|Urhobo Historical Society|
URHOBO NATIONAL FORUM
50th Commemoration of the Death of
Chief Mukoro Mowoe
on August 10, 1948
Held at the LaGuardia Marriot Hotel
102 – 105, Ditmars Boulevard
Queens, New York, USA
on November 21, 1998.
The Nation of Urhobo is one of about 250 ethnic groups that make up the West African Country of Nigeria.
Urhoboland itself, is made up of 22 sub-units scattered about in an area of totaling 1,417 square miles of land in the Niger-Delta Region of Nigeria.
Urhoboland which is blessed with a network of creeks, rivers and streams, is very fertile and the Urhobo people have taken advantage of this location to become good farmers and fishermen.
The Urhobo people have the reputation of being one of the most peace-loving and stable in Nigeria, and have lived in harmony with their neighbours, long before the arrival of Europeans in Nigeria.
The presence of foreign elements, particularly the British, in Urhoboland, has altered the course of history and brought major consequences that still haunt the Urhobo people today,
The early stages of British colonial era in Southern Nigeria, was characterized by among other things, the conspicuous lack of educational opportunities in Urhoboland, and indeed there were no schools of any kind in Urhoboland until 1914.
The lack of educational opportunities in Urhoboland severely limited participation in any form of government or commercial business which required the use of English and other elements of Western education needed for proper interaction with the British and other colonized Nigerians.
Faced with the pains of marginalisation, a group of Urhobo pioneers began to search for ways to overcome their difficulties and to catch up with those other ethnic groups who had more access to education and other benefits of western civilization.
The pioneers were drawn from Urhobo merchants in Warri and a group of junior civil servants who organized themselves into the Urhobo Brotherly Society later renamed Urhobo Progress Union for the sole purpose of advancing the cause of Urhobo people in Southern Nigeria.
The Urhobo Progress Union was rapidly transformed into an active service organization in keeping with its mission of raising the social and economic status of the Urhobo people, and it is the first organization of its kind in colonial Nigeria and probably in colonized Africa.
The Urhobo Progress Union under the leadership of Mukoro Mowoe, a prominent Warri merchant, worked hard to get for Urhobo people a fair share of the benefits bestowed by the colonial administration, successfully persuade christian missions to establish and run schools in Urhoboland, and to organize voluntary efforts by Urhobo people to uplift their collective fortunes.
Under Mukoro Mowoe’s leadership, a separate Urhobo Division was established in 1934, with headquarters in Ughelli, and Mowoe himself became one of the first members of the divisional council.
Mukoro Mowoe was appointed a member representing Warri Province in the Western House of Assembly in 1946 under the Richards Constitution and he maintained that appointment until his death in 1948.
Under Mukoro Mowoe’s leadership, the Urhobo Progress Union entered into negotiations with Christian missions, that led to the opening of a Catholic Parish in Okpara Inland and the opening of Eku Baptist Hospital.
Under Mukoro Mowoe’s leadership, the Urhobo Progress Union organized self-help efforts by collecting funds from Urhobo indigenes to build bridges, town halls, assist Christian missions in acquiring lands for schools, and to pursue other pan-Urhobo causes.
Mukoro Mowoe led the campaign in the mid-forties for funds that were used to sponsor two qualified Urhobo indigenes in British universities, and to build Urhobo College, which is not only the first secondary school in Urhoboland but is also believed to be the first secondary school ever built with community efforts in Africa.
The founding of Urhobo College in 1949, was rapidly followed by the opening of other secondary schools in Urhoboland, thus finally paving the way for the Urhobo people to join the competition for western education.
Many Urhobo families met this competition by working hard to earn enough money and by sacrificing a great deal to send their young people into universities in and outside Nigeria.
The Urhobo people, by the mid sixties, had begun to realize the fruits of their labor as they approached parity with other ethnic groups in western education, and this is significant for a people who twenty years earlier, had no graduate, no lawyer, doctor, or any post secondary education.
The Urhobo people, today, only lag behind the well-endowed Yoruba and Ibo ethnic groups in the number of university professors in Nigeria, and there are also clear indications that Urhobo people have done remarkably well in other professions, including trade and commerce.
Mukoro Mowoe’s dream of a progressive Urhoboland has been realized as evidenced by the many achievements of Urhobo people, and Urhobo people are grateful for the vision and the spirit of persistence provided by his leadership.
Today, some fifty years after the death of Mukoro Mowoe, Urhoboland faces a new set of problems, largely brought on by the ongoing crisis of poor governance in Nigeria.
The discovery of large quantities of oil in Urhoboland has inflicted ecological and environmental damage, including deforestation, and destruction of farm lands, crops and wildlife. Frequent oil spills and acid rain caused by the flaring of gas have left rivers polluted and marine life destroyed.
The oil resources in Urhoboland are being exploited for the benefit of the dominant ethnic groups in Nigeria as both the oil companies and the Nigerian military dictatorship ensure that the best and most lucrative oil contracts go to foreigners and others outside Urhoboland.
Urhobo people are being denied adequate compensation and fair distribution of the revenues generated from the production of oil in their land.
The Urhobo people, today, are yet to produce another selfless leader of Mowoe’s stature who will devise strategies to deal with the economic marginalization, huge ecological devastation and other environmental problems that threaten the very existence of Urhoboland and its people.
With the seemingly lack of leadership needed to deal with new challenges confronting the common destiny of Urhobo people, the memory of Mukoro Mowoe looms larger than ever, and Mowoe remains the greatest Urhobo nationalist of all time.
THEREFORE, IN A FITTING TRIBUTE TO THE MEMORY OF MUKORO MOWOE, A FOREMOST CRUSADER FOR THE PROGRESS OF URHOBO PEOPLE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
1. We call on all Urhobo people to come together in the Mowoe tradition of collective efforts that has worked well in the past, to find solutions to the problems facing our people.
2. We praise and support the announcement by the Mukoro Mowoe family of the establishment of the Mukoro Mowoe Memorial Scholarship Fund to sponsor qualified Urhobo indigenes to study at Delta State University.
3. We call on all Urhobo people to help expand the scholarship program by contributing generously to the Mukoro Mowoe Memorial Scholarship Fund.
4. We call on all Urhobo people and their friends to join hands with the organizers of the
Urhobo National Forum in efforts to promote business and create jobs, rebuild schools, health clinics, and community centers, and to initiate other self-help programs for the development of Urhoboland.
5. We condemn the role of the multinational oil corporations which assist the Nigerian Federal Military Government to oppress and exploit the Urhobo people and others in the oil-producing communities,.
6. We mourn the death of our fellow Urhobo people who were killed in a petroleum fire disaster due to the explosion of a defective pipeline leaking some of the refined oil that was being transported from Urhoboland to Northern Nigeria.
7. We condemn the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the owners of the pipeline for poor judgement in running pipelines above the ground and through populated areas unprotected, and for lack of proper surveillance and maintenance necessary to detect corrosion and leakage of pipelines long before they become a hazard.
8. We hold the Federal Military Government responsible for the death of people in the Urhobo community in Idjerhe (Jesse), since it has full responsibility for ensuring that the production and distribution of oil, are carried out under safe conditions.
9. We condemn the insensitivity of the Head of the Federal Military Government,General Abdulsalami Abubakar, for ruling out compensation for the victims of the fire disaster, whom some referred to as saboteurs, not minding the fact that many of the victims, including women and children were burnt to death in their homes away from the vicinity of the explosion.
10. We hold the Delta State Administrator, Commander Walter Feghabo responsible for death of many of the Idjerhe victims who were forced to flee hospitals and other treatment centers after being falsely accused and threatened with persecution for vandalism by the Commander.
11. We commend the United States Government, British Government, Lagos State Government of Nigeria, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), and other relief agencies, including charitable organizations, pro-democracy groups and individuals for their efforts in bringing relief to the survivors of the Idjerhe fire tragedy, at a time when the Delta State and the Federal Governments showed indifference to the plight of the Urhobo community in Idjerhe.
12. We support the call on the Federal Military Government, Shell Petroleum Development Corporation and their agents, by Mr. J. I. Ogude, Chairman of the Idjerhe Community Fire Disaster Committee to release funds for medical expenses, clean-up operations and rehabilitation of the Urhobo community in Idjerhe.
13. We call on the Federal Military Government and the oil corporations operating in Urhoboland to immediately undertake a program of clean-up and restoration of all lands ravaged by oil production.
14. We call on the oil companies to provide job opportunities for Urhobo people, and to provide scholarship funds to train Urhobo Youth for careers in the oil and gas industry.
15. We call on the Federal Military Government to directly fund the building of roads, provision of potable water, opening of schools and medical facilities, and other community projects to help raise the standard of living of the Urhobo people.
16. We express solidarity with our neighbors in the Niger Delta Region, and urge them to refrain from killing innocent people in the struggle to protest environmental degradation and exploitation of oil resources in the area.
We, Urhobo indigenes who were present at the Urhobo National Forum, having deliberated on the STATE OF THE URHOBO NATION in our meeting, have unanimously agreed to work together under a common platform to effectively harness and facilitate our activities in order to revive the struggle for the progress of Urhobo people, begun by Mukoro Mowoe and his peers in the thirties.