Urhobo Historical Society

November 2 – 4, 2001


By Daniel Kalegha 

Date: Thu, 8 Nov 2001 22:06:18 EST
From: DESKMARKET@aol.com
To: Urhobo@kinsfolk.com

Urhobo Historical Society's Second Annual Conference was scheduled for November 2 to 4 2001. The location was New Jersey, USA. Dignitaries from Nigeria, Canada, Britain and United States were invited and were expected. As usual, attendance was poor and scanty. Attending three-day conference may not be our cup of  tea, as we have more important things on our minds. But for those who were fortunate to attend, the conference was both historic and inspirational. The conference focused on Urhobo culture, health, politics and many pressing issues facing the Urhobo people.

The uniqueness of Urhobo culture, especially the importance of women in our households, religion and the day-to day operations of village affairs was examined. The man-made systematic destruction of various Urhobo waterways was explored in details. The current and future impacts of the waterways' destruction on Urhobo lands and people were discussed. The deliberate pollution of Urhobo lands; the overwhelming health impacts of heavy metal pollutants to the Urhobo people were scientifically evaluated and analyzed.

Unlike many conferences, the focus was not only on problem identification. Emphasis was highly placed on identification of possible solutions and the mechanics of solutions execution. Energy and time were heavily devoted to the solutions/implementation portion of the conference.  While it is much easier to identify problems, solutions on the other hand, are usually difficult to come by or agreed upon by everyone.

Suffice it to say that the identification of solutions to Urhobo problems is nothing new, nor difficult to articulate either on paper or in discussions. The difficult part of the solution identification is getting everyone to agree on acceptable solutions to the numerous problems facing the Urhobo people. This is not unique in any way or shape to this conference. In this area, we all have opinions as varied as the problems we are trying hard to resolve.

More so are our opinions varied and difficult to reconcile when implementation of identified solutions to our problems are tabled for discussion. Universal implementations of solutions are usually difficult to get everyone to commit to. In the absence of monetary consideration, vital issues of leadership and representation are paramount. Do we have the mandate of the Urhobo people? Who are we representing? As a concerned Urhobo,  I am not sure I needed the permission of the Urhobo leadership to implement solutions to Urhobo problems. Nor do I need permission to represent my people or the Urhobo land.

If it is true that I do need the approval of the Urhobo leadership for implementation of identified solutions, then each time I am inclined to discuss Urhobo problems, I may also need the permission of the leadership to engage in such discussions. The question in my mind is who is the Urhobo leadership? Where are the leaders? Where can I find them? Most importantly, what have the leaders done for the Urhobo people lately?

While I accept the need for coordination and implementations of strategies under some uniform control or entity, I must argue against lordship. Whether we like it or not, every Urhobo citizen has the mandate to do what is right for our people.  I am in no way suggesting individualism in fighting the various ailments besieging our land and people. But few good men and women with the overriding interests of our people could effectively achieve successes in many areas where our so-called leaderships had failed in the past.  In our war efforts to combat the numerous ailments of our people and land, we should all be generals. This is especially true for those Urhobos who in the western world.

The way I see it, the average Urhobo man or woman in Delta State today is busy looking for how to feed the family. He or she may not be opportuned to engage or be concerned about air or water pollution. Not because the average Urhobo person is unaware of the consequences of heavy metals in the food and water supply, but in the hierarchy of things, those issues are not on top of the list. On the other hand, those of us in the Western hemisphere, may be able to spare the time and chance to wage war on poverty, diseases, illiteracy, among others, on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Urhobo lands.

At the end of the conference, I was very proud to be an Urhobo and was happy to be part of this historic event. Historic in the sense that concerned sons and daughters of Urhobo land found it worthy to deprive themselves of their valuable time, energy and money to deliberate on issues affecting our Urhobo people. In a discussion with a young man at the end of the conference, I asked him whether it was worth the sacrifice. He smiled and proudly said yes - it was worth every minute. Perhaps, all is not lost yet. If only we can pass the torch to the next generation, make them understand what we are fighting for and why, then the weekend in New Jersey would have been truly historic and inspirational.

I should add that the views in this write-up are solely and expressly mine.