By Urhoboyovwi Ufuoma
AS an Urhobo whose mother and father including grand-fathers of over six generations are all bonafide Urhobo, let me confess that I feel dizzy; dizzy as I write this solemn piece, dizzy because the entire Urhobo Nation stands on a darkening plain. How did we get to this conundrum of shame? How is it that Urhobo nation, with 24 autonomous republics or kingdoms, cannot find a bonafide son, an authentic scion of the soil to lead the Urhobo Progress Union, UPU? We pride ourselves as pathfinders and people of enviable heritage, we were one of Africa’s very first ethnic groups to form a union whose voice resonates strongly with the people and whose pronouncement was almost law, wherever there are sons and daughters of Urhobo. The UPU founded by our fore-fathers was second only to the African National Congress, ANC, of South Africa.
The Urhobo nation was respected far and wide. We were an organised, robust and incisive people with a quaint civilisation admired and adored by many ethnic nationalities. But today, the Urhobo nation stands at crossroads. You look backwards and you are confronted with pitch darkness, tragically, you look forward and everything appears hazy for a supposedly great people with uncertain future due to a seemingly intractable UPU leadership crisis orchestrated from within and supported from outside interests to keep the Urhobo nation down and her sons and daughters in disarray. I ask again, how did we arrive at this cliff-hanger?
Indeed today, the UPU, the supreme umbrella organisation and voice of Urhobo nation, the seemingly unshaking and unshakeable pillar that we lean on, is now in tatters, emblematic of a fading and failing culture and people. Today, UPU has a factional “President-General’, PG, that is a foreigner, a self-confessed and authentic son of our neigbour, an Ijaw man. His name is Olorogun Moses Taiga, the son of Chief Joseph Taiga Zeze.
But the fact of this man’s ethnic group, as crystal as it is, sadly is now a subject of controversy instigated by those who seemed determined to blunt their conscience, make Urhobo people a laughing stuck and defraud their own history. Or how else do you put it, because the story of Olorogun Moses Taiga is there in the market place for all to see and buy a copy, even though there are efforts to buy and mop up available copies from book stores following this great revelation that his father is an ljaw man but his mother Urhobo.
Again, how did we get to this shameful stage that the Urhobos are now under a non-Urhobo as a “factional leader”? Our land, the Urhobo nation, is blessed with astute, diligent, ultra-careful and painstaking intellectuals, writers, publishers, historians, men who understand the critical assignment of protecting the solemn stature of truth as it affects our history. Every Urhobo comes from a kingdom that is known and can be traced. Perhaps, the invisible hands of the Urhobo ancestors were at play when some worthy sons and ambassadors of Urhobo land were commissioned by Ologun Moses Taiga to document in book fully sponsored by him and titled Olomu And Development Of Urhobo Land & Western Niger Delta where he himself revealed to the writer his true and full identity in an interview in April 2012.
The factional pseudo-”President General”, Olorogun Taiga, in the said disclosure, spoke eloquently and unambiguously about his paternity and family in general in the book that one was only able to secure a copy last week because the book is being mopped up from book shelf. The book was Published by Urhobo Historical Society, UHS, and edited by erudite Urhobo sons, Peter P. Ekeh, Onoawarie Edevbie and Peter Ishaka who are still alive. This book, precisely on pages 299 and 308, recounted the information given by Olorogun Taiga himself that his father, Joseph Taiga Zeze, who died in 1994 at the age of 106 years, hailed from Matolo family in Kiagbodo in the Ijaw area of Western Niger Delta while his mother an Urhobo woman was from Okogbosu family in Okpare, Ughelli South Local Government Area. All the brothers of Olorogun Moses Taiga living in Warri, including, a medical doctor proudly claim and identify themselves proudly as ljaw from Kiagbodo, just like his very cerebral but late brother who lived in the United States.
Why, therefore, is Olorogun Moses Taiga the only son of late Pa Joseph Zeze Taiga, an ljaw from Kiagbodo that is claiming to be an Urhobo? Urhobo nation is a patrilineal society and it is unheard of, if not an abomination for a foreigner to lead Urhobo people. No doubt, Urhobo ancestors are in tears that the son of a neigbour, an ljaw man is claiming a factional leadership of the sons and daughters of Urhobo people. It should be noted that one of the South-South’s foremost leaders today, Chief Edwin Clark, a very respected leader, whose mother is an Urhobo and father an ljaw from Kiagbodo and who is evidently very proud of this heritage has never hiden this fact from anyone, yet he commands the respect of Urhobos who even go to him as a leader.
For example, in the likely event of any disputes that are very rampant today between Urhobos and ljaws where will the loyalty of Olorogun Moses Taiga lie ? In the days to come, relevant pages of the book would be uploaded into the internet for the whole world to read and see the decline of Urhobo nation. That Olorogun Moses Taiga is an ljaw from Kiagbodo is no longer in doubt because he unequivocally said so and documented this fact in a book when he had no thought of becoming a UPU president, this is the undiluted, unadulterated and conclusive hard fact, that Olorogun Moses is bonafide Ijaw man from Kiagbodo.
The greatest tragedy and calamity is that those who are aware of this fact have even aided and abetted this obnoxious quest to subject the whole Urhobo nation to a dizzying infamy by trying to legitimise an aberration. Where are the intellectuals, historians, kings and elders of Urhobo and what are they doing about this calamity that has befallen the Urhobo nation. How could an Ijaw man be the President-General of Urhobo Progress Union? Does this mean that Urhobo land has no capable son to lead its union? Can an Urhobo man be the president of ljaw National Congress, INC ? How is it that we have become so jaundiced and misanthropic? Why should our voices jangle over an issue that is clearly documented, factual and lucid? I ask again, how did we arrive at this impasse? How did our people, a nation that operates with a silent code of courage and conviction; just how did we hit this deadlock?
The same UPU founded in 1931, 88 years ago that has produced great men of character and veritable figures as PGs, men whose words come seminal, doyens of Urhobo nation whose identity were unequivocal and never a contentious agenda. You can easily name some of these historic figures that pasted the prideful picture of UPU at the corridors of our memory and held important public offices in Nigeria – Chief Omorohwo Okoro, UPU first PG, Mukoro Mowoe, the creative and innovative PG, whose strides placed him on an uncommon pedestal of glory, Chief Salubi, Chief Benjamin Okumagba. Other great Urhobo men of note includes the first Governor of Midwest, Jereton Mariere, the first Chancellor of the University of Lagos that has a hall named after him till date in that great institution, General David Ejoor, one time governor of Mid-West Region, Justice Ayo Irikefe, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria and Olorogun Felix Ibru, first Executive Governor of Delta state, among others.
For over eight decades, the Urhobo nation produced these legal, aristocratic leaders with neither strife nor discordance about their nationality. How is it that in 2018, in a digital age, the age of internet, where information is at our finger tips, how is it that it is at this time that the nationality of a man perching on the revered seat of the UPU President General should be a subject of acute dissension? There is now a sword of Damocles pointing at the soul of the Urhobo nation. Darkness hovers over the land. We must spring to our feet and find the granite will to bring light to shine over this looming darkness and restore Urhobo dignity and pride.
* Dr.Ufuoma, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Warri, Delta State.