· Says Okpe Nation littered with abandoned projects
· Indicts PDP, APC over Okpe underdevelopment
· Tasks Tinubu, Dafinone, others on Sapele Port
· Urges Oborevwori to be fair to all, pay attention to the growth and development of agriculture, fishery, industry, and durable road networks in rural areas
· Insists on Okpe recognition in DESOPADEC, exclusive Commissioner and Executive Director
· Seeks constitutional amendment to change the names of Sapele LG Area to become Okpe North LG Area, and Okpe LG Area to become Okpe South LG Area
· Propagate Okpe Union ideals
· Urges Unity
The President General, Okpe Union, Professor Igho Natufe, on Tuesday, reiterated the Okpe kingdom’s long-standing request for the restoration of the Sapele, Warri, and Koko ports, calling on President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his incoming Cabinet to pay urgent attention to this request.
‘’The value of these three ports to the Nigerian economy cannot be underestimated. We also request the incoming President and his incoming Cabinet to treat as a matter of grave national urgency, the reconstruction of the Benin-Sapele-Warri expressway’’.
He praised President Muhammadu Buhari for his recent decision on the teaching of indigenous languages in local government areas across Nigeria.
‘’This gives credence to our age-long agitation for the teaching of Okpe Language in all educational institutions situated in Okpe Kingdom as a critical component of Okpe Identity. We welcome this decision and shall collaborate with other organizations towards its realization in Okpe Nation. As a first step in this direction, I am pleased to announce that NEC has instructed the Education and Culture Committee of the Okpe Union to work out the modalities of awarding post-secondary scholarships/bursaries for deserving Okpe nationals to study Okpe Language and Literature to form the nucleus of future Okpe Language teachers in educational institutions in Okpe Nation’’.
Professor Natufe spoke at the 93rd-anniversary celebration of the founding of the Okpe Union in Lagos.
‘’ We are gathered here today, May 16, 2023, at the Headquarters of the Okpe Union to celebrate the 93rd Anniversary of the Founding of the Okpe Union, the oldest registered ethnic organization in Nigeria. Leaders of the Okpe Union from all the Branches and Regions in Nigeria are assembled here to honour the gallantry of the young Okpe nationals who had the foresight to establish the Okpe Union as the foremost socio-cultural and political organization acting as the mouthpiece of the Okpe Nation. We consider ourselves privileged to carry on with the rich legacy of the autonomy of the Okpe Union bequeathed to us by our forefathers’’
He restated the union’s stand on Okpe’s distinct ethnic nationality.
‘’As we gather here today to celebrate the 93rd Anniversary of the Okpe Union, let us reflect on the great historical role we have been summoned to play in the growth and development of the Okpe Nation as well as in our nation, Nigeria. Since its inception 93 years ago, the Okpe Union has played and continues to play a pivotal role in defining the consciousness of Okpe nationals.
A critical element of this consciousness is the recognition of Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality in Nigeria. It is noteworthy to re-state this historical fact and dismiss unequivocally the fallacy of classifying Okpe as a “sub-group” or “clan” of any other ethnic nationality in Nigeria.
A group of Okpe traditional and political leaders has been propagating a false thesis that “Okpe Kingdom is one of the twenty-four (24) Kingdoms of contemporary Federated Urhobo Nationality of Delta Central Senatorial District. While some Okpe nationals have built on this falsehood and sold their conscience for a pot of rotten porridge by describing the Okpe Nation as “Okpe communities within the Urhobo nation” in their waffled understanding of Okpe Identity. We state very boldly that both postulations are a gross distortion of Okpe History.
These Okpe leaders simply demonstrate their conceptual deficiencies and poverty of Okpe ethnic consciousness by using Okpe Identity and Urhobo ethnic nationality interchangeably. For them, “Okpe is Urhobo”, whereas we in the Okpe Union proudly proclaim that Okpe is Okpe. This is the dialectical difference between us in the Okpe Union and those Okpe leaders that readily collaborate with non-Okpe to oppose the restoration of Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality. Their intent is to compromise the concept of Okpe Identity.
Okpe Union remains committed to its agitation for the restoration and recognition of Okpe as an independent and distinct ethnic nationality. All linguists who have studied the Edoid Group of Languages agree that Okpe is indeed a distinct language from the Urhobo Language. The first evidence of a distinct ethnicity is the distinctiveness of its language’’.
The expert in international relations praised the heroic deeds of Okpe Union’s founding fathers in the struggles leading up to the resuscitation of the Okpe Monarchy in 1945.
‘’Thanks to the Okpe Union, the Okpe Monarchy was resuscitated in 1945 after an interregnum of almost 200 years, with the installation of HRM Esezi ll on January 1, 1945, who reigned until 1966. He was succeeded by HRM Orhorho l (1972-2004), and subsequently succeeded by HRM Orhue l (2006 – present).
There is a Modern Okpe Monarchy because there was an Okpe Union that gave birth to it. Thus, the role of the Okpe Union as a symbol of unity and strength of the Okpe Nation cannot be underestimated. In fact, at the coronation of HRM Orhue l on July 29, 2006, the Coordinator of the event, the Distinguished Senator Okakuro David O. Dafinone (of Blessed Memory), sought the consent of the Okpe Union before the coronation of the new Orodje. He asked the Okpe Union three times: “Okpe Union, do you agree that Major General Felix Mujakperuo be crowned as the Orodje of Okpe”? (in Okpe Language: “Are ihweri ta ghene ahẹ Felix Mujakperuo siyẹ aga Orodje Okpe?”) In unison, leaders of the Okpe Union gave their consent by saying YES. (in Okpe Language: “EEEE!”
The Okpe Union President General lamented that since the inception of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Okpe have been denied its rightful slots of appointments and award of projects due to the falsity of placing it under the Urhobo appellation
‘’Let me reassure all Okpe Nationals that the NEC of the Okpe Union shall not rest on its oars to intensify its sensitization activities in Okpe Nation regarding the fact that Okpe is a distinct ethnic nationality, as well as the benefits this recognition bestows on the Okpe Nation. Since the inception of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Okpe has been denied its rightful slots of appointments and award of projects due to the falsity of placing it under the Urhobo appellation while, for example, the Ijaw, Ika, Isoko, Itsekiri, and Ndokwa ethnic nationalities receive their respective slots, as recognized ethnic nationalities. Those internal and external forces that conspire to deny Okpe its rightful place in the comity of ethnic nationalities in Delta State are enemies of the Okpe Nation.
Natufe also spoke on the efforts being made by the Okpe Union for the reinstatement and recognition of Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality.
‘’As an ethnic nationality that exclusively owns at least two Local Government Areas in Delta State, the Okpe Nation shall immediately be recognized in DESOPADEC and therefore be entitled to an exclusive Commissioner and an Executive Director like our neighbouring oil-producing ethnicities of Delta State. The advantages of this include a direct budget for the Okpe Nation, specific slots for different empowerment programmes and policies e.g., bursary awards for Okpe students which they now share with Urhobo students under crass discrimination aided by the falsifiers of Okpe History acting as agents of those afraid of Okpe Identity.
Because of this fallacy, the oil and gas wells in Okpe Nation are not captured as Okpe. My Dear Brothers & Sisters, in order to rectify this injustice, we shall continue our liaison with the Government of Delta State and the Delta State House of Assembly for the reinstatement and recognition of Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality. This is a sacred historical mission of the Okpe Union’’
The former University of Benin lecturer called on stakeholders of the Okpe Nation and all Okpe people the world over to focus on achieving synergy for the growth and development of the Okpe Nation and Kingdom.
‘’The decision of the Federal High Court, Lagos, on the Okpe Union Autonomy Case on January 19, 2023, which has established that the current Okpe Union NEC led by yours truly is the only leader of the Okpe Union, gives the Okpe Nation a unique opportunity for unity. We, therefore, call on all institutions, stakeholders of the Okpe Nation and all Okpe people the world over to focus on achieving synergy for the growth and development of the Okpe Nation and Kingdom, so that Okpe can once again attain its place of pride in the comity of ethnic nationalities in Delta State and in Nigeria’’.
Natufe said that without responsible political leaders, the Okpe Nation would continue to lag behind in terms of development.
‘’The general elections of February 25 and March 18, 2023, afforded Nigerians the opportunities to elect their leaders, to represent them for the next four years. It is universally recognized that a society gets the leaders it deserves. When the electorate cast their votes for national and state representatives, they do so with the expectation that the elected leaders will represent their constituency interests and not their respective or personal interests. Thus, they expect their leaders to demonstrate good leadership. In their view, they expect their leaders to be effective, ethical and transformative.
An election is a social contract binding the electorates and the elected. Unfortunately, if we examine the performances of Okpe leaders (elected and appointed) since the advent of the 4th Republic in 1999, there is a depressing recognition that the Okpe Nation has not been blessed with effective, ethical and transformative leadership. While these leaders have enriched themselves by privatizing public wealth, Okpe Nation is littered with abandoned projects.
In citing examples, Orerokpe Stadium, Technical College, and Orerokpe, readily come to mind. More so, the lack of accessible road networks in the rural areas, the absence of post-secondary institutions, industries and banks, especially in Orerokpe, the headquarters of the Okpe Kingdom, symbolize the marginalization of the Okpe Nation. There is a vast disparity when we compare, for example, Okpe Nation with the Isoko Nation where the leaders of the latter have used their power and influence to attract industries, banks, and post-secondary institutions to their ethnic nationality’’.
He blamed the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the backwardness of Okpe Kingdom.
‘’The Okpe have religiously voted for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at the Delta State level since 1999. At the federal level, the PDP governed for sixteen years (1999-2015) with no tangible dividends of democracy in Okpe Nation, while the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been in power at the federal level since 2015, with the same abysmal impact on the Okpe Nation.
Fundamentally, if we must be frank to ourselves and speak truth to power, the fault lies with the incapacity of the elected and appointed Okpe leaders to articulate and promote the interests of the Okpe Nation, and not on the respective political parties. An election is a partnership between the electorates (followers) and the candidates (leaders). This partnership is in fact a social contract between leaders and followers, which is the responsibility of both parties to adhere to. While leaders are required to demonstrate effective, ethical and transformative leadership vis-à-vis a positive development of the society, the followers, on the other hand, are required to hold the leaders accountable for their policies, as their representatives, in either the local, state or federal legislatures.
When they fail to hold their elected or appointed leaders accountable, then they become mere sycophants and uncritical loyalists with even lesser credibility than the leaders. As the mouthpiece of the Okpe Nation, Okpe Union shall hold all Okpe elected and appointed leaders accountable for their policies, just as we hold non-Okpe elected and appointed leaders accountable for their policies impacting on the Okpe Nation’’.
He urged Okakuro Ede Dafinone, Barrister Benedict Etanabene, Okakuro James Augoye and Okakuro Perkins Umukoro to rise up to the occasion.
‘’It is interesting to note that the outcome of the elections for the above positions replicated the strategic advice that the Okpe Union proffered to Okpe nationals. While other Okpe organizations declared their public support for all candidates of a particular political party across Delta State, we condemned this as a poor tactical move to place all Okpe eggs in one basket. Our wise counsel prevailed as evident in the victories for Okpe candidates on the platforms of the APC, LP, and PDP.
We warmly congratulate these five Okpe nationals that have been elected to their various positions to provide selfless services to the population. We wish them God’s guidance and blessings in the execution of their respective duties and responsibilities.
As the direct representatives of the Okpe Nation, we expect Ekakuro Augoye and Umukoro to firmly articulate and promote Okpe interests anchored on Okpe Identity at the Delta State House of Assembly, to ensure that there is visible and sustained growth and development in Okpe Nation.
We also expect both of them to champion the amendment of the DESOPADEC Law to recognize Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality in the Delta State House of Assembly. They are urged to liaise with Okakuro Dafinone and Barrister Etanabene on the constitutional amendment regarding the two local government areas in Okpe Nation, and to table the same amendment at the Delta State House of Assembly’’.
He urged Dafinone and Etanabene to initiate a constitutional amendment in the National Assembly to change the names of the two local government areas in Okpe Nation: Sapele Local Government Area to become Okpe North Local Government Area, and Okpe Local Government Area to become Okpe South Local Government Area.
‘’As for Okakuro Dafinone and Barrister Etanabene, our federal legislators to be, we expect them to be equitable in their representation of Okpe, Uvwie and Urhobo interests in their respective portfolios, bearing in mind the neglect of Okpe Nation from the federal legislatures since 1999.
We urge both of them to initiate a constitutional amendment in the National Assembly to change the names of the two local government areas in Okpe Nation: Sapele Local Government Area to become Okpe North Local Government Area, and Okpe Local Government Area to become Okpe South Local Government Area.
This renaming will end the apparent distortion in the identity of the various communities which all belong to distinct districts under the same Okpe Nation and Kingdom. Furthermore, we urge both of them to submit a constitutional amendment designating Okpe North Local Government Area and Okpe South Local Government Area as a Federal Constituency.
It is recalled that prior to 1999, the current Sapele Local Government Area comprised its own Federal Constituency from which a House of Representatives member was elected. We recommend that Uvwie and Udu Local Government Areas be made a Federal Constituency. These two amendments will underline the distinct ethnic nationality of the Okpe Nation, just as is demonstrated in the Isoko Nation with its own Federal Constituency’’.
He urged Delta State governor-elect, Rt. Hon Sherriff Oborevwori to champion the amendment of the DESOPADEC Law to recognize Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality, so that the Okpe Nation can have what is due to her from its God-given oil and gas resources like the other petroleum-producing ethnic nationalities.
‘’The Governor-Elect, Okakuro Oborevwori bears the toughest challenge of all. With the entire State as his constituency, we expect that he will be fair to all the areas of Delta State. We particularly urge him to be conscious of the marginalization of the Okpe Nation for so long now. In this regard, we expect him to champion the amendment of the DESOPADEC Law to recognize Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality so that the Okpe Nation can have what is due to her from its God-given oil and gas resources like the other petroleum-producing ethnic nationalities. In the same vein, we expect that going forward, the Delta State Ministry of Education shall ensure that the National Policy on the Teaching of Mother Tongue in schools shall be implemented.
The development and teaching of the Okpe Language in schools of Okpeland would enhance the survival of the Okpe Language which is identified by ETHNOLOGUE as one of the endangered languages of the world’’.
He advised Oborevwori to pay particular attention to the growth and development of agriculture, fishery, industry, and durable road networks in the rural areas, especially in the riverine regions of Delta State.
‘’We recognize that a government does not create so many jobs nowadays, and therefore do not expect Okakuro Oborevwori to perform miracles in that regard. However, it is the duty of any responsible government to create a conducive atmosphere to attract and retain foreign and domestic investments in critical sectors of the economy. We, therefore, ask him to ensure that there is free movement of goods into and out of Delta State as complaints of task forces have reportedly led many commuters in the country to avoid Delta State routes.
This has led to a comparatively high cost of goods in Delta State when compared to other states. Towards improving the economy of Delta State, we advise Governor-Elect Oborevwori to pay particular attention to the growth and development of agriculture, fishery, industry, and durable road networks in the rural areas, especially in the riverine regions of Delta State. His Government has to improve the dire electricity situation in most parts of the state. The issue of drinkable water in all cities, towns, and villages has to be revisited and resolved urgently.
Above all, we urge him to ensure that all leakages of corruption and embezzlement of public funds are eliminated under his Administration. We understand that success in this venture depends on a robust private-public partnership (PPP) to boost Delta State’s development and competitiveness leading to job creation and socio-political stability in the State. Okpe Union volunteers to render its expertise in linking the Delta State Government, under Governor Oborevwori, with prospective foreign investors in these diverse fields’’.
He urged the people of Okpe Kingdom and Nigerians, in general, to continue to cooperate with the government and foster unity and harmony among themselves.
‘’Okpe Union shall monitor the performances of these Okpe leaders, as well as other non-Okpe appointed by the President and Governor to serve in their respective cabinets, etc. We shall commend them for their successes, as well as draw their attention to gaps in their performances. They all shall be held accountable by the Okpe Union. I wish you all a glorious celebration of Okpe Union @ 93.
We urge leaders of the Okpe Union at all levels and especially at the branches to intensify our sensitization activities amongst fellow Okpe nationals under one umbrella of Okpe Identity united in Okpe Nation in order to sustain the vision of the Founding Fathers of the Okpe Union’’.