Alhaji Mumakai-Unagha is the National Publicity Secretary of the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU). A legal practitioner, in this interview , he narrates how the Urhobo nation was deprived during the Jonathan years and speaks on the crisis in the Urhobo Progress Union. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of the Jonathan administration and its dealings with the Urhobos and the Niger Delta people?
Generally, the Urhobo nation did not fare well under the administration of Goodluck Jonathan. In all his decisions, policies, actions and inactions, he never looked at the direction of the Urhobo people and of course he was only concerned with his Ijaw nation.
All the juicy positions that were coming to the Niger-Delta were only going to his people. At a point, the entire Niger Delta was being misconstrued as Ijaw. Both the Ijaw National congress and the Ijaw Youth Council were erroneously mistaken as an organisation for the Niger Delta.
Some Ijaw youths were dangerously empowered such that they could over-run other ethnic nationalities.
Those of us who stuck our necks out in the Niger Delta struggle were dismissed with a wave of hand. I recall that an Ijaw leader once told some us that the Ijaw have fought their battle and that we should go ahead with ours.
In the 2011 presidential election, the Urhobo with all the odds went all out to vote for him but he rewarded us with humiliation for which we vowed not to vote for him again.
The condition we found ourselves when our so called brother ruled the country for the past six years was worse as we have nothing to show for it. Our people are better off when Northerners rule the country. This is the bitter truth which I know too well that some jingoists wouldn’t want to hear.
If you asked me, just as you have done, to me the major achievement of our Brother Jonathan’s administration is the peaceful concession of defeat in the presidential election. To that, he is a hero. No new formulated policy, even the existing ones were not implemented. We Niger-Deltans particularly we the Urhobos never regretted his exit, is better for us.
The Urhobo nation has not witnessed this type of marginalization and oppression in Nigeria history. All the federal industries as well as institutions in the area are all broken down without redress. For the avoidance of doubt, Delta Steel Company is dead, Warri Port is moribund, and the rail line to Aladja is equally abandoned. Nothing seems to be working in the area, yet Urhobo land is a major oil and gas producer.
Do you believe Buhari will serve the best interest of Nigerians?
Buhari’s victory is one of the best things to happen in Nigeria. Believe me, it has long been over due, however, this is the appointed time God says it will manifest especially with the combination of Prof. Osinbajo as the Vice President.
Why do Urhobo feel they will be more comfortable working with Buhari?
Yes, you see the relationship between the Urhobo and the North is not just starting today. The Urhobos and the Northerners (Hausa) relationship is dated back to the pre-colonial era when the Northern traders were all over Urhobo land and the Urhobos were also in the north doing petty businesses. At that time, the Urhobo accommodated and sheltered them.
When Midwest region was to be created, the North was more concerned on the need for the state to be created. It was the late Sultan of Sokoto Sir Ahmadu Bello and the then Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa that did everything humanly possible to ensure its creation.
What are your expectations?
First, the President has said it- the unity of the country is not negotiable but fundamental. Secondly, he will address the short falls especially the security challenges as well as the high rate of corruption in the petroleum industry.
He also said social economic development of the nation will also be his outermost priority. Above all, corruption which has retarded this country for so long will be tackled.
Can you comment briefly on the crisis rocking the leadership of the Urhobo Progress Union?
Well, there’s no crisis per se. However, what we did was to remove the President General of the union for lack of steadfastness. Yes, we removed him to save the Urhobo nation to avoid being humiliated and disgraced.
As you may be aware, we are men of honour with integrity backed with resolution to sustain the Chief Mukoro Mowoe legacy not because of our stomach infrastructure.
On 28th of march 2014, the Urhobo nation inclusive of traditional leaders, Religious/Opinion leaders, Youth and women groups unanimously agreed that any of the two major political parties that ceded the governorship to the Urhobo nation, that it is only that party the Urhobo will vote for including all its candidates and not a mushroom party.
Barely four months after this declaration, Chief Omene smuggled in Labour Party for which we resisted and the beneficiary was APC. We told him that we could not continue like that and after a due consultation, we resolved to remove him, Even though Olorogun O’tega did not win the governorship election, we made a point.
In the election Urhobo fielded two candidates Olorogun O’tega Emerhor and Chief Great Ogboru don’t you think it was a political mistake?
That is true, and that is why the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) today is fractionised into two main camps of Onoge and Omene. The Onoge camp which I belong believe very strongly in the rule of law and integrity, while the Omene camp is on the contrary.
You see, Chief Ogboru is very stubborn. Perhaps we do not know when he became the senior son of Urhobo such that without Ogboru, Urhobo cannot move forward.
We persuaded him to step down for Emerhor and he said no. He was being deceived that he is popular, today where is the popularity?