Centre, Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun,
UrhoboBridge to the Neighbourhood of the Niger Delta and Nigeria
A Welcome Address by Olorogun
President General, Urhobo
On behalf of the entire Urhobo
people, I am delighted to welcome
you all to this unique assembly of the Urhobo People and their
invited guests. Although the Urhobo People do meet in annual Congresses
Urhobo Progress Union to consider matters affecting their common
particular gathering is distinct and indeed rare.
First, we have invited
delegates from a broad spectrum of the Urhobo population, in the Urhobo
homeland and from far and wide in the Urhobo Diaspora.
Secondly, the issues that
we consider in this Summit
will touch on fundamental matters of the future of the Urhobo people in
Thirdly, we have invited to
this opening session of our Summit representatives of
ethnic neighbours in the Niger Delta as well as representatives of key
organizations in the Nigerian nation.
We will have ample opportunity
to speak to the Urhobo People on
the first two of these matters in later sessions of this Summit. In this
opening session, I would like
especially to welcome our visitors and share with them the threads of
friendship which have bonded the Urhobo people to our dear neghbours in
Niger Delta and in Nigeria.
Permit me to begin this
exercise by paying tributes to our
pioneers who began this tradition of deliberative assemblage of Urhobo
of thought. They were often summoned by their Presidents-General and
chieftains of Urhobo Progress Union to gather together in order to
challenges facing the Urhobo people. In the first four decades of
colonial rule of Nigeria
in the 20th century that is now past, Urhobos and their
that they were disadvantaged by circumstances created by colonialism.
could not rely on the Government to solve these problems. Instead, they
organized themselves and taxed themselves so that they could solve the
of education and administration facing our people. Their ambition was
that the Urhobo people would rise rapidly and be equal to other
nationalities. Furthermore; these Urhobo pioneers wanted to ensure that
sons and daughters would compete on equal terms with other Nigerians in
fields of education, the arts, and business.
In convening this first major Summit of the
Urhobo People in the 21st
century, I am proud to pronounce, as the current President-General of
Progress Union, that our pioneers of the 1930s and 1940s were
their efforts of leveling the playing field for my generation. Urhobos
longer feel that they are behind other ethnic nationalities of Nigeria
major matrix of progress. In education and in the arts, Urhobos have
forth to attain national and international standards. In business, the
and contributions made by such pioneering giants as Chief David
Olorogun Michael Ibru, and Deacon Gamaliel Onosode will serve to
testify to the
fact that Urhobo foundation leaders of the 1930s and 1940s planned
this podium, and on behalf of my generation of Urhobos, I salute Chief
Mowoe and his cohort of pioneering leadership for working so hard to
groundwork for modern Urhobo progress.
However, we are here not only
to pay tributes to our ancestors for
the achievements of the Urhobo past. We are here also because there are
challenges facing the Urhobo people. We are here to design new
the slippery problems of the 21st century. In this regard,
borrow a shred of wisdom from Chief Mukoro Mowoe and the other pioneers
Urhobo past. They foresaw clearly that Urhobo progress required the
of our ethnic neighbours in the Niger Delta and the Nigerian community
ethnic nationalities. As the representative of WarriProvince in the Western House
Assembly, Chief Mukoro Mowoe worked hard for the friendship of all
in the Western Niger Delta. As President-General of Urhobo Progress
great Chief Mukoro Mowoe made friends from all corners of Nigeria,
especially in those areas where Urhobo communities were settled as
Indeed, among Nigerian ethnic
nationalities, Urhobo is second to
none in promoting and forging bonds of friendship with other peoples of
Niger Delta and Nigeria.
A review of our ties with our ethnic neighbours in the Western Niger
amply affirm this assertion. Geographically, Urhobo lies in the centre
Western Niger Delta and serves as its heart. We are proud to have
warm relationships with all five ethnic nationalities that surround the
people in the hinterland rainforests of the Western Niger Delta.
of them are represented in this assembly.
Benin. Benin lies to our north. Urhobo
language has an
endearing term of affection by which we know Benin
and the Benins:
Aka. In matters of shared commerce and agriculture, in customs
language, Urhobo relations with Benin
are counted by thousands of years. Such enduring relations have grown
luxuriantly in the past 100 years and more when large Urhobo migrant
communities sprouted up in rural Benin. The flourishing
between modern Urhobos and their kinsmen in Benin
owes a great deal to the
especial bonds that developed between that remarkable King of Benin,
Akenzua II and several Urhobo chieftains. It is a tradition that his
magnificent successor, His Majesty Omo N’Oba Eradiuwa, has continued.
the Kings and the good people of Benin for their friendship
Urhobo immigrants who have settled in their midst. We believe that
Urhobos have reciprocated well and have contributed substantially to
of modern Benin
society and economy. Today, inter-marriages between Benin
and Urhobo men and women,
especially in rural areas, have grown dramatically. This wholesome
points to the strengthening of Benin-Urhobo relations in the 21st
Itsekiri. Itsekiri lies to the west of
Placed in the Atlantic coast, the Itsekiri have had special relations
hinterland Urhoboland for centuries. During the age of European trade,
Urhobo people relied on Itsekiri as an avenue for securing industrial
from Europe. In return, Urhobos
Itsekiri the agricultural goods that fed them. These reciprocities in
economies were paralleled by social developments whereby marriages
Itsekiri and Urhobo increased family ties between the two peoples in an
extraordinary fashion. These family ties have happily overcome
created by political differences and have been especially helpful in
crises. Today, it is estimated that at least as many Itsekiri live in
Urhoboland as in Itsekiri lands. It is remarkable that the Urhobo city
has the single largest
concentration of Itsekiri. Sapele also serves as the epicenter of
language and culture. We are proud of these trends and Urhobo
do their utmost to ensure that the relations between Urhobo and
grow to the benefit of both of our people.
Ijaw. Ijaw lies to Urhoboland’s
the Atlantic coast and in the creeks of the Niger Delta. The Ijaw have
Urhobo folk imagination from immemorial times. They are widely regarded
Urhobos as faithful friends and allies. Economic ties, featuring food
to the Ijaw and supply of fish products to the Urhobo, are old and
this day. There is an ample Urhobo population of economic migrants in
lands, consisting of fishermen, gin-makers, and palm-nut collectors. On
other hand, there is a strong Ijaw presence in Urhobo cities and towns.
Inter-marriages between Ijaws and Urhobos are common, resulting in
Ijaw families with Urhobo members. The extensive boundaries between
and Ijawland have largely been peaceful. We are proud to say that
relations are a true model of cordial ethnic relations.
Ukwuani. The ancient lands of the
lie to the northeast of Urhoboland. Economic and commercial ties
communities and the Ukwuani people are ancient and well-ordered. For
Ukwuani maidens were favourite brides in Urhobo culture. These
created firm bonds and peaceful co-existence between Urhobos and
Ukwuani towns as Ubiaruku and such Urhobo towns as Abraka have been
the two neighbours in peace. We salute the Ukwuani people for their
disposition towards the Urhobo people.
Isoko. Isoko lies to the southeast
Urhoboland. There are many Isoko and there are many Urhobo who would
idea that Isoko is being treated as Urhobo’s ethnic neighbour. This is
the distinction between Urhobo and Isoko is more political than
all other respects outside of politics, the Urhobo and Isoko share a
culture, a common economy, and even a common history. In modern times,
Isoko have become the most influential economic force in the Urhobo
city of Ughelli.
In the Urhobo-Isoko
Diaspora, Urhobos and Isokos share common unions. Given the current
separation between our peoples, we have invited Isoko representatives
guests to this Summit.
But we would like to assure our Isoko brothers and sisters that the
confronting the Urhobo and Isoko people are alike. The solutions
problems may not be different.
We have narrated these
relationships between the Urhobo People and
our immediate neighbours in the Western Niger
delta for two reasons. First, we want to assure you all that Urhobo
the last seventy years has been possible only because of the friendly
environment in which we exist. Second, Urhobo’s relationship with other
of the Niger Delta and beyond has been governed by the principle of
give-and-take. We want to benefit from any relationships in which we
implicated. But we also want to give back to the communities from which
These principles have also
governed Urhobo’s relationships with
other peoples outside the Niger Delta. Urhobo have lived and prospered
several corners of Nigeria
while contributing to the welfare of those communities. For example,
were among the first batch of tin-miners in Jos, a community to whose
development they contributed substantially. We thank all Nigerian
that have hosted Urhobo migrants over the years. In this regard,
to make special reference to the good fortunes of Urhobos in rural
lands. Early in the 20th century, Urhobo palm-nut collectors
in large numbers in Ikale, Ilesha and Ogbomosho in an
occupation that entailed the
harvesting of nuts from wild palm trees. It was an occupation in which
people are specialized. It was an occupation that also helped to
kind host communities that received the Urhobo people. We thank them
should mention that some of our brightest jurists were born and raised
country of OndoState.
The late Chief Ayo Irikefe, a former Chief Justice of the Federation
Victor Ovie-Whiskey, a former Chief Judge of Bendel State, were two
giants who were born in Ikale country and who had their first lessons
education in that fertile branch of the Urhobo Diaspora.
Urhobo cities and towns have
also received many other Nigerians
into their midst. We trust that we have given to others in the measure
we have received from the Nigerian community.
We believe that our future
development will rely on harmony
between the Urhobo people and other ethnic nationalities of the Niger
as a whole. As we face new challenges in the 21st century,
we will rely
on your friendship in our search for solutions for these hurdles. For
it is a point of view that is now widely canvassed by Urhobo leaders of
that we need an UrhoboState
within the Federation of Nigeria in order to speed up our pace of
We assure you all that an UrhoboState
will in no way disrupt the good relationships between the Urhobo people
their neighbours. On the contrary, we believe that an UrhoboState will strengthen the
social circumstances of the Niger Delta.
I wish to thank you all for
accepting our invitation to this
Specifically, we thank Your Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, our dear
Vice-President for graciously honouring our invitation. We thank our
of Niger Delta, Obong Ufot Joseph Ekaette and his colleague, Elder
Permit to thank especially the
esteemed Governors of the Niger
Delta, both those who have come in person and those who have sent their
representatives. We thank Your Excellency Rt. Hon. Adams
Oshiomhole, Governor of Edo State, for your presence and friendship.
convey our warm greetings to the Omo N’Oba and the great people of EdoState. We thank Your
Excellency Rt. Hon. Timipre Sylva,
Governor of Bayelsa State. These
are trying times in our communities in Delta and BayelsaStates. Please convey our
sympathy to those affected by circumstances that they did not create.
Your Excellency Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi,
Governor of Rivers State. We thank you for your contribution to the
of the Niger Delta and to the Nigerian Federation. We thank Your
Rt. Hon. Liyel Imoke, Governor of Cross-River State for honouring our
invitation. We are aware of a sizeable Urhobo population in your State.
convey our greetings to your people and my fellow Urhobos in your
state. And we
thank Your Excellency Rt. Hon. Godswill
Governor of Akwa-Ibom. Your people and my people have many bonds
that tie us together, despite the apparent physical distance between us.
I want to reserve a special
word of thanks to our Guest of HonouronHHHH,
Your Excellency, Rt. Hon. Dr.
Emmanuel Uduaghan, Governor of Delta State. We appreciate your
organising this Summit.
We are aware of your kind assistance in hosting your colleagues from
states. We thank you.
extend especial words of gratitude and thanks to the officials of
organizations which have graced this assembly. They represent millions
Nigerians. We trust that they would have acquired a better
understanding by of
the Urhobo people by attending this Summit.
We thank the representative of Afenifere of the great Yoruba people of
southwest of Nigeria.
We warmly welcome Ambassador Raph Uwechue, the President-General of
Igbo, the apex cultural organization of the great Igbo people for your
at this Summit.
And we salute the Arewa Consultative Forum for its good wishes towards
Urhobo people. We thank you all for your friendship and
To all our guests, particularly
our immediate neighbours, let me
say the following: Please make sure that you make individual Urhobo
before you leave town. I say to all Urhobos, please regard all our
brothers and sisters.
May God Bless Nigeria.
May God Bless Urhobo and
all Ethnic Nationalities of Nigeria.