On Sunday, prominent Okpe leaders began the drive to establish Okpe as a distinct ethnic group in Nigeria.
‘’ The Okpe Union is adamant that Okpe is Okpe and not a sub-group or clan of any other ethnic group. Udogun Okpe’s letter is an example of someone biting his nose to spite his face. The Okpe Kingdom has been mocked around the world as a result of the Udogun Okpe letter.”
Last week, a pamphlet produced by the Udogun-Okpe made various false allegations disparaging the Okpe Union’s letter to Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, on June 22, 2021, demanding the recognition of Okpe as a unique ethnic entity.
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However, major officials in Okpe Kingdom reaffirmed Okpe Union’s commitment to the fight for Okpe’s reinstatement and recognition as an unique ethnic group on Sunday.
‘’The NEC read the Udogun Okpe open letter to the Governor with amazement, disbelief, and disappointment as such a poorly drafted document, which featured various statements intended to pit some Okpe people against others, is alleged to have come from Okpe’s highest traditional authority.”
The Okpe Union pledged to intensify its sensitization activities in Okpe Nation regarding the fact that Okpe is a distinct ethnic nationality, as well as the benefits of recognising Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality, in a communiqué issued following the national executive council’s emergency meeting on July 15 and 17, 2021.
‘’NEC would maintain contact with His Excellency, Senator Dr. Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa’s government and the Delta State House of Assembly in order to reassert and recognise Okpe as a unique ethnic nationality. The leaders claimed, “Achieving Okpe Identity is a vital historical purpose of the Okpe Union.”
Professor Igho Natufe, the Okpe Union’s President General, and Barrister Akpederin Kingsley, the union’s General Secretary, urged the Okpe traditional ruler to reconcile his current position with the position he brilliantly espoused in defence of Okpe identity in his Keynote Address at the Okpe Union of North America’s 3rd AGM on September 1, 2007, in College Park, MD, USA.
“Your initiatives have greatly aided in positively defining, sustaining, and advancing the place as well as Okpe’s involvement in the Nigerian national community.”
Okpe Kingdom was described as a “distinct ethnic nationality” by the Okpe ruler.
‘’Okpe is a unique ethnic ethnicity in Nigeria, located in the centre senatorial district of Delta State. Its origins can be traced back to ancient history, culture, customs, and language. The Okpe people’s historical record is conclusive. The Okpe people are Delta State’s most numerous monolithic ethnic nationality. Our people trace their ancestors back to the Bini Kingdom. Most other ethnic nationalities in the Western Niger Delta have had a similar historical experience. Okpe history, language, custom, and culture, on the other hand, are more similar to those of Bini, who speak the Edo group of languages.”
The Okpe leaders pointed out that the authors of the Udogun Okpe rebuttal are clearly unaware of the advantages of recognising Okpe as a unique ethnic nationality.
‘’The Okpe people will take pride of position in the comity of ethnic nations in Delta State and Nigeria right away, since the myth that Okpe belongs to another ethnicity will be buried forever. The Okpe Nation, as an ethnic nationality that owns exclusively at least two local government areas in Delta State, will be instantly recognised by DESOPADEC and will be entitled to an exclusive Commissioner and Executive Director, just like our Delta State oil-producing neighbours. The benefits include a direct budget for the area, particular slots for various empowerment initiatives and policies, like as bursary awards for Okpe students, which they now share with Urhobo students under blatant discrimination, and numerous other direct allocations.’
The Union went on to state that “the development and teaching of Okpe language in all schools in Okpeland and beyond can produce instant employment for Okpe language teachers in the same way that other fully recognised ethnicities currently benefit”
The Union said that the Okpe language will have a role in public broadcasting, including radio and television, as well as interpretation in churches and other public locations.
‘’Okpe music, traditional masters of ceremonies, and orators will thrive, creating additional jobs in the area. The survival of the Okpe language will be aided by the growth of the language, which will also improve literary advantages in the academics of Okpe children, as African languages have been shown to have a significant impact on the arts in general. The increase in self-esteem that the acknowledgement of Okpe ethnicity will bring to Okpe nationals is incalculable. Self-esteem is a prerequisite for success in business, politics, and a variety of other fields. In terms of politics, Okpe will become a recognised bloc that will be negotiated with on its own terms, with all cards on the table objectively and fairly. The Okpe people’s identity crisis, which has plagued them since colonial times because they have refused to accept the burden of a false identity, will finally be lifted from their shoulders”.
The Okpe Union was registered to function with an unambiguous constitution, according to the enraged Okpe leaders.
‘’The Okpe Union holds the Orodje of Okpe Kingdom in the highest regard. The Udogun Okpe is the apex Traditional Council of the Okpe Kingdom, according to the Okpe Union. The Okpe Union is the highest socio-cultural organisation and membership-based entity of all Okpe, with a clear constitution that allows it to function lawfully. In Okpe Nation, this function will be carried out by Okpe Union across all 13 Districts. The Okpe Union’s registered office is at No. 67 (new No. 65), Moshalashi Street, Ikoyi, Lagos. The Okpe Union owns this secretariat building, known as “Okpe House,” in Obalende, Lagos, and the fact that it is the Okpe Union’s registered office can be validated with the Corporate Affairs Commission. True, the Union had agreed in principle to construct a suitable headquarters in Okpeland, but this is still a work in progress.”
“The dissolution decree of October 3, 2020, is a breach of the sacred history of unbroken democratic transition in the Okpe Union in its over 91(ninety-one) years of existence, as well as an unconstitutional action by the Orodje to convert the Okpe Union into an administrative arm of the Palace,” the Okpe Union leaders declared.
‘’HRM, Orhue 1, the Orodje of Okpe Kingdom’s putative dissolution of the democratically elected leadership of the Okpe Union on October 3, 2020, and preventing NEC members from competing elective seats is extra vires and a violation of the Okpe Union Constitution.”
‘’As a legal organisation, the mechanism for dissolving or removing any elected official of the Okpe Union, as well as the election of a National Executive Council, is explicitly laid out in the Union’s constitution. As a result, any action taken by an individual or group of individuals to remove or dissolve the democratically elected Okpe Union leadership outside of the requirements of its Constitution is null and invalid.”
The attempt to resurrect the dead concept of kings’ divine rights was condemned by the union.
The leaders praised the courage of members of the Okpe Union from all over the country, whose delegates met in the Union’s General Assembly on November 14, 2020, and resolved to reject the Orodje’s decree of October 3, 2020, in favour of democratic elections.
‘’The Okpe Union recognises that the elected Okpe Union National Executive Council, led by Prof. Igho Natufe, elected at the Okpe Union General Assembly on May 15, 2021, and the purported nine-man interim regime imposed by the Orodje on October 3, 2020, do not have the authority or legitimacy to speak on behalf of the Okpe Union and the Okpe Nation. It is a sham of democratic practise and an illegal entity. It’s worth noting that only two of the nine people in the interim group are members of the Okpe Union. As a result, it is a device unknown to the Okpe Union”.
The Okpe Union’s democratically elected leadership, which emerged at its General Assembly, has both historical and legitimate rights to speak on behalf of the Okpe Union and the Okpe Nation, according to the union.
‘’On the 13th of July 2021, the capacity of the Okpe Union to speak on behalf of the Okpe people was clearly acknowledged in an open letter to the Governor of Delta State written for Orhue I, Orodje of Okpe, and the Udogun Okpe.”
‘’It is necessary for the Okpe public and friends of the nation to know that for over six months from the date of the Orodje’s decree on October 3, 2020, the Okpe Union elected leadership has sought mediated ways out of the differences, all of which have been rebuffed by the palace,” the union leaders continued.
‘’The Okpe Union has played and continues to play critical roles in the growth and development of the Okpe Kingdom since its founding on May 16th, 1930. The Okpe Union’s fearless and selfless agitations and leadership were largely responsible for the restoration of the Okpe Monarchy in 1945, after nearly 200 years of interregnum. The Okpe Union thus gave birth to the modern Okpe Monarchy. Since 1945, the Okpe Union has operated as a separate entity from all Orodjes’ administrative control. Okpe Kingdom has benefited greatly from this separation of powers”.
The leaders affirmed that ‘’the Orodje and the Udogun Okpe are not the ultimate authority to decide the fate of the Okpe people, without consulting the Okpe Agbamua-eni (Okpe People’s Assembly) which comprises the Udogun Okpe, representatives of all Okpe communities, and the Okpe Union’’.
‘’We remind the Orodje of the efforts of the Okpe Union in getting Nigerian post-secondary institutions to recognize Okpe students associations in their respective campuses. We hate to contemplate the difficulties and setbacks the letter of Udogun Okpe of July 13, 2021, is going to cause to our children’’.
The leaders eulogized the founding fathers of the Okpe Union for raising the Okpe Kingdom to an enviable height. ‘’The Okpe Union reaffirms its selfless services to the Okpe people and Okpe Nation as it has done over the decades with some notable successes which include the prosecution of landmark cases to retain the ownership of Sapele and other areas of Okpeland; the sponsorship of several Okpe sons overseas with Okpe Union scholarships, and the launching of the fund-raising process which saw the building of the modern Orodje of Okpe Palace, Orerokpe’’.
The leaders appealed to all members of Okpe Union and Okpe people the world over to be calm and law abiding as the vision of the founding fathers of the Okpe Nation for a stable and constitutionally limited monarchy which serves only the interests of the Okpe Nation shall never be extinguished’’.