By Egufe Yafugborhi

At 90 years of existence, it is cheering to hear the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) leadership canvassing a 7 point agenda to advance the fortunes of Urhobo.

We advice, however, that the set goals in this 7 point agenda will hardly be achieved without an enduring UPU leadership. We must remind ourselves that the biggest challenge before UPU today has not been absence of similar plans of action in the past.

The major challenge has been lack of enduring leadership as a result of absolute disregard for continuity. Each successive administration lives for self and bows out on acrimonious transition to a new leadership.

Under such dishonourable atmosphere, the out gone leadership dies with its own determined development agenda including projects and programmes yet to be executed, those executed and those started and were not completed before expiration of the concerned leadership.

And like the vicious circle, a new team at the helms never sees any need to sustain the development structures of the previous administration. Whether lofty or ill-conceived, they abandon all and start their own agenda, resulting in wastage and arrested development.

It is imperative that we must embrace a clear departure from this narrative of lack of continuity, which is why the UPU of today must champion the determination of a sustainable administrative Master Plan that makes for enduring leadership of the union.

Let’s face it, only the Olorogun Moses Taiga led EXCO cannot implement all the designed 7 point agenda within their tenure. So the agenda must be structured to fit into stable transitional execution, such that successive administrations do not have issues picking up from where the previous administration stopped.

It is as a result of the lack of continuity that we now have a UPU Secretariat that is big for nothing, only fit for holding the annual day and left overgrown into a bush till another annual day approaches. The moment a new PG emerges, his private home becomes the meeting point. It shouldn’t be so. Which is why we strongly advocate a multifaceted UPU Secretariat Development Master Plan that will witness generational implementation and benefits, a public attraction.

Inside the envisioned Master Plan for a UPU Complex where the main building is already standing at Ovwiamuge, UPU should build an Urhobo Library, Craft & Culture Center to be under the Urhobo Historical Society. Inside that structure, scholars, tourists, researchers, students can visit to know more about Urhobo. Urhobo uniques crafts, like Otor-Edo pottery, our traditional fashions, apparels and accessories, mats and sundry craft including Ikekele (Ikelike), drums, will be on display and sale.

Inside the Secretariat Master Plan, UPU should build an ultramodern Skills Acquisition Center for standard training of Urhobo sons and daughters on various sellable skills, crafts and trades. Prospective beneficiaries should undergo basic qualifying test to ensure that the set objective of growing future entrepreneurs is met.

Inside the Master Plan, UPU should build a decent Hotel, call it Guest House or resort, with a number of event centers where clients from far and near can lodge and hold events, like the Catholic Church has in Warri. That venture can be fitted with a sizeable swimming pool to further attracts visitors who will the be thronging the place for leisure.

Inside the intended Master Plan, UPU should develop a police post, a chain store, and as time goes on, housing for administrative staff and sundry facility. The overall vision is to turn the UPU Secretariat into a massive complex capable of sustaining itself and adding value to society through employment of the workforce to manage the complex and economic opportunities associated.

The master plan should have a standard block as Secretariat and Meeting Hall for the Urhobo Traditional Rulers Council with engaged administrative staff on ground. That will ease meetings among our traditional rulers and enhance respect for the body.

Lastly, the the envisioned Master Plan must include deliberate upgrade renovation and committing of the Mukoro Mowoe built earliest UPU Secretariat in Warri into viable use in Warri, possibly make it a Laiason office or an Urhobo Museum and an event center.

Agreed, realising all of it is not a walk in the park, but with continuity in leadership, it is not only achievable, it will manifest a lot of good and progress in Urhoboland in near future.

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Of course the Master Plan is not a closed out vision. With time, when most of the listed plans and projects have been delivered, there could be a review to input more structures.

The real worry would now be, how do we mobilise funds to actualise these master plan? We have the people that matter in Urhobo. Much money was raised under the Late Benjamin Okumagba era. Hundreds of millions of naira were donated and pledged. And many have been wondering whether the single structure secretariat currently standing at Ovwiamuge was commensurate with all that was donated.

The possibility is that the UPU leadership that built the Secretariat was only fixated on that single structure. There was no futuristic thought on the Secretariat development. Probably, having delivered the target structure, every surplus became personal gains of the project executors.

That line of thinking would not have been felt is there was a master plan, there would have been concern to push any surplus donation into other areas. And because most of the donors never got the real value anticipated, including the quality of what was delivered, many have been reluctant to respond satisfactorily to further appeals to fundraising.

Going forward, with a clear, sustainable master plan, the appeal must return to all well meaning Urhobo sons and daughters who God have remarkably blessed the works of their hands to reconsider committing fund to the development of an enduring UPU Secretariat. The assurance this time is that the donors, not the UPU leadership, lead the executions of projects.

What that mean is that donors would be urged to adopt aspects of the master plan for direct execution rather than just transferring money into UPU accounts. A volunteer can, for instance, agree to build the craft center, just as two or more donors can jointly take on direct execution of the resort center, skills center and other aspects.

Particularly for the income generating components, there could be an understanding for volunteers to deliver a quality job, competitive for business and then manage the place for a set number of years while making percentage returns to UPU before conceding full ownership to the Union.

And so the appeal goes back to the likes of Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, The Ibrus, Igho Salomi, Urhobo Social Group, Olorogun Moses Taiga, Ede Edafinone, David Edevbie, James Ibori, Ovie Omo-Agege, The Okumagba Family, Ejovi, the Onosode Family, the
Agbatutu Family, Festus Keyamo Ohwovoriole Family, Akpomudje Family
The Odibos, Chief Kenneth Gbagi, Chief Koloko, Urhobos in Diaspora and many more too numerous to mention.

Above all, we need the support of all Urhobo sons and daughters irrespective of socioeconomic standing. Every kobo will add value and make it a lot easier to bear the burden. In the end, strengthening the common good will benefit us all.

So, Urhobo mena, can we all chorus, “It’s game on”?

Yafugborhi, a media professional wrote from Port Harcourt

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