THIRD MUKORO MOWOE LECTURE
A DISCUSSION PAPER
Igho Natufe, Ph.D*
|* Dr. O. Igho Natufe is a Senior Policy Research Advisor with the Government of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He is the Deputy Chair of the Urhobo Historical Society. The views expressed in this paper do not reflect nor represent the views of the Government of Canada nor those of the Urhobo Historical Society. Dr. Natufe taught Political Science and International Relations at various universities in Canada, Ghana, and Nigeria.|
“You were no king but had a larger kingdom
than kings of emissaries and missionaries.
You clutched to your chest the lugubrious gifts
of your people so that they would not lose
their blessing for lack of foresight--in the native sky
you saw through granite clouds a resplendent sun,
& you slept less and less to cover the landscape of
a destined mission . . .
And when news broke of your death, an iroko struck
by lightning, the world collapsed in grief;
women abandoned their chores, men their work,
and children their play and laughter; all to wail.
"Mowoe's gone, who'll stand for us?" they questioned
their dumbfounded fate.”
(From a Poem by Professor Tanure Ojaide in memory of Mukoro Mowoe, delivered at the First Mukoro Mowoe Memorial Lectures, November 21, 1998)
I consider it an honour to be invited to address this August assemblage of Urhobo sons and daughters, and friends of Urhobo on the Third Annual Mukoro Mowoe Memorial Symposium. I congratulate members of the Urhobo National Forum for their foresight in organizing this memorial event in honour of a prominent son of Urhobo, whose pioneering works and selfless service to the benefit of Urhobo have defined the way most of us think and behave as Urhobos. I also would like to recognize and thank my predecessors, Professors Peter Ekeh and Ajovi Scott-Emuakpor whose addresses to the first and second editions of this memorial event have challenged most of us to dedicate our services to the betterment of Urhoboland. While Professor Ekeh’s 1998 address focused on the impact of the life and activities of Mukoro Mowoe on the development of Urhobo consciousness, Professor Scott-Emuakpor, in his 1999 address drew our attention to the imperatives of environmental degradation of our land. As a nation, we are still grappling with the consequences of both brilliant addresses. In my opinion, we have not responded in a way that would reflect our recognition and acceptance of Mowoeism. The above excerpt from Professor Tanure Ojaide’s Poem eloquently depicts the void we have been unable to fill since the passing away of Mukoro Mowoe in 1948: “Mowoe’s gone, who’ll stand for us?”
I am not an authority on Mukoro Mowoe. I never knew him, I was just four years old when he departed this world, but his activities helped to chart my path as an Urhobo. It is doubtful if we would have seen the emergence of Urhobo Intelligentsia in the 1930s and mid 1940s, and the establishment of Urhobo College, were it not for the tireless struggles of Mukoro Mowoe. I can say that I am here because he was there and for what he did.
I was invited as a Guest Speaker to speak on “Urhobo Socio-Economic Agenda: A Challenge for Development and Progress in the New Millennium.” Instead, I have titled my address thus: TOWARD AN URHOBO AGENDA: A DISCUSSION PAPER , because I do not think I am qualified to present an “Urhobo Socio-Economic Agenda.” That is a task for us all, Urhobo sons and daughters. What I am qualified to do is to lead a discussion Toward an Urhobo Agenda. It is anticipated that my thoughts will provoke a reasoned discussion among us, and thus compel us to formulate an Urhobo Agenda, after an in-depth analysis and evaluation of all contending views on such a vital subject.
Since the collapse of the electoral process of June 12, 1993, the Nigerian polity has been subjected to severe strains and convulsions that continue to threaten the survivability of the federation. There has not been any significant qualitative change in the conduct of public policy by the federal, state and local government administrations. Neither has the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo instituted any sustainable plan to protect and guarantee the virtues of federalism. The current structure of Nigerian federalism is a caricature of federalism. It is a reincarnation of Soviet federalism that constitutionally defines the polity as a federal state, but depicts the supposedly federating units as mere administrative arms of the central government. Consider the following: -
1. The powers of the federal government
to create states.
2. The powers of the federal government to create local governments.
3. The exclusive federal jurisdictions over natural resources (policy, exploitation, exploration, development, marketing and licensing)
It is instructive to note that exclusive federal jurisdictions over natural resources apply only to oil and gas, and not to cocoa, palm-oil, hides and skins, etc.
We may need to remind ourselves about the concept of federalism.
As a system of government with more than one level of government ( a central
government and state or provincial governments), the federating
units, i.e., the state governments exercise independent jurisdiction
within their defined territories. These federating units are not subordinate
to the central government. Simply put, a federation is the coming together
of different entities for the good of all but not the loss of their respective
independence. Why do nations federate? We argue that they decide
to federate for one or a combination of the following reasons: -
A nation decides to federate for socioeconomic reasons because it (a) possesses shared values with other federating units; (b) wants an access to a larger domestic market; (c) wants a secured access to a sea port; (d) seeks access to a higher standard of living; and (e) would like to enhance its welfare policies.
Politically, it decides to federate in order to (a) strengthen existing relations with its co-federating units and (b) possess a stronger voice internationally. Thirdly, it decides to federate in order to be able to protect itself from real or an imagined threat to its national security.
The above factors must have influenced Nigerians to agree to establish the Nigerian federation in 1960, instead of going their separate ways when they attained their respective independence in 1957 (Western and Eastern Nigeria) and 1959 (Northern Nigeria). Events leading to 1960 clearly demonstrated that the North did not want to federate, while both the East and the West argued for a federation. Each subsequent federating unit could have opted for their separate independent states in 1957 and 1959 respectively. It was a British colonially inspired federation which, ironically, the North did not want to be part of.
Many Nigerian scholars have lamented the Lugardian amalgamation of 1914 that established modern Nigeria. They argued that it was a mistake, and that it marked the beginning of Nigeria’s problems. I strongly disagree. The mistake was the failure of the south to chart its own independent path after 1957. The East and the West failed to realize the hollowness of colonial federations and were perhaps motivated by other considerations. It is interesting to note that the citizens of another British colonial federation (the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland) had the foresight to recognize the pitfalls of such a federation and wisely opted for the independence of their respective countries, the present day Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. While the political leaders of Western and Eastern Nigeria fought for the establishment of a Nigerian federation, it is significant to stress that their successors have lost control of the powers to renew and restructure the federation in order to recapture the intent of their predecessors. They are now clamouring for a return to the 1963 Republican Constitution, if they cannot revert to 1957. What an irony of History!
Nigerians fought a bitter civil war to safeguard the federation,
but the current federal system does not seem to possess the glue to keep
the federating units from clamouring for change. The need to restructure
Nigerian federalism has not been greater. The National Democratic Coalition
(NADECO), which emerged in the post June 12 days, has placed the concept
of a Sovereign National Conference on the political agenda of the country.
According to NADECO, a Sovereign National Conference would afford Nigerian
nationalities an opportunity to meet, discuss and resolve on the type of Nigeria they want to construct. This view became a central position of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), one of the three registered political parties that contested the elections of 1998/99 that led to the current civilian administration of President Obasanjo. The Yoruba ethnic group of Nigeria’s southwestern region, is the chief proponent of this position. Thus, it could be said that the Yorubas have defined themselves vis-a-vis the future political structure of Nigeria. Subsequent publications of various pan-Yoruba organizations have amplified this viewpoint. The main thesis of a Sovereign National Conference is for the restructuring of Nigeria along the basis of the true principles of federalism. This presupposes that the current federal structure of Nigeria is not federal in form and content.
The current Nigerian federal system is highly centralized. As we all know, a highly centralized federal system dose harm to the polity. It is a quasi federal system that could lead to a unitary system. The two levels of citizenship - state and federal - are entangled in perpetual conflicts as the federal government and the federating units fail to agree on vital issues of interest to the federal polity. Thus, the inability of Nigeria’s federal government to equitably relate to the federating units could give rise to centrifugal forces with potentials to destabilize the federal polity. There has not been any more urgent need to restructure the Nigerian federal system.
Various Igbo organizations have given credence to the demand for restructuring Nigeria. In their arguments, Ndigbo has called for a confederal as opposed to a federal structure for Nigeria. Thus, in their view, if a Sovereign National Conference is held, the Igbo would only be interested in a confederation of Nigeria and not in any renewed federalism. In dialectical terms, the Yoruba and Igbo have adopted conflicting positions on their agreed notions of restructuring. This unity and struggle of opposites is a vital determinant of social change. The critical issue is how and where the pendulum of power will swing. Will it swing in favour of a confederation or renewed federation?
But what is a confederation? It is assumed that a significant proportion of Nigerians, by their historical experience, know what a federation is. We may disagree on its properties. Though it is not necessarily an antipode of federalism, a confederation differs substantially from federation in key elements of the jurisdictions of the confederating units. Simply put, confederal units retain all attributes of statehood and independence, except in two areas: defence and foreign policy, where they agree to exercise their jurisdictions via a coordinating organ of power. For example, they each would contribute a given number of military divisions and personnel to defend the confederation. But each will retain complete jurisdictions on other areas, including foreign trade and investments, natural resources, etc. Unlike a federation, in a confederal state each confederating unit is a subject of international law. In political terms, a confederation is the half way house to the disintegration of a federal polity. Nevertheless, this is the proposal of Ndigbo. It defines their perception of contemporary Nigeria, and is perhaps the product of their historical experience over the past four decades. They are comfortable with this position.
The view of the northern political class is strongly opposed
to both propositions emanating from the Yoruba and Igbo groups. It is interesting
to note that President Obasanjo and a majority of representatives of both
parliamentary chambers are also opposed to these propositions. In their
view, any discussion of a renewed federalism must take place in the House
of Representatives and Senate. This position is based on the premise that
only elected officials can discuss and dictate the modalities of change
in the polity. This is a dangerous thesis. The events of the past seven
years would argue against a monopoly of power and authority by elected
Situating Urhobo in Nigeria
How do we situate the Urhobo in the current debate on constitutional change in Nigeria? Is it necessary for us to define an Urhobo agenda? Or do we measure the wind and follow the path already defined by others? Are we satisfied with the current federal structure in Nigeria? If not, how do we effect a change of the structure? These are critical questions which we may elect to ignore at our own peril.
Given the role of ethnicity in defining our political
allegiance in Nigerian politics, it has become an acceptable norm for most
Nigerians to disagree with any views emanating from the political class
of an opposing ethnic group. Fear, suspicion and mistrust have
influenced this development. For example, it is likely that most opponents of a Sovereign National Conference have anchored their thesis on these phenomena. Thus, we always seem to “see” hidden agendas in the proposals of members of the opposing ethnic groups! This “power’” of seeing has hindered our collective desire to forge any meaningful consensus on vital national issues. The challenge, therefore, is for us to focus or refocus our sight on how to construct an agenda that reflects our own national interest, irrespective of any coincidence this may have with any other agendas of other ethnic groups. The key here is national interest. What is the national interest of the Urhobo? How does this ally or conflict with the national interest of other Nigerian ethnic groups? Can we forge a series of strategic alliances with other ethnic groups with whom we share congruent interests?
After so many years of drifting in the political wilderness, it is refreshing to observe the emergence of a framework for the articulation of an Urhobo agenda symbolized by the Urhobo National Assembly. Though still in its infancy, this institution has become a defining force in Nigerian political discourse. It is a major political force in Delta State as well as in the Niger Delta. The Assembly has declared its support for the convening of a national conference of nationalities to discuss the restructuring of Nigerian federalism. While the majority of Urhobos and Yorubas may belong to opposing political parties, they seem to have identified congruency in their respective national interests vis-a-vis the current constitutional debate in Nigeria.
Urhobo is the tenth largest ethnic group in Nigeria; the second largest in the Niger Delta, and the largest in Delta State. In economic, political, cultural and intellectual terms, the Urhobos constitute a significant powerhouse in the Nigerian polity. But, have we harnessed those attributes of power to project an Urhobo agenda? This is a major challenge confronting us as we seek our rightful place in the new millennium.
The Urhobos have the prerequisites of power to shape the political contour of Delta State, as well as to influence the future strategic directions of the Niger Delta and Nigeria. What we seem to lack is the will to assert ourselves and define our interest as a collective. We do not want to offend others. This is, by no means an excellent attribute. But its capacity to pay political dividends is very limited. We need to inject some bite into our political expressions. The fact that other ethnic groups have been compelled to notice the Urhobo over the past 12 months is inextricably linked to the activities of the Urhobo National Assembly. These are what Mukoro Mowoe fought for.
Should the Urhobo support the call for a Sovereign National Conference? There are two main schools of thought on this issue among the Urhobo. Proponents of the anti Sovereign National Conference argue that it is superfluous to convene such a conference since Nigeria already has an elected civilian administration to tackle and resolve all national questions, including that of a renewed federalism. They further argue that, what we need are good leaders to build a federal polity. To suggest that we do not need a Sovereign National Conference because we already have a constitution is a weak response to a very serious question.
Urhobos that support a Sovereign National Conference recognize the imperative of change that will benefit the Urhobo nation in a renewed federal structure. For them, the current federal structure is a caricature of federalism. Thus, in their views, only the nationalities, as the core federating units can determine the type of federalism for Nigeria. To deny them this role is to discard an important argument in favour of federalism, which recognizes the independence of federating units. Though the state is the recognized federal unit in Nigeria, in most states the nationalities are synonymous with the states. While it could be argued that such states or nationalities are already functioning as federal units, for example, the ethnic homogenous states, the nationalities in other multinational states like Delta, Edo, . Benue, could not be said to have agreed to any notion of federalism. The fact that they participated in federal elections is not a sufficient proof of their support for the current federal structure. Thus, for them and the other nationalities in ethnic homogenous states, the need to convene a Sovereign National Conference cannot be over stressed. Therefore, it is essential that all Urhobo support the position of the Urhobo National Assembly on the issue of a Sovereign National Conference.
Urhobo and Delta State
The creation of Delta State in 1991 by the Ibrahim Babangida military administration brought mixed feelings to the constituent units of the state. When Bendel State, the successor state of the Midwest State was dissolved and succeeded by two new states, Edo and Delta, it was anticipated by most Deltans that the new states would reflect the territories of the old Benin and Delta provinces that had given birth to Bendel State. But the Babangida administration had other considerations. A segment of the old Benin province that had agitated for the creation of their own Anioma state was included in what was the old Delta province to form the new Delta State, with the capital located at Asaba - an Anioma territory.
It is alleged that Ibrahim Babangida was under the spell
of his enchanting Asaba wife to locate the state capital in her hometown.
This may only explain part of the rationale for
locating the state capital in Asaba. The other factor, in my view, is the Urhobo-Itsekiri schism which has been exploited by external forces to pursue policies inimical to both Itsekiri and Urhobo, knowing that they lack the capability to forge a united front to project their mutual interest. In normal political systems, the location of a state capital is the exclusive jurisdiction of the state concerned. The model of state creation under the military regime is one of the abnormalities of Nigerian federalism. Let me also say that the campaign over state capitals in Nigeria is made more acute by the political iniquities of the political elites that neglect the development of other parts of the state, once “their” hometown becomes the state capital. Thus, the “struggle” over state capitals by these elites is perceived to define and ensure the development of the capital city. I am sure if you ask Nigerians (and many U.S. citizens and residents) to name the capital of New York State, they will identify New York City. They will also identify San Francisco or Los Angeles as the capital of California. These wrong answers are informed by their notions of development and state capital.
Some segments of the population have demanded the relocation of the state capital from Asaba to Warri. In a recent statement, the president of the Urhobo Progressive Union lent his support to this demand. As expected, this demand has been challenged by prominent Aniomas. Given the controversy over the location of the state capital, it may be necessary to propose a strategic approach to resolving the issue. Holding a referendum should be ruled out as the outcome will not resolve the controversy. Since the linkage between state capital and development has come to define peoples’ perception of their state capital, a unique way of resolving the state capital issue could be the location of government ministries across various towns of the state. In this way, people would feel inclusive in the process of development.
Another factor that could impact on the issue of Delta
State capital is the multi-allegiance of some of the ethnic groups of contemporary
Delta State. Let me explain.
I have provided the above cases to demonstrate just one point: Of all the ethnic groups of contemporary Delta State, only the Urhobo and the Isoko have no allegiance to any other states in Nigeria. They have no brethren to join outside Delta State. This explains the passion with which we discuss about Delta State. It also compels us to understand the controversy over the choice of Asaba as the state capital. Furthermore, and perhaps more fundamentally, it explains our total allegiance to Delta State as our home.
Toward an Urhobo Agenda
What is the national interest of the Urhobo? How does this ally or conflict with the national interest of other Nigerian ethnic groups? Can we forge a series of strategic alliances with other ethnic groups with whom we share congruent interests? Our answers to these questions will help us formulate a framework for constructing an Urhobo Agenda. My intent here is merely to outline my proposals for discussion by fellow Urhobos. I will provide a skeletal framework that could form a basis for detailed discussions and analysis. I welcome critical and objective comments that will broaden our collective knowledge and advance this debate in the overall interest of Urhobo.
We proceed by defining national interest as the body of tangible and intangible properties that underline the survivability of a nation. Generally, it is assumed that a national interest is informed by a given ideological prism of a nation. For the purposes of this lecture, let us refer to URHOBONESS as an ideology of the Urhobo nation. Let us define Urhoboness to mean the following:
1. Urhobo Language
2. Urhobo Culture & History
If we accept the above as the core properties of an Urhobo ideology, then any series of policy options we consider should be geared toward facilitating a conducive environment for the protection of our ideological interest. Thus, an Urhobo national interest will include the following:
1. To construct a viable environment for the promotion
of Urhobo language, culture and history.
2. To defend and protect the territorial integrity of Urhoboland.
3. A just place for Urhobo in the community of nations (e.g., Nigeria).
4. Socioeconomic development of Urhoboland.
5. Well being of all Urhobos.
6. To live in peace with our neighbours.
The above six are by no means exhaustive. But they will help us to focus on some of the key areas of our national interest. A successful articulation of these will presuppose the existence of a pan Urhobo institution (in the form of the current Urhobo National Assembly) that will forcefully propagate and defend those interests. If we accept, at least in the interim, that the above defines the core interests of Urhobo, the next stage will be for us to construct a framework for an agenda based on them. Let us try:
1. Urhobo language, culture and history.
Language defines a people. It informs the conceptual base
of their culture and history. If not nurtured and renewed, it begins to
degenerate and die. In order to nurture and renew a language, it is vital
for a people to institute a mechanism that will ensure the continued use
of their language. The level of spoken Urhobo is decreasing, especially
among those below 25 years old. Though I have no data on the level
of written Urhobo, my guess is that very few Urhobos can write in their
language. Unfortunately, I belong to both groups. We need to resurrect
the use of Urhobo in order to keep the language alive. The fear of linguistic
assimilation increases with the declining rate of language degeneration.
In order to nurture and renew the Urhobo language, I propose the following:
i. Offer compulsory courses on Urhobo language and culture in all primary and secondary schools in Urhobo local government areas.
ii. Establish an Institute of Urhobo Studies in Delta State.
iii. Award scholarships for Urhobo Language and Literature.
iv. Encourage the publication of literature in Urhobo language.
If properly managed and monitored, the above proposals could form a solid base for the propagation of Urhobo language and culture. A technical committee of experts on Urhobo language, representing all the 22 clans, should be established to oversee the development of a strategic approach on this issue. I realize that there are some deviations in various clans. For example, an Okpe language book was published in the late 1980s to facilitate the development of spoken Okpe across the Okpe Kingdom. Will this hinder the spread and use of the Urhobo language? If Urhobo is the universal language of all the 22 clans, should Okpe language be taught along side the Urhobo language in the Okpe Kingdom? This is a vital question for the technical committee of experts to consider.
2. Urhobo territorial integrity.
A nation must possess the capabilities to protect its territorial integrity. Do we have the capabilities to defend Urhobo territorial integrity? The Bini still nurse a dream to acquire a piece of Urhobo territory with proven oil wells. We are still engulfed with the Itsekiri and Ezon over the ownership of Warri, while we have ongoing counter claims with the Ezon around the Aladja belt.
A secured border is a guarantee for peace and development. As long as these territorial counter claims exist, and war is considered the only option at peaceful resolution, peace and development will continue to elude the parties involved. It is vitally important that we define and establish our borders with contiguous ethnic groups. The Bini have urged the Edo State government to effect their sovereignly on portions of Urhobo territory. They refuse to accept the Ologbo River (and bridge) as the boundary with Urhoboland. What is our response to this threat? The tri-ethnic counter claims over Warri remain unresolved.
I suggest a three pronged strategic approach. First, we
should persuade the federal legislatures to pass a resolution respecting
the legitimacy of the existing state boundaries. This will forestall any
attempts by the Bini (or any attempts of non Delta state ethnic groups)
to lay claims to Urhobo or Delta state territories. Second, we should engage
the Itsekiri and Ezon on how to resolve our respective territorial counter
claims. The claims over Warri may prove difficult, especially with the
Itsekiri insistence that their kings are known as the “Olu of Warri.” What
is our minimalist position on Warri? Is it possible that the Itsekiri will
accept to change the title of their king from the Olu of “Warri” to the
Olu of Itsekiri? If they do, are we willing to guarantee that their palace
remain in Warri, or in that part of Warri ceded to them as their local
government? These are fundamental questions which we must grapple with
if we intend to resolve the Warri crisis peacefully. Third, we should negotiate
and conclude a series of non aggression treaties with our neighbours.
3. Urhobos in the Nigerian community of nations.
Given its population base, and its economic and political
prowess in Nigeria, Urhobos should be able to define their place in Nigerian
affairs. But this cannot be done or achieved in a vacuum. We must outline
our objectives and map out our strategies on how to attain them.
A key question to ask here is: Are we satisfied with the place of the Urhobo
in the Nigerian community? Have the Urhobo been treated fairly and equitably
in comparison to other ethnic groups in Nigeria? If the answer to both
questions is NO, then it is essential that we facilitate the process to
ensure a just place for Urhobos in Nigeria. In order for us to be able
to determine our answers to these questions, I suggest that we empanel
a committee to enquire about the following:
i. The number/rank of Urhobo in the federal public service.
ii. The number/rank of Urhobo in the armed forces.
iii. The number/rank of Urhobo in the federal cabinet.
iv. The number/rank of Urhobo in federal corporations.
The committee should also undertake a comparative analysis of the number/rank of Nigeria’s top ten ethnic groups in the above services. We should be able to evoke the dictates of fiscal federalism to justify our displeasure with the positions of Urhobo in the above services via-a-vis the positions of other ethnic groups. The outcome of our analysis and findings will determine how we proceed to ensure a just place for Urhobos in the Nigerian community of nations.
4. Socio-economic development of Urhoboland.
By nature, the Urhobo is an entrepreneur. They are not known to rely on government grants and subsidies for their businesses. Through their legendary hard work, especially their womenfolk, Urhobos have earned for themselves an enviable reputation as a powerful economic entity.
How do we enhance the socio-economic growth and development of Urhoboland? How can the Urhobo take advantage of the technological challenges of the new millennium and the increasing globalization of trade and commerce? Contemporary technology and the phenomenal growth of e-commerce have revolutionized trade, both domestically and externally. Nations, large corporations and small and medium sized enterprises are positioning themselves in this new economy. The Urhobos must not be left behind. Urhobo businessmen/women should be encouraged to take advantage of these developments.
Economic self-sufficiency is a prerequisite of a nation. While we recognize the imperative of inter-independence, especially in trade and commerce, efforts should be made to ensure the reduction of reliance on external sources. This suggests that Urhobo businessmen/women should be encouraged to invest in the economic sectors of Urhoboland, i.e., agriculture, industry, science and technology, etc. By increasing the level of domestic investment in Urhoboland, they will be establishing a solid base for the economic and technological development of the Urhobo Nation. Furthermore, this will also facilitate the attraction and retention of foreign investment in Urhoboland. A consortium of Urhobo businesses, in all sectors of the economy, should be established and encouraged to enter into strategic alliances with foreign companies for the purpose of inviting the latter to invest in Urhoboland. These consortia should formulate policies and strategic directions on how to attract and retain foreign investors to invest in Urhoboland. Consideration should also be given to the twinning of Urhobo towns and villages with their foreign counterparts. The twinning of cities is one way of enhancing the economic development of the parties concerned.
5. Urhobo nationals and interest outside Urhobo territory.
As a constituent of the Nigerian community of nations, the Urhobo Nation needs to devise policies on how best to protect its nationals and interest outside Urhobo territory. There is a need for the development of an Urhobo consciousness on matters affecting any Urhobo anywhere in the world. An Urhobo institution, for example, the Urhobo National Assembly, should be able and ready to issue policy statements on the imperative to protect Urhobo nationals and interest outside Urhobo territory, where the life and property of Urhobos are threatened. The introduction of sharia in certain northern states underlines the need for a strong Urhobo voice articulating Urhobo interest.
6. Policy on peaceful coexistence.
Should we adopt a policy on peaceful coexistence that recognizes the independence and territorial integrity of all nationalities, especially in Delta State? The need for us to live in peace with our neighbours cannot be overemphasized. Over the centuries, we have developed special relationships and kinship bonds with our ethnic neighbours. While some of our clans trace their origins to Isokoland, others trace theirs to Bini territory. Historical evidence may suggest that not all Urhobo clans trace their origins to either Isokoland or Bini territory. However, the cultural and linguistic base of Urhobo show very close linkages with Isoko.
Urhobo relationships with the Itsekiri, Ezon and Ndokwas have also been very close, as evidenced by the high rate of inter-ethnic marriages between Urhobo and these ethnic groups.
We have special relationships with each of these ethnic groups. Thus, it is vital that we evaluate the nature of each relationship and define our policy toward each group accordingly. How do we define our relationship toward each group? What informs the basis of our relationship? How durable and elastic is our relationship? What specific interests bind us with each group? These are some of the fundamental questions we need to address before we construct any special relationships with any of these ethnic groups.
Irrespective of the level of intensity of our relationships
with the respective ethnic groups,
we need to pursue a policy of peace coexistence with all of them. Our position as the most populous ethnic group in Delta State also carries with it the responsibility of maintaining peace in the region.
An Agenda for a Nation must include the above principles which are defined in clear strategic terms. The Urhobo Nation does not deserve less. Before we conclude any treaty or construct or verbalize any special relationship with any of our neighbours, it is imperative that we first define ourselves in an Urhobo Agenda. The Agenda becomes a framework for concluding any treaties or special relationships with any other nationalities. The guiding principle must always provide answers to the question: IS IT IN URHOBO INTEREST?
As we gather here to honour and remember Mukoro Mowoe, I invite all Urhobo sons and daughters to deliberate on this crucial question and help to construct an enduring Urhobo Agenda for the new millennium.
Thank you and God bless Urhoboland.