For my Friend and “Brother” Adogbeji Salubi

Urhobo Historical Society

Editor’s Note:
The excerpt below is lifted from T. E. A. Salubi: Witness to British Colonial Rule in Urhoboland and Nigeria. It is the foreword to UHS’s fourth monographic publication. It was provided by Dr. Esiri and is notably one of his last activities in Urhobo public affairs.

Peter P. Ekeh



For My Friend and “Brother” Adogbeji Salubi

By Chief Dr. Frederick O. Esiri
Former President-General, Urhobo Progress Union

We started as friends and ended as brothers. People who knew both of us thought that we were real blood brothers.

My acquaintance with Adogbeji Salubi started when I was a student at King’s College, Lagos, 1928-1931. While I was in the football field one evening, a fellow student came to tell me that some people were looking for me. They turned out to be two Urhobo men, Adogbeji Salubi and Joseph Akpolo Ikutegbe. They said that they were informed that an Urhobo man was in King’s College. We greeted warmly and chatted.

King’s College, Lagos, was the premier Government secondary school in colonial Nigeria. Gaining admission into it was rare. Before me there was no Urhobo student in that prestigious secondary school. Ikutegbe and Salubi came in search of me for the sole purpose of establishing contact with a pioneering Urhobo student. What was remarkable in that visit was that it occurred before the pan-Urhobo association, Urhobo Brotherly Society, was formed in 1931. It clearly established Adogbeji Salubi and his life-long devoted associate, Mr. Joseph Akpolo Ikutegbe, as Urhobo patriots before such acts became fashionable under the aegis of organised associations.

By the time I was admitted into Yaba Higher College Medical School in 1931, Urhobo Brotherly Society had come into existence at its originating headquarters at Warri. At its inaugural meeting in Lagos in November 1934, Adogbeji Salubi was elected its Branch Secretary and I its Assistant Secretary. Because of my academic workload in medical school, I had concerns on the adequate performance of my duties as Assistant Secretary. Salubi urged me not to be worried, generously offering that I should just take minutes of the meetings. He promised that he would take care of the correspondence to all the branches and any other assignments demanded of the office.

Adogbeji Salubi and I worked very well together. As he reports in Appendix I of this volume, a signal achievement of our common commitment to our work for the new Society was our joint suggestion that the name of the new association should be changed from Urhobo Brotherly Society to Urhobo Progressive Union. Our idea was accepted by the Lagos Branch. The Home Union at Warri also took it seriously. After due study, our proposal was amended as Urhobo Progress Union, which is the name that the association still bears up till now.

After the completion of my course at Yaba Higher College in 1937, I joined the Colonial Civil Service and was posted to Calabar. I came back to Lagos in 1939. Salubi was still the Secretary of Urhobo Progress Union, Lagos Branch. He pressed that I should resume my duties as Assistant Secretary.  Later in 1941 I was transferred to Abeokuta, not far from Lagos. Our friendship waxed strong. I often came to Lagos to spend the weekends with him.

There were humorous sides to our friendship. One weekend, Adogbeji Salubi came to Abeokuta to spend sometime with me. While we were together, I had a call from the office and I rushed there, as medical men were wont to do. By the time I came back from the office, Salubi was packing his baggage for return to Lagos. He joked: “Anytime I come to Abeokuta it is always work, work, work. You should be coming to Lagos to spend your weekends and run away from this work.”

There were sombre occasions in our association and common service on Urhobo matters. One such pungent instance occurred in 1948. I had been transferred to Bukuru, Jos. I came back to Urhoboland on leave in 1948 and I went to see Mukoro Mowoe in Warri. There was then a vicious epidemic of liver disease – a virus of hepatitis — that swept through the East and the Delta areas. It affected Mowoe. I went to Warri to see Mowoe on my way to Abraka, my hometown. When I got to Mowoe’s residence, his mother-in-law was at the door. I was not allowed to see him, as everyone else who called to see him was disallowed. So I told my friend, Adogbeji Salubi, that he should keep me abreast of the Chief’s situation. The following day, Salubi sent word to me that Mowoe had passed on.

In a positive sense, Adogbeji Salubi literarily spent his adult life in the service of Urhobo causes. While he worked in Lagos, he provided active leadership on Urhobo matters. Even while he was away in England on Government scholarship during World War II, Salubi was actively engaged in Urhobo affairs, writing on Urhobo Progress Union from England. He was therefore the natural choice to become the President-General of Urhobo Progress Union in 1962, the year of his retirement from the Nigerian Civil Service.

Salubi’s tenure as President-General of Urhobo Progress Union, from 1962 to the year of his death in 1982, was brilliant. The old spirit of selfless service to the Urhobo people and to the Union was revived. He vigorously protected Urhobo interests against those who bore ill-will towards the Urhobo people. When there was a military putsch in 1966, most ethnic associations were disbanded by the new military rulers on the grounds that they were politically active. Urhobo Progress Union, then under the leadership of Adogbeji Salubi, was spared because it was largely perceived as a cultural association. Chief Salubi very wisely then pursued a subdued policy, urging the Home Union and the branches of Urhobo  Progress Union to avoid celebratory and pompous occasions that might provoke the military.

That policy was in force when I took over the Office of President-General of Urhobo Progress Union, following the death of my dear friend, Chief T. E. A. Salubi, in 1982. Among his great achievements, Chief Salubi built the edifice of Urhobo National Hall at Okere Road, Warri. He did not complete it before his death. It was my responsibility to complete it. Salubi visited the UPU branches in the country and established an effective mode of communications between the Union’s Headquarters at Warri and its diverse branches throughout the country. He worked hard to resolve conflicts wherever they arose, either among Urhobo communities or between Urhobo people and their neighbours.

Chief T. E. A. Salubi left behind him an indelible footprint in Urhobo affairs. I am delighted that his heir, Dr. Thomas Edogbeji Akpomudiare Salubi, has invited me to write this foreword for a book that celebrates his life. I thank him for his generosity. Furthermore, on behalf of the Urhobo people, I thank Professor Peter Ekeh and Urhobo Historical Society for devoting their intellectual resources to this well-deserved study of one of the most accomplished and important Urhobo men of the 20th century. I am sure that this study will reveal that he was also one of the most remarkable Nigerians of that past century.

Chief Dr. F. O. Esiri
35 Cemetery Road
Warri, Delta State

Saturday, August 2, 2008

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