Introduction to Report of Tour of Branches, 1964,
by the President-General, Urhobo Progress Union
|By T. E. A. Salubi|
For many years it has been the expressed wish of the Union that the President-General should visit the branches of the Union from time to time. To visit the branches at least once during tenure of office was made a duty on the President-General when his honourable office was created in 1937. Before my time, only the late Chief Mukoro Mowoe was able to undertake such a tour. That was eighteen and a half years ago.
I was elected President-General on 30:12:1961 – twenty days after leaving my official desk on leave preparatory to retirement from the Federal Public Service. I needed time to settle my personal affairs at Lagos before a permanent stay in Urhobo could be possible. Therefore, on the 10th April, 1962, when I returned to lead the Urhobo Progress Union Population Census Campaign team, it was to tour the whole of Urhobo Division.
Shortly after the population Census, a period of Emergency was declared on Western Nigeria following certain unfavourable political developments. In the interim Government set up by the Federal Government to administer the Region for a period not exceeding six months, I was appointed Commissioner for Education. That appointment, being full-time, took up the rest of 1962.
In February, 1963, I went with Chief the Honourable D. C. Osadebay on a tour of Eastern Nigeria to campaign to Mid-Westerners in the East for assistance with respect to the creation of the Mid-West Region. Thereafter, extensive campaigns throughout the whole of the mid-West, also with Chief Osadebay, followed. Then the referendum, which resulted in the creation of the Mid-West Region in August, 1963, took our time.
When the Governments of the Federation set up a commission, now popularly known as “Morgan Commission”, in October, 1963, I was appointed a Commissioner. The work of the Commission ran up to the end of April, 1964. In the midst of it, I had to run for an election into the first Mid-Western Nigeria House of Assembly.
It was at the end of those series of events that I could, as President-General of Urhobo Progress Union, think of touring to the branches of the Union.
I have purposely catalogued my major public engagements from January, 1962, to April, 1964, in an attempt to show how difficult it could be for any person, especially one in public life, to make himself available for a tour such as the one under discussion. However, I was determined to have rest for the whole of May and to begin the tour in June, 1964.
By this time, two and a half out of my three years tenure of office had run out and I had only six months to do whatever I could by way of touring. Today, I am extremely happy to be easy as many people think. As I write, there are three branches north-east of Northern Nigeria, five branches in Eastern Nigeria and all the braches in Urhobo Divisions yet to be visited. And what about the eight branches in Ghana and the one in Sierra Leone? Perhaps it is not too much to expect to visit the four braches in the United Kingdom. But nothing seems to be impossible these days!An itinerary for the eight branches in the north-east of Northern Nigeria and in Eastern Nigeria has been issued. I hope that there will be no unforeseen events to disturb it. Separate report will be produced to cover that, and possibly other, tour(s) if undertaken.
Before commencement of the tours, the following five branches, for various reasons, telegraphed that they were not fit to be visited. They were Gbogan in Western Nigeria, and Ilorin, Minna, Katsina and Sokoto in Northern Nigeria. I visited altogether 36 branches. Eleven in the Midwest, eighteen in Western Nigeria, two in the Federal Territory of Lagos and five in Northern Nigeria. No body received me at Obiaruku and Agbor in the Midwest, and at Akure, Ijero-Ekiti, Ile-Ife, Ago-Owu and Abeokuta in Western Nigeria. Altogether, thirty one days were spent – the five branches in the North taking fifteen days as against sixteen for the thirty-one branches in the South.
Many local persons of importance were introduced to me as Leaders of the Branches. There was an approximate attendance of some 5,000 at the 29 meetings held. Practically everywhere, a group of happy dancers, mostly women, hailed me and my entourage. Altogether 195 gun salutes were fired by 10 braches in the rural areas in honour of my visit. That was unbelievably so oven under difficult physical conditions. The £57 : 11 : 0, shown under column 9 of appendix XIII was spent in the form of presents to those groups of elegant women dancers.
Without taking into account the mileage by a second car, the tours covered a distance of some 4,070 miles — about 1,830 in the South and 2,240 in the North. The tour of the North was a battle of great distance. While the average mileage to a branch was 448 in the North, it was only 59 in the South! More than 323 gallons of petrol and 6 ½ gallons of engine oil, both at a cost of £79 : 7 : 1d, were used throughout the tours. The largest single item of expenditure was on the care, maintenance and repair of vehicles. The damage to the Volkswagen and the heavy expenses on the repair of the Bedford Kit-car during the tour of the North which accounted for over fifty per cent of the total expenditure raised this item to unexpected alarming proportions.
Altogether, I spent a total of £74 : 5: 6d presented to the party by branches as off set against that amount, there would, therefore, be a net expenditure of £272 : 8 : 4d. What is really important is that whatever expenditure that was involved was incurred without any hope of recovering it. Before I set on the tour, I was fully aware that the Union was already in financial difficulty and unable to meet its normal recurrent expenditure.
In order to make this report readable, I have directed that it should be written in a narrative form. I therefore sincerely hope that many will find it readable in spite of its length. With this same end in view, we have tried to include many minor but interesting facts and information, stating them as they vary from branch to branch.
In conclusion, I would fain to record my warm thanks, gratitude and appreciation to all who in their various capacities helped me to make the tours the great success that they certainly were. First among them is, of course, my devoted wife who is ever prepared to cater for my health and comfort wherever I may wish to go and under any circumstance. She is, by nature, a simple woman and has been accustomed to “hard-lying” from the time I was a Labour Officer. The commendation she earned from various people during the tours is a glorious testimony which any good wife must be proud of. I am most grateful to her for her ever-present affection and companionship.
Mr. Gordon Mukoro, the Under-Secretary and Financial Secretary-General of the Union, is a most willing worker. He is very quick and reliable. Both of us have been working closely together since our assumption of office in December 1961; but at no time have I had the opportunity of knowing him so intimately well as during the tours. I suppose that he too will have the same thing to say about me. He thoroughly understood and enjoyed together our jokes and humours. I found him to be a very pleasant person throughout the tours.
It is not often these days that one meets a person who is not working purely for remuneration and personal gains. Mr. Gordon Mukoro who serves the Union to the utmost of his ability is not merely working for gain. He is, inherently, a patriot with the greatest interest of Urhobo at heart. The fire of Urhobo Progress and well-being burns fiercely in his heart. I owe him a debt of gratitude for his help always.
A group of members headed by Mr. T. Rerri, the Principal Secretary, accompanied me to Kwale and Benin City. They all made my visit to the two places very impressive. I thank them. The principal Secretary may probably wish to note that it is constitutionally incumbent on him to accompany the President-General when on such tours.
Chief Udi Jeje of Benin and Chief O. Uyo were kind enough to be members of my entourage at different times and places. The former was with me at Siluko, Iyasan, Owan and Sobe. As he humorously remarked when bidding me goodbye at Sobe, “This is my territorial boundary, I wish you well in the Yoruba country”. The latter, himself a founder of five branch Unions volunteered to tour with me. Chief Uyo is still the genial old man that I have known him to be for many years now. He is a great Urhobo whose interest in Urhobo affairs has never waned. His presence in the team showed how deep-rooted was Urhobo Progress Union.
My personal Secretary, Mr. Joseph (Omo) Gbenedio; the two drivers, Johnson Okpadanyota and John Oniogbo; and my two personal servants, Loysius Adjekpovu and John Evwianure, were of great assistance. They showed enormous capacity to take the brunt which occasionally came from me.
The last but by no means the least, I must express profound gratitude to all the branches, especially to such of their members as played hosts to us. Here I do not propose to single out branches or individuals, and I have no doubt that my reason for not wishing to do so will be fully understood.
Words are not adequate for me to describe their generous hospitality to me and my entourage. I felt extremely proud of all of them. My special thanks must go to the women who danced so beautifully for me. Some of them had children on their back, some pregnant and yet they danced and danced energetically, all because I came to see them.
May God Bless All of them.
T. E. A. Salubi President-General
29th, September, 1964.