Where are the ‘white’ Urhobo?
Recently, somebody took me on in an Urhobo-matters-only social media platform. My offence: I posted a link of interviews in two national newspapers where Olorogun Moses Taiga was referred to as the President General of Urhobo Progress Union. He ranted about how I referred to an “Ijaw man” as PG of the Urhobo Nation. I was both amused and angry; I only posted newspaper interviews which referred to Taiga as UPU PG, why attack me instead of the newspapers from where I got the posts? In any case, I “confessed” to this Taiga’s traducer that I am one of the believers in Olorogun Taiga’s presidency of UPU; in fact, I was involved ab initio.
All through the UPU elections campaign period, opponents of Taiga used the “Ijaw man” tag as a campaign tool, which is normal in (political) warfare: all is fair and square. The elections are over (though elections matters in Nigeria always end up in court and, not surprising, that is where they are now), but the “Ijaw man” tag reared its head again a few days ago and that got me thinking. May be the Urhobo Nation needs to hold a “national” summit to determine who qualifies to be called an Urhobo man.
With Americans, it is straight-forward. If a single drop of black blood is established in your lineage, even if you are as white as snow, you are black. Among our Ijaw and Itsekiri neighbours, anybody who fights their cause and has their blood, even if mixed, not forgetting relationship by marriage, is one of them ( I must confess that I admire this paradigm). That is why Chief E. K. Clark is today the foremost Ijaw leader, even though his mother was Urhobo. The late Justice Franklin Atake was a prominent Itsekiri man, even though his father was from Orogun in Urhobo land.
But in Urhobo land, who qualifies to be called an Urhobo man is amoebic: a matter of convenience, personal ambition and dirty politics. Taiga became President General of Olomu Kingdom (in Urhobo land) around 1987 and built his only country home in Okpare Olomu almost 30 years ago. All this while, he was an Urhobo man. When he now got involved in UPU politics, he suddenly became an “Ijaw man.” Surprisingly, some of those calling Taiga an Ijaw man are from the Ethiope West axis, where many Urhobos are of mixed ethnic origin. They fully embrace them as “our sons,” but Taiga whose father was at a time Okpako r’orere (oldest person in Okpare) and was buried in Okpare, is an “Ijaw man.” People with recent mixed ethnic heritage are Urhobos, meanwhile Taiga with a distant mixed heritage is an “Ijaw man.” You see the irony and double standard? Funny enough, one of the founders of Olomu Kingdom migrated from Kiagbodo (Ijaw town), while Igboze, another founding father, migrated from Benin Kingdom, so Olomu people are mainly of Ijaw and Benin ancestry.
Now, I am getting confused about where I stand. I have distant paternal and maternal ties in Isoko, which I am very proud of. In fact, I was general secretary of Isoko Students Union at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in the mid-80. Then, I spoke the language fluently and could read proceedings of meetings in Isoko, courtesy of my seven-year stay in Ozoro in the 70s when my father was a teacher there. If I have any regrets about my Isokoness today, it is that my Isoko vocabulary has suffered 80 per cent desertification over time. But I still flaunt the 20 per cent that is left. So does this my Isoko heritage take away or diminish my Urhoboness? I need answers from advocates of “Taiga is an Ijaw man.” If the Urhobo Nation is to adopt the old Caucasian policy of a drop of black blood taints, how many “white” (pure) Urhobo will be left standing?
The world is now a global village and you need inclusiveness and adaptation to grow faster. The Urhobo Nation needs to first of all glue together, then bond with her neighbours – Ijaws, Itsekiris, Isokos, etc – with whom it shares affinity and common cultural heritage. Today, Aladja (Urhobo town) and Ogbe-Ijoh (Ijaw town) are at war, but we should not be discouraged by such occurrences. It could easily have been two Urhobo towns. In any case, this war should not have lingered if Nigeria and Delta State, in particular, had strong institutions and competent political leadership.
This is no time to play some of these games of exclusiveness and it is surprising that even some of our leaders have not woken up to the new reality, or personal interest has beclouded their sense of judgment. The political wilderness the Urhobo Nation has found itself for some time now should be an enough eye opener for everybody. Now, neighbours are telling us what we ought to know. Former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, did during the 60th birthday of Chief Solomon Edojah recently. Some people at the event felt it was lip service. May be, but he spoke the truth. I would rather focus on the message and ignore the messenger. Delta State and the Niger Delta need a strong, united Urhobo Nation.
Clarity of thoughts and clarity of purpose are great attributes. The UPU matter on ground is that some people dispute how Olorogun Taiga emerged as UPU PG or even his UPU Presidency entirely. Fair enough, it is a free world and that is why we have the courts of law, which they have graciously gone to. Let the courts decide, but while the court is at work and some Urhobo patriots are also working on an out-of-court settlement, let us not becloud the matter with this “Taiga is an Ijaw man” distraction. Death has already robbed the Urhobo Nation of many great sons. Now some people want to deplete the rank of the few left by forcefully donating them to other ethnicities. Olorogun Moses Taiga is comprehensively Urhobo. Amro ma vughe.
Francis Ewherido, an insurance executive, wrote from Lagos
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