Urhobo Progress Union Speech by Moses Taiga, President General UPU Worldwide as stated by him. My greatest pleasure to welcome every one of us to this great gathering of Urhobo sons and daughters for our Annual National Congress 2017.
I am particularly delighted to acknowledge the presence of our revered royal fathers in such a large number, which I can say without any fear of contradiction, is the highest number of our royal fathers in any one Urhobo Progress Union occasion in recent times.
I welcome and thank them immensely for their unwavering support for my Executive in particular and the wellbeing of the Urhobo nation in general. Let me also specially welcome all our brothers in Diaspora and thank God for journey mercies.
Kindly permit me to also welcome in a very special way our great, beloved and illustrious son, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, the Odidigboigbo, from his sojourn abroad.
I want to, on behalf of the Urhobo nation, formally express our gratitude to God Almighty for protecting you, saving you and bringing you back home safely.
We sincerely appreciate your immense contributions to the wellbeing of the Urhobo Progress Union and the Urhobo Nation. The UPU will roll out the drums soonest, to formally welcome you back home.
We welcome our father, hero, leader and versatile President-General, Olorogun (Gen) David Ejoor (rtd.). Sir, we thank you for your immense and legendary contributions to the Urhobo Progress Union, Urhobo Nation and Nigeria.
We, indeed, will never forget and remain grateful to him for the role he played with Gen Aguiyi Ironsi, then Head of State to ensure the survival of the UPU in 1966. We look forward to your continued leadership and advice.
I wish to extend my hand of fellowship to every son and daughter of the Urhobo nation who had any reason to disagree with my Executive or previous Executives or had remained indifferent to the affairs of our great nation, to have a rethink and join me and my Executive to move the Urhobo nation forward.
The UPU is not a personal estate or empire. It is an organization governed by rules and regulations and no individual, no matter how highly placed, can arrogate to himself powers or position that have not been conferred on him by the stakeholders.
I want to state it here categorically that the elections that brought the present Executive, led by my humble self, into office were constitutionally and properly conducted.
We were duly sworn-in by a retired Judge of the high court. By the elections of Monday, January 2, 2017, the Urhobo people spoke. Therefore, it behoves every responsible Urhobo person to respect the verdict of the people and abide by it.
As you will recall, on January 2nd this year, in my address soon after our inauguration, I outlined a programme of action to be executed in our first tenure in office. I wish to inform this gathering that we have been working assiduously to actualize every one of those programmes and I can report here today that we have made appreciable progress in this regard. Kindly permit me therefore to give a brief update on these and other achievements of this Executive in its eleven-month in office.
MUKORO MOWOE UNIVERSITY: The determination to establish an Urhobo-owned University, to be known as Mukoro Mowoe University, is borne out of the desire to cater for the large army of our children who find it difficult to gain admission into the existing universities in the country.
It is indeed very heartwarming that Uvwiamuge Community, Agbarho has graciously given the UPU additional land to site the University, and we are in the process of formalizing an agreement with the Community.
We have also appointed an erudite Scholar and University Administrator, Prof. S.W.E. Iboje to oversee the establishment of the University, and by early next year he will commence the process of applying to the relevant bodies, including National Universities Commission (NUC).
There has also been increasing demands from various Kingdoms and communities to host the University. However, for take-off site, the Okpe Kingdom, under the aegis of Okpe Leaders of Thought, has offered the site of a proposed government Polytechnic at Deghele-Elume. We have also received suggestions for the start-up of Mukoro Mowoe University College of Medicine.
MICROFINANCE BANK: This is another major programme of my Executive. Towards its actualisation, we have employed two Consultants, who have since submitted their reports and are set to appoint a third Consultant in Abuja. We have settled for the Category 2 Operating Licence, which is to set up a State-Wide Microfinance bank, which will be essentially in Urhobo areas.
The Principal Consultant has recommended that we actually set up the first Branch at 18, Okere Road, Warri, and possibly in Igbudu Market, Warri later on. We are also considering setting up in other parts of the State like Ughelli and Okpara (that axis is particularly important because beyond Abraka there is a dearth of banking facility in that axis).
As regards the name of the bank, the preferred name is Okugbe Microfinance Bank. Other suggested names are Iviesa Micro Finance bank and Imoniesa Micro Finance Bank. I am calling on this distinguished body to review the names, just as we would call on you, with time, to become shareholders. It is hoped that by April 2018, the Microfinance Bank will commence operations and it is hoped that it will greatly encourage our women in investment and trading.
URHOBO COLLEGE, EFFURUN: The result of a fact-finding visit of my team to the Urhobo College revealed a pathetic situation. Facilities at the school are inadequate, ill-equipped and/or obsolete, where available. The school is unsecured; classrooms, staff offices and quarters have been visited by robbers and other criminals. The classrooms have been turned to convenience points/toilets for unscrupulous persons, and have also become the haven for hemp smokers.
It has been reported that desks and tables in the school are used by illegal lodgers as firewood for cooking. These are very dangerous to the wellbeing of our Children whose studies are being negatively impacted by the hostile environment.
It has been reported that the Delta State Government has earmarked the school for upgrading into a model college. This is cheery news, and we immensely thank the Delta State Government for this. We are watching the development closely and want to establish the pattern and extent of intervention and transformation the State Government plans to do.
The Urhobo Progress Union will collaborate with the government on this project in ensuring the College gets the best in line with the vision of our founding fathers, and for it to get the best in terms of infrastructure, modern facilities and quality teaching.
URHOBO CULTURAL CENTRE, UVWIAMUGE: Our Cultural Centre, here in Uvwiamuge, remains an eyesore. We have carried out minor repair works in some parts of the building, and the roof.
DESOPADEC (Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission) is presently doing the fencing of the Uvwiamuge Centre and constructing the Gate House. We are also committed to upgrading the place to a modern cultural Centre befitting the status of the Urhobo Nation. We hope to soon call on your support towards getting a centre that will be a pride to the Urhobo nation.
TECHNICAL COLLEGES Our administration is concerned about the declining interest in vocational education and technical training, entrepreneurship and self-reliance, among our youths. It is the mission of this Executive to steer our youths towards technical education and training, by taking opportunity of the existing Technical Colleges in Urhobo land, namely Sapele and Ogor Technical Colleges.
We are happy to note that Sapele Technical College is enjoying renovation work by the State Government, and we use this medium to appeal to Government to make similar intervention and restoration in Ogor Technical College, Ogor for the benefit of our youths and other Nigerians in that axis and beyond.
Urhobo Progress Union will continue to preach skills acquisition, entrepreneurship, self-employment and empowerment to Urhobo youths as a way out in the face of rising poverty and high youth unemployment in Nigeria and globally.
URHOBO LANGUAGE: It is no exaggeration to say that many languages are endangered. The Urhobo Language is no exception, and the UPU wants to ensure our linguistic heritage is safe from threat of extinction and preserved for generations, and this we are pursuing with vigour. The Ehweya r’Urhobo is very much committed to this cause and is working closely with groups and individuals driving the cause of preserving the Urhobo Language.
I am happy to convey to this August gathering the successful completion and approval of the Urhobo Language Curriculum for Primary and Secondary Schools by the State Government.
By this, it is our hope that the Urhobo Language, which is being seriously threatened by lack of interest in it by the younger generation, will be revived, and made popular and acceptable to the younger generation. I use this medium to thank Prof. (Mrs.) Rose Aziza and her team for the deep interest, passion and selflessness with which this project was pursued.
I also thank the Ewheya r’ Urhobo, led by Dame (Mrs.) Christy Siakpere, for their role in the approval of the Curriculum. I am also pleased to inform us that His Excellency, the Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, will personally be here tomorrow to launch the Urhobo Language Curriculum.
RESPECT FOR TRADITIONAL RULERS: The National Executive Committee is committed to promoting the rich Urhobo culture of respect for elders and the traditional institution. By this, we are going to systematically ensure that the young ones respect their elders and the traditional rulers. This is the only way that society can grow. A society that does not respect its elders and traditional rulers cannot have peace and therefore, cannot progress.
Urhobo Progress Union will pursue with vigor these projects and ensure that each of this agenda is accomplished within the first tenure of this executive.
THE IGHELLE AND YOUTH DEVELOPMENT: As part of our concern for the youths, we made move to get them organized, and on Saturday July 22, our administration, first time in the annals of the UPU, conducted the first election for the Youth Wing of the UPU.
Previous administrations of the UPU have always picked the President and executives of the youth wing, but in recognition of democratic ideals, and my avowed determination to set things right in Urhobo land, in spite of resistance and mudslinging, we were undeterred and got each Kingdom to produce two youths for election.
Thereafter, a proper and legitimate election, in which the youths themselves (48 of them) were delegates, was held at 18, Okere Road, Warri, resulting in the emergence of the Comrade Nicholas Omoko – led Executive.
In addition to this, we are desirous to promote the establishment of industries in Urhoboland. We are conscious of the fact that there can be no growth and development without industries to engage the citizens in productive endeavours. There is need for our youths to embrace Agriculture, which is a major source of food, income and foreign exchange.
We are also encouraging our youths to embrace education. We are happy that in addition to government-owned Universities, we also have two private Universities in Urhoboland, namely; Western Delta University, Oghara and Michael and Cecilia Ibru University, Agbarha-Otor. We hereby appeal to our prominent sons to establish more private Universities to satisfy the yearnings of our children for quality and affordable higher education.
We are also using this medium to caution our youths to be of good behaviour and encourage investment in Urhoboland. They must desist from every unholy conduct that scares investors away.
Our quest for industrialisation will continue to be a mirage if we continue to adopt practices that wrongly portray us as unfriendly people.
URHOBO I.D CARD PROJECT: We immensely appreciate the vision of my predecessor, late General Patrick Aziza (rtd), in initiating the Urhobo I.D Card project.
The Urhobo Progress Union, under my leadership, intends to improve on it, and we are proposing to commence an I.D. Card system for every Urhobo person to be identified.
To acquire the I.D. Card, which is once in a lifetime, we are proposing a contribution of N500 for men, and N300 for women and children, while the same amount will be charged for any replacement in the event of loss or damage. I use this medium to thank our Son, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, who was in charge of the project during late Aziza’s time, for graciously agreeing to continue to oversee the project, till the responsibility can be fully handled by someone else.
INEC VOTERS’ REGISTRATION EXERCISE: We wish to encourage all our eligible citizens to register in this on-going exercise. Indeed the number of eligible voters is the basis of political power; it greatly impacts on the role, level of influence and political power of the Urhobo Nation.
We urge our Royal Fathers, Presidents-General of the various kingdoms, opinion and community leaders to help to create awareness in all our communities and among all our people wherever they may be, to ensure massive participation of eligible voters in the exercise.
2018 POPULATION CENSUS: It is important that the Traditional leadership, elite and enlightened class of the Urhobo Nation begin now to educate, sensitise and inform our people in the hinterland, rural and urban communities on the need to participate fully in the forthcoming National Population Census.
The man in the Village may want to say “of what use is the census to me,” but this exercise is very vital to the socio-political strength and survival of the Urhobo Nation. It is important that every Urhobo person is captured in the forthcoming Census exercise for us to be able to take our pride of place as the largest tribe in Delta State and one of the five largest ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.
BRANCHES/CLUBS REGISTRATION: We hereby call on branches to register or update their registrations with the National Secretariat, with regards to their membership strength.
We want to encourage our people in other parts of Nigeria and Diaspora to form branches and apply to the National Secretariat for formal registration. It is our plan to encourage competition in form of awards to the branches with the largest membership.
We also urge all existing and new pan-Urhobo clubs, associations and groups, in Nigeria and Diaspora to come and register with the UPU. We, however, tender unreserved apologies for our inability to contact the branches as often as it should be.
Let me seize this golden opportunity to passionately plead with members of our branches where there are little skirmishes over leadership, to give peace a chance. Let me emphasise that such tussles are very unnecessary, embarrassing and dent the image of the UPU.
Such incidents only portray us as rascals and disorderly people. We must eschew bitterness at all times and strive to settle our differences or misunderstandings amicably, without resorting to mudslinging or public show of shame.
We are making every effort within our powers to resolve crises presently bedevilling some of our branches. We fervently believe, trusting in God, that by the time we return here for the 2018 Congress, peace would have been restored to every troubled UPU branch across the globe.
RESTRUCTURING OF NIGERIA: The position of the UPU nay the Urhobo Nation, on the Restructuring of Nigeria, will be adequately addressed in the summit on it, which will hold shortly after this speech.
POLITICS: The Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) is the umbrella body of the Urhobo Ethnic Nationality and is apolitical. However, we encourage our Children to belong to different political parties as indeed in the times of old, when the likes of Chiefs Mowarin, Odiete and Ejaife belonged to the Action Group, while others like A.T. Rerri, Dr. Esiri and Chief T.E.A Salubi were members of NCNC.
On the other hand, there were some other prominent ones who joined Midwest Democratic Front (MDF). Quite interesting and most instructive, is the fact that while these elders who were in different political affiliations would argue and probably disagree among themselves in the morning, yet in the evening they would cook Ukodo, eat together and they all jointly participated in the affairs of UPU. This is what we encourage our children to do.
It is the responsibility of the President-General of UPU to protect the image of the UPU and fight for the betterment of the Urhobo people. So, therefore, if you are in Party A or Party B, the President-General is the father of all. I am neither a friend nor enemy to any of them.
On members of the Executive going into political positions, let me emphasise that the UPU is not against any member of the exco going into political positions in any of the political parties in Nigeria. However, the National Executive Council has laid-down rules and regulations that any member of the executive, who declares or has declared political intent, should resign his/her position within a month. That was what informed the recent resignation of my First Deputy, Chief Osiobe Okotie from the Executive Committee.
CONSTITUENCY DELINEATION: This is one area where the Urhobo Nation is being short-changed. Given our population and the number of Local Governments Areas, the Urhobo Nation should have at least eight members of the House of Representatives instead of the current three (3). One wonders why Bayelsa State which has eight LGAs would have five members of the House of Representatives, compared to a larger Nation as Urhobo. The UPU will ensure that this anomaly is corrected.
MENACE OF HERDSMEN: Though a national problem, we are concerned at the untold socio-economic and cultural problems the herdsmen menace has brought on our people in Uwheru, Abraka and other Urhobo Communities. The economies of the affected communities have been grounded because of inability of the people to access their farms, thereby depriving them of their livelihood.
The Urhobo Progress Union is exploring ways of protecting Urhoboland from this provocative situation, and is currently doing consultations. We express our sympathies and solidarity with all Urhobo Communities and people affected by the herdsmen problem, we indeed share in their pain and burden. It is our hope that a lasting solution will be found to this issue, at the State and National level.
We are using this medium to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently tackle this lingering issue that is a major threat to the unity and corporate existence of our dear Country. The Federal Government must stop paying lip service to this monumental national calamity that must be nib in the bud before it tears the country apart. The Government has the wherewithal to put an immediate end to the menace of the Fulani cattle herdsmen and it must act now in the national interest.
We also wish to prevail on the Delta State Government to enact an anti-open crazing law to keep the rampaging herdsmen in check. This has become necessary to save our people from dying of hunger and starvation occasioned by their inability to access their farmlands which have been forcefully taken over by the herdsmen.
RELATIONSHIP WITH NEIGHBOURS: In our maiden address, after the swearing-in, I said we intend to work harmoniously with our neighbours and build bridges with the Ijaw, Itsekiri, Isoko, Ndokwa, Anioma, Bini and other ethnic neighbours. We will pursue harmony, peaceful co-existence and cooperation between Urhobo and our neighbours.
FREQUENT BOUNDARY CLASHES WITH NEIGHBOURS: However, the incessant inter-ethnic clashes between Ogbe-Ijoh and Aladja-Udu Communities; and Ogbe-Ijoh and Agbarha, Warri greatly worries the Urhobo Progress Union.
We have initiated moves to bring these lingering and vexing issues to peaceful conclusion, and have been discussing informally with Ijaw Leaders.
In spite of our quest for a peaceful resolution of these issues, we want to emphasise that under no circumstances will the UPU allow any land and/or property rightfully belonging to any Urhobo Community to be taken or stolen under any guise by any person or groups. Our option to embrace dialogue and peaceful co-existence should not be taken as cowardice.
Human lives are precious, and the UPU fervently appeals to the Delta State Government to settle these land disputes and needless blood lettings by exhibiting genuineness and political will in executing the recommendation of the various panels of enquiries.
APPRECIATION: I cannot end this address without formally acknowledging and appreciating all those who made this summit possible. We sincerely appreciate the enormous contributions of individuals and organisations who responded to our appeals for assistance, within a very short time.
We are grateful and wholeheartedly thank the Delta State Government and Desopadec in particular and other individuals for their love and support for the UPU and the Urhobo Nation. We are also very grateful to all those who worked tirelessly to make the summit possible and successful. God bless you all.
On this note, I want to sincerely once again welcome you all and thank you for your attention. May the good Lord grant us a successful deliberation. #nigerianews