|Urhobo Historical Society
Urhobo history came to a head in the early
1930s. Faced with an unfolding new era of European colonial rule, whose
dimensions were yet uncertain, a new group of leadership emerged from
Urhobo merchants and other professionals who had congregated in the new
Urhobo people of this new colonial era
thought they were considerably disadvantaged in modern development, in
comparison with other ethnic nationalities in colonial
Second, the Urhobo people correctly saw that the new era required leadership that could convey their wishes to the Colonial Government while obtaining whatever the colonizers had to offer to them through such leadership. They also saw that the twin resources of literacy, plus Western education, and financial means were necessary elements of leadership in the new colonial era. The Urhobo Brotherly Society wanted to ensure that the Urhobo people were adequately represented in these endowments.
Third, the emerging leadership and the generality of the Urhobo people were troubled by the poor image Urhobo bore among their fellow Nigerians and the new European rulers. Urhobo Brotherly Society was intense in making sure that the rest of Nigerians saw them as decent people, and not through the misbehaviours of those who profited by misrepresenting the Urhobo nation through their immoral conduct.
threefold mission of Urhobo Brotherly Society
rapidly spread at home in Urhoboland and in the burgeoning Urhobo
Within a few years of its formation in 1931, the Society had spread to
areas where there were significant Urhobo migrants. While Warri
status of Home Union, Urhobos elsewhere formed what were called
the Society. Of these branches, the most prominent was
Branch represented the Greater Lagos area,
at a time when
In one important sense, the Lagos Branch’s records tell us a great deal about Urhobo Brotherly Society and the famous organization that subsequently absorbed it, namely, Urhobo Progress Union. The three men who were responsible for compiling these records – T. E. A. Salubi, F. O. Esiri, and J. E. Odiete – eventually returned to the Urhobo homeland and provided great leadership to Urhobo Progress Union in the 1960s through the 1980s. The events that were recorded in the two minutes books assembled here not only inform us of the tedious work of running a Branch of an ambitious Society; they indicate the dedication and commitment that are required for nation-building. Although these records come from a Branch – albeit, a major Branch – of a great organization, they do provide us with the fullest story of Urhobo Progress Union.
Urhobo Brotherly Society to Urhobo Progress
The Lagos Branch opened its operations as Urhobo Brotherly Society on November 4, 1934. It continued its regular monthly meetings under the banner of UBS until 7th April 1935. This means that the Lagos Branch operated under the original name of Urhobo Brotherly Society for only five months. On Sunday, 5th May 1935, it transitioned to the organization’s new name: Urhobo Progressive Union.
of the present document is that we learn the
source of the change from “Urhobo Brotherly Society” to “Urhobo
Union.” Salubi tells us in his introduction to the Minutes Book as
“Among many other important innovations, Dr. Esiri and I introduced a
– ‘URHOBO PROGRESSIVE UNION’ (UPU for short).” The name was approved
short while, both in
It was typical of the thoroughness and the passion of that era of Urhobo leadership that the change of name of the organization was not declared as a final word. Rather, the new name was given to the newly formed Urhobo Literary Committee, headed by the eminent Reverend John Ejovi Aganbi of Eku. It recommended a modification of Urhobo Progressive Union as follows: Urhobo Progress Union. In the records of the meetings of the Lagos Branch, this new name appeared for the first time on September 1, 1935.
Value of the Minutes
that this Minute Book will be used in
different ways. It offers worthwhile insight into the participants in
Lagos Branch. Unfortunately, the history of Urhobo Progress Union has
emphasized the work of a few people who rose to the top. The records
us that a good number of patriotic and hardworking people brought the
other uses to which these records will be
subjected. There are researchers who seek to know what went into
voluntary work in colonial times. These records tell us a great deal of
sacrifice and commitment of people whose profit from the organization
served so passionately can never be attributed to material gains. We
conclusions to be drawn from them to individual researchers.
the Lagos Branch of UPU appointed a special
Committee to look into the problem accompanying the attempt by the
bring skilled Urhobo stilt dancers to
of Ikenike (stilt) dancers was one of the
great artistic achievements of the Urhobo people. Unfortunately, it
be dying out of Urhobo popular culture.
T. E. A. Salubi, F.
O. Esiri, and J. E. Odiete
well be said that there have been two peak periods in
the history of Urhobo Progress Union. There was the initial period
leadership of the Great Mukoro Mowoe who led the UPU into its limelight
late 1930s and for much of the 1940s. Its second season of greatness
consolidation was during the leadership of Chief T. E. A. Salubi,
the 1960s through the 1970s. Two other Urhobo leaders were at Salubi’s
during his era as President-General of the
It is striking that all these three men had worked together from the 1930s, starting in the Lagos Branch. Salubi was the founding Secretary of the Lagos Branch, while Esiri was the founding Assistant Secretary. Both of them worked very well together. Odiete was the young man who was made Secretary of the Ikenike Committee. Chief Salubi praised his work then as a young man in the mid-1930s. He later praised his work even more firmly in the 1960s when they worked together.
All three of these giants of Urhobo Progress Union teach one enduring lesson: service to your people is a life time’s work. They all began as young men and they continued into their old age.
It is rare to have preserved UPU records of meetings dating back to 1934 through 1954, which is the age of the two Minutes Books under reference. We must salute the wisdom and professional ethics of Chief T. E. A. Salubi who had them bound into book form in 1978. That we now have these two volumes available for posterity owes almost everything to his early decision to preserve these records.
When Dr. Thomas Edogbeji Akpomudiare Salubi, Chief T. E. A. Salubi’s heir, approached Urhobo Historical Society about his father’s papers, we did worry whether these manuscripts would not deteriorate, especially in our tropical climate. Fortunately, Dr. Salubi discussed this matter of the Minutes Book with Mr. Albert Esiri. Albert Esiri is, of course, Dr. F. O. Esiri’s son who is very much interested in preserving records to which his father contributed greatly. He is a successful businessman – proprietor of Turf Polo Club, Abraka, for instance. Thomas Salubi and Albert Esiri arranged between themselves on how best to preserve these valuable records. I did ask Dr. Thomas Salubi to include the possibility of reducing the documents to an electronic format for the sake of Urhobo Historical Society.
Salubi has now sent UHS the electronic
products of the processing that Mr. Albert Esiri undertook. I
this processing included lamination of these old recordsin
Urhobo Historical Society thanks Dr. Thomas Salubi and Mr. Albert Esiri for their service in preserving these records. We understand that they venerate their fathers. In so doing they serve the Urhobo people – and they follow the mighty footsteps of their great fathers. And we thank Dr. Thomas Salubi especially for permitting us to display these two Minutes Books in our Web site.
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With Urhobo leaders who were willing to serve the Urhobo Nation as Chief T. E. A. Salubi, Dr. F. O. Esiri, and Chief J. E. Odiete have so capably done, our history of the past looks solid. And with men like Dr. T. E. A. Salubi and Mr. Albert Esiri who honour their fathers with grace and are prepared to follow their fathers’ footsteps in the service of the Urhobo people, our future history may well mimic our past achievements.
May God Bless Them All.
May the Urhobo People For Ever Praise Them.