Professor Peter Palmer Ekeh
Condolences/Tributes in honour of Professor Peter Palmer Ekeh, founder, Urhobo Historical Society
PROFESSOR PETER EKEH: AS I KNOW HIM
A group was quietly forming, in late 1979, to press for a Delta State to be created out of the then Bendel configuration. I found myself in it, by virtue of my profession, though not a few attributed it to a much misread “closeness” to Senator David Omueya Dafinone (DOD), representing the very unique Senatorial District, and quickly rising, in profile, in the Second Republic Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Bendel Central, now Delta Central, unchanged in any manner, is the only Nigerian Senatorial Constituency belonging strictly to one Ethnic Nationality.
The Movement for the Creation of Delta State, with slogan, Delta State: Here And Now!, embraced five Ethnic Nationalities, namely, Isoko, Itsekiri, Izon, Ndokwa and Urhobo. Its visual symbol, was the spreadout Five Fingers of the right hand. Comprising mostly elected Legislators, Federal and States, and politicians in all visible areas of Public Service, holding the official positions of the Movement, the worth of the smallish, by then, still youngish, self-effacing Professor was better felt, by his contributions, than of any prestige index. Maybe he preferred, and pleaded, that it be so, considering his position at the University of Ibadan, but it never, even slightly, blighted his robust contributions in the evolving dimensions of the Movement. I, similarly, held no official position, but, also, by the call of my official professional position, was only busy as a bee, unexposed, especially in the area of Publicity.
For a man who didn’t suffer fools lightly, it was quite magical to observe DOD so often refer matters to the soft-voiced Professor, the cerebral Resource Strongroom of the Group. I had cause to go to Ibadan, often, to be briefed on upcoming strategic directions of the Movement. I then realised the depth of his patriotic sacrifice in the service of his patrimony, travelling, so often, for Meetings in Lagos! And, he treated me like a King every time I showed up, mostly without prior notice. More than ten years older than me, especially in Urhobo culture, it was a marvel how he always had the time for me, I guess for the task; so much so that his colleagues, even some students, knew me, curious about this non-academic nugget of the erudite Professor!
The Second Republic ended, abruptly; the Movement collapsed, on its merit, upon our heads, and each moved on. More than a decade later, Professor Ekeh was, again, at the helm of a titanic, Herculean, struggle, still for the Urhobo Nation, against her neighbours, over the ownership rights in the Warri Metropolis. Diligently, deeply researched words, copiously published, at great costs, were his response to duty, that dragged him back home. When we met, again, after about two decades, I was fairly flustered, peeved, I could say, angry, that he just barely recognised me, and only by the sound of my name! Nevertheless, in our mutual devotion to the Call of Duty, we moved on, tentatively, getting stronger, till, one day, he asked if I knew someone with a name sounding like Emakpore, who used to work with the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA. Stunned, yet, respecting the cultural imperatives of our age difference, narrowing because I’m also not standing still in that respect, I politely told him that it was me. The rest, it is said, is history. Once recollection clicked, there’s been hardly any time that he didn’t invite me to some position, or another, in the UHS. I declined, except for one, because I didn’t think that I had the academic experience for this noble Body of Endeavour, which GOD led him to found, and for which we, the Urhobo Nation, by extension, the entire Country, Nigeria, will always remember him for. We spoke, often, trans-Atlantic, until he became too weak, sometime in 2019, for the effort.
May the rich; kind, patriotic, and justice-loving soul of Professor Peter Palmer Ekeh, rest in perfect peace, with LORD.
In JESUS Name. Amen!
Cheers & GOD bless!
Ogheneovo MacDonald Emakpore
Abuja, December 18, 2020
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TRIBUTE TO A FATHER AND BOSS
by Zita Onakpoberuo
It’s really hard to believe that you are no more! A good heart has stopped beating, a good soul ascended to heaven!
All through the years I worked with you, I have known you better and what you value most: people. To him, his employees are like his family. He clearly makes known that everyone plays an important role. Working with him was not like working with a boss but a loving father.
Through your leadership abilities, I have really evolved workwise and personally. You always commend my efforts, which are all grounded on your guidance and motivation. Your constant guidance and motivation has helped me in the past and your memories will continue to do so in the future. I feel so blessed that I have worked with one of the best bosses in the world. I have learned priceless lessons from you. Thanks a lot for your support.
Words cannot express the grief I feel on your passing on. But I am consoled with the words of Saint Paul, you have fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith. Now there is laid up for you the crown of righteousness… (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
I can confidently say that your works will sing your praise.
Forever in my heart!
Rest on Daddy, till will meet to part no more!
Adieu Best Boss Ever!
UHS Headquarters Secretary
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Oh how do I write a tribute to a great man like Prof P. P. Ekeh, the man who took me as a friend and a younger brother. I wish I was educated I would have written a full page.
That man was a wonderful man he was a great Urhobo man who dedicated life to the course of his father land.
My condolences to his family.
From Chief Olomu man
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Very painful loss on the sudden passing away of our renowned and distinguish scholar and patriot Prof Peter Ekeh.
My family and I commiserate with UHS, the bereaved family, Urhobo Nation and our Country Nigeria. May his noble Soul Rest
in Peace – Amen
Okakuro Jonathan B. Ogufere
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The passing of Prof Peter Ekeh is a monumental loss not only to his family but to all of us who knew him and associated with him over the years.
He was an outstanding and globally recognized scholar in the Fields of political science, sociology, and African studies and history. We all know his monumental contribution to the study and understanding of Urhobo history and culture. The volume and quality of publications on Urhobo history and culture, produced under his leadership by UHS is indeed exceptional. Apart from his scholarly achievements, Prof was a great activist and mobilizer of Urhobo leaders to advance and promote the rapid development of the Urhobo Nation.
The large volume and high caliber of Urhobo leaders and intellectuals who attended the conferences of the UHS, is a very eloquent testimony of his organizational skills and the very high esteem in which he was held by the high and the mighty, and, the generality of the people. Yet he exhibited extraordinary humility in his dealings with all and sundry.
A great secret of his exceptional achievements, was his ability to work with colleagues and to build an achieving team as he has done in the UHS, without whose support, he and the UHS would not have been able to record the outstanding successes we have all witnessed.
Inspire of the very considerable investments of time and energy which under pinned his success. Prof Ekeh spared no effort together with his spouse in raising a very successful family to whom I extend my deepest condolences on the passing of Prof Peter Ekeh.
Prof. Vremudia Diejomoah
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TRIBUTE TO A GREAT BOSS, A FATHER AND MENTOR
by Clement Ejaita Onakpoberuo
PROFESSOR PETER PALMER EKEH, a worthy vessel. Men like you are not common. Since the day I met Professor Peter Ekeh early 2015 and working with him as his P.A, I have learnt a lot from him. One of the helpful lifestyle I learnt from him is meekness and being free with everyone. He has indeed been a father to me in terms of acceptability and generosity. Professor Peter Ekeh, a man of integrity and humility, a prominent scholar is gone but still remain. Prof. Ekeh is a worthy vessel with content that can be retrieved. This is because he has deposited himself into lives and libraries. You can visit some of his content at www.waado.org or https://wordpress.com/urhobodigitallibrarymuseum.com.
Everyone who has known Prof. Ekeh before will agree with me that Professor Ekeh was peaceful, merciful and compassionate. I felt comfortable and have good relationship like father and son with him. Professor Ekeh would go extra mile to assist you just to make sure that you are comfortable.
Daddy you have left a vacuum in my heart that no one else can occupy. You have indeed been a blessing to me and I am most grateful to God for the opportunity to work with you.
Goodnight the Arido of Ogor Kingdom, goodnight boss. Rest in the bosom of the Lord, kedefa.
Clement Ejaita Onakpoberuo
Manager of Urhobo Historical Society Headquarters.
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PROFESSOR PETER EKEH’S PASSING: THE TEARS HAVEN’T STOPPED RUNNING
By Emmanuel Ogheneochuko Arodovwe
Permit me to begin by stating that I have already concluded the outgoing year 2020 the worst ever since the over three decades of my existence on earth. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a pessimist. Agreed that it has not all been doom and gloom. There have been a few positives, but the negatives have far outweighed the positives by an unusually high margin. This is not just about the horror of the Corona Virus pandemic, or the nauseating style of governance in Nigeria, or the ENDSARS incident and the arrogant reaction to it by the powers that be, or the worsening economic realities, exacerbating rate of cultism, wanton killings and worsening conditions of living in Nigeria etc, although all these are contributory factors in reaching my conclusion.
2020 has turned out the worst year for me because in it, I lost three of my most revered mentors – Prof David Okpako, Prof J.P. Clark and Prof Peter Palmer Ekeh, and all within a space of 3 months (September to November). Prof Ekeh’s case turned out the most painful to me because I was privileged to have had close contact with him. I met Profs Okpako and J.P largely through their written works and through the intermediary of Prof G.G. Darah with whom I have enjoyed significant close relations since the past one year.
Prof Darah had an unusual attachment to both Okpako and J.P. understandably because first, they all shared scholarly interest in the Udje Dance Tradition of the Urhobo People with each authoring popular works on the artistic tradition. Perhaps the other big names with such interest are Isidore Okpewho, Bruce Onobrakpeya and Tanure Ojaide.
A second reason for Darah’s attachment to them I suppose is that they were all from the Ughievwen kingdom of the Urhobo people, even if J.P was only maternally so, and so there were shared concerns about the development of their people.
Prof Darah, being the profound teacher that he is would often share quality time with myself and other younger scholars around him in deep intellectual discourses garnished with stories about interesting engagements he had had with Okpako and J.P. in times past.
All these were intended to develop our knowledge of history, of the efforts our academic fathers had made and ultimately about how we also could fit in and toe their path. Indeed, he had in his library virtually all the books authored by both Okpako and J.P. which he freely allowed us access to. It was in this way that I began to take these great Urhobo scholars as role models and mentors.
The only and last time I saw Prof Okpako in person was in 2014 in Okpare, Olomu where he was honoured by the Urhobo Historical Society, alongside Prof. Phillip Kuale, Olorogun Moses Taiga and others. For J.P., I met him a couple of times in his office at the Arts Gallery built in his honour in the University of Lagos. I also attended the events put together in his honour for his 80th birthday sometime in 2014. Beyond these, I never had any appreciable interaction with these great men. But not so with Professor Ekeh.
I was privileged to interact with Prof Ekeh quite closely. I once visited him in his Bendel Estate home in Warri in February 2018, through the assistance of his secretary (Zita). He also handed me his edited book, T.E.A. Salubi, Witness to British Colonial Rule in Urhoboland & Nigeria, as a present after a meeting at the Okpara Inland headquarters of the Urhobo Historical Society. I shall now state how my encounter with Prof Ekeh became possible.
Sometime in 2011, in my final year of undergraduate studies at the University of Lagos, I had conceived of an idea regarding the promotion of Urhobo culture through a platform I named “Urhobo Cultural Renaissance Initiative” (UCRI). I went to one of my lecturers Dr. Tony Okeregbe (from Okpe Kingdom) to discuss the idea. After the normal encouragement and counsel, he asked if I knew Prof Peter Ekeh. I answered in the negative. He strongly advised that I research on him seriously as he would be a worthy guide and mentor in my passionate quest for the advancement of my Urhobo people. Little did I know that that little advise would impact greatly on my academic sojourn.
When a few days later I googled the name, I discovered three things about Prof Peter Ekeh: first, he was resident in New York, United States where he worked as Professor at the University of Buffalo; second, he was the author of a popular paper “Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa: A Theoretical Statement”; and third, he was the President of Urhobo Historical Society (UHS) which ran a website (www.wadoo.org)
I obtained a hard copy of the paper and read it over severally to grasp the flow of thought. It took me over two weeks of daily reading to get what I consider to be 60% comprehension of his drift. The language was simple but the thought was so intricately weaved that one needed some level of intelligence and sustained concentration to fully get the message. I was awed at the wisdom, intelligence and deep insight behind that academic product – written as far back as 1975.
I was even more fascinated at the rich collection in the wadoo website. I made it a routine to spend hours weekly navigating through the folders and reading through the articles contributed by virtually every scholar that mattered in the Urhobo nation. It was a great experience for me.
But it was not until 2 years later that I came closest to interacting with Prof. Ekeh.
It happened in a rather unique way. I had reacted somewhat harshly in an article published by the Urhobo Voice newspaper in June 2013 to Chief Olori Magege who had tried to use his Delta Central Political Movement (DCPM) platform to undermine the Urhobo quest for Governor in 2015. He had tried to sell the impression that what the Urhobo should be interested in was an “Urhobo-at-heart” governorship candidate, not necessarily an Urhobo by birth.
Little did I know that Prof Ekeh was in town and had read my reaction and desired to see me. Luckily, I had attached my email address at the bottom of the article. It was through that address that Prof Aruegodore Oyiborho, who apparently was with Prof at the time, emailed me of the development. By the time I visited the business centre three weeks later to check my mail, Prof Ekeh was already back in the States. I was disappointed, but consoled by the interest shown at my article by such a great man I was content with adoring from afar, and more so because a line of communication had been established. After this time, my exchanges with Prof Oyiborho became almost a weekly affair, with encouraging words from him, and a promise to have me see Prof Ekeh whenever the opportunity came.
That envisaged opportunity almost happened in 2014. Prof Oyiborho had personally invited me to the UHS Conference of November 14th-16th 2014 at PTI Conference Centre in Effurun with the thanksgiving and award ceremony at Okpare, Olomu, on Sunday the 16th. I left Lagos for Warri on the 13th in time enough for the event. I was excited at the prospect of not only meeting Prof Ekeh, but also Prof Oyiborho who has been really generous with positive reviews of my write ups and ideas and had shown exceptional interest in having me meet with Prof Ekeh. I sat on the 5th row in the hall and from that position, I could identify both men from the images I had seen of them on the internet. I picked out an appropriate time and tip-toed to where Prof Oyiborho was seated. I then tapped him, greeted courteously in the Urhobo way and introduced myself as Emmanuel Ogheneochuko Arodovwe. His face brimmed with smile. He gave me some taps on the back as if to say “well done my boy for coming”. He asked me to enjoy myself while we awaited the introduction to Prof at the end of the event. You could imagine my feeling at the time. I was just so excited.
When it was time for Prof Ekeh to give his speech, I looked up to it with great excitement and expectation. He did not disappoint! As he made his way to the podium, I could see greatness wrapped in humility; his smile had a poise about it. He was unassuming, articulate, refined and polished. He was down to earth and just simple. He apologized for having lost some of his Urhobo language competence due to long stay in ‘enoko’, but promised to sandwich his speech with appropriate Urhobo words to ensure some sense of domestication.
His English was impeccable, his diction great and he did a great job of the domestication he had promised. He would usually use the common Agbon word ‘ene’ as a linking verb to move the audience from one line of thought to the other. He did not sound like a scholar full of himself employing high sounding words to impress his listeners. He spoke with the simplicity of a thorough-bred and fulfilled academic, passionate about conscientising his people on taking pride in their history and cherishing their authenticity.
He asked us to imagine the interesting historical coincidence that linked the Mowoes of Evwreni, the Sadjeres of Olomu and the Ibrus of Agbarha Otor and wondered why we could not make it a subject of research for a PhD degree. He gave high praise to Chief T.E.A. Salubi whose interesting life experiences written in a diary he maintained for over 40 years became a solid material for establishing historical facts which otherwise would have been difficult to prove.
Towards the end of the speech which lasted about 40 minutes, I noticed from where I was seated some unusually strange event around Prof. He seemed to be struggling to maintain his standing position.
He would bend to the right, and then back straight, and then to the left. I felt that he was struggling. The last statement he made was ‘ovre ene-e’, and then he started to bend over this time almost not able to regain his position. He was quickly helped. I didn’t know I was praying aloud in trepidation until I noticed people around me turning backwards and sideways to look at me. I must have shouted “Jesus” 20 times over the period. My heart probably beat 200 times within a space of one minute.
Thankfully, Prof regained strength, and he was helped out of the hall to a more airy environment. We later learnt he had not had good rest for almost a week, holding meetings and writing late into the night to ensure a successful conference.
When I met Prof Oyiborhoro at end of the day, he apologised for not been able to fulfil his promise as he could not in the circumstance do any introduction. I understood perfectly. The Okpare event the next day was another memorable one. It was the first time I saw Prof Phillip Kuale, Bishop Muogheren, Olorogun Moses Taiga and Prof Okpako.
Olorogun Taiga added some panache to the event. He was fully dressed in a cultural attire and had arranged a troupe of ema dancers to sing and dance with him through some distance of about 50 metres before receiving his award. He expressed himself unreservedly to the drum beats and songs with a grimming smile all the while. Every one could tell that he was a cultural enthusiast, a lover of the Urhobo people and one happy with the activities of the UHS.
But my attention and focus all the while was on Prof Ekeh.
He was not the attention-seeking host who would sit at a strategic position on the high table and be monopolizing proceedings as if to announce to everyone that “I made all this possible”. He was humble to a fault. He stood with an elaborate smile on his face throughout the award period. He would clap at each awardee as he posed to receive his award. No stranger walking into that environment would think that he was the brain behind that gathering.
I was back to Lagos the following day, disappointed that I could not fulfil my desire of meeting Prof Ekeh formally, but satisfied to have seen him and Prof Oyiborhoro in person. Both scholars were back in the States few days later.
The opportunity finally came to meet Prof Ekeh in January 2018. He had called a meeting of interested volunteers to plan for the 2018 Conference which would include a celebration of the rare achievements of Oghoghwa whose sons founded the Ogor, Ughelli, Agbaraha Otor and Orogun Kingdoms. When I got the news from the secretary, Zita, I asked if Prof was in town and was going to be present. She answered in the affirmative. I could not wait for the day to come. I was at the headquarters at Okpara-Inland, venue of the meeting with two other friends long before the scheduled time of 12.00pm.
Fortunately for me, though unfortunately for the larger interest, not many volunteers turned up. We were less than 15 in the conference room. Prof Ekeh, Prof Otite and his wife and another senior academic presided, and they all sat just in front of us. When it was time for me to speak, I told Prof the story I have been struggling to relate here and how my attempts at meeting him all the while have been prevented by events having a sense of “near misses” about them.
He was as impressed as I was in meeting him finally. He said he felt humbled! Thereafter, he gave me a book present. I asked for an appointment to see him at home. He kindly obliged.
Two days later, I visited him in his home at Bendel Estate, in Effurun area.
It was an unforgettable experience for me. I had a lot of questions for him and he answered all satisfactorily. I inquired to know the inspiration behind the 1975 paper. He relayed the story citing an incident that happened in colonial times in his village of Okpara.
A highly regarded moral man in the village had picked up a lost envelope containing huge sums of money obviously belonging to the District officer who alone was rich enough to own that huge amount of money in the entire area. The honest man then got home, took his bath, got set and took back the envelope to the nearest police station. The D.O. was then called, confirmed that he had lost some huge sums, and was given back the envelope. The honest man was then commended, thanked and asked to go back home. When he relayed the message to his kinsmen, they cursed him to high heavens and concluded that he had poverty in his DNA and would therefore never get rich. This was an action that would have been highly commended by his kinsmen in the premordial context, but is now condemned in the colonial one.
Prof told me that this experience coupled with his extensive study of colonial behaviors all over the world inspired him into the conclusion that there were two publics which operated two separate moral systems in post-colonial African societies.
I also asked about what inspired his founding of the UHS and he gave me some exciting histories behind it. There were other matters of mutual concerns Prof discussed freely with me and I felt humbled and honoured for the privilege. He wished that younger Urhobo people developed an upgraded website for the society and drew more traffic to it. He also wished that we had a digital recording of the Urhobo anthem so that it is easier sung at events with a more interesting tone. I could easily have spent the entire day listening and learning from Prof but he had spoken for long and I thought he needed some rest. I left with the promise to always call back whenever he was disposed to have me. By May of 2018 when the Conference held, I was in Port Harcourt and held back by events I could not escape from. I missed that conference unfortunately.
But I took consolation in the hope that there would always be several other Prof Ekeh-coordinated conferences to attend. That hope has been aborted permanently by the sad news of his passing.
I kept the communication line busy after the conference through Zita especially. I would periodically call her to inquire about Prof who was then back again in the United States.
She would respond with the assuring words that he was fine. But at some point, I probed to know further about how fine he was; that was when she told me that he wasn’t too fine. At that point, I began to fear for the worst, but I kept praying that God will help and heal him of whatever health discomfort he was having.
The shocking news came on the 17th of November that Prof Ekeh has passed. It was a big shock to me. I cried as though I had lost my biological father.
Even as I write, my heart still beats fast, and the mist still forms. The tears have not stopped running. I have jolted up on few occasions in the middle of the night with sobs understanding that Prof Ekeh is no more. I am only consoled by the beautiful life he lived, the wonderful memories he left behind, and the giant strides he made and platforms he gave to us to build on. The only way to make Prof proud is to take up Urhobo concerns in all its ramifications with the same passion and commitment with which he operated. I miss Prof Ekeh dearly.
Emmanuel O. Arodovwe is Research Officer to Prof G.G. Darah
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LATE PROF. PETER EKEH AS I KNEW HIM
By Young Erhiurhoro
Without doubt, late Prof. Peter Ekeh was a household name in Nigeria and the international community. He had truly left his footprints on the sand of time in the academic world. If there’s any scholar in Urhobo that wrote much on the history, people and culture of the Urhobo ethnic nationality, was the late Prof. Ekeh. So many of us of this present generation, especially those who are interested in History and Culture have benefited much from his well-researched publications.
Through the UHS conferences I have attended over the years and also by frequent visits to the headquarters of UHS in Okpara Inland, I have been afforded the opportunity of having some of his publications especially on the history and culture of the Urhobo people. In fact, these set of books are companion to me and are the most cherished and valued assets I have acquired in my life. More importantly, as a media practitioner and a cultural analyst in the media world, I have acquired much knowledge from Prof’s books. I remembered the last UHS conference I attended at Okpara Inland. After he presented his paper on the theme of the conference which centred on how to protect and promote Urhobo cultural heritage, I remembered I asked him a question when it was time for questions and answers on to showcase Urhobo cultural festivals from the different kingdoms and communities with modern technology. His answer and contributions to this question were interesting. He suggested that Urhobo Progress Union as the socio-cultural organization of the Urhobo people should partners with both the state and federal governments to build a cultural center where Urhobo cultural festivals could be organized on yearly basis in a competitive way amongst the different kingdoms. According to late Prof. Ekeh, it was a way of boosting the entertainment industry in the locality and as a source of generating income to the coffers of the UPU. These were truly great dreams and visions for the development of the Urhobo land by this erudite scholar, but they were never achieved by his sudden demise. However, this is not to say that late Prof. Ekeh never contributed to the development and growth of the Urhobo nation. He had contributed to the unity and the protection of our ante-facts, history and cultural heritage as a people. Interestingly, late Prof. Ekeh deserve a place in the history of Urhobo people. His legacies are worthwhile and worthy of being immortalized for eternity especially for the younger generations and the unborn in Urhobo land. Like what a sympathizer once said in the burial of a late Professor in a satellite town in Britain many years ago that, “I want to plead with the family of this great scholar, to do me a favour by just giving me his educational certificates to be like him because my parents were poor to send me to school.” I would have said the same thing here about the heap of the academic degrees acquired by our late Professor Ekeh. But it is never our culture or part of our Law in Nigeria for educational certificates to be shared as part of inheritance or estates of the deceased or dead. But outside this, late Prof. Ekeh had shared his educational certificates and numerous degrees to people especially his Urhobo people by replicating his knowledge in the different books he authored. This means, if you are able to read one of his books, you have equally shared in his educational certificates. Though I never had a personal relationship with late Prof as such, but I was among those that wept all night because his sudden demise that came to us as rude shock. Late Professor Peter Ekeh had written his history while alive. What shall people tell of us when will finally pass on as it happened to Prof?
May his gentle and quiet soul rest peacefully and quietly with the Lord!
Young Erhiurhoro; Kjc is a reporter with the Urhobo Voice Newspapers.
TRIBUTE TO PROFESSOR PETER EKEH BY DR. EMMANUEL OJAMERUAYE
TRIBUTE TO PROFESSOR PETER PALMER EKEH*
In 2003, I was invited to join the Editorial and Management Committee (EMC) of the Urhobo Historical Society (UHS) that was established in 1999 by Prof. Peter Ekeh and a handful of Urhobo intellectuals and professionals in North America and the UK who share a common passion to promote Urhobo history and culture. Thus began my interaction with Prof. Ekeh. We had a special relationship because his wife, Dr. Mrs. Helena Ekeh, and I are from the same town (i.e., Ovu) so I was his in-law sensu lato. Thus, he sent his wife to represent him at the wedding of my first son in 2010. She flew all the way from Buffalo to Phoenix (about 6-hour flight). I also had the opportunity attend Helena’s special birthday celebration in Buffalo in 2014.
Prof. Ekeh served as the President and Editor-in-Chief of UHS from its founding in 1999 until early 2020 when he voluntarily gave up the presidency due to his failing health. Throughout his tenure, he sacrificed his talent, time and resources to serve Urhobo history and culture. He was an exemplar of the phrase “you pay to serve the Urhobo people”. In fact, he was the quintessential “servant leader”. He singlehandedly created the website of UHS (http://waado.org ) more than 20 years ago which became the leading online source of information and documentation on the Urhobo people and Urhoboland. After organizing the first four annual conferences in Canada, the US and the UK, UHS moved subsequent conferences to the homeland. A total of seven conferences were held in the homeland between 2004 and 2018 under his leadership. In 2016, he encouraged the EMC to move the UHS Headquarters to the homeland and offered his country home at Okpara Island to serve as the UHS Office and Documentation Center with a staff of four. The several publications he wrote or edited under the aegis of the UHS are among the most authoritative sources of information on Urhobo history, culture and environment. He mobilized many Urhobo leaders, traditional rulers and intellectuals to support UHS in its mission to serve Urhobo history and culture. Today, UHS has become a household name among Urhobo people in the Diaspora and in the homeland. Thanks to him, history became my passion and pastime. In particular, I became more interested in the history and culture of my people. I am proud to call him a mentor and role model. We must continue in his footsteps and realize his vision to make UHS a world-class historical society like the Royal Historical Society (https://royalhistsoc.org)
Prof. Peter Ekeh was not born great, neither was greatness thrust upon him. He achieved greatness through hard work, intellect and perseverance. But his greatness was concealed in his gentleness and simplicity. He knew very well that “Great achievement is born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness” (Napoleon Hill). I dare say he would have earned a Nobel Prize in Political Economy for his seminal theory of two publics if he was not “distracted” by his devotion to Urhobo history and causes during the last 30 years of his life. But he was willing to pay that price. His exit is a great loss to the Urhobo people. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “when comes another Peter Ekeh”? May his gentle soul rest in peace, and may his memory be a blessing to his family, UHS and the Urhobo people. May I also use this opportunity to salute his wife and children for sharing him with UHS and the Urhobo people. Behind most great men, there is a supportive wife and children who also made extraordinary sacrifices.
*By Dr. Emmanuel Ojameruaye, Member EMC & Treasurer, UHS & Chair Board of Trustees, Urhobo Progress Union America.
URHOBO RENAISSANCE SOCIETY
TRIBUTE TO PROFESSOR PETER PALMER EKEH
The exit of Professor Peter Palmer Ekeh from this earthly plane on 17th November 2020 threw the academic world and the Urhobo nation in particular, into mourning. Professor Ekeh was a scholar of redoubtable status acknowledged across the globe for his intellectual prowess and vigorous intervention on issues of great import. Having reached the pinnacle of global learning, he looked back at his Urhobo world and devoted his monumental knowledge and boundless energy to the excavation of Urhobo lore, history and culture. To be sure, he made a resounding success out of his interrogation and propagation of the Urhobo worldview on the world stage.
Okpara-inland born and Imodje-Orogun sired, Professor Ekeh reframed how the world viewed Africa through his seminal theoretical writings. His 1975 essay “Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa: A Theoretical Statement” altered the paradigm of the relationship between Europe and Africa. His other publications not only consolidated on the trailblazing “Two Publics”, but they also provided fresh and convincing intellectual engagements on the duality of human experience as encoded in the colonial encounter.
Professor Ekeh’s peregrinations from Okpara to Aghalokpe to Ibadan and to America (where he studied and taught) were remarkable through and through. What is more remarkable is that his cosmopolitan engagements did not diminish the place of Urhobo in his priorities. Rather, he put his cosmopolitan exposure in the service of Urhobo nation and largely succeeded in putting Urhobo history, narratives and culture on the global superhighway of knowledge. Anyone who has read his dramatic reconstruction of the story of Omonose would appreciate his profound understanding of the Urhobo codes of sociocultural engagements.
His founding of the Urhobo Historical Society (UHS) in 1999 was to give fillip to the study and advancement of Urhobo history and culture. Through the UHS of which he was President for many years, Professor Ekeh organized many conferences on Urhobo history and culture overseas and in Nigeria. He also published nearly ten books on different aspects of Urhobo history and culture. The website of the UHS waado.org remains a most authoritative site for ethnic studies across the world. He also donated a sprawling building to serve as the headquarters of the UHS at Okpara-inland.
Professor Ekeh also served Nigeria in different capacities as he participated in different think tanks and other intellectual commitments which stimulated the evolution of the Nigerian nation.
Professor Peter Palmer Ekeh’s death has diminished the world of knowledge in no small way. Indeed, a treasure-trove of knowledge has just been flushed from the world Bank of history! In the old system of things, he would eminently qualify to take a seat in the pantheon of Urhobo ancestors.
Professor Hope Oghenerukevbe Eghagha