The Warri Rebirth Initiative by Senator Fred Brume
Urhobo Historical Society

  

The Warri Rebirth Initiative

 

A Keynote Address/Pep Talk at a Meeting on Sunday, 27th June 2010 at BB Hotels, Deco Road, Warri

 

By Senator (Dr.) Fred A. Brume

 

 

I.     Felicitations/Introductory Remarks

 

I am most delighted and thankful to God for you and me to be alive today, and to be here with you face to face in the centre of Warri in a hotel called BB Hotels along Deco Road, initial part of Okumagba Avenue.  In my younger days, Deco Road was in the middle of a rubber plantation, which bounded the then Hausa Quarters on one side, while the other side is now partially Igbudu Market, flanking the Warri-Sapele Road.  The name of the Hotel “BB” is an acronym for an old Warri family, BOZIMO. The patriarch of the Bozimo family was a business and river transport magnate of the era, based in Ogbe-Ijoh market, along side the Warri River.  Whether this hotel’s name “BB” stands for a scion   of the family Broderick Bozimo or whether it stands for Bozimo and Bozimo which may represent the rather successful husband and wife lawyers union of the Bozimos, with husband Broderick -- the former Federal Minister of Police Affairs) and wife Rose Bozimo, (the present Chief Judge of Delta State -- or whether “BB” simply stands for Bozimo & Bozimo in diaspora:  your guess is as good as mine!

 

Just as we had many other prominent families of Clarks/Bekederemos and Porbenis in those days of Ijaw Community of Warri, so did we have numerous illustrious families from various ethnic backgrounds living in Warriand contributing to its welfare: Okumagba, Odibo, Rewane, Dediare, Esiso, Bakpa, Oputu, Obahor, Ometan, Rerri, Sido, Emiko, Otuedor, Kagho-Omomadia, Mabiaku, Ukoli, Ako, Mowaren, Akpore, Mudiaga-Odje, Aghoghovbia, Djebah, Akpofure, Ovie-Whiskey, Idigbe, Mowoe, Owolo, Esisi, Oteri, Esiri, Pinnick, Edukugho, Pessu, Ukueku, Bivbere, Amoda, Origho, etc. etc.  Once again, I want to thank the organizers of this event, the Warri Rebirth Initiative, particularly its Interim Chairman, Mr Kes Agbosa of the Delta Steel Company, and his colleagues, who have not rested on their oars since the idea of Warri’s rebirth was born.

 

II.    Why Was Warri Such a Great Community?

 

Warri of our youth was a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious metropolis that enjoyed an enviable peace which allowed love to flow freely amongst its residents.  If you agree that God is love, then you would find Warri to be a little paradise on earth.

 

The town was complete with all the normal attributes of an urban centre.  It had a seaport which gave access to international trade, and sea-borne travelers, thus enabling it to serve as a home for the then foreign-owned big trading companies of the colonial times - such as UAC, John Holt, G.B. Ollivant, Bhojsons, Kewalrams, Kingsway, DKG; the local branches of the then major banks such as Barclays DCO, International Bank for West Africa (IBWA), African Continental Bank (ACB) etc. 

 

The Warri seaport had its complement of appropriate government parastatal offices such as NPA, Customs, Port Health Services, etc.  There was therefore an important government presence in Warri urban city which served as the headquarters of the Provincial Administration of the Warri Province, one of 24 Provinces that made up Nigeria.  The Provincial headquarters such as Warri, Benin, Ibadan and Jos for instance, were akin to a state capital of today in terms of government administrative offices. 

 

As transportation centre, there was always the possibility to travel out by sea to any part of coastal Nigeria or West Africa or overseas to any part of the world.  In addition, there was good all-weather road that led from Warri towards Benin and other Western and Northern Nigerian cities and also towards Asaba and Onitsha and the East. 

 

The Armed Forces were not present in Warri in the days of our youth (i.e. the 1950s and most of the 1960s).  No Army, no

Navy, no Air Force.  Only the Nigeria Police maintained a Divisional Office in Warri.  There was however the Okere High Prison, the thought of which was an adequate deterrence to crime.  Do people still fear Okere High Prison or has it decayed?

 

Warri was a great centre of commerce where peace and a progressive culture for all Nigerians of all age groups prevailed.  The streets were safe.  There was opportunity to partake in diverse activities, even to join the European Dance Club where different categories of Nigerians could come to learn Waltz, Quick Step, Tango and in later times, the Twist!  Most people absorbed and embraced the local culture so Warri became a metropolis where several tribes co-existed and peacefully planted, while not forgetting their ethnic origins.  The Ibos, the Yorubas and the Hausas felt at home and lived peacefully with the local ethnic groups:Urhobo, the Ijaw, Itsekiri, Isoko and Kwale [Ukuani].

 

Educationally, Warri had an enviable share of primary schools mostly missionary schools, and some post-primary schools such as the United College of Commerce and Teachers Training College.  The Warri Middle School began in the early 1940s; it later became Warri College in 1945 and was then moved in 1952 to its present location at Ughelli where it was rechristened Government College, Ughelli.  Meanwhile, many other primary and secondary schools were promoted or set up by Christian Missionary Organizations and private citizens.  Some of these included the Urhobo College, Hussey College, Essi College, the Federal Government College, Warri and Our Ladies High School, Effurun.

 

Socially, life in Warri was healthy and peaceful.  During the day time we students played games together from different primary schools, until we went to secondary schools.  We played either at the Warri Stadium or at the grounds of the Catholic School I or II or the CMS School grounds.  At night, during holidays from Secondary Schools, we had interesting and safe places to socialize and to dance to the latest highlife rhythms either at the Waferer’s Club belonging to Mrs Nkunne along Warri/Sapele Road near GRA or at Zenia Nite Club owned by Mrs Eshalomi at Cemetery Road.  The other night club occasionally visited by the more adventurous at Pessu Road was the Uvoh Nite Club which belonged to Chief Dediare, who also owned the Rex Cinema.  The other major cinema near the GRA was owned by Khalil. 

 

Students' social life in Warri was peacefully vibrant.  In my times in the 50s there were two main Students Unions in Warri, which always became very active during the holidays.  There was the Delta Students Union (DSU) which was populated largely by students from Government College, Ughelli, St Peter Claver’s College in Aghalokpe and some Urhobo College students. The Delta Students Union was made up of more gentle and reasonably well mannered students who were usually very shy with the girls.  But not so for the other Students Union which named itself the ADSU High Society.  ADSU was actually an -- acronym for “Anti-Delta Students Union, indicating the subtle competition between these two groups of students.  It was common however to find brothers from the same family joining one or the other of these students unions in Warri.  Thus, you could find Broderick Bozimo of Urhobo College at the helm of affairs at the ADSU High Society, whose members were drawn mostly from Hussey College, Urhobo College, Essi College and Okotie-Eboh Grammar School, Sapele, etc., while Henry Bozimo, his brother, of Government College, Ughelli, belonged to the Delta Students Union.   Prof. Obaro Ikime, still yet at Ibadan, was a well-known leader of DSU.As for me, I managed to find a way to be a member of the executive of  both the Delta Students Union and at the same time also of ADSU High Society, i.e. the anti-Delta Students Union!  You can therefore see why there was a healthy and peaceful competition as the unions organized different social events and invited members from the other competing students union to attend its functions.  I became a useful link of both the DSU and the ADSU in my time.

 

In the sports field, Warri was indeed a great city and Warri Stadium was one of the 3 best sports stadia in the country by the early 50s.  In the area of football, the Warri First Eleven was often in the finals or semi-finals of national football tournaments.  The present Warri Wolves being backed by Amaju Pinnick have work to do.  I remember from my earlier days such great players of Warri First Eleven as Okwudili, Sambo, Azinge, Onowhakpor and Anisha, amongst others.  Also, in the field of athletic competition amongst all secondary schools, the Warri Stadium hosted competitions and men like A.K. Amu were star runners.  It was quite often that some of us students from Government College, Ughelli, competed against fellow students from Urhobo College and Hussey College.  At that time there was yet no Federal Government College, Warri.  I do remember an occasion at the Urhobo College sports field when Justus Esiri, J.J. Akpieyi and myself engaged each other at the long jump, while Broderick Bozimo and Jerry Eghagha were doing the Shot Put. 

 

Physical violence was not in our dictionary and I remember walking on my feet safely from one end of Warri to the other even at midnight.  Indeed, I once walked at 2.00 am from the Wayfarer’s Club at Warri GRA to Ginuwa Road and through Ometan Street to Odibo Street at Lower Erejuwa Road, on a peaceful moon-lit night after an annual Christmas party of the Delta Students Union.

 

What Do We Now Need for the Warri Rebirth Initiative to Succeed in Bringing Us beyond and above the Past Glory of Warri?

 

1.     A reputable University level institution.

 

2.     The realization of the international airport at Osubi which was initially planned and surveyed in 1971/72 and included in the Federal Budget for execution since 1972/73.

 

3.     A new international standard Sports Stadium that can take traffic from Benin (in the West), Asaba (in the North) and Port Harcourt and Bayelsa (in the East).

 

4.     Promoting and Expanding usage of the Seaports at Warri and at Ovwian-Aladja (by DSC).

 

5.     Completion and operation of the railways line and service, for goods and for passengers, from the Greater Warri/Aladja/Udu areas to Ajaokuta and Itakpe.

 

6.     Realization of the Warri Industrial/Business Park and its Satellite Ovwian-Aladja Industrial Park, opposite the Delta Steel Company, as planned 20 years ago.

 

7.     Modern Dual-Carriage way road transport infrastructure within the Greater Warri metropolis and linkages to the North, East and West.

 

8.     Procurement of an Export Processing Zone for the Ovwian-Aladja Satellite Industrial Park served by the DSC Seaports at Ovwian-Aladja.

 

9.     Full development and operation of heavy industries in the Greater Warri Area covering:

 

i.            the integrated steel production plant at Ovwian-Aladja,

 

ii.          refineries and petro-chemicals, including the Carbon Black Plant at Ekpan,

 

iii.    Fertilizer Plant and Methanol Plants at the Ovwian-Aladja Satellite Industrial Park.

 

10.   Realization of a State Capital status near enough to the Greater Warri Area. (Warri being a former “Provincial Headquarters).

 

11.   The establishment of an Independent Power Plant around the Oleri River as was earlier planned by the adjacent Delta Steel Company, to serve the Steel Complex, the Satellite Ovwian-Aladja Industrial Park, and the Greater Warri Area.

 

12.   Other new international tourism facilities such as an international hotel.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Warri became a great city because it was a peaceful environment to live in, and visitors from abroad and from within Nigeria enjoyed their times here in Warri.  They left behind evidences or footprints which we some times called “African Profit” or in some cases off-springs whose parents have been from Abeokuta or Lagos, or Ekiti, Ondo, and Kogi State.  Let the old peace and love of Warri flow again so investment capital and development will also flow to the Greater Warri area with new levels of employment opportunities.  Even our retired Professors and men of knowledge will be attracted back home to contribute to the realization and enjoyment of a new Greater Warri.  Let Warri be truly reborn in our times!

 

Thanks and God’s blessings to all who have been able to attend today’s meeting of Warri Rebirth Initiative.

 

 

 

 

 

Senator (Dr) Fred A. Brume

Mercy Haven, 9 Egini Drive, DSC Township, Udu LGA







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