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BY J. O. S. AYOMIKE
Member, Itsekiri Leaders' Forum
BRITISH IMPERIALISM IN
Colonial "Treaties of Protection" With Urhobo Communities in "Warri District"
By Peter Ekeh
The State University of New York at Buffalo
Chairman, Urhobo Historical
The above-named document is among the batch of papers recently prepared by Professor Peter Ekeh, an erudite scholar based in the U.S. The two-paged work is an “editor’s introduction” to treaties referenced in a paper titled “Urhobo and the Nigerian Federation: Whither Nigeria?” that Professor Ekeh delivered at the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun, Nigeria on October 27, 2001. Along with its attached treaties, it instantly struck my attention as it did produce the chief concern of those who had sent it to me for clarification. I commend Prof. Ekeh for the main paper that discusses Nigeria's political evolution and the place of its constituent nationalities. Its theme, for sure, does not have to detain me for it does not focus on any particular ethnic nationality. Since the two-page work with the treaty attachments is intended to interpret Urhobo-Itsekiri relations in the 1890s up to Chief Dore Numa's era, it is only fair that I state the Itsekiri side to edify and enrich scholarship. Thus the two sides will be at the bar of public opinion.
I am a little hard on Prof. Ekeh for two reasons: (i) a scholarly work such as this should bear no sentiments. Both sides have to be dug out, assessed before some conclusions are reached. He does not seem to me to have done so. Thus in pushing the Itsekiri side, I have emphasized issues that I think Prof. Ekeh has deliberately ignored, overlooked or distorted, and (ii) someone of Prof. Ekeh's standing from his vantage position in Buffalo, who is seen from here as a teacher of "absolute truth", should not promote divisive ideas that could incite people to worthless ends. Here I will concentrate on the 'Treaty Paper', push Itsekiri documents, interpret them as best as I can and make my deductions. This is good to put the records straight for posterity.
I gave the draft of this work to Chief Isaac O. Jemide. For his contributions, I thank him. However, I bear full responsibility for this work in case it degenerates to altercations.
The following Treaties are attached to Professor Ekeh’s paper. (Use of quotes by Prof. Ekeh as against absence of quotes in the official Documents):
(i) Treaty with the Chiefs of Asagba in "Warri
dated December 6, 1892 and enclosed as No. 1 in Dispatch No. 46 to
on November 30, 1894.
(ii) Treaty with the Chiefs of Toree (Ekpan) in "Warri District" dated February 25, 1893 and enclosed as No. 2 as above to London on November 30, 1894.
(iii) Treaty with the Chiefs of Ajebha (Ejeba) in "Warri District" dated March 7, 1893 and enclosed as No. 4 as above to London on November 30, 1894.
(iv) Treaty with the Chiefs of Agbassa in "Warri District" dated March 14, 1893 and enclosed as No. 5 as above to London on November 30, 1894.
(v) Treaty with the Chiefs of Oboodoo (Obodo) in "Warri District" dated March 30, 1893 and enclosed as No. 8 as above to London on November 30, 1894.
(vi) Treaty with the Chiefs of Ogoolu (Ogunu) in "Warri District" dated March 30, 1893 and enclosed as No. 7 as above to London on November 30, 1894.
(vii) Treaty with the Chiefs of Oagbi Sobo (Ogbe Sobo) in "Warri District" dated August 16, 1893 and enclosed as No. 11 as above to London on November 30, 1894. (Prof. Ekeh misleadingly leaves out Sobo from Oagbi in his own title).
Benin and Warri Districts
These seven treaties entered into over a period of nine months (December 1892 - August 1893) in "Warri District" were not dispatched to London until November 30, 1894, the day Chief Nanna's Trials began in Calabar- a delay of nearly 2 years. Could it be true, as said within the Nanna family that Nanna, an Itsekiri/Effurun man frowned on the "Agbassa Treaty"? The name "Warri District" for the administrative area did not just fall from heaven with the signing of the Urhobo treaties. It had been in formal existence from 1891 when the Niger Coast Protectorate was created and the other district to the west was Benin District. These were the only two districts then in what we may now call western half of Delta Province. This explains why Prof. Obaro Ikime has said at page 21 of his Chief Dogho of Warri: "...It was now possible to station (two) Vice-Consuls in the Itsekiri country... In 1891, one such Vice-Consul was stationed at a point now near the UAC premises in Warri. Another was stationed... along the Benin River".
What was known as Benin District, under a vice-consul, comprised all the country around and between Sapele and Warri (see this definition in The Benin Massacre by Capt. Alan Boisragon, Methuen & Co. London 1897,page 45) and the boundary between it and Warri District was the Escravos River (see Mac Donald's Report, August 1891, to the Earl of Kimberley: FO2/63 dated 19 August, 1894). Warri District covered the area between Escravos River and the Forcados River-boundary of the Royal Niger Company Limited.
The provisional boundary of the Royal Niger Company
ran along Forcados River to Ganagana and Kiagbodo (all within the
area); then by a straight line to and across Ethiope River – putting
Kokori, Eku, etc, etc, within the R.N. Company's area and leaving the
Urhobo communities of Jeremi, Obodo, Ukan, Kakprame, Adeje, etc, within
the Warri District.
Who Owns Warri?
Against the background clarified above, i.e. the existence then of only two districts in what may today be called western half of Delta Province and the R.N.C. on the other bigger half which then encompassed most of today's Eastern Urhobo, Isoko, Aboh and Ijoh lands, Prof. Ekeh's argument of Urhobo of "Warri District" being owners of Warri will fall flat either as a misleading flight from truth at best, or an outright fiction at the worst.
In an apparent, spirit of scholarship he attaches the following Itsekiri Treaties but distorts their titles:
(i) Treaty with Chiefs of Jakri (Itsekiri) 1884. (Prof. Obaro Ikime, the great Nigerian historian has it as Appendix II in his Merchant Prince of the Niger Delta, Heinemann Educational Books Ltd., London 1968, thus: Treaty with Chiefs of Itsekiri land, 1884: FO93/6/10). But hurting scholarship, Prof. Ekeh has deliberately titled it (to mislead?) British Treaty with Itsekiri of Benin River, July 16, 1884.
There is no Treaty with such a title in the British Archives! Whereas he attaches the correct treaty he gives a wrong title in his work to mislead.
(ii) Treaty with Chiefs of Benin River and Jekeri Country of August 2, 1894. (A certified true copy No. FO2/63 in inclosure 129 dated August 2, 1894 obtained in London bears the same title). But again for reasons best known only to the Professor, he gives this false title: British Treaty with Itsekiri of Benin River, August 2, 1894. There was no such Treaty! Additionally, signatories to the Treaty of 1894 that replaced the botched one of 1884, rejected by the Itsekiri leaders because of its Articles vi and vii, included not only leaders from Benin River but also from Warri, e.g. Okorofiangbe, Omatsola, Ogbe and Egbegbe, within Itsekiri country.
But apparently to strengthen his false argument erected on sentiment, he writes: "...that in the 1890s the British regarded Warri as Urhobo Country. ... treaties reproduced above in these pages were uniformly branded by the British as treaties with "Sobo" Communities in the "District of Warri". By contrast, the early imperial treaties between the British and the Itsekiri recognized the lands of the Itsekiri as lying in the "Benin River". Not true!
He has, as shown above, falsely transposed 'Benin River' on the two Itsekiri Treaties. A reasoning and discerning person, not even steeped in scholarship, judging his statement against the facts already elucidated above will see through the hollowness of the baseless argument designed only to mislead the unwary. How did these treaties make Warri Urhobo-land because they were done within "Warri District" of 1891? Sapele District was created before the Ebrohimi War of 1894, Benin District phased out and its area administered from Sapele. Do the Itsekiri of Koko, Jakpa or Ogheye today own Sapele? Do all these Urhobo communities, not of Agbassa pedigree, including Ekpan, Obodo, Asagba and Ogbe Sobo, claim joint ownership of Warri because their treaties show them as being within Warri District? The answer to this question is important, because none of these close-by Urhobo communities has ever claimed ownership of Warri save the Agbassa group whose claim failed in the Privy Council in 1933. How on earth did the British regard Warri as Urhoboland in the 1890s on the basis of treaties done within Warri District? Is it scholarship to transpose Benin River on the Itsekiri treaties where it does not exist as shown above?
A one-sided scholarship, completely overshadowed by ethnic subjectivity is dangerous. I wonder whether as chairman of the Urhobo Historical Society, it is out of place for him to also assess such other facts about Warri. Prof. Obaro Ikime in his Merchant Prince of the Niger Delta at page 69 says: "The Consul-General (Sir Claude Macdonald) visited Warri on August 19, 1891. He reported that the Chiefs of Warri were Itsekiri who were under Nana - the great middleman chief of Benin (District)" (Italics mine for emphasis).
None of the said Urhobo treaties had been made by this time when the Consul-General visited Itsekiri leaders in Warri. Some Itsekiri leaders present at this meeting included Awani, Popo, Okorofiangbe, Pessu, Ogbe, Egbe, Okoromadu, Omatsola, etc. No Urhobo leader was around during the visit.
This same Consul-General and Commissioner for the Niger Coast Protectorate in his report FO2/63 covering the years 1891-1894 to the Earl of Kimberley said of Warri:
"Warri, a trading settlement of considerable importance, is situated some 40 miles up the Forcados River... Warri itself is the ancient Chief town of the Jekri people (the middlemen and traders of this past of the protectorate); the Jekris are, judging from their language, an offshoot of the Yoruba people... the town of Warri itself is the usual collection of native huts, but is held in considerable veneration by the Jekri people".
This report was forwarded to London after these Urhobo treaties were made. And in a cablegram dated October 2, 1894 (Consular Despatch No. XIIJ8094), after the Urhobo treaties had been made but not yet sent to London, Ralph Moor, Ag. Consul-General, said:
"Niger Company, taking advantage of troubles in
(District) have sent armed party under Flint and McTargart representing
themselves as Queen's Officers, into Sobo country, at the BACK of Benin
(District) and Warri (District) making treaties... imperative
treaties be at once declared invalid. Benin and Warri being the
OUTLETS for trade of Sobo country.” (Capital blocks mine for emphasis).
Warri as Itsekiri Homeland
Is it not basically hollow to suggest that certain Urhobo communities close to Warri own the city just because they had their treaties with the British made within the "Warri District" administered from Warri? What about Itsekiri communities like Orugbo, Inorin, Ode-Itsekiri, Ugbowangue, Usele, Ifie, Omadino, etc., etc., administered as well from Warri?
While the Professor, no doubt, will concede that Warri is a mutation of the Itsekiri name of Iwere (spelt Oery, Awyri, Warree, Aweri, Wari, etc, etc, over the years), Itsekiri have been the only Nigerian ethnic group to identify their clubs or societies using Warri in this mode: Warri National Union, Warri League, Warri Ladies' Vanguard and Warri Progressive Society. No other ethnic group does it. Warri kingdom is the same as Itsekiri kingdom. As an academic, he is familiar with Ethnographic maps of Nigeria. Warri and Itsekiri have over the decades been used interchangeably to describe Itsekiri homeland. A few key ones will be cited as examples:
i. Prof. Onigu Otite's Ethnographic Map of Bendel
ii. Collins Map of Nigeria Ethnic groups.
iii. Prof. P. C. Lloyd's Map of Itsekiri Country, 1957.
iv. Prof. Obaro Ikime's map of Itsekiri Country, 1968.
v. Prof. J. C. Anene's Coast City-States, 1885-1906.
vi. John Anderson's West African States and Peoples in 1800.
vii. G. T. Stride and C. Ifeka's Benin in 1550.
viii. Prof. J. F. Ade Ajayi's The Delta States and their Neighbours.
ix. Major Arthur Glyn Leonard; Southern Nigeria Map, 1906.
We may now go farther to examine older maps drawn by foreigners when Warri as Itsekiri country - before the palm produce era in the mid-19th century - had trade and missionary contacts with medieval Europe.
i. A Paris map of West Africa in 1679 that shows
ii. A Dutch map of West Africa in 1705 that shows Warri as Awyri.
iii. A London map of Negroland in 1747 that shows Warri as Aweri.
iv. A Library of Congress map of West Africa in 1851 that shows Warri as Warree.
v. A Paris map of West Africa in 1828 that shows Warri as Owyhere
vi. A map of Africa among other Continental maps in the main hall of (President Thomas Jefferson’s residence), Monticello, Charlottesville, Virgina shows Warri as Warre.
(Documents cited in i, iii, iv and v above were obtained from the Library of Congress, Washington, DC)
Finally, on this issue of "Warri District" in the Niger Coast Protectorate - before 1900 when the Lagos Colony and the Niger Coast Protectorate were merged to become Southern Nigeria - I will repeat that the Western half of the then Delta Province had only two districts from 1891 to 1893: Warri District and Benin District. Sapele district was created following the crisis in Benin District and effectively replaced it.
In the Southern Nigeria Civil Service Handbook of 1904, this was said of Warri District. "The natives belong to the Ijaw and Sobo tribes with a small but influential settlement of Jekris."
Yes, the enlarged Warri District of 1904 comprised Urhobo Communities up to Ughelli and beyond. Included also were Isoko lands and parts of Ijaw lands now freed from the Royal Niger Company, whose charter had then been abrogated in 1900, and the few influential Itsekiri settlements around, and close to, Warri. The bulk of Itsekiri country was then under the Sapele District of 1904 (Benin District having "died") plus most of Urhobo land on the Ethiope to Okpara and Igun, etc. The Kwale District of 1904 had Kwale lands and Urhobo lands of Abraka and Orogun. Forcados District of 1904 covered Ijaw lands plus Ugborodo (Itsekiri). Up to this time, 1904, ethnic groups were still largely being lumped together in the search for a system of local governance. It is quite understandable therefore, that the Itsekiri in Warri and its immediate environs could only be described as a "small but influential settlement of Itsekiri" amongst the various relatively larger communities of eastern Urhobo, Isoko, Kwale, Burutu and Bomadi areas, all of which were then in the Warri District with only a small part of Itsekiri country.
It is amazing that Professor Ekeh, a man of learning and chairman of Urhobo Historical Society could selfishly close his eyes to the numerous historical recordings which put it beyond doubt that Warri, as an Itsekiri state, homeland and kingdom, is synonymous and interchangeable with the Itsekiri, but certainly not with the Urhobo.
A few of such recordings will suffice for the purpose of this paper:
(i) In Professor Alan Ryder's book Benin and the Europeans- 1485-1897 at page 108 thereof, the following appears: "A. S. C. Scritture Originali Vol. 249 F.328, many varieties of the spelling of Iwere, appear in European documents. In the twentieth century English Version - Warri has become the most common and will be used in future for the kingdom of Itsekiri." (Underlining mine for emphasis).
(ii) Michael Crowder's book, The Story of Nigeria, at page 88, thereof, the following is recorded: "The last of the great slave ports was the Itsekiri State of Warri, which according to both Benin and Itsekiri traditions was founded towards the end of the 15th century by a Benin Prince."
(iii) In the Cambridge History of Africa, Vol. 4 Edited by Richard Gray, Professor of History, University of London, the following appears at page 227 - 8: "By the eighteenth century, Warri is to be considered an independent Itsekiri Political State, comprising also of a few Urhobo and Ijo."
(iv) In the 2002 Catholic Directory and Liturgical Calendar, published by the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, and writing under the caption, the Catholic Church in Nigeria - A brief History, the following statement, occurs, inter-alia: "Warri had a flourishing Christian community at the Olu's Court. Many Warri rulers, from the 16th century were confessing Christians. A son of such ruler was even sent to train as a priest in Portugal as the Portuguese felt that Africans might be best missionaries to themselves."
It must be obvious to Professor Ekeh that the phrases "Olu's Court" and "Many Warri Rulers" could only refer to the Itsekiri, and most certainly not the Urhobo, as the Urhobo neither had an Olu nor a court nor a ruler in Warri in the 16th Century.
How does Professor Ekeh, with the greatest of respect to him, reconcile the above historical statements, listed as (i) - (iv), with his newly found treaties (doctored by him as to their titles), which, according to him make Urhobo "own" Warri?
With the 1914 Amalgamation, the British Indirect Rule system was introduced, and the whole area, later known as Warri Province- now encompassing the spheres of influence of the defunct Niger Coast Protectorate and the Royal Niger Company- came to be ruled as one judicial, administrative and political unit from Warri. The other ethnic groups: Urhobo, Kwale, Ijaw and Isoko, quite understandably, opposed being grouped together for fear of Itsekiri domination, Itsekiri having being much longer exposed to British presence, a presence now being enforced from Warri their home base.
Following researches into ethnicity and Clan system in 1929-1931, Intelligence Reports, compiled by British Administrative officers, led to the dismantling of the unified structure and establishment of Native Administration based on homeland concept. A Warri Division (later, Warri Local Government Area) was established in Itsekiri homeland. Then Western and Eastern Urhobo divisions were created, and the Isoko, asserting their non-Urhobo identity, fought for, and got, their Isoko Division created from Eastern Urhobo Division. Thus, homeland concept, founded on the WRLN No. 176 of 1955, has remained the basis of local government creation in this part of Nigeria.
Court judgment in favor of Itsekiri
Totally abandoning objective judgment and honest scholarship in thin air, Prof. Ekeh writes: "The Itsekiri have sought to reap benefits from the largesse and corruption that the British bestowed on the Itsekiri chieftain, Dore Numa, by ignoring the treaties and by resting on subsequent corrupt court judgment in favor of Dore Numa..."
Earlier he had written as follows: "Yet, a few short years later, the British appointed their own political Agent, Chief Dore Numa, who surreptitiously leased Urhobo lands to the British in the absence of those with whom they entered into agreement in the 1890s.”
It was Thomas Jefferson, once an American President, who said: "Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong".
Put simply, it is better to make suggestions to one who is ignorant than to one who has deliberately decided to stick to what is wrong. This is how I see the Professor's position. Yet I would pose these questions to him:
How would someone on the high chair of Urhobo Historical Society- amassing historical documents on Urhobo- fail to acknowledge, or totally ignore, the diary record of the visit of Sir Claude Macdonald, the Consul-General to Warri on August 19, 1891 as recorded by (Prof.) Obaro Ikime in his book Merchant Prince of the Niger Delta at page 69 (already quoted above)? Then, there were no Urhobo treaties in "Warri District"!
How would one joke with a High court judgment by a British judge in 1927; sanctioned by a British three-judge panel at the Full (now Supreme) Court in 1929 and confirmed at the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, London in 1933 ? Corrupt? Corrupt?? Was Judge Jackson corrupt on the Sapele judgment in 1941 when he held that Sapele land belonged to the Okpe (Urhobo) people?
How would he ignore Agbamu's evidence (an Urhobo Ekpan-Effurun man) that Itsekiri, and not Agbassa, owned Warri?
Why would the Professor not accept the evidence of Agbassa Urhobo leader, Ikpuri, based in Ejeba, that Itsekiri, and not Agbassa, owned Warri?
Why would Prof. Ekeh not accept the Statement of Claim by the Agbassa in 1926 that ran thus: "It is claimed that as far back as over a hundred years ago the plaintiffs' ancestors settled on the land in dispute." (Italics mine, for emphasis).
How would he in such a high office not take notice of the following findings by Justice Webber?
"... Agbassa over hundred years ago (i.e. before 1926) came from Agbassa Otor and settled in Agbassa village (Warri)"
"... I am satisfied on the evidence... that when the Agbassa came to Warri they were given permission by Olu of Jekris to settle."
How would Prof. Ekeh ignore John W. Hubbard's book: The Sobo of the Niger Delta, Gaskiya Corp., Zaria, 1948, at p. 7 that says:
"A migration occurred probably in the 18th century from a Sobo town, Agbarha Otor about 23 miles east of Warri... (they) crossed the Warri River and by negotiation with the Jekri obtained land from them, built a village of their own which they named after their home town Agbarha (Agbassa). This is now one of the quarters in Warri."
How would the Professor on the high chair of his great Society not open up to all facts (sweet or bitter) about Warri so that he can make conclusions not tainted by sentiments and primordial instincts?
Has Prof. Ekeh not laid hands on Capt. E. A. Miller's Intelligence Report on Oghara (1929) to learn Agbassa position vis-a-vis Warri?
Has Prof. Ekeh honestly not read Sir Alan Burn's History of Nigeria at page 75 that gives account of the King of Warri who lived in 1644? Or A. F. C. Ryder in his work Missionary Activity in the Kingdom of Warri to the Early 19th Century, in collaboration with the six-man editorial board headed by the legendary Dr. Kenneth O. Dike, at page 14 which says "in 1685 the Olu of Warri had again petitioned the King of Portugal to send missionaries"? Or Prof. P. C. Lloyd who at page 209 of his work, “The Itsekiri in the Nineteenth Century: An Outline of Social History, Journal of African History, IV, 2: 207-231,” wrote "In 1800 the Itsekiri Kingdom of Warri in the North Western corner of the Niger Delta had a highly centralised government?" Or Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who wrote in the West African Pilot in 1940 in support of the title of Olu of Warri because of its antiquity. And many, many more the Professor has conveniently ignored or overlooked.
Why must Prof. Ekeh continue from his high position in faraway Buffalo in New York State to abuse the rule of law in Nigeria?
Why can we not preach that (we) "live and let's live"? What portion of the lands do we carry away at death?
Has Prof. Ekeh advised on total utilization of all Urhobo lands outside Warri?
Or is Professor Ekeh just posturing to earn praise
the gullible that he is really the chairman of Urhobo Historical
The treaties in "Warri District"
Granted, the Urhobo treaties had the effect of conveying titles, but the series of events that occurred within Agbassa community after the signing would be enough in a proper setting for a change of mind: Lease of Agbassa land by Chief Dore in 1911 to the British after surveys. Justice T. D. Maxwell in his ruling on Agbassa claim for compensation asserted:
"...No explanation has been given me as to why there has been a delay of 17 years in preferring it."
And the Appeal Court found:
"...With regard to these leases, the plaintiffs explain their acquiescence by saying that they know nothing about them. But this explanation is not credible. Warri is a restricted area of solid ground enclosed by mangrove swamp and creeks. It is impossible that the extensive building operations of a permanent nature could be carried on over a period of years in such an area without the knowledge of those who claim to be the overlords of the land and were actually living on the area..."
An Ekpan Chief Agbamu and an Ejeba (Agbassa) leader, Ikpuri all testified against Agbassa.
Then the Privy Council in London confirmed Chief Dore Numa (Itsekiri) claim. Apart from the Privy Council decision, several other aspects and areas of Agbassa land claims have in recent times, since Independence in 1960, gone through some dozen other decisions in our courts of the land: High courts and Supreme court.
Local important Agbassa (Urhobo) Chieftains
Jack Etsaghara, Chief Agaga Agbaisi, Odeli Ofoluwa, etc., have
in favor of the Itsekiri against their Agbassa people . Can any
be more credible than all these facts? Is there anything
In the main paper Prof. Ekeh commended some Urhobo leaders who through the Union of Niger Delta States Forum are fostering unity in the Niger Delta. Many Itsekiri leaders, including me, belong to this body that is led by a very important Urhobo chief. We are all working for peace and unity in the Niger Delta region. It is appropriate to tell this side-joke here: last October I was on the Itsekiri delegation to the 3-day meeting of the UNDS in Calabar, Cross-River State. Some three friends from two of the Eastern States with whom I discussed the future of the body raised the issue of the chairman, an Urhobo, about whom, to their surprise, I spoke fondly and sincerely. Given what they always heard, read and thought about the bitterness between Urhobo and Itsekiri, one opined that he, an Annang, a minority group, had his fears about him from the majority Urhobo group. I closed the discourse by assuring them that most leaders from both Urhobo and Itsekiri were already moving away from the divisive forces and closing gaps between them. I quoted Boris Yeltson to them: "There can be no democratic society when the interests of any minority are not protected." Most Urhobo leaders here are realizing this fact. They need Itsekiri, not the false negative stance of Prof. Ekeh. Itsekiri need their political space to work with the Urhobo.
Prof. Ekeh should not be seen to be approbating and reprobating in one breath. This is the time to talk and promote unity between Urhobo and Itsekiri. Not time to distort documents, and misinform and promote fiction. Not time to celebrate negativism. His thought-provoking argument in the main paper on the natural rights and the inviolability of the sovereignty of the ethnic nationalities that together constitute the Nigerian nation should apply to Itsekiri in their own political space as other groups.
About five weeks ago, an Urhobo friend accompanied my wife and I to attend a funeral service in Asaba. We took the Agbor road, and on our way back passed through Ughelli road. About half an hour from Ogwashuku I told my friend we would soon be leaving behind us Western Ibo country. Then as we crossed a bridge we saw the signboard bearing Ndokwa (Kwale). As we traversed their land, I said we would later get into Isoko homeland. There we were shortly after Otagba-Ogbe (Obetim); we saw the signpost ushering us into Isoko land. We were now heading towards Urhoboland as we cruised along.
After Owhe and Iyede we read the signpost welcoming us to Ughelli, in Urhobo country. Some thirty minutes later as we drove past the Warri Refinery I told my friend it was only Itsekiri who had no homeland to drive through. He blushed and answered: "there is strong feeling among most Urhobo leaders that we have to accept the court decisions on Warri and live with them as Itsekiri have done in Sapele to have harmony and peace".
My wife who had listened throughout these discussions thanked him and hoped for this idea to materialize soon. May be Prof. Ekeh is too far away in New York to appreciate this. The Urhobo claim to be the 5th or 6th largest tribe in Nigeria. It is time for them to have a legitimate shot at the Presidency of Nigeria but after winning Itsekiri on their side. For as long as they leave the Itsekiri bug on their neck they cannot move forward. This is what they do not deserve in the 21st century - Itsekiri bug! Nothing less. Many, many people want peace in Warri, but only a few talk about the INJUSTICE in the Warri situation. Only JUSTICE begets peace.
Friday, February 16, 2002