THE NIGERIAN NATION
D. A. OBIOMAH
SOME EVILS IN THE WARRI SITUATION
And Internal Questions To Be Resolved By Urhobos
1. False Propaganda
Telling the same lie over and over again, to wit, Urhobos were slaves to Itsekiris as well as subject people within an Itsekiri Empire. Make-believe by such acts as importing a supposed Professor Orlinto from Brazil to lecture on Itsekiri past glory and ownership of Warri. Although the arrival of the said Professor Orlinto into the country and his upcoming lecture were well published in the press, the man himself was more or less smuggled into Palmgrove Motel ground, Warri, and Itsekiris only were invited to the lecture at the end of which hoax no questions were allowed.
a) The oppressor crying wolf to the outside world and gaining sympathy against Urhobos. By this manoeuvre any advantage, employment, political offices or representation, social recognition that is not monopolised 100% by Itsekiris gives cause to raising alarm against Urhobos for seizing Itsekiri rights. Thus has apartheid been successfully installed against Urhobos in Warri to this day.
b) Cooking of statistics to conform with the "facts" of propaganda. In a classic case, by no means isolated, an Itsekiri Electoral Officer registered 481,000 eligible voters out of a projected population of 377,000 men, women and children. Of this 214,000 voters came from the barren Itsekiri riverine areas whose population was less than 50,000 so that fake election results from there gave the Itsekiris the Chairmanship of the Warri Local Govt. Area Council. Also these figures enabled the Itsekiris to claim that they were the dominant tribe in Warri as a result of which Itsekiri language and culture are taught to Urhobo children in Warri as mother tongue, in some cases by Urhobo teachers who speak Itsekiri. For, the Itsekiris do not even have enough Itsekiri teachers for the programme. Part of the propaganda machinery is to walk the corridors of power with women and money bags night and day, also by monopolising offices at local level they control and manipulate information to their advantage and exclusive of others.
c) Election rigging as an art. The fact that election results are published without elections held or that election figures are doctored which so shocked the nation recently resulting in the outright cancellation of the Presidential primaries, have been normal practice in Warri.
d) The situation created by (b) and (c) above is that of a facade of strength used as a bargaining weapon in the formation of alliances often against Urhobo interest.
Funds are set aside for financing propaganda and political activity, including elections, as Itsekiri strategy of rivalry, monopoly of offices for ultimate ascendancy and prominence in the public eye. Their success passes for enigma considering their size. Although much has been said about the astuteness and Machiavellian Itsekiris a few words must be said about changing times. When the rural (including six of the seven Agbarha village units) Divisional Council was abolished in 1976 a single Warri Local Government Council combining rural and urban replaced it. The determination to win the council at elections led to the intensification of making fraudulent registers of voters, and other types of electoral fraud. Because of the heavy returns from the inaccessible and dangerous riverine areas the Itsekiris were courted at Local, state and national level for political alliances. This bargaining counter is now lost as far as Warri South (more or less Warri Urban) is concerned. The 1991 Census figure for Warri North, that is, Itsekiris and four Ijaw Clans of Ogbe-Ijoh, Isaba. Gbaramatu and Egbema, is 87.000. Eligible voters would be about only 40,000 where in the past it was 214,000 for Itsekiris and 73,000 for Ijaws. The Ijaw population is larger than the Itsekiri. However, Urhobos have little stake in Warri North unlike Warri South.
In Warri South the population which is predominantly Urhobo is 213,000. Ode-Itsekiri ward is part of Warri South Local Government. Although it is incredibly split into three wards, the area has a population of no more than 5,000. The National Identify Card Project when completed will bring the final adverse change for the Itsekiris.
Thus the avenues for chicanery are closing in. But none must underrate these men of devices to trump up new plausibilities for the Guinness Book of Records. Theirs is to surprise, to attempt and leave you one step behind to fight their latest infamy while they have hopped on hatching yet a new one.
However, Urhobos cannot pretend to a determined effort to redress their experience in national politics and assume their proper place without first dealing with their own internal problems.
Internal Questions To Be Resolved [By Urhobos]
Hence, notwithstanding that the objective of this conference is largely academic, ample encomiums must be poured on the initiators of this conference. It is a vigorous starting point Mr. Chairman of the Committee of the Urhobo International Conference, sir, my humble thanks; Mr. Secretary of the Committee of the Urhobo International Conference sir, my humble thanks. The Committee and the entire members of the Urhobo International Conference, sirs, EMUDIAGA CLUB my humble thanks. All you dignitaries, Sirs, and powerful men of Urhoboland, here and outside, associated with the effort of the Committee, my humble prayer that the Committee can go back satisfied that they have ploughed the field and scattered the good seed on the land. By your grace and the grace of all here present whichever way you pray, may the land be fruitful..
Proceed To REACH FOR THE DREAM