Prologue to Biography of Mukoro Mowoe

Urhobo Historical Society
1890 – 1948
Second Edition  
Obaro Ikime

The time was about 5:30 p.m. The date IO August, 1948. I was a little boy in my early teens. Like my other playmates, I was getting ready to cook the evening meal for my eldest brother with whom I lived at No. 58 Cemetery Road, Warri in the now Delta State of Nigeria. I was at the material time “breaking firewood” to use the Warri parlance. This means I was busy reducing the tough logs of the red mangrove tree which was the source of fuel in Warri to manageable pieces for use in the hearth. A number of us were engaged in the usual competition as to who would get through his log first.

Then suddenly, indeed frighteningly, there came a prolonged blaring of a car horn. Before we could so much as raise our heads, there tore past us a car, one of the few in the Warri of 1948. We could barely see the tail of the car as it vanished from sight on what we thought was an exhibition of crazy driving. Everyone literally ran off the road or jumped off his bicycle as the car tore down the road. Agape with shock and surprise all of us asked the question “What is the matter?” That question was asked with even greater insistence because someone had said that the car was driven by Chief Mukoro Mowoe’s chauffeur. Chief Mukoro Mowoe was a respected and respectable citizen, indeed the leading Nigerian figure in the Warri Province of the 1940s. Was he in the car? If so, what was so urgent that made him allow his chauffeur go at that speed? If he was not — the car had sped by too fast for us to be sure whether Chief Mukoro Mowoe was in it or not — what indeed was the matter? What was happening?

As it turned out, it was not what was happening, but what had happened. Chief Mukoro Mowoe- was dead, had died in the early hours of that day. What we at that end of Warri had just seen had occurred many times between the General Hospital where the Chief passed away and Providence House, the Chief’s residence along Okere Road, almost at the other end, of town. While we stood agape with shock and utter disbelief, the V.I.Ps of Warri were making their way to Providence House to prepare to do honour to the greatest name of the province at the time. A chilling hush fell on the town as the news spread from street to street. Could it be true? Mowoe? Chief Mukoro Mowoe? Dead? Children and women burst into tears in the streets. The men bravely trying to maintain their dignity, wiped tear-filled eyes with their handkerchiefs and shook their heads in grief and utter disbelief. Yes, indeed. Chief Mukoro Mowoe was dead.

At the time of his death Chief Mukoro Mowoe was a member of the Western (Regional) House of Assembly, member of the Warri Township Advisory Board, member of the Warri Provincial Development Management Board, a Councillor of the Eastern Urhobo Native Administration, General Merchant —Exporter and Importer and many — sided contractor, President-General of the Urhobo Progress Union. No other person in the entire province combined in himself such multifarious duties to his people and the province. Everyone—from the youngest talking child to the grey-bearded — knew the name Mowoe. He was virtually a legend in his own life time. Yet over twenty-five years after his death, nowhere is there a memorial to this great man of the thirties and forties. Even history which often tends to over concentrate on the lives of the great men has, so far, passed the great Mowoe by. This little volume, inadequate in may ways, is an attempt to ensure that one of the greatest name of the old Warri Province, and Nigeria, is not in oblivion, consigned thereto by uncaring historians — professional and lay.

Proceed to Chapter I: Early Years

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