50TH ANNIVERSARY LECTURES
Dr. Moses E. Mowoe
When Chief Mukoro Mowoe (Oyivbin) died fifty years ago, we, his children who knew what had happened, thought it was a private and personal tragedy. We did not initially consider the impact of his death on the Urhobo nation, and we did not fully anticipate the reaction of those for whom he had laboured. We saw his death as the crashing of our world and the end of our ambitions. Our sorrows were tall like the Iroko tree, they took formidable root like the mangrove trees that inundate our swamp forests. Then…
Then we saw what we did not see before, but what several Urhobos and neighbours and beneficiaries of our father’s large heart and visionary disposition had seen long before his death and we began to be consoled.
Fifty years and the show of gratitude by the Urhobo nation, fifty years and encomiums of Tanure Ojaide, fifty years and the eulogies of Frank Ukoli, Peter Ekeh, Onigu Otite and Obaro Ikime keep our father’s memory strong, vivid and evergreen.
We derive solace in the humility of our father’s past, we take pride in his vision for the Urhobo nation and we derive satisfaction from his positive disposition to the neighbours of the Urhobos in the Niger Delta.
Interestingly, we have no evidence of flattery in all this. They are genuine outpourings of the heart as it is felt by a grateful race, a race of people who know the value of a man and how to thank him even fifty years after he has passed on.
There are many who have played prominent roles in the lives of their people but who do not attract half as much attention as this, as Chief Mukoro Mowoe gets from his people – the Urhobos who continue to show their gratitude for his efforts on their behalf.
We are grateful that the U.P.U. (The Urhobo Progress Union) has played and continues to play a prominent role in projecting the Urhobo personality.
We note happily that other groups are springing up to carry on the roles which our fathers began. On behalf of the Chief Mukoro Mowoe family, I wish to say thank you to all, and I pray that God Grant Us the Urhobos and their neighbours, peace and progress.
Dr. Moses E. Mowoe, O.O.N., for the Mowoe family
Nigeria August 1999
Dr. Isaac Owhofasa James Mowoe
We did not meet him, my siblings, my cousins, and I, because our grandfather Chief Mukoro Mowoe died before we were born. But over the years, as we grew up, we came to know him because our parents, our aunts and uncles, our teachers, and many among the elders of the Urhobos and their neighbours told us so much about him. We learned about him, and as we did, we took great pride in him – in who he was and in what he did.
As we came to know him, we could not but conclude that he was indeed an extraordinary man. This conclusion betrays, I fear, a certain tendentiousness. I do hope, however, that it is an understandable bias and one for which we may be forgiven.
On the subject of our grandfather, we have indeed been schooled by many preceptors, and to each and every one of them, we offer our heartfelt thanks. It is our good fortune that we continue to be educated for even now, we gain new insights into the man and his times. In the pages which follow, Professor Frank M.A. Ukoli of the University of Ibadan, Professor Onigu Otite of the same institution, Professor Peter Ekeh of the State University of New York at Buffalo, Professor Emeritus Obaro Ikime of the University of Ibadan and Professor Tanure Ojaide of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, address matters at once of historical interest and significance, and of critical, immediate and urgent concern in the Delta Region of Nigeria, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the death of Chief Mukoro Mowoe. In doing so, they shed new light on the man, and we, his grandchildren, learn some more.
This has been a joyful experience, and we are grateful to these gentlemen and scholars for their splendid efforts. We are also grateful to the Urhobo Students Association of the University of Ibadan under whose aegis Professor Ukoli delivered his lecture on January 10, 1998, to the Urhobo Social Club of Lagos which sponsored the lecture of Professor Otite delivered on August 10, 1998 at the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun, Delta State, Nigeria, to the Urhobo National Forum of the United States under whose auspices Professor Ekeh delivered his lecture and Professor Ojaide read his poem at the LaGuardia Marriott Hotel in New York City, on November 21, 1998, and to our parents, aunts and uncles, who organized the events which included the lecture delivered by Professor Ikime, at Providence House, Warri, Delta State, Nigeria, on December 19, 1998. My thanks also to Ms. Grace Ukoli, my graduate assistant, and to Ms. Marianne Johnson for their assistance with the work on this volume.
The legacy of Chief Mukoro Mowoe is a rich and enduring one – one in which his progeny take immense pride, and one which we, the members of the generation twice removed, will seek, to the very best of our abilities, to uphold. We hope you will enjoy reading the pages which follow as much as we have, and we thank you for your attention.
Dr. Isaac Owhofasa James Mowoe, for the grandchildren.
Columbus, Ohio USA