other ethnic nationalities in the country. I appeal to everyone to shun rancour, bitterness and acrimony and assist the UPU President-General and members of his administration to take Urhobo to the next level”, Senate Omo-Agege added.
In his remark, chairman of the event and speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Chief Sheriff Oborevwori, reemphasised the need for Urhobo people to unite.
Represented by the Deputy Chief Whip of the State House of Assembly, Hon Solomon Ighrakpata, Oborevwori stressed the need to build on the existing relationship with other ethnic nationalities in the state and the country.
“As we celebrate 90 today, I wish to harp on unity, progress and cohesion for the sake of Urhobo. Let us be guided by history and protect this inheritance bequeathed to us by our fathers”, he said.
In his welcoming address, the President-General of UPU, Olorogun Taiga, reiterated his executive to unite and ensure that Urhobo people speak with one voice.
According to him, “As the UPU turns ninety and we look back in order to fully engage the future, I call for continuing unity of purpose among our people. Let us revisit the ideals of “Higher thoughts, Higher aims” that fired the resolve of the founders of the UPU. We must live the motto of “Unity is Strength” without the least compromise.”