By Kenneth Yugbovwre
The recent policy of the federal government to name monuments after illustrious Nigerians as a mark of honour is highly laudable and commendable, but, some observable disregard to the multi faceted ethnic peculiarities of Nigeria as a nation state may obviate the salutary benefits of such an innovative policy.
Although the policy seems to resonate well with the generality of Nigerians due to its perception as the onset of a long over due process of replacing the names of our former colonial masters/ imperialists doting myriad facilities and monuments in Nigeria, with the names of eminent Nigerians who worked assiduously to liberate Nigeria from imperialism or who contributed immeasurably to the social — cultural, political and economic growth of our Nigeria.
Nonetheless, the inadvertent paradox of this innovative initiative, especially in the naming of the Ujevwu Rail Terminal after Chief Alfred Rewane, is a monumental gaffe that riles the sensibilities of the entirety of the urhobo ethnic nationality .
Even supposing that chief Alfred Rewane is an illustrious Nigerian whose contribution towards nation building is not in contention nor questioned, howbeit, this great Nigerian and Deltan was an avowed Itsekiri hegemonist who deserves to be memorialized in his Itsekiri homestead and not in Ujevwu in Udu Local Government Council Area of Delta State — the heart of Urhoboland.
Granted that the facility is a federal government asset which the federal government is entitled to name after eminent Nigerians deemed to have meritoriously distinguished themselves in service to the nation, but, to ignore the sentiments and sensibilities of the host communities in any part of the federation is akin to covertly igniting a tinderbox to stoke embers of communal unrest, a prevalence which has characterized and defined ethnic relationships in the Niger Delta Region.
The Urhobos appreciate the gossamerlike friendly relationship existing between them and their Itsekiri neighbours albeit with reservations about the long history of land disputation and litigation between both neighbours. Hence the Urhobos are against and would not allow any seed of possible future conflict to be inadvertently sowed between them and their cherished neighbours.
Innocuous incidents like this in the past , were responsible for the needless battles of attrition between both neighbours, very sad narratives abound of how the itsekiris took advantage of some not well thought out decisions of government to expand their hegemonic tendencies by attempting to push the frontiers of their natural territories beyond nature’s endowment.
The litany of land disputations between Itsekiri hamlets in the heart of various Urhobo towns and their host communities is an attestation of the guile of the Itsekiris to always claim ownership of any square meter of land given to them in compassion as tenants or inlaws.
Anyway, much as the policy of celebrating our past heroes is welcome, Urhobo land is blessed with a plethora of illustrious sons and daughters — persons who deserve such immortalization in their homestead.
Major General Raymond Mathew Dumuje, was an Urhobo man from Udu who served the nation without blemish should be most appropriate personality for such a facility in his own domain, HRM Major General Felix Agho Mujakperhuo was a commander of Ecomog in Liberia, Major General Patrick Azziza was a G.O.C , Major General John Obada, HRM Lucky Ochuko Ararile is a retired Air Vice Marshal, Air Vice Marshal Frank Ajobena, these are all military officers who served Nigeria in various capacities and meritoriously distinguished themselves
In addition, the late Chief Edward Sido, Chief Wilson Odibo, Chief Francis Oputu , Senator Fred Brume were all distinguished civilians who contributed in no small measure to Udu Local Government Council , Delta State and Nigeria . Chief Jereton Mariere, was the first Governor of Midwestern state, while the late Felix Ibru was the first civilian governor of Delta state. Justice Ayo Irikefe, was a chief justice of Nigeria, Justice Ovie Whiskey, was once an electoral commission chairman in nigeria. These are just a few Urhobo sons eminently qualifed to be commemorated with the Ujevwu Rail Terminal.
Consequently, the Urhobo nation is aghast and perplexed that none of the above mentioned Urhobo sons and others mentioned were considered good enough to be commemorated with this auspicious national honour,despite sacrificing their brine, sweat and blood for the unity and economic progress of Nigeria.
Yet, a known ethnic hegemonic champion who held the Urhobo nation in contempt and instituted countless lawsuits against the Urhobo to despoil them of their ancestral lands and heritage is deemed worthy to be immortalized in Urhoboland, a land he hated with passion.
If, I may ask, what were the parameters used in adjudging chief Alfred Rewane a fit and proper person worthy of being immortalized in urhiboland. Chief Rewane never held any elective or appointed position at the federal level, nor was he an industrialist that impacted on the fortunes and economy of Nigeria, Delta state or Urhoboland.
It is instructive to aver at this juncture that while We are not ruling out mischief in this malapropic deed which our hunch is laying on the shoulders of Professor Itse Sagay who may have used his closeness to powers that be in the corridors of Aso Rock to undermine and spite the Urhobos as part of a covert grand expansionist design disingenuously garbed and tucked in a good federal initiative hijacked by ethnic irredentists to feather their clipped wings.
Nonetheless, it is also imperative we sound a note of caution to all ethnic jingoists and their collaborators that the urhobo nation will not stand arms akimbo and watch the Itsekiris once again orchestrate their nefarious expansionist agenda. History is replete with stories of how the Itsekiris were given footholds in several Urhobo communities to ply their fishing trade but ended staking claims to such lands.
Before this latest gambits by the Itsekiris and their collaborators to annex Ujevwu by subterfuge, prof Itself Sagay had been embroiled in a very provocative ethnic expansionist program in asserting and propagating the existence and ownership of a delusionary Ajah Sagay town in Amukpe quarters of Sapele Local Government Council Area of Delta state., an area long upheld by the courts in the colonial era as exclusively an Urhobo enclave since time immemorial.
The FG must adopt proactive measures to avert the looming crisis in Ujevwu and its environs by a timely reversal of the provocative naming of the Ujevwu rail terminal after chief Alfred Rewane, a tribal jingoist who engage his Urhobo neighbours in countless litigations over land disputations and expansion of Itsekiris hegemony.
The seemingly silence of the urhobo is ominious, the disquiet in the locality is a graveyard silence that bodes an ill wind which may likely snowball into a conflagration with very disastrous end results.
The Urhobo nation can never be intimidated to accept the imposition of an enemy as our hero. In especially as we are not lacking eminently qualified sons and daughters for such honours, we are also not averse to other Deltans being honoured in our lands so long as they are not enemies of the urhobo people.
Therefore, apart from the tendentious nomination of chief Rewane, any other Nigerian who has never posed any existential threat to the urhobo nation is highly welcome. The FG must do the needful to avoid rancour that may culminate in crisis that can lead to disruptions in the use of the Ujevwu facility that the FG laboured to complete because of her desire to ameliorate the transportation burdens of Nigerians.
The looming crisis is avoidable.
A stitch in time saves nine.
Kenneth Yugbovwre Mph,