By Emmanuel Edukugho
Highlight of Alpha-May Club 25th Anniversary Celebration held at Golden Gate Restaurant, Ikoyi, Lagos last Saturday was the scholarship awards to five students in medical and engineering fields drawn from some Nigerian Universities.
Since the clubâ€™s founding in 1984, education has remained one of its main objectives, ensuring that exceptionally brilliant, talented and gifted young people of Itsekiri ancestry are given financial support to go through their studies in tertiary institutions across the country.
From 1985, Alpha-May has been running an annual scholarship award scheme, offering minimum of five awards to â€œdeserving Itsekiri students in tertiary institutions in Nigeria, covering disciplines that ranged from the Arts to Sciences, including Medicine.â€
According to the club, some beneficiaries of the award have gained employment in the petroleum industry, others have established enterprises of their own, while many became employable or placed in more competitive position for employment.
â€œIn his welcome address, Mr. Tsola Aragho, Chairman, Alpha-May Club, described it as â€œan association of Itsekiri male professionals of like mind who are based in Lagos. The concept of establishing an association of such professionals for the development of the Itsekiri and advancement of their cause was mooted in early 1984 and the first meeting to discuss its details was held at Mr. Victor Hammondâ€™s residence in Ilupeju, Lagos on April 28, 1984.â€
On how the club was named, he explained that Alpha May is a reflection of the world â€œAlphaâ€ which is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and denoting excellence.
â€œThe attainment of such excellence in all our endeavours for our people is the clubâ€™s guiding principle.â€
As regards May, the first full meeting of the club was in May 1984, hence our anniversary is usually marked in the month of May.
â€œThis May stands as a landmark month in our calendar. Some of such founding fathers and persons who have steered the affairs of Alpha May from its establishment till now, are with us here today.â€
He thanked God for having used Alpha May as an instrument of harmony, cordiality and progress for benefitting the Itsekiri.
Aragho pointed out that, â€œin furtherance to this instrumentality of our club, it is pertinent that I mention the clubâ€™s membersâ€™ attitude and outreach to other ethnic nationalities with which the Itsekiri shares historical and geographical proximities, namely, the Edos, the Yorubas the Urhobos and Ijaws, have brought a great measure of cordiality and mutual respectability to be maintained amongst our people.â€
In respect of education, the chairman recalled that in the early 1990s, the club sponsored some members of the National Association of Itsekiri Students (NAIS) to teach relative courses to Itsekiri Pupils in Koko, Gbokoda, and Ogidigben, â€œso as to improve their University admission chances.â€
He expressed gratitude to those who gave donations towards financing the clubâ€™s scholarship award scheme.
â€œAlpha May Club, through the occasion of the celebration of its anniversary every year organises seminars, symposia, talks, lectures and paper presentations for educatingÂ Â persons in general and advancing the cause of Itsekiriland. It was during one of such events (in 1998) that the Itsekiri Vision 2020 was crafted by Alpha May
The document in essence, is a charter of suggested proactive steps and issues for moving the Itsekiri nation forward. The charter was delivered to HRM Ogiame Atuwatse II, the Olu of Warri by our club at a formal ceremony in the palace in 1998â€.
As regards to cultural and social involvement, he disclosed the granting of financial assistance to the centre for Itsekiri Language and Culture (CILC) Warri. Merit Award was also given by the club to the Director of the centre, Dr. Gbubemi Oghanrerunmi,â€ who has worked tirelessly in taking the centre to its present enviable height.â€
Other areas of the clubâ€™s involvement include interest and protection of the Itsekiri Crown in various ways, succour and assistance to internally displaced Itsekiri as a result of intra-ethnic crisis in the three Warri Local Government Areas since 1997, and financial and active participation in the activities of other Itsekiri associations and events as necessary.
Recipients of the 2009 Educational Scholarship Awards were:
(1) Ibagere Sunday Peters, Delta State University, (Medicine)
(2) Omayone Amaju Benjamin (University of Benin (Pharmacy)
(3) Odugba Potters Jemine University of Benin (Mech Engineering)
(4) Ejeye Oneoritsebawo, Obafemi Awolowo University (Medicine)
(5) Ede Otone, University of Benin (Production Engineering).
Special Guest of Honour, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, Delta State Governor, was represented by a Commissioner, Mrs Shola Williams, who commended the club for its interest in education.
â€œWe are interested in Alpha May because of their determination to contribute to development of education and knowledge. Alpha May is like an X-ray, scanner of Itsekiriland, identifying areas of problems and proffering solutions for success. I am proud to be an Itsekiri and acknowledge that growth and progress are tied to knowledge. The club is creating opportunity for our youths to have good education.â€
She described the educational gesture of Alpha May as â€œvery touchingâ€, adding, â€œthe beneficiaries will make others to follow up and make them concentrate on their academic work and produce good results, and would want to be like Prof Itse Sagay, Franklin Ogbemi, etc.â€
Williams wished that cultism will never be their portion, while also acknowledging the lecture given by Prof. Sagay titled – â€œPath To Self-Determination And Autonomy For The Itsekiris,â€ which was a call for reawakening of self-determination, political and social, so that Itsekiri people not go into extinction.
â€œItâ€™s quite touching. Itâ€™s a challenge, letâ€™s look into the future. Alpha May has shown the road, let others follow. Let everyone contribute to Itsekiri development and to build a versatile and noble legacy.â€
It was gathered that the club identified education as a tool for national development and the scholarship scheme designed to encourage the youths attain academic laurels.
â€œThe 2009 exercise was energising and competitive. WAEC did the selection through aptitude tests. N100,000 for each recipient. The aim is to create a pool of smart, dedicated, well-rounded Itsekiri, graduates that will take up the leadership of the Itsekiri