Urhobo Historical Society
A Narrative Report of the President-General’s Tour of Branches of Urhobo Progress Union
in Mid-West, West, and Lagos in Nigeria
By T. E. A. Salubi
Sunday, 31st May, 1964: KWALE
delegation which was made up of the President-General, Chief T. E. A. Salubi,
Mrs. A. A. Salubi, Chief J. B. Ojuederie, Mr. Gordon Mukoro, Mr. D. E.
Okumagba, Mr. D. O. Akpore and Mr. G. E. E. Umukoro arrived at Kwale at 4 p.m.
At their invitation, the delegation paid courtesy calls on Chief J. O. Akpovi,
Magistrate, and Dr. P. T. Odegho, Medical Officer, Aboh Division, The
delegation later drove to the
After prayers, members of the delegation and the officers of the Kwale Branch were introduced. This was followed with the breaking of kola-nuts, drinking, and Urhobo songs.
Welcome Address was read and presented. Chief J. B. Ojuederie was the first to
speak. He advised Urhobo tribe in Aboh Division on the welfare of the Urhobo
people. The President-General replied to the Welcome Address. His reply centred
round the contents of the speech prefacing this Report.
The delegation left Obetim (Kwale) at 6. 45p.m.
Monday, 1st June, 1964: OBIARUKU
The delegation made up of the President-General Mrs. A. A. Salubi and the Under-Secretary arrived Obiaruku at 9. 50 a.m. under a heavy down-pour of rain. There was no trace of Union members and no preparations for reception were made. Mr. Mukoro, the Under-Secretary, visited the houses of five Urhobo people. Three were absent while two were found. The two men maintained that they were not previously informed of the tour by the officers of the local branch. There being no reception, the delegation left Obiaruku at 10.25 a.m. for Ogwashi-Uku.
Monday, 1st June, 1964: OGWASHI-UKU
delegation made up of the President-General accompanied by his wife and the
Under-Secretary arrived Ogwashi-Uku at 1.45 p.m. The Court Hall previously
arranged for the reception was cancelled and an immediate arrangement for a
hall in the
delegates were at first accommodated in the house of a Mr. M. O. Nwabudike,
Headmaster of the
entertainment which followed was made up of drinkables and kola-nut. The
delegates and the officers for the local branch were introduced to the
audience. Two dignitaries of
The President-General in replying to the Welcome Address first spoke in English for the benefit of the Ogwashi-Uku people before speaking in Urhobo. The content of the speech was the same as the general summary prefacing this Report. He promised the Urhobo people that the National Headquarters would try to assist if they referred to it their difficulty which was beyond their solution. He advised the members not to forget their father-land.
Mr. Benjamin Elue, one of the two Ogwashi dignitaries spoke. He praised Urhobo people and also made mention of the reputation of the President-General. He assured that if the people who mattered in Ogwashi-Uku were informed of the visit, the natives would have organized their own dance in honour of the President-General.
A cloth – Real Indian Madras – was donned on the President-General as a gift by the Ogwashi-Uku Branch. At the end of the function at 4.30p.m., five gunshots were fired to announce their departure to Asaba. But they could not go immediately as Mr. Nwabudike had invited the delegates back to his house. There they were further entertained with light refreshments.
Monday, 1st June, 1964: R.T.C. ANWAI (ASABA)
On arriving Asaba, the delegation was informed that it would be met at the Rural Training College’s Rest House at Anwai – that being the lodging place arranged by the local branch. The Urhobo people dancing waited at a point about two miles to the Rest House. Here 8 cannon shots were fired in honour of the delegate’s arrival. A dancing procession led the delegation to the Rest House where the reception was held.
After the introduction of the delegates and leaders of the local branch, there was entertainment with drinkables. A goat was presented to the guest. It was however slaughtered on the spot for general feasting. A Welcome Address was read and presented. A sword was presented to the President-General as a souvenir.
The President-General then responded to the Address. The first part of the response centred round the contents of the speech summary prefacing this Report. The second part was a reply to some requests made by the Asaba branch, as follows:
(a) The question of making dissident Urbobo to co-operate with their fellow Urhobo was a rather delicate matter.
(b) That research would be made into old files to ascertain whether or not Asaba had been an old branch which ought to be exempted from paying the full fees for recognition.
(c) That the question of Asaba branch’s photograph appearing in the 1965 Almanac, if one was to be produced, would be considered along with others.
The problems facing the Urhobo people were said to be:-
(i) Arbitrary taxation by the Asaba District Council Authority.
(ii) Arbitrary increase of land rent.
(iii) Palm tress being leased to Eastern Ibos for wine tapping, thus making the palm tress unproductive in fruit bearing.
(iv) Lack of local market for their palm produce.
The President-General felt great sympathy for the people. He promised to look into these first three problems if further details could be furnished. As for the fourth, he would contact Urhobo people and others who dealt in produce to try to visit the area for trade purposes.
Dancing and singing – both Udje and Odjoboro – continued till 8 a.m. of the following day, (2nd June). After a group photograph, and courtesy call on Mr. G. W. Deeks, the Acting Principal of the Centre, the delegation was again led in a dancing procession to the same place where it was awaited in the previous day. Five cannon shots were fired and the parties departed finally.
Tuesday, 2nd June, 1964: AGBOR
The Union branch tin Agbor had been very weak for some time =now, especially as its back-bone, His Excellency Chief S. J. Mariere had been out of the town following his appointment as Governor of the Midwestern Region. In consideration of this, the President-General and his entourage went via Agbor to Ogwashi-Uku on the 1st of June. The purpose was to ascertain whether the branch had made preparations for the visit. The party called at Chief J. M. G. Bazunu’s place but he was not in the house. A note was left behind with his wife requesting Chief Bazunu to let us know if there was any arrangement to receive us on the following day at 10.a.m. The President-General suggested in the note that if necessary Chief Bazunu could contact him at the R.T.C., Asaba. Nothing was however heard from him. On the following day, 2nd June, when the party arrived in Agbor, neither Chief Bazunu, nor other Urhobo people were found. As a matter of fact, Chief Bazunu’s house was completely locked up and no one was seen. The party therefore left for the next station, Ogan.
Tuesday, 2nd June, 1964: OGAN
The party arrived Ogan about one hour before the scheduled time and it had to wait for the branch to be ready. Three gun shots were fired to welcome the delegates. The attendance was thirty-two. The branch officers explained that many Urhobo could not turn up from far-off villages where they lived. After the usual introduction of the party members and the officers of the local branch, drinkable, kola-nuts and a drake were presented to the party. A Welcome Address was read and presented. The Address showed that the branch was losing membership because some of the members believed in spending union money for feasting and drinking.
The President-General’s response to the Welcome Address was on the lines already indicated. He promised to look into the complaint of the branch’s difficulty in paying levies to the National Headquarters.
After the local President’s closing remarks, the reception was brought to a close. Three gun shots were fired to mark the departure of the party.
Tuesday, 2nd June, 1964: OWA
The reception was held at the village founded by Chief Sobotie Mufa near Owa town. Three cannon shots were fired on arrival of the party. The attendance was large and there was dancing and jubilation. After the opening prayer, the local leaders of the branch were introduced. Drinkables and a sheep were presented.
The President-General then delivered a speech, the general context of which has been indicated. The Otota of the branch, Mr. Ogodo Atigogo, commented on the President-General’s speech and described it as an eye-opener. He promised that the Owa branch would live up to expectations. Three more cannon shots were fired when the party was departing.
visiting party to
Following the visit to the Oba’s Palace, the party drove to the Salvation Army School, East circular Road, where reception was held. The opening prayer was said by Major J. W. Somitoje followed by the introduction of the members of the touring party and the officers of the local branch. A Welcome Address was read and drinkables with £2.2/- were presented to the party.
The first person to speak was Mr. A. T. Rerri. He
thanked the Urhobo people in
The President-General then responded to the Address of Welcome. His speech was centred round the topics contained tin the general summary prefacing this Report. But as the address contained references to the present disagreement among Urhobo political leaders, the President-General was obliged to touch upon that matter.
He narrated how he, in company of Chief Udi Jeje, approached in April, 1963, the Right Rev. Agori-Iwe, the Anglican Bishop of Benin Diocese, and appealed to him to arbitrate in the disagreement between Chief Obahor and his group on the one hand; and the President-General and his group on the other hand. The Bishop made all efforts but chief Obahor proved uncooperative.
Chief Udi Jeje, President of Benin branch and also Zonal President of Benin Province spoke on some of the points touched by the President-General. Another man who spoke warned that henceforth Urhobo people must not cling to one political party but must belong to all existing political parties. A third speaker, a worker who hails from Agbarha - Warri, appealed to the President-General to fight for the repeal of the clause in the Midwest Constitution barring Urhobo of Agbarha and Okere from contesting elections in Warri Division. The reception was brought to a close at 7. p.m.
Wednesday 3rd June, 1964: SILUKO
The delegation comprising the President-General, Chief T. E. a. Salubi, the Benin Zonal President, Chief Udi Jeje, and the Under-Secretary, Mr. Gordon Mukoro, arrived Siluko at 12.10p.m. A dancing group waited at the entrance of the town. Eight cannon shots were fired and the dancing group led the party to the U.P.U. Hall where a large crowed had been waiting. Here a cannonade of shots was fired.
The arrangements made against
the visit at this place were unusually singular. All the routes, from the
entrance of the town to the U.P.U. Hall, were properly sign-posted. Banners
were flying here and there with inscriptions welcoming the President-General.
In the front of the Hall was an artist impression of the crest of the U.P.U.
Almanac or letter-heading that was beautifully mounted. It was all gay in
Siluko. The large gathering included
prayer service was conducted by the local leader (himself an Urhobo) of the
The President-General responded to the Address answering a number of matters raised in it:
(a) On the award of
(b) Branches could have their own legal advisers if there was local need for that.
(c) The question of conjugal rights and divorce in respect of native marriages was a matter of individual concern.
(d) Once truth and justice
were regarded as the guiding principles in the settlement of disputes, people
would generally accept the decisions by Union leaders. However he would ask
Chief Udi Jeje to throw more light from his wide and matured experiences of the
settlement of disputes in
(e) Siluko would be considered along with others when photographs for inclusion in the new publication of our almanac would be considered.
(f) The branch could organize in Iyekovia district small units subordinate to one main branch at Siluko.
(g) The Siluko branch may apply to the Entrance and Scholarship Board of the Urhobo College so that it might be made an examination centre, if it could muster every year at least ten entrants.
(h) It was not feasible at
the moment for the
Udi Jeje in his speech advised on unity and co-operation among Urhobo people.
On the assessment of refund of dowry, Chief Udi Jeje said that the
Drinkables were offered for entertainment. Dancing continued. The branch prepared an out-board engine canoe to take the party and it all looked as if it was native festival aboard. On return form Iyasan, the branch offered £3. 3/- to the party and also entertained it with food. Dancing and singing continued not only until when the party returned form Iyasan, but also until its departure from Siluko at 10 p.m.
Wednesday, 3rd June, 1964: IYASAN
party -- Chief T. E. A. Salubi, Udi Jeje and Mr. Gordon Mukoro – was
accompanied by the local officers and some other members in a canoe that was
beautifully decorated, the seats arranged for the President-General and his
party. Tastefully overspread with the waters of
After the opening prayer by the President-General, the officers of the local
branch were introduced. Present at the reception were Chief Bamiyogun
(representing the Oba), Councillor E. O. Olatubara, Madam Dorcas Bamiyogun and
Mr. James Tapas (an Ibo). A Welcome Address was read and presented. A unit of
the branch at Iyara, a nearby area, also presented a Welcome Address. The Irele
branch sent representatives to this reception to ascertain from us whether we
would in fact be at their station on the 5th June. The assurance was given.
Also a delegate came from
President-General in responding to the two Welcome Addresses also spoke in
Yoruba for the benefit of the Yoruba audience. He congratulated Siluko branch
for assisting to found Iyasan branch. Chief Udi Jeje in his speech urged Urhobo
in Iyasan to rally round the
Councilor E. O. Olatubara, a Yoruba and councilor representing the Iyasan ward spoke next. He said he had been hearing and reading about Chief Salubi in the Nigerian newspapers. He was happy that he had seen the Chief in person. He admired the role Chief Salubi had played in undertaking the tour to see for himself the welfare of Urhobo people living outside Urhobo Division. Many a time distinguished people failed to keep their promise to visit them. But Chief Salubi promised to come and kept his word: he appealed to the President-General to use whatever influence he might have to assist the Iyasan people to get a motorable road to the town which was at present inaccessible by road. The President-General gave an appropriate reply in the course of which he gave 10/- to each of the twin babies of Mrs. Ayi Ogwa, wife of the local Secretary, who appealed to him for help.
kola-nuts, £1. 1/- and a sheep were presented. The Iyara unit also presented
£1. 1/- The party and members of the branch posed for a photograph before the
reception was brought to a close. Again a dancing procession led the party back
to the canoe amidst the firing of guns. The party arrived back at Siluko at
8.30 p.m. and after a short presentation ceremony in the U.P.U. Hall, and
dinner at the President’s house, the party, amidst dancing groups left Siluko
at 10 p.m. eventually arriving in
Thursday, 4th June, 1964: OWAN (AGBANIKAKA)
Before the tour was begun, the Urhobo people living at Owan, (a village otherwise called Agbanikaka 40 miles form Benin City) had written and also sent a delegate requesting the National Headquarters to make it possible for the President-General to include Owan in the President-General’s itinerary. The request was granted and Owan was accordingly included in the itinerary. This group did not want to join the Sobe branch. The party, still accompanied by Chief Udi Jeje, arrived at Owan at 10.15 a.m. At the entrance of the town, 3 cannon shots were fired and dancing procession led the party to the place of reception. The leaders of the Urhobo Community were introduced. A Welcome Address was read and drinks, kola-nuts, a ram and £1. 1/- were offered for entertainment. Mr. Chederack Giwa, who claimed to be partly Urhobo, presented 5/-.
President-General in replying to the Welcome Address, thanked the community for
inviting the touring team to meet them. That was an indication of their warm
interest in Urhobo affairs. Mr. Mukoro, the Under-Secretary, then advised the
Urhobo Community on the formation of a branch
Thursday, 4th June, 1964: SOBE
Leaders of Urhobo Community in Sobe traveled in a car to meet the party at Owan and escorted it to Sobe where a group of dancers had been performing at the entrance of the town. The dancing group led the party to the place of reception fronting Chief Ogbeta’s house. Fourteen gun shots were fired. It being a market-day, the dance and the booming of guns attracted the market women and for some time, it seemed as though the market was empty. The leaders of the Urhobo Community, as also Chief Ogbeta and Chief Odia of the Ministry of Agriculture, and Natural Resources, who were natives of Sobe, were introduced. A Welcome Address was read and presented.
President-General in his response to the Welcome Address first spoke in the
Yoruba language before he spoke in Urhobo. He was grateful to the two Chiefs
for associating themselves with his people to honour him and his party. Chief
Udi Jeje who was still with the party spoke on the settlement of disputes among
the Urhobo Community in order to avoid unnecessary litigation. Mr. Mukoro gave
the Urhobo Community hints on the formation of a branch
Chief Odia spoke in praise of the President-General but regretted that in his speech the President-General did not emphasize the good done to the Urhobo settlers with whom the natives had for long lived cordially. He wished the party a successful tour.
The Urhobo Community offered drinks, kola-nuts, and £1.1/- to the party.
the function closed, Chief Udi Jeje took leave of the party and returned to
Thursday, 4th June, 1964: OWO
The delegation arrived at Owo and met no Urhobo waiting for them. After an enquiry, a young man working in the G. B. Ollivant (Nigeria) Ltd., escorted the party to the house of one Mr. Michael Ikpatu who sent a boy out to look for other Urhobo and only five - Messrs. John Oghogho (President), James Ohwavworiemen (Asst. Secretary) James Ijomah (Publicity Secretary) and Edward Ajejevwe (Member) and Mr. Ikpatu could be mustered. They explained that while some of them had gone to wait for Dr. M. I. Okpara, the National President of the N.C.N.C. who was visiting Owo on that day, others who came from the surrounding village had returned. That they further explained was due to our late arrival.
members presented beer and 2/- for entertainment. No speech was made but the
members seized the opportunity to pose questions which tended to portray that
they had been misinformed that the affairs of the
Thursday, 4th June, 1964: IKARE
Ikare branch delegated five of its members headed by Mr. Ejor to meet the party
on the way. The members led the party to the town. At its approach; a group of
dancers was waiting. Three gun shots were fired to herald the party’s arrival.
The dancing procession led the way from the entrance of the town to the Civic
Centre - the
the opening prayer conducted by Rev. Omole, Vicar-in charge of the Church, the
leaders of the local branch were introduced. The touring party received a
letter from the Urhobo Community in
After the opening prayer, a Welcome Address was read and presented. In the address the people regretted that owing to Police ban in the area, they could not organize dance and procession in honour of the visit. They rayed that recognition be accorded their newly established branch. The local grievance and problems of the people were that:
(a) Ijaw people in the creeks were in the habit of preventing Urhobo people from fishing.
(b) Urhobo were being subjected to excessive taxation.
(c) Land rents were excessive; rents were being levied on farm land, and on palm tress from which fruits were collected.
(d) Ibos tap the palm trees to the detriment of Urhobo people.
(e) The Oshemawe of Ondo be approached to permit the lease of land to, and the plantation of rubber trees by, Urhobo people.
President-General in his response thanked the people for their love towards the
a point about 4 miles on the Irele road off the Agbabu road, a large tree the
trunk of which was about 7 feet high from the ground fell across the road. This
was our second experience in one morning! The party was obliged to turn back to
Thursday, 4th June, 1964: OKITIPUPA
The Urhobo at Okitipupa were greatly surprised to see us. They had sent a telegram that the visit there be cancelled on the ground that the Police ban would not permit them to receive us as well as they would wish. The party was not however disappointed as several communications to the branch had not been responded to for a very long time before the tour. In other words, the branch had become defunct.
The President-General requested Chief J. E. Abaide and others present to organize an out-board engine canoe to convey him and some members of his party to Irele and Ajagba; they were due at Irele over an hour ago. He promised to retune to Okitipupa in the night after meeting the two branches. Leaving his Personal Clerk and his Driver behind, the President-General with the rest of the party boarded the canoe for Irele. But at a very short distance from McIver beach (still in Okitipupa) the engine failed mid-stream. After repeated efforts to get it going, the party abandoned the canoe for another one that was proceeding to Ajagba. The sailors were all Urhobo and they agreed to drop us at Irele Waterside. In the process of transferring amid-stream from the abandoned canoe to the proceeding one, the President-General’s cap dropped into the river. It was rescued but heavily wet!
Friday, 5th June, 1964: IRELE
Irele Waterside to Irele town itself is about 3 miles distant. Arriving at the Waterside at 4.15p.m, no one was found waiting for the party. As we were about to re-board the canoe for Ajagba, there came a number of men shouting to the canoe boys from a long distance in a characteristic Urhobo way whether they saw a man called SALUBI over there. Here then was relief. We bade the canoe boys good-bye but gave them a message to the Ajagba branch that we would be coming to them however late.
On leaving the jetty, we saw two Urhobo women singing and dancing along. They were dancing freely to a song that Salubi succeeded where Unurhoro failed.1 Onapproaching them, the President-General thanked them for their goodwill but warned that his tour was not political. He presented a few shillings to them and advised that the song be stopped.
From here, the party was conveyed in a waiting motor van arranged by the branch. We arrived at the outskirts of the town at 5 p.m. A dancing precession with a number of gunmen firing along the route led the party to the residence of Chief M. A. Akinduro, a native of Irele, where the reception in honour of the party was held.
After the opening prayer by the President-General, the officers of the local branch were introduced. Prominent among the Yorubas present at the reception were Chief M. A. Akinduro, Hon. and Mrs. C.O. Olamigoke, Member of Western House of Assembly, Messrs. Elijeh Odunsanyan, Joshua Waba and John Adesankan. Also present were two delegates sent from Ajagba to ascertain whether the party had arrived.
A Welcome Address was read and presented. The President-General in his response, first spoke in Yoruba for the benefit of the Yoruba audience before speaking in Urhobo. In the course of the speech, the President-General delved into the history of the formation of the first and only Union branch in the Ikale area, namely, the Okitipupa branch which was founded about 28 years ago by the late chief W. E. Mowarin. He appealed for the formation of more branches in the Ikale country which had, for a long time now, become the second “native land” of many Urhobo people, and also advised the local Union leaders here to assist to revive and redeem the past glory of Okitipupa which was a most active branch.
The local branch entertained the party with drinks and £2. 2/-. In addition, Chief Akinduro presented 6 bottles beer of his own. As a token of his long revered association with his family, and particularly his past guardianship of his brother, Chief A. G. Irikefe B.L., Smart Irikefe, a brother of the lawyer, presented the President-General with three pence. It was “a widow’s mite” full of goodwill.
Hon. Olamigoke spoke and paid tributes to Urhobo people. He praised the President-General for undertaking the tour to meet his people.
After the reception which ended at 6.30p.m., the party, accompanied by the delegates from Ajagba, with a few men from Irele, commenced the journey to Ajagba through a different route via Obite Obo and Shabome. A seven mile drive through a very badly eroded road landed the party at Obite Obo on the bank of a stream. The bridge across the stream was out of order and had to be negotiated by climbing over bush sticks improvised for that purpose. The Under-Secretary and the others had climbed across to, the other side, but the people would not allow the President-General, in spite of his insistence, to do so. It was too much of a risk for them. They argued, and quite rightly, that the safety of the President-General was their own responsibility for as long as he was in their territory.
waiting and shouting for some 15 minutes, a canoe arrived to ferry the
President-General across. The time was then about 7. 30 p.m. and it was already
getting dark. On the other side of the river was a car waiting to take the
party to Shabome. The car belonged to His Highness Oba W. A. Oladiran, the
Akalasuwe of Ijaw Apoi, and a member of the House of Chiefs,
The President-General and his party paid a courtesy call on the Oba who made a present of drinks to them. In a short witty speech, the President-General, speaking again in Yoruba, expressed gratitude and appreciation to the Oba for his kindness.
At Shabome, the party met the Lady President of Ajagba branch with two other women waiting. They had been so waiting since 3 0’clock and no wonder that she flared up. “Where have you been all the time Mr. President-General?” “We have been waiting here for long to receive you. Now we are “terribly hungry and upset”. That was to be expected as the time was about 8.p.m. then. The President-General was equal to the situation. “You will in the end sympathise with us after you shall have heard our story of today’s journey,” he said to the angry Lady - President.
The next stage of the journey was again by an out-board engine canoe. But the canoe boy (an Evhron youth) was not to be beaten in demonstration of anger for the lateness of the party. “I was told they would arrive at 3 0’clock and have been waiting here since then - over four hours! I can not sail, I will not sail, unless my charges were increased”. So he harangued rather offensively until assurance was given that he would be compensated for the extra house of waiting.
The canoe was soon on the move and after a short while, the party arrived Igbotu. But the shore here was such that the canoe could not reach properly. The President-General had to be carried (rode on some one’s back so to say) ashore. The motor van arranged to take the party from here to Ajagba had returned after a long fruitless waiting. However, the van was recalled and the journey over another piece of a badly eroded road began. At exactly 9. p.m., the party arrived Ajagba where, although it was several hours behind scheduled time, a large crowed was still dancing and singing. Various dancing groups that came from the villages had dispersed but the leaders with some dancing groups swore to keep a vigil even if the President-General failed to honour his programme.
On alighting from the van, a volley of gunshots boomed. That attracted more and more people down to the local school compound which was the place of meeting. It has been appropriately decorated for the purpose. The thickness of the crowd made passage to the reserved seating accommodation absolutely difficult. It was after some time before the Under-Secretary could be taken through the crowd to his seat.
After the opening prayer, the local leaders of the branch were introduced. The composition of branch membership here was unique. There were 18 sub-branches under the Ajagba branch and the individual membership was comprised of Urhobo and Isoko people alike. In fact, the President of the branch is Isoko.
beautifully engrossed Welcome Address was presented to the President-General
with £1. 1/- and a book souvenir entitled “Constitutional Law”. In his
response, the President-General narrated the course of the journey to Ajagba
and the causes of the long delay. He was grateful to the people for their singular
demonstration of faith, patience and love for Urhobo, and, indeed, for the
person of the President-General. Without such faith, patience and affection,
they could not have waited for so long in the open air expecting and expecting
the arrival of the President-General and his party. In the address, requests
were made respecting admission to
President-General replied appropriately explaining the procedures in regard to
delay in issuing Registration Certificate was also explained. The position
would be remedied as soon as the Union’s seal arrived from the
While drinks were being served, three Urhobo songsters, under the leadership of one David from Agbarha, entertained the gathering with songs most efficiently rendered.
It is to be noted that the President-General and his party had had no meals for the day. They had been subsisting on the breakfast at Ondo and the causal snacks in the afternoon at Chief Abaide’s place at Okitipupa. The position was such that the President-General had to request the President to arrange to provide something for the “stomach’s sake”. But merriment at the school compound did not come to a close till 1.a.m. thereafter, the scene shifted to the house of one “Edemadudu”, the local President. Here the party had their first meal for the day – but the time was then 2. a.m.!! The women section, under their Lady President, together with their many local Presidents, danced throughout the night. It will be remembered that this was the same Lady-President to whom reference was made at Shabome. It was a most wonderful display of loyalty and affection.
It will be recalled that the President-General promised to return form Ajagba in the night to Okitipupa. How impossible this!! There were about three important reasons why the party must not dream of returning. In the first place, there was transport difficulty. Transport depended entirely on out-board engine canoes plying the creeks in a return trip once daily. The canoe that dropped the party at Irele Waterside was on its return trip and that was the last for the day unless of course a special charter was organized. It is not easy to go to places like Ajagba and talk about returning the same day! In the second place, the party was too late before arriving at Ajagba (9 p.m. instead of 3 p.m.!) In the third place, there was the devotion, patience and loyalty of the people which made them not only to wait for so long, but which also decided them to keep a vigil, even if the party failed to make the visit. All these three mutually irreconcilable factors ruled out completely the question of ever thinking to return to Okitipupa in that same night. In point of fact, to suggest it would have been discourteous to our host, even if it were possible to return.
Saturday, 6th June, 1964: AJAGBA
At 7 a.m., the President-General paid a courtesy call on the Ahaba of Ajagba who was unfortunately absent. On the President-General’s return, a procession had formed to take the party to the beach, Ugolo beach. There the out-board engine canoe would be boarded. The local President’s house to the Ugolo beach was about one and a half miles of a very rough and rugged road. But he dancing procession winded its way all through with gunmen firing all along.
the way, an old Isoko man and his family received and entertained the party.
The scene then shifted to the next camp where an influential woman leader and
local midwife - again an Isoko – entertained the party. This woman knew the
Since the canoe was not chartered, the party had to wait until enough passengers had been gathered. And so it was not possible to embark till 9.oo a.m. when the party waved good-bye, in the midst of booming of guns, to the leaders and their followers who had formed the precession. That parting farewell was, undoubtedly, one of the most touching events of the tour.
The canoe sailed majestically down stream and every hope was on making Okitipupa by noon. At about 10.15 a.m. however, the canoe stopped at a beach called Iditola to discharge a passenger and to pick up two who had been waiting. After the process had been completed, the sailors began to start the engine; but to our utter dismay, the engine did not start. It all seemed as if it was not the same engine that brought us from Ajagba! As if by play, the engine did not respond to all the mechanical efforts that were made. The operator had sensed a fault just before Iditola, and to help the passengers, he requested the operator of another canoe, proceeding in the same direction, not to leave him far behind. His idea was that, if this canoe broke down, he could transfer the passengers to the other canoe. Both operators were Urhobo, and it was amazing that the second operator did not co-operate. He sailed away even before we anchored at Iditola. And so we were left stranded!
There was no alternative but to punt the canoe along the tortuous, grass, verge of the river. Added to the misfortune was the fact that we were gong against the current!
Every out-board engine canoe that met us was sailing to the opposite direction. And so without breakfast or any meal, our canoe kept on drifting and drifting as if it was a waif. The hope for timely landing had of course since been resigned. Every one aboard became browned-off. The time was already 3 0’clock and a windy storm was gathering momentum. All of a sudden, a canoe came along speeding to Okitipupa. All passengers cried aloud in an appeal to the operator to please tow us. The kind soul hearkened to the appeal and tied our canoe to his own. Now it was a journey. With the dramatic change of the weather, we landed at Okitipupa at 4 p.m. under a very heavy downpour.
Chief Abaide and others at Okitipupa were worried. They did not know what could have happened. Their anxiety stemmed from our failure to return last night to this very late return of the day! The President-General’s personal clerk and his driver were probably the most worried. “In the midst of our confused thinking, we suggested that we might hire transport to meet you so that we might at least know what had happened.” Poor boys!
number of local union leaders had gathered at Chief Abaide’s house. They
had waited all the night expecting us to return. But all was in vain, they
said. The time of our eventful arrival at Okitipupa was the time that the party
was expected to be at Ado-Ekiti --159 miles away! The President-General
apologized to Okitipupa and promised them a repeat visit on his way back from
Saturday 6th June, 1964: ADO-EKITI
According to itinerary, the party should pass the night of 5th at Okitipupa, leave Okitipupa at 9.00 a.m. on the 6th for Ado-Ekiti where it was scheduled to arrive at 4 p.m. But the devil took the hang of the whole journey from the hour we set off in the canoe for Irele on the 5th. Indeed from the time of falling trees across the road!
4 hours and 45 minutes behind schedule, it would be too much to expect to find
any one waiting to receive us. In the course of our search for an Urhobo man’s
house, the driver ran the car into a ditch near the motor park. A crowd of the
usual motor park boys soon surrounded us and kindly assisted to lift the car
from the ditch. Then one of them, looking rather hefty and brusque, ejaculated
- “And what do you want Chief? You look like a stranger, can I help in any
way”? Then we began our story. “We are looking for the house of any Urhobo
man.” “We came from home in the name of our
This same kind Samaritan took us to The Community Centre, and there, under rather poor weather, we found a crowed of Urhobo people about to disperse in utter disappointment. The President-General sent the good Samaritan back with gratitude and a small “dash”.
It is needles to observe her that the appearance by that hour of the President-General and his party made what seemed to be only a negative impression on the gathering. There were many soured looks around. That was of course to be expected after such a long, tiresome waiting.
As soon as the President-General and his party took their seats, the branch spokesman took the floor. Quite naturally, he wanted to know why the President-General was so late. The President-General’s suggestion that formal routine of conducting functions be followed was not quite welcome. So the President-General was obliged to go into full explanation of he eventful circumstances which inevitably led to the delayed arrival. And even with that, the atmosphere was still not quite clear as the soured faces had not altogether disappeared. Here, the President-General quickly drew upon his deep knowledge and wide experience of the Urhobo man’s psychology. He called for a song in which he himself led at intervals. A second song enthusiastically rendered by all at once cleared that air, and everybody became alive, active and cheerful, and the offensive lateness was soon forgotten.
Then the functions began in earnest. After prayers, the local leaders were as usual introduced. A Welcome Address, with an Aladdin lamp as a souvenir, was presented to the President-General. Also presented were drinks, a he-goat and the sum of £1. 1/-. “Father Shine”, the President and leader of Urhobo at Ikerre, - 10 miles from Ado-Ekiti - also presented £1. The gifts quartet was completed by the Ovu people in the area who, in acknowledgement of their pride and honour of their special relationship with the President-General, presented £1. 1/- with some drinks. Singing and dancing followed while refreshments were being served.
his reply to the Welcome Address, the President-General touched upon the main
local problem of Urhobo in the area, namely, oppression of Urhobo peasantry by
Yoruba land-lords. He advised patience, good neighbourliness and friendly
approach in order to ensure amelioration of the present condition. In reply to
a question, the Under-Secretary explained that organization of branch on basis
of small sub-units did not offend against the Constitution of the
The President-General directed that the he-goat be slaughtered there and then and used in preparing “UKODO” for all to enjoy. It is to be noted that the President-General and his party had had no meals since leaving Okitipupa! After the meal at 2 a.m., the guests were lodged at the Travellers Inn for the night.
But there was no end to the function. Singing, dancing and general merriment continued till dawn.
Sunday, 7th June, 1964: ADO-EKITI
The officers and members of the branch posed to a group photograph with their guests. After breakfast, the party, accompanied by Mr. Harken Edoh, the local President, proceeded to Ijoro-Ekiti.
Sunday, 7th June, 1964: IJERO-EKITI
The party arrived at 10.30 a.m. No body was met, let alone preparation to welcome the party. In fairness to the people, Ijoro-Ekiti was not, in point of fact, a branch as yet. The people here used to be members of Ado-Ekiti and only shortly before the tour that they applied to become a separate branch of their own. There would appear to have been some misunderstanding between the Ado-Ekiti branch and the people at Ijero-Ekiti hence the move to break away.
The person who was supposed to be the ‘Secretary’ and who had been in correspondence with the National Secretariat was not to be found anywhere, nor did he inform any one of the visit – at least so the party was told!
President-General and his party were taken to the house of a Mr. James Okpigoni
Unikpo of No. 12,
Sunday, 7th June, 1964:
Introduction of local leaders followed prayers said by
Mr. Moses Ayesan. At the end of the reading of the Welcome Address, a smart
lady, beautifully embroidered ‘Chief cap’ specially made for the
President-General. With grace, she removed his cap and placed the souvenir one
on his head. The cap was a perfect fit in size and this
responding to the Welcome Address, the President-General requested the audience
to rise for two minutes’ silence in revered memory and honour of the late Owa
of Ijesha land, Oba Biladu III, President of the House of Chiefs, Western
Nigeria, who was for many years his friend. The President-General said he knew
him Ogunmekun at
as Commissioner for Education he visited
vote of thanks by the accredited spokesman of the branch followed by a song by
the women brought the function to a very happy close. The local President, a
very quiet and unassuming young man, apologized to the President-General that
owing to the
Sunday, 7th June, 1964:
about half a mile away from the town, representatives of
In the address, the President-General was congratulated for his achievements since his assumption of office and reference was made to his sound administration of the Union both at Headquarters’ and branches’ levels, the opening of new secondary grammar schools in indigenous towns in Urhobo land, and the scholarships awarded to Urhobo youths in universities. The Address pointed out that, as the father of all, the President-General should emulate the late Chief Mukoro Mowoe by sacrificing nothing in an attempt to project Urhobo personality. The President-General was also advised to avoid party politics as much as possible so that he could be free to perform the onerous duties of his office unhampered.
the course of his reply to the Welcome Address, the President-General referred
to the record of the meeting which Chief Mukoro Mowoe held with the Urhobo of Oshogbo
in 1946 during his historic tour for the benefit of Urhobo Education Scheme.
Also the President-General gave a picture of his personal knowledge of the type
of Urhobo people who used to live at
Judging from the composition of Urhobo audience before him on that occasion, he had no difficulty at all in coming to the conclusion that the bad generation of Urhobo to whom he alluded above has passed away -- glory be to God. He was impressed with the dignity of the audience now before him. Any experienced person with some knowledge of Urhobo, could easily surmise that the group that he was seeing was composed of clerks, workers and traders living by the sweat of their honest labour. That was a definite happy change.
On point of information, the Under-Secretary spoke on the so-called “U.P.U. reformation Movement” which a few disgruntled leaders and some politicians launched at Ughelli in December, 1963. The “Reformation Movement” “reformed” itself to death within twenty four hours of its inauguration. The Under-Secretary admonished the branch to have nothing to do with that Movement should there be possibility of it coming to life at any time.
the middle of this function, Mrs. Salubi, who had left the entourage on the 2nd
June, rejoined it. She broke the tour to go to
Mrs. Salubi brought a message from the President, Ile-Ife branch. He was sorry to have to tell the President-General not to visit his branch. He was unable to get Urhobo people together to organise a reception. He was about to send a messenger to the President-General at Oghogbo, and it was by sheer co-incidence that he met Mrs. Salubi going to rejoin the entourage at Oshogbo. He made a present of 10/- to her. The message reduced the day’s work by one station.
service of drinks, etc., the
President-General and his party went to the house of Mr. Gordon Ekure of the
Posts and Telegraphs,
It took some time to find the Rest House at Ile-Ife where we arrived at 7.44 p.m. Unlike the Ilesha Rest House, the Ife Rest House is not located on the main road but hidden in a branch road off Modakeke road. When looking for the Rest House, the big car (L.G. 4 0 9 5) ran over a stump of a tree in an attempt to give way to an approaching car. The exhaust pipe of the car was badly damaged. It fell off completely and had to be tied with a rope when eventually the car was lifted from the stump which seemed to have pinned it.
slept in Rest House No. 2. Here again, another good Samaritan came to our aid.
He was Mr. A. Osagie, D.S.P., Ile-Ife. He lived next door to the Rest House; he
and his family were kind enough to allow us to use their kitchen for our meals.
Mr. Osagie said he know the President-General at
The party had a reasonably comfortable night.
Monday, 8th June, 1964: ILE-IFE
about 9 a.m., Palmer the President,
The President confirmed his message through Mrs. Salubi and related his difficulties in trying to go t Urhobo people of the area to come together. He had therefore come to apologise personally to the President-General. His failure to organise the people to meet and welcome him was, by no means, a discourtesy, he explained. The apology was accepted as the position was too well-known to the President-General himself.
Mr. Osagie volunteered to get the President-General’s damaged car repaired free of charge. This was another unexpected friendly gesture on the part of this kind police officer. As the repair would naturally take some time, and in order not to upset the itinerary, it was arranged to leave Mrs. Salubi, the driver and the servants behind. The President-General and the Under-Secretary left Ile-Ife with the small car (Volkswagen, LH 2250) to Ikire. Mrs. Salubi and the rest were to meet up with them at Ikire after the repairs.
Monday, 8th June, 1964: GBOGAN
Between Ile-Ife and Ikire is Gbogan branch. The party did not stop here as the branch had written to say that it was not fit for a visit.
Monday, 8th June, 1964: IKIRE
The party arrived at Ikire at 12 noon. A few Urhobo people were found after a short enquiry. Here it was suggested that the party should first visit Adeyinka before meeting the Ikire people.
Ikire to Adeyinka is only 13 miles, but it is 13 miles of a very bad road, -- rough, rugged, muddy and badly eroded. The Ikire people advised against going there because of the condition of the road at that time of the year. The question the President-General required them to answer was whether the Adeyinka people were expecting him. The answer being in the affirmative, the President-General decided to undertake the journey, damning the consequences. In any case, the journey would permit the Ikire people, who were not quite ready, to get ready.
Monday, 8th June, ADEYINKA
Accordingly, the party, accompanied by Mr. Samuel Oghenede, the Honorary Secretary, Ikire branch, proceeded on the journey arriving at 1.16p.m.
As the party was approaching the town, Mr. Oghenede interrogated three men who were on their way to their farms. “Gentlemen, were are you going? The President-General is here to see all of you, you had better return”. The men, not expecting any one quite naturally looked astonished. But only one of them returned. The people at Adeyinka made no preparations whatsoever. They said they did not expect the President-General to travel through that bad road to see them.
first, we were taken to the house of one James Ode Onojetan, then to the
verandah of another house, and, eventually, the house of one young man. By that
time, about 12 people had gathered, among them, a woman said to be the wife of
one Jackson Ekwodiame of Olomu.
The group presented six bottles of beer, two bottles Guinness and £1.1. Mr. Ekwodiame’s wife, as any good wife would do, added 5/- in her husband’s name. She regretted her husband’s absence, saying she knew what he could have done if he was present.
Welcome Address intended for the visit was not quite ready. Mr. Samuel Idike,
the local leader, had therefore to make an oral speech. Mr. Idike was pleased
that the President-General was able to come in spite of the bad road. The visit
was a high honour ever accorded villagers like themselves. They were glad to be
remembered and would be pleased to be enlightened as to how to form and
organise a new branch. The components of the tribes in the area who all lived
together as a composite unit were Aboh, Kwale, Isoko and Urhobo. The Urhobo
elements were Orogun, Olomu, Ughievwen, Agbon and Agbarha. In short, this
community was actually a hotchpotch of a non-Yoruba elements from the
Their common economic undertaking was oil-palm industry and coca industry. In this area, cocoa is the main Yoruba peasants’ Industry.
The forces of party politics were however ravaging the area and had indeed disunited them. That was one of the reasons why very few people were present. This was confirmed by the information already received at Ikire. Some N.C.N.C. politicians were said to have gone to leading Urhobo people in the district telling them not to receive the President-General who was a member of the Midwest Democratic Front. It was believed that was why Gbogan branch did not accept the visit!
But a more sympathetic story was yet to be told! The original pursuit that attracted the Urhobo people to this Yoruba district was the palm produce industry. Later on, however, they and the other non-Yoruba elements indicated above, began to loan out money to the Yoruba peasants who were predominantly cocoa plantation owners. The system was to pawn for a specific period the cocoa farm as security for the loan. Not only that.
As long as the loan remained unpaid, the pawnee was entitled to harvest the pawned cocoa farm. Unless and until full repayment, the pawnee harvested the farm undisturbed by the pawner or by any one else. No one knows when this type of loan system began. Suffice it to say that it has been on for years now. The system is clearly enough subject for a socio-economic study in the field of economic relations between the Yoruba of this district and the stranger elements who came to live among them.
Any money realised from harvesting by the pawnee was never offset against the loan, and no matter the number of cocoa seasons harvested, and the proceeds realized therefrom, the original loan had always remained undiminished. In certain cases, the harvests yielded proceeds which were heavily overweighed in favour of the pawnee. Thus the poor Yoruba cocoa farmer, due to inability to discharge in time his loan obligations, threw himself into economic slavery to the pawnee.
Because of the profitability of the loan system, the Urhobo immigrant of the area gradually shifted from the palm produce industry to the cocoa industry as pawn-brokers. The system had so well developed that it might well be said that the economic life of the area, insofar as cocoa peasantry was concerned, was virtually controlled by the Urhobo immigrant pawnees. The stage where the Yoruba peasant had to sweat and groan almost perpetually under Urhobo economic serfdom had already been reached. One needs to observe that the system has since spread to almost all the cocoa producing areas of the Yoruba country.
Suffering often leads to revolt. A few years ago, these economic relations became tense and explosive. The Yorubas were feeling to an unbearable point, the weight of this economic overburdening! Here then were troubled waters for the politicians to fish in. In order to secure their votes, the politicians promised to use political weapons to redeem to the Yoruba peasantry the farms that they had pawned. Thus the Yoruba peasants became excited and incited. They now felt that they had a redeeming remedy other than honest repayment of their loans. It was only too easy to cause political strife here. The Urhobo pawnees were predominantly N.T.N.C. while the Yoruba pawners were mainly Action Group or U.P.F!
Then trouble was about to start, the Oba of Ikire on the 4th November, 1959, invited 12 representatives of the Urhobo people to his palace for a peace talk. Present at the talk was Mr. James Otobo in his capacity as Minister of Midwest affairs in the Action Group government of the Region. No settlement or conclusion could be reached. The state was therefore set for a straight fight between the Urhobo and the Yoruba.
Yoruba farmers took certain Urhobo pawnees to the
Urhobo retained Mr. R. a. Fani-Kayode who won for them the first aspects of the
cases. Here, the Urhobo people gratefully acknowledged the assistance which Mr.
J. O. Odjevwedje, then Registrar,
In order to redeem their promises, the politicians got the Government to launch a scheme whereby it was to advance money to the farmers to pay off their debts. The money was advanced and a Co-operative Society known as Aiyedade Union was formed with this object in view. Shortly afterwards, the funds of the Co-Operative Union were misappropriated and Government’s purpose was thus defeated. Before this mishap, however, Government agents, who were to operate the outright repayment scheme on behalf of the Yoruba farmers, had collected relevant documents respecting the various loans from the Urhobo people. Nothing came out of it all and the documents were not returned.
order to secure his assistance, the Urhobo immigrants subscribed and paid out
£700 to a certain influential politician at
Unconfirmed report has it that this selfsame influential politician advised the Yoruba farmers to abandon seeking court remedy. He was said to have told them that Urhobo people were born litigants and that no one could wear them out by going to court. It was alleged that resort to violence was advised instead. It is difficult to believe these stories!
As from November, 1959, the Yorubas were said to have resorted to violence – attacking Urhobo hamlets, etc. The social set-up of the Urhobo people in the area was that a man or two men with their wives lived together in a hamlet. That size was the average social habitat. The smallness of the occupants of each hamlet made the Yoruba attack to be very successful indeed. When the violence broke out, many Urhobo people were obliged to flee to the big towns like Ikire, Apomu, etc. Some even went home [to Urhoboland].
The violence came to a climax when on the 1st January, 1961, Urhobo of Orogun origin, called Akpotabor, was killed by his Yoruba assailants. A report was made to the Police who, deliberately, did not send any officer for investigation till the 8th January, 1961. In the meantime, the copse has been removed and disposed of in an unknown manner at an unknown place by the Yoruba people. The chief exhibit for the proof of the murder had therefore been lost. Each Urhobo man and each Urhobo woman subscribed 10/- and 5/-, respectively, to fight the case. A great deal of money was spent but the case never went to court!
Urhobo residents of the area were completely helpless in their saddest hour!
They appealed in a letter to the Headquarters of the Urhobo Progress Union for
help. No reply at all was received! Mr. Isaac Ahatty, a leading member of
organisng Secretary, Mr. James Ode Onojetan, who was sent to
Added to the helplessness of the situation was the role said to have been played by certain Urhobo in the area. Such people were said to have included Mr. Isaac Ahatty, the founder of the branch union, Chukuma Esejuvwovwo, Akamaigbo, William Salubi Okusi (not related to the President-General) and Akpotor, all of whom jointly worked against them by their support for the Yorubas because of financial gains,
The £700 given to the influential politician who rendered no help could not be recovered! £750 was given to a police officer who did his best but could not quell the whole trouble.
The Ikire area was by no means quiet as yet. The Yorubas are still oppressing and persecuting Urhobo. There was at present a case where a Yoruba pawned his farm to an Urhobo in order to be able to educate his son. He refused to allow the Urhobo pawnee to step into the farm or to repay the loan. The agreement on the loan was not stamped with the Commissioner for Stamp Duties, and it was therefore difficult to seek remedy in a Court of law!
By and large, the Urhobo people in the area were not united. Orogun elements in the Urhobo community who were in the preponderance were in the habit of keeping to themselves, holding their own separate meetings. Whenever there was a joint meeting between them and other Urhobo elements, they would suddenly change conversation from Urhobo to the Ukuani language. This naturally annoyed all others, who did not understand Ukuani. They regarded themselves first as Orogun and second as Urhobo!
The Orogun instance was by no means the only disintegrating factor militating against Urhobo unity and interests. A group of undesirable Urhobo mischief-makers and crime perpetrators existed in Ikire. The group employed all sorts of measure to oppress the Urhobo peasantry. The members usually brought Forest Guards to their farms to threaten them. After the season’s harvesting and sale of the produce, this group of Urhobo people would either set buglers against them in their hamlets, or bring policemen to search and arrest them under various pretences! Even highway robbery was being introduced to the area!!
instance of Urhobo working against Urhobo was evidenced in a case where one
Wilson Olomu and Omorigho Udjegbuem were involved. There was a working rule among
Urhobo pawnees that where a Yoruba had pawned his farm to an Urhobo no other
Urhobo should loan money again on the same farm. The penalty was laid down as
£5 fine against the offender. It transpired that after one Yoruba man pawned
his farm to Mr. Wilson Olomu, he went to Mr. Omorigho Udjegbuem who was thus
found guilty; but he refused to pay the £5 fine. The matter was taken to
the U.P.U. Ibadan, as a superior body for an enforcement decision.
Another case cited was that in which one Jacob Ogboru, an Urhobo, sued a Yoruba to court for debt. The case was not lost but an appeal had been lodged with the High Court.
The story of the Yoruba rising in 1959 was a sorrowful one; but the most painful part was the disgraceful role which certain Urhobo middlemen, purporting to be helpers were alleged to have played in the whole matter. These people claimed to be the leaders of the poor Urhobo peasants whereas in fact they were interlopers working to enrich their pockets!!
listening patiently to this long story of suffering, oppressions and
persecutions, the President-General felt deep sympathy for the poor Urhobo
immigrant farmers. He promised to take up the matter of protection for person
and property with the Commissioner of Police, Western Nigeria,
The President-General thought that the best approach to the situation was to send an energetic worker, like the Under-Secretary to the district at some future date to re-organise the Urhobo there. There was great need for such action. A considerable amount of Urhobo money and interests were in jeopardy and some sort of field organization in the area was very necessary. In the meantime, however, he advised the people to try and keep calm, and to be of help to one another.
The President-General and party left Adeyinka for Ikire at 3.41 p.m.
Monday, 8th June, IKIRE
The party returned to Ikire at 4. 45 p.m. to meet the Urhobo people gathered in a Cocoa Co-operative Store where the reception was held. Mrs. Salubi with the rest of the entourage had also arrived from Ile-Ife with the big car. The people presented the party with kola-nuts, drinks and £1. 1/-.
attendance of about 20 at the meeting was not encouraging. According to
the people, three things were chiefly responsible for the paucity of
attendance. Firstly, the
Mr. Francis Ugolo, the spokesman, then proceeded to recount the problems facing Urhobo people as follows: When the Union branch was first organised in the district, it was embraced by a majority of the people living in Ikire, Adeyinka and Ago-Owu. Mr. Peter Ebenu was the President. Later, the presidentship passed to Mr. Okpokuru Urhuano and them to Mr. Akpolile. Mr. Isaac Ahatty was the organising Secretary. In order to safe-guard Urhobo interests, the branch demanded from the local Authority the appointment of tax collectors from amongst Urhobo nationals to assess and collect tax from Urhobo people. The request was granted and ten tax collectors were agreed upon. £30 was spent to secure the Authority’s consent. The £30 was raised and the condition agreed upon was that those appointed should refund the £30 from their remuneration of £18 per tax collector. Mr. Ahatty, Mr. Akpolile and 8 others, who desired appointment, were duly recommended and appointed. At the end of the tax period, the ten men did not fulfill the condition and they were replaced in the following year. Mr. Ahatty grew annoyed and re-acted. He was alleged to have resolved to ruin the economy of the Urhobo people. He therefore tutored the Yoruba cocoa farm owners to revise and tighten the system of hire of cocoa farms. Trouble then began.
Ahatty approached “
the cocoa trouble was mounting, Hon. J. E. Otobo, then a cabinet Minister in
the Western Nigeria Government,
Mr. Ahatty’s machinations, a malicious case was brought against one Wilson
Ebuakeke in the magistrate Court,
The Ikire people concluded by appealing to the
President-General to find a remedy for all the social and economic ills of
Urhobo people in the district. That it was only such a remedy that would help
to re-organise the Urhobo, strengthen the
this time, it was already clear to the President-General that he could not
possibly visit the two branches (Ago-Owu and
as Mrs. Salubi was proceeding, Mr. Isaac Ahatty was seen riding by. In the
cause of conversation, Mr. Ahatty stated that the President-General was not
being expected at
As for Ago-Owu, Mr. Ahatty advised the President-General not to go. He saw the leading Urhobo man of the place some time in the day. He told him that he did not want to be visited. Since no letter or direct message to that effect came from the Ago-Owu people, the President-General decided to take a chance.
Accompanied again by Mr. Samuel J. Oghenede, the Hon. Secretary, Ikire branch, the President-General and his party left Ikire at 6.50 p.m. for Ago-Owu which is 14 miles off Aponmu. The road, though not good, was not as bad as the Ikire-Adeyinka road.
Monday, 8th June, 1964: AGO-OWU
The party arrived at 8 p.m. There was no Urhobo man seen anywhere. Upon enquiry, the road to residence of the supposed leader was rocky and undulated. It ran through a deep valley of a stream on the top of a hill where there was a village called Oke-Odo. The distance was probably about a mile. The Under-Secretary and Mr. Oghenede walked through the ups and downs of the rocky road until at last they found the so-called Urhobo leader in his house.
In the meantime, the President-General, who went slowly carefully with the car as far as he could on the bad road, borrowed a chair and sat in some one’s verandah, watching eagerly for the “heralds” return.
The “leader” admitted receiving a copy of the itinerary of the tour and added that when the convened a meeting for the purpose of organising a reception against the visit, the people jeered at him. They alleged that he was making a personal effort so as to impose his leadership upon them. In view, therefore, of this their reaction, he abandoned summoning further meetings. This “leader” refused to see the President-General when suggestion to that effect was made by the Under-General. Thus ended the off-chance journey to Ago-Owu.
party arrived at Ikire at 9. 50 p.m. and proceeded with the journey to
8.30am.m., the Under-Secretary went out to arrange the date for
Tuesday, 9th June, 1964:
bidding the Constable goodbye, the party set off for Apapa (
Tuesday, 9th June, 1964: APAPA
party arrived Yaba (
there, the party drove straight to No. 29A,
the opening prayers by Mr. O.C. Akanike, the Spokesman, the leading members of
the branch were introduced. The usual drinks and £2. 2/- were presented. This
was followed by a well worded Welcome Address. In the Address, reference was
made to stiff opposition which the branch experienced before its formal
inauguration on 3rd October, 1959. The Address also touched the magnificent
role which Urhobo played to bring about the creation of the Midwest Region, the
alleged division within the
While the drinks were being served, a group of Uvwie women staged “Love” dance in honour of the occasion and to the enjoyment of about 150 people present.
In his response, the President-General congratulated the branch for its achievements. He paid special tributes to the President, a very energetic young man. In strong terms, the President-General condemned the spirit which animated the Reformation Movement.
Fortunately, he said, the Movement had since died out. As regards to other demands, the President-General said that wherever possible, the machinery of the Union, no less than his position as a legislator, would always be used to ensure that Urhobo land was provided with such essential services as names in the Address.
The Under-Secretary then addressed the branch particularly in regard to the rejection of the 1964 Almanac because the branch’s photograph was not selected for inclusion in it. He condemned this kind of attitude and eventually appealed to the branch to be broad-minded by accepting the Almanac.
Owing to a heavy downpour, the function (mainly singing and dancing by now) was shifted from the open courtyard to the sitting room of Chief Okoloba. And so merriment continued till 10.30 p.m. when the gathering happily dispersed.
Wednesday, 10th June, 1964: IKEJA
At the request of Lagos branch, the President-General and his entourage removed from No. 29A Salami Street, Olodi, Apapa, to No. 364, Herbert Macaulay Road, Yaba – the house of Mr. and Mrs. Bryden referred to earlier on.
meeting for the day was at the
Introduction of the protem officers was followed by presentation of drinks, kola-nuts, cigarettes and the sum of £5.5/-. The next item was a speech by Mr. Duku, the Spokesman. Mr. Duku, on behalf of the new branch, welcomed the President-General and his entourage, paid glowing tributes to the sterling qualities of the august visitor and recounted some of his many achievements for the Urhobo people. That the tour of the President-General came up so soon after the formation of their branch, concluded Mr. Duku, was a sure and happy augury for the future of the branch.
his response to the speech, the President-General congratulated
Subject to ratification by the Central Executive Committee, the President-General seized the opportunity to accord formal recognition to the new branch which he described as one of “the two bouncing babies” delivered into the family since the commencement of his tour. He was happy to welcome the branch to the family and wish it a most prosperous life.
Thursday, 11th June, 1964:
repair at Ile-Ife to the exhaust pipe of the big car was not altogether
satisfactory and so the car has to be taken out for further repairs to ensure
uninterrupted journey to
before Shagamu however the exhaust pipe began to give trouble. As we pulled by
the roadside, to attend to it, a lorry from the opposite direction stopped
immediately before us. In it was an Urhobo, Mr. Moses Akatakpo, from Okitipupa.
He wanted to know what our trouble was. At the end of the conversation, the
President-General gave him a message to Okitipupa that he would be there on
Sunday, 14th June. As nothing could be done, immediately by the roadside, the
car had to be managed to a mechanic’s place at Shagamu where the exhaust pipe
was tightened and tied up with a wire rope. As soon as the party arrived at
stoppage before and at Shagamu had caused a delay of about 2 hours to the
scheduled time of arrival at
However, the receptions began at 5.30p.m. with about 250 people in attendance. After prayer by Mr. I. E. Ahatty (same Ahatty of Ikire fame), Mr. Brown Edohworhu, the President of the branch, made an opening speech. This was followed by a Welcome Address read by Mr. Oduaran and presented together with drinks and the sum of £5. 5/-.
In the Address, reference was made to education, efficiency of the present secretariat, Urhobo citizenship in Warri Township, pipe-lining Ughelli oil to the East, the U.P.U. Hall, and, lastly, to the present disunity among Urhobo leaders.
his reply, the President-General thanked the members of the branch, indeed the
Urhobo Community of
a more serious vein, the President-General referred to the unhappy plight of
Urhobo people in Ikire district. He recalled the disturbing allegations made
President-General now turned to specific points in the Address making
explanations, where necessary, as to what had already been done. As there had
been misleading rumours about split in the
President-General denied most emphatically that there was disintegration of any
kind in the
the arising of party political differences, a few members who were disgruntled,
and who would not like to associate with the President-General, for reasons
personal and best known to them, kept away from the
The rest of the reception was devoted to general merriment and dancing until it was brought to a close at 8.30 p.m.
after the function, the President-General and his entourage set off for
Mr. Bryden was still at work, the car that was brought from
The Under-Secretary at once made for the nearest Police Station where contact was made with the Motor Traffic Unit at Ijora. A constable (N. ALABA No. 2784) later came along and investigated. That was how that day ended itself!
Friday, 12th June, 1964:
day was intended to be a free day; but the accident on the car had raised a new
and unexpected problem. In the morning, the owner-driver involved in the
accident arrived. Alas! He was Mr. I. M. A. Fadina, formerly one of the
Sanitary Inspectors under the President-General at the Health Office,
Saturday, 13th June, 1964:
to the itinerary, the meeting with
4.50 p.m., it was all set at the Cool Cats Inn,
organization of the reception itself in the gardens of the
And what about the people’s mood? The place was packed full and any one who was anybody in Lagos-Urhobo world was there. There was spree, there was sprite!
the arrival of the President-General with his entourage, and with everybody
standing, the Urhobo song -“URHOBO JEVWE” – which had virtually become Urhobo
National Anthem, was solemnly rendered. After the President-General and his
entourage had been conducted to their seats, prayer was said by Chief J. O.
Akpoche, erstwhile President, now Patron, of the branch. Then followed
introduction of the Officers of the branch, the representatives of clans, and other
local leaders, including leading Urhobo women of
chairmen made an opening speech after which a Welcome Address beautifully set
in an album was read by the Honorary Secretary, Mr. M. P. Okumagba. Mrs. T.
Fofah, wife of the President of the branch, graciously presented, on behalf of
The President-General then made what had been
described in some quarters as a marathon speech in his reply to the Welcome
Address. Mr. Okumagba, the Honorary Secretary, said that he had estimated that
the President-General’s speech would take two hours. And co-incidentally, the
speech took two hours and a few minutes. As at
President-General on behalf of himself and his touring team congratulated and
The historic function was brought to a close at 7.30p.m. One of the many photographs taken at the function was published in the Morning Post.
Sunday, 14th June, 1964: OKITIPUPA
Just before noon, the President-General accompanied by Mrs. Salubi and the Under-Secretary, set off for Okitipupa, arriving at 5.50 p.m. Again, Okitipupa was not quite ready. They got the message through Mr. Moses Akatakpo, but they were not certain of the hour of arrival.
Within a short period however, a strong team of Urhobo women dancers had been mustered. The procession came to Chief Abaide’s house from where the President-General and his entourage were led to the Central Hotel for reception. The attendance was very heavy.
Following opening prayers and introduction of the local leaders, a group photograph was taken. The usual drinks and the sum of £3. 3/- were presented and accepted.
J. E Abaide, former President of the
The next speaker was Mr. Ambrose Adjile, the Otota (Spokesman) of Urhobo people in Okitipupa. Mr. Adjile had a point to clarify. He had heard it being said that their failure to meet the President-General during his first visit was due to some three reasons. The first was said to be due to disrespect to the President-General because of his party political leanings with the M.D.E., the second, the visit of Dr. M. I. Okpara, National President of N.C.N.C., which coincided with the date on which the President-General first arrived Okitipupa, and third, the inactivity of the branch itself.
Mr. Adjile denied emphatically that any of the three reasons was responsible. The reason of their previous failure had to do their sending a telegram to advise police ban on dancing, procession and public gathering in the area. Whatever criticisms any one might have to make against the President-General, one fact about him remained forever true, and that was that he was a tried and proved patriot who had worked for many years in the interest and well-being of Urhobo people everywhere. Even if it were only on that account, they (the people of Okitipupa) could not imagine his visiting Okitipupa without according him a most fitting reception. And no Urhobo befitting welcome was complete without the booming of guns, processing and dancing. And yet those were the very things prohibited by the Police ban! That was why, he concluded, they advised cancellation of the visit.
his response, the president General assured the audience that he accepted the
explanation without any reservation. In a more serious mood, the
President-General delved into the history of the formation of the Okitipupa
branch. The late Chief W. E. Mowarin, who was a distinct member of
Having regard to the large number of Urhobo people in the Ikale country, the length of their domicile in the area, and also to the fact that Okitipupa was the headquarters of the Ikale country, there was no reason at all why there should not be a strong, virile and vigilant branch there to safeguard Urhobo interests.
The President-General told his audience that he left home fully cognizant of the fact that Okitipupa had been defunct for many years now. One of the principal objects of his tour, he declared, was to revive inactive, moribund and even defunct branches. What report could he give on returning home? That when he got to Okitipupa he was very generously entertained but that the branch was defunct, and that he was unable to do anything about it!! Who would award him any credit for such a report?!! He therefore suggested that the remedy for the situation must be found that might and at that gathering. Okitipupa branch must be re-established, declared the President-General.
The President-General remarked that he understood that the Okitipupa Urhobo were a strong active people in party politics. However, he admonished them to ensure that party politics did not rend them in twain, especially in an issue or issues affecting the overall interests of Urhobo as a whole. In conclusion, the President-General thanked the people for their warm reception and generosity.
this stage, the Chairman invited Mr. Peter Arhere to speak. Mr. Arhere
associated himself with previous speakers in thanking the President-General for
his visit which was a great honour to all of them. He made the point that it
was true that at one stage the U.P.U. in Okitipupa became weak. But that it was
not that weakness that “killed” the
next person called upon to speak was Mr. Gregory A. Akpede. Mr. Akpede
disclosed that he was the Honorary Secretary when the branch died off. He felt
ashamed to say this because no one likes his name to be associated with
anything evil. He would like to disclose further that since the “death” of the Union,
Chief J. E. Abaide had been constantly requesting him to do something so that
While agreeing with others that the branch be re-established, yet he felt that the matter be brought before a full meeting of the local residents after the President-General had gone. In this connection, he would like to say in advance that, if and when re-established, he would not be in a position to hold office purely because of his present business commitments. He however assured the President-General and all present of his full mora1 and financial support.
At this juncture, the Under-Secretary suggested that since all the speakers agreed on re-establishing the branch, a formal resolution to do so should be taken and then, a small committee to implement the resolution set up. Following this sensible suggestion, the Chairman called for a resolution that he branch be re-established. When put to the gathering, the resolution was unanimously carried amidst applause. The following were appointed to constitute the committee that was to work in order to give effect to the resolution. Chief J. E. Abaide, Mr. Peter Arhere, Mr. Gregory Akpede and Mr. Ambrose Adjile.
complaint made by Okitipupa people was that their children had no chance of
The rest of the time was devoted to singing and dancing by the women, later joined by the men. The occasion was eventually brought to a close at 8.30 p.m. after the closing prayer.
After a most sumptuous dinner at Chief Abaide’s house, the guests were billeted at different places for the night. The President-General and his wife were allocated to Mr. O. A. Odjurhe where they had a most comfortable night.
Monday, 15th June, 1964
At 10.am., the President-General and party accompanied by Chief Abaide, Gregory Akpede, Mr. Odjurhe and others, paid a courtesy call on Chief J. Safeyini Olayeye, the Petu of Idepe, member of the Senate. The Ahaba of Ajagba who was absent when visited at Ajagba was met here with his brother Chief. Chief Olayeye was pleased to meet, for the first time, the President-General about whom he had heard and read so much. He must confess, he said, that the President-General’s fame was by far “greater” then this person. He had thought that the person called Salubi would be a very, very big man physically speaking. However it was enough that he was so big in fame, reputation and moral caliber!
The Ikale people and the Urhobo immigrants of the Ikale country had lived together for many years. As human beings, there were times when they quarrelled, but it was true to say that, on the whole, they had lived happily together. He was particularly impressed by the visit of the President-General to meet his people. Not many people in the President-General’s position could find the time to devote to the object that brought him there. The President-General was a great man and his goodwill visit to his people was an unmistakable indication of his greatness.
a souvenir, the Chief presented a white, beaded-handle horse-tail (ujujo)
to the President-General with the sum of £1. 1/-. After a short speech in which
the Chief’s kind generosity was duly acknowledged, the visitors bade goodbye.
Upon getting to main road, the President-General and party said goodbye to
Chief Abaide and others. The homeward journey began at once. There being no
hitch at all on the way, the President-General and party arrived home (Ovu)
safely at 4.50p.m. The Under-Secretary was then taken to Warri. And here then
ends the account of this interesting and historic tour of the branches of the
Urhobo Progress Union in Mid-Western Nigeria,
1 In the 1964 General Election into the Midwestern House of Assembly, Chief T. E. A. Salubi’s opponent was Mr. Mitaire Unurhoro, a prominent Okpara lawyer who lost to Chief Salubi. Mr. Unurhoro later became a distinguished judge of Bendel State High Court. – Peter Ekeh, Editor.