By Gab Ejuwa
Recently, Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Inc., an assembly of the Itsekiri in the United States, pulled out all the stops to bring under the klieglights their language, heritage and people at Dallas Ft. Worth, Texas, USA.
It was the 14th time this socio-cultural group would roll out the red carpet to receive her nationals and guests while brainstorming to chart the path of development for its people back home. It was an auspicious gathering which Messrs. Bawo Ayomike, the National President of Ugbajo Itsekiri, Inc. and Goddey Oritsejube Ejuwa, President of Agura Iwere Itsekiri Association of Dallas/Ft. Worth, and their kinsmen and women spent many sleepless nights to host. In his opening remarks, Ayomike said the occasion was meant to be a “personal and collective drive to seek the best solutions to our myriad challenges”.
For the benefit of those who have no clue about the evolution and the operation of Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Inc., the umbrella organization of the two regional associations across the United States for the Itsekiri, seeks, among other things, to promote the people’s custom, culture, heritage cordiality and unity.
Specifically, after last year’s convention, the Itsekiri assembly in the US devoted considerable resources to provide water in some of Itsekiri rural communities by constructing boreholes fitted with solar-powered pumps.
The Warri South Local Government Council constructed and commissioned three such projects in Ode Itsekiri, Orere and Usee.
Quite apart from this, water projects have been sited at Aja-Amita, Aja-Igba and Jakpa; by members of these communities working closely with Ugbajo-Itsekiri USA Inc.
Although Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Inc. has had a string of spectacular individuals who have by the very force of personality, charisma and brilliant idealism, contributed in no small way to its landmarks, the socio cultural organisation has also had its own share of bereavement, which Ayomike alluded to in his brief opening remarks. Mrs. Doris Meyigbemi Eyeguokan, nee Eyengho, died suddenly on Monday 8 August 2011. Doris, a mother of five, was the wife of Mr. Weyinmi Eyeguokan, who served two terms as the president of the Itsekiri National Association of Washington-Baltimore CMSA Inc. until last year. Mrs. Victoria Ayu Patroness of the same organisation and mother of Mr. Hector Ayu, the immediate past two-term President of the larger body, also went the way of all mortals. And so did Mrs. Eunice Akinkuolie, member of the Itsekiri National Association of Washington-Baltimore CMSA Inc and Honourable Elliot Kperegbeyi, a supporter of Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Inc.
What is even more remarkable? Ugbajo Itsekiri USA, Inc., awarded scholarships to students of Itsekiri extraction in Warri through her patron, Dr. Oritsegbemi O. Omatetete and Mr. Eyisan Omagbemi, a former President of Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Inc. The awardees expressed their gratitude to the organisation and prayed for more blessings on the organisation. However, one sore point which would have interested, nay, outraged Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Inc. had it happened is the Ugborodo crisis which, really, is a clash of vested interests and personalities in the political economic and cultural power configuration in the community.
In the final analysis, the Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Inc. 14th annual convention lived up to its billing as a socio-political and economic parley and a cultural junket par excellence. Two eminent Itsekiri super-citizens, His Royal Majesty, Atuwase II, the Olu of Warri and Governor Emmanuel Ewetan Uduaghan, sent solidarity messages to their kinsmen and women. The convention proper featured meetings brainstorming, wining and dining, prayer sessions, workshops and seminars, group feedbacks, suggestions and solutions, photography sessions, biripo cultural music and dance, sight-seeings and tours and picnicking. Each session began and ended with the quaint strains of the Itsekiri national anthem – Ara Olorire.
The celebrants themselves were a sight to behold in their traditional “buba” and the wrap around “Iro” in spectroscopic colours: red, blue, yellow, indigo, etc. After the dust of this dialectical assembly has settled, it was obvious it was according to the theme: One language, one heritage, one people meeting, brainstorming, dancing, arguing, scheming to accomplish one goal: Sustainable change.