Urhobo Historical Society
AN ADDRESS BY CHIEF JAMES ONANEFE IBORI, GOVERNOR OF DELTA STATE, NIGERIA, 
TO 
URHOBO TRADITIONAL RULERS AND LEADERS OF THOUGHT AT THE PTI CONFERENCE HALL, EFFURUN 
October 4, 2000

Your Honour, the Deputy Governor of Delta State,
Distinguished Members of the National Assembly,
Hon. Members of the Delta State House Of Assembly,
Hon. Commissioners,
Chief of Staff, Government House,
Special Advisers, Permanent Secretaries and other Top Government Functionaries, here present,
Chairmen, Ughelli North, and South, Ethiope West and East Okpe, Uvwie, Udu and Sapele Local Govt. Councils,
Your Royal Highnesses,
Party Leaders and Leaders of Thought,
Respected Chiefs,
Gentlemen of the Press,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
 
 

1. I have invited you here today to exchange ideas I have invited you here today to exchange ideas with you on a number of issues in the hope that in the end, the good rapport between you and my administration, will usher in more peace and development in the State.

2. But first permit me to welcome you very warmly to this forum. Let me also thank you immensely for the show of love, encouragement and solidarity which informed the Grand Civic reception which the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) hosted in my honour on Saturday 24th June, this year. My family and I shall continue to appreciate your deep feelings of brotherly love and mutual understanding expressed through the joyous occasion. There is no way that I can sufficiently reciprocate that gesture of filial love than to reaffirm that I shall not let you down.

3. I shall at no time take for granted your wonderful co-operation and support for my administration's programmes merely because you readily gave me your support and mandate to rule. Be assured today that your unbridled support for my administration shall always be appreciated and reciprocated.

4. When I offered myself for service, I was very sure that with the guidance of God and the support and co-operation of all Deltans, I could turn around the fortunes of our State and people. I have always believed in the capacity of Deltans, big or small, high or low for hard work. That has been made manifest in the months since my assumption of office.

5. However, such capacity for hard work must be channelled positively in our quest for the rapid development of the State. It is for that reason that I like to appeal to all Deltans to adopt a new attitude towards our brothers and sisters of other ethnic groups. The time has come for ethnic groups in the State to put aside any feelings of mutual distrust, suspicion, cynicism and antagonism that had characterized inter-ethnic relations in the State. When we disagree, let it be purely on the basis of principles rather than being motivated by primordial sentiments. I have no doubt that you will very eagerly create for my administration the enabling environment to touch your lives and restore laughter into the homes of Deltans wherever they may be.

6. It is indeed regrettable that in our State, our people continue to project themselves as a people in perpetual war amongst themselves. We dwell more on the things that divide us, than on those things that unite us as a people. No government in the State has escaped the unnecessary pressure of ethnic tension and suspicion which has become the hallmark of politics in Delta State. I am not convinced that the plurality of the State can be accepted anymore as a cogent reason for this retrogressive character trait. I am convinced that there are certainly more dignifying ways of protecting and pursuing sectional interests without ridiculing our leaders. I urge you not to join in the affray of inciting the people against government.

7. As my people, I must challenge you today to renew your commitment to the ideals of unity and peaceful co-existence in our dear State. I enjoin you to always seek peace through dialogue. Those representing you in government did not put themselves there. You gave them the mandate to be there. This is the reason why I have continued to appeal to you to give our elected representatives and indeed any constituted authority in the State the due respects. Each time we resort to unorthodox methods of attracting attention to ourselves, we merely drag the hands of the clock back. Let us therefore employ dialogue and the power of persuasion in reconciling conflicting partisan interests. Let us learn to demonstrate high-level tolerance and moderation in reacting to any given situation.

8. Violence has never been known to bring about any good. Rather, violence begets more violence and in the process lives are lost, property destroyed and development inhibited. Indeed, there is no alternative to peaceful approach to issues. I am not impressed therefore with recent threat to peace among borderline communities in Ughelli North, Patani and Bomadi Local Government Areas of the State. I trust that as community leaders you will use your advantaged position to discourage our youths from responding to threats of insurgency from any other group in the State.

9. There is no gainsaying the fact that Delta State has not been fairly treated in many aspects of our national life. The slow and unimpressive development of the State since its creation nine years ago rubs on all its constituent parts, including Urhobo people. This sorry state of affairs is of great concern to us as a government. Certainly, this ought not to be the lot of Delta State which is blessed with abundant human and material resources. Sadly, however, instead of addressing these developmental issues from a common perspective, Deltans have chosen to be at each other's throat, spoiling for a fight or war at every opportunity.

10. I am sad at the poor state of our roads, inter-city, intra-city and community access roads. I am concerned about the crippling effects of poor telecommunication services and electricity supply in our State. I am not impressed by the deplorable conditions of educational and health institutions. I am pained by the gravity of unemployment and poverty among our people. In all these, our people have not benefited commensurately from the Federal Government. In spite of our enormous contribution to the national economy, the Federal Roads and other projects in the State remain largely unattended to. Deltans should rather join hands to pressurize the Federal Government through constitutional means to arrest this state of neglect instead of attacking themselves to the delight of outsiders. These issues are weighty enough to tempt our people to take to the streets but you have not done so. I am proud that you have consistently demonstrated true maturity in handling these matters. We shall continue to press on the Federal Government to take more positive action on the reactivation of the Delta Steel Company, Ovwian-Aladja which was once our pride.

11. At the State level, I can assure you that several steps are already being taken to redress the problems of infrastructural decay in our schools, hospitals as well as the rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads in the State. I must however, appeal to our people to understand that in view of the widespread under development of the entire State, there is absolute need to be patient so that equity and fairplay can be applied in the distribution of development projects across the State. No doubt, the Urhobo people will not be left out in the development plans of this administration.

12. Your Royal Highnesses, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is appropriate that I use the opportunity of this forum to address the worrisome issue of petroleum pipelines vandalisation in the State. It is painful that our people have had to suffer all kinds of repercussions due to the presence of oil in our land. The incidence of vandalisation and sometimes sabotage to oil well installations in the State has attracted diverse negative consequences and attention to Urhobo nation in recent times. In the last two years, the frequency of occurrences of these incidents is disturbing. The memory remains sordid, indeed better forgotten. But how do you forget those gruesome images of our sons and daughters burnt and twisted into grotesque figures? How do you forget the trauma and the agony which such incidents have caused our people? How do you forget that our villages are now suddenly no longer safe due to the imposition of security agents who ordinarily have no business with villagers. It is true that our people are the victims. We have a duty therefore to save our women, children and old from the present embarrassment by exposing those criminal stranger elements in our midst from their diabolical intrusion in our land.

13. While we are at this forum, we should also use the opportunity to address the issue of youth restiveness in the State. This 'disease' which now manifests itself in our schools, universities, and motor parks, also finds expression in the increased number of violent crimes in our society. Neither Democracy nor Poverty is an excuse for criminality. In my early life, I was brought up to recognise that the Urhobo are a decent and proud people who would neither beg, steal nor prostitute to earn a living. Unfortunately, our youths today have not imbibed these cherished cultural values which were sources of pride to our people.

14. I must say that it behoves our traditional rulers and leaders of thought as custodians of our tradition to accept the challenge of redirecting and channeling the energies of our youths to more productive and worthy causes and ventures. From my experience, the issue of youth restiveness is at present a global problem, which transcends the advent of democracy or presence of unemployment and poverty in our society. Conscious of this menace, both Federal and State Governments are seriously working to fashion out programmes, which will positively sensitize our youths on the ethics of good citizenship and equip them with vocational skills to enable them earn decent living. It is my hope that our local governments and community leaders will also accept the challenge and come up with practical suggestions on how to stamp out this malaise in our national life.

15. Furthermore, I have during the course of this consultation across the State been confronted by various complaints over the inability of the local government councils to relate cordially with our royal fathers, especially over the implementation of the Traditional Rulers stipend recently approved by the State Government. I urge all concerned to do what is right and proper in the circumstance.

16. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I am confident that the Urhobo people are not lacking of men with ideas and the clout to assist in moving the State forward. I urge you to join hands with my government by putting aside apathy, indifference and any divisive tendency in the polity. The issue of the oil derivation revenue must not be allowed to create any cleavages between our people and any other group. My administration is committed to the judicious and equitably utilization of the revenue to bring about concrete development in the State.

17. Finally, you should be confident because the Urhobo people have elected the right caliber of representatives who can be trusted to articulate and protect their interest at all levels of government in this country. Therefore, it is important for you to channel your grievances and suggestions through them to government.

18. Permit me at this point to recognise the positive contributions of the Hon. Deputy Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Pius Ewherido and other State Legislators, including Hon Festus Agas, Hon. E. G. Ighomena, Hon. Gordon Okpako Hon. Ejaife Odebala, Hon. A. S. Emeyese, Hon. Efe A. Afe (Chief Whip) for the success achieved by this administration so far. Equally commendable are the contributions of our representatives at the National Assembly; Senator (Chief) Fred Brume and House of Representative Members, Hon. (Dr.) Emmanuel Aguriavwodo, Hon. Gabriel Dumi and Barrister Halims Agoda. I like to also commend the efforts of the following officers, Chief Ighoyota Amori, Professor Amos Utuama, Mr. Tom Amioku and Chief. David Edevbie. Also deserving of mention are the contributions of Mr. Gamaliel Onosode and other members of the Think Tank, the Secretary to the State Government, Engr. James Erhuero, the Chief of Staff Government House, Chief Francis Agboro as well as Chairman of the Primary Education Board, Chief Efe Akpobi; Chief Moses Odibo,Chairman Delta Building Society Ltd; Surveyor Terry Noah, Director General, Direct Labour Agency; and a host other government officials as well as the Chairmen of the eight local government councils in Urhobo land. I appeal to you not to distance yourself from the activities of this government. I will at all times welcome constructive input from you.

19. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, once more, I thank you for the relative peace in the land. For this I must commend all our Royal Fathers, the President General of the UPU, Chief Benjamin Okumagba and other executive members of our great Union for their understanding and support for me and my administration.

20. In conclusion, I am pleased and appreciative that you found time to be present at this consultative forum. It is my sincere hope that you will use this opportunity to make meaningful contributions, which will further guide government to move the State forward.

21. Thank you and God Bless.

Office of the Governor
Government House, Asaba
4th October, 2000.



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