Urhobo Historical Society

 Andy Akporugo: A Tribute

By Urhobo Study Group
c/o Professor Bright  
Delta State University, Abraka

The Urhobo 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 and friends.

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 in Nigeria.

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.