Urhobo Historical Society
Dynamics of Union Membership
President-General’s Address Delivered to
Session of the Annual General Council of Urhobo Progress
Held at Warri from Sunday, the 26th, to Thursday the 30th, December, 1965
By Chief the Honourable T. E. A. Salubi, O.B.E., M.H.A.,
of Urhobo Progress
My Dear Fellow Delegates, Veterans & Observers:
On behalf of the national officers of Urhobo Progress Union and of myself, I have the greatest pleasure to welcome all of you most warmly to this, the 16th session of our Annual General Council. Let us in gladness congratulate ourselves for having been spared by God, the Almighty, to be living witnesses to our Union’s attainment, barely seven weeks ago, of its 34th anniversary.
We must give our grateful thanks to God also for His protection and care over our delegates who come from far and near to attend this Council.
The last Annual General Council saw the end of my first three years’ tenure of office. At the elections that ensued, several national officers -- including Chief J. E. Odiete, Deputy President-General, Mr. A. T. Rerri, Secretary-General and my humble self -- were reelected unopposed into our respective offices. I feel that on behalf of the re-elected officers and of the newly elected ones, I must express grateful thanks to all of you for the confidence which you so deeply reposed in us.
This is my fourth Presidential Address, but the first in my second tenure of office. I have no doubt that many of you will agree with me, that after being in office for four years, I should be able to pin-point where the chief weaknesses of our membership of the Union lie. Because I want to make these chief weaknesses the theme of my Address this year, I have accordingly entitled this Address, “The Dynamics of Union Membership”.
And what are “dynamics”? Based on the Oxford Dictionary, a force or mechanical power is said to be dynamical when it is actively operative. It is a branch of mechanics that treats of motion of bodies or matter under the influence of certain forces. Dynamics in any sphere may be physical or moral. In theology, it is inspiration, endowment with divine power, not impelling mechanically but spiritually from within. This is dynamics in the moral sphere. Having defined the premises of the title of my Address, I will for the time being proceed to other matters but will revert later to the subject which called for the title.
Remembering the Dead
During this last
(1964-65), we lost by death some four important persons who were, at
or the other of their lives, officers of the
Mr. Famous A. Okpa Susu
Mr. Famous A. Okpa
died on New Year’s Day – Friday, the first of January, 1965 -- at his
Oviri, Ogor, was the first President,
Mr. Susu served the Elder Dempster Lines, Ltd., for some forty years, and, becoming blind towards the end of that career, retired quietly to his hometown where he died.
Madam Emoghene Nakpodia
Madam Emoghene Nakpodia was the Lady President and leader of the members of the Women Wing, Okpara Waterside, for many years. She died at a fairly old age. Madam Nakpodia was a kind hearted woman.
Madam Emoghene Nakpodia hailed from the respectable Nakpodia family of Okpara Waterside. Born a leader, she was a well-known member of Okpara Improvement Union before joining the local branch of the Urhobo Progress Union, Women Wing, in 1938. She at once became the Lady President of the Wing and held the office consistently well for about 27 years. After a few days illness, she died quietly on Tuesday, the 30th March, 1965. She was a kind hearted woman deeply loved by all.
Chief J. Akpoteheri Edewor
The late Chief
was one of the premier successful Urhobo traders in Warri, was a
member of the
In the nineteen forties, when Government disapproved the Union’s overseas scholarship awards on the ground that the Union’s fund for the purpose was inadequate, the late Chief Edewor was one of the five prominent Union member’s who loaned £100 each to the Union to augment the fund, thus making it possible for Government’s approval to be obtained.1 What was perhaps the late Chief’s greatest contribution to Urhobo progress was the education he gave to his relatives. He was uncle of Chief James O. Edewor and Mr. M. J. Edewor, the Chief Magistrate, both of whose professional training he sponsored.
Chief Edewor was struck by an illness which confined him indoors for many years before the end came at 3 a.m. on Monday, the 16th August, 1965.
Chief J. B. Agbamu
Chief Agbamu was
the Union at
On his retirement,
in his hometown, Effurun. As a Commissioner in the Local Government
Chief Agbamu died in the early hours of Thursday the 21st October, 1965.
Chief Emujane Asagba
By Chief Emujane Asagba’s death on Friday, the 15th January, 1965, one of the last links in the chain of Chiefs who established Western Urhobo Native. Authority (now Western Urhobo District Council) has been missed.
The question may
asked, “Why should one give a place of honour here to the name of a
was not at any time a member of the
May the Souls of
Rest in Peace!
Before I proceed further with my Address, I should like, on behalf of the entire Union, express grateful thanks to the Right Reverend Agori Iwe, J. P., M.B.E., C.O.F. Lord Bishop of Benin Diocese for Anglican Mission, and the Right Reverend Dr. Lucas Nwaezeapu, C.O.N., Lord Bishop of Warri Diocese for the Roman Catholic Mission, and the generality of their respective clergies for their good disposition towards our Union. They have always been willing to help us in various ways.
Some of you will remember that, in spite of a very short notice last year, Bishop Nwaezeapu, as a true father of his children, kindly opened our Annual General Council with a solemn pontifical Mass of Thanksgiving and later blessed the ten classroom block of our College.
Not only that.
The Roman Catholic Mission gave publicity to the ceremonies in their Newsletter, no. Warri 65/1 of 21st February, 1965. I have the honour to reproduce the publication hereunder:
Another Urhobo Milestone
Thanksgiving Day, 1965. February 3rd 1965 will be remembered as an historic day in the annals of Urhobo College, as the day when the newly completed ten classroom block the final state of the five years’ building programme-was blessed and officially opened by His Lordship, Dr. Lucas Nwaezeapu. The ceremony began with Solemn Pontifical Mass of Thanksgiving in the Warri Cathedral, and was attended by the Proprietors -- Urhobo Progress Union – members of the Board and Management Committee, as well as delegates.
a short address, the Bishop appealed for brotherhood and that essential
of oneness, not only among the Urhobo peoples, but also among the
introduced the delegates – from as far away as
As Bishop Agori Iwe was unable, owning to heavy pressure of work, to open with prayers this year, our National Day festivities at Sapele, he, as another true father of his children, sent one of his senior clergymen, Reverend Enajero Arhavwore of St. Matthew’s Vicarage, Okpara Waterside, to officiate for him.
I am sure you will associate yourselves fully with me in expressing our deep appreciation and gratitude to our two beloved spiritual Lords and their clergy for their help. We are happy to note that the Government of the Region had recognised their useful services to the people by the recent awards of honour to each of them.
I have already in
congratulated them publicly, during my National Day message. I would
suggest that on this platform you will confirm my action by passing an
appropriate resolution the terms of which will be conveyed to them.
Activities in the Last Twelve Months
The aftermath of the last Federal elections and the delayed holding of the Annual General Council which came off in early February this year, did not permit us to have the usual start for the year.
During the year, a
National Officer’s meetings which was in no case less than six, and
meetings of the Central Executive Committee were held. My removal to
An Urhobo Literature Committee to organize to produce the much needed Urhobo Literature for general reading and examination purposes has been set up. Mr. D. O. Akpore, M. A. (Classics), the well-known educationalist is the Chairman of the Committee. It is anxiously hoped that the committee will be prolific and yield good results.
Steps were taken during the year to ensure that all the Union branches in Okurekpo were fully integrated into one branch.
Reconciliation of a
At this stage, I
must be reported that the
Revision and Adoption of the Union’s Constitution
I am glad to be
report to Council that, after a long delay, the revision of the
the National Secretariat has been directed to arrange as quickly as
for the printing of the Constitution. This matter should be regarded as
urgency to enable the consistent demands of the branches to be met.
Population Census (1963)
Since I am not as
yet in a
position to publish authoritative official figures, I can not do better
refer to this matter casually as I did last year. Be that as it may, I
you will be glad to know that it has been officially accepted that our
(Urhobo Division) has the largest population in the whole of the
Pipe-Lining Our Oil to the East
As I told you last year, this matter was pursued with vigour. In pursuance of the strong feelings which you demonstrated in debating the matter at the last Council, your Executive Council did no leave the matter to rest.
As some of you may have seen, I made a prominent reference to this vexed matter in my National Day message. Repetition therefore seems unnecessary here. While re-iterating the appeal for calm contained in the message, I am glad to be able to report that already, the work of the high-powered delegation, so ably led by my Deputy, Chief Odiete, has begun to yield some results.
The recent official announcement introducing new and improved rates of compensation payable on economic crops by oil-prospecting companies in the Region is not without bearing on the activities of the delegation. The increases in the new rates have been very substantial.
Here, of course, we must acknowledge the role played by the press, members of the general public, the politicians and the legislators on the floor of the House of Assembly. The recent official announcement did not of course cover all aspects of compensable cases. Let us therefore hope that reasonable diligence and an accommodating spirit of compromise will be brought into play in negotiating the compensation rates for the other cases.
With your approval, I should like to place on record our appreciation of the good work done by the members of the delegation. It is not true as one Mr. Iffie, the notorious newspaper columnist, would want the public to believe that Chief Oweh and I backed out of the delegation at the last moment for political considerations.
Chief Odiete, the leader of the delegation, had since written to correct Mr. Iffie’s wanton attack in these words: “The offending portion is that Chief Honorable T. E. A. Salubi backed out of the Delegation. This is not true and it is highly misleading. The fact is that Chief Salubi is the President-General of the Urhobo Progress Union, a body which represented the Urhobos on the said Delegation and it was because he was engaged on certain ministerial duties that I, as the Deputy President-General of Urhobo Progress Union, deputized for him with his authority and consent. He did not back out. In fact, the case of the Urhobo Progress Union is his own case and there can not therefore, be a case of his backing out.2
In May this year, a
split occurred among members of the Union, most of whom are students,
representations made by each side, and as a result of Independent
made by the Central Executive Committee, the Committee found in favour
Emakpor faction of the dispute and at the same declared this faction to
recognized official, and the only branch of the Union in
was found guilty, had not accepted the Central Executive Committee’s
and recommendations. Rather, Mr. Agoreyo and his group are still
posing to be the branch of the Union in
We at home here can
regard this incident as sad and unfortunate. And here I repeat what I
already said in my National Day message. “It is foolish for students
most of whom are struggling financially to be able to study, to create
worries and difficulties for themselves. The recent unfortunate rift
Urhobo National Day Celebration
As usual, many branches observed the National Day.3 The people of Urhobo Division held their ceremonies at the Stadium, Sapele, on Wednesday, the 3rd November, 1965. It was a huge success in every sense, and Sapele branch, the organizer and host, must be congratulated. Chief Rabor Abeke, the President, deserves all praise.
The attendance was the largest ever seen and the donations of well over £500 were believed to be the highest ever collected in any Urhobo gathering. I can find no words to describe the grandeur of the occasion.
One is always careful to avoid talking politics in the Union forum; but I feel I must observe here that the movement in the second half of the year of most of the leaders and top officials of the Union from one political party to another, which is the ruling political party in the Region, was, I believe, largely responsible for the wonderful attendance and exhibition of unity at this year’s celebration.
I would love to hope, indeed expect, that the degree of oneness and unity so transparently exhibited at Sapele on the occasion will diffuse down to our different clan areas and be reflected in our ordinary life and day-to-day dealings with one another in our towns and villages.
Let no one hear any more of arbitrary taxation, trumped up summonses by sanitary inspectors, forest guards and other forms of political victimization among our people. The new spirit, which I have termed the Sapele Spirit, should stop all this, and provide in its place, again and for evermore, peace, tranquility and contentment of mind to reign in Urhobo.
Before I leave this subject, I should report that I have already on your behalf expressed grateful thanks to the Premier, Chief the Hon. D.C. Osadebay, G.C.O.N., LL.D., for his message to us on the occasion. The message was short and nice, sweet and effective.
In accordance with my promise, I donated a trophy for which there was competition by the various dance-groups. The Ema dance, staged by Agbarho people, was adjudged to be the winner of the trophy. We congratulate Agbarho for their singular success.
During a visit early this year of Chief S. J. Mariere, G.C.O.N., LL.D, as Governor, Midwestern Nigeria to the Zuma Memorial Hospital, Irrua, Ishan Division, His Excellency’s attention was invited to the case of an Urhobo orphan who had been under the sole care of the Honorable Dr. Christopher G. Okojie, Minister of Works and Proprietor of the Hospital.
The orphan named Stephen Ishani was said to have been born by Caesarean operation on the 22nd April, 1953. The mother, Eyafodemi, was on a visit to her husband, who was a fisherman at Iruekpen, when she went into labour which was obstructed for 3 days before admission into the Hospital. She succumbed to the operation. Ishani, the father, visited the Hospital once before he himself died. Some one, a teacher, who claimed to be an uncle to the boy had since disappeared.
Dr. Okojie and his
to look after the child as an orphan since no one came forward to claim
Dr. Okojie stated that Stephen who is now 12 years old was the first
his Hospital. Like other grown up orphans who had been unclaimed,
now attending school. It is Dr. Okojie’s opinion that Stephen needs the
close relatives. In his letter to our Union about this matter, His
the Governor, quite rightly suggested that the
In order to
parental connections of the unfortunate boy, I conducted investigation
personally at Agbanikaka. From the information received, the
My object of bringing this matter to Council’s notice is to direct Council to:
(a) place on record its appreciation and thankfulness to Dr. Okojie and his wife for their invaluable humanitarian work.
(b) Accept the circumstances of this boy’s coming into life as a challenge.
(c) To continue in our endeavour to get the young boy rehabilitated and resettled with his people at Uwherun.
Dr. Okojie, who is at present ascertaining the boy’s wish, informed me that he would claim nothing for the boy’s upkeep and care, if and when his people come to take him. Here again is another challenge. We must act swiftly as our prestige as a people is at stake.
Our students at home and abroad continue to do their best to advance our progress in education. We admire their indomitable spirit of sacrifice and endurance because many of them work under great handicaps, especially financial handicaps.
Today, competition in any field of learning is very keen and only those who attain the best from institutions of learning secure the best places in the civil service, in industry, in business and in the commercial world generally. There is room on top always; it is better and cosy up there. I am convinced it is so. And that is why I am admonishing those of our students who can to endeavour in their struggles to aim at the best. General degrees are good but they certainly do not rank high enough today. Wherefore Urhobo youths must go for “the big fish”- honours degrees and doctorate degrees. Some of our youths have already achieved this end and there is no reason whatsoever why others should not. Press on, even though it is difficult, press on, Urhobo youths. Afore ye go.4
At least two more secondary grammar schools have been approved to open in our Division next year. One of the schools was referred to in my National Day Message. It is at Ovwodo-Ughelli. The second, to be at Orogun, was approved for our energetic Akpore. We must bespeak success for the two new schools.
The Urhobo National Union of Students is holding its Annual Convention at Ughelli as from yesterday, the 26th December. The co-incidence of date and time with our Council arrangement is unfortunate, as it may probably deprives the National Union sending representatives, as before, to our Council. We hope there will be prior consultation between the two bodies in the future.
The most important
here during the year is the acquisition of more land for future
the College. After a number of joint meetings with the owners of the
land, a delegation of the
The difficulties which I anticipated in my last Address did not seem to have arisen, and on this score, I would suggest to Council to place on record a resolution of thanks and appreciation in recognition of the land owner’s continued kindness.
From what is happening, it seems that we may be able to supply running water to the College in the next few months. The local water authorities had laid mains right up to the front of the College. This is what we have been wishing to happen. I am sure that the Board of Governors will waste no time to take advantage of this new development.
I was sadly disappointed, and I believed many others were, that the Speech Day, which was started only two years ago, did not come off this year! There may be some good reasons for that. I hope the Principal will explain this in his report to Council.
Old Boys Association
The old boys of the
have not, so far, accepted the challenge I threw to them in my last
There are many prominent alumni of
Board of Governors
The old Board of Governors of the College, is in the process of re-constitution. It is hoped that finality will be reached soon. May I seize this opportunity to thank those members of the old Board who may not be included in the new one; we are grateful to them for their past services which have no doubt contributed to the progress of the College.
our College have been consistently unsatisfactory for the past few
Standards have fallen off considerably and this has been a cause of
The reasons for the set-back are not unknown. They have been
elsewhere before. In order however to get to the root of the causes,
In a recent informal discussion, the Minister of Education, Midwestern Nigeria, hinted that if no satisfactory results were obtained this year, he might have to consider closing the Higher School Certificate classes. It is understood that a warning to this effect had been given!
If the report of inquiry warrants it, the proprietors may be compelled to apply what they consider to be effective remedial action to save the College from further retrogression. We can not, for any reason whatsoever, afford to see, with our eyes open, the College continuing to degenerate.
Award of National Honours
I am sure that you
your name want me to salute and congratulate the three illustrious
who, among many other distinguished Nigerians, were honoured recently
occasion of Nigeria National Day by His Excellency, the President of
National Secretariat: Fence
As delegates would have noticed, the land comprising our secretariats has been fenced on all sides excepting the frontage. The rear fence has once and for all solved the problem of tresspassers who were in the habit of disturbing at all times, especially during meetings. Since the fence was put up, the rate of commission of nuisance on the premises has also fallen almost to a negligible degree.
I am sure Council
to thank Chief S. D. Obar, the Contractor, Hotelier and our
Even when the
Conclusion: The Dynamics of Union Membership
Now, I wish to
revert to the
subject which impelled me to adopt the above title as a theme for my
this year. Nothing is worth doing unless it is done well. If you are a
For some time now, the national officers and I have been feeling greatly concerned about the indifference of the generality of our members in practically every branch of the Union in regard to payment of Union monthly dues.
The amount of
subscription payable by each member in practically all the branches is
small, in fact negligible. Generally, it is six pence per month or six
shillings per annum. We have no statistics to show the exact numerical
of the total members of the Union in the nearly 100 branches of the
We have not, as
yet, in our
society and among ourselves, a range of affluent and well-to-do people
with humanitarian spirit, who, would, as a matter of conviction, donate
substantial amount of money to the
of members to pay dues and lack of donations and endowments, the
The practical dynamics of Union membership presupposes the full discharge of all membership obligations of which unfailing payment of all membership obligations, Union dues, subscriptions, contributions and levies form a part. I drew attention to this all-important matter last year in my Address and wish to repeat myself here this year, as follows:
How do theses branches expect the Headquarters to be run and to be run efficiently? And yet members make expensive suggestions and talk glibly about publishing news-letters and a periodical magazine! How can the Headquarters do these things when it is not even enabled to keep itself going on normal care-and-maintenance basis? I have deliberately published in the report of the tour a list showing outstanding arrears so that each branch may see itself clearly with a firm pupose to pay up its dues at once. I will be greatly disturbed if such immediate reaction is not forthcoming. I therefore hereby appeal to all the defaulting branches to make good their debts to the Headquarters.
The prevailing poverty is no excuse. It is the will to do that matters. I am in duty bound to emphasise, in this Address as I have indeed done in the report of the tour, this-all important question of branch’s financial responsibility to the Headquarters. The matter can not be over-stressed. In spite of their avowed love and regard for the part of branches to discharge their financial obligations towards the Headquarters.
Funds are not paid and Membership cards, Almanacs and books sold, or
on credit to branches are not paid for. The fact does not seem to be
that, so far, these are the only revenue-earning sources of the
The problem is in two parts. Payment of dues at membership level to the branch and the branch’s contribution of its quota to the National Headquarters. All this we can meet if we are determinate, solemn, serious and religious about it.
On the moral or
dynamism, I am satisfied beyond all reasonable doubts that the Urhobo
nothing else to choose between the Urhobo Progress Union and himself.
believes in the
How to overcome this – this terrible weakness?
We know that
and conditions are not the same, yet let me admonish our members to
to emulate good trade unionists all over the world. In many countries,
particularly in the
Your National Officers feel very strong on this matter. In fact so strong that it had to appoint last month a small committee to advise on the ways and means of collecting monthly dues and other contributions at the branch level. The iniquities of this undischarged obligation are upon us. Let me hope that all of you – delegates to this Council and all members at home – will seriously undertake to ensure that this weakening undischarged obligation in the dynamics of Union membership is wholly discharged as from now onwards.
It is the principle
self-help that animated our
In this connection, I should like to conclude by inviting you attention to what Samuel Smiles said on Self-Help, National and Individual. And here I quote:
“Heaven helps those who help themselves” is a well-tried maxim, embodying in a small compass the results of vast human experience. The spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth in the individual; and, exhibited in the lives of many, it constitutes the true source of national vigour and strength. Help from without is often enfeebling in its effects, but help from within invariably invigorates. What ever is done for men or classes, to a certain extent takes away the stimulus and necessity of doing for themselves; and where men are subjected to over-guidance and over-government, the inevitable tendency is to render them comparatively helpless."5
Make it a motto to discharge always the practical dynamics of your union membership and thus help yourself. I pass on this maxim to you.
Hold and keep it.
1 The four
others who loaned £100 each to the
2 This is culled from Chief Odiete’s rejoinder correcting Mr. Iffie’s attack. It is not certain whether the Morning Post published it.
4 Afore ye go [roughly, "Forward you go"] is an ancient expression of exhortation derived from the Scotts' tribal language. -- Peter Ekeh, UHS Editor.