By Eseoghene Emuke
Renowned African pioneering anthropologist and sociologist, Professor Onigu Otite is dead. Prof Otite died at the age of 80 on Thursday in Lagos.
Prof. Otite, who hails from Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta State, was born in Okpara Inland of Agbon Kingdom on January 21, 1939.
He became famous for his revered books on African culture and his native Urhobo tribe of the Niger Delta region.
Otite’s widely read books earned him to be listed in Africa’s Who’s Who published by Africa Journal Ltd For Africa Books Ltd in 1981 on page 937.
He was also listed in Who’s Who in Nigeria, A Daily Times Publication 1983 on page 468 as well as Who’s who in the Commonwealth, Second Edition, 1984. He is also included in Who’s Who in Nigeria published by Newswatch Nigeria 1990.
The late historian was among the first set of students to attend the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He was the first Public Relations Officer (PRO) of UNN’s Student Union Association (SUA) now State Union Government (SUG).
He is one of the notable academicians that facilitated the founding and formation of the Michael and Cecilia Ibru University, Agharha-Otor, in Delta State.
Meanwhile, the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) Worldwide has described Prof. Otite’s passage as a great loss to Africa, Nigeria and Urhobo Nation where he contributed immensely to its growth.
UPU described him as one of the greatest historians of culture and tradition that ever lived and come out of Africa.
In a statement, signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Abel Oshevire, UPU said until his was a member of UPU Board of Trustees (BOT), adding that Otite’s death was one shock too many for the Urhobo Nation.
Otite’s death is coming a month after demise of a former governor of the Mid-Western State and one time Chief of Army Staff, Major General David Ejoor. Ejoo died at the age of 87.
According to the statement, “This is one shock too many for the Urhobo Nation. Prof. Onigu Otite was not just a literary genius and historian, but was one of the greatest historians of culture and tradition that have come out of Africa.
“He was one of the earliest Urhobo scholars to focus attention on the culture and history of the Urhobo People of the Niger Delta, and has written several books.
“Some of his leading publications on Urhobo include, among others, the bold, priceless and authoritative book that has become an indelible contribution to scholarship and history, The Urhobo People (edited); The Urhobo Kingdom of Okpe, and Autonomy and Dependence.
“Onigu Otite was also a passionate and patriotic Urhobo man, who worked tirelessly to preserve and protect the peace, unity and heritage of the Urhobo Nation.
The statement added that Otite’s passage has thrown the entire Urhobo Nation including the Olorogun (Dr.) Moses Taiga-led UPU National Executive Committee into deep mourning.
While commiserating with his family, the People of Agbon Kingdom, the entire Urhobo Nation and the Academic World on his passage, UPU prayed Almighty God to grant his soul eternal rest.
Similarly, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has mourned the death of the famous sociologists as a great loss to the state, saying that the state was proud of his academic prowess.
Okowa, in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, commiserated with the Otite family, the people of Okpara Inland, Agbon Traditional Council and the Urhobo nation.
The governor said, “The Governor affirmed that as an author, Otite exuded vibrancy, intelligence and innovation in his works as a social commentator, constantly in search of plausible answers and solutions to contemporary issues bedeviling his society.
“Through his research, the Governor believes that Otite was focused on ethnic conflicts and resolutions with particular interests in the Niger Delta ethnic groups where there are frequent communal clashes leading to disruption of crude oil production and loss of both life and property.
“He was key at University of Ibadan where he pioneered the Social Science Department as early as 1967 and introduced courses such as the African Social Thought in Sociology Department at the University of Ibadan.”
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