Urhobo Historical Society




A Narrative Report of Presidential Tour of Branches of Urhobo Progress Union in Northern Nigeria, 15-29 July, 1964

 

By T. E. A. Salubi

President-General

 

Gordon Mukoro

Under Secretary-General

 

 

Preface

 

After the tour of the Midwest, Western Nigeria and the Federal Territory of Lagos, I decided to have about a month’s compulsory rest. It was hoped that that interval would allow for the repair of the car, which was damaged during that previous tour, at the Niger Motors, Apapa, to be completed before resuming my tour of branches in other parts of Nigeria. When there was no sign that the repair would be done as quickly as I had hoped, I had to think of another way of providing adequate transportation for the Northern Nigeria tour.

 

Most of the branches to be visited up in the North could be reached by train but I could not think of myself traveling that entire journey at the speed and the scheduled timetable of the Nigerian Railway. I am sure I would be bored stiff and frustrated. With motor transport, I could move at my own speed and whenever I liked. In spite of all its hazards, I certainly prefer motor transport because I am an impatient person when it comes to having to wait for a person or a vehicle. 

 

In order, therefore, to provide additional transport, I requested my nephew, Mr. Ignatius O. Akpodia, Electrical Contractor, Benin City, to lend me his Bedford Kit-car (WB 4078) for the journey. The car was not being used by him at the time of the request. Mr. Akpodia kindly agreed but the car had to be checked up mechanically and licensed. At that juncture, the question of transport was regarded as settled and the itinerary was issued.

 

It cost me a total of £31 to put the car on the road. That was ever before the tour was started.

 

I had occasion to discuss the last tour with Chief Obazunu Arebe Uyo of Idjerhe when he visited me in June. He volunteered to accompany me on the Northern Nigeria tour. I welcomed the idea most warmly because the presence of a U.P.U. veteran like Chief Uyo would naturally make the tour impressive and effective.

 

The tour was to have begun as from the 15th July – exactly a month of my return from my previous tour. Before then, however, Ilorin branch, the first branch of call, wired to say that it was not fit to be visited. A similar telegraph message came from Minna – the second branch of call. That left us with Kaduna as the first branch to be visited as form the 18th July.

 

I could do with the two days saved by not visiting Ilorin and Minna.

I would visit Lagos to ascertain the progress, if any, that had been made on the damaged car.

 

Mr. Gordon Mukoro, the Under-Secretary, was to sleep the night of the 14th July at Ovu so that we could reach Sapele early enough to pick up Chief Uyo and to take the first ferry at 6.30 a.m. on the 15th. But Mr. Mukoro did not turn up at dawn he was not to be seen. My party, consisting of myself, Mrs. Angela Salubi, my personal clerk, two servants and two drivers, therefore set off to Warri for Mr. Mukoro. In order not to miss him, we halted nearly every car (particularly taxi cars) that came from opposite directions. We got to his house only to be told that he had gone straight to Sapele to wait for us! It was annoying but the circumstances were understood.

 

We now set off for Sapele, picked Chief Uyo from his house (Block B Plot 10, Court-Road). The poor Chief had been waiting for nearly three hours from 5 a.m. and was wondering what could have caused our delay.

 

The third ferry crossed us to the Benin side and the journey was started in earnest. To be readily available for help in case of any breakdown, we decided that, as far practicable, the two vehicles (LH 2250 and WB 4078) should travel together. Leaving Benin City, we went through the new Benin–Ijebu Ode road. We were to part at Ijebu Ode. The Volkswagen car (LH 2250) with me, Mrs. Salubi, a servant and the driver would proceed to Lagos. The Bedford kit-car (WB 4078) with Chief Uyo, Mr. Mukoro, and others would wait for us at Ibadan. They were to lodge at my brother’s people at Abadina Village, University of Ibadan. My brother, Mr. Israel O. Salubi works there.

 

The roof of the Bedford Kit-car leaked badly between Benin and Ijebu Ode and I instructed that it be repaired (covered with metal sheets) at Ibadan. That was done at a cost of £2: 10s up to that stage.

 

I returned from Lagos to Ibadan on the 16th July, and found the party in the best of spirits. They had all been well looked after. I was not surprised at all, knowing my brother and his wife as well as I do. They love visitors and would stop at nothing to make them happy.

 

T. E. A. Salubi

President-General

 

 

 

 

Friday, 17th July, 1964 – Ibadan Enroute Kaduna

 

A minor fault on car LH 2250 was put right at a cost of £3: 6: 3. At 12:55 p.m., the President-General and party left Ibadan enroute Kaduna. We were to sleep at Mokwa or Kontagora. After Ilorin, and at a village called Tsafa, the Bedford kit-car developed trouble. It was just getting dark. The fuel system was not supplying petrol. Here I learnt for the first time that a similar complaint was experienced between Ijebu Ode and Ibadan after we parted! And the driver sat down at Ibadan for a whole day (16th July) without seeing that the fault was rectified!! However, the fault was soon put right and the journey was continued. We could not trace the Rest House at Mokwa and as there was still a distance of 285 miles to be covered before arriving Kaduna, we decided to shorten it by proceeding to Kontagora (95 miles) before resting for the night. We arrived at the Catering Rest House, Kontagora at 11p.m. Here was had dinner and rested for the night. 

 

After breakfast, we set off at 7.45 a.m. for Kaduna, arriving there at 12.50p.m. The Secretary of Kaduna Branch, Mr. J. O. Odessa, who was contacted in his Office at the British Council, was surprised to see the President-General and his party. He revealed that in the course of a telephone conversation between one Mr. Oyoh that the tour had been postponed to 3rd August, 1964. When Mr. Oyoh brought the information to the Union, all arrangements made against the visit had to be cancelled. In the circumstances, abrupt lodging arrangements had to be made.  The President-General with his wife, Chief Uyo and some of the servants, were lodged with Mr. S. O. Oyinbodudu of Shell Company, Kaduna, while the Under-Secretary and the other servants were quartered with Mr. Arijaje, the President, Kaduna branch.

 

Needless to emphasise how disappointed the President-General and his party felt about this strange news. With the negative replies from Ilorin and Minna, and this piece of misinformation at Kaduna, it was about time to begin to wonder if some one was not sabotaging the tour of the North! The political opponents of the President-General were not incapable of such mischief!

 

However, it has since been ascertained that Mr. Rerri, Secretary-General of the Union, in fact communicated the misleading information to Mr. Oyoh. What happened was this. The President-General had a case in the High Court, Warri. On the 1st July, the judgment was fixed for 1st August, 1964. Before the 1st July, the itinerary of the tour from the 15th July to the 10th August, 1964, had been issued. As the President-General was required to appear in Court to receive the judgment, the itinerary had to be amended for him to break the tour at Kano on the 27th July and to resume it on the 3rd August. It was that amended itinerary that Mr. Rerri did not read carefully. Mr. Oyoh and Kaduna branch were not, therefore, to be blamed. Any such information coming, as it did, from an officer of the rank of the Principal Secretary  ought to be regarded as good enough to be acted upon.             

 

Here, one may be permitted to state in parenthesis that the amended itinerary was not taken. While still at Kano, the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation gave a news item that the Midwestern Nigeria House of Assembly would sit for a week as from the 1st August. That meant that the President-General would not be available till abut the 9th or the 10th august. After a frantic telegram had been issued canceling the proposed amended tour, the date of the meeting was confirmed to be 12th August. A further development was that the President-General left the House on the 15th to attend a political meeting at Kaduna and was there for a whole week.

 

The story from the 18th July now continues. At night, Mr. S. O. Oyinbodudu, the host of the President-General, threw a party in his house in honour of the distinguished visitors. At this party were present three Union members who came all the way from Zaria to ascertain whether the President-General had reached Kaduna. The three members were, Mr. Duviere Ogidi of the Barclays Bank, Zaria, Mr. William Ojagberu of the P & T, Zaria and Mr. M. B. Okolosi of 15, Hospital Road, Zaria. It was a lavish and happy affair altogether.

 

 

Sunday, 19th July, 1964: KADUNA

 

At 5 p.m., a reception was held for the delegates at the Community Centre, Kaduna. The opening prayer, said by Mr. J. E. Ogbi, was followed by introduction of officers and other local leaders.

 

The next item was the reading of a Welcome Address. The address recorded among other things, that after the death of Chief Mukoro Mowoe, the Urhobo Progress Union suffered a set-back followed by a decline which nearly resulted in a total collapse of the Urhobo nation. That at that time, the Union merely existed on paper and the branches had nowhere to turn to for inspiration. But that the advent of the President-General’s regime had brought with it significant changes to the life of the Union and all its branches.  The Address also made reference to the present development of Urhobo College under the Management of Chief I. Okandeji.

 

The President-General’s reply was, in general, on the lines of the summarized address which has already appeared in a prior chapter. In particularizing however, the President-General referred to the branch’s annual report to the 1963 Council where a complaint was made that two other Urhobo organisations were not cooperating with the branch. The organisations were given as the Urhobo Community Union and the Urhobo Youth Movement. There was also a complaint that certain Urhobo Senior Service people were not interested in the Union. In this regard, the President-General advised that in order not to dissipate energy or to fight against each other, these organisations, especially the Urhobo Youth Movement, might affiliate with the U.P.U. like the Urhobo Renascent  convention, Warri.

 

With regard to the Urhobo Community Union and certain Senior Service Urhobo in Kaduna, the President-General offered to have an interview with their leaders if the branch could organise it. It would be a pleasure for him to have a heart-to-heart talk with such people.

 

Chief Uyo who spoke next referred to his connection with Kaduna since 1920. He commenced his Civil Service at Kaduna and for that reason he was always at home whenever he visited Kaduna. Chief Uyo recalled how he himself founded the Kaduna branch. He was pleased to see that the tree that he planted many years ago had been watered and nurtured to maturity by succeeding generations of Urhobo immigrants to Kaduna. He prayed to God that the tree might bear, and continue to bear good fruits for the betterment of Urhobo people as a whole.

 

In the course of a brief speech, the Under-Secretary advised the Kaduna branch not to antagonize the dissentient Urhobo units, but to do all in their power to persuade them so that they right change. Finally, he introduced to the audience the various booklets published by the President-General.

 

Many questions asked by members were satisfactorily answered by the President-General. The branch was directed to refer to the Annual General Council the suggestion that additional columns be provided in the membership card for the purpose of recording any donation or gift made by an individual member.

 

The reception was at the stage shifted to the Ambassador Hotel where the President-General and his entourage were entertained with drinks and dancing. The branch donated £2 towards transport expenses of the party. The happy function was formally brought to a close at 10 p.m.

 

But that was not the end of the day. The women dancers and some members accompanied the President-General to his lodging which was quite near the Ambassador Hotel. Here further dancing and merriment continued. A friend of Mr. Oyinbodudu, an Officer of the Army, took the party to the Army Restaurant for further entertainment and there was no end to it all until late in the night.

 

 

Monday, 20th July, 1964: ZARIA

 

Having regard to the distance (56 miles only) between Kaduna and Zaria, and the time of arrival given to the members who met the party two nights ago, the President-General and his entourage did not leave Kaduna for Zaria until 11.55a.m. after servicing and fuelling their motor vehicles. Mr. S. O. Oyinbodudu and a few other members escorted the party up to mile 14 - a junction where the road to Jos branched off.

 

At a point about 6 miles to Zaria, the party met an escort team in two cars to take it to the town. The party was introduced into the ancient town through the old city gate, thus affording the visitors opportunity to see ancient designs in housing with artistic wall decorations. At a point in the Sabon Gari area, a procession of Urhobo dancers led the party to the Catering Rest House, arriving there at 2.10p.m.

 

The President-General and Mrs. Salubi were lodged in one chalet while Chief Uyo and the Under-Secretary occupied another. All the other members of the entourage were accommodated at the Holywood Proprietary Club in the town (Sabon Gari area).

 

At 4 p.m., a reception in honour of the delegates was held at the Club House of the Railway Amateur Athletic Club. After prayer and formal introduction of branch officers and other local leaders, a Welcome Address was read. After paying tributes to the many qualities of the President-General, the branch seized what was termed a golden opportunity to put across some of the problems facing its members and affecting their destiny as a people, namely,

 

 (a)    Difficulty in getting secondary school places for Urhobo indigenes in Northern Nigeria – lead to a request for creating a Centre in Zaria for Urhobo College Entrance Examinations by virtue of its central position and of being the educational centre in Northern Nigeria.

(b)     The adverse effect of party politics on the solidarity of the Union at home and abroad – resulting in a split of the U.P.U. into Ometa and Salubi factions, engineered by Chiefs Obahor, Edewor, and Odje, abetted by an Itsekiri man.

(c)     The glaring threat of the influence of Itsekiri nationalism in our national life which may lead to the loss of our national identify in the very near future, perhaps not farther than a decade after the Midwest Creation.

(d)     The threat of Ibo Nationalism to disenfranchise us in the very near future by their avowed policy of settlement, growth and land acquisition in Urhobo land through high biding to which the average Urhobo landowner falls prey.      

 

The Address was presented together with a beautiful souvenir -- a white leather-bound Holy Bible - to the President-General.

 

In this reply, the President-General thanked the branch for sending three of their members to Kaduna to ascertain whether the touring party had arrived, for waiting to usher them into the town and for honouring them in a dancing procession to the comfortable accommodation arranged for them at the Catering Rest House. If there was anything like perfect arrangement, he would regard the Zaria arrangement as one.

 

In a more specific way, the President-General touched on each of the four problems enumerated in the Welcome Address. As regards (a), he was already aware of the problem which was general to all branches in the North. He promised to bring the matter up at the next General Council. With respect to (b), the President-General denied emphatically that there were Ometa and Salubi factions in the Union and gave details of the true position. Referring to (c), the President-General declared that whatever might be meant by Itsekiri nationalism and whatever might be its purpose, he would never, under any circumstance, permit Urhobo identity and/or personality to be submerged by any influence. As regards (d), he did not think that the Ibo were as blameworthy as those who preferred to sell land to them because of their high bidding.

 

Once more, the President-General thanked Zaria people for everything especially the beautiful souvenir which he would live to treasure always.

 

Chief Uyo who spoke next traced the history of the Urhobo Progress Union noting its achievements from the time to time. Finally Chief Uyo associated himself with the President-General in thanking the Zaria branch not only for the reception but also for the excellent accommodation arrangements made for the visit.

 

A “Juri” dance was staged by Zaria Urhobo women under the leadership of Mr. William Ojagberu, alias “IKPUTU”, of P & T, Zaria and a well-known expert in “Juri” dancing of Warri fame. He had only recently been transferred to Zaria. While the dancing was proceeding, drinks were being freely served to the enjoyment of all present. The reception came to a close 9 p.m.

 

 

Tuesday, 21st July, 1964: KANO

 

After breakfast, the President-General and his entourage were conducted out of Zaria town by a team of officers and members of the Zaria branch.

 

At a point 14 miles to Kano, the party met two Urhobo motorcyclists. They acted as dispatch-riders to fetch advance information to a larger group waiting at a point 10 miles to Kano. As the dispatch-riders sped happily away, the Bedford kit-car developed exactly the same trouble as occurred at Tsafa village four days previously. It was soon put right and the journey was resumed.

 

At a point 10 miles distant from Kano City, the party met a most impressive group of Urhobo men and women waiting to usher it to the ancient City – a renowned emporium of commerce and trade of all ages. Here, warm greetings were exchanged and old friends embraced. It all seemed as if the meeting was to be held there and then! It was a wonderful example of a warm welcome!

 

The arrangement was that the party be taken straight to Urhobo Hall, No. 18A, Warri Road. The suggestion that the visitors be given a few minutes to “wash and fresh up” was not acceptable, the reasons being that (a) the visitors were not travel-worn in appearance and (b) the generality of Urhobo Community of Kano had congregated at the Hall waiting to greet the party.

 

In a motorcade of about twenty cars, preceded by three outriders, the President-General and his entourage were conducted to the outskirts of the City. Because of a current police ban on procession, the Police allowed only the outriders and three cars to escort the party into the town. Other cars had to stagger themselves so as to give impression that no procession was formed. We arrived at the Hall at 2 p.m. In the Hall and around it, the visitors witnessed a most colourful scene or Urhobo community.

 

The fact that that day was a public holiday contributed in no small degree to the unprecedented attendance. The President-General was exhilarated. A beautiful life-size portrait of the President-General hung on the centre to the credit of Kano branch. It was, no doubt, a glorious moment for the President-General, who, according to consensus of opinion, was more deserving than lucky.

 

No. 18A, Warri Road, is a plot of land acquired by the Kano branch many years ago. A six-roomed cement-block house had been built on this site and the rent, which accrued there from, formed a main part of the branch’s recurrent source of revenue. A very wise investment indeed!

 

Within the last three years, the Urhobo Welfare Community of Kano (which term includes the local branch of the U.P.U.) decided to build a Hall befitting Urhobo name on the plot was not yet built. The Hall, slightly larger than the National Secretariat, is a stone building. It was built entirely by community effort at a considerable cost.

 

At the informal gathering, the question as to whether the formal reception be held later in the day or on Saturday, the 25th July, was discussed. As the majority favoured later in the day, the reception was therefore fixed for 5 p.m.

 

The President-General with his wife and servants were lodged with Mr. and Mrs. H. E. Okena, 72, Church Road; Chief O. A. Uyo with Mr. and Mrs. B. M. Jokoh, 41, Abaide Street; Mr. Gordon Mukoro with Mr. F. M. Okotete, 6, Emir Road; and Mr. Aloysius Adjekpovu (one of the servants) with Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Ekuvero.

 

The 5.0’clock reception by the Urhobo Welfare Community was opened with prayer by Mr. H. E. Okena. That was followed by introduction of officers and local leaders and an opening speech by Mr. W. U. Uvoh, the Chairman of the Community. On behalf of the entire Urhobo people of Kano, Mr. Uvoh welcomed the President-General and his entourage to the ancient City. Since the death of the late Chief Mowoe, no President-General had cared to visit them to see for himself how they were living and faring in a “foreign” land. Chief T. E. A. Salubi, the present President-General, was an illustrious son of Urhobo who had, by his patriotism and good work for the progress of Urhobo, made a name for himself and endeared himself in the hearts of Urhobo. He firmly believed that if given the opportunity, the President-General would achieve for Urhobo far more than whatever anyone person had ever achieved for Urhobo before now. He therefore requested the audience to pray for good health, long life, patience and wisdom for the President-General.

 

Mr. J. D. E. Omonigho, the Secretary of the Community, then read a Welcome Address. In the Address, the Community expressed gratitude to the President-General for remembering to visit them; for his various financial assistance to the Union; for assisting Senator M. G. Ejaife to visit Australia on an educational tour; for building the National Secretariat; and for approving a number of colleges in Urhobo land during his tenure of office as Commissioner for Education, Western Nigeria. The Address described the President-General as the only peg in a round hole ever discovered since the leadership of the late Chief Mukoro Mowoe.

 

The Address sounded a note on the essentiality of unity and solidarity among Urhobo people. Recently, says the Address, a horrifying news has reached Kano that there was a sharp rift among the leaders at home especially among the rank and file of the U.P.U. The Community, would, therefore, be delighted to hear the facts of the situation from the President-General. The Community appealed to the President-General to use his good offices to ensure promotion of Community Development in Urhobo land. The Urhobo Hall in which the reception was being held was cited as a glorious example of what community effort could achieve.

 

Finally, the Address recalls to mind a part of the President-General’s National Day Message of 1962 in which he said, inter alia. “It had always been my fervent wish to be able to retire in good health from the Civil Service so that I might devote the rest of my life to your service through the auspices of the Urhobo Progress Union.” Accordingly the Community expressed an ardent hope that the President-General would not find any provocation, however highly mounted, to make him abandon the cause of Urhobo people and to quit the stage at this time. In conclusion, the Community prayed to God to grant the President-General good health and long life to enable him carry on his solemn pledge. On behalf of the Community, an Hausa fan of coloured feathers, set in leather work, was presented to the President-General by Miss Eunice Okena.

 

In opening his response to the Address, the President-General first referred to the visit to Kano in December, 1946, of Chief Mukoro Mowoe, the first President-General of the Union, and the unforgettable role played by two Isoko women, namely, Mrs. Asaba Mafena and Mrs. Umutor Cameroon, by their contribution to the Urhobo Educational Scheme in spite of the general non-co-operative attitude of Isoko people towards the Scheme. He did not know whether the two women or any of them were or was in the Hall at the moment. In any case, said the President-General, he would like to pay tributes to both of them for the magnificent role they played on that memorable occasion.

 

Responding further to the Address, the President-General, on behalf of himself, his wife and the entire members of his entourage, expressed grateful thanks to the Urhobo Community for the unprecedented welcome accorded them. Everywhere they visited since the tour, there had always been something different and peculiar in the receptions accorded them. Kano distinguished itself not only by the impressive car procession which led the party from ten miles into the town, not only by the number of people that waited to honour them, but more so by the fact that a wonderful reception of that day was being held in a magnificent Hall of their own. In congratulating the people for the Hall, the President-General added that he would have felt very small, indeed greatly ashamed, if they of the headquarters had not built a similar edifice at home. Here the President-General recalled the fact that Urhobo people away from home had built their own halls. The first was a humble building at Siluko.

 

The President-General respectfully acknowledged the glowing tributes paid to him on account of the humble achievements attained since his assumption of office. He declared that Officers of the Union, the members of the Central Committee, and, indeed, all branches through their co-operation and support, subscribed to these humble achievements.

 

In a more serious vein, the President-General directed his reply to the alleged disunity among the leaders of the Union at home. He denied emphatically that there existed disunity in the rank and file of the Union. The truth, he said, was that there was party political disagreement between himself and a few leaders in the Union. They could not see eye to eye on matters of policy underlined by high principles based on party politics. As far as he was concerned, the Union and matters of national interests to Urhobo people were above party politics; but his political opponents did not think so – each side feeling strongly on its own grounds. That was, therefore, the parting of ways. It was in order to spite him that his political opponents in the Union formed a so-called “U.P.U. Reformation Movement” at Ughelli in December, 1963, and appointed a President-General of their own. Because it was sill-conceived, the so-called Movement had since died a natural death. In fact it all lasted for only one day.

 

The President-General assured his audience that as long as he was on the saddle, he would never permit party politics to disintegrate the Union. The Union was Urhobo people’s organisation and not his own personal property. He realised fully well that he was on the saddle only for a time. “It is time that has placed me on the stage and it is only time that can judge me,” declared the President-General. “Before history and posterity,” said the President-General, “I will stand condemned if I misuse my position and lead the Union to ruin.” But that, he further said, he would rather resign the office than lead the great Union to perdition.

 

The President-General disclosed that if there was one who did not want any disunity among Urhobo leaders, he was the one. When the disagreement (between him and Chief J. A. Obahor in particular) was rearing its ugly head, he approached the Right Revered Agori Iwe, the Bishop of Benin, in April, 1963, to summon a meeting of Urhobo leaders and progressive elements so that the disagreement might be resolved. The Bishop, he said, was a living testimony as to who failed to respond to his peace summons. Throughout his tour, continued the President-General, he never touched upon this explosive matter, unless of course, he was urged, as in this case, to do so.

 

In conclusion, the President-General again thanked the Community for the wonderful reception.

 

Chief Uyo, who spoke next, dwelt on the history of the founding of the Union and on how many years ago he himself founded the branches at Kaduna, Lagos, Enugu, Aba and Onisha. As a founder of these branches, he was grateful to God that he lived to see one of his apostles at Lagos rising to the highest pinnacle in the Union. Chief Salubi was his first Honorary Secretary at Lagos – a post which he held most creditably for ten successive years. He associated himself with the tributes paid to him and the prayers offered for him by Mr. Uvoh, the Chairman of the occasion. Finally Chief Uyo appealed to the audience to rally round and give the fullest possible support to Chief Salubi’s dynamic leadership.

 

The Under-Secretary, Mr. Gordon Mukoro, spoke last. He said that, from what he heard before and since coming to Kano, it was regretted that there should be three warring Urhobo Movement and Urhobo Progress Union, in Kano. He advised the people against such a division, appealed to them to sink their differences and to fuse together in the Urhobo Progress Union, the parent of all Urhobo unions, in the interest of Urhobo welfare and unity. Unless the people were able to do that, their qualification to appeal for peace and unity at the headquarters level would be seriously open to question. For a man must first remove the mole in his own eyes before turning to the one in his brother’s eyes, concluded Mr. Mukoro.

 

In view of the disturbing allegations with respect to misunderstanding, disagreement and division among the people in Kano and their lack of support for the U.P.U., the President-General suggested, and it was agreed, that a peace meeting be held on Saturday, 25th July, on his return from Gashua.

 

After the guests and the audience had been lavishly entertained with drinks, the scene shifted from the Hall to the open yard to enjoy the two groups of women dancers. The one was “ISIO” group and the other “ODJOBORO” (interspersed with the Uvwie songs) group. The merriment continued till 10 p.m. when the function was brought to a close.

 

 

Wednesday, 22nd July, 1964: MALLAM MADURI 

 

After consultations, the President-General decided to proceed to Nguru by road and railway. A beautiful road of some 115 miles goes from Kano to Mallam Maduri which is a railway station. Mallam Maduri is only some miles form Hadejia and 46 miles to Nguru on the train. There is an untarred road from Mallam Maduri to Nguru but the wet season made it difficult; if not altogether impossible. A train leaving Kano in the morning was expected at Mallam Maduri until 6 p.m. if it ran to schedule. The President-General was unable to see himself sitting for so long in the train to negotiate only 115 miles.

 

Chief D. O. Umuze, of Umuze family at Oha in Okpe, resides at Mallam Maduri. Chief Umuze is a retired employee or the C.F.A.O., now doing private business on his own. He and his wife traveled down purposely to meet the President-General and were among the people who welcomed the party to Kano. They were also present at the reception up to the first party. The couple left in order to be available to receive the President-General and party at Mallam Maduri.

 

The President-General and party left Kano at 11.30a.m. for Mallam Maduri. It was a beautiful modern road constructed through a vast savannah country. All was going well until the Volkswagen cart gave way. The engine has knocked and there was nothing any one could do about it. The spot was 58 miles from Kano and the time 1.15 p.m.! No help, no saviour, around or in sight!! Tying the car to the Bedford kit-car was not strong enough.

 

In the dilemma, a Shell Company bitumen tanker came along. The driver kindly responded to waving by pulling alongside his heavy vehicle. The argument as to whether the engine-oil was at the correct level or not helped no one. The President-General’s driver maintained strongly that he checked and round the oil correct in the morning before the journey was begun…well!

 

The shell driver had a wire rope. He would not take less than £2 to tow the car to Kano. Even then for fear of being seen, he would not tow it into Kano town. He could only tow it to the outskirts. Later, however, he asked for more money since he was already consulted. He was therefore discharged with thanks.

 

The next idea worked. Push the car into a nearby Hausa village and abandon it there under the care o f a “megad” (watchman). To explore the possibility of this idea, the President-General, accompanied by Chief Uyo and Mr. Gordon Mukoro, went to the village and enquired for the village headman. He was not in but a man who called himself his son was found. The difficulty was how to converse with him. He could not speak English nor could we Hausa. Chief Uyo tried his little Hausa vernacular and it worked as he was able to put desire across. The man asked us to push the car down to the village and agreed to be the “megad”.

 

After watching the villagers’ long and tedious process of drawing water from a well (very deep) in the village with a long rope and a leather bag, they went with us ostensibly to help us push the car; but they would not touch it unless and until they were given some money. Such was their insistence on “dash” that we told them to keep away. Thank God, the car was a small one, and there was enough man-power of our own to push it. One could never have believed that the Hausa youths in that remote village had become so sophisticated and money-minded! Their attitude was a shocking surprise and a sad commentary on Hausa youth’s kindness. Without the youths, car was soon at the village. A “dash” of five shillings to the “megad” earned a broad smile from his face. He indicated to us by signs that the car would be perfectly safe under his watch. There the car was left.

 

It then remained for us to adjust ourselves into the Bedford kit-car. Only two people were to be on the cab with the driver. But there was the President-General, Mrs. Salubi and Chief Uyo. Chief Uyo volunteered to be at the back with the Under-Secretary and the boys. Mrs. Salubi disagreed. She would be at the back, not the Chief. In order to convince the Chief, she quickly trumped up a personal reason for the preference. “The cab was normally too warm. It was cooler at the back, she said. Before any one could say a word more, she was already in the back. Without any respectable seat, she soon settled down herself. Her adjustment to the situation was a wonderful example of “hard-lying” to use a well-known Civil Service parlance.

 

So the journey was continued. Gumel, the only town of any consequence on the way, was soon passed. A few miles before Mallam Maduri, we saw Chief D. O. Umuzo driving down to look that we were not involved in any transport difficulty. He had to make the journey. How nice this!   

 

We arrived Mallam Maduri at 4.50p.m. Here Chief Umuze and his family entertained the President-General and his entourage in a most lavish way. A bottle of white Horse Whisky, Guinness, etc. and the sum of £3. 3/-. Whatever any one might have to say today against the President-General, said Chief Umuze, he was convinced that Chief Salubi was a patriot, a born leader of Urhobo people.

 

He based his conviction on an anecdote which went as follows. At Sokoto in 1942, he wanted to buy an air gun from Lagos. He knew no one at Lagos to buy the gun for him. He expressed his difficulty before a friend of his – Mr. Adefarasin, then a Government Sanitary Inspector at Sokoto, now a judge of a High Court. Mr. Adefarasin asked him to contact Mr. Salubi of Health Office, Lagos. He assured Chief Umuze that whether Mr. Salubi knew him or not, whether he sent money or not, Mr. Salubi would buy the gun for him since he (Chief Umuze) was an Urhobo. Following Mr. Adefarasin’s advice, he sent a letter with money to Mr. Salubi who bought him the gun, even though he had not known him before. That was a practical confirmation of Mr. Adefarasin’s recommendation based on his knowledge of the relationship between Mr. Salubi and Urhobo people.

 

The President-General confirmed that Mr. Tunji Adefarasin was a son of Mr. Adefarasin, a Charge-Nurse, at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, Lagos. That Tunji, like other Government Sanitary Inspectors of these days, was trained at the Health Office, Lagos, and that as a Senior Sanitary Inspector, Tunji Adefarasin passed through his hand during his training. That was how he know the President-General closely.

 

Chief Umuse entertained the President-General and his entourage to a most sumptuous lunch. But the problem of the abandoned car had to be solved. It was decided that the kit-car with the party’s two drivers and one of the boys, should return to the village to tow car down to Kano. Chief Umuze kindly provided a rope and a stick with which to tie the car, and asked his driver, an Hausa, to accompany them. The inclusion of the Hausa driver, who could also speak English, solved the question of language difficulty which would naturally arise at the village. The boys were to ask Mr. H. E. Okena to take the car to Mandilas and Karaberis, Kano, with instructions to proceed with necessary repairs before the President-General’s return on the 24th July. The boys and the kit-car to waited at Kano. The car was towed to Kano without a hitch.

 

At about 5.30 p.m., a telephone call came from the Urhobo people at Nguru enquiring about the President-General. Chief Umuze informed them that the party was already at his place waiting for the train to arrive. They asked that the President-General should rail his car along with him to Nguru. But as may well be appreciated, there was no car by now to be railed.

 

Nguru is the terminus of the ZariaKano railway branch to the north-east of Northern Nigeria. Being the rail head, all economic activities within that part of the North converged there. Nguru is therefore a very busy little town especially during groundnuts, fish and meat drying seasons.

 

The train arrived Mallam Maduri at 8 p.m. and in half an hour, it began the journey to Nguru, arriving there at 11 p.m. Met at the station, was a group of dancing Urhobo men and women. The song specially composed for the occasion meant something like this. “We are very pleased that you came to see us, dear President, in this far land”.

 

The dancers in a procession led the President-General and his entourage to the National Independence Hotel where they were lodged. Dancing and general merriment continued on the roof garden of the Hotel till 1.30a.m. Water supply in the Hotel was cut off but the Urhobo women made sure that the party was in no way inconvenienced by water

 

Before the Officers and members left the party for the night, it was agreed that Gashua be visited in the morning (of the 23rd) and that a formal reception by Ngugu be held in the evening. The Urhobo Community here is a very small but active one. At the time of the visit, it was comprised of 18 men and 17 women only. The distinction of Nguru branch is its claim of 100% membership of Urhobo people resident there. Every Urhobo was a member of the Union. They all spoke with one voice and one voice only!

 

 

Thursday, 23rd July, 1964: Nguru – Gashua 

 

At 9. 25a.m., the President –General and his party, accompanied by local leaders headed by Mr. J.B. Esienakife, the President of Nguru branch, set off for Gashua in a Land Rover placed at the disposal of the branch by the proprietor of the National Independence Hotel. The Proprietor was an Hausa business man. He had heard of the President-General in his political party circles. Gashua, which is 42 miles north-eastwards, is connected to Nguru International  Border, only a few miles form the former French territories in that part of Africa south of the Sahara. The nature of the country gave the impression that one was already in the Sahara Desert.

 

The party arrived at Gashua at 11.45 a.m. and made for the house of the local President, Mr. Alfred O. Obukefe. It was raining. and some one was sent down to inform the President of the party’s arrival. As the party was wondering why he did not return in time, the wife of the President came out. Her answer to the effect that her husband was at home cleared the doubt as to whether he had traveled. Later, a message came back stating that the President refused to meet the President-General and his party. What could have caused this! Mr. Obukefe was reported to have said that the party should go to one Mr. R. I. Kalegha.  Before the journey, it was known that there was a quarrel between the Urhobo of Gashua which had affected the Union. But the extent and effect of the quarrel were not realized.

 

The party then went to Mr. Kalegha’s house. Mr. Kalegha received the President-General and his entourage very warmly entertaining hem with drinks. He sent for one Mr. Josiah Onoyivbeta who at once organised a meeting at his house. Shortly afterwards, the Urhobo women in Gashua, under the leadership of Madam Tobrise Esomitoje, quickly organised a dance in honour of the visit.

 

Mr. Onoyivbeta presented some beer while the women presented a bottle of White Horse Whisky, soft drinks and a large Hausa feather fan as a souvenir to the President-General.

 

Before the business of the meeting was started, the President-General directed that the President, Mr. Obukofe, be sent for. The message had no effect. After some waiting, the Under-Secretary, Mr. Gordon Mukoro, volunteered to go. He met Mr. Obukofe and his secretary, Mr. Peter Ekorhi. Mr. Mukoro knew them – one or both of them being his schoolmate(s). At last, both of them turned up together.

 

The President-General then addressed the meeting outlining the ideals of the Union and the object of his tour. He said he heard of the differences existing between the Urhobo people of Gashua and confirmed his intention to settle the matter. It was essential that settlement be reached so that the Union which was already weak might be revived.

 

Mr. Obukofe and Ekorhi appeared to be insolent in their address to the meetings. At that stage, the President-General, who had all along adopted a soft attitude, dressed down these two men in a very sharp language. He told them to be ashamed of their disrespectful behaviour towards him. If for no other reason, declared the President-General, he was fully entitled to some respect from them. The two men quickly apologized saying they meant no disrespect to the President-General.

 

Mr. Ekorhi then took the floor and spoke on the weakness of the Gashua branch, which, in his opinion, was not due to personal grievance. The branch became weak as a result of lack of sufficient interest on the part of members. Practically all the members slacked for a long time. He was the Secretary of the Union for many years before he left Gashua, also for a long time. On his return, he was surprised to find that no other person was appointed in his place – a situation which gave him the feeling that the secretaryship was his own personal property. That was why he too lost interest.

 

Messrs. Onoyivbeta and Kalegha disagreed and maintaining it was personal grievances between members that caused the union’s downfall. Madam Otobrise Esomitoje, the President of the women, appealed to all concerned to forget the past, rally round the President-General so that he could effect amicable settlement for them. Mr. J. B. Esienakife, President, Nguru branch, gave a detailed account of the trouble among the members at Gashua. Chief Uyo and Mr. Gordon Mukoro also spoke appealing to the members for a change of heart.

 

Finally, the President-General wound up the discussion. After making the leaders to agree to a revival of the branch, an informal resolution to that effect was unanimously taken. The local President, Mr. Obukofe, was to convene a general meeting where new officers would be elected. The meeting was closed at that stage. The women accompanied the President-General dancing to Mr. Kalegha’s place.

 

At 3.50 p.m., the President-General and his party left Gashua for Nguru arriving there at 5.30p.m. 

 

At 8 p.m., the branch held a function at the President’s house in honour of the visit. After prayers and introduction of the officers, Mr. Esienakife made a speech. A dance by the women preceded the reading of a Welcome Address. The main theme of the Address centred round the great joy of the people at seeing the President-General in their midst in the far North. That was their reason for the special song composed for the occasion. After paying glowing tributes to the work of the President-General since his assumption of office and especially during his tenure as Commissioner for Education in Western Nigeria, the Address proceeded to demand consideration for admission of Urhobo children born in the North to Urhobo College.

The Address was presented with drinks, kola-nuts and the sum of £3. 3/-. This was followed by three other speakers – two men and a woman. Thereafter, the President-General responded. He thanked the Nguru branch for the honour accorded him and his entourage by the warm reception given to them form the Railway Station up to the time of the function of that night. In the course of his tour, he had been to many places but never had he seen a place where all Urhobo immigrants in the place were members of the Union. That feature, he declared, was a unique feature in which Nguru excelled.

 

As regards the question of admission of Urhobo children born in Northern Nigeria to Urhobo College, the President-General said that the matter was not peculiar to Nguru alone. It was a general complaint by all branches in the North. It was the view of the President-General that a stage has been reached at which the Urhobo Progress Union must propound a policy on the matter. He promised to raise the matter at the next Annual General Council so that a policy might be enunciated on it. He thought that subject to other favourable factors, it should be possible for the Council to allocate a given percentage of each annual intake to Urhobo children born in the North. Some thing must be done in that direction, especially as most secondary grammar schools in the North, particularly those owned by the Northern Nigeria Government, shut the doors of their colleges against children whose parents originated from the South.

The function was brought to a close at about 12 midnight.  

 

 

Friday, 24th July, 1964: Nguru - Kano

 

The President-General and his entourage left the Hotel at 7.30a.m. and at 8 a.m. the train steamed off to Mallam Maduri arriving at 10.45.am. As Chief Umuze’s car taking the President-General to Kano could not, naturally, take all members of his entourage, the Under-Secretary, the President-General’s personal clerk and a servant had to proceed to Kano by a public passenger transport.

 

At 11.55 a.m., the President-General, Mrs. Salubi and Chief Uyo left Mallam Maduri in Chief Umuze’s private car for Kano, arriving at 5 p.m. The President-General has directed that the hospitality and kindness extended to him and his party by Chief Umuze and his family must be placed on record. The stop-over at their place -- both when going to, and returning from, Nguru -- made the journey very pleasant indeed.

 

At Kano, Mr. Okena had a story to tell about the car to be repaired. The M & K asked for a deposit of £40; otherwise they could touch the car. Mr. Okena issued a cheque. Later, they gave an approximate estimate of £120 as in their opinion the damage to the engine was not inconsiderable. At that point, Mr. Okena called for a halt until the President-General’s return. He refused to commit the President-General to that extent in his absence. But the President-General has no choice if that was the only way of getting the car back on the road again. Accordingly, he issued a cheque of £150 to Mr. Okena.

 

In the evening Mr. and Mrs. B. M. Jokoh threw a fabulous party in honour of the President-General and his entourage at their fashionable house, 41, Abadie Street. Mr. Jokoh is a Company Director and a prominent Urhobo in Kano. It will be remembered that Chief Uyo was lodged with Mr. and Mrs. Jokoh.

 

The party was exclusively Urhobo in attendance. Practically all Urhobo who mattered in Kano were there. The entertainment was most lavish and purse of £1. 1/- accompanied the kola-nuts and drinks.

 

In a speech at the function, Mr. Jokoh, disclosed that he decided to honour the President-General for two main reasons. His first reason was that Chief Salubi showed kindness to him when he visited Lagos in 1949 from Gusau. The second reason, said Mr. Jokoh, was his personal conviction that Chief Salubi had done so much for Urhobo people for so long that he deserved honour from any well-meaning fellow Urhobo wherever he might go.

 

Mr. Jokoh added that as Chief Salubi might have forgotten the 1949 kindness, he would like, with his permission, to recall the details of it. At that time, he said, he was a young man of no consequence who came from Gusau to visit Lagos.  Before the visit, he heard so much of the man called Salubi that he made up his mind to meet him. He took a taxi to the Labour Department and introduced himself to Chief Salubi. The Chief remarked humorously that he was surprised to see him looking so unusually black-skinned, and asked “Is that what the heat of the North had done to you?”

 

After a short conversation, Mr. Jokoh continued, Chief Salubi asked his driver to take him out with his car for sight-seeing or to wherever he wanted to go. Later, he took him to his house at Ebute Metta and told him not to stay in hotel again whenever he visited Lagos. His  surprise about that kindly treatment was that Chief Salubi did not know him before then nor did he consider himself a that time to be anybody worthy of such respect and kindness from a person of the Chief’s high status.

 

Two other speakers – Mr. W.U. Uvoh and Mr. J.G. Edwin Ogun, -- followed. Both were in one way or the other related to Mr. & Mrs. Jokoh. They associated themselves fully with tributes already paid to the President-General by Mr. Jokoh. Each in turn, with his wife standing by him as Mr. Jokoh did, spoke acknowledging with grateful thanks the kindness of Kano people in general and of Mr. and Mrs. Jokoh in particular. Chief Uyo followed: The thought of the kind treatment and care which the family had been extending to him since his arrival sometimes made him to doubt whether he was the same Uyo. He had been feeling that he was in paradise and would be sorry to go.

 

On behalf of himself, his wife and his entourage, the President-General thanked Mr. and Mrs. Jokoh for their kind generosity and lavish entertainment. Like many things he was said to have done to many others years ago, he had forgotten completely the act of kindness attributed to him by Mr. Jokoh. In fact, he could not remember seeing Mr. Jokoh anywhere before he met him in Kano three days ago. However, all was well that went well.

 

Here, the President-General re-stated his post Public-Civil-Service career policy of unflinching service to his own people until the end of his life. In this, said the President-General, nothing could detract him from the tract of his conviction, belief , and philosophy.

 

In conclusion, the President-General thanked Mr. and Mrs. Ogun, Mr. and Mrs. Uvoh for their gifts and the rest of the people for coming to honour him.

 

The happy gathering came to an end at 11.30 p.m.

 

 

Saturday, 25th July, 1964: KANO

 

The first engagement today was to see the Engineer, Mandilas and Karaberis, about the damaged car. The President-General confirmed that the repairs be proceeded with. As the work could not, however, be completed in less than two days, probably more, the President-General decided to leave the car behind. The driver and a servant were to wait for it.

 

The President of the Kano branch, Chief T. Feludu, had expressed a strong desire that the President-General and party should meet him and some of his members for a brief discussion at his house, No. 41, Emir Road. As a prelude to the discussion which took place at 10. a.m., Chief Feludu entertained his guests to drinks. The discussion centered on the main difficulties and problems and problems confronting the Kano branch. Since the problems were to be ripped open at the meeting with the Community representatives in the evening, the discussions here were necessarily brief.

 

It will be remembered that on the 21st July, a meeting between the President-General and representatives of the groups in the Community was fixed for today. At 7.50p.m., in the Urhobo Hall, the meeting was declared open with a prayer. The President-General, supported by Chief Uyo, Mr. Kani and Mr. W. U. Uvoh, presided.

 

Group interests represented were as follows:

 

Urhobo Welfare Community         – represented on clan basis

Urhobo Progress Union                 – 4 representatives

U.P.U. Woman Wing            – 2 representatives

Urhobo Youth Movement    – 2 representatives  

 

It was agreed that the drinks presented be not served till the end of the meeting. Mr. Omonigho, the Secretary of the Urhobo Welfare Community, then produced the following agenda. 

 

(a)     Re-organisation of the U.P.U. on clan representatives

(b)     Indiscriminate selling of our lands at home [in Urhoboland].

(c)     Reconciliation of the President-General with opposing factions at home.

(d)     The Under-Secretary’s remarks at the reception for the President-General

 

In an opening speech, the President-General expressed surprise at the curtness of the agenda before the meeting, the absence of any item concerning the alleged disunity leading to the weakness for the Union, and, the last but not the least, the inclusion of item (d). In regard to that item, the President-General at once registered an objection that he was not prepared to subject his Under-Secretary, who, after all, was their guest, to trail by his hosts. After some explanation as to intention for including the item, the meeting was continued. 

 

Re-organisation of the U.P.U. on Clan representation

 

The idea was promulgated by the Urhobo Welfare Community. It was their desire that the branch be re-organised on clan representation basis instated of a the present situation where the branch was composed of individual membership. The opinion was strongly expressed that the Union would be much stronger and mere effective if re-organised as advocated. During contribution to the discussion, it became clear that what was being advocated was a general re-organisation of all existing and further union branches, and not Kano branch alone.

 

In his reply, the President-General said that the suggestion was unprecedented in the annals of the Union. He added that the idea of organising Urhobo community on clan basis was first originated by Lagos about 28 years ago. The organisation, named Urhobo Clans Executive Board, was formed in order to get as many clans as possible to subscribe to the Urhobo Scholarship Scheme. Lagos example was followed by Port-Harcourt and later by Warri. All the Boards had since ceased to function.

 

He was however aware that at Ibadan, clan representatives were, as a matter of policy, co-opted to the branch. That did not however preclude in entirety the existence of individual membership. At Ibadan, all Urhobo people acknowledge the Urhobo Progress Union as their godfather. It was the U.P.U. that organised the Urhobo community from time to time by dealing through the various Clan unions.

 

In his opinion, Kano’s suggestion amounted to a fundamental change of policy and principles which had been securely laid done from the time the first rules of the Union were drawn up. Having regard, therefore, to the fundamental importance of the matter, he, as President-General on tour, could not be expected to pontificate on it. He had no power to do so even if he wanted. Consideration of the suggestion at that meeting was, in his view, completely out of place, and therefore advised that if Kano still felt sufficiently strongly on the matter, they should submit it as an item of agenda for consideration at the next Annual General Council. He hoped that they would unfailingly send representatives to the Council.

 

Indiscriminate selling of our lands at home [in Urhoboland]       

 

The Urhobo Welfare Community expressed a desire that land in urban areas like Oghara, Sapele, Ughelli in Urhobo Division and such other areas in Warri Division, under ownership of Urhobo families, should not be let out or sold at random. The President-General in his reply traced the history of the impact of European civilization on the above-mentioned  towns resulting in the settlement of non-natives. He hinted that in Sapele, the land in the urban area had nearly been exhausted. As for Ughelli, he could not say whether non-Urhobos owned many plots. With regard to Warri, he portrayed a sorrowful picture of the land owned by the Urhobo of Agbarha and Okere, being taken away from them by the Itsekiris under the cover of the Communal Land Trust and Town Planning Authority.

 

On the other hand, Agbarha people were in the habit of selling plots of land to non-Urhobo people. There was always litigation upon litigation over land matters among them. There was nothing any could do in such circumstances.

 

Reconciliation of the President-General with t opposing Factions at Home

         

The desire of the Welfare Community tended to indicate that the President-General should personally take the initiative to settle the rift between him and Chief Obahor’s group. The President-General gave detailed account of the rift and how he had approached the Right Rev. Agori Iwe, Anglican Bishop of Benin Diocese, to settle the rift. The President-General ended by saying that a third party should arbitrate in the matter.

 

The Under-Secretary gave account of the moves at settlement made by Dr. F.O. Esiri at the instance of the Urhobo Renascent Convention, Warri. And the meeting of Ivie summoned by the Orodje of Okpe. The conciliation meetings were spurned by Chief Obahor and his group. He revealed that the Lagos branch had also made several moves and the answer from the Obahor group was that unless Chief Salubi and his group settled with Chief Okotie-Eboh, there would be no settlement. This was of course nonsense.  Chief Okotie-Eboh was not a member of the U.P.U. nor was he having a personal quarrel with Chief Salubi. The Under-Secretary said that if Kano wanted settlement, they should first of all approach the Obahor group for co-operation. Before making any move, they should contact Bishop Agori Iwe and Lagos branch who had made efforts before. The matter was accordingly concluded on the suggestion of the Under-Secretary.

 

The Under-Secretary’s remarks at the reception of Chief Salubi

 

Before this matter was discussed, the President-General gave a warning that it would be unbecoming of the Urhobo Community in Kano to put the Under-Secretary under trial for remarks genuinely made by him on the strength of reports received by him. Mr. J. E. E. Omonigho, who spearheaded the move and who had quarrelled with the Under-Secretary at Mr. Okena’s house on the 22nd July, demanded the source of the information and an apology by the Under-Secretary. 

 

The Under-Secretary in explanation said that he was in possession of written information at Warri that there was a rift among Urhobo in Kano and that the rift had degenerated into the founding of splinter organisations opposed to the Urhobo Progress Union, Kano branch. As could be seen now, two other organisations, viz. the Urhobo Welfare Community and the Urhobo Youths Movement, had sprung up from the U.P.U. branch. At best these two organisations had not been co-operating with the U.P.U. Members of the U.P.U. who were disciplined for offences committed, usually decamped and declared for either of the two other organisations. That was how the decamping members raided much dust to discredit and drag down the U.P.U. The Under –Secretary concluded that that state of affairs did not augur well for unity and love. That was why he appealed to Urhobo people in Kano to sink their differences, return to the U.P.U., and work as a team.

 

The Assistant Secretary of the U.P.U., Kano branch, Mr. J. Okpara, supported by other members of the Union, affirmed that there was rift among Urhobo in Kano. The Under-Secretary should not therefore be condemned for speaking the truth. Mr. Okpara revealed that it was Nguru branch that sent a report of the rift to the national Headquarters. Mr. B. O. Oghenekaro, a leader of the Urhobo Youth Movement, also confirmed that a rift existed among Urhobo and that the U.P.U. was the target of the attack. He regretted that Kano had created a bad record by attempting to put the Under-Secretary on the carpet. The President, Mr. Uvoh, directed that since the sources of the information had been disclosed, the Under-Secretary could not be blamed. If they wanted to challenge the veracity of the accusation, they should take the matter up with Nguru. The matter was at this stage abandoned.

 

General

 

(i) Chief J. A. Duvie wanted the President-General to reveal the source of information which necessitated his having to write to him (Duvie) sometime ago that he was working against him (Chief Salubi). This matter was not pursued; it was so personal that the meeting was not considered a suitable forum.

 

The President-General thanked Mr. Uvoh for his wise ruling that the matter be not taken. As for himself, he would not have entered into any discussion about it since the point on which he wrote Chief Duvie was political in character. 

 

(ii) Mr. H. E. Okena at this stage raised again the question of the existence of a rift among Urhobo of Kano. He confirmed as a fact that a rift existed and appealed to the President-General to endeavour to settle it. Mr. Okena’s statement sparked off a lengthy debate, and accusations and counter accusations were made. Mr. Adeda of the Urhobo Youth Movement vowed that his Movement would for ever support the U.P.U.

 

The Secretary-General appealed to members to disband the splinter organisations opposed to the U.P.U., sink their differences and unite under the banner of the U.P.U. He suggested immediate election of officers after the people would have come together.

 

At this juncture, the President-General made his last and farewell speech in which a most vigorous and touching appeal was directed to each of the Local Leaders to sink their differences and ensure a revival of the past glory of the branch. In that connection, he referred to the brilliant record of performance which Kano had achieved in the past. What must be fully appreciated, he went on, was that Kano was not a mere branch standing singly by itself but hat it was the Regional Headquarters of all branches in the North. Even if only in that vicarious capacity, Kano had a responsibility, and a grave responsibility too! He charged the local leaders, the mere elderly people in the community, the women and the youths to take his appeal into serious advisement.

 

After thanking the Urhobo Welfare Community, the Urhobo Progress Union and the Urhobo Youth Movement once more for their wonderful hospitality, the meeting was brought to a close at 1. 30 a.m.

 

 

Sunday, 26th July, 1964: KANO

 

Before commencing the President-General’s personal visit to the homes of leading members of the Urhobo Community, Mr. Omonigho, the Secretary of the Community, called on the President-General and handed to him the sum of £10 (ten pounds) being Kano’s contribution towards his transport expenses. In this connection, it must be recorded that since returning home from the tour, a further amount of £6 (six pounds) had been added to this item. The amount, according to Mr. Okena, was the balance of money given to him by the Community for boarding the guests. Mr. Okena thought it would be better to donate the balance towards the heavy expenses of the tour than to return it to the Community. Thus Kano’s contribution towards the expensive tour became £16.

 

Accompanied by Mr. H. E. Okena, the President-General spent the grater part of the day visiting individually the leading members of the Urhobo Community. Not all but a great many were met. The President-General was warmly received. The personal visit to their homes was regarded as a special honour to them and their families. Here again each of the leaders visited displayed what might now be regarded as Kano hospitality.

 

The President-General repeated his appeal. This time he was able to ram it in on personal basis. From the immediate reactions of those seen by the President-General, the personal visit was a good rounding-up of the tour to Kano. From reports coming to hand ever since, it was clear that the President-General’s appeal was well taken.

 

To round off our last day in Kano, Mr. & Mrs. H. E. Okena threw a sumptuous party in farewell honour of the President-General and his entourage. Notable among the guests at the party were Mr. & Mrs. Mafene of Isoko. It will be recalled that the President-General made reference on the 21st to the contribution which Mrs. Mafene made to the Urhobo Education Fund when Chief Mowoe visited Kano in 1946. This time, Mrs. Mafene made a gift of a leather puff and a bottle of Schnapps to the President-General, Chief Salubi.

 

It was a most successful party in which men, women, and all enjoyed themselves. Speeches by Mr. Jokoh, the President-General, Chief Uyo and Mr. Gordon Mukoro, the Under-Secretary, were tape recorded.

 

This grand finale of Kano functions was brought to a happy close at 12 midnight.



Monday, 27th July, 1964

 

Following agreement that we should leave Kano as early as possible, we agreed  to leave at 4.30 a.m. All members of the entourage billeted in the various places began to converge to Mr. Okena’s house by that time. It will be remembered that only the Bedford kit-car was available for the homeward journey. The Volkswagen driver and a servant were to remain behind to bring the Volkswagen car after it has been repaired.

 

The rest of the touring party with their loads had “to make-do” with the Bedford kit-car. Again the President-General and Chief Uyo occupied the cab with the driver. A prominent Urhobo in Kano who came to bid the arty goodbye had since written as below in admiration of Mrs. Salubi. He wrote:

 

I cannot forget to mention the name of your kind wife whose activities and co-operation with you are praise-worthy. I was greatly surprised when your wife vacated the front seat of your kit-car for Chief Arebe Uyo at Kano on your return journey and happily sat at the back of the same kit-car which was already congested with luggage. Place convey our appreciation to her for this respectful gesture which is not common these days of our so-called “civilization.” 

 

At 5.30 a.m., Mr. Okena and Mr. Jokoh led the party to the  outskirts of the town where we said goodbye to one another. But it was a goodbye for a short while only. Still within Kano outskirts, the kit-car began to give trouble – the fuel system was not working well. It was a timely warning. Because of the long distance ahead, we decided to return back so that the fault could be put right. But it was not easy at all to trace our way back to Mr. Okena’s house. We missed our way, stumbling here and there, until a t last a youth who was apparently going to work kindly directed us. It was dawn by the time we reached Okena’s house!

 

Needles to describe how all concerned felt in a situation such as then faced us. Mr. Okena at once directed that the vehicle be taken to the mechanic, an Urhobo young man, working under the Niger Motors Ltd., Kano. For a long time, nothing was heard about the vehicle or the mechanic. It might be added at this point that in order to avoid this kind of mechanical hitch, this same mechanic, at the President-General’s instance, attended to the vehicle on the previous day (Sunday 26th). On his advice, the amature and the fuel pump were changed for a new ones and the battery charged.

 

As no word was coming from the mechanic, the President-General was driven to this house, No. 41, Emir Road, to ascertain what it was all about. There the mechanic was found in a wrapper with a chewing stick in his mouth. He was therefore not ready yet to do anything. The President-General therefore suggested, and the mechanic agreed, that the vehicle be taken to the Niger Motors Workshops.

 

At the workshops, every possible immediate attention was given with no success. The party reverted to Mr. Okena’s house. Breakfast and lunch came and went, still the vehicle did not respond to treatment. At 4 p.m. the President-General saw the Service Manager. Mr. Dawson, for the second time. After analyzing the fault, Mr. Dawson advised that we should proceed with the journey. “The car, he said, “will take you home provided you do not over-fill it with engine oil and your speed does not exceed 55 miles per hour”. In fact, he gave a note for the President-General to call to any Niger Motors Worship on the way, should the vehicle give any more trouble.

 

Mr. Dawson was very sympathetic. The time spent on the car would have made the bill heavy but since, as he said, they were unable the total expenditure on the kit-car came to £4 : 15: 5d. That brought the total expenditure on the kit-car to £52 : 15 : 9d.

 

Mr. Dawson’s advice and attitude encouraged the President-General and party to proceed on the Journey. Accordingly, the homeward journey was started at 6. 16 p.m. surprisingly enough the car gave no trouble at all. At Zaria, we called on Mr. Albert Akpomudje, the President-General’s cousin, but only for a brief moment. The journey then continued until Kaduna was reached at midnight. Here we had to decide whether to sleep or drive all the night to Kontagora (a distance of 190 miles). The majority decision was for all night driving, Chief Uyo alone favouring rest for the night.

 

 

Tuesday, 28th July, 1964: KONTAGORA

 

We made Kontagora at 7 a.m. and settled in No. 1 Chalet only for a couple of hours. Here we bathed and took our breakfast. At  9. 15 a.m., we were on the move again arriving Ibadan at 6.20 p.m. Once more, we were guests of Mr. and Mrs. Israel O. Salubi. Here we had a comfortable night. 

 

 

Wednesday, 29 July, 1964: Ibadan – Ovu

 

We left Ibadan at 7.40 a.m. after an early breakfast. Surprisingly still, the car gave no trouble until a few miles to Sapele when precisely the same trouble developed. We however managed to cross the ferry and at Chief Uyo’s place, the mechanic working in the yard, attended to the car. They cleaned and re-set the plugs as Mr. Dawson advised. After bidding Chief Uyo goodbye, we left Sapele at 5. 15 p.m. and arrived Ovu Inland at 6.30p.m.

 

After unloading, Mr. Gordon Mukoro was taken to Warri and the driver had peace at last.

 

 

Friday, 31st July, 1964

 

The Volkswagen car arrived with a total cost of repairs and incidentals at £120:1:9d. It will be remembered that £3 : 8 : 3d was also spent on this car on the 17th and that £52:15:9 was already spent on the Bedford kit-car. The total cost of maintenance or repairs of the two vehicles used during the tour was, therefore, £176 : 5 : 9. This does not, of course, include cost of petrol and oil which will be seen elsewhere in the report.

 

Thus ended this historic tour of the North.

 

Gordon Mukoro

Under-Secretary,

National Headquarters,

Warri.

T. E. A. Salubi

President-General.

29th September, 1964.

 

 


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