THIRD ANNUAL CONFERENCE AND MEETING
November 1-3, 2002
Urhobo Historical Society held its Third Annual Conference and General Membership Meeting on November 1-3, 2002, at Goldsmiths College of London University, and at Goddis Place, both located in the New Cross area of Southeast London. As in earlier Annual Conferences and Meetings of the Society, the 2002 Annual Conference and General Meeting, in four plenary sessions, including a keynote address, and a roundtable discussion, addressed issues and problems with which the Urhobo nation must successfully contend, if it is to survive and prosper.
Session of the Conference in the evening of
session featured a well known American scholar of Urhobo culture, Dr.
Foss, who is also a Guest Curator, Museum for African Art,
In the second
plenary session, Olorogun Frank Ukoli, the founding Vice Chancellor of
Delta State University, a recently retired Professor of Parasitology,
session offered two addresses, one by Dr. Emmanuel Urhobo, a
lawyer, and the other by Mr. Wilson Ometan of the British Broadcasting
Dr. Urhobo also called on Urhobo lawyers to play their part, by virtue of their training and profession, in the struggle to vindicate the legitimate rights of the Urhobo people. To this end, he further urged them to make certain, at all times, that they are fully aware and at ease with the relevant legal principles and judicial pronouncements involved with land issues in Warri. In an animated presentation titled Urhobo and Nigerian Politics: The Travails of Marginalization and Racism, Mr. Ometan also admonished Urhobo people in general, to apply the same traits of tenacity and fortitude, for which Urhobo people are known, in the struggle to ensure that indigenous Urhobo are not denied their ownership of Warri.
A brief intervention led by Dr. Amy Emerhi highlighted possible environmental impacts of dredging the Lower Niger River as planned by the Nigerian Government to satisfy the navigational needs of the oil companies and northern states of Nigeria. Dr. Amy Emerhi, the Director of the Port Harcourt-based International Association for Impact Assessment, outlined the dangers that the plan holds for the people of Urhoboland and the larger Niger Delta. She painfully noted that the plan was about to be executed without the benefit of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) as required by the laws of the country.
Ekeh and Frank Ukoli also warned of the grave dangers of dredging which
force excess water from the
The fourth plenary session was an open forum for discussion led by Professor Peter Ekeh, Chair, Urhobo Historical Society, and Mr. D.A. Obiomah, the Special Guest of Honor. One area of the discussion centered on matters dealing with the ownership of Warri and its lands. The discussions revealed that many Urhobos outside the Agbarha-Warri community do not know enough about the issues, to understand the complexities of the conflicting claims, made by the various ethnic groups in the dispute over Warri lands. Professor Ekeh, himself, expressed his surprise at how little he knew of this matter, before Urhobo Historical Society took up the issue of Warri as one of special concern.
Mr. Daniel Obiomah urged all Urhobos to regard the issue an important one to all Urhobos, and called for a pan-Urhobo approach that he believes, was more likely to lead to a timely and satisfactory resolution of the matter. He also thanked Urhobo Historical Society for taking up the matter, and for featuring three Agbarha-Warri sons, Professor Ukoli, Dr. Emmanuel Urhobo and himself, so prominently in the Conference.
of the discussion was directed to the issue of the relocation of the
State Capital for optimum functionality to all communities in the
Professor Ekeh referred the audience to the publication of an article
the matter by Urhobo Historical Society in the
The fifth and final plenary session of the Conference was a roundtable discussion on The Role of Women in Urhobo History and Culture. The discussants came from many places, including Mrs. L. O. Obiomah of Warri, Nigeria, as Chair; Dr. Helen Ekeh from Buffalo, New York, USA; and Mrs. Agnes Ukueku, Mrs. G. Emonigho Aghoghovbia, and Mrs. Comfort Ogbomo, all of London, England. They engaged in a spirited debate on the merits of female circumcision, and also deliberated on the importance of teaching Urhobo children and youth in the Diaspora, the traditions and culture of their heritage, including the Urhobo language. The discussants saluted the many contributions of Urhobo women to the progress of the Urhobo nation, and noted with pride the recent achievements of Urhobo women in the professions.
While the panelists expressed different opinions about the practice of female circumcision, they were unanimous in calling for urgent steps to educate Urhobo children and youth, before they become too detached from their culture and traditions. On this point, Mr. Simpson Obruche called the attention of the audience to the work of the Urhobo Language Vetting Committee chaired by Reverend Joseph Oghenekaro. The Committee is working to streamline the various Urhobo dialects into a form that will make it easy for the children and youth to learn, speak and write the language. Mr. Obruche promised to provide more information on the efforts of the Language Committee for publication in the web sites of Urhobo Historical Society.
Keynote Address, titled The Place of Urhobo College in Urhobo
History, was delivered by Dr. David Okpako, Professor of
paid tribute to Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), particularly the founding
President-General of the
however lamented the seeming lack of interest by the current UPU
leadership in the affairs of
Professor David Okpako urged Urhobo people buoyed with the historic
The Annual General Meeting which concluded the 2002 Conference and Meeting of the Urhobo Historical Society, was held against the backdrop of the discussions and presentations of the Conference which preceded it.
COGNIZANT, therefore, of the proceedings in their entirety, the General Meeting of Urhobo Historical Society, in recognition of the need to protect and preserve the place of Urhobos in Nigerian society and to ensure the survival of its environment, culture and tradition, including its art and language, resolved and affirmed the following:
Urhobo Historical Society is deeply concerned about the survival of Urhobo identity as shown by the prevailing decline in the use of the language and art, and the lack of interest in observing traditions and culture. It urges, therefore, that all necessary steps should be taken to ensure that the youth and children of Urhoboland, at home and in Diaspora, are taught those things that define them as Urhobo people. To this end, the Society calls on all Urhobos to support, in every way possible, the work of the Urhobo Language Vetting Committee.
Urhobo Historical Society regrets Urhobo Progress Union’s lack of interest in the affairs of
in its plans for Urhobo’s future. The Society believes that the role of the College in contributing to the welfare of all Urhobos is likely to be greater in the future, in view of the continuing and increasing importance of education in all human affairs. It, therefore, calls on all Urhobos, particularly the leadership of Urhobo Progress Union, to rededicate themselves to the renaissance of Urhobo College as a premier center of learning. Urhobo College
As it stated at the conclusion of its Second Annual Conference and Meeting in November 2001, Urhobo Historical Society is very concerned about the environmental impact of dredging the lower
Niger River. Once again, it calls on the Nigerian Government to halt the project until an objective, professional and credible environmental impact study is able to prove that no adverse environmental consequences will result for all the people of the Lower Niger Delta from the dredging of the river. In the absence of such a study, Urhobos and their neighbours must resist, by every lawful means, efforts by any government to give effect to this plan.
Urhobo Historical Society is convinced that the Agbarha-Warri claims of ownership to Warri are historically and legally sound, and that the defence of those claims is the responsibility of each and every Urhobo national. The Society believes that a pan-Urhobo approach, which respects the constitutional rights and the legitimate claims of all groups that had a pre-colonial presence in Warri, offers the promise of a just and relatively speedy resolution of this contentious matter. It therefore urges each and every Urhobo person to join hands with the people of Agbarha-Warri in their legitimate struggle to reclaim their rights as the indigenous owners of their lands in Warri.
Urhobo Historical Society views with dismay the cruel imposition of Asaba, through the corrupt machinery of Babangida’s military dictatorship of the 1980s and 1990s, as the capital of
of Delta State . It is an invalid choice that must be reconsidered. The Society therefore calls on the Government of Delta State to take, as soon as possible, actions that are consistent with the applicable laws and the provisions of the Constitution, to relocate the state capital and/or some of its operating offices from Asaba to other communities in the Nigeria . Old Delta Province
as we are, that the foregoing represent recommendations which, added to
those made in our previous conferences and meetings, will, if
implemented, serve the greater interest of the Urhobo people, their
neighbours, and their compatriots in the larger Nigerian federation,
WE, members of Urhobo Historical Society, meeting in London, England,
on this third day of November, 2002, hereby resolve to bring these
recommendations to the attention of our Urhobo compatriots, the
governments of Nigeria -- federal, state and local, and the people,
in the hope that working together, we will be able to address the many
problems that demand timely and serious solutions.
Members of the Editorial and Management Committee, URHOBO HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Joseph E. Inikori, Ph.D.
Isaac James Mowoe, P.h.D, J.D.
Joseph E. Inikori, Ph.D.
O. Igho Natufe, Ph. D.
O. Igho Natufe, Ph. D.
Aruegodore Oyiborhoro, Ed.D.