|Urhobo Historical Society|
A RESPONSE FROM AGBARHA-URHOBO COMMUNITY, AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF WARRI, TO J. O. S. AYOMIKE’S CRITIQUE OF BRITISH TREATIES OF PROTECTION WITH URHOBO COMMUNITIES IN WARRI
CHIEF J. O. S. AYOMIKE: SAINT OR SINNER?
A CRITIQUE OF J. O. S. Ayomike’s CRITIQUE
By D. A. Obiomah
We say in Urhobo that he who would put out a fire should not hold tinder in his hand. Professor Ekeh and his colleagues have honoured this dictum by defining the Urhobo Historical Society’s approach to Itsekiri/Urhobo relations viz-a-viz the contention over the ownership of Warri Town between the Agbarha (Agbassa) Urhobos of Warri and the Okere Urhobos, also of Warri, on the one hand, and the Itsekiris, on the other hand. In its “Prefatory Statement” on this matter, the Editorial and Management Committee of Urhobo Historical Society says:
“We are delighted to learn from Chief J. O. S. Ayomike’s critique of our Chair and Editor that he is working for the welfare of our region of Nigeria. We want to assure Chief Ayomike and other members of Itsekiri Leaders’ Forum that all of us, including our Chair Professor Peter Ekeh, are committed to working for peace and justice in the Western Niger Delta. We do not see any need for continued conflicts among the ethnic communities in our region of Nigeria. We therefore applaud Chief Ayomike’s commitments. They tally within our mandate, which is to promote good relations among all the ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta.
We are aware that the matter of Warri is a touchy subject for the Urhobo Communities in Warri as well as for the Itsekiri people. But we are convinced that with good will, a resolution of the problems that have troubled inter-ethnic relations in Warri since the beginning of the last century can be found”.
This conciliatory approach by the Editorial and Management Committee of Urhobo Historical Society, as its mild and refined language bears out, corresponds to Chief Ayomike’s own position as well. Then Ayomike launches out not even with the subtlety of the monk with his dagger under his cloak. He proposes peace with a flaming sword in his hand. After introducing his CRITIQUE see what catalogue of words and execrable phrases follow as decorations for Prof. Ekeh:
(i) am a little hard on Prof. Ekeh
(ii) scholarly work… should bear no sentiment
(iii) issues… deliberately ignored, overlooked or distorted.
(iv) promote divisive ideas that could incite people to worthless ends.
(v) Prof Ekeh misleadingly leaves out
(vi) a misleading flight from truth
(vii) outright fiction.
(viii) in apparent spirit of scholarship
(ix) but hurting scholarship
(x) distorts their titles.
(xi) wrong title to mislead.
(xii) to strengthen his false argument erected on sentiment.
(xiii) he has falsely transposed
(xiv) his newly found treaties doctored by him
(xv) a one-sided scholarship
(xvi) distort documents and misinform
(xvii) completely overshadowed by ethnic subjectivity
(xviii) it is amazing that Professor Ekeh,
(xix) approbating and reprobating.
(xx) a man of learning could selfishly.
All this bile ought to be deservedly dismissed as storm in a tea cup, or finding “amber in gold”.
With all these acerbic epithets and innuendos from Chief Ayomike to bring Prof. Ekeh’s scholarship to ridicule, it seems that he or the Itsekiri leadership are aggrieved that an Urhobo man is a Professor of international repute and typically in their apartheid exclusivist ways they would rather not have him there.
It is possible that Professor Ekeh has not had much dealing with the Itsekiri leadership, particularly of the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought orientation. They may have changed their name to Itsekiri Leaders’ Forum. New wine in old bottle. He should not be surprised at the peaceful fury. These Itsekiri leaders are master-schemers. They understand ‘the importance of being earnest’ as a tool of propaganda. Bluster and play the bully even when lying, and repeat the lie ad nauseam with chiefly self-confidence. That is their trade mark.
We, the Agbarha Urhobo of Warri, have since learned in our dealings with the Itsekiri leadership that a bully needs to be bellowed at twice as loud to force him to retreat. We do this with a quiver not of arrows but of jolting facts.
Chief Ayomike ended his inquisition of Prof Ekeh with an aside story about his kind of JUSTICE, an argument meant to apply to the Agbarha case with Dore Numa but not the Okere Urhobo case where they lost as plaintiffs but disregard the verdict. Let me start my CRITIQUE to Ayomike’s CRITIQUE with a story also, but one to be taken seriously, not an aside. Once upon a time, I was in a position to sack an Itsekiri man who was doing his job well, and replace him with a fellow Urhobo. I stood my ground and refused the request. Up till today relations between me and my Urhobo man remain cool. If history were to repeat itself I would act every bit the same notwithstanding all these years of Itsekiri heartlessness. By this Chief Ayomike should understand that a man who gives justice also demands justice. So the struggle continues. Our fathers knew that between the British and Dore Numa, torch bearer of colonialism, they had been short-changed. We, their children, now have positive proof of our ancestors’ claim and are fighting on to recover our dessert. We are catching up and giving the Itsekiri leadership a severe chill. Our progeny should not live with the hurdles that have always been before us. They, too, know now that we have been cheated and will stand up for their rights, not JUSTICE Ayomike way, the justice of Aesop’s Wolf and the Lamb.
Following the communal disturbances in Warri in 1997, the Federal Military Government by Decree No. 14 of 1997, set up a Judicial Commission of Enquiry chaired by the late Justice Alhasan Idoko. This extract from Agbarha clan Group Memorandum is relevant:
1.5 DEFINITION OF TERMS
WARRI has been confusedly used in speeches and in the news media recently. By WARRI we mean the city, not anywhere outside it.
ENVIRONS means the immediate area of the Warri conurbation, not anywhere many kilometres away. Doing the latter is misleading. Ogidigbe is not Warri environs. It is over 100 kilometres away on the Atlantic seashore.
HOMELAND cannot be Warri Town the way Itsekiris use it. Instead, it is the portion of the land mass to which a person belongs as a clan member or citizen. Warri Division cannot therefore be the homeland of the Ijaws anymore than it can be of the Urhobos or Itsekiris exclusively. Each clan has a specific area of the Division as his homeland. Itsekiri leaders have deliberately misled government and the public over this point for many years to justify their selfish claims.
HOME is more limiting. It is the place in the home-land where a person belongs paternally. For example, O.N. Rewane when he was alive, and other Itsekiri who strut around as Chief so and so of Warri when Warri is not their hometown, are the daily incarnation of the nuisance called over-lordship of the Olu, the incarnation of the deprivation of their neighbours, their deft confidence tricks and outright duplicity.
INDIGENE of Warri means a person whose hometown is Warri.
1.6 OWNERSHIP OF WARRI
(1) The British who met the Agbarha people in Warri (made up of the village of Agbarha and the bushes where they fended for themselves) NEVER, in listing village groups, grouped Itsekiri villages among any Warri group, because they were aware that Warri was, despite the leases, not Itsekiri.
Ayomike in his CRITIQUE did not define his terms. His fluid references to Warri should be translated in the above terms, including Ayomike’s “Warri as Itsekiri Homeland”.
WARRI AS ITSEKIRI’S FALSE HOMELAND
Chief Ayomike is from Ugborodo, the Itsekiri clan who, like Omadino, are independent of Oluship [Itsekiri kingship], according to P. C. Llyod, an authority gleefully cited by Ayomike. By the definition of hometown and homeland given above, Ayomike’s hometown is Ugborodo. Ugborodo when used to mean clan area is Ayomike’s homeland, like being Welsh and British. The aggregate of group homelands make the homeland of the Itsekiri tribe or nation. But he has shared from Itsekiri booty in Warri so he pushes, as other Itsekiri leaders do, to pass himself off as a Warri man. He cannot point to his ancestor’s compound in Warri, with his uncles and close relations’ compounds contiguously sprinkled.
Now that I have challenged them, in their next outing they will develop a plausible legend. The name Warri is foreign like Escravos, Forcados, Benin. Iwere, which Itsekiris adopted as part of the politics of the 1950s and 1960s designating Itsekiri, is very likely Portuguese, a mispronunciation of Aveiro, Afonso de’ Aveiro, the Portuguese earliest explorer 1485, in the Escravos area; de Aveiro set up trade in Benin River between the Oba of Benin and the Portuguese. The “v” in Aveiro would be “w” sound in Portuguese. The “I” as first letter of Iwere is accounted for by the local habit among Urhobo and Itsekiri to start words with “I.” Compare Iwarri used by Itsekiri and Urhobo alike for Warri. Other examples are Idicki for Dick, Ijosini for Johnson, Ivitor for Victor, idolo money, Iwofu for wharf, Iwaya for wire. There are several foreign European words common to Urhobo and Itsekiri like esete plate, ekanaka jug, ukujere spoon, oro gold. On the name WARRI early European visitors and explorers used the name to refer to a locality from the mouths of the Escravos and Forcados Rivers into the creeks. It is not Itsekiri. What does it mean? I have not seen what Catholic priests have in their calendar. The Warri referred to “In the 2002 Catholic Directory and Liturgical Calendar” must be Ode Itsekiri.
Warri Town now in contention did not exist in 1685, not even when Claude Macdonald visited later in 1891. Macdonald was talking of Ode Itsekiri, the Warri which Adams described as “a beautiful island.” Ayomike will need to dig more than a Suez Canal to make Warri an island. Smarting in reaction to the friends of Dore Numa who moved their administrative headquarters from Bobi and Ode Itsekiri to New Warri, mainland Warri of the Agbarha people, the Itsekiri began to call their Ode Itsekiri beautiful island Big Warri, a name that escaped Ayomike’s memory, it being commonly used orally and splashed in numerous documents originating even from Itsekiris. Itsekiris took their dead to Big Warri, their city state homeland, for burial. When the Urhobo questioned this they began to bury their dead in Warri. The Warri in contention is defined in Government Gazette of October 18, 1911, Official Notification No. 1006 represented in Station Plan No. 49 of 1911 indicating the lines of the segregated Township project that was at the bottom of the leases of Agbarha lands by Government (Chief Dore, Chief Political Agent) to Government. Also, the Intelligence Report of the Itsekiri written by Captain J.C.F. Pender lists ALL Itsekiri settlements, large and small, with the names of the village heads. Warri is not among them. When in 1936 the 88 years old interregnum ended with the coronation of Olu of Itsekiri, Ginuwa II, the colonial administration rejected Itsekiri request for him to be called Olu of Warri because Warri was not an Itsekiri town and had never been under Itsekiri control.
So what is this public deceit that Warri is Itsekiri Homeland? Dore Numa himself wrote two letters, one on 28/2/23 to Agbarha saying that Agbarha lands belonged to them. He wrote earlier on 21/2/1922 to the Lt. Governor Southern Provinces saying that he did not lease Agbarha Lands to the Government; the only Agbarha land he leased to the Government was the land used as Native Cemetery. The Commissioner of Lands commenting wondered why Dore made such damning admission against himself. The cards were left to Government to play out. The Government had its prestige to uphold. Would a colonial judiciary go against Government interest in an age when it was forbidden by law to sue the Crown? Why then does Ayomike argue that the judges were not political and therefore corrupt, the influence of sensual Itsekiri females particularly of Ugbuwangwe, flirting around lonesome whites not discounted. How about T. D. Maxwell? When a judge presides over his own action under litigation, in his capacity as Commissioner for Lands but unknown to the Plaintiff, would he bless the Plaintiff and own up? His scathing make-believe condemnation of the plaintiff, Agbarha, can be nothing but corrupt. When the British Court rejected Agbarha motion to subpoena the Governor to produce the Agbarha Treaty of Protection was it not corrupt to deny the request, Agbarha copy of the treaty having been lost? I made my humble contribution to clarifying the dispute over Warri when I wrote Warri: Land, Overlords and Land Rights in 1987. The lawsuits which Itsekiris glowingly cite as their title to Warri were elaborately canvassed. Ayomike published his A History of Warri in 1988. Was he not obliged to address the questions raised by me? All we get from him is “The pundits have done their part” forgetting that those judicial ‘pundits’ were part of the machinery of our subjugation either with trickery or with powder and shot according to British justice. For Ayomike, history is to recite references without end. When I was a child I was taught that “History is a record of past events.” Since coming of age and becoming old I have learnt from J. M. Thompson’s Lectures on Foreign History 1494 – 1787 that
“You don’t study history to learn historical facts but to acquire historical judgment. It is not learning which makes a historian but discernment.”
Chief Ayomike’s string of references, including maps, smacks of name-dropping which is not exalting. A map of Warri and Benin Districts made by Gallway himself as Deputy Consul and Commissioner for Warri and Benin Districts, September 1893, would have been more to the point than “A map of Africa among other Continental maps in President Jefferson’s residence.” You could not infer from Gallway’s map that Warri was land belonging to the Itsekiris. Warri is not on that map but European trading stores known as ‘Factories’. Ayomike is an economist. If he is writing history he should endeavour to do it properly. Indeed, Gallway did not consider Warri lands to be Itsekiri. It was this same Gallway who, after Nana’s defeat in 1894, was the man in “Agreement Made by Gallway to Chief Dore” registered as No. 6 of 1911. It says:
“Chief Dore and the people of Batere (in Benin River) are permitted to cut the salt bush at about Fish Town formerly cut by Chief Nana”.
Dore subverted Nana in the war and yet had to be permitted. One would have expected that if the Olu owned all lands, Dore as ‘Olu’ would automatically accede to the salt bush. Gallway knew that individuals and families owned land, not any Olu, talk less one whose throne had fallen vacant for 46 years by 1894.
Equally significant is the fact that the building of the Consulate at Warri had started in 1891. When Itsekiri treaties were signed, it was in Benin River in 1884 and in 1894 at Forcados, not at Ode Itsekiri where confusion and political rivalry still reigned. But Ayomike lists several persons who either signed or attended the signing ceremony of 1894. I emphasise and do so authoritatively and ask Ayomike to challenge me that all the persons listed were from Okere (Itsekiri portion), Ajamogha, Ugbori, Ugbuwangwe, NOT from Warri. They are not from Warri of the contentious leases. The boundaries of the Warri in contention are as stated above. It was not until 1949, and again in the late 1960s or early 1970s that the Military Governor of Bendel State extended the township boundary to include these places.
Prof Ekeh and his colleagues challenge Ayomike when they say, “Please read Akindele Aiyetan’s powerful summary of the dispute over “ownership” of Warri. Akindele writes:
“So who owns Warri? The Itsekiri claim that Ginuwa I founded Warri in the 16th century; the Urhobo claim that they had founded and lived in Warri before the 16th century. To a dispassionate observer, the former claim would sound implausible because the Itsekiri King (known as Olu of Itsekiri until 1952) did not move into the present Warri until 1952, when the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo rewarded the Itsekiri for their votes in the 1952 general elections by changing the title of Olu of Itsekiri to Olu of Warri and establishing an Itsekiri Communal Land Trust over Warri, with the Olu as Chairman”.
Perhaps Akindele is not aware. When the Olu, enticed by politicians, moved into Warri, into foreign land, he moved into rented property. When he built his palace it is on leasehold land. Similarly, Dore Numa who styled himself Olu, and was to his British patrons Olu to all intents and purposes, had not an inch of land in Warri. He granted the Warri leases to his mentors and became their lessee when they leased to him a small parcel of land 50’ x 100’ now known as 43, Market Road, Warri. Dore himself as President of the Native Court of Appeal in Warri lived in his village of Odogene across the Warri River, not in Warri Headquarters. Before he became Chief Political Agent, 1902, he was in Benin River. Dore was not a Warri man.
Regarding appendage of Warri to names of Itsekiri Clubs and societies and chieftaincy titles, Ayomike says:
“Itsekiri have been the only Nigerian ethnic group to identify their clubs or societies using Warri as the mode: Warri National Union, Warri League, Warri Ladies’ Vanguard and Warri Progressive Society. No other ethnic group does it.”
Ayomike has laid his flank open by this statement. The Itsekiri Leaders of Thought inculcated this as a matter of strategy to claim what is not their s. With their reach they strive to popularise make-believe which becomes a faith or addiction among Itsekiris and a ‘fact’ among the general public. This strategy is also applied to seize Ijaw lands in the creeks; they give Itsekiri names to Ijaw villages and claim them. The second leg of this ploy is to go to court as a gamble. If they lose they lose nothing of their own except the cost of litigation met from Itsekiri Communal Lands Trust Funds. They could win, which is a feather in their hat and a boost for ruthless egocentricity. It will pay off in the falsification of election results since the Electoral Officer is often their man and he appoints the electoral officials who cook up election returns. It has been our experience that an Itsekiri Electoral Officer, with impunity, registered 481,000 eligible voters out of a projected population of 337,000 men, women and children. This is Itsekiri ethnic patriotism. Is Ayomike a Chief? Then his title awkwardly is …“of Warri”. But he is a stranger to Warri like Dore Numa from whom his claim derives.
APPROBATING AND REPROBATING
From his CRITIQUE, one gets the impression that Ayomike’s objective is to bring Prof. Ekeh into contempt and public ridicule. In his exuberance he has thrown caution to the wind and inflicted on himself “the unkindest cut of all”. He has thereby imposed a painful duty upon me to direct the flood light on him. Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
Ayomike is not a Warri man. He is from Gborodo. His Gborodo people fought a legal suit Dore v Olowe. The cause of action had nothing to do with Chief Dore. It was between two Itsekiris over Edede land and fishing rights in Yokiri Creek. This was at the mouth of the Escravos River. Together Escravos and Forcados Rivers opened the way to the hinterland trade i.e. from Warri inland. Being at the mouth of the ocean the area must be restricted to British control against foreign competition. The Resident, Warri Province, ordered Chief Dore to go to Forcados to stop Olowe’s suit before the District Officer. Olowe was recalcitrant. The case was transferred to Dore’s Court which found against Olowe. The Resident instructed Dore to get Olowe to give an undertaking that all lands belonged to the Olu (there had been no Olu for over seventy years). The aim was to put Dore in control under the guise of native law and custom. Olowe did not yield to threats. The resident then ordered Dore to sue Olowe with his Gborodo people for title to all lands. The case then became Dore v Olowe. Dore and his witnesses were a bundle of contradictions before the same Justice Webber in Ometan v Dore Numa. The Resident waded in. There was an adjournment. The resident overwhelmed Olowe and two days later Dore returned no longer claiming title to all lands but that the Olu held all land in trust for the people; no-one could alienate land without Dore’s consent as de facto Olu as Chief Political Agent to the Crown i.e. the Government. This was entered as Consent Judgment. The Gborodo people were never satisfied.
When the Agbarha people sued Chief Dore Numa in Ogegede v Dore Numa in 1925 the judge, T. D. Maxwell wanted to put in the Consent Judgment as Exhibit 1. Ogegede protested because Agbarha land was not Itsekiri land hence the ‘Consent Judgement’ could not apply. He gave judgment without calling on Dore to state his case. This is the case that late A.O. Rewane kept quoting to justify chicanery and corruption. Ayomike says that “legal pundits have done their part” and there is no corruption!
The above is only a preamble yet. Gborodo people in 1969, that is some forty-eight years later, were again in Court with the Olu and the Itsekiri Communal Lands Trust. Significantly, they were again represented by an Olue (Olowe in 1921). The Judge, Justice F. O. M. Atake under pressure from Godwin Boyo, Solicitor for Gborodo, all but threw counsel into prison for contempt of Court. The Supreme Court berated Justice Atake roundly.
This Atake is an Urhobo man of Orogun extraction. His mother is Itsekiri and calls himself Itsekiri. He claims to be an indigene of Warri because the over-lordship of the Olu, he says, makes every Itsekiri a native of Warri. This definition is attractive to Ayomike. Like Justice Atake, Chief Ayomike is a beneficiary of the lands litigated upon in Ometan (of Agbarha) v Dore Numa. As an Ugborodo man one would have expected Ayomike to understand the Agbarha situation. No. It is convenient to say that Agbarha lands are Itsekiri lands. Meanwhile Gborodo continue to resist the Olu’s over-lordship in relation to the lands of Itsekiris. Since the Godwin Boyo affair the Gborodo people have been in open defiance against the Olu, have been again to court to assert their independence. They are managing the proceeds from their lands. Ayomike is one of the protesters against the Olu. They petitioned against the Olu denouncing his interference with their lands and income. Ayomike is a signatory! Ayomike does not accept the Olu’s over-lordship for Gborodo. He accepts it for Warri; a two-faced Janus. So, who is approbating and reprobating, himself or Prof. Ekeh? That Ikpuri, an Agbarha man (albeit brought up by Itsekiri in Benin River), betrayed his people and gave suborned evidence for Dore Numa against Agbarha in Ometa v Dore Numa is despicable. But how is Ayomike different from Ikpuri? His stand in Warri undermines the credibility of Ugborodo who have him for a fellow traveller.
Gborodo was the guinea pig of over-lordship through the Consent Judgment. They have rejected it up to now, although they lost in British courts like Agbarha. Ayomike in his aside story implies that Agbarha lost in the colonial court and should accept corruption as Justice. The Itsekiri lost against Okere Urhobo but they disregard it and this is Justice. The Gborodo people with Ayomike as leader have even gone one step further to establish a body of trustees under the Companies Act to administer returns from their land and they have taken the Olu to court for interfering and snatching N12 million Gborodo funds. Read the inordinate language of anger from their protest petition to the Olu, copied to the Delta State Governor and six others titled “TO YOUR TENTS O ISRAEL”:
“It is ironic that you, who would not have a Trust for central Itsekiri affairs, could descend so low to seek to side-line the legal Ugborodo Trust in order to set up your fake one through your surrogate for selfish reasons…
“We recall your unlawful ambush of Ugborodo people’s N12 million in addition to your Dr. Oritsejafor’s N3 million for which Alagbon Police recommended prosecution…
“You have also sought to sit Ugborodo history on its head by disregarding the existence of the Olaja-Ori the Spiritual head of the community – who had existed before Ginuwa I came from Benin. You have failed to even mention him in your selfish letter to the Governor”.
This Olaja-Ori was canvassed in 1921 in Dore v Olowe and the Gborodo people were done in by the Resident’s Consent Judgment rubber-stamped by Justice A. F. C, Webber who had later become an expert in the act with Denedo and others v Dore Numa and Ometan v Dore Numa. How can Ayomike be seen to stand on the falsity of colonial judges who were serving the political and economic interest of their country and not deduce the obvious corruption? Instead he sees pundits who have done their part, even when Prof. Obaro Ikime, revered by Ayomike, says that Chief Dore did not lose a single law suit as Plaintiff or as defendant. Was this said in praise of Dore the winner of medals from the British for services rendered?
Under colonialism law and jurisprudence were not paramount; they were accommodated by the paramount interest and desires of the colonial power, with such interests stemming from domestic needs and the European balance of power politics which prompted the Berlin Act of 1885 precipitating the scramble for Africa. Justice was therefore necessarily subordinated to imperialism. The duty of the colonial judges fell within this ambit, as did the duty of the Spanish Inquisition between piety or faith, and the plunder of Aztec silver and gold from their profane shrines to adorn the holy altars of the Holy Roman Empire led by Rome and Madrid. France regarded her West African colonies as part of France without the niceties of asking the consent of the people. Britain regarded her colonies as plantations to be exploited for her benefit. Ayomike should see the justice dispensed by T. D. Maxwell, A.F.C. Webber, Donald Kingdon and the Privy Council in this light. For, the land question in Warri touched on a fundamental imperial interest, the establishment of a segregated township as Administrative Headquarters. Dore was a loyalist. He epitomised British interest and was kept on the ascendant against all comers, Urhobo, Itsekiris or Ijaws. British interest in Warri lay in the imperial subconscious and ran counter to indigenous Agbarha and Gborodo interest. Hence the struggle over “Who Owns Warri” is a struggle to reverse history turned topsy-turvy by imperial interest.
AYOMIKE’S URHOBO FRIEND
Who is Ayomike’s faceless, supine and disgusting Urhobo friend who is speaking for “most Urhobo leaders” of whom he says, “there is strong feeling among most Urhobo leaders that we have to accept the court decisions on Warri and live with them?” Who does he mean by we, the Agbarha people or the Gborodo people? Has he with anyone the mandate of the Agbarha or Gborodo people to be a sell out after which Ayomike will daub him and his group the 21st century Ikpuri? Members of the Itsekiri royal family did not cave in to British colonial courts when Chief Dore, whom they accused of usurping their birthright, defeated them in Denedo and others v Dore Numa. So, the Lt Governor had to come down to fix a compromise known as Colonel Morehouse’s Settlement. Part of the petition which brought the Lt Governor down read at paragraphs 13 and 14:
“13 That we respectfully beg leave to reiterate the question of Okere land of which we crave your indulgence. This land was given to the Government ten years ago by him; but now, when the Okere people sued him, he wrote a letter to them saying the land belonged to them, and that he is willing and prepared to pay over to them the sum of £20 presented to him by the Government in respect of Okere land. What does this mean? His letter referred to was put in evidence by us at the hearing of our case”.
Would Ayomike please draw the attention of his Urhobo friend to the similarity between this situation and the two letters written by the same Chief Dore to the Lt Governor and to the Agbarha people who sued him? Perhaps by now Ayomike is convinced of the corruption of a political nature that existed in the courts. Because the court decision was unjust the petition by Denedo, William Moore, Omagbemi and others continued thus at paragraph 14:
“14 That we wish to point out, when there is an important dispute between two sections of a nation or community, and the judgment of him who was to settle it is unjust, imperfect and partial, the dispute is never permanently settled, and there is bound to be unrest for an indefinite period.”
Philosophically and prophetically eloquent. This is the situation we are in. It applies to the Irish problem, to the Palestinian problem, to the Zapatista problem etc. Let Ayomike with his Urhobo friend and Itsekiri Leaders’ Forum dare to commit themselves to JUSTICE, not papering over the cracks. They must change their attitude.
But the Itsekiri leadership has a chronic problem. For more than a hundred years Itsekiri society has broken into two factions, the Olu faction and the Ologbotsere or anti-Olu faction. In the reign of Olu Erejuwa II, succeeded by the present Olu, the Ologbotsere faction was de facto Olu as in Dore Numa’s time. But now power is firmly in the hands of the Olu. Warri is a plum prize and both sides compete for control. As both sides try to hurt each other and to grab Urhobo advantages as the bone of contention we are buffeted by both sides and thus throwing the prospects of peace into greater confusion.
Thus due to lack of foresight Warri has become a curse, like swallowed sugar-coated poison, requiring an emetic. Imagine that the Federal Military Government initiated a litoral road from Lagos to Koko along the Atlantic sea board. This road would open up the Itsekiri country for economic prosperity. But Itsekiris have shown no keen interest. Of their own, the Olu faction planned an identical road to run from Koko to Ogheye. The Ologbotsere faction came out into Warri/Sapele Road, Warri, to demonstrate against the project. The late O.N. Rewane, Ologbotsere/Uwangwue of Warri, told me deprecatingly at Victor’s Motor Mechanic’s workshop where we met to repair our Mercedes cars that the idea of a Koko to Ogheye road was balderdash because if all the money that Itsekiris ever earned in their lives since their existence could be produced without a Kobo having been spent from it, it would be a drop in the ocean; the idea was schizophrenic. Still, nearer home, the Warri Local Government Area Council of which I was a member, 1976 to 1979, planned a land route to Ode Itsekiri through dredging and sand-filling. But the Ologbotsere faction (as de facto Olu) opposed the project crying out that Itsekiri traditional waterways were being blocked maliciously. But some three months ago, a delegation led by Chief Mabiaku, the Olu’s right hand man, visited the Governor of Delta State to request a land route to Ode Itsekiri! This is not all. About 1983 the Warri Local Government Council obtained a foreign loan totalling N26 million to establish Warri Farms. The only harvest from the farm was valued at N258.00 (two hundred and fifty eight Naira). Where did the money go? Among other things the Ologbotsere Faction who as Itsekiri Leaders of Thought led by O.N. Rewane and A. O Rewane spearheaded the loan, influenced survey and town planning of several Itsekiri villages/towns. If Itsekiris paid attention to the opening up of Itsekiri country, they would have more than enough in their hands to cope with. Why are they so blindly steeped in Warri which justice will ultimately remove from their control? Consultants are heavily paid. Here I am offering the Itsekiri free consultancy; Ayomike should thank Prof. Ekeh for it.
Please note: In this CRITIQUE I have used the terms Olu of Warri, Ologbotsere of Warri etc. This is not an acceptance of Warri tagged to Itsekiri titles. I am merely conforming to current linguistic usage.
D. A. OBIOMAH
Warri, Delta State
GOVERNMENT GAZETTE Oct, 18,1911
No. 1006 Official Notification
THE BOUNDARIES OF THE TOWN OF WARRI HAVE BEEN FIXED AS FOLLOWS AND ARE PUBLISHED FOR GENERAL INFORMATION.
All that area which is bounded on the South West by the Warri River and by the South Western boundary of the land leased by the Government at Alder’s Town as demarcated by concrete boundary posts:
On the South-East by the South-eastern boundary of the said land continued to a point on the Warri-Sapele road 1¾ miles distant from the Warri Post Office: on the East by a line drawn from that point in a Northerly directing for a distance of 2,800 feet; thence on the North-East by a line drawn in a North Westerly direction for a distance of 7,000 feet: thence on the North West by a line drawn in a South Westerly direction for distance of 6,400 feet until it reaches a point on the Warri River 600 feet North-West of the site now occupied by the Warri Stores.
By His Excellency’s Command.
Colonial Secretary, Office,
Lagos, 18th October, 1911.
Foot note: By D. A. Obiomah
The above is more clearly defined in the Instrument Establishing Warri Urban District Council, 26/9/1955:
“The area of authority of the Council shall be the area included within the Township and Urban Boundary delineated on a plan drawn and reproduced by the survey Department of Nigeria dated March 1949, Scale 1:12500 together with James Island and Mangrove Island in the Warri River and an area of 200 yards in depth on the South bank of the Warri River corresponding to the limits of the Port of Warri as set forth in Public Notice No.17 of 19 1939.”
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