THIRD ANNUAL CONFERENCE AND MEETING
November 1-3, 2002
By Peter P. Ekeh, Ph.D.
Chair, Urhobo Historical Society
Annual Conference of Urhobo Historical Society was held in
Cocktail Reception at Goddis Restaurant
Opening Cocktail Reception was a memorable event that brought together
strong Urhobo leadership from inside
There was an
insightful introduction of Members of the Editorial and Management
Committee, which has managed the affairs of Urhobo Historical Society
Following generous Urhobo traditional welcoming presentation
of kola, drinks, and money by Mr. S. S. Obruche and his colleagues of
the UK & Belgium Organizing Committee, eloquently narrated in
fluent Urhobo by Mr. Ejiro Ughwujabo, a Deputy Head Teacher in a
In his address, Professor Peter Ekeh, Chair of Urhobo Historical Society, thanked various people who have worked with the Society in its service to Urhobo history and culture. Citing several areas of the work of Urhobo Historical Society, including its flagship web site called URHOBO WAADO, Professor Ekeh said he and his colleagues in Urhobo Historical Society had come to London to challenge the Urhobo Community in the United Kingdom and our people at home inside Nigeria to join in a brigade of service to Urhobo people by promoting and protecting Urhobo history and culture. He contended that it is a responsibility that required the employment of many Urhobo volunteers because much remained to be done in the demanding need to protect and enhance Urhobo history and culture.
of Academic Papers at
span of the day on
The second session featured a masterful display of academic prowess mixed with concern for ordinary people by a retired University of Ibadan Professor of parasitology who has become a traditional Urhobo chief. But Professor Olorogun Frank Ukoli is not a passive recipient of a shallow honour of chieftaincy. On the contrary, his paper [“Beyond Social and Political Issues in Urhoboland”] and his presentation show his displeasure in the way Urhobo communities are being run down. He is unhappy at the banal display of wealth at wedding and funeral ceremonies that are threatening to maim genuine Urhobo culture. He canvasses for revisions in the ways of the elite that will enhance the lives of the people. From the point of view of Urhobo Historical Society, Olorogun Frank Ukoli’s passions and commitments show that he is a genuine servant of Urhobo history and culture in our best understanding of that mantra.
The third paper [“Title to Land in Warri –The Itsekiri and Agbassa Claims”] came from Dr. Emmanuel Urhobo, heir of the legendary G. M. Urhobo who founded God's Kingdom Society in 1934. Dr. Urhobo practices law in Warri and is a leader of the Agbarha-Warri community in fighting against attempts to deprive his people of their heritage. He argued that Urhobos not only built Warri but indeed own much of the city and should be sensitive about any attempts to cheat fellow Urhobos of their political and legal rights. He traced the doctrine of overlordship in colonial times to internal Itsekiri disputes between Ugborodo Itsekiri and the British colonial Political Agent, Chief Dore Numa, which was subsequently wrongly applied to Urhobo disputes with Dore Numa. He called for the proper education of Urhobo lawyers on Warri land matters because many of these lawyers appear not to understand the origins and wrongs of the doctrine of overlordship in colonial times; nor do they seem to appreciate the fact that the doctrine of overlordship has long been overthrown in subsequent judicial pronouncements.
Dr. Emmanuel Urhobo was followed by Wilson Ometan, of the BBC London, who proudly introduced himself as an Uvwie man with roots stretching to Okpe. His presentation of his paper ["Urhobos and Nigerian Politics: The Travails of Marginalization and Racism"] was a spirited description of the attributes of the Urhobo people and an advocacy of the employment of their toughness and resilience to resist various attempts to marginalize them and their culture.
Dredging of the
Emerhi, an Ughelli native and Nigerian Director of Port Harcourt-based
International Association for Impact Assessment, made a short but
powerful presentation on the dangers facing Urhobo and the Niger Delta
from the planned dredging of the lower
Goodwill Message from Urhobo National Assembly
message from Urhobo National Assembly was delivered by its Secretary,
Mr. Godwin Etakibuebu, who is Chairman of Focus Computer Systems
Yours is an elite society and as such you must always see yourselves individually as members of the think thank that will work out situation for many problems that are threatening the corporate survival of the Urhobo nation. That is what a good historical society can do. That is what your society is doing. In prosecuting this onerous assignment you can always count on our full support. For it is our avowed and dedicated mandate to work for the elimination of those obstacles that deny the Urhobo people both political and economic enablement.
Address ["The Place of
By Professor David Okpako,
presentation of the Third Annual Conference, chaired by its Special
Guest of Honour,
Mr. D. A. Obiomah, was a keynote address titled "The Place of
The central theme of Professor David
Okpako’s keynote address was the role of Urhobo Progress Union in
conceiving, founding, and then managing a community secondary school
that was like no other one in
Professor David Okpako did not see the
role of Urhobo Progress Union as a matter for the past alone. On the
contrary, he urged the expansion of the role of the UPU in the sphere
of education of the Urhobo people and promotion of Urhobo scholarship
for the benefit of
Urhobo history and culture. First, he queried the current policy of
Urhobo Progress Union that excluded
Open Session [“On Urhobo
A short early morning session conducted by Professor Peter Ekeh, Chair of Urhobo Historical Society, and featuring Mr. D.A. Obiomah, Special Guest of Honour of UHS Third Annual Conference, focused on the need for self-education by Urhobos on issues that affect Urhobo futures and interests. Two such issues were highlighted. First, on Warri lands and ownership of Warri, Professor Ekeh confessed that he was not aware of the history and intricacies of Warri lands until Urhobo Historical Society engaged this issue. He said that he imagined that many Urhobos have not bothered to study this matter as an issue affecting all Urhobos. Mr. D. A. Obiomah expressed the hope that Urhobos would stay engaged on the problems raised by disputes on the ownership of Warri. He thanked Urhobo Historical Society for its attention to the history of Warri and for giving an opportunity to three prominent Agbarha-Warri men – D.A. Obiomah, Dr. Emmanuel Urhobo, and Professor Frank Ukoli – to play central roles in the UHS Third Annual Conference. In the matter of Delta State Capital, Professor Ekeh called attention to the publication in Urhobo Voice [October 28, 2002] by Urhobo Historical Society in which specific legislative measures were recommended for relocating branches of the State Government to the Old Delta Province until constitutional revisions will allow the transfer of the State Capital from Asaba to the Old Delta Province. Mr. D. A. Obiomah commended such measures, saying that examples from various other nations show that it can be done. Several interventions from the audience expressed the need for self-education by Urhobos on issues that affect their futures and their destiny.
A Women's Roundtable Discussion [“Role of Women in Urhobo History and Culture”] at
L. O. Obiomah, Warri,
session of the Conference was also its most electrifying. Issues that
were raised ranged far and wide, touching on various aspects of Urhobo
achievements of Urhobo women in professions, especially in recent
were noted. In the end, two issues were most controversial. The
discussants were ranged on both sides of the practice of female
There was greater consensus on the matter of the difficulties facing
Urhobo children and youth in their attempt to learn and speak Urhobo
Many conference participants took responsibility for their children's
to speak Urhobo. They all urged that steps must be taken to stem the
dangerous tide of loss of the ability to speak Urhobo by our children
Some of the discussants bemoaned the fact that most children growing up
in such Urhobo cities as Warri and Sapele cannot speak Urhobo. They
the danger of replacing Urhobo with pidgin English.
contribution on an existing machinery for advancing and systematizing
written and spoken Urhobo was made in this session. Mr. S. S. Obruche
said that it was important, indeed critical, that the Urhobo Language
Vetting Committee, whose current chair is Reverend Joseph Oghenekaro,
be helped to grow and to be involved in attempts to streamline
different dialects of Urhobo language into a mainstream form that will
be available for Urhobo Diaspora mothers and others in their efforts to
retain Urhobo language. Mr. Obruche promised to make available more
information on the organization of Urhobo Language Vetting Committee for
publication in the web sites of Urhobo Historical Society.
Virtually every member of the audience wanted to join in these issues. Many did. At the end we all ran out of time.
At , Professor Isaac James
Chair, declared the Conference as concluded. He then invited
participants to move from
General Meeting of Urhobo Historical Society at Goddis Restaurant
Sunday, November 3, 2002
meeting was presided over by the Chair of Urhobo Historical Society,
Professor Peter Ekeh, who explained that the Annual General Meeting
exercises supreme authority in the affairs of Urhobo Historical
Society. The meeting was
well attended by the Urhobo community in the
The Annual General Meeting discussed many weighty matters and took far-reaching decisions. The most noteworthy of these are as follows:
(i) Venue of the Fourth Annual Conference
and Meeting of Urhobo Historical Society, 2003. The Annual General Meeting acceded
request of the London Urhobo community to host the Fourth Annual
(ii) Urhobo Historical Society Endowment Fund. The Annual General Meeting accepted a recommendation from the Editorial and Management Committee for the establishment of Urhobo Historical Society Endowment Fund. Its goal is to fund the activities of Urhobo Historical Society and to promote and sponsor research and documentation of Urhobo history and culture. The Annual General Meeting authorized the establishment of such an endowment and then proceeded to set up an Exploratory Committee that will work to set it up.
(iii) UHS Service Awards. The Annual General Meeting accepted a recommendation from the Editorial and Management Committee for the establishment of UHS Service Awards that will (a) honour distinguished Urhobos who have passed away and who were known to have served aspects of Urhobo history and culture with dedication and (b) reward living Urhobos and others who have served Urhobo history and culture in ways that reflect the life-long works and commitments of those for whom the UHS Service Awards are named. The Annual General Meeting authorized five UHS Service awards: (a) Chief Mukoro Mowoe Service Award; (b) Omorohwovo Okoro Co-Leadership Service Award; (c) Agbontaren Udih Diaspora Service Award; (d) M. G. Ejaife Education Service Award; and (e) Adogbeji Salubi Urhobo History Service Award. The Annual General Meeting then set up an Awards Committee to structure these awards for future years.
(iv) Editorial and Management Committee and UK &
Europe Coordinating Committee. The Annual General Meeting authorized the
reconstitution of the Editorial and Management Committee that looks
after the affairs of Urhobo Historical Society. It then set up a
The Annual General Meeting concluded its business on an emotional note as Chief Johnson Barovbe led participants in singing Urhobo Anthem, Orere R’ Ijesa.
Some Concluding Observations
those of us who have conducted the affairs of Urhobo Historical Society
from its inauguration on
When all the academic sessions are considered alongside the Opening Cocktail Reception and the Annual General Meeting, one important theme seems to emerge at the forefront. It is the survival of Urhobo language and culture and the survival of the physical environment of Urhobo lands. Beginning with the impassioned opening address by the Special Guest of Honour of the Conference, Mr. D.A. Obiomah, through the presentation of their papers and topics by Professor Frank Ukoli, Dr. Emmanuel Urhobo, Dr. Amy Emerhi, and Mr. Wilson Ometan, there were expressed and implicit fears that our culture and our lands will be threatened with extinction unless we fight for their survival. The nuanced reflections of the keynote address by Professor David Okpako and the vociferous complaints from the Women’s Roundtable on the obvious dangers facing Urhobo children in the Diaspora craved the survival of Urhobo culture and indeed our physical space. It is a theme that we cannot ignore. It is a theme that future conferences of Urhobo Historical Society will do well to address directly.
Peter P. Ekeh, Ph.D.