..Says that Urhobos in Okowa’s Govt are errand boys
The Chief Joe Omene is the President General of Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, the Urhobo apex ruling socio-cultural body, at home and in diaspora, he maintained in this interview that he remains the authentic leader of the body and not Chief Moses Taiga, who is being erroneously addressed as President-General of UPU worldwide. He spoke on the herdsmen ravaging Urhobo land; he decried the poor state of the Urhobo political class in the Governor Okowa led government describing them as are errand boys; he noted that the Urhobo is the most beggarly ethnic nation in Delta State.
As the President-General of Urhobo Progress Union, (UPU) the herdsmen recently has being ravaging Urhobo land, especially Abraka, Eku and Uwheru; and no action was taken, what is happening?
It is very unfortunate, but I can tell you the problem the Urhobos are going through now is caused by the Urhobos elite and Urhobo Kings. If you go deep, you will be surprised that some of our kings have sold their rights to the herdsmen. Take for example, a situation where you cede your peoples farm and you collect money from the herdsmen, what do you think will happen? Look at majority of Urhobo Kings, they are not even worthy to be king of their kingdom because some of them lacks of integrity and that is why they don’t like me as the President-General of Urhobo nation because I am out spoken and this problem compounded by the elites of Urhobo nation.
On UPU leadership crisis
Can you imagine, a government that is headed by an Ibo man is telling Urhobo nation that an Ijaw man is the one suitable to be President General of UPU? He breached the UPU constitution and this has lead to so many controversies for over a year now, apart from Chief Albert Akpomuje, no other Urhobo Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) has deemed it fit to speak out to condemn it. None came out to say its constitutional or its not constitutional, in order to give a sense of direction, all of them kept mute, no one wants to speak the truth and this is the bane on the Urhobo nation. Such a thing will not happen in Yoruba land, why have they shy away from speaking the truth, maybe they are looking for crumbs from the government. Sadly some of the people being used to champion these issues are even professors who should know better. I don’t want to mention names but you see them publishing rubbish in the newspaper taking side with Olorogun Moses Taiga. You see Urhobo Professors, Urhobo elites who are highly placed are the one fueling the crisis. Some time ago this kind of thing almost happened in UPU in UK in the time of Dafinone, an Ijaw man who was the Secretary wanted to be President of the UPU, but Dafinone and the rest said no, this can’t happen. But where are the Dafinone’s today who can boldly come out to defend Urhobo honour.
So, why are you holding on since the Urhobo nation don’t wants the truth?
It’s possible for me to say okay, let me go back to my house and rest and allow any person come out to be President General, but posterity will not judge me right. Can they tell me that former Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan whose father’s mother is Urhobo, can come out to be UPU President General, or can he say John Oyegun can become President General of UPU? if it’s so, than any of these people can also become UPU PG, some will say he migrated, this first generation, not even forefathers, not third or fourth generation, the man chief Joseph Ezezi came from Kiagbodo and had a child from an Urhobo woman, is not that his true forefathers has been stayed in Urhobo, is not so, so you see the plight of the Urhobo nation.
Some time when Ogbe-ijoh attacked Aladja and I spoke up that an attack on Aladja was an attack on Urhobo nation, they becoming jittery, because they know a message have been sent. Prominent Ijaw Chiefs started reaching out to me, I sent some key Urhobo youths to go and discuss with Aladja on how they will protect their land. But since this fifth columnist have been fighting me, who is speaking for the Urhobo now, Alaja has been consistently under attack, no one is talking about how to bring peace to our people there.
Herdsmen ravaging Urhobo community
You see, it very sad that some Urhobo people accepted money from herdsmen to encroach into their land, today now they are paying herdsmen to farm on their farmland. Just imagine that. You see its one of their aims to make Urhobo powerless and voiceless, so that they can continue to oppress us; we have become the most beggarly tribe in the country and Delta State. Somebody was a councilor, chairman of local government council and member of House of Assembly, some even rose to House of Rep, senator, even former federal minister and all of a sudden, they are condescending so low to the position of SA to the governor, why can’t they emulate somebody like the former Secretary to Delta State Government (SSG), Comrade Ovuozourie Macaulay, an Isoko man who rejected what he was offered, and gave it to one of his followers. Why is Urhobo case different, must they always hustle for crumbs? When Governor Okowa was a chairman of a council, some of these men were already in national politics, but today they have become errand boys to Okowa.
They are quick to tell you that we have so many Urhobo people in Okowa’s government holding position, which position? No position of substance. If you are there as the commissioner of finance, he has somebody who has retired and he brought back to handle the finance of the state, not you. They gave Urhobo Secretary to the State Government; does SSG have the power the Principal Secretary to the governor has? If you still pass all paper through the Principal Secretary’s office, so what are you? Which Urhobo man is holding a powerful office or position in this government? At least when Governor James Ibori was in charge, you can see people from Delta North welding powers in their various offices. However, when the present Governor Ifeanyi Okowa was secretary of the state, he was welding so much power in that office; the Urhobo’s in this administration are just mere SSAs and PAs with no power, no office, they are voiceless. If the governor sees any Urhobo that is outspoken, they offer him position to pay him monthly stipends, so he can’t talk again.
So, you see, concerning the herdsmen, nobody can talk Urhobo have become voiceless. Who is speaking for the Urhobo nation, is it me or the Ijaw man? People say he is not Ijaw, the man said it himself.
The Urhobo are a patrilineal society like many other ethnic societies in Nigeria which defines the origin and status of any person claiming to be an Urhobo man. Chief Taiga is one of the beneficiaries of the hospitality of the Urhobo nation and in his case at Okpere. He has not been able to respond to an authoritative source, a book titled, “Olomu and Development of Urhobo Land, edited by renown Scholars, Prof. Peter Eke, Onoawarie Edevbie and Peter Father Taiga is from Kiagbodo, the Ijaw speaking area of Niger Delta. “The book itself further quoted him (Chief Moses Taiga) as the primary source of the information regarding his origin. So far he has failed to deny this authority about his origin but he rather chooses to be persistently abusing the hospitality which the Urhobo people had for him at Okpare.
What is the impact of your leadership of UPU?
When I came into UPU, I met about 20 branches, within two years and a half, it grew to 66 branches and now we have more branches than any other tribe and you say the man is not performing. Look at the case of Ese Oruru who was kidnapped to the North, they brought her back. I went to Bayelsa to thank the commissioner of Police for his assistant and also met with the parents on a solidarity visit. Before now do you see President General of UPU visiting only UK and America, but I went to places like Burkina Faso to establish a branch, Burkina Faso is a dry land. When I went there, where I slept, nobody will expect that a President General will sleep in that kind of place, they even tried to raise money for my return but I refuse because they have no money and they were happy that I cam there. I went to Malaysia in Asia to establish a branch there; I went to Cote d’Ivoire too. You see it’s a thankless job, but it’s the love for my tribe. I got invitations from Congo, Israel, Mali and other places until the Kings came with the government backing to establish their own UPU.
No branch of UPU participated in Taiga’s election and he breached the constitution, he brought 600 policemen, military truck and nobody spoke, we have many lawyers’ professors, Senior Advocates and technocrats, yet no one came out to speak the truth. Have you heard of Yoruba Kings interfering in Afenifere or Ohaene ze Indigbo being interrupted by Ibo kings, or Arewa activities been interfered with by Hausa/Fulani Kings? But in Urhobo land, it is not like that, most of them are puppets.
They say you are too vocal that you are not even afraid?
What will be afraid of? I am 72 years old, who will kill me will also die; the planner and the executioner will also die. And you can’t buy me with money unless you convince me, sometime ago a senator from Delta North told his people that look if you want to get Urhobo vote, just keep their money by the side and they will give you the votes you want; but I have been able to prove to him that not all Urhobo are like that. I am not a rich man; look at my house, a three bed room bungalow, what do I want duplex for? All my children are on their own now, so who will stay in the duplex, even the three bedrooms is too big for me.
N1.2 billion allegedly given to you by former president
I challenge anybody who have prove to come out publicly to publish it in the paper like Urhobo Voice, Owhorode of Olomu, Doctor Okakponovwe, did, though we are in court and they have not been able to prove it. So, you see, the Urhobo person is the architect of his own problem.
Sir when two people were killed by herdsmen at Ossisa the governor visited to commiserate with them, since 2006 till date, about 10 people have been reportedly killed in Abraka and Eku and about 6 in Owherhu, the governor has not deem it fit to visit these area to commiserate with them, what is your take?
Is he your governor? By constitution, he might be your governor but where he focuses his attention on is different. Okowa is not the governor of Urhobo people, but an Anioma governor. The governor is a PDP governor and the governor of Edo is an APC governor, but that of Edo state issued ultimatum to the herdsmen, Okowa will not do anything about herdsmen matter if he will do something the killing in Delta State will have made him to enact a law. Urhobo has no arrow head. They have destroyed UPU, we no longer have an arrow head, Olorogun Moses Taiga can’t attack his own Ijaw people, Taiga quietness on Ogbe-Ijoh crisis is an example, and he can’t say anything; all what I have said about him is what the Urhobo Historical society wrote about him. The solution to this crisis lies in us. Let the kings go and talk, those who took money from herdsmen to cede their land; their birthright should talk. Today they go about everywhere, birthdays, marriages, and even burial of their subjects, too sad. The Urhobo Kings are the first to go any state function, you see them jumping from one party to another, even with their age; a whole chairman of Kings of Urhobo land. How many parties have you seen the Olu of Warri or the Dem of Agbor? Recently when Ibori was hosted by Chief Oguma, he went to see the Kings in Owhorode Palace, yet they went to the venue again, what are they looking for in the venue? They are not after problem in their community, if you go to Asaba, you always meet Urhobo kings, even the governor kings don’t go to Asaba, the Urhobo Kings are always looking for crumbs, so that is our problem.