The Miracle of an Original Thought

Urhobo Historical Society

Being the Origins of Urhobo College



Urhobo Progress  Union

Originally printed as a book in 1965 at Unity Press & Stationery Stores Ltd; Box 210, Warri, Nigeria

It is with the deepest respect and honour that I dedicate this little book to Joseph Akpolo Ikutegbe Esq., J. P., the great thinker, philosopher and philanthropist.

Preliminary Note

For various reasons, the publication of this work has been delayed for nearly a year even though I referred to it in my Presidential Address for 1964. I hope that now that it has at last been published, it will meet with a popular welcome.

President-General, Urhobo Progress Union
114, Lawani Street,
New Benin , Benin City
28th August, 1965 ___________________________________________________________________________________


As could be seen from the heading of Part I, the substance of this paper was contained in a speech that I delivered on the 1st August, 1964, on the occasion of the second Speech-Day of Urhobo College.

Because there has, so far, been no written account of the why and wherefore and the early history of the College, I thought it would be a good thing to expand the text of the speech embodying more facts and details to make up this little publication.

There are three definite periods covered in the book.  The first is from 1935 to 1942, that is to say, from the time when Mr. Joseph Akpolo Ikutegbe first conceived the idea of scholarships for Secondary Education of deserving Urhobo youths up to the time that the Urhobo Progress Union in Council decided to found a National College.  The second is from 1943 to 1946 the period in which Overseas scholarships were awarded to two Urhobo young men for professional studies with the sole purpose of returning to man the proposed College, and the acquisition of the Collegiate School of Commerce.  The third is from 1947-1949 culminating in the founding of the Urhobo College.

I have deliberately packed the book full with details, facts and also quoted in extenso.  My aim is to make the book a preserve of details and facts which may probably not be available to many students in the years to come.  I therefore offer no apology for what may, perhaps, be regarded as unnecessary clusters of details and boring quotations.

The terms “Home Union”, “Mother Union” and “Headquarters” have been freely used.  In every case, they are synonymous with and refer to Warri branch up to July, 1945, when the quarterly Executive Council now, Central Executive Committee, was inaugurated.

 It was at the end of 1949 that the Urhobo Progress Union ceased to have direct management and control of the College.  Let the writing of the history of the College from the years subsequent to 1949 be a challenge to some one else.  My humble efforts here end in the laying of a foundation for whoever will take up that challenge.

Most of the facts and information in this book were taken from the archives of the Lagos branch.  To this branch must go the credit of being the best keeper of records.  Their files and minutes books are intact.  It is hoped that the branch will continue to be a good keeper of records and also that other branches will emulate this good example.

President-General, Urhobo Progress
Western Urhobo                                                                        
20th October, 1964. 

*  *  *


A speech delivered by Chief T. E. A. Salubi, President-General, Urhobo Progress Union, on the occasion of the second “Speech Day” of Urhobo College, Effurun, held on Saturday, 1st August, 1964, at 3. 30 p.m.

The Principal, the Staff
And the Students of Urhobo College,
Members of the Board of Governors,
Ladies & Gentlemen

As the President-General of the Urhobo Progress Union, the Proprietors of this College, it is with pleasure that I rise to welcome you all, especially the invitees, to this occasion, the occasion of the second Speech-Day of the College.  As some of you may remember, the first “Speech Day” was held on the 9th of November last year.  As I have already observed in my Presidential Address to the Annual General Council of the Urhobo Progress Union held in December last, the Speech-Day was a very successful event.  The College was congratulated for it.

I am glad to see that that the Principal acted on the suggestions I made in the Presidential Address that, in future, sufficient notice of the holding of the “Speech-Day” should be sent to our prominent men and women, and indeed, to select members of the public so that they might, by their attendance, grace the occasion, and also that appeal be made to them and others who might be interested to donate prizes.

The Urhobo College is our College.  We are very proud of it.  As you may have seen, it is growing at its own pace to become a fully developed secondary grammar school that will be second to none in the whole Federation.  Like many Voluntary Agency institutions of its kind, the Urhobo College has its own humble beginnings, it is an organic growth which germinated from a deep-rooted idea of self-help for progress.

If you permit me, I should like in this speech to take you back to the earliest possible period of the events which led to the founding of the College.  When I shall have finished taking you along with me through the long and tortuous journey of how the College came to be, you will, I am sure, agree with me that the institution you see here today is, indeed, a wonderful achievement arising from an original thought, from a people’s faith, self-help and steadfastness.  This is why I have styled this speech “The Miracles of An Original Thought”.

Now I proceed with the story.

Origins of the Proposed Scholarships for
Secondary Education for Urhobo Children.

Viewed from many angles, the emergence of Lagos as a branch[1] of the Urhobo Progress Union can not but be regarded as a great event in the annals of our great Union.  Lagos branch it was that carried the Union, by broadening the basis of its constitution, from the narrow tract of a mere brotherly society to the wide fertile region of a sturdy, progressive organization which it is today.  No sooner after inauguration than Lagos began to breathe new ideas into the life of the Union.  It gave the Union a new name, introduced the holding of annual General Council into the affairs and activities of the Union and formulated various policies for the consideration of branches attending the annual General council.  The branches of the Union were then nine only.[2]

But what is perhaps Lagos branch’s greatest contribution of all times to the work of the Urhobo Progress Union, especially in the field of education, is the mooting of the question of endowment of Scholarships, originally for secondary education, for deserving Urhobo youths.  The hour was 7.25 pm., the date Saturday, 6th July, 1935, and the place No. 9, Thomas Street, Lagos, when and where at a Committee meeting[3] convened specially at his request, Mr. Joseph Akpolo Ikutegbe[4] unfolded his mind on two important subjects fundamental to Urhobo progress.  Here we are concerned with one and the first of the two subjects, namely, the endowment of Scholarships for Secondary Education for Urhobo children under the auspices of the Urhobo Progress (then Progressive) Union.

Those who know Mr. Ikutegbe intimately well in the Lagos fold of the Union will readily admit that he is a great thinker, a dreamer, a lover of education, a man imbued with high ideals, and a man whose mind is fashioned after great things for the development and progress of Urhobo people.  As I write, I still remember vividly one significant statement made by Mr. Ikutegbe when introducing his subject at the Committee meeting.  He said he did not believe in being a member of a Union merely attending meetings regularly without doing anything more from the period of one meeting to another.  That it was his own idea that, in an organization such as ours, one must work and live for something.  Then the Lagos branch was barely eight months old.

Looking at the record today, the research student or any one for that matter, may well ask:  why scholarship for as low a standard as secondary education?  But such an enquirer must need be told that we were then in the days when it was difficult, if not altogether impossible, to produce Urhobo youths with education higher than the proverbial standard six.  That was incredibly so.  Owing to the dreadful scarcity of secondary school leavers, the idea was to regard that class of scholars as a recruiting ground for higher scholarships.[5]

Mr. Ikutegbe’s suggestion was unanimously accepted in principle in Lagos and the details of the scheme had to be worked out quickly for the Headquarters to study against the first Annual General Council of the Union that was to sit on the 17th and 18th November, 1935.  Mr. Ikutegbe’s suggestion was unanimously accepted in principle in Lagos and the details of the scheme had to be worked out quickly for the Headquarters to study against the first Annual General Council of the Union that was to sit on the 17th and 18th November, 1935.  When laid at the General Council, there was, due no doubt to lack of sufficient knowledge on the part of some delegates, some confusion as to the real purpose of the scheme.  But after elucidation by Chief O. Arebe Uyo, a Lagos delegate, the scheme was warmly applauded and the Council therefore decided to begin to raise subscriptions to fund it as from June 1936.

On the face of it, this long story appears to be irrelevant to the occasion that has brought us here today.  And yet this was the beginning of the very long journey that landed us in the two-pronged, and clearly, a bigger, educational programme whereby the Union eventually decided to award Overseas University Scholarships to two Urhobo young men, and to found the Urhobo College.  Following the decision of the 1935 Annual General Council, some funds were raised in the ensuing years.

First Indications of Departure from the Original Idea <>
As early as December, 1937, I, as a representative of Lagos branch attending that year’s Council, moved that “an attempt be made next year” (1938) to award one scholarship to a boy “to the King’s College so that all subscribers to the Scheme might have knowledge of how the money was being spent.[6][7]The Council discussed the matter and concluded “that the money in hand was yet too small to make a start”.  In any case, the Council observed that the aim of providing education for deserving Urhobo youths should not be limited to training at King’s College, Lagos only, and that when funds were sufficiently available, deserving youths could also be sent to England for professional studies.  This was the first departure from the original idea. <>

In 1938, a further departure from the original principles of the Scholarship Scheme occurred.  This time it was to the effect that whatever money that was spent on the scholar for his training must be refunded on completion of his professional studies.  This was carried.  Here again, the words “professional education” came prominently into play![8]Besides the above, there was a rumour also that, contrary to the original intention, girls would not be permitted to benefit from the Scholarship Scheme.  Lagos branch therefore gave a most careful consideration to these fundamental matters of departure from the original principles and policy, namely, award of scholarships for professional education, repayment of the scholarship cost and exclusion of girls from the Scheme. <>

In June, 1939, Lagos forwarded a 5-page letter to the Headquarters protesting vehemently against the fundamental departure from the original policies of the Scheme.  It is regretted that, owing to its length, it is not possible to reproduce here the text of this all-important letter.[9]Copies of the letter were forwarded to various branches of the Union of which Koko was one.  In July, Mr. (now Chief) J. C. Avbenake, then Honorary Secretary, Koko branch, commented on the letter.  It was the view of his branch that, while they were in sympathy with Lagos branch, they were convinced that the fund, as it then stood, was inadequate to embark to any realizable advantage on secondary education scholarships.  They added that the force of expressed sentiment by Lagos impelled them to say that the only suitable remedy was to invite the Church Missionary Society in Warri to establish a secondary school in the very heart of Urhobo Division.

Here again space does not permit reproduction of Chief Avbenake’s important letter.[10]

Another deviation from the original policies occurred at the Annual General Council of 1939 when the title of the Scheme was changed from Urhobo Scholarship Scheme Fund to Urhobo Educational Scheme Fund.  No details as to the implications of the change were given and one was therefore left in the dark to guess as to what it was all about.[11]  What we in Lagos regarded as a momentous decision was however taken at that Council meeting.  It was to the effect that a commencement of the Scheme be made in 1940 with two boys.  Lagos branch was to draw up details of the Scheme or conditions governing the award.[12]

Asked whether if (iv) was adopted it would not be very vigorously criticised by the public, the Professor stated that it was bound to be since it was unique.  He admitted that not much was wrong with it, but concluded that since it was a new idea, the force of public opinion would be much against it.  After admiring and encouraging our (the whole U. P. U. ‘s) efforts, he advised us to try and persuade the remaining branches, which were in favour of refunding the money, to agree with us and to start the scheme on a free basis  for the next 5 years.  He promised that during that period, he would try his best through the press to educate public opinion that not all scholarships, as many people thought were free.  That after the public should have been sufficiently well educated on the point, there would be no fear of criticism if any one started a scheme on such basis.  He advised us strongly to try and co-operate with the Headquarters to avoid separation as such would be detrimental to the scheme and the Union itself.

It was a most helpful interview the conclusions of which were communicated to the Headquarters.  The communication to the Headquarters at that time was a fruitless exercise.  They could not take any decision outside the Annual General Council and everything about the Scheme had to stalemate especially as no Annual General Council was held in 1940.

Primary School Versus National College

But a most dramatic change of policy in the Scheme was yet to come.  It took place at the Annual General Council in December, 1941, when the Council, to Lagos branch’s utter surprise and dismay, decided to establish a primary school, to be gradually developed to a secondary grammar school, with the existing funds of the Scheme.  This decision was the last straw that broke the carmel’s back.  It raised a great deal of hue and cry from the more progressive and intelligent branches of the Union.  Lagos branch’s immediate reaction was a quick decision raising the strongest possible objection and deciding not to subscribe anything more than the minimum of 2/- per member per annum until the awful Council decision was rescinded.

The second branch to kick violently against the Council’s unprogressive decision was Port Harcourt.  In the words of Mr. T. M. Uwamu, the Honorary Secretary, the reading of this decision in the minutes of the Council at their General Meeting of 30th August, 1942, “abruptly became sapless and rancid in character.”  It would be “an ignomy to the Urhobo nation to adumbrate-imagine aiming at building a mere school” of this type in a “far advanced country” like ours “instead of a College”, he cried.  Accordingly, Port Harcourt branch proposed redoubling of efforts to raise funds for the founding of a College.

This letter was circulated widely, and consequently, the Headquarters invited comments upon it from various branches.

As evidenced by available record, it was only Ibadan branch that supported in their comments the Council’s obnoxious decision.  It was in this connection that Chief Mariere wrote his letter referred to in footnote 5 at page 8 above.  Chief Mariere and I picked up the cudgel from where Port Harcourt left off, and it is my humble opinion, that it was my letter, followed by the Chief’s about a month later, that drove the last nail into the coffin of the proposed primary school project.

Elsewhere in his letter already quoted, Chief Mariere argued brilliantly thus:

 “That the six years effort of the Urhobo Progress Union with that of other persons outside the Union, in subscribing money towards the Scholarship Fund boils down ultimately to the establishment of an elementary school.  Some of our Urhobo young men have established elementary  schools in several places.  If the united forces of the Urhobo Progress Union should embark upon a jiffy, what respect do we command in the eyes of other progressive tribes who think of Building Colleges and of sending their young men to Europe and scheme in Nigeria?  We find that we could not suppress our feelings, we arranged a deputation composed of Messsrs S. J. Mariere, Jackson Igben and his visits to Agbor.  We expressed our disagreement with, and disappointment at the decision to establish an elementary school instead of a College.  We concluded that we could move an amendment of that decision when the next Council sits.  In connection with the same matter Mr. Mariere received a private letter from Mr. T. E. A. Salubi in favor of founding a College and NOT an elementary school.  Further discussions were had with the President-General at Agbor when Mr. Salubi who was then on leave visited here.  Thus it will be seen that when Port Harcourt’s letter was received we find that we were not alone in our stand.”

 In repose to the Headquarter’s invitation for Lagos branch’s views, I wrote again another 5-page letter a paragraph of which reads as follows:

“3. As you know too well, the idea of subscribing money to found scholarships for Urhobo youths originated from our branch (Lagos).  God knows how much we have done to give effect to the scheme since its inception in 1936.  We have been strong adherents of, and believers in, the Scheme.  We advocated for its practicalistion both within and without the four walls of the Union.  We have always thought that nothing could sway us from following up the scheme to realization soon or late; but since the idea of founding A College as against the proposed scholarships has cropped up, we have given the two propositions a most careful study with a broad and unbiased outlook.  We weighed the “cons” and the “pros” of both proposals and found that, notwithstanding or strong faith in the scholarships proposal, the founding of a College will be far more beneficial to the Urhobo tribe than scholarships.  This is our honest and sincere conclusion.  Having been thus convinced, we are not ashamed to make known our change of policy, because we have been known to be staunch adherents of the latter.  We hold that in matters of this kind, individual branch’s feelings or idiosyncrasies should not be allowed to supersede national ones as the greater contains the less.”

In the same letter, Lagos branch suggested “That owing to” the Union’s inability, for obvious reasons, to run the College “on its own, missionary authorities (preferably C. M. S.) in Warri[13] Province be approached with the proposal and requested to kindly consider the possibility of” running “the College under their aegis”

Further, in my annual report to the Annual General Council holden in December, 1942, I also wrote the following in connection with the Urhobo National Education Scheme:

“For the first time in our history, we failed to do anything worthwhile in the prosecution of this scheme this year.  Very lately in the year, we decided on a nominal subscription of 2/- per member.  The subscription is not yet ready for sending to the Headquarters as usual.  Our failure was due to the attitude of the executives of the Headquarters to the Scheme and to the most backward decision had at the last General Council of the Union whereby it was agreed that funds available under the scheme be utilized to establish an elementary school.  While we do not desire to write at length hereabout this poorest of decisions yet it is sufficient to say that those who brought it about had “killed” our enthusiasm and interest with it.  However, we are pleased to observe that the more intelligent and enlightened Urhobo youths have since come to our rescue with the result that a better alternative proposal, which, if effected, guarantees far-reaching advantages and benefits to the Urhobo youth, is afoot.”

Agreement on National College and Subsequent Developments.

Arising from this considerable pressure and stiff opposition, the Annual General Council of December, 1942, had no alternative but to rescind its previous decision and to record a fresh and healthier one, namely, that an UrhoboNational College be founded.

One significant event at that Council after agreement had been reached on founding the National College was the spontaneous voting of various sums of money by delegates to the Scheme.  37 delegates voted on the spot an aggregate sum of £311  : 15s : 0d. The decision for every delegate to pay up from January to 15th December, 1943, showed that not all paid the various sums voted in full or even in part.

Another important decision taken by the Council was the siting of the proposed college “opposite the N.A. Oil Palm Nursery near Effurun Town” – i.e., the present site.

By that time, the President-General’s first 5 years term of office had expired “and being satisfied with his five years peaceful services,” the Council re-elected Chief Mowoe as President-General for a second tenure.  The Council requested the President-General who was to be accompanied by the General Secretary and the General Financial Secretary, to commence touring to all branches in April, 1943, with the primary object of facilitating collection of funds for the Scheme.

In winding up the debate, the President-General rationalized in order to save the face of those who took the 1941 decision.  He said the Council should thank “those who proposed the establishment of an Elementary School during the last Council.  That had enabled Port-Harcourt to make the more refined plan” –suggestion to build a national College.

The Council however rejected Lagos branch’s suggestion to invite a Missionary body for the running and management of the College.

In his letter dated the 15th January, 1943, conveying the Council’s decision to Lagos branch, the General Secretary of the Union, acting under direction, requested the branch to approach again Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe for necessary advice regarding, as he put it, “the fundamentality and maintenance” of the College.

With the 1942 Annual General Council decision one would have thought that all troubles and disagreements about the Scheme were over.  But the contrary was the case.  The next two years, as would be seen presently, were years of bitter disagreement especially between the Home Union and Lagos branch ably supported by Northern Nigeria branches.  At the fifth session of their Conference held at Kano on the 9th and 10th October, 1943, the North had the following to say with regard to the Urhobo Eduction Scheme:

“Desirability of sending two men on Scholarship
to Europe next year by the Union.” 

“As soon as this matter was tabled for discussion Mr. I. Okandeji[14] in a lengthy speech pointed out how real national progress depended upon ability of the nation to send deserving sons for Overseas education.  In the Nigeria of tomorrow there would be no room for the tribe that would look upon matriculants as constituting the top intelligentsia.  He referred to the example set by the Ibibio Union.  The Ibibio tribe was at one time unheard of and primitive and looked down upon, but now that tribe has jumped into the foreground of progressive tribes and become a factor to be reckoned with in Nigeria.  Discussing the contribution of a national progress he stated such a college could only add to the number of our clerks, but a progressive nation needed professionals.  Concluding, he submitted that sending two men to Europe was overdue and should be undertaken immediately.  Messrs. J. J. Oduko, G. A. Inoaghan, Edwin Ogun, J. D. Oketugba, E. N. Igho spoke in support stressing that while the prospective students are studying in Europe the Urhobo National College Scheme could still be pursued.

“Mr. D. A. Green-Okoro in disagreement dwelt upon the great advantages of a National College; the number of our youth to receive secondary Education would increase as it was much easy to educate a boy at a home college than abroad.  He contended that a National College would further enable our sons to qualify for Government Scholarship.  He therefore urged the Conference to accept the decision of the last General Council on this matter.

“Mr. I. Okandeji speaking once more in support of scholarship told the Conference that it was a National duty to seek the rise of our nation.  The general minimum standard of obtaining a Government Scholarship was an Intermediate Degree.  With the greatest possible expedition the proposed National College might produce its first matriculants in 1951 when perhaps Government Scholarships might have been discontinued or standard of obtaining them raised.  We should fail in our duty and show lack of patriotism if we counted upon the generosity of the Government to provide our necessities.

“The Clerk of the Conference pointed out that a national college even called for studies abroad as we must produce worthy Urhobo men fit for Principalship and mastership at the College or otherwise we would have to count upon the help of foreign-hands.

“After further discussion on this matter, Mr. I. Okandeji moved that the time was overdue to send two deserving Urhobo men to Europe on scholarship.  This motion was seconded by Mr. Ogun and unanimously carried.  Mr. Green-Okoro lost his counter motion as he had no seconder.

“Taking decision the Conference felt that scholarship was an immediate need by the nation and should be given priority over National College which should still remain as a National aim but given less impetus.  The Conference then resolved – that it was a national duty to send deserving young men Overseas on scholarship and that should this decision be turned down at the General Council the Northern Branches would inaugurate a Scholarship Scheme of their own to see that this national need became a reality.”

The Conference therefore passed this resolution:

“That the sending of two deserving Urhobo youths on Scholarship to Europe next year was a national duty.  That the General Council should consider this desideratum forthwith and that the Northern Branches strongly feel that, in consequence, the decision reached at the last General Council be reconsidered and revoked at the next session of the General Council; that the Northern Branches while still strongly associating themselves with the scheme for a National College, urged upon the Home Union to give the Scholarship Scheme greater priority and acceleration; that towards the fulfillment of this National duty the Northern Branches would be compelled to run a Scholarship Fund on their own if reasonable consideration is not given at Headquarters.”

As that Conference was being held, I [i.e., Adogbeji Salubi] was already on the high seas proceeding to England on Government Scholarship.  I did not, therefore, know what was then happening.  But just exactly one month after that Conference, I wrote a letter from England to the Lagos branch reporting the disgraceful condition in which I found Mr. Borke, the lone Urhobo star (or as Mr. Ben Davies, the Honarary Secretary, Logos branch, termed him “the pillar of our hope”) in the field of professional studies in England.  As I said earlier on, Mr. Borke was the first Urhobo ever sent abroad for a professional study.  He was sponsored by Mr. Joseph Akpolo Ikutegbe and was to study law.

After reporting in full the sad circumstances and misfortunes which befell Mr. Borke, I added:

“This, so far, is the stage to which Mr. Borke’s six and a half years stay and study in England and Mr. Ikutegbe’s bold philanthropy landed him.  A fortune lost to find sorrow, disappointment and misery.  It is a pity; this is Mr. Borke, the hero of my boyhood!  This is Mr. Ikutegbe, the noble-minded whom I learnt to respect so much for his venture about Mr. Borke.  Above all, is Urhobo the tribe to which I belong.”

“Whither are we heading?
“When will our day dawn?
“When will our sun rise?
“When will our moon bloom?”

“Let us admit that for the moment our ship has shattered and we have to retrace our steps.  We have to begin again.  But can we find another Ikutebge? Can we find another broadminded person among the lot?  What a discouragement, what a national shame—for a first attempt to be so ended!” attempt to be so ended!

This letter added fuel to the fire already lit by the North.  On its receipt, Lagos issued an appeal to the Home Union and other branches attaching a copy of the letter.

In the appeal, dated the 9th January, 1944, Lagos branch proposed that, in order to meet the challenge to the Urhobo nation, brought about by Mr. Borke’s ignominous failure, the Urhobo Progress Union should use the funds of the Educational Scheme, the National Fund and other moneys readily available to send two scholars to the United Kingdom to study law.  The award was to be “Scholarship in perpetuity” and the students to be sent off not later than June, 1944.  Many branches supported Lagos but the Home Union adopted what was probably a right, but dilatory, attitude by seeking the views of the branches.

Out of sheer disgust occasioned by the Home Union’s attitude, the Northern branches in February, 1944, appealed to Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe to speak to our leaders at the Headquarters and to our people at Sapele in order to rouse them to immediate action.  Zik was then contemplating a visit to the area.  Like the Nothern branches, Lagos with its supporters in the South were firmly determined to ensure that Mr. Borke’s disgraceful failure was avenged at all costs.

It now seemed as if there was a battle between the “progressives” and the ‘reactionaries.’ Lagos called for inauguration of Conference of the branches of the Union in Southern Nigeria with the object of:

“(a)  promoting common understanding among the members of the individual branches.
(b)         strengthening the fold and thereby enabling us to present a formidable front in allmatters affecting our destiny.
(c)        Its inauguration would help broaden our general outlook and quicken the materialization of our dreams and schemes, such as the Scholarship and other menacing problems.”

In the circular, Mr. Ben Davis said:

“The advantages of a conference such as it is now being proposed cannot be overemphasised. The enviable strides of the North, largely due to their intermittent conferences are achievements quite unexpected.  Please be referred to their Circular re the recent resolutions on Scholarship and other matters of grave importance confronting the Urhobo race.  Why not we?  Once up and doing with such tow conferences in the North and South, there is no doubt that other branches in the East and West would automatically wake up and live to immeasurable advantages.  The Mother Union is asleep, should we too?”

Very much unlike Lagos, there is no further record in file about this proposed conference.  It is not certain therefore whether the conference was in fact held; nor is there anything about its proceedings if ever it was held.  But it would appear from correspondence from other branches, in reply to a Lagos letter N. CB/UPU/Vol. 7 o 18:2:44 (copy not in file), that a decision was taken at that conference, or somewhere else, to set up a Commission of Inquiry to inquire into the causes of the weakness of the Home Union.  According to Mr. Ikutegbe’s letter of 3:4:44, expressing inability to serve on the Commission, the idea to set up the Commission emanated from him.  Again another original thought and idea from Mr. Ikutegbe.  The branches’ replies evidenced quite clearly that they welcomed the setting up of the Commission of Inquiry.

By April, 1944, the Home Union reported the conclusion of its enquiries from branches as to whether priority should be given to founding a college or overseas scholarships for law.  Of the 33 branches consulted, only 20 replied.  Twelve of the twenty favoured proceeding immediately with the National College, seven were against and one offered no opinion.  The Headquarters therefore decided that priority be given to the founding of the College.  Accordingly, an Education Committee, consisting of the members of the Executive Committee of the Headquarters, together with a number of certain other members who were co-opted, was set up.  The Committee, charged with the responsibility of establishing and organising the College, with Mr. S. A. Uriafe, as the first secretary, soon met and took the following decisions:

“(I)  That the Secondary School should open in 1945 January.

(II) That owing to difficulties in obtaining qualified staff as well as to those of getting Government’s approval to open at one stroke a full-fledged Secondary School, it is decided to start from very humble beginnings—viz: from infants to Std. VI, and one Secondary Class, other classes being added gradually as more qualified staff become available.

(III) That Scholarships be offered to at least two Urhobo young men one to

Study Science in Yaba Higher College, specialising in Chemistry and Biology and the other to study for the B.A. Degree and the Diploma in Theory and Practice of Teaching in Fourah Bay or in Achimota.  These two men will be the Principal and the Science Master respectively in the Secondary School, after completing their course (training) Correspondence has already been opened with each of these colleges.

(IV) That an appeal, a copy of which is attached marked “Strictly confidential”, be issued to all Urhobo youths throughout the country for two objects, –viz:-

(a) To secure from amongst them if possible a staff with which to open the school next year.

(b)  To get the necessary candidates from amongst whom selections will be made against the two scholarships to be offered for the present.”

The question of selection of candidates for the scholarships was to come up in due course.

A few weeks later, Mr. (now Chief G. Ohwotemu Oweh, then a Co-operative Inspector at Ibadan, who did not appear to agree with certain aspects of the Education Committee’s proposal, wrote a well considered letter to advise and appease Lagos in order that they might bow to the wishes of the Home Union.  In the concluding part of his letter, Chief Oweh said, “If you are convinced with what I have written, I am advising you to write canceling our invitation circular for United Kingdom Scholarship.  It is no disgrace to do so, but a vindication of our goodwill to avoid quarrels in the ranks of  the Union.  In God’s good time” Chief Oweh reasoned “an Urhobo man will certainly wear the Lawyers’s wig to the glory of our Fatherland.  So be it, Lord” Lagos acceded to the Chief’s advice.  In doing so, Mr. Ben Davies philosophised “we bow to the inevitable if it is the will of God, whichever plan” that was first taken” would be to the utmost good of our beloved land.”

But the month of May, 1944, was an uneasy month for the Home Union.  While this harangue between the North and Lagos on the one hand, and the Home Union on the other, was about dying down, the Commission of Inquiry, of which Mr. J. D. Oketugba was the chairman and Mr. J. C. Avbenake the Secretary, was going on in full swing at Warri.  It was said to be a very critical enquiry. In Mr. Avbenake’s own words, “the Commission of Inquiry………….has come to save the Union from continued decay………. There were indeed revelations”.  Curiously enough, the report of the inquiry never saw the light of day.  It was never published and no copy could be found in any file!  I will make no comments.

The Home Union now realised that the game was up and that they had to face the practical realities of the situation – to start the educational scheme at once or to further advance dilatory tactics as it had done over the past years.


On the 8th August, 1944, the Education Committee informed Lagos that in connection with the proposed Urhobo College, Mr. M. G. Ejaife had been awarded a scholarship to study at the Fourah Bay College for three years followed by a year in the United Kingdom in order to qualify for the Principalship of the College.  That Mr. Ezekiel Igho was another scholar to follow later.  Mr. Ejaife was due to be in Lagos about the 24th August and Lagos branch was to accommodate him for his brief stay and also to book his passage to Fourah Bay.  Lagos quibbled as to how Mr. Ejaife came to be selected and so on.  But the main thing was that Mr. Ejaife entered Fourah Bay when the academic year 1944-1945 began.

That was how the Urhobo Progress Union groped for eight long years in its dreams to found a suitable scheme of its own for the educational advancement of Urhobo youths.  But that was not, by any means, the end of the struggle.  The story continues..

As one who was for away from home (for I was already in England), I did not know in time all the developments that had taken Place at home in the fold of the Union.  I was aware of the Commission of Inquiry but did not know in time that Mr. Ejaife had been awarded a scholarship.

In the midst of my studies however, the deteriorating state of affaits of the Union at home was uppermost in my mind.  Long before I sailed abroad, I was in fact never happy with the position of the Union, especially the Home Union.  It was always a matter of great concern to me.

In this connection, I will respectfully seek indulgence to quote what I wrote at Liverpool in the fall of 1944 in regard to the attitude of the Home Union towards the scholarship or educational scheme.  The extract is a part of a long article written when I was ruminating seriously over the general affairs of the Urhobo Progress Union as I saw them then.  In the article, which was published serially in Southern Nigeria Defender[15] from 1st November, 1944, I surveyed the whole field of the Union’s activities, cirticising and praising, where necessary, certain of the activities of certain of the then leaders of the Union.

And I wrote as follows:

“I do not propose to discuss here subscriptions to this fund, as this might be said to be encouraging.

“The members subscribed far more than the minimum of two shillings, per head pr annum,some even subscribed up to about £5 or more, all depending on will and financial ability.

In a place like Lagos, it was a matter of wide interest, many non-members subscribing thereto.

The clan unions which were firmly organised made it a point to subscribe something each year

And so they did until very recently.

This branch, besides other activities, organised a very successful cinema show the proceeds of which benefited the fund and the Nigerian Troops Comforts Fund.

Between 1936 and 1942, this fund rose to a few hundred pounds, now idle in the coffers of the local bank.

Here again we had and still have enormous resources to explore for the benefit of this fund.

All we wanted was a little more effort and psychology—to start the project with one or two of the most deserving youths in a local secondary education institution (King’s College, Lagos, preferably), for  that was the original idea, and hold that up to stimulate the people.

Meanwhile collection of more money would be going on.

But instead, what did we see?

The subscription which was encouraging from the beginning began to drop, not because subscribers were tired but because the General Council was incapable of taking decisive action as to what to do with what had already been collected.

The original aim was altered to creating Overseas scholarships for professional education in Europe or in America.  Then the question as to the terms of the grant arose—should award be granted entirely free, or should part or the whole of the expenditure involved be refunded by scholars?

Views were sharply divergent, and, although we had the benefit of advice of well-informed and qualified men like Dr. I Ladipo Oluwole, Zik  and a few others, yet we were unable to come to a definite conclusion.

Later, it was suggested that instead, we should found a secondary school in Urhoboland.”

And so we kept on changing our minds each year without doing one out of all, until quite recently when some one with a brilliant brain came along with a very clear idea.  Not only did he suggest, but actually manoeuvred and got the 1942 Council to rescind the previous decision and to substitute therefore another, which was that the founding of an elementary school which would gradually develop into a secondary school was the best solution to our pressing educational needs!

Well, we are in a world in which each man is entitled to his opinion, and provided he knows how to get about his job, it is easy to carry the majority in a Council where most delegates, particularly those from Urhoboland, feel that the views sponsored by influential members of the headquarters are always right.

If ever the headquarters exhibited obvious inability in handling a given problem, it is how they fumbled, bungled and muddled over the scholarships scheme.

They had never once had a clear view of their own as to what to do, nor were they prepared to accept others’ views with any appreciable sincerity, with the result that they kept on tossing representatives of branches here and there at the annual council meetings.

Is there any wonder, therefore, that some members now begin to feel that the scheme is being deliberately frustrated by some people with private axes to grind? 

We won’t be surprised if the next move would be a decision to adopt the Forge three or five year plan for Standard II Mass Literacy!

Unfortunately or fortunately (which it is in this case we don’t really know), this officer who was alleged to be at the head of Education Department, Warri – a department which has for the past two decades consistently worked in a manner as tended to betray the cause and strifle almost to death the progress of education in that Province – has been transferred.

In the address presented by the Urhobo Progress Union to the new Governor on the occasion of his first official visit to Warri, it was observed among other requests that they needed three secondary schools in the Province, and what is more, they had made representations to this effect in the Elliot Commission!

From their last decision before I left Nigeria, one would have expected that, true to the belief and conviction which must have prompted that decision, they would have given priority to elementary schools!

Whatever may be their present views, we strongly feel that enough experiment has been tried on the Scholarships Scheme, and, therefore, it is high time something concrete is done.

We must remember that members of the general public subscribed to the Fund and for this, we owe them a responsibility and obligation.

Already, the Okpe Union, Lagos, one of the Urhobo Clans Unions which supported the scheme admirably, had quite rightly called the Lagos branch to question recently as to what happened to the Fund, since they had heard nothing about it.” [16]

That is how we groped for eight long years altogether.  But my article worked, perhaps like magic.  The Commission of Inquiry together with this open press criticism ‘ferreted’ the Headquarters leaders out of their inexcusable state of inaction.

With all those events, the year 1944 must have been a most exciting and excruciating once in the annals of the Union.  After skipping the holding of Annual General Council for 1943, due as Mr. Avbenake put it, to the “Home Union delinquency”, a very busy and hectic Council was held in December, 1944.  It is believed that arising from the Commission of Inquiry far-reaching decision involving fundamental re-organisation and changes of procedure etc affecting the structure of the Union itself were taken at the Council.  Unfortunately, the minutes of the proceedings regarding that link of our long story  It was the last Council called by Chief Mowoe.  None other was held before his death in August, 1948.  The next Coucil was in May – June, 1950 – a lapse of some six years.  When called to question at the 1950 Council, Mr. (now Chief) J. J. Okene, the then Honorary General Secretary, gave vague and indefensible reasons as to why the minutes were not compiled and issued.  This earned him a severe censure from the Council.

On the 20th June, 1945, Lagos was requested to book the passage of Mr. Ezekiel N. Igho[17]  who was to proceed to Cambridge on the Union’s scholarship commencing from the 1945-1946 session.  Igho arrived in England in September 1945.

In 1935 Mr. Igho had entered Christ the King’s College, Onitsha, where he came first in the School Honours List in 1938.  He passed the Government Middle VI Examination and the Cambridge School Certificate Examination, Grade I Pass with Exemption from London Matriculation.  Ezekiel joined in 1939 the Marine Technical Institute, Apapa, later resigning to enter the Telegraph School, Post & Telegraphs Department, from where he qualified to become postal clerk and telegraphist.

Six years later, Ezekiel was awarded one of the two Overseas scholarships by the Urhobo Progress Union with the ultimate aim of qualifying for Science Mastership on the staff of the proposed Urhobo College.  In October, 1945, Ezekiel entered Downing College, Cambridge University, graduating Bachelor of Arts in Natural Sciences in June, 1948, and obtained his Diploman in Education from the Institute of Education, University of London in July, 1949.  Ezekiel returned from the United Kingdom in September, 1949, and joined the Staff of the College as the Vice-Principal.  He died at an early age at his home town, Ohwrode Udu Clan, on Saturday, 5th May, 1956.  A grievous loss to the Urhobo people.

Urhobo Educational Scheme’s
Ten-Year Policy: Its Content and Obstacles

 All along, the Education Committee was hard at work producing by August, 1945, the following detailed ten-year educational programme:


1CHANGE OF TITLE:-         This Scheme formerly known and circulated as the “Urhobo College Scheme” should now by known and called the “Urhobo Education Scheme”.
2  EFFECT OF CHANGE:-                          The Urhobo College Scheme was wholly based on the building, equipment, maintenance of, and the training of staffs for the “Urhobo National College”.  But by the adoption of the new title, the scheme has opened up opportunities of granting scholarships to Urhobo deserving Youths to study abroad for such professions or degrees as the General Council may approve.  This change of title has strongly affected the fund. The target of  £12,000 for ten years plan was increased to  £60,000 at the same period.
3DEFINTION:-This scheme may be clearly defined as the Urhobo Education Scheme planned under the auspices of the Urhobo Progress Unionfor a period of ten years whereby certain sums of are estimated to be raised from among the Urhobo people towards the establishment of a National College and granting of scholarships to deserving Urhobo Youths to study abroad for chosen professions or degrees.
4OBJECTIVES:-There are three objectives the scheme is out to achieve: (I)                 Founding of Secondary School (II)              Granting of Scholarships for Higher Education (III)            Raising of Funds.
5FOUNDING OF SECONDARY SCHOOL:-  (I)   Building of College:-  (a)   Acquisition of land:  Lease or freehold Survey of the plot Plan of the building. (b)   Building: U Shape Storey Building according to the plan prepared by the Education Committee and submitted to the Executive Council for approval. (c)   Houses for the Principal and Vice-principal to be concrete modern buildings and so are the houses for other tutors. There shall be built houses for gardener and cook and       Other members of the College. (d)   Commencement of Building: As soon as funds are available, i.e. after setting aside total expenditure for Messrs M. G. Ejaife and Igho for period covered by their training and transport fares back to Warri, the building will commence. (e)     Purchases of materials – Cement, sand, gravels, planks washers and nails (f)     Block moulding and assembling of same. (g)    Employment of Watchman and appointment of Contractor.  Agreement With the contractor drawn and signed. (h)    The Education Committee supervises the building. (I)     The period 1945 to 1946 December set aside to complete the Building, if not earlier. (II)  STAFFS:  Employment of Tutors and opening of the College. (III) January 1947:-  (a) Four Masters to be employed – College opens with 120 boys (girls may be admitted as day girls in classes one 1 (a)    (b)  & II (a) (b) 30 in each. (b)     Laboratory Instruments and equipments to be provided. 1948:-           (a)   Employment of more Tutors and opening of class III probably (a & (b).                     (b)   More equipments and laboratory instruments. 1949:-           (a)   Messrs. Ejaife and Igho return and assume duties.                     (b)   Opening of Class (IV).                     (c)   Equipments, and Instruments.                     (d)    Two students sent abroad for Education. 1950:-           (a)        Opening of Class (V).                     (b)         More equipments and laboratory instruments.                     (c)         Employment of more staffs.                     (d)         Two students abroad for Education. 1951:-           (a)        Opening of Class (VI).                     (b)         More equipments and laboratory instruments. (c)                       Employment of more staffs. (d)                      Two students abroad for Agriculture to be Tutors. 1952:-           (a)        More openings considered – Technical School attached.                                          (b)         Two students abroad for Commerce (to be Tutors).                                          (c)         1949 Students arrive and assume duties. 1953:-          (a)         1950 Students arrive and assume duties.                    (b)         Two Students abroad for Education to Specialise in Technology                                                        ( option Tutors). 1954:-          (a)         1951 Students arrive to assume duties.                    (b)          Equipments and Laboratory – General Improvements. 1955:-         (a)          Ten years plan end in May 31st.                   (b)          1952 Students arrive and assume duties.
6GRANTING SCHOLARSHIPS FOR PROFESSIONS:-(1)       As soon as 1945 funds are available by May 31st 1946 arrangements for grants of scholarship for two students shall be  made for 1947.

(2)               In 1948 Two more students: one for Medicine and the other for Law.

(3)               In 1949 Two students one for Commerce and Banking, the Other for social science to be employed by Urhobo N. A. For Welfare Works

(4)               In 1950 Two more Law Students.

(5)               In 1951 Two students all medicine or one to specialize in  dentistry.
(6)               In 1952 Two more students – one Medicine the other for Law.
(7)               In 1953 Two more students – all Medicine.

(8)      In 1954 Two more students – Commerce and Industry.

(9)               In 1955 Three Students for general Education.
7RAISING OF FUNDS(1)               June 1st 1945 Raising of Funds Commences.

(2)               The Target is £6000 a year.

(3)               The Target is divided up a follows: (Clans 29 in number) £2,000 a year. Urhobo abroad including Warri and Sapele  £4,000 a year.

(4)               This amount be made available by 31st May of each year.
8This move is a National Concern(1) The Scheme is a project to serve the educational need of the people of Urhobo.  Apart from its immediate attainments i.e. establishment of a National College at Warri, granting of Scholarships to U.K. and U.S.A. and the realisation of the fund estimated, the Nation will greatly benefit by the spirit of co-operation and unity the method of collection will bring about during the ten years the scheme remains operative.

(2) It should be borne in mind that any clan or group of clans desiring to operate a scheme of the nature scheduled above with the mind of giving up the payments of its quotas towards the Urhobo Education Scheme has violated a National pledge and the failure to carry out the scheme will be attributed to such clan or group of clans and the Urhobo Progress Union has the right of brining up such clan or group of clans before the Urhobo Native Administration Authorities for censure and redress.  (3)  It is wise to sound a note of warning here that the success of this scheme depends largely on principally just two things:  firstly the degree of efforts by, and general activities of, the members of the Urhobo Progress Union as a whole; secondly the co-operative efforts of the Urhobo public backed up by their willingness to pay up quotas.
9                                              It would not be too much for a clan or group of clans to raise funds of their own for the purposes of granting secondary Education Scholarship or University Education scholarship if the sponsors would make the people affected by their move to clearly understand that their scheme would not prejudice the Urhobo Education Scheme Fund, nor would it in any why serve as an excuse of paying less quotas. 
10 In any further awards of scholarship either under 4 (1) or 4 (2) above, due advertisements By publications, circulars, open discussions at Mass Meetings, will be made in inviting applications, supported by testimonials from Clan Heads, Executives of Clan Unions, of Urhobo Progress Union branches and Headquarters: and from the Executive Boards in Townships.  No application will be accepted in cases where condition stipulated above is not satisfied.
11  Selections will be determined by the Educational attainment, Conduct and Health.  In some cases advices of the Education Authorities may be sought either by way of Tests or Interview to be arranged for the selected candidates. The Education Committee is free to award Scholarships to Candidates with exceptional ability and of good character provided such applicant is recommended by the approved Authority.
12 The Union reserves the right of calling upon any Urhobo man or woman to proceed for further studies if in the opinion of the Union, such award will be of National Value for the Nation.
13 The Education Committee has rightly concluded that when the College is opened Scholarships will be offered to deserving students either 9a) for free Tuition and boarding, (b) free lodging, (c) free Tuition.  There shall be also certain number of  regular Scholarships to be granted annually for boys or girls of exceptional brilliancy during their College career in cases where the parents of such boys or girls are unable to foot the College bills.  The terms of the Scholarships will depend on the merit of the case or   on the degree of the poverty of the parents.
14 The Union will dare tackle the problem of Mass Education after years if the Co-operation now needed could be secured to work successfully through the ten years plan but it is a duty incumbent on the clan Unions to encourage children of school age to attend schools.
15 The question of Adult Education is a matter of willingness on the part of present adult Illiterates to learn how to read, write and do simple arithmetic.
16 All Clan Unions should encourage girls of school age to attend school.  If special effort is made and good number of our girls are found to attend schools, Secondary Education of our girls will receive special attention of the Union in ten years tome”
17 The Union expects every Urhobo man and woman to do his or her duty to bring this scheme to a success so that we shall be free to express ourselves in matters affecting this Country.
18 All expenses incurred in respect of Medicine and Law students are refundable in full. Those students for Education shall refund half the expenses.
19 The above Scheme is subject to amendment, alterations, modification as the need arises.”

In his first Monthy Circular[18], Avbenake left for us the following summarised record under the heading “Controversy On Education Scheme”

“In 1936 a Fund known as Scholarship Fund was opened for all branches of the Union.  The Scholarship Fund was suggested by Lagos Branch of the Union in order to grant scholarship to Urhobo deserving Youths to Secondary Schools.  Lagos Branch Union was then instructed to make up the scheme for submission to the General Council of 1937.  The U. K. and U.S.A. Scholarships granted by Ibibio Union in 1937 biased the mind of some Branch Unions against the Education Fund instead of Scholarship Funds.  In 1938, the scheme was merely discussed and no motion was passed.  In 1939, inspite of Lagos stand the claim for Overseas Scholarship was gaining ground.  In 1940, Mr. J. A. Ikutegbe, a dynamic force behind the Secondary Education Scholarship was delegated from Lagos to the General Council where he won the debate with a promise to start with two boys in King’s College.  In 1941, owing to war exigency, according to the Headquarters, the General Council did not sit.  In 1942, the School was suggested as a primary move.  In 1943, Port Harcourt brought up the idea of Secondary School.  This was moved in the Council with laudable ranging from £30 to £5 as their contribution towards the Scheme.  Among the few who paid their votes were Messrs. Mukoro Mowoe, President-General, Mr. Affun of Forcados Branch Fame.  The famous letter from Mr. T. E. A. Salubi,  Social Science Student in London reporting the tragic fate of Mr. Borke in his law career to the Lagos Branch Union and subsequent circular passed by that Branch supported by Kano Area Council resolution prejudiced the mind of some Sections against the Secondary school building scheme.  Thus a conflict flared up – Hot Correspondence followed; split threatened – dissension became rampart and a loophole was thus created for a less subtle ruthless. “propagandist to ply his trades against the Union.  The time spirit changed the mind of the leaders who unconsciously began to reason with one another.  Then the New Education Scheme was drawn with greater degree of attention to Secondary School.  But the famous General Council of 1944 modified it and brought the scheme to a point where neither of the opposing thoughts could find a job of complaint.  It is a balanced scale.  Those who held that deserving Youths should be sent to Great Britain for law studies are satisfied under the Scheme even beyond the conception of law studies only.  Those who believed that a National College of the first grade type would be royal road to progress are under the scheme supported to the extent of granting Scholarship to deserving Youths to study abroad for art and science degrees.  The March, is now begun!  The success of the Scheme depends upon just two things:- (1) The degree of energy exerted in bringing before the Urhobo people the true position of the Scheme, its value and at the same time making them to realise the national importance of the scheme.  The importance which is makes it necessary to assume the title of Urhobo Education Scheme.  (ii) The degree of co-operation that the Urhobo people are prepared to give to the Schemers.  Those who are ignorant of the extend in population of the Urhobo tribe may doubt the possibility of collecting annually for ten years £6000.  The arrangement of dividing the target into two making Urhobo abroad(including Warri and Sapele) to contribute annually £4000 and Urhobo clans (29 in all) £2000 a year is an attempt to consolidate the scheme.  The Annual quota is invariably the annual financial responsibility towards the scheme of the Urhobo people resident in an area where the flag of the Union is flying.  And the duty of the members of the Urhobo Progress Union in such area is the organisation of the local community – Urhobo speaking people into a working committee possibly under such representative system as is clearly defined in Section – of the New Constitution.”

“A successful campaign is being made in Warri Township by the Central Information Committee in preparing the mind of the people for the very near future when Warri will commence collection of its quota.  For your information, the following are the subject matters for discussion in any clan Union visited:-

1. Words of appreciation for the existing Co-operation between the clan and the
Urhobo Progress Union Stressing the need for more and better mutua
Understanding between the two

2.  Need and value of a representative clan Union on all 29 clans a
Branches of the Urhobo Progress Union

3. The Need and value of unifying all 29 clans under one Native
Administration with Authority vested in Urhobo Council.

4. The survey of the present World Order with particular reference
to Secondary and higher Education and progressive strides of
our  Sister tribes in those directions.

5. The Urhobo Education Scheme, with Aims at achieving both
needs Secondary and University Education, the later of cours
includes professional studies abroad.


“I close this June Circular by remarking that at this stage of the Scheme
All branch Union must first of all re-awake to set its internal machinery goin
And to try as best as it can to avoid misunderstanding not only between the
Union and its members but also between the Urhobo Community and the
Union and Among the local Urhobo elements.”

One of the ways and means proposed for raising the necessary funds for the Scheme was touring to outside branches by the President-General and to branches in Urhoboland by officers and prominent members of the Home Union.  Sums of money to be subscribed by each branch of the Union and each Urhobo clan for the Scheme were allocated.  The various Clans in Urhoboland were to be toured also.

Accordingly, the President-General planned two tours of the branches in the Provinces for the collection of the allocations.  The first was to be undertaken from the 15th to 27th August, and the second from the 10th to the 19th September, 1045.  Both were however postponed indefinitely owing to what was termed “unavoidable circumstances”.  Avbenake again left a record tht the uncompromising attitude adopted by the Lagos branch towards the Home Union was responsible for the postponement.

The relationship between Lagos and the Home Union must have been terribly strained for Mr. J, R. Noquapo told me on my arrival from the United Kingdom that no one would have met the President-General, if he had undertaken the tour at that time.  Like a great man, however, the President-General piped down.  Not only did he personally apologise to Lagos branch at an interview at Lagos, but also got the Home Union to do so in writing.  The quality of Chief Mowoe’s leadership and magnanimity of heart can best be assessed from the tenor of his letter to Lagos.  I have the honour to reproduce the letter hereunder.

                                                                                          Urhobo Progress Union,
Secretary-General’s Office.
P. O. Box 96, Warri.
10th Sept., 1945.
The Secretary,
Urhobo Progress-Union.


From what I could gather from my interview with you when I visited Lagos, I deduced that unless one of the two parties to the quarrel gives way to the other, the result will be a permanent disunity and by that we may destroy what we have created.  I need not state categorically the needs for an effective Union in Urhoboland.  You all know that.  At this crucial moment when Nigerian History is being made, we must not allow petty differences to disorganise us so that we may be able to create a New Urhobo in a New Nigeria and when the political History shall be written, when the Economic History shall be written and when the Social and Religious history shall be written, our names, nay that of the tribe shall not disappear.

2.       I held meeting with the Headquarters Union and came to agreement that an unqualified apology be sent you.  I made them to realise whatever shortcoming they have.  From constitutional point of view your action in contacting other branches in matter of general policy is wrong.  Originally that power was vested with the General meeting of the Home Union but the New Bye laws has, by creation of an Executive Council brought the General meeting of the Home Union to this because it is the only offence for which you are held by the Home Union.

3.     As your President-General, I am in duty bound to settle dispute between any two branches but the effectiveness of my settlement depends on your loyalty and it is this loyalty I crave for in my asking that Warri Home Union shall submit an apology to you.  There is nothing short of loyalty when Home Union-agrees to do so. And now it is your turn to display this same spirit of loyalty by accepting this apology in true spirit I know, it is expressed.  I need not therefore hesitate in anticipating that the scheme now in hand will meet with your approval in that.  Scholarships for U. K. and U.S.A. will be available in a year’s time as the target is reached.  The method of selection, as stated in Section 10 and 11 of the Scheme will no doubt interest you.

4.    You will no doubt fall in sympathy with me when I state here for your information that this quarrel has already done some harm to the Scheme.  My tour was planned before I met your Union.  Having discovered you have still stood in the way you did, I hastened to Headquarters to cancel my tour until internal affairs are adjusted.  Before this time, as you know, circulars have gone to all branches with itinerary attached.  Letters canceling this itinerary did not reach Port Harcourt in time, due to strike, with the result that the Branch made an elaborate arrangement, with Government granting a day leave to Urhobo employees, made my absence due to cancellation of itinerary a painful experience to us more to Port Harcourt Branch than to me.  It is an example of what discord generally creates in human society.

5.        I therefore appeal to you to cease fire and lay down arms as Home Union has honourably, unconditionally surrendered.  In the name of progress I have made his appeal.

                                                            While I remain,

                                                                  Faithfully yours,

J. J. OKENE                                                                                  M. MOWOE

—————                                                                               —————-

 Secretary-General                                                                     President-General
Urhobo Progress Union.

 In order to further pacify Lagos, the Education Committee caused section 6, subsection I of the policy governing the Education Scheme to be amended to enable two law scholarships, tenable in the United Kingdom, to be awarded in 1946.  In response to the circular from the Headquarters, many candidates applied for the law scholarships but nothing came out of it all – probably, not enough money could be raised.

The Urhobo Collegiate School of Commerce

 In January, 1944, a respectable retired Civil Servant, Mr. E. O. Wey (popularly known as Pa Wey) in Warri, founded a school, known as Collegiate School of Commerce, Warri.  It was providential for the Urhobo Progress Union that two years later, Mr. Wey, for some reason, offered to sell the school.  Mr. J. G. Ako,[19] who was then a teacher in the school, suggested the purchase to the Urhobo Progress Union so that it would be managed as a nucleus of the College which the Union wanted to found.  Ako’s suggestion was well taken, the purchase concluded,[20] and the take-over was effected as from 1st October, 1946.  At first, the school was re-named Urhobo National Collegiate School of Commerce, later Urhobo Collegiate School of Commerce.

The School maintained classes from Middle Class I to Middle Class IV and the first Manager, under the direction of the Union’s Education Committee, was Mr. P. K. Tabiowo (currently Speaker of the Mid-Western House of Assembly).  The first Entrance Examination under the new management was held on Saturday, 14th December, 1946, at seven centres, namely, Warri, Sapele, Okitipupa, IIe-Ife, Lagos, Jos and Kano.

On the 30the April, 1947, Mr. (now Chief) J. A. Obahor was appointed Treasurer or Bursar of the School.  Other appointments, in August, 1947, to the membership of a newly created School Management Committee were Messrs.  L. T. Mayiko, R. O. Efekodo and A. Udih.  By October, 1947, there appeared to be some dissatisfaction with the management of the school and a Commission of Enquiry was set up to make necessary investigations.  The Commissioners were Messrs. J. C. Avbenake and F. R. A. Iyoma.

 In March, 1948, Mr. P. K. Tabiowo resigned not only from the Managership of the School but also from the membership of the Warri Township Education Committee where he was serving as a representative of the Urhobo Progress Union.  He was succeeded in the Managership by Chief J. A. Obahor assisted by Mr. J. R. Sharta-Okoh with effect from 11th March, 1948.

Whatever might have been its initial operational difficulties, the school showed early signs of brilliant academic performance.  The first three candidates presented in 1946 for the Junior Cambridge Examination were all successful.  They were Johson Edremoda, Egoke O. Buluku and M. David Unurhoro.[21]  All three were scholarship holders of the School.  The future educational progress of the School, from the point of view of University of Cambridge University Examination Syndicate towards pupils of private and unrecognised Commercial Schools, did not appear to be bright.  The Syndicate restricted the number of such pupils as candidates, and as there was no recognised secondary schools in Warri (now Delta) Province, which had been in existence long enough to present candidates, Warri was not made a centre for the Cambridge School Certificate Examination.

Urhobo College

Rent on the hired private premises which very inadequately housed the school was a heavy item of expenditure in the running cost of the school; there was, therefore, a proposal as early as June, 1947, to erect a temporary school building on the present site[22] of the College which had then been newly acquired by the Union.  Three principal reasons prompted this idea.  In the first place, the hired private premises had already proved to be two small, thus giving rise to serious overcrowding.  In the second place, the temporary building would elimate the element of rent in the school expenditure to the tune of about £60 per annum.  In the third place, the building would facilitate the full change-over from the purely commercial character of the School to that of a secondary Grammar School, Accordingly, the Education Committee drew up a detailed scheme for the establishment of the College.  The change was to take effect from January, 1948, and the Union’s intention was conveyed to the Provincial Education Officer, Warri, in a letter dated 22nd October, 1947.

An extract of the letter reads;

“1. We are directed to submit this, notifying our intention to convert the Urhobo Collegiate School of Commerce into a full Secondary Institution (Urhobo Colledge) in 1948.  A new site has been acquired between Effurun and Warri And will be built in 1948-49.

“2. The School is owned by the Urhobo people, but is being run under the auspices of the Urhobo Progress Union and, the thought of its elevation to a full secondary school status in the immediate future was supreme at the time of its acquisition.

“3. The Principal-designate and the Vice-Principal of the school are now at different universities in the United Kingdom as scholarship students under the Urhobo Education Fund:  they will return to join the present staff cf the school in 1948.

“4. The Principal, M. G. Ejaife, Esq., B.A., Inter B.Sc. (Econ), is reading for Diploma in Education in the University’s Institute of Education in London. The Vice-Principal, E. N. Igho, Esq., a 2nd Year B.A., is reading for his Final degree in the University of Cambridge.

“An early consideration and approval of this request will be highly appreciated.”[23]

As could be seen from Paragraphs 3 and 4 above, the appointments of the two Urhobo scholars had been designated long before their return from the United Kingdom.  By December, 1947, however, the Union found itself unable to carry out the contemplated change, and informed the Education Department that the project was postponed for a year,[24] i.e. to January, 1949.

Prominent among members of the teaching staff of the school at that time was a teacher called S. J. Mayaki[25]  who taught Mathematics and Latin.  Pa Wey’s appointment as a teacher in the school was terminated as from 19th January, 1948.  It is amusing to note that, even though on a meager salary scale of £36 to 48 per annum, he peteitioned and pleaded unsuccessfully to be retained in his post.

It is interesting to see the array of young teachers, especially those of Urhobo and Isoko origins, among the staff of which Gordon Ako was the head.  They included Messrs. G. E. Om’ Iniabohs (Isoko), G. Diejomaoh, Egoke E. Buluku, M. D. Unurhoro, Frank Sodje and M. A. Akpofure (now a Chief and Barrister-at-Law).  I am happy to say that Mr. Diejomaoh is still on the staff.

The return of Mr. Ejaife on 4th August, 1948, from his Overseas studies, to take up his appointment in the School marked a definite turning point in the history of the School.  On the 7th August, 1948, the Union wrote to inform the Education Department of Mr. Ejaife’s return and to seek appointment for 12. 30 p.m. on Tuesday, 10th August, 1948, so as to introduce him to the Provincial Education Officer, Warri.  But before noon on that date, Chief Mukoro Mowoe, the President-General of the Union, who had been ill only for a few days, had died!  It was a most severe shock to all. 

 In this connection, I still remember quite well my conversation with Mr. Ejaife at Providence House[26] regarding the Chief’s death.  He, like all of us, was most grievously affected, and in his grief, he aptly said something similar to this:

It is a bit of ill-luck
He sent me abroad for a purpose
I returned but I did not see him
To report to.

With the great leader’s death, it would not be too much for any one to expect a set-back in the School’s projected programme.  But fortunately, this did not happen in any appreciable way.  Here, our thanks are due to the deceased leader’s able lieutenants, chiefly Chiefs J. A. Okpodu and J. A. Obahor,[27] who rose admirably well to the occasion.  But one significant incident which occurred was the desertion of the school by the three scholarship holders to whom reference had already been made above.  They had since become teachers deemed to be serving under bond in the school.  By their desertion, the strength of the staff was naturally reduced.

Without any prejudice whatsoever, I reproduce below the text of the letter sent by the Union to the parents of each of the three young men.

“I am directed by the Officers and members of my Union to inform you that your son . . . .  Who had enjoyed our scholarship in the scholarship in the Urhobo Collegiate School of Commerce, Warri on the agreement that he
would teach in the school for an unbroken period of three years after the completion of his training has deserted us thus breaking the contract.

“We understand that he has left the town for employment elseswhere, but he forgets that we can easily interfere with his present move and so cause a stain  to be put on his character for life.

“In order therefore to avoid such unpleasantness and a resort to legal action to claim refund of expenses incurred for his training, and damages caused to the Urhobo Collegiate School of Commerce, Warri, we may prefer to treat the matter domestically.

“In this respect, I am directed to ask you to meet the Executives of my Union on Monday, 20th instant, at 3 O’clock p.m. in the house of Mr. J. O. Aghoghovbia, Robert Road, Warri unfailingly.”[28]

However, the programme to convert the School to a secondary grammar school was pursued earnestly and undisturbed.  In anticipation of official approval being obtained, Mr. Ejaife issued a circular-letter dated 8th October, 1948 to sixteen branches of the Union with a request to arrange for the conduct of Entrance Examination on the 6th November, 1948, for admission to the College in January, 1949.  According to that circular, the College was open to boys and girls!

On the 24 November, 1948, the Union appointed a Finance Committee “to study, among other matters of omportance, the proposed 1949 Budget submitted by the Principal, and to make recommendations”.  The members of the Finance Committee were Messrs M. O. Ighrakpata, J. A. Obahor, P. K. Tabiowo, W. O. Okoh and J. J. Okene.

On the 6th January, 1949, Mr. Ejaife applied formally on behalf of the Urhobo Progress Union as Voluntary Agency for approval to start the Urhobo College on the 24th January, 1949.  The application was approved.  Thus the dreams of the leaders of the Union became a reality thenceforth.  Later in the year, Mr. E. N. Igho, the Vice-Principal designate, returned from the United Kingdom fully qualified, and assumed duty in the College.

For the following years, the government of the College, as it must be under the law, was vested in a Board of Governors which had been set up.

Thus the onus of supervision, control and overall management of the College shifted from the Union to the Board.  The Union, as the Proprietors had, as it still has till today, its own representatives on the Board.

It is not the purpose of this exercise to deal with the history of the College in the years subsequent to 1949.  But I must refer to a significant decision taken by the Union in regard to the staff as a result of the new political set-up that began from early 1951.  The matter is very relevant because of the grievous harm which is being done to the College as a result of some of the staff’s activities in politics.  On the 7th June, 1951, the Union decided by resolution:

“That the members of the staff of Urhobo College, while they have their right to vote, should not stand for elections; and should not also hold offices in any political parties.”.

The text of the resolution was conveyed to Mr. Ejaife, the Principal, who replied the Union eighteen days later as follows:

“Staff and Discipline”

“With reference to your No. U.P.U./84191 dated June 14, 1951, I have brought your letter to the notice of the staff and added to my circular the following words:

“Members of Staff will please note that if they already hold office in any political parties, they should resign such office and send me a copy of their resignation, to reach me at or before 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday 19th June, 1951.

(sgd)     Mac. G. Ejaife


“I have since received no copies of resignations though I understand that both Mr. Ako and the Vice-Principal are officials in their respective parties.  I am therefore leaving the rest to you.

 “The following members of staff have been absent from school for the following periods without leave.

                                    (1)        The Vice-Principal; May 24th – 31st 8 days.

                                                This is already in your hands.

                                    (2)        Mr. J. G. Ako; June 19 and 20th 2 days.  The usual penalty is to

                                                deduct the pay due to the period – 20/- in the case of Mr. Ako.

                                    The Vice-Principal has however suggested that the Staff should meet to

                                    consider the whole question of relationship of staff and Urhobo Progress Union,

                                    and the Board of Governors.  If the staff meets, it will communicate to you

                                    whatever decision it arrives at.

                                    Mr. Ako has now written to resign in order to participate actively in politics

                                    without stint.

                                                                                    Yours sincerely,

                                                                                                            M. G. Ejaife.


 I rather not make any comments as to the deviation of the staff, no doubt with the connivance of the Union, from the spirit and letter of the Union’s resolution.  Times have, of course, changed over the years.   But it is enough to observe that the only member of the staff who made an honest and honourable exit from the College, purely on account of active participation in politics, was Chief J. Gordon Ako.  That was how Chief Ako severed his historic connection with the school which was his pet baby up to the time of Mr. Ejaife’s arrival.

That wisdom and foresight of the Union in that resolution must be more and more appreciated now that we see, from time to time, the havoc that is being done to the progress of the academic work of the College through active participation in politics by some of the members of the staff.

Tribute to Mr. L. U. Ighomore

I can not conclude this brief historical survey of the origins of the College without paying just and well-deserved tributes to some one who was the General Secretary of Urhobo Progress Union at the time the Collegiate School was purchased from Mr. Wey, and who in that capacity, handled so well, for several years, all the correspondence relating to the College.  I refer of course, to no less a humble but distinguished worker than Mr. L. U.  IGHOMRORE.  Mr. Ighomrore had since been translated to the staff of the Urhobo College, and is still on the staff today, not only as a Bursar, but also as a sort of General Manager of the College Office.  The Union, and, indeed, Urhobo people, can not be too grateful to Mr. Ighomrore for his invaluable services. 


[1]  Lagos branch was founded by Mr. (now Chief) J. Arebe Uyo on 4th November, 1934.  Mr. F. A. O. Susu was the first President Chief Uyo informed me that he had changed his first name from Joseph to Obazenu.  He is now OBAZENU Arebe (abbreviation of ARHOREBE) Uyo.  Chief Uyo claimed to be the founder also of four other branches of the Union, namely, Kaduna, Enugu, Aba and Onitsha.  He is still keenly interested in the Union.  He volunteered to accompany, and did accompany, me throughout my official tour of the Union branches in Northern Nigeria from which we returned on the 29th July, 1964.

[2]  The number grew rapidly in the late thirties and throughout the forties.  Today, it stands at 85-72 in the whole Federation of Nigeria, 8 in Ghana, 1 in Sierra Leone and 4 in the United Kingdom.

[3]  Those present at the special Committee meeting were, F. A. O. Susu President, O. Arebe Uyo, Vice-President, T. E. A. Salubi, Secretary, J. R. Noquapoh who volunteered to be the first “Oyinko” (Messenger-Circular bearer), U. O. Johnson and A. S. Wowo.

[4]  Mr. Joseph Akpolo Ikutegbe was the first Financial Secretary, later becoming Vice-President for many years of Lagos branch.  To his ever-lasting credit the Urhobo historian must record that Mr. Ikutegbe was the first Urhobo citizen to ever sponsor an Urhobo  student abroad (United Kingdom) for a professional study.  The student was Thomas Michael Ighotite Borke.  He left Nigeria for legal studies early in 1937 and died in England on the 5th December, 1955.

[5]  In this connection, I can not do better than reproduce part of a letter dated 11th December, 1942, to the General Secretary, U. P. U. Headquarters, Warri, by Mr. (now Chief) S. J. Mariere, Governor, Midwestern Nigeria).

Chief Mariere wrote:  “We understand with concern that during this year the post of a clerk, falls vacant in the Resident’s office, Warri.  The Resident, out of sheer interest for the Urhobo, offers the post  to an Urhobo youth with a Class VI pass if one can be had.  Three months together tine President-General was engaged in combing all over the country for a boy, but not one can be found, unless we have to rob the mission of one of their trained teachers.  How many standard VI pass have we all over the country.   Why not send one to fill the post if this is just as good?  Simply because we could not produce one with a Class VI pass?”

Chief Mariere’s letter was a reply to the Headquarters who had invited his comments on Port Harcourt branch’s suggestion to alter the 1941 General Council’s decision to build a primary school with the Scholarships Fund to founding a College.  I will revert to this matter later,

[6]  Even at Logos, the Treasurer and one of the leaders of the branch who was not present at the special Committee meeting asked for the meaning of the word ‘scholarship’ when the proceedings of the Committee were being reported to the next General Meeting held on the 7th July, 1935.  Mr. (now Doctor) F. O. Esiri, the Assistant Secretary, explained to him (and perhaps others who did not know too)   what ‘scholarship’ meant and how to run it.  See P. 41 of Lagos branch Minutes Book No. 1, 4th November, 1934 to 15th November, 1936.

[7]  See page 12 of the minutes of the proceeding of the Annual General Council for 1937.  It was the scholarships for professional studies awarded at that time by the Ibibio State Union that influenced the minds of our leaders at Warri and elsewhere.

[8]  Agendum 20 and p. 20 of the minutes of the proceedings (printed) of the Annual General Council for 1938, refer.

[9]  Lagos branch’s letter No. CB/UPU/120?vol. 4 of 23rd June, 1939.

[10]  See P.  161 of same file quoted immediately above for the letter.

[11]  See P. 10 of the minutes of the proceedings of the Annual General Council for 1939.

[12]  It was about six years later that the content of the Urhobo Educational Scheme was defined.  See the policy outline of the Scheme reproduced under Part VII, pages 26-32.  The most significant thing about the original idea and this new one was that scholarship for secondary education was completely dropped and new proposals such as scholarships for medicine, law, commerce and banking substituted.

[13]  Changed to Delta Province on the 26th September, 1952.

[14]  Mr. (now Chief) IROLIKI OKANDEJI was at that time a Postal Clerk and Telegraphist, Posts and Telegraphs Department, Kano.  He relinquished that post and proceeded to the United Kingdom to study law.  He is now a practising Barrister at Warri.

Chief Okandeji has always been a staunch member of the Urhobo Progress Union.   As Chairman of the Management Committee, Urhobo College, Chief Okandeji is doing wonderful work for the development of the College.  We can not be too grateful to him for his invaluable services.

[15]  The Southern Nigeria Defender was then publishing at Warri.  The article was published in more than 14 insalments.

[16]  This is part of the fourth installment.  See pages 3 and 4 of the issue o 4th November, 1944, No. 378.

[17]  Ezekiel Noruchor Igho was born at Owrode, Udu Clan Wester Urhobo District.  He received his early education at St. Phillips’ School, Burutu and the Holy Cross School, Benin City.  Came out first boy at the 1932 standard six Examination for all pupils in Benin Province.  Young Ezekiel was therefore the first of the twenty six boys selected to do one years’ preparatory work at the Benin Government School in order to become foundation students for the Edo College.

[18]  Following the reorganisation of the Union in 1945, there was established a Central information Committee which was charged with the duty of propagating the cause of the Union with particular reference to the Urhobo Education Scheme.  The Committee introduced a system of issuing a Monthly Circular as information medium.  The first Monthly Circular was issued in June, 1945 Chief J. C. Avbenake was the editor of the Circular.

[19]  Mr. (now Chief J. Gordon Ako was the first Hon Secretary, Urhobo Progress Union, Ughelli branch, founded in 1935.  He was one of the six honourable members elected in 1951 to represent Urhobo Division in the Western House of Assembly and was made a Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health.  At the end of this career, Chief Ako proceeded to the United Kingdom where he studied Law.  He is now a Barrister-at-Law practicing at Warri.

[20]  “The School was purchased because of the late Chief Mukoro Mowoe’s stick-to itiveness; all others were apologetic” so wrote Chief J. Gordon Ako in a personal communication to me.  The purchase price was £160.

[21]  According to Chief Ako, Johnson, Edremoda is now in the Foreign Service of the Federation Egoke O. Buluku (son of Madam Okpada, first Lady President of the Women Section of the Union at Warri) in the Nigeria Railway Corporation and M. David Unurhoro is a Barrister-at-Law now practising at Warri.

[22]  Okitipupa branch supported by Lagos suggested that the College be sited at Ughelli, Administrative Headquarters of Urhbobo Division, for security and other reasons.  Three years later Okpe Union various reasons suggested Orerokpe.  See P. 312 of File CB/UPU/Vol. 7 for Okpe Union’s letter dated 24th August, 1946.  Both suggestions were not considered.

[23]  Letter No. UPU/84/44 of 22:10:47 pp. 44, Urhobo Collegiate File (Home Union)

[24]  Provincial Education Officer’s letter No. W. 1103A/6 of 4:11:47 confirmed by Union’s letter No. UPU/84?51 of 24:12:47. Ibid pp. 49-51.

[25]  Mr. S. J. Mayaki LL.B, B.L., Diploma in Public International Law of Gray’s Inn, is now the City Clerk of the Lagos City Council.  Mr. Mayaki still shows interest in Urhobo College.  I saw him at Lagos on 16:6:64, and as a result of our conversation, he readily promised to offer a prize at today’s occasion for the best work in Mathematics.

[26]  This is the name of Chief Mukoro Mowoe’s House.

[27]  Both attained the post of President-General of the Union.  Okpodu held the post from 13:5:50 to 23:1:57 and Obahor from 26:1:57 to 29:12:61.  The former acted in the post from the time of Chief Mowoe’s death before formal appointment.

[28] Mr. Unurhoro who was present at the College on the “Speech Day” had an opportunity of a speech as an old boy of the College.  In the course of his speech, Mr. Unurhoro denied ever being under bond with the Urhobo Progress Union.

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