Mukoro Mowoe 1890-1948

Urhobo Historical Society


Professor Tanure Ojaide
University of North Carolina-Charlotte

Mukoro Mowoe 1890-1948

The supreme one so crafted you, his masterpiece.
He fortified you with the stamina of bulls,
gave your eyes the vision of a hundred seers
(and yet you were not Ominigbo
with the paraphernalia of seeds and rattles!)
You saw beyond the overcast horizon of the delta
scattered groups that you came from the earth
to rally into one union–you blew the ivory horn,
and people heeded your message of the power 
of a common name for a family of neighbours.
When foreigners docked boats on our river ports,
you stepped out — your presence so shook them 
that they bent; slow to learn they simplified your name.
Don’t bother, ancestor whose name we invoke,
whether we remember you as Oghenemowho or Mowoe —
you are the same man who stood your ground
before who brought what you already possessed,
communion and cornucopia of love.
You were no king but had a larger kingdom
than kings of emissaries and missionaries.
You clutched to your chest the lugubrious gifts 
of your people so that they would not lose 
their blessing for lack of foresight–in the native sky
you saw through granite clouds a resplendent sun,
& you slept less and less to cover the landscape of 
a destined mission. At home and in distant outposts
men and women wrested out of penury three or six pence 
for the college and scholarship funds you proclaimed–
they knew they had to reciprocate your sacrifice
& they filled the coffers of the commonwealth
to be counted among keepers of the new light.
And when news broke of your death, an iroko struck
by lightning, the world collapsed in grief;
women abandoned their chores, men their work,
and children their play and laughter; all to wail.
“Mowoe’s gone, who’ll stand for us?” they questioned
their dumbfounded fate. Yours the only grief
that ever befuddled the entire people; even fishes 
in water caught cold; in August, the earliest
harmattan to rob the harvest of forest crops.
You were the Olotu, in constant pain and still
Wielding a steadfast smile for everybody to follow.
Fifty years after you left, beneficiaries of the union
gather to rededicate themselves to the one tongue 
that still glues us into one voice, failing by the day
amidst the market of a thousand ascending shouts.
You are very much alive in Aridon’s almanac.

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