The Nigerian nation: A look through Urhobo chiefs – Part 2
This is an invaluable book about Urhobo customs and indeed the origins of Urhobos. At least we now have more in print than the old writings of the intelligence reports, without which many Nigerians would know little of, about their past; so weak has historical telling of our origins have been, that we have almost our history since the cessation of the Intelligence Reports.
Sometimes I wish the government had continued the intelligence reports of the colonial government. If we had, it would be easy to find out the miscreants in the society.
Chief Uloho prospered and through his prosperity we see urhobo’s progress: His painstaking building of his businesses, from washing Lorries to travelling in Armel’s transport, the building of hotels, hostels and a prosperous estates business to which he attracted 3 of his children. You follow his painstaking brick by brick building of his business and the upliftment of his family which has prospered tremendously.
It was not all roses but what is life? It has its ups and down, a delightful story of how to be traditional, prosperous and yet be a good father, who could not even avoid in Warri the escapades of an attempted armed robbery. He outwitted the armed robbers a few years ago and fled into a nearby mechanic workshop and from there to the police station which organized a rescue and caught some of the robbers. Uloho was 84 when this happened. What a life!!!
Before all this, he learnt how to ride a bicycle monkey style: grew up in fear of the Lord, his father and was able to navigate the syncretism between African Culture and perceived Christian behavior and practices. Despite this, he was a pillar of the Anglican Church even though at his baptism, the Anglican priest asked and expected an English baptismal name like David. Uloho answered that his baptismal name was Obriko: he read the puzzle in the priests face and asked whether God discriminated against Urhobo.
Finally as a chief Lands and Suryer Director, he was a member of the special panel to look into Land Tenure in Nigeria. Unfortunately the panels’ efforts were frustrated when the Federal Government promulgated the Land Use Decree which wrongly vested all land ownership in the Federal Government which in turn could lease it out on the basis of usage. While the decree was supposed to simplify land tenure system has introduced a veritable morass of confusion in land tenure and land use in Nigeria such that the powerful could cheerfully ignore it and prospective buyers pay for the land at market prices; compare this with the system employed by the IDEJO chiefs of Lagos.
Modern and Traditional Elites- the coming together for political progress- is the academic theme in bringing together both elites to fight the colonial master’s intervention in the land tenure (see how Herbert Macaulay and the Oba of Lagos joined to fight the colonial government).
In Post-independence Nigeria, the educated elites have swallowed all the posts of the traditional elite without the perspicacity and purpose of politics- and its principal function being services for the people and not in service of the person.
Nigeria and its diversity of over 200 ethnic groups should be an inclusive model. Inclusivity has now been regarded as a modern virtue. This virtue need to be more realized. After all, we deal and inhabit one geographical centre. Yet we are more divided, more intolerant of our brothers; intolerant to the helping the poor, intolerant of divisions.
We ought to be taking a lead from the United Kingdom, which has long a history of tolerating other racial types- so much so that UK has at Indian Prime Minister, Ireland – has another Prime Minister.
Yet there is division between Itsekiri and Urhobo- subject which Uloho did not address. But tribalism in the Delta and Edo is a lot less than in many Rivers area- between Kalabari among themselves. Others have a suspicious relationship between Obonnema and Abonnema between Buguma and Gbukuma. On top of this there is division among the Bakana people in the Rivers. There is suspicion between Abonnema, Buguma and Bakana, even though all these people claim a common Ijaw ancestry. There is division and rivalry between Ikwerre Upland versus the Ijaws, who inhabit the Maritime areas. And this is reflected in the choice of Governors.
Uloho is from the oil producing areas.
The only people whose area produce the wealth of Nigeria are themselves not rich. They are as poor as the Slaves- in the US, Latin America, the Caribbean, Egypt, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Venezuela, and the US. These countries which had a major slave population, whose work produced the wealth of the nations of those states. It is interesting to note that all countries who used slaves for the growth of their economy- the slave owners and other white people who came as immigrants have prospered. There is no nation where slavery was common in which the black people of these countries have prospered; they still remain at the bottom of the economy. So we have oil in the Delta and Rivers states of Nigeria. The area has the poorest people in Nigeria. (Do not be deceived by the antics of South/South government).
Cole, Ph.D, OFR, is one time Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil.