Meet Your Heroes,
Chief Samuel Jereton Mariere was the first Governor of the then newly created Mid Western region in 1964. Again he was the very first Chancellor of the University Of Lagos when the school was established in 1962 and who now has a Student Hall named after him – obviously in recognition of his significant contribution to the institution. Before then, Chief Mukoro Mowoe as early as 1946 was elected member for Warri province in the first Western Nigeria Assembly in 1946.
He founded the Urhobo College Effurun in 1948, an institution which was a citadel of learning for all language groups in the country. The UPU founded in 1931, is one of the oldest national political movements in Africa. It is the only one of the pre-independence national associations in Nigeria that has survived intact till date.
The UPU has fostered a proud tradition of fearless and famous leaders including Mr. Omorohwovo Okoro, Chief Mukoro Mowoe, Chief John .A. Okpodu, Chief Jabin Obahor, Chief Thompson Edogbeji Atkins Salubi, Dr. Frederick Esiri, Chief James Okpoko Edewor, General David Akpode Ejoor, Chief Benjamin Okumagba,Chief Felix Ibru, Gen. Patrick Newton Aziza, Chief Engr. Jeo Omene (JP) and incumbent Olorogun Moses Taiga.
The Urhobos were the first nation in West Africa to stage a major revolt to protest the British imposition of head tax (Osa Uyo Vwin) when the scheme was introduced in 1927.
The Urhobos campaigned vigorously for the creation of the Mid western Region and this came into being in 1963 following a plebiscite in which all the Urhobo divisions recorded 100 percent “yes” vote.
Urhobo land host the largest groves of oil palm and rubber in Nigeria. The oldest and largest rubber estate in Nigeria is the one established in 1905 by the Miller Brothers of Liverpool, United Kingdom. Being an industrious and determined people, the Urhobos developed the most advanced traditional technology for the exploitation and processing of oil palm and its derivatives. The climbing rig (efi) and the refinery vessel (oko) invented by the Urhobo qualify for a Nobel prize in science…
• The Ibru organisation with 25 companies was once the most gigantic business conglomerates in Africa, with lucrative tentacles spread across land, sea and air enterprises…
• Bruce Onobrakpeya, Africa’s foremost visual artist, is quintessentially Urhobo. His works are patronised by the Pope, Monarchs, dukes, and oil sheikhs in all continents…
• Professor J. P. Clark, the Nigerian post laureate is maternally Urhobo and his poetic and dramatic works explore the diverse resources of Urhobo Folklore and tropical environment…
• Ben Okri, author of the prize-winning The Famished Road (1991) is also Urhobo. His prolific output covering fiction and essays are a treasure of Urhobo philosophy, ontology, folk narratives and poetics.
Professor Tanure Ojaide and Professor Isidore Okpewho are both poets and literary scholars. Hope Eghagha and Ben Omonode’s output in the genres of poetry and drama is note worthy.
The Urhobos have fostered the most dynamic tradition of popular music in Nigeria outside of the Yoruba area. Recall the crooning voice of Sally Young and Oliver Gbagi. Who can forget the idiomatic density of the songs of Omokomoko Osokpra, Ogute Ottan and the Aladja duets of Udjabor Okololo and Juju Debala.
The stars of Urhobo poet musicians include J. C. Ogbiniki, Stephen Ofuah, Johnson Adjan, Lucky Okwe, and Nathaniel Oruma. Mike Okri, Miss Ese Agesse, Gloria and Elvina Ibru, Emma Grey and Chris Okotie are in a class of their own.
Pastor Musician Chris Okotie is the first Nigerian in that profession to gun for the prestigious office of the president of Nigeria (2003). (That’s how ambitious and daring we can be).
Today Kefee (A.K.A branama) and Sammy Okposo are gospel musicians in a class of their own.
They have been worthy ambassadors of the Urhobo nation and a model for upcoming generations. These are the people we must emulate.
The competitive fields of sports have many outstanding Urhobos. One of the Scots – Emuakpor was king of the sprints and field events in Nigeria for many years. Tony Urhobo, now an athletics coach, was Nigeria’s champion of pole vault for many years. Thompson Usiyen, now in the United States was the best goal scorer of his time in the 1980s. Wilson Oruma captained the world conquering U-17 youth team to Japan in 1993 and is still making waves in Europe. Victor Ikpeba, Christain Obodo, the Sodje brothers, and a host of many others have all made their marks on Nigeria’s soccer history. Sensational gazelle of the golden tracks, Endurance Ojokolo is one of the greatest gifts of womanhood the Urhobos have given to Africa and the world. Same as the now reigning Blessing Okagbare.
Patrick Okpomo who passed on at 60 recently was one of the most respected sports administrators of his era. He was a former secretary of the Nigerian Football Association.
In terms of academic achievements, the first Urhobo university-trained graduate M. G. Ejaife, was produced as early as 1946 and the first Ph.D holder in 1964. When the University College, (now University of Ibadan) was opened in 1946, V. E. Ovie-Whiskey (now a retired justice) was among its pioneer students.
Although, the first Urhobo Professor, Frank Ukoli, now an Emeritus Professor at Ibadan was appointed as late as 1973, the Urhobos now have the highest density of professors per square kilometre outside the Yoruba States. Four Urhobo academics have been vice chancellors of Universities, namely, Philip Kuale, Frank Ukoli, Andrew Onokerhoraye, and Uvie Igun.
Moved by the proverbial Urhobo love of adventure, the late Justice Ayo Irikefe went to the United Kingdom through an unconventional route, obtained a law degree and became Nigeria’s Chief Justice. The late Dr. Rex Akpofure from Kokori was the first non-European to be the principal of King’s College, Lagos, founded in 1909.
In terms of Federal appointments:
• Justice Ovie Whiskey was chairman of the Federal Electoral Commission in 1983.
• Chief Patrick Bolokor and Dr. E.J Sohwo were appointed as ministers in President Shehu Shagari’s regime in 1979-83.
• Chief Ray Inije was Ambassador to the Philippines in 1999-2003.
• The first full-fledged Federal minister was Professor Sam Egite Oyovbaire who headed the ministry of information under Babangida’s military regime in 1991-92.
• Under the military dispensation,David Ejoor was first Military Governor of Midwestern State in 1966-67 and Chief of the Army in the early 1970s. Gen Patrick Aziza was Minister of Communications under General Sani Abacha while General Felix Muja Kperuo was Commander of the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG).
• Several Urhobo military officers including General Eghagha, Ajobena and Dominic Oneya made it to the rank of state administrators and governors.
What is more?
• In April 2004, the first Urhobo International Art Exhibition was hosted by the Museums of African Art in New York. Under the theme: Where Gods and Mortals Meet. The exhibition was curated by Professor Perkins Foss (alias Oyibo-Edjo) and it has launched the arts of the Urhobo into global acclaim and appreciation. The New York Exhibition heralds a new phase of focused intellectual appraisal of the Urhobo and their match of civilization.
• In 1948, the late Chief Yamu Numa of Ughelli published his Urhobo: The Pride of a Nation. In 1982, that is 34 years later, Professor Onigu Otite edited, The Urhobo People, the first authoritative history of the nation. A revised and enlarged edition was published in 2003. In 2001, Edward Osubele brought out the first comprehensive dictionary of Urhobo language.
Building on the examples of the publishers of Eta Urhobo Magazine in 1990, Mr. Ogbemure Imene started The Urhobo Voice in 1997 – a newspaper which is gaining in popularity. At about the same time, Mr. George Nutasia Ugen opened Radio Jeremi, a private radio in Effurun near where the late Chief A. T. Rerri of Oghara had his G.E.S College, which taught electronics and manufactured musical discs in the 1960s.
• The U.S-based Urhobo Historical Society (UHS) Co-ordinated by Professor Peter Ekeh has held several successful conferences in America and Europe…
- The present DVC academic of Delta state University, prof Mrs Rose Aziza the first female PhD holder in Urhobo language.
Prof. Jackson OMENE is one of the greatest Prof. in Paediatrics who recently retired in USA. He was one time Dean of the College of Medicine UNIBEN before moving on to NEW YORK.
- Engr. Godwin Omene is a successful First-class Mining Engineer from Imperial College UK. He’s the 1st black African to rise to the top echelon of the Deutsch Oil company Shell Petroleum.
• Urhobo land hosts the Warri-Effurun Industrial and Commercial Complex, the fastest growing emerging markets in West Africa. Effurun already manifests the signs of a future Manhattan of the Nigeria Delta…
• …Infact, 90 per cent of the exotic hotels and resorts in Delta State are sited in Urhobo towns.
These include Peemos Place (Warri and Sapele), Midwest Inn, Protea Hotel, Wellington hotel, Turf Abraka Club, Gordon Resort, Hotel Excel, Motel Oceania, Casa de Pedro, Idama Hotel, Maxim Lotus, Mega Hilton, Goshen Hotel, Fountain Hotel (Sapele), Amena Hotels and Resorts (Oghara), Abraka River Resort/Motel, and The Abraka Polo Turf. The Ibru centre in Agbarha-Otor has a tourist grandeur comparable to the Basilica in Rome.
Crefit: Prof. Gabriel Dara Eddie Muhehe OO Oritsekpabo