Urhobo Historical Society
Remembering Dr. Muadiaga Odje, A Pioneer in
Dr. Mudiaga Odje, SAN (OFR): A Bright Jewel Lives On1
By Daniel Obiomah
Dr. Mudiaga Odje is dead. It behooves every Urhobo person to pay tribute to him. He made ample success of his chosen career and never indulged in weeping and blaming others for his failures. He was a bright jewel on Urhobo attire. It goes far beyond this indeed.
Warri is the cradle of Urhobo progress and unity despite natural hiccups. Name any of our early Urhobo potentials, but he was one who cut his success teeth in Warri – Chief Mukoro Mowoe, Chief J. Obahor, Chief Okpodu, Hon. P.K. Tabiowo, Chief A.T. Rerri, Chiefs Mowarin, Okoh; Mr. Ighakpata, Akpoyovware, Chief (Mrs.) Alice Obahoar. Warri therefore, is the great pride of Urhobo nation. Anyone who helped Warri out of the thraldom thrust upon it and its Urhobo owners by colonialism did more, (to adapt Oliver Goldsmith) to the Urhobo population than he who forever talks of Urhobo progress without daring to stick his neck out for Warri.
This, Dr. Mudiaga
Odje did. I
knew Dr. Odje as far back as the mid – 1950s. He was a teacher in UPU’s
It happened that we met as members at the 1977/78 Constituent Assembly, which produced the 1979 Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution, which has since become a model for subsequent ones. Up to that moment there had been entrenched in the 1963 Constitution a clause, which discriminated against Agharha-Urhobo and everyone else in favour of a rival ethnic group generally regarded as powerful and dangerously vindictive as a bear.
My duty at the Constituent Assembly was to expunge the inappropriate discriminatory clause already in the Draft Constitution to be considered. Because I know I was watched for attack and obstruction, I made it a point to work behind the scenes. In this regard, I teamed up without show with the women members of the assembly who were determined to save women from discrimination. We produced a draft motion for debate and approval by the assembly. My name was not, as a matter of diplomacy, on the motion. But before it was sent to the clerk of the House for inclusion in the order paper, I took it to Dr. Mudiaga Odje who vetted it, ensuring that it closed for good the discrimination aimed at Agbarha but against all Urhobo. In due course, the motion was called to be moved and debated. It was moved and seconded. There was no counter motion. It was put to the vote and endorsed unanimously! This amendment to the Draft Constitution and the 1963 Constitution then appeared in the 1979, and now in the 1999 Constitution.
Dr. Mudiaga Odje
his weighty support as it were to the children of
That was not all. We, Agbarha, Warri-Urhobo were sued to court by adversaries who should be friends. Why? We dared to assert our independence and sovereignty following the constitutional amendment. Dr. Mudiaga Odje stood by the Agbarha people without a fee. He won. In due course, of his own volition in order to fortify my own effort, he gave me, without a fee two legal authorities.
The Agbarha Urhobo says, “Arha mre Oghene ne ene-e.” You cannot pay more homage to God than this, that is, best is best, there cannot be a better.
Tell Oyivwi Mission complete
It is the dream come true.
Say also you were labourer in the vineyard with
M.G. Ejaife and Igho to spread knowledge now prolific throughout the land.
It is a common quote from Shakespeare that:
“The evil that men do lives after them
The good is oft interred with their bones.”
It will not be so with you. All Urhobo acclaim you and with
Long fellow say:
“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of times.”
You have left bold footprints on the sands of time
Ohorizegede! Ohorizegede! Ohorizegede!!
Your family mourns you, but are proud of you.
♥ ♥ ♥
Mudiaga Odje (SAN): A Veteran Lives On4
By Dafe Omoko
An iroko tree has fallen. A man who provided cover not only to the Urhobo nation, but to the entire country has departed this world for the great beyond. And since his demise, dignitaries within and outside the legal profession have been attesting to the fact that he contributed immensely to the development of our legal system. He also worked tirelessly to change the destiny of the Urhobo of Warri, especially in the celebrated Supreme Court case No. SC/309/74. If not for him, the story of the Urhobo of Warri would have been different today.
His contribution to
growth of Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) alongside Dr. Esiri, late Chief
Okumagba (of blessed memory) was priceless. They all combined
maintain the legacy of the likes of late Chief Mukoro Mowoe, Chief
Chief Sam-Warri Esi, who ensured the Urhobo spoke with one voice and
battles in a manner devoid of distrust, hatred and disunity. No wonder
authority was never challenged or questioned. It was a period the
was held in high esteem by other ethnic groups in the defunct
leadership of the
UPU meant authority to every Urhobo man on earth, even in politics.
no dissenting voice. The whole Urhobo nation respected the candidature
Chief Daniel Okumagba who was the governorship candidate of the defunct
National Party of Nigeria (NPN). This was why the NPN got more than the
cent vote required for Alhaji Shehu Shagari in
Dr. Odje was a man
education and knew its importance to the development of man, hence he
the sermon of education to the upcoming generation. He ensured that his
siblings (all male) read up to university level, and also made history
This is the story of the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in Urhoboland, Dr. Mudiaga Odje (OFR), who transited into the great beyond peacefully at about 6:30p.m. on Friday December 9, 2005 at the ripe age of 82 years.
After the death of
the legal icon
was made known to the public by one of his sons, Barrister Okiemute
relations and friends from all walks of life have been trooping to his
Warri residence to register their condolence, making the once quiet
Notable and highly distinguished Nigerians have since been registering
condolence. Honourable Justice E.O. Akporido of Effurun High Court
late Chief Odje as a great man who contributed immensely to the
On his part, Barrister Albert Akpomude (SAN) who worked under Chief Odje said his former boss was “the icon of the NBA, the lone star of the Warri branch of NBA, and a foremost lawyer in Urhobo nation.” The incumbent chairman of NBA, Warri chapter, Ojo Abijogun simply said: “An iroko has collapsed, our foundation has shaken,” while another legal luminary in Urhoboland, Chief Okpoko (SAN) described Chief Odje as a merchant of honour.
An Itsekiri historian, J.O Ayomike in his brief comment described Dr. Odje as a good man. While another prominent Itsekiri figure, Chief O. Temile stated that “Chief (Dr.) Mudiaga Odje was a very jovial and friendly man.” Chief F.O. Esiri, one of Dr. Odje’s contemporaries simply said: “Rest in peace after a job well done.”
Speaking in the same vein, one of the children of the deceased, Barrister Okiemute Odje, said: “Daddy has not died, he has gone home. He has fought a good fight. And he has achieved everything a man could ever wish for. All we need is prayers and strength to give him a befitting farewell. “His admirers should begin to celebrate, to thank God, and wish to have another great Urhobo man who would be able to take his position.”
Dr. Mudiaga Odje
was born in Evwreni, Ughelli North local government area of
He read law at the
He returned to
Dr. Odje was called
English Bar on February 9, 1960 and enrolled at the then Federal
He was the leading
Hon. Justice Begho Tribunal that probed assets of former public
Midwestern Region, Benin City, in 1966; member of the Midwestern
Delegation to the ad hoc constitutional conference in Lagos between
1967; president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) from 1974-1976,
elected to represent Ughelli and Isoko local government in 1979. He was
chairman, Odje Commission of Inquiry,
Dr. Odje became a
bencher on March 30,1989 and was past chairman of the Honourable Body
Benchers of Nigeria from 1996 – 1997. He was also responsible for the
and call of new entrants to the Nigeria Bar during this period, and was
chancellor of the Diocese of Ughelli, as well as legal adviser of the
of Warri, both of the
Odje was a holder
chieftaincy titles, including Olorogun and Okakuro in
♥ ♥ ♥
Late Odje Added Value to Lives
By Francis Daniel-Okumagba
Olorogun Francis Daniel-Okumagba has said the late Chief (Dr.) Mudiaga Odje (SAN) added value to many lives while on earth.
In a chat with The Urhobo Voice during the service of songs for the one-time Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) president, the renowned banker recalled that his father (Chief Daniel Okumagba) and late Chief Odje impacted on their environments.
“Look at the houses Chief Okumagba and Chief Odje lived in, you would know the kind of morals they had,” he added, remarking that the two men would have made a lot of wealth, but “they confined themselves to the little they had because they were not interested in making dubious money; what they were interested in was adding value to life.”
He said the legacies which they (children of both men) received from their fathers centred on selflessness and love for their nieghbours, describing Chief Daniel Okumagba and Chief Odje as two great men who fought for the growth of the Urhobo nation.
“It would be rare
such people today,” he declared, tracing the friendship between his
Chief Odje to the early 20s when they were teachers at
In a related development, Chief Yoma Esiso has described the death of Chief Odje as a loss not only to the Urhobo nation, but to the country. Esiso, who was present at the burial, urged the children of the late deceased to sustain the legacy their father left behind.
On his part, a frontline politician in Delta, Chief Okiemute Majemite described Chief Odje as a collossus in the legal profession.
The Agbarha Otor-born politician, who is also a lawyer suggested that the likes of Chief Odje should be immortalized, and called on upcoming lawyers to emulate the deceased.
♥ ♥ ♥
How Odje Was Laid to Final Rest5
By Dafe Omoko
The life and time
(Dr.) Mudiaga Odje was during the past weekend celebrated in a
ceremony that could best be described as a burial carnival as the high
The burial carnival which started with service of songs at late Chief (Dr.) Odje’s Warri GRA residence on Thursday, January 26 was conducted in a grand style. A popular Warri-based master of ceremony called Pecee confessed to The Urhobo Voice that he was in awe at the turn out of eminent personalities at the service of song to the extent that he was careful while acknowledging names of distinguished personalities present in order not to offend anyone.
The service of songs that took place between the hours of 4pm to 6pm also witnessed a reunion of loved ones, particularly amongst relations and friends. The premises of Dr. Odje’s residence and indeed the length and breadth of the quiet GRA Road was jam-packed with people who came from far and near to pay their last respect to the late sage.
The next day which was Friday, January 27, 2006 was more eventful. This was the day the legal icon received his dues from members of the profession, which he helped to build.
After a brief
stopover at his
residence, the late legal luminary was then taken to High Court (I)
a valedictory court session described by many as first of its kind was
his honour. The court session was attended by all sections of the
including the bar and bench. In spite of the strict restriction of
into the court hall, it could not contain the eminent lawyers as well
magistrates from within and outside
The Delta State
Justice R. Bozimo was in charge of proceedings. She was flanked on both
by the president of Delta State Customary Court of Appeal and another
court judge. Time and space would not permit one to recount the
poured on late Chief (Dr.) Odje (SAN). The
After Chief Okpoko’s speech, the remains of late Chief (Dr.) Mudiaga Odje (SAN, OFR) was driven in a motorcade to the St. Andrews Anglican Cathedral Okere Road, Warri where a church service was conducted.
Here again, there was a problem of space as a result of the multitude of people from all walks of life, who went there to pray for the repose of the soul of the man who changed the legal destiny of the Urhobo of Warri in the celebrated Supreme Court case No. S/309/74.
The presence of Governor James Ibori, his deputy, Chief Benjamin Elue, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, Senator Felix Ibru, Chief Ighoyota Amori (JP) were announced at the pulpit with apology to the array of other eminent personalities who were present but whose presence could not be acknowledged due to lack of time.
However, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor of World of Life Bible Church, Rev. Father Ambrose Abaka Oghenejode of the Roman Catholic Church, Chief Ray Inije, Yoma Esiso, Chief Adolor Okotie-Eboh, Justice Niki Tobi of the Supreme Court, Justice F.F. Tabai, Chief Efe Akpofure (SAN) and a host of other highly placed personalities were present at the church service.
Immediately after the church service, Dr. Mudiaga Odje (SAN) made his final journey to his hometown of Evwreni where he was received like a hero (of which he was) by thousands of natives who were seen clad in a specially designed textile material with the photograph of late Chief (Dr.) Odje on it, dancing and singing in praises of him.
Meanwhile it was celebration galore in the posh residence of late Chief (Dr.) Odje. The premises was wide enough to contain about eight canopies including the final resting home of the late sage which was described by many as one of the best tomb in this part of the state. Caterers were at different spots including the nearby primary school to attend to people without discrimination of any kind. A gospel musical band was also on hand to entertain with the latest gospel music in town.
On Sunday, January
an outing service was held in honour of the late Urhobo patriot at the
Anglican Church Evwreni. Again, a galaxy of who is who in Urhoboland
3 Oyivwi is the favourite moniker among the Urhobo people for Chief Mukoro Mowoe.