|Urhobo Historical Society
Emmanuel O. Ojameruaye
A paper presented
at the 5th
Annual Conference of Urhobo Historical Society at PTI Conference
Effurun, Delta State, Nigeria, October 30, 2004.
Urhobo people are known to be one of the
most hard-working and enterprising peoples in Nigeria, relying on their
human and material resources for sustenance and growth. Collectively,
built community schools, earth roads, and town halls and awarded
to deserving children. There were many vibrant non-governmental
(such as the Urhobo Progress Union, UPU) and community-based
groups that initiated and propelled self-help efforts in Urhoboland.
government (federal and regional/state) was “far” from the area, the
to learn to “do-it-themselves”. However, over the past 30 years there
a steady erosion of the spirit of self-reliant economic development in
Urhoboland due to a combination of many factors, notably the growth in
government, the perverse attitude to politics and the exploration and
production of hydrocarbon (oil and gas) in the area.
Against this background, this paper examines
the concept of self-reliant development
within the context of Urhoboland and offers some suggestions on how to
and sustain self-reliant development in the area. Section 1 of the
describes the concept of self-reliant development. Section 2 takes a
the state of the economy of Urhoboland and some of the factors
the dampening of self-reliance in the area. In section 3 we present
actions necessary to revive, promote and sustain self-reliant economic
development of the area.
1. Self-reliant Development
It is the natural desire of every
it continental, regional, national, state, ethnic, local, individual,
minimize its dependence on the resources of other economic units. In
words, a rational economic unit would strive to depend on its own
resources) for sustenance and growth and avoid excessive reliance on
resources. This however does not preclude the use or support of
resources. This natural tendency has found expression in economic
literature as “self-reliance” or
“self-reliant economic development”.
Thus, self-reliant economic development may be defined as that
development that relies on the human and material resources of the
unit whose development is the subject of discussion. In other words, it
development that relies on “internal” resources as opposed to
relies heavily on “external” resources. Self-reliant development is not
autarky; it allows for “external” support, but it is propelled and
“internal” resources. Thus one of the common objectives you find in
plans or blueprints of continental, regional, national and state
or governments is “to promote self-reliant developmeent."
Even as these units pursue policies of self-reliance and strive to
“autonomy”, they allow for substantial external support. In fact, a
conundrum of “self-reliance” is that in many cases external resources
a difference” thus challenging the “independence or autonomy” of the
unit. In fact, self-reliance can be
viewed as a continuum that is bounded on the left-hand side by
on the right-hand side by autarky but which does not include both
boundaries. Thus we can talk of
different degrees or levels of self-reliance; the farther an economic
to the right-hand side of the continuum, the more self-reliant it is.
It is important to note that
well as neoliberals subscribe to extreme view of self-reliance. They
social welfare and social development to be the responsibility of local
communities and social organizations, and the philanthropic sector –
not of the
business sector and the state. This position was pushed to its extreme
from 1973 to 1989 with disastrous results, and with millions of people
into poverty. The Chilean experience clearly demonstrated that without
appropriate social policies and support from the state, communities and
organizations might not be able to help people rise above poverty and
quality of life issues.
At the micro level the concept of
development is expressed in the principles of self-help. The dictionary
self-help as “the act or instance of helping or improving oneself
assistance from others”. In other words, it is “do-it-yourself” (DIY).
there are very many self-help or DIY books, tools and other resources
individuals in doing a wide variety of things. In practice, however,
hardly anything like DIY because some form of “external” assistance is
required for an individual to improve himself. For instance, you may
read a DIY book (written by somebody else) to be able to fix a problem
electrical or plumbing) by yourself. This is why economists take a more
view of self-help as “helping poor and disadvantaged people to help
themselves”. In other words, it is “assisted self-help” or
It is recognized that poor and disadvantaged people find it
to improve their condition of living without outside help. Sometimes
become “complacent with poverty”. In such a situation, external help or
can serve as a catalyst or provide the push for action against poverty
improve condition of living, and even to sustain improvement actions. In fact, self-reliance can be regarded as a
“helper-doer” relationship or game where the “principles of self-help”
adhered to. These principles involve the following actions:
The outsider must make a
positive difference in the living conditions of the doer (the helped),
impact of the helper must be seen as felt.
Many countries and groups
principles of self-reliance in promoting rapid development. A classic
is the Harambee Secondary School Movement in Kenya from the mid 1960s
late 1980s. It was a spontaneous grassroots initiative to develop
access to secondary school education than what the government could
after the country’s independence from
Britain in 1963. The Harambee (or self-help) schools provided 2 to 4
formal secondary education. Although the Harambee schools differed
from one another, they shared some common features and were formed in
2. The doer (the helped) must own and implement the program
3. The outsider must see the world through the eyes of the
respect the autonomy of the doer.
4. The help or support must not undercut the autonomy of
–too much help can make the helped lazy.
5. The help must be for a limited period of time –
charity corrupts self-help and undercuts the capacity for development.
6. The doer should be able to sustain or continue with the
development process if and when the help stops or even terminated
initiation stage), community leaders (including district education
community development officers and local teachers) created awareness in
local community on the need for a secondary school within the community.
b) Secondly (i.e. organization stage), the community
defined participation criteria and funding procedures.
astly (i.e. implementation
stage), leaders of local work groups take charge of work teams and
throughout the construction phase. Churches or other established groups
selected to manage the schools and to contribute financial while the
functioning of the schools was left in the hands of registered
committees, represented by the Head Teacher and Community Leaders.
Some of the Harambee schools were assisted by
government and thus attracted government resources to local
Harambee movement also helped to build indigenous community
advanced local development. Thanks to the Haramabee movement, primary
enrollment in Kenya increased from 900,000 in 1963 to about 2,000,000
while the number of government-assisted Harambee schools increased from
1964 to 1,142 in 1989. However, many of the schools had some problems
government schools in the cities. These problems included the use of
qualified teachers, higher student/teacher ratio, poorer facilities and
performance. These problems notwithstanding, many communities and
the country as a whole recorded the significant progress in education
period after independence that would not have been possible without the
movement. In the early 1990s, the Government of Kenya took
responsibility for all
the Harambee schools, putting an end to the movement and to the
between government and Harambee schools.
There is no doubt that the current
Urhoboland calls for the (re)adoption of a self-reliant approach to
if we are to overcome some of the current maladies in the area.
Political Economy of Urhoboland
Generally, the Urhobo people and their
regarded as poor and disadvantaged within the Nigerian polity.
Urhobo people rank as one of Nigeria’s 10 largest ethnic nationalities,
they are still a minority and it is fair to say that they have not had
fair share in the allocation of federal resources including
have never had any significant impact or influence in the allocation of
resources at the federal level. Hence the area has suffered from
neglect by the federal government. For example, although the area
about 20% of electricity production by the National Electric Power
(NEPA) and about 8% of crude oil output, yet much of the area suffers
irregular power supply or have no access to electricity at all. There
federal university and the few federal projects include the Petroleum
Institute, the Warri Petrochemical Plant and the Delta Steel Company
When Urhoboland was
Western Region (then controlled by the Action Group party) , it was
marginalized because the area was largely pro-National Council of
Citizen (NCNC) party. Before the creation of Delta State, the Urhobo people also had limited
influence in then
Midwestern Region/State and then Bendel State government. Therefore, with neglect by the
government and relative marginalization by the regional government, the
people had to adopt self-reliant strategies of development. Thus in the
before and immediately after Nigeria’s independence, agriculture and industrial
flourished in much of Urhoboland. The area was self-sufficient in food
production, notably garri, starch, yams, plantain, banana, vegetables,
“bush meat”. It was noted for the production and export of rubber, palm
(oil and kernel) and timber. There were several industries in Sapele,
Ughelli, Effurun and the Urhobo area of Warri city. Open
hardly known. In the early 1960s, crude oil was discovered in parts of
Urhoboland (Kokori, Ughelli) and later in the 1970s and 1980s
Sapele, Udu, Oghara and elsewhere. Since then several oil
facilities have been established in Urhoboland. In the 1970s and 1980s,
important industries were established in the area including the DSC
Aladja, Glass Factories near Ekakpamre, the NEPA Power Plants near
and Sapele, a number of breweries and beverage drink industries (e.g.
Sparkling) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)
Plant at Ekpan.
However, since the
1980s, the area has witnessed a steady decline in agricultural,
industrial activities and decline in entrepreneurship. With the
creation of Delta State in 1991, the Urhobo people became the
group in the state and have produced the two democratically elected
for the period January 1992 –November 1993 and May 1999 to date (i.e.
out of 13 years of the State). Ironically, the creation of Delta state
influence of Urhobos in the allocation of the states’ resources have
dependency on the state government and dampened the drive for
Since the past ten years, an increasing number of people now believe
fastest, surest and easiest way of making money is through involvement
politics and securing of government contracts. The exploration and
of crude oil and gas in the area has also dampened the drive for
and increased dependency on oil companies, especially since the late
Many oil-bearing communities in Urhoboland now look onto oil companies
provide scholarships, to build schools, hospitals or clinics, roads and
cash compensation for acquired land or environmental pollution or oil
spills. Almost gone are the days when communities will come
contribute money to build a school or town hall or award scholarships
deserving kids. Now it is either government or oil companies. Thus,
mid 1980s, the spirit of self-reliance in Urhoboland has gradually
given way to
the spirit of laziness, idleness and dependency on government and oil
companies. A significant number of enterprising and talented Urhobo men
women now troop to the offices of government or oil companies to
for contracts. Many have moved out of Urhoboland to “greener pastures”
in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Jos and overseas. The business environment
become increasingly less conducive with increasing insecurity
recent bank robberies in Sapele, Ughelli, and Abraka), disruption of
activities by restive youths, growing extortionist activity of youths,
difficulty in obtaining land for economic activities, lack of adequate
infrastructure for businesses, difficulty in accessing business finance
large, medium and micro enterprises) and movement (relocation) of
industries and businesses from the area to safer haven outside. Some of
once flourishing industries are either dead or are dying or are in a
suspended animation such the DSC and the African Timber &
(AT&P) company. Many oil-servicing companies have pulled out of
Effurun. In a sense, government and oil companies seem to have
out the development efforts of local communities and social
short, one can conclude that Urhoboland has moved farther to the
of the continuum of self-reliance.
As a result of the
factors, the economy of Urhoboland is currently in a very bad shape.
been a steady and significant decline in agriculture – decline in both
production of cash crops (rubber, palm produce) and food crops as well
home gardening, livestock production and fishing. There has also
sharp decline in timber production due to uncontrolled lumbering, use
for fuel and non-planting of replacement trees. The industrial base
very weak. Many key industries are now moribund. Commerce is also and
and weak with the steady decline in entrepreneurship. Traders from the
have to travel all the way to Onitsha and Lagos to buy their wares. Sapele
port has since been closed down (and replaced by a Naval Base) while
is now but a shadow of what it used to be due to conflicts in the
areas, general insecurity and activities of pirates and illegal oil
along the water ways. Even crude oil production, currently put at about
64million barrels a year or about 8% of national output, is likely to
due to aging oil wells, community unrest and better offshore oil
Tourism is very weak and almost non-existent. The security is worsening
frequent armed robberies and youth gansterism and extortion of property
developers and businesses under the guise of “development levies”. At
time there is growing reliance (dependency) on the state government
on oil companies (AGDO) while investment and interest by federal
remains very low. Finally, there has been a decline in the number and
of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Urhoboland.
Strategies for Promoting Self-reliant Development in Urhoboland.
<>In view of the gloomy
situation of the
Urhoboland painted in the above section, there is an urgent need to
concrete actions to revive, promote and sustain self-reliant economic
development in Urhoboland, i.e. development that depends on the
material and human resources of the area. In doing this, the support of
the federal and state governments as well as the business sector must
properly harnessed without creating over-dependency and reducing the
or drive for self-reliance in the area. Accordingly, we propose the
actions for self-reliant development of Urhoboland.
Vibrant Civil Society Organizations>
<>Civil society organizations (CSOs) are
“an array of people’s organizations, voluntary associations, clubs,
or interest groups, religious bodies, representative organs,
organizations (NGOs), foundations and social movements which may be
informal in nature and which are not part of government or political
and are not established to make profits for their owners. In today’s world, CSOs play very
roles, including the following:
space for the mobilization,
pursuit of interests by groups;
institutional means for mediating
conflicting interest and social values;
expression and direction to social,
and cultural needs;
the inherent tendency of
governments to expand
the values of citizenship;
development programs and
projects aimed at
improving the quality of life of local people;
donors, voicing community needs and building local capacity.
Of particular interest are
organizations (CBOs) and NGOs (advocacy and developmental types). In
have become key players in international development assistance. Over
total overseas development assistance (ODA) to developing countries is
channeled through NGOs compared to about 5% in 1970-1988.
leaders, elite and communities must
mobilize to reactivate existing CBOs and NGOs and create new ones.
village or community and “quarters” or “wards” in towns must have a
Development Committee (CDC) to play some of roles outlined above. In
urhobo professionals, businessmen and those with “means” and
should work together to form NGOs that can compete with NGOs from other
of Nigeria in attracting development resources and projects to
cursory look at the spatial distribution of development assistance in Nigeria shows that
they are concentrated in regions with
vibrant NGOs (e.g. the West) and urhoboland belongs to one of the
neglected area<>. It is also important for rich urhobo sons
daughters to imbibe the ethos of volunteerism and philanthropy and
in their local communities as was the case in the past. They can
Foundations that can support community development efforts in their
and throughout urhoboland.
Private Sector Investment in the Social Sector (Education and Health)>
<>Today there are no centers of
education and health in urhoboland. In years past, Eku
Government College Ughelli and the Government Trade Center Sapele used
centers of excellence that attracted “clients” from all over the
Today, they are no more. The only university in urhoboland, the
state-owned Delta State
Abraka, lack the resources that will make it a centre of excellence in
university education. In fact, it is usually the second or third choice
urhobo students who sit for the JAMB while urhobo parents who can
prefer sending their children to the new private universities in other
including the Igbinedion University,
Okada. Similarly, many parents now send their kids to private high
schools in Edo State
and elsewhere. The same is
true of health facilities. Urhoboland is dotted with some government
and several small private hospitals and clinics that can hardly provide
state-of-the-art medical treatment. Thus those who can afford it go
area to receive specialist medical treatment. All these have resulted
significant capital flight and brain drain from the area. Urhobo
professionals and businessmen are therefore challenged to pull their
together to establish centers of excellence in education (at least one
university and some high schools) and health in urhoboland. I strongly
that such centres are economically viable. Given the amount of capital
investment required, they can be established through partnerships (e.g.
the EKO Hospital
in Ikeja) or through Joint Venture arrangements with government.
Private Sector Investment in Economic Activities>
<>Similarly there is an urgent need to
private sector investment in economic activities by urhobo
Although there are no data to confirm it, one may not be wrong to say
level of urhobo investment in the diaspora is more than the level in
homeland. To be sure, many factors have discouraged investment in the
by urhobo businessmen. These include the poor security situation, the
of doing business, lack of or inadequate social infrastructure
water, public utilities), high cost and problems with land acquisition,
disturbances, weak purchasing power, poor transportation network, etc.
constraints must be addressed by government and civil society
Some of the specific actions that should be taken include the following:
up an urhobo Chambers of Agriculture,
Commerce and industry (UCACI).
agricultural development by
fertility; reactivating the production of rubber, palm produce,
plantain and banana; establishing agro-based export industries such as
cassava-processing and starch manufacturing factories, palm-oil and
industry and fruit drinks/beverages industry.
the timber industry through
trees and halting indiscriminate lumbering and promoting alternatives
use of wood as fuel.
the moribund industries in
transforming/re-tooling them into other types of viable industries
Sapele, the breweries, the glass factory, rubber processing plants,
factory at Ogharefe, the Delta Steel Company at Ovwian-Aladja).
export processing zones in Sapele and Warri.
up of industrial estates,
business development centers, business incubators and skills
centers in major towns.
small and medium-scale industries
as well as
Sapele, Warri, Ughelli and
major commercial centres.
security and peace, e.g. through
policing to weed out armed robbers, and establishment of peace and
easy and cheap access to land for
development, agriculture and industry, e.g. by halting
youth activities under the guise of “development levies."
transportation by developing an
transportation plan that will include the following.
Expanding/upgrading the Osubi
airport (built by
Shell Nigeria) from the status of an “airstrip” to a full-fledged
airport and ultimately to an international airport like that of Port
Harcourt. This will make it possible for larger
aircrafts (including cargo planes) to use the airport and thus reduce
cost of flying to Osubi. It will also enhance tourism, commerce and
Upgrading and continuously
maintaining the road
network in urhoboland. The Benin-Warri dual-carriage road
(expressway) should be completed as soon as
possible The Warri-Port Harcourt Road
as well as Ughelli-Asaba Road
and Effurun-Agbor and Sapele-Eku Roads should also be expanded and
There is also an urgent need to ensure security and safety along these
Restoring urhobo inland water-ways. Dredging
the network of inland waterways in Urhoboland to
transportation and natural drainage and deal with the menace of water
Port and relocating the
NNS Umolokun. Also establishing smaller ports or large jetties at
Abraka and along the major rivers.
<>xtending the Ajaokuta-Aladja
railway line (at
least the part of it in urhoboland land or Delta
State) to several towns
Sapele, Oghara, Warri Port,
Ughelli) for passenger and commercial traffic. Alternatively, new railway lines can be
constructed. This will be very expensive, but we can start the planning
it can be done over a long period of time. According to the Chinese
journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."
of a joint Urhobo Investment
All the urhobo local government
work together to form a joint Urhobo Investment Corporation to manage
pan-urhobo investments, similar to the Odua and Arewa/Northern
a Pan-Urhobo Representative Assembly (PURA)
<>The establishment of an Urhobo state
with committed and accountable leadership is a critical success
addressing the some of the problems of
self-reliant development in urhoboland. Since this may not
there is need for an arrangement that will galvanize some elected
representatives and the organized private sector to form a body that
as an all-urhobo “quasi government” to direct and guide actions that
ensure rapid and sustainable development of urhoboland. Members of this
should include the Senator representing urhoboland, elected urhobo
the House of Representatives, State House of Assembly, the Chairmen of
urhobo LGAs, urhobo Ministers and Commissioners, the President-General
and about ten other very important persons from the private sector and
academia. The body should meet quarterly to review developments and
necessary decisions and actions that will ensure sustainable
urhoboland. The body should be apolitical and could
set up committees to handle specific projects
and tasks. Any urhobo person with requisite competencies
serve in such committees.
have discussed the concept of self-reliant development and outlined how
be promoted and sustained in urhoboland.
I have noted that while self-reliant development (or self-help
micro level) means development that depends on internal human and
resources, it nonetheless allows for external support by government,
and external donors. However, the process must be initiated and
the “insiders”. I also described some of the features of the economy of
urhoboland and have noted the steady decline in the spirit of
over past 30 years. Finally, I made some far-reaching recommendations
the current situation. The required actions outline in section 3 above
civil society organizations in urhoboland, the elite and leader,
the business community. In particular, the CSOs can lobby or put
the appropriate arms of government to address some of those actions
within the purview government, e.g. (g) and (k) above. In short, the
actions involve all stakeholders in urhoboland. It is only by working
that we can ensure self-reliant development of the area. We have no
we can call our own even if we decide to remain in the Diaspora. Now
the time to act to ensure self-reliant development of our homeland for
present and future generations.
1. Aweto, A.O. (2000):
Urhoboland. In www.waado.org
2. Capfens, H. Ed 1999. Community Development Around
World: Practice, Theory, Research and Training. University of Toronto Press.
3. Darah, G. G. (2004): Urhobo and the Mowoe
The Guardian, August
4. Eade, D (1997): Capacity Building – An Approach to
People-Centred Development. An Oxfam Publication.
5. Fowler, A (1997): Striking a Balance- A
Enhancing the Effectiveness on Non-Governmental Organizations in
Development. Earthscan Publications Ltd.
6. Ojameruaye, E. (2004a): Deploying Oil Wealth
reduce Poverty in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria: Lessons from the
Chadian Model. www.nigerdeltacongress.com
7. Ojameruaye, E. (2004b): The Essentials of
Sustainable Development of Urhoboland in Nigeria. Paper Presented at
the 11th Annual Convention of UNANA, New Jersey, USA. September 4.
8. Ojameruaye, E. (2002): Self-Help Principles
Community Development Practice. Unpublished Presentation Material.
9. Sullivan, L (1998): Moving Mountains –
Princples and Purpose of Leon Sullivan. Judson Press.
Dr.Emmanuel Ojameruaye is on loan from Shell International to the
Foundation for Education and Self-help (IFESH), based in Phoenix,
He was Head, Community Development, Shell
Nigeria, Warri Office from 1998 to January 2001;
Government and Community Affairs, Shell
Lagos Office (1992 –1995); National Consultant Economist/Statistician,
Data Bank Project, UNDP Lagos Office/Federal Ministry of Budget &
(1989-March 1992) and Lecturer in Economics & Statistics,
Benin, Nigeria (1982-1989). He was also Secretary of the Nigerian
Society from 1987-1990.
instance, one of the objectives of the Sullivan Plan for the
is “to encourage
through self-help efforts”, see Sullivan, L (1998). pp. 225-283.
Campfens, H ed. 1999: Community Development Around the World, p. 457.
Ellerman, D (not dated) Autonomy-Respecting Help: Rethinking
Assistance Agencies. The World Bank.
population of Urhoboland is put at between 1.5m and 2.5m (i.e. between
and 2 % of Nigeria
population) while the area is about 5,000 square km
(i.e. about 0.54% of Nigeria
landmass). The Urhobo people however
constitute about 55% of the population of Delta
, making them the
ethnic group in the state.
ongoing attempts to reactivate the DSC Plant which
has been moribund for many years.
Lime Plant is reported to have started
Fowler, A (1997). p. 8.
instance, the Guardian of October 15, 2004 reported that the N68.4
42 million Euros) grant from the European Development Fund (EDF) for
the development of the Niger Delta in the
next four years will go Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Imo and Ondo
The project, tagged: Micro
Project Programme 6, has the National Planning Commission as its
agency and will focus mainly on human and infrastructure development in
rural communities of its coverage area. It is ironical that Delta
(hence urhoboland) and
(the “core” Niger Delta
states) are excluded from the program at this stage.
construction of the Ajaokuta-Aladja railway has shown that it is
the Nigerian government to expand the railway network in the country
commercial and passenger traffic. Already the Odua Group is considering
building an Ibadan-Lagos railway line.
recent article in the Guardian of August 11, 2004
, Dr. G.G. Darah noted that the “ultimate trajectory of urhobo nationalism is to attain the
status of an
all-urhobo state in Nigeria…