Urhobo Historical Society

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
November 3-5, 2000

Introducing  Senator David Dafinone


Peter Ekeh
Chair, Urhobo Historical Society 

Salutation: Urhobo Waado; Ilorogun waado; Ekpako waado; Ewgheya waado; imighene waado; Professors vi doctors waado. Mi yeri.

I thank you all for coming to this handsome gathering which begins the business of  the First Annual Conference and Meeting of Urhobo Historical Society. I am pleased by the strong attendance. I am particularly delighted to see so many young people in this gathering.

My responsibility this morning is to introduce the keynote speaker of this year’s Conference. Please permit me to do more than cite the qualifications of our keynote speaker. There are many young people in this gathering who will benefit from an outline of what constitutes a good Urhobo man and a good Urhobo leader. My introduction of Senator Dafinone includes these definitions – hence its length. We have invited him to be our keynote speaker because he shares abundantly in these virtues.

First, a good Urhobo man is one who has high regard for his family and children. Caring for the welfare and future of the family and of one’s own children is a premium virtue of Urhobo men and women. The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo had difficult relations with Urhobos. But even he was quoted as having told Chief Alfred Rewane that he deeply admired Urhobos whose women, he said, would work from morning till night so that their children would go to school. Anyone who has taught in a Nigerian university will testify to that doggedness of Urhobo men and women who would not rest until their children are admitted into universities. They would do much the same thing for members of their extended families.

In this first regard, our guest of honour qualifies eminently as a good Urhobo man. Recently, Urhobo Historical Society distributed information about a rare honour bestowed on Senator Dafinone. Please allow me to read from our distribution of several weeks ago: Guinness World Records confers rare honours on those who have achieved world records in recognized fields of human endeavours. These records are deemed to chronicle the first time in our human race that some one or a group of people has done something so extraordinary that they deserve mankind's recognition. Based in England, Guinness World Records rarely looks to Africa and Africans for its selection of record-making achievements.

“The recognition of our own Senator David Dafinone and his children for being the first family in history to produce the largest number of chartered accountants in one  family is extraordinary. This is a profession that is not native to Nigeria. Chartered accountants are peculiarly a British club of talented men and women. Urhobo Historical Society proudly celebrates the fact that an Urhoboman has beaten the odds and is so honoured with his entire family.”  In bringing up his entire family to embrace the discipline of hard work and responsibility which this high-minded profession of accountancy calls for, David Dafinone has demonstrated a quintessential aspect of Urhobo culture.

Senator Dafinone has done well in a second matter that Urhobos regard as important. He has participated in the leadership of the Urhobo people, both collectively with other Urhobo leaders as well as on his own. There is the following saying in Urhobo: “Urhobo b’ esuo” which translates as: “Leadership process among the Urhobos is difficult.” Leadership among the Urhobos requires a great deal of sacrifice from those who seek to lead. In an important sense, the Urhobo leader is a servant of the Urhobo people. Mukoro Mowoe, the great Urhobo leader of the 1930s-1940s, was in that sense the Greatest Servant of the Urhobo people. Above all, the Urhobo leader must be willing to absorb considerable abuses, not all of which will be justified.

Seen in such terms, one must conclude that Senator David Dafinone has been a good Urhobo leader. He has been persistent and consistent in Urhobo affairs for more than four decades. He has used his considerable wealth to advance Urhobo causes. In the early 1980s, he spearheaded the Movement for the Creation of Delta State. As the premier Senator representing Urhobos, he sought to enhance Urhobo fortunes in many ways. But David Dafinone has partaken in doses of controversies in Urhobo affairs as well. And he has taken his share of insults in playing his leadership role in Urhobo public matters. That goes with the territory. What is impressive and significant is that he never gave up. Today, he has emerged as a wise elder statesman among the Urhobo.

There is a third reason why Urhobos will value Chief David Dafinone. A perennial problem of the Urhobos concerns the process of establishing a leadership that has an important and dominant voice in regional and national affairs. Chief Mukoro Mowoe attained a legendary status in the 1940s because he commanded such a status. By dint of hard work and a good amount of charisma, David Dafinone has attained a lofty place in the affairs of the Niger Delta and in Nigerian national politics. He is the founding President of the Union of Niger Delta, a major geo-political organization fighting against abuses of the Niger Delta in Nigerian affairs. He is a leading voice in The Patriot, a national body engaged in canvassing for new and equitable constitutional arrangements in post-military Nigeria. In these positions he represents the interests of Urhobos and of Niger Deltans quite effectively.

I am glad to present to you our Keynote Speaker. Chief Senator David Dafinone is a good Urhobo man. And he is a good Urhobo leader.