July 30 and 31, 2009
Petroleum Training Institute,
A Call to Service: Facing the Challenges of the 21st Century in Urhobo Affairs
An Address by Olorogun Felix Ibru
President General, Urhobo Progress
and I are blessed to be living as Urhobo men and women in the 21st
century. Our conditions may not be perfect, but they could have been much worse
if our predecessors of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s had not courageously and
valiantly planned for the upliftment of the Urhobo people so that we could live
and work on equal terms with other advanced ethnic nationalities of
will benefit from a brief review of the challenges for which Urhobo pioneering
leadership of the 1930s and 1940s proffered solutions. About a century ago,
British colonial rule was being established in
The resulting benefits of unity in Urhobo campaigns for progress are plentiful. I will cite some prime examples here.
1. First, there is the Urhobo Bible. The Christian Bible was translated into such major
Nigerian languages as Yoruba, Igbo, and
2. A second example is in the educational sphere. In the 1930s and 1940s, Urhobo leaders designed and
implemented an education scheme in order to offer mass secondary school
education to Urhobo youngsters. They taxed themselves and the Urhobo people,
raising enough funds for the training overseas of Urhobo’s first two graduates.
It was these two dedicated beneficiaries of Urhobo scholarship who returned to
Urhoboland to build the famous
3. A third historic example of the pursuit of unity by
the Urhobo people is the successful pooling together of Urhobo Clans into one
Urhobo Division during British Colonial times. In the 1920s and 1930s, many Urhobo Clans were scattered under the
following colonial Divisions outside Urhobo land: Benin Division (in
4. Our fourth example of the fruits of unity concerns the UPU and the land cases in Idjerhe, Oghara, Okpe, and Warri in the 1930s and 1940s. One danger posed by the coming of British colonialism to Urhoboland was that our lands were in danger of being poached by those who were privileged by the new circumstances of colonialism. Thanks to the united front put up by Urhobo Progress Union, attempts to poach Urhobo lands in Idjerhe, Oghara, Okpe, and Warri were rebuffed. Without that unity, Urhoboland would be much smaller than what it is today.
How Have We Used the Legacies of Urhobo Unity?
above examples are clear instances of the benefits of the pursuit of the
doctrine of Urhobo unity. Urhobo Progress Union is perhaps the largest legacy left
behind by the pioneers of the 1930s and 1940s. It is the very emblem of Urhobo
unity. It is not by accident that Urhobo Progress Union is the oldest
organization of its kind in
am aware that there have been several complaints from sincere proponents and
supporters of Urhobo Progress Union concerning many aspects of its operations.
I should remind you that the UPU is now nearly eighty years of age. Any
organization of that great age requires continual renewal of purpose. What is
clear is that the
questioning and such retooling of Urhobo Progress Union will enable the
present Urhobo Unity Summit is one such occasion. We need to delineate the
nature of the challenges of the 21st century along with suggestions
of possible solutions that can be referred back to the
Challenges of the 21st Century
The challenges that are posed to us by the new Global Age of the 21st century are different from those that our predecessors faced in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. In the early decades of the 20th century, the consequence of inactivity by an ethnic nationality was stagnation. And many groups, which relied entirely on Colonial Government’s assistance, did suffer some form of stagnation while other ethnic nationalities, like the Urhobo and Ibibio, advanced rapidly through their own efforts. The consequence of inactivity and lack of planning for the future in the 21st century is worse than stagnation. The dynamics of the 21st century are said to be so potent that those who cannot move forward will be pushed to go backwards.
Let me give two examples of the severity of the challenges of the new Global Age in our communities:
1. Global Challenges and the Digital Age. We live in a Digital Age in which those who cannot use the magical facilities of the internet will be left behind in the 20th century. Those young people who will spend majority of their lives in the 21st century will be designated as primitive if they are unexposed to the intricacies of the computer world. In many rural Urhobo communities standards are moving backwards, receding to those of the early decades of the 20th century. That is the case in many other Nigerian communities. Can we afford to wait for the Nigerian Government to wake up before we organize a response? The ultimate question for the Urhobo people is this: Is there anything we can do to ensure that our children are not left behind in the 21st century?
2. Preservation of Urhobo
Language and Culture in a Global World. A frightening danger that will
beset many cultures in Africa and
Two Gateway Projects as Response to New Challenges
It is important that these slippery issues be kept alive in our deliberations in Urhobo circles – at home in Urhoboland and in the Urhobo Diaspora, by Urhobo Progress Union and by other Urhobo organizations that work with the UPU and that are engaged in planning for Urhobo’s future. Meanwhile, it is important that we build up at least two gateway projects that will serve as the means for fighting these insidious challenges that face the Urhobo people in the 21st century.
As offered here, these are broad ideas that require to be fleshed out in greater details. I will leave those details to subsequent papers, which will follow this address, in later sessions of this Unity Summit. I am hopeful that there will be ample room for discussing these ideas and that they will be enriched with your own contributions.
Some Concluding Thoughts: A Call to Service
In making this presentation to you, my beloved Urhobo people, I am emboldened to invoke the names of our predecessors who served the Urhobo so well. That pioneering generation of Urhobos challenged themselves to serve Urhoboland and Urhobo people. They did so in order to make a better future for you and me. Let me cite their principal in this campaign for a sounder Urhobo of their future, which is what we are.
During his nation-wide tour of branches of Urhobo Progress Union in 1946, Chief Mukoro Mowoe called on his audience to offer selfless service to Urhoboland in the following immortal words:
“My belief is that every being born into the world has
a duty to perform to his people: either to the village he belongs or to the
town or country as a whole.... Frankly speaking, any one of you who should fail
to play his or her part for the upliftment of our dear tribe, it were better that
she or he had not been born.” [Mowoe told his listeners that not too long
before that meeting the British Governor had asked Nnamdi Azikiwe to suggest
names of Nigerians who would would replace the colonial officers if they were
was Chief Mukoro Mowoe’s call to service. Now standing on his shoulders, I make
bold to repeat his call as we face different challenges in a different century.
Whether you live in the
May God Bless the Urhobo People.
Olorogun Felix Ovuodoroye Ibru
July 30, 2009