Chapter Six of Mukoro Mowoe’s Biography

Urhobo Historical Society

1890 – 1948
Second Edition  
Obaro Ikime


So far we have looked at Mowoe as a many-sided businessman, as a son of Evwieni, his home town, as a devoted leader of the Urhobo peoples as a parliamentarian with a sense of duty. While it is right and proper that we should examine Mowoe in these various roles, it is also necessary that we should take a look at Mowoe the man — husband, father, an individual in society. What kind of a man was Chief Mukoro Mowoe?

It is often said that the kind of influences to which a child is subjected in his early lifehas a profound and lasting effect on the child’s later life. Unfortunately, as was pointed out in the chapter on Mowoe’s early days, we do not have much information about those days. We are informed that he was inclined as a boy to be turbulent and pugnacious and that consequently his parents sent him to his aunt in Frukama where he stayed till he began his career with John Holt. The point was made too that his aunt not only stayed near the mission house in Frukama but was also already a convert to Christianity and that Mowoe probably adopted the C.M.S. version of Christianity through the influence of his aunt.130

Whether Mowoe became a Christian before, during or after his sojourn inFrukama, the fact is that throughout hisadult life Mowoe remained a member of the C.M.S. Church, Warri. Chief J.A.Akiri who knew him well and wasin fact aclose friend and confidant informed me that it was as church members that they were firstintroduced to each other.130 Yet Mukoro Mowoe was not always an orthodox Christian as conceived of by the church leadership. He certainly did not conform to the teachings of the church with regard to matrimony. Altogether he took six wives during his life time, and in addition had a number of concubines. Indeed his first child was born to him by aconcubine. Onoviare, awoman from iviri-Olomu whom he obviously met during his career with John Holt in Okpare.

It is hardly necessary to ask the question asto whyMowoe became apolygamist. To the end of hislife Mowoe was firmly rootedin his Urhobo background (despite his preference for European clothes!)and polygamy was and remains very much part of the social system of the Urhobo. Besides, Mowoe was a many-sided businessman and must have found his wives useful in his business life. His first wife, Enanovbe, we are told ‘came from the Frukama area’.132 He probably met her in the course of business. Comfort another wife, was from lgbudu. Rose was an Evwreni woman. Grace, daughter of Agofure, was from Ovu; Mary Omatsola was Itsekiri, and the youngest wife at the time of his death was another Mary from Abraka.133 We do not know the details about how he came to acquire these wives. Chief Salubi recalls that Grace Agofure was “given” to Mowoe by her father about the year 1934. He recalls that at that time, Urhobo leaders met often at Orerokpe over their agitation for separation from the Itsekiri in the “Jekri-Sobo” Division. Mowoe was a leading figure at these meetings. Impressed by Mowoe’s role, Agofure offered his daughter to the former in marriage. This was common practice in those days. A man would give his daughter in marriage to a friend or to a person whose qualities he admired.

As it turned out, Grace developed to be probably Mowoe’s most devoted and useful wife. She lived most of the time in Agbor in order to look after Mowoe’s businessman in that town. Those who knew her say she was a most faithful, sensible and respectful wife in whom Mowoe had implicit confidence. On Mowoe’s death Grace, in accordance with Urhobo custom, was inherited by a relation of her former husband. Actually, on this occasion, Mariere who was the inheritor was not a blood relation; but he had become so close to Mowoe that he was treated as a brother and partook of Mowoe’s inheritance. Mariere was reluctant to take Grace to wife but was persuaded to do so in the interest of Grace’s children. Grace for her part agreed to become Mariere’s wife on condition that she was allowed three years to mourn her late before becoming wife to Mariere. Her condition was granted and in 1951, she formally became Mariere’s wife and bore three children for him, having previously given Mowoe four boys; Donatus, Romsay, Victor and Humphrey.134 The story of Grace is told here in some to detail to demonstrate that Mowoe lived his life very much in the millieu of Urhobo culture, his Christianity and his “Westernization” notwithstanding. It was within the context of his Urhobo cultural heritage that he lived his marital life. Of the six wives he married, he put away four of them before his death. We do not know the reasons for his action in this regard.

To return to Mowoe and Christianity, the question may be raised as to how one can reconcile his Christianity with his polygamy. The answer is that the issue of Christianity and polygamy remains a live one in the church even today. There are those who do not see any basically fundamental contradiction between being a good Christian and marrying two or more wives. There is the poser as to whether marrying one wife is more a socioeconomic than a spiritual phenomenon. The fact that Mowoe was a polygamist can hardly be used to question whether or not he accepted Christ as his saviour. We have to reach to God for an answer to that question. The C.M.S. Church in Warri certainly did not excommunicate him as they may well have done. Perhaps hewas too big to be treated according to the strict laws of the Church, for the Church of God in Nigeria tends to be a great respecter of persons while preaching that the God whom the Church proclaims is no respecter of persons! Mowoe was in fact a Lay Reader of St. Andrew’s Church, Warri, and a member of that Church’s Building Committee.

Basically, so far as the evidence available goes, one can say that Mowoe had a firm belief in God’s omnipotence and His control of man’s life; he was satisfied that Christianity had a message for mankind. Writing to his friend and fellow businessman, J.E. Ogboru of Abraka, about an accident in which his car had been involved in October 1946, he concluded, ‘any how, we thank God. As our lives are in his hand, he uses them as he likes’.135 Called upon, three years earlier to send a good will message to the Southern Nigeria Defender on the occasion of that paper’s maiden issue, Mowoe said, inter-alia, ‘Let us embrace Christianity with a better spirit if we hope to rise above the material’.136 But Mowoe remained essentially an Urhobo man as well. We have seen what his attitude was to marriage when we discussed how he attempted to settle quarrels between husbands and wives in an earlier chapter. Writing to his son, Moses, who was at the time reading medicine in Glasgow, he informed him that one McIver Edewo, an Urhobo, had just proceeded to Dublin to read law. Mowoe reported to his son that he had been called upon by the Edewo family to pray for the departing McIver. Wrote Mowoe:

And I gave him a parcel of the sand(soil) of our country, to go with it and also to come with it.If he fails to bring it back, it will be a curse to all who left home for studies to bring golden news to people and failed to do so.137

There is something distinctly Urhobo, distinctly African about this way of seeking to get McIver’s commitment to the project in hand. Mowoe was obviously the type who sought to blend the old and the new. He was a Christian; but he was also Urhobo.

Perhaps one should in this connection mention the role Mowoe played in helping to establish the Urhobo District of the C.M.S. Church. Most of Urhoboland belonged to the Warri District of the C.M.S. which was part of the Yoruba mission. The Isoko country, however, was part of the Niger mission with headquarters at Onitsha, and was constituted into a separate district in 1914. The Niger mission was able to do far more for the Isoko churches in terms of supervision and visitation than the Yoruba mission for the Urhobo. Consequently the Isoko churches were far better established than the Urhobo churches. Mowoe’s town of Evwreni as well as, Uwherun were part the Isoko District. When the late Agori Iwe then ‘Anglican’ Bishop of Benin Diocese, returned from St. Andrew’s college, Oyo, as a trained catechist, he began to agitate for the creation of an Urhobo District of the C.M.S. Church. At that time, however, the Urhobo churches were in a rather weak state and were far too poor to support a catechist, let alone a vicar. Yet the two best established churches — Uwherun and Evwreni — were in the Isoko District. Agori Iwe appealed to Mowoe to use his influence in these two towns to get them to leave the Isoko District and join the Urhobo District. Mowoe went to work and succeeded in achieving the desired end. Not content with that, Agori Iwe urged Mowoe, Mariere and Obahor to use their influence to detach Isoko towns close to the Urhobo border like Iyede, Olomoro and Enwhe from the Isoko District and get them into the Urhobo District. This time, however, Mowoe and his group had to fight against the late Revd. S.O. Efeturi and Chief J.A. Akiri who organized the Isoko to resist the Agori Iwe — Mowoe push and so were unable to achieve their end 138 — Christian brotherhood versus ethnicity?

Mowoe led a full and active life in the Warri society of his time. He had many friends among the mercantile class as well as among the British political officers. His surviving papers contain a large number of invitations to dinners and cocktails. Although the acclaimed leader of the Urhobo in an age of Itsekiri-Urhobo tension, he was and remained a personal friend of the Olu of the Itsekiri. In this connection the story is told of how on one occasion Mukoro Mowoe was with the Olu on some mission. With them as they walked along one of Warri’s streets was a mixed group of Itsekiri and Urhobo. Mowoe had left his hat on. One Itsekiri used his walking stick to knock the hat off Mowoe’s head as a protest against his wearing a hat in the presence of the Olu! The Urhobo present immediately sought to defend the dignity of their leader. But Mowoe counselled peace139 Mowoe was also a great friend of another influential Itsekiri, Asifo Egbe. It is said that hardly did Mowoe buy himself a suit without buying an identical one for Egbe and that Egbe reciprocated in full measure.140

The evidence thus points to the conclusion that although the undisputed and acclaimed leader of the Urhobo, Mowoe had no desire to promote or intensify inter-group conflict. Anxious as he was that the Urhobo who were ‘yet too far behind other tribes in Nigeria’ should seek to improve their lot, he wished that this be done in an atmosphere of peace and good relations with neighbouring peoples. Perhaps the best expression of this attitude is to be found in the goodwill message he sent to the maiden issue of the Southern Nigeria Defender, a newspaper owned by Nnamdi Azikiwe and published in Warri in 1943:

This is anage which calls for new thoughts, new ways and proper rehabilitation of our dear province.

It demands that all hands should be on deck, and that party jealousies have their last breath; that people should no longer think in terms of “self” (Ijaw, Kwale, Aboh, Itsekiri or Urhobo) but that they should attempt to discover ways and means whereby the good things of this province may be systematically shared in a manner compatible with natural justice.141

His own life was an eloquent testimony to the fact thathe believed and acted out what he preached. He fulfilledhis leadership role among the Urhobo without stirring up ethnic hostility. Mowoe belonged to the Free Mason, Lodge, Ogboni and Odd Fellow brotherhoods. These brotherhoods accounted for the cream of Warri society — top men in business, the professions and the British political service. In 1944, for example, the membership of the Lodge fellowship in Warri included such names as G.A. Graham, Asifo Egbe, J.F. Akiwowo, E.E. Boyo, LT. Mayiku, S.O. Palmer, C. da Costa Edwards, C.H.K. Palmer, M.O. Ighrakpata, E.E. Fischer, Festus S. Edah (the late F.S. Okotie-Eboh) and O.E Awani.142 As these brotherhoods cut across ethnic and racial lines, they were a good forum for friendships and contacts that could be profitable in business, even if some of them could also be sources of evil in so far as a ‘brother’ would support another against an outsider even when the ‘brother’ was wrong. There is, even now, sometimes talk about these ‘brotherhoods’ leading to a perversion of justice in different spheres of our national life.

Mowoe also established a close and lasting friendship with T.E. Nelson-Williams one of the leading lawyers in Warri in the forties and early fifties. A Sierra-Leonian by birth, Nelson-Williams lived almost next door to Mowoe and virtually became Mowoe’s legal adviser. It was always to him that Mowoe went to sort out the legal aspects of his many transactions. It was he who was retained for the Sapele land case already discussed. The Mowoe family confirm that the relationship between Chief Mukoro Mowoe and Nelson-Williams grew closer the longer it lasted.

Mowoe not only led a full and active life in Warri, he also served that ‘Township” faithfully as a member of the Warri Township Advisory Board from 1942 until his death. Minutes of that Board reveal that Mowoe was particularly concerned about the state of the roads in the town, the market, price control in the years after the war of 1939-45 and the menace of touts (Agberos). Twice, in 1944 and again in 1947 he pressed the provincial authorities to set a date for the tarring of the roads within the town. In 1944 he was informed that nothing could be done until funds were made available through the Colonial Development Fund. Three years later, Mowoe was pressing for provision to be made in the 1948-49 estimates for the tarring of Warri roads.143 He did not live to see his agitation yield results. Many of the roads in Warri remained untarred, years after Mowoe’s death.

Mowoe did not limit his activities in this regard to the meetings of the Board. In September 1944 he wrote to the Southern Nigeria Defender in answer to a columnist’s comments about various problems affecting the town. He pointed out that the sanitation of Warri was inadequate. Not only did he again draw attention to the poor conditions of the roads, he also complained about the paucity of “public latrines” in the town. He further urged that more wells be sunk in different parts of the town to ensure better water supply for the people. Having agreed with the columnist that there was much that needed improvement in the town, he went on to assure his readers that the Nigerian representatives on the Township Advisory Board were not mere “bench warmers”.144 No one who knew Mowoe well could think of him in terms of mere “bench warming”.

As a leading member of the Warri society of his time, Mowoe’s views were often sought by the British political officers, nearly all of whom were his personal friends. Chief Akiri recalled how the British political officers once called on Mowoe to help solve a long standing conflict between the Urhobo clan of Ewu and some Ijaw group which successive District Officers had been unable to resolve. Mowoe summoned a meeting of the parties to the dispute and was able to arrange a settlement.145 Only a man who commanded the respect of all the parties to the dispute could achieve that kind of success. Chief Salubi also recalls that one of the last things Mowoe did inhis life was to travel to Akugbene in Ijaw territory to settle some dispute which the D.Os. had been unable to settle. In fact Salubi claims that it was on that trip that he caught the malaria and jaundice which killed him. It is Salubi’s view that had Mowoe agreed to rest after the Akugbene trip instead of rushing on soon after to attend what turned out to be his last meeting of the Western House of Assembly, he may well have survived the illness which killed him.146 Both Akifi and Salubi may in fact be referring to one and the same incident. Be that as it may, the crucial point is the confidence reposed in Mowoe by the British authorities on the one hand, and the Nigerian peoples of the province on the other.

Mowoe left behind a reputation for extreme generosity. As a little boy in Warri in 1948, the year of his death, one heard all sorts of stories about Mowoe’s generosity. It used to be said, for instance, that there was always food to be had in Mowoe’s house even by a perfect stranger; that if the benighted traveller but knocked on Mowoe’s door he was sure of shelter and comfort for the night. How much of this was fiction, how much truth, it is difficult to say, though the stories must have sprung from some basic truth about the man. One of his sons, Frank, in an interview with me said that Providence House during his father’s life time was virtually a hotel. There were guests — invited and uninvited — to all the three meals virtually everyday. And outside meal times there was a great deal of entertaining. Mowoe always bought one dozen bottles of whisky at the beginning of each month — whisky was his favourite drink, though he also drank gin spiced with salt. Salubi recalls that Mowoe believed that salt in gin helped to reduce his weight!147 In no month, within Frank’s recollection, did his father’s supply of whisky last beyond a few days: guests and visitors ensured that it did not! Mowoe was also generous with money. Frank recalls how, on one occasion, his father just before he left for a trip to Ughelli had given him £350 to keep. Within a few days of his return from Ughelli his father had given out all of that money in loans and outright gifts.148 Most of the loans were never repaid.

Mowoe’s reputation as a generous man led to all sorts of demands being made on him by people. In May 1945 one Richard D. Edukugho wrote to Mowoe asking for a loan of £100 to enable him raise all the money he needed for a three year course in England. ‘Do not think, my dear Chief’, wrote Richard, ‘that I wish to indulge myself just because you are kind, generous and broad minded. I need this assistance for an honourable future and I realize you can help me. I have no hesitation to make known my requirement as it is true of one in need of helping hand must go to the generous man with broader outlook. That is why I have the right of appealing to you and refrained from others with whom I am closely related.’149 In April 1946, one Jas S.P. James wrote to ask for a loan of £200 to enable him go to England, ‘with your worship’s spirit, broad mindedness and also for the fame of the Urhobo-speaking people as a whole’!150 In July of the same year a Frank A. Mbielli wrote from Enugu. His parents were dead. His brother who took over the responsibility for his education was out of job. He had therefore decided to further his education through correspondence classes. Could Mowoe give him £6 to enable him achieve his ambition. ‘Although you do not know me’, Frank wrote., ‘your name has been stamped in my mind’.151 Another correspondent from Enugu had almost identical problems with Mbielli. ‘A friend has told me of your open-mindedness and liberality…. I venture to appeal to you in my present difficulty.’152 Vincent A. Okany had been reading at home: he had passed the ‘London Matriculation’ (equivalent of school certificate) and was preparing for the intermediate B.A. examination. He appealed to Mowoe to help him with whatever sum of money he could spare.153 In June of the same year a mother, Ayareya Rosa Idebe, whose daughter Mowoe had seen through school after she (the mother) parted with her husband, wrote to seek more aid. Her son George was anxious to proceed to the United Kingdom to further his education. Could Mowoe be so kind as to ‘send him down against future, when he returns, he will refund all your money’.154

Even primary school children appealed to Mowoe’s generosity. An undated letter from one Daniel Gbebugha of Egbo, informed Mowoe that he, the writer, had read up to Standard Five. His father was dead and his mother was unable to find the money that would enable him to finish his primary school education. He pleaded with Mowoe for £3 to enable him go back to school.155 Another school boy from Isiokolo, Agbon clan, wrote to inform Mowoe that his class had to put up a play. They had been asked to make the costumes needed for the play, but he could not get the money from his poor parents. He therefore appealed to Mowoe for aid, concluding his letter of appeal with ‘I think you are the, only man who can help me… for you are a man of patriotism’.156

While some thus appealed to Mowoe for financial assistance to help them further their educational ambitions, others appealed to him for loans to enable them set up as petty traders or otherwise further their economic activities. One Omatsola, resident at the time in Nguru, asked for a £100 loan to enable him setup a trade in beans;157 one M.A. Oludaisi, who claimed that he had been steward to a white man by the name of Crossdale for fourteen years and was still on a salary of four pounds five shillings a month, appealed to Mowoe for a loan of £50 with which to engage in petty trade in Warri.158 In May 1948 one Chief Mode Buluko sought a loanof £50, repayable in five instalments, to enable him meet immediate paydemands by labourers he had engaged on some contract job.159 Thenthere was the case of D.S. Owolo who said he had learnt shoe makingunder ‘master’ at Ile-Ife and was anxious to set up on his own, but ‘I havenon father neither mother to assist me (sic)’. He asked for a £60 loanto set up as a shoe maker and repairer, offering, if need be, to work underMowoe’s supervision till he had cleared the loan.160

Some of the demands were really quite pathetic. Three requests made to Mowoe in 1946 all had to do with clothing. W.O. Orororo who wrote from Ilesa begged for any used clothing that Mowoe could spare. OjakoroUgheni from Eku begged Mowoe in the name of God to please buy him a shirt and a pair of shorts as he had no one in the world to help him. A.E. Akpoki begged for four shillings and six pence with which to buy a used shirt as the only shirt he had was not only borrowed but in fact already tornatthe back.161 Even perfect strangers to Warri soon found out thatMowoe was the one to go to when in distress, like when a G.V. Jarrett, a Gambian sailor, was left behind by his boat and was stranded in Warri. It was to Mowoe he wrote begging for money with which to travel to Onitsha where he had a relation who could arrange for him to go on to Port Harcourt to catch up with his boat .162

One could go on with a longer catalogue of appeals for money but thereis no need to. Enough has been said to indicate the varied demands made on Mowoe for aid, demands which obviously arose from the reputation which attached to him as a well to do and generous man. While the references to his generosity, liberality and broad mindedness may have been designed to flatter, the consensus of the opinion of all who knew him is that he was indeed generous. How much of these demands he was able to meet wholly or in part we will never know; what is important here is the fact that they were made, for such demands are not made on every one. To demands for money we have to add demands for help in finding new or better jobs.163 In our society the ‘big man’ is supposed tobe capable of nearly everything. It was, however, not every ‘big man’ towhom perfect strangers and primary school boys turned in there hour of need.

There are among the Mowoe papers two letters which do throw light onanother side of the man. One of these letters was written by a Felicia. She described herself as Mowoe’s daughter in her letter though Mowoe’s reply is addressed to Felicia Grant. Felicia wrote to report that she was in Aba but had been afraid to inform Mowoe because she was staying with her would-be mother-in-law ‘in order to study an the necessary things, re- my future home’. Continued Felicia, ‘And what prevented me most for not informing you is that your very dear self… refused an Urhobo girl to marry another tribe. Hence I was very much afraid to confess my thoughts. But since I know that when a girl is married or stick to one place (sic), there the honour lies, then I see no reason why one should not fix (sic) to the one she really loves’.164 Felicia hoped that Mowoe would see her view-point. Here was the usual problem of the attitude of parents and other relations to mixed marriages. Mowoe’s reply was, I quite agree with you that it would be unwise for any boy or girl to be married to the one whom he or she does not love. But the sensible way of it (sic) is that the consent of the parents must be first obtained before the boy’s or the girl’s’.165 The old and the new. ‘Let love be the basis of marriage but parental consent must remain a key factor. Mowoe remained basically rooted in the culture of his people while adjusting to the age in which he lived.

The point has already been made that one of Mowoe’s sons, Moses, was sent to Glasgow to read medicine. In a letter to Moses in 1946, Mowoe informed his son that it was his plan that Moses, on completion of his course in Glasgow, should proceed to America for one year of additional studies and then on to France or Germany for another year. Few fathers would, in 1946, have thought in those terms. Just before he wrote that letter, he had lost one of his daughters who died of tuberculosis. Wrote Mowoe to Moses, ‘I shall be very grateful if you can make a thorough research either in America, Germany or France whether you win be able to discover a cure for this disease (meaning tuberculosis) and women’s belly troubles. These are things that are troubling our doctors here for which they cannot get the cure’166 Even if one takes the view that he was urged to say these things in the light of the daughter’s death, his willingness to sponsor his son to do two years additional work inthe hope that he would therefore be a better doctor and so help relieve suffering is worthy of every praise.

Although, as has been repeatedly pointed out in this work, Mowoe was clearly the leading Nigerian personality in Warri Province in the 1940s, he would appear not to have thrown his weight around unnecessarily. One little incident deserves to be recorded in this regard. In May 1946, the Headmaster of C.M.S. School, Warri, MR. N.E. Ugokwe, wrote to inform Mowoe that his daughter, Victoria, had appeared in school improperly dressed. He had sent her home to change into the proper uniform but the mother had not only brought the girl back without a change of dress but had insulted him, the Headmaster, into the bargain. The Headmaster sent Victoria with a letter to her father insisting that she had to be properly dressed.167 In this day and age many a headmaster similarly placed will find it difficult to send away the child of the most influential man in town — so much has respect for wealth, power and position overcome respect for principles. Mowoe ensured that Victoria was properly dressed and wrote a letter of apology to Mr. Ugokwe.168

The above incident must not however, be taken to mean that Mowoe was not conscious of his position in society or that he did not insist, sometimes to a fault, that this position be duly recognized. Like most men who achieve eminence and wealth, he was sometimes intolerant of opposition, however well meant. His quarrel with Tabiowo to which reference was made in Chapter Four derived from Tabiowo’s insistence on stating his views on various issues whether Mowoe approved of these views or not. Salubi claims that generous and eager to help as Mowoe was he did not forgive offenders easily. He was the type who would wait patiently, for years if necessary, to have his own back on whoever had crossed his path and had not sought settlement. As part of the Warri mercantile and political elite, he was, at least on one occasion, ashamed of his Urhoboness. Salubi recalls the funny incident of the day he was at table with Mowoe, eating Usin, one of the stable foods or the Urhobo. A European friend was seen to be coming into the house. Hurriedly, Mowoe picked up the plate of Usin and hid it behind the door! Chief Mukoro

Mowoe of Providence House was not to be seen by a white man eating the food of the Urhobo people whose leader he was! Salubi tells how he later on scolded Mowoe for that disgraceful performance.

This admittedly brief survey of Mowoe, the man, must necessarily end with some comments on Mowoe as husband and father, Mowoe as a family man. As already indicated, Mowoe married a total of six wives. He also had a number of concubines. Like most men he liked young and pretty ladies. That is probably one reason why he married as many as six wives and had his concubines. His success in business and his position in public life would have made it easy for aspiring parents-in-law to tempt him with their daughters, for it was regarded as perfectly permissible practice to seek to marry one’s daughter to a “big man”. In that regard he was little different from Nigerian’s successful businessmen of today. He also liked his whisky but positively loathed cigarettes and tobacco. Hard working and nearly always on the move he had little time for his family. The wives could not even get him to eat regularly. In fact, Frank is convinced that one reason why his father died at 58 was that he refused to take necessary rest. That, taken together with his irregular eating habits, must have weakened his constitution.

Although wealthy by the standards of the time and even by our standards, Mowoe at no point in his life tolerated extravagant spending. Both at home and in his business life he scrutinized the accounts carefully. When one of his staff tried to cheat him by rendering false reports on his sale of gari (the clerk reported that he sold a bag of garri for 19/- when in fact he was selling each bag for 20/-) Mowoe rated him roundly. ‘You must bear in mind’, he wrote to him, ‘that one will die when he keeps on eating his brother’s monies fraudulently’.170 He tried to bring up his children to be honest in the way they handled money. The only area where his stern control weakened was in his dealing with the many who sought loans and outright gifts. Frank had doubts, when he spoke with me about his father, whether his father kept a full record of all who took loans from him.

Himself a hard worker, he had little patience for idlers. In this regard he was a stern disciplinarian who taught his children the value of honest and hard work (though one must admit not all of the children learnt that lesson!) When his first son not James, would neither settle down to school work nor learn the art of running a business efficiently, he reacted violently. He disowned his son and sent him out of the house. A father who can take that kind of drastic action must be capable of some anger! Mowoe was not all sugar; he could be vinegar. Many friends and relations had to intercede before he became reconciled to his son only shortly before he died.

Moses, his doctor son, who in March 1976 retired from the Public Service of Bendel State as Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, and who in July 1976 was appointed Chairman of that State’s Public Service Commission, was his favourite son. Moses talked little, was a good listener and worked hard at his books. Mowoe therefore set Moses up as a model to the other children. But not even Moses could escape his father’s discipline. Frank recalls that while in Glasgow Moses did not do well in a particular examination. The father reached the conclusion that Moses had been laxy and cut his monthly allowance! Thus, while prepared to provide for the needs of his children, he would not let them grow up thinking that because their father had made it, all they had to do was sit back and relax. He had had to work his way up, the hard way. He expected his children to assimilate the lesson of hard, rewarding work. He can rest content in his grave — for enough of his many children have learnt that lesson to good effect.

NOTES 130. See Chapter 1.

131. Interview with Chief J.A. Akiri, 21 March, 1973. Chief Akiri died in April, 1976, aged 86.

132. Chief Salubi, 30 March, 1976.

133. Ibid.

134. Ibid.

135. Mowoe to J.E. Ogboru, 19 October, 1946.

136. Message to Mowoe’s file PH W/67 already cited in note 125.

137. Mowoe to Moses (undated).

138. The episode was narrated to me by the late Revd. S.O. Efeturi at an interview in Warri on 23 March, 1973.

139. Chief Salubi, 30 march, 1976.

140. Ibid.

141. Southern Nigeria Defender, 24 July, 1943.

142. List obtained from an invitation in one of Mowoe’s files to attend a Lodge meeting scheduled for 20 May, 1944.

143. See minutes of Warri Township Advisory Board (N.A.I.), Warri Provincial Papers, File WP.210, Vol. I & II, especially minutes of the meetings of 8 Dec. 1944, 14 June, 1946, 13 Sept., 1946, 9 May 1947, 12 Sept., 1947, 14 Nov. 1947 and 9 July, 1948.

144. Souther Nigeria Defender, 8 September, 1944.

145. Interview with J. A. Akiri, 21 March, 1976.

146. Chief Salubi, 30 March, 1976.

147. Ibid.

148. Interview with Frank Mowoe.

149. Richard Edukugho to Mowoe, 1 May, 1945.

150. Jas. S.P. James to Mowoe, 20 April, 1946.

151. Frank A. Mbielli to Mowoe, 3 July, 1946.

152. Vincent A. Okany to Mowoe, 24 March, 1948.

153. Ibid.

154. Ayareya to Mowoe, 1 June, 1948.

155. The letter is contained in the same file as the other private letters cited in this work.

156. Francis Emeyese to Mowoe, 28 October, 1946.

157. Omatsola to Mowoe, 13 September, 194.

158. M.A. Oludaisi to Mowoe, 3 May, 1948.

159. Moke Buluku to Mowoe, 3 May, 1948.

160. D.S. Owolo to Mowoe, 3 September, 1946.

161. Orororo to Mowoe, 17 April, 1946; Ojakoro Ugheni to Mowoe, 23 June, 1946; and A.E. Akpoki to Mowoe, 3 October, 1946.

162. G. V. Jarret to Mowoe, 18 September, 1946.

163. For pleas about jobs see e.g. P.M. Ukoli to Mowoe, 20 Ajpril, 1946; I.A. Eshayigba to Mowoe, 11 May, 1946; Ifureta to Mowoe, 13 Oct. 1946. P.M. Ukoli was a teacher at Edo College, Benin City at the time he wrote his letter. He desired to become a Traveling Teacher and wanted Mowoe to appeal to Mr. Etuk, the Education Officer “in the name of our Olile”. It would appear that Ukoli, Mowoe and Etuk were in the same fraternity though which of them I do no know.

164. Felicia to Mowoe, 18 September, 1946.

165. Mowoe to Felicia Grant, 28 September, 1936.

166. Mowoe to Moses (incomplete letter in file). That the year was 1946 is derived from other references to the daughter’s death.

167. E.N. Ugokwe to Mowoe, 27 May, 1946.

168. Mowoe to Ugokwe, 27 May, 1946.

169. Chief Salubi, 30 March, 1976. Salubi says that Mowoe regarded him as his own son and that he was one of the few who could talk to him freely without Mowoe taking offence.

170. Mowoe to J.T. Boge, 25 May, 1946.

171. Interview with Akiri already cited.

172. Erivwo, p.419.

173. Memorial Ceremonies…, p.5.

174. Ibid, pp.4 and 5.

175. Chief Salubi, 30 March, 1976.

Proceed to THE END

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