Urhobo Historical Society

Contact: Dr. Paul Egbo, Director of Publicity

Urhobo and the Nigerian Nation-state: A Statement

For Immediate Release

Source:       Subject:
   Date:         Sat, 9 Jun 2001 16:48:49 -0700 (PDT)
   From:        UPUNA's PG <okugbe1@yahoo.com>
     To:          peter ekeh <ppekeh@acsu.buffalo.edu>
    CC:          onapela@aol.com       ________________________________________________________________________________________

Members of the Urhobo Progress Union, North America (UPUNA), have been following the political alliances and re-alliances being promoted by various interest-groups in Nigeria. These moves are, no doubt, toward the 2003 general elections in Nigeria.

While we do not begrudge the political ambitions of any individual Nigerian or group, the utterances of some have the potential of igniting violence between an already divided people. We note the utterances of certain individuals who have orchestrated a media blitz against the peoples of the Niger Delta in general, and the Urhobo people in particular.

We especially note the gush of historical fallacies and insults hurled at the Urhobo people and nation by a Mallam Bala Usman in the past two months or so. In a messianic zeal to shore up a doomed fiefdom, Mallam Bala has foresworn his intellectualism for emotional vitriolic outbursts against those he sees as obstacles to “Hausa/Fulani” domination of Nigeria. We salute those Urhobo who have admirably stemmed Bala’s hallucinations without demeaning themselves to his level of hogwash.

We observe with great disappointment the current confused charade by the Nigerian federal government in organizing a so-called ‘National Conference on regional basis’  “…to review the review of the reviewed 1999 Constitution.” We also note the continuing use of religion as a political smokescreen in some parts of the country, the wanton carnage and destruction of property it has engendred, and its potential for destabilizing the tottering experiment in democracy in Nigeria.

Finally, we are deeply concerned about recent reports of fresh violence between Urhobo and Itsekiri factions in the city of Warri in Delta State just as this was going to the media. We commend Delta State Governor James Ibori for his swift action in summoning leaders of the area to a dialogue.

Based on the above, the Urhobo Progress Union, North America (UPNA) deems it necessary to issue the following statement to Urhobo people in particular, fellow Deltans and Nigerians as a whole:

1. We call on all sons and daughters of Urhoboland to seriously contemplate the implications of the above observations for the Urhobo people and nation. We find it necessary to alert all Urhobo everywhere to the need for circumspection and vigilance. We, therefore, call on all to:

a) Eschew any acts or utterances that portray Urhobo people as puppets in the Nigerian political equation. In particular, we must revisit our past in the various Nigerian political experiments and the abuse to which we have been subjected as a people for our past readiness to play the second fiddle.

b) Stoutly resist any attempts by any Urhobo person or persons to sell us out for personal gains as in the past.

c) Put in place a careful process for screening any potential candidate for elective or appointive office and his/her agenda for the Urhobo people and nation.

2. We of UPUNA totally reject the “Obasanjo National Conference” as a far cry from the popular demand of the majority of the peoples who occupy the geographic space called Nigeria today. We
 insist that a true National Conference is the prerogative of the people and not of government. While government may facilitate such a National Conference, it must not be the organizer or agenda-setter. Most importantly, representation at such a conference must be determined by the members of the constituent units.

Any denial of ethnicity as the driving undercurrent in Nigerian politics is, to put it mildly, dishonest. As we have stated in the past, while religion and other factors cannot be glossed over, religion is simply being exploited in certain parts of Nigeria for the furtherance of the political agenda of certain ethnic nationalities and individuals. We of UPUNA, therefore:

a) Reiterate our past calls for a National Conference to enable the nationalities occupying the present Nigerian geographic space to re-negotiate their terms of association.

b) Call on all Urhobo to denounce the current “Obasanjo National Conference,” to insist and to work with other well-meaning Nigerians toward a true National Conference convened by the people.

c) Insist that representation at such a Conference must be based on equality of the ethnic nationalities as has been defined by many organizations, and not on so-called population.

d) Call on Urhobo leadership at home and abroad to immediately put in place a united front to articulate the concerns of the Urhobo people and nation at a true National Conference.

e) Urge Urhobo leadership at home and abroad to explore ways of collaborating in meaningful ways with our kith and kin in this effort.

3. The hullabaloo over resource-control and the quarters from which the loudest protests derive clearly betray the fraudulence of some sections of Nigeria. First, the issue of resource-control is neither revolutionary nor is it new to Nigeria. Secondly, it is a universal fundamental right in any true federation that resource-producers control what comes from their land. Thirdly, none of those demanding resource-control is insisting that it be limited only to their states; the principle of resource-control would apply if, for example, tomorrow, it is discovered that Zamfara State is sitting on a rock of diamonds or uranium!

 Clearly, the source of opposition to resource-control is that today petroleum is the main revenue- earner for Nigeria and has hitherto been controlled by those who have reaped where they have not sown for so long! Any talk of resource-control is thus a threat to their past avarice and exploitative tendencies. We of UPUNA:

a) Unequivocally support the governors and organizations of the Niger Delta in their demand for resource-control and the right of the longsuffering people of the area to self-determination.

b) Denounce the irrational action of Attorney-General Bola Ige in suing the states over resource-control. This is unconscionable especially as Bola Ige was a beneficiary of such programs as free education and free health-care which the former Western Region could afford because of revenue accruing to it from local resource-control when Nigeria was still a semblance of a federation.

4. We condemn, without reservation, any further violence in the Warri area. However, we also recognize the fact that many of the problems in the area are the result of the actions of past Nigerian central administrations which impoverished the area. Furthermore, we are aware that state and local government creation became a tool for rewarding cronies and for punishing critics. This practice pitched hitherto-peaceful neighbors against each other.

In a real manifestation of the psychology of oppressed peoples, the abject poverty of the people of the oil-producing areas has made them easy antagonists against themselves rather than against those responsible for their deplorable condition. We of UPUNA, therefore:

a) Call on the true leaders of the area to find lasting solutions to the perennial violence in the area and to seek peaceful means of conflict-resolution. We also believe that leaders of the area abroad can play a leading role in helping to sway their leaders at home toward peace rather than becoming emotionally engrossed themselves.

b) Urge people of the area to recognize that violence only blinds them to their exploitation and pauperization. It also emasculates them from jointly and decisively confronting their common enemy and the real source of their oppression.

c) Encourage the Delta State government, non-governmental agencies and organizations of the area to address the ecological devastation of the area, and to establish realistic economic development programs to alleviate poverty in the area.

Issued by:
The Directorate of Publicity
Urhobo Progress Union, North America
P. O. Box 431663
Pontiac, MI 48343, USA
Phone: 248-332-4184; Fax: 248-332-3329; E-mail: okugbe@aol.com