Preface to Warri, Urhobo and the Nigerian Nation



This paper, without the postscript and appendices, was delivered at the First International Conference on Urhobo Cultural Studies organized by Emudiaga Club of Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria, from September 4 to 7th 1992.

The Club had hoped to publish the paper along with other presentations as a monograph. Due to their inability to publish, I have taken the initiative to do it myself but duly informing the Club. I do hereby make this acknowledgment of Emudiaga Club of Lagos.

The facts and views expressed here may not be pleasant to some. They are not meant to be candy. They are candid.

That no machinery is suggested to promote Urhobo progress is not an omission. It is to de-emphasize the technical and the emphasize the moral upon which ultimately depends the efficiency of the technical.

D. A. Obiomah


It is incredible how a single word has had an encompassing effect on Urhobo experience in national politics from the inception of colonialism in 1891 to the present day. The word is “domination”. At first, it was Urhobos resisting actual Itsekiri domination imposed by the colonialists. Then the table turned and the Itsekiris have daily made the fear of Urhobo domination the war cry by which they have become great cogs in the wheel of Urhobo political progress.

But first our title bears definition: What is Urhobo? Where is the geographical extent of Urhobo, hence what does Urhobo experience mean? Does it mean the experience of an individual who happens to be Urhobo or a group or even groups? Here URHOBO will be treated to mean a collective although without doubt certain poignant experiences of individuals or groups may have effect for good or ill on the collective and ought therefore to be regarded as Urhobo experience. To this extent Urhobo experience in national politics is taken to mean such experience outside of matters that may be decided internally by Urhobo polity among themselves. This must be so because Urhobo political relations with any group(s) of  Nigerians is possible because there is Nigeria whose rules and laws guide and compel such relationships.

But what is Urhobo? And where do we call Urhobo?

 Geography: It is agreed that Urhobo encompasses the land areas of twenty-two clans.

The clans are:

Agbarha – OtorAgbarha – (Warri) Agbarho Agbon 
ArhavwarienAvwraka EghwuEphron – Otor
Evwreni IdjerheOgharaOgor
Okere (Warri)OkparebeOkpeOlomu

The grouping of peoples within administrative units convenient to the colonialists often led to boundary disputes some times with their Ijaw neighbors, but more often than not, with Itsekiris. Boundaries have continued to be determined over the years and it would be correct to say that it is only in parts of Okpe, Ughelli North and Warri South Local Government Areas that disputes remain unresolved. Be that as it may, even at this early stage, attention ought to be drawn to Itsekiri grouse and claim contained in their memorandum to the Justice Ighodaro Boundary Settlement Commission in June, 1974 signed by K. B. Omatseye, Chairman, Warri Divisional Council:-


“The present day Warri Divisional Council Area is the remnant of the Old Warri Kingdom. The kingdom was made up of:

 “The home of the Itsekiris which certain white historians such as P. Amaury Talbot described as the Principality of Warri; and

The spheres of influence of the Itsekiris which make up the Warri  Empire.

By way of analogy the neighboring Kingdom was the Benin Kingdom which consisted of:

 The home of the Binis sometimes referred to as the Principality of Benin and;

 The spheres of influence of the Binis which made up the Benin Empire.

  “The Old Warri Kingdom on the North-West stretched as far as Arogbo in the Okitipupa Division in Ondo Province. On the North the Kingdom had a common boundary with the Benin Kingdom at Ughuoton (Ughoton) spelt “Gwato” by certain white historians and explorers. On the East it included the present Urhobo Division. On the South East the Kingdom extended to and included present day Western Ijaw Division.


In 1948 the Sobo Division seceded from the Jekri-Sobo Division and became known as Urhobo Division. In this act of secession the Urhobos laid claim to and got all the towns, villages and hamlets which they at that time claimed to demarcate their Western boundary. What was then left of the Old Jekri-Sobo Division, after this secession, was the home of the Itsekiris, that is, the Principality of Warri which also became known as Warri Division”

[Warri Division is] now Warri North and Warri South Local Government Council Areas since August, 1991. Warri North includes the Ijaw Clans of Egbema, Gbaramatu, Ogbe-Ijoh and Esaba but excluding present Burutu and Bomadi Local Government Areas which made up Western Ijaw Division.


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