Study Group was shocked to receive the news of the passing on of this patriotic
son of Urhoboland, Chief Andrew Ighofose Akporugo. As a multi-dimensional
professional journalist and intellectual, Chief Andy Akporugo has deservedly
received accolades from a wide spectrum of his calling, nationally and internationally.
This tribute by the Urhobo Study Group, which Chief Andrew Ighofose Akporugo
helped to found, served very well and enriched with his professionalism, is
an addition to the avalanche of accolades from his professional colleagues
Until the demise of Chief Andy Akporugo,
he was the Consultant to the Urhobo Study Group that came into existence about
ten years ago. Since the founding of the Group, he showed extraordinary commitment
to the ideals of fostering understanding and focus-mindedness amongst the
various segments of Urhobo professional and intellectual elite. Particularly,
he advanced the interest in studies of, and in publication of the results
of such studies on the relations between Urhobo nation and the Nigerian nation.
In this regard, he brought to bear his experience as a journalist, especially
with respect to integration of journalism and political power engineering
From the inception of the Urhobo Study
Group, and until his untimely demise, Andy Akporugo ensured that he was a
driving spirit of the Group by his regular attendance at meetings of the Group
that were holding every week during its first year of formation, and at all
subsequent meetings that became monthly. This was at a personal cost and
risk during journeys from Lagos to the heart of Urhoboland where the meetings
were taking place. During these meetings his contributions were forever incisive.
Andy Akporugo's major contribution to this Group, apart from his professional
contributions, was the connecting of this Group to centers of power through
presentations of well-researched policy - oriented memoranda.
Witty, deep and eloquent, Akporugo always
exuded the air of a great mind. These elements of profundity of mind were
on display in the delicate twists of his analysis, the sudden dialectical
thrusts of his reasoning and sheer grace of his language. Reading Akporugo's
articles was a delightful excursion into some of the best that the English
language can convey. He was as robust and creative in the use of Urhobo language
which he spoke usually only at occasions when it is proper to probe the depths
of rhetorical finesse. Even when Akporugo found it necessary to disagree
with you, as was his wont to do, he did so on the basis of the strength of
his arguments and conviction. Those who sometimes took exception to his brief
moments of playing the prince and the nobility of birth always left fulfilled
that they had had an engagement with an intellectual giant.
It is worthy to note that Akporugo had
a rich preparation for his years as a journalist without exceptional gifts.
His maternal pedigree is rooted in the Ambakederemo dynasty of Kiagbodo, a
merchant-nationalist whose stout heart made him a respected friend of the
British colonial authorities.
The folk origins of Akporugo's sharp
wit and fearless, piercing voice may be found in this cultural fount at Kiagbodo.
The sophistication of his Urhobo rhetoric would have benefited from his years
of childhood in Kiagbodo and Umolo-Olomu where his father was a cultural icon.
But many hardly remember that Andy underwent priestly training in a Catholic
seminary and thus mastered the drills of Latin lexicon and semantic density.
At Urhobo College, he was a top flier in Latin and English. And, of course,
Andy trained at the University of Ibadan under luminary scholars like Billy
Dudley, James O'Connor, Tunji Aboyade, Ola Oni, Onigu Otite, Peter Ekeh and
others. His grasp of theory and political pragmatics was honed at Ibadan
where he was a Postgraduate Rockefeller Fellow in Political Science.
Journalism was the turning point. Andy
did not only enter the profession at a youthful age, he brought into it the
kind of intellectual rigour and vigour associated with the likes of Ernest
Ikoli and Nnamdi Azikiwe. The Sunday Times Andy edited in the 1980s created
a Nigerian sales record of over 500,000 copies a day. Readers of The African
Guardian still treasure the magazine today because Andy transformed it into
the Nigerian equivalent of The Economist of Britain or the Newsweek of the
United States of America.
We would like to cite two instances in
which Andy combined his deep sense of Urhobo nationalism with his cosmopolitan
Zlan. One was in January 1994. At this time, Abacha, wily and intractable,
already had his sights set on being a "President for Life". Knowing the political
significance of the Niger Delta region as the country's economic powerhouse,
Abacha set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee to visit and obtain the views
of the region on matters of oil and its politics. Andy was one of the persons
that undertook the groundwork for mobilizing the Urhobo nation to stand
up for its rights over oil and other resources.
Thus emerged the formidable "Urhobo Oil
Mineral Producing Communities Council" which submitted a radical 24-page memorandum
when the Inter-Ministerial Committee was received by the Urhobo Progress
Union at the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun. Chief James Edewor, General
David Ejoor, Chief Benjamin Okumagba and six other eminent Urhobo signed
the "Urhobo Oil Manifesto". The issues covered in the memorandum included
briefs on the cruel policies of oil multinationals, the Federal Government,
a reparation fund and 100 percent derivation principle for oil and gas.
The historical nuancing of the document,
its analytical rigour and political trajectory derived, in part, from Andy's
involvement in its preparation. The ideological kernel of that document was
to influence ethnic and environmental movements in Nigeria from the 1990s.
Akporugo also worked with others to produce the monumental documents of the
Association of Mineral Oil States (AMOS). Andy Akporugo and Alex Ibru in 1993
encouraged Dr. B.C.N. Ineneji to publish a clarion call with the title "The
Urhobo and The National Question". In 1994, the Urhobo Study Group organized
a seminar on "The Urhobo and The National Question" on the eve of the 1994-95
National Constitutional Conference.
Andy Akporugo's experience in this high-profile
political agitation was invaluable to us at Agbarha - Otor where the historic
seminar was held. Some of the best and most courageous Urhobo scholars, cultural
icons and giants in Industry were present. The Agbarha - Otor seminar produced
the blueprint on the themes of sovereignty over resources, political autonomy
and self-determination that the Niger Delta delegates advanced stridently
at the Constitutional Conference of 1994 - 1995 in Nigeria. It is gratifying
that these ideas became popular anthems while Andy Akporugo was still alive.
On the basis of the attributes that we
have highlighted, we have no doubt that Akporugo's good works will outlive
him and make the future more assured for the Urhobo and the valiant people
of the Niger Delta.The Urhobo study group misses him, but wishes his soul
a perfect rest.