By Ogheneakpobo I. E.
The Urhobo Nation has a population of about five million persons, thereby making it the fifth largest ethnic group in Nigeria. They are also the most populated and largest in Delta State.
Reputed for their unity and common sense of purpose, the tribe is highly respected and feared by their ethnic neighbours. The Urhobos occupy eight local government areas in Delta state, with a few of them mixed up with other ethnic groups in Warri south, Patani, Burutu, Bomadi and Sagbama local government in Bayelsa State.
History has it that during the colonial era, the Urhobos driven by unity of purpose, spoke with one voice and recorded victory against territorial expansionary wars. Unity is typical of the tribe and for a long time was used it to win elections that involved Urhobo indigenes against those of other tribes.
The level of enlightenment and quest for a united front among the Urhobos paved way for the early settlers to form a body known as Urhobo Peoples Society led by Chief John Okpodu, from Ovu in Agbon clan in 1931, which was later changed to Urhobo Progress Union.
The organization is binded by the customs and traditional laws of the people as well as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The body became formidable and recognized as the first and largest ethnic union that existed in Africa.
The Urhobo kingdom is traditionally governed by Kings in each of the twenty three clans, excluding the ones outside the eight local government areas in Delta state. The traditional administration that is headed by the King exist side-by-side with the Urhobo Progress Union led by an elected President General and other Executives, thereby having two arms of government that act as check and balance in each of the clans. They never at any time engaged in conflict or showed disrespect in discharging specified roles of leadership.
The roles and functions of the union cut across the Urhobos that are at home and in diaspora. The leaders are expected to be non-partisan. But, can come into political matters that solely involve the Urhobos in order to avoid a loss or break down of age long unity among its people.
The then leadership of Urbobo Progress Union were upright and chosen without bias. Their choice of candidates at that time was focused on ability to discipline oneself, demonstrate efficiency, and provide visionary and purposeful leadership. At the end of each election, no one expressed dissent, neither does it matter to anyone where the elected leader hailed from, provided the person is an Urhobo indigene.
Chief Mukoro Mowoe, an Urhobo Son from Evwreni in Ughelli North Local Government area became the first President General of the body now known as the Urhobo Progress Union. His reign remains unrivaled to this day. Others such as Chief T.E Salubi, Dr. Esiri and Benjamin Okumagba who ruled subsequently also perfomed excellently, as their reign had zero tolerance for corruption and oppression.
The Urhobo Progress Union headed by Chief Moses Taiga is therefore advised to borrow a leaf from these distinguished Urhobo personalities who were detribalized and always fought the course of the Urhobo nation.
The trend in modern society in which self aggrandizement and corruption are on the increase may have paved way for the failure to maintain the dignity, love and co-operation within the Urhobos and the neighbouring ethnic groups. Nevertheless, it is wrong to discriminate, use hate speech or adopt a culture that fosters selfish interests.
Presently, Delta state is comprised of several ethnic groups that are found in the three Senatorial districts, namely Delta Central, South and North. This accordingly was done during the creation of the state to ensure there wasn’t the domineering influence of a major tribe.
Consequently, the structure necessitated the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to adopt a zoning formula in which the governorship position was rotated among the three Senatorial Zones. This was accepted and made to work perfectly without opposition, conflict or challenges of any kind.
The zoning strategy paved way for unity and peace which the earlier settlers of Urhobo nation were know for. It is sad that many Urhobo political leaders refuse to be their brothers keeper. Rather, they have become dogmatic and fail to listen or understand the place of the Urhobo nation in winning elections when it comes to the governorship position.
Some of them who refuse to agree that the baton of leadership should be rotational, have found their way to other political parties with the false hope that the Urhobos will win and continue to control the leadership of government in Delta state.
The Urhobo nation, therefore, must be cautious of the choice of candidate they put forward as power is returned back to Delta Central Senatorial District in 2023.
It will matter greatly to close ranks and mend fences by putting behind all acrimonies to enable the people, PDP caucus leaders, and the leadership of Urhobo Progress Union make a choice that will be massively accepted.
It will be painful and unforgivable if the masses are lured to support a candidate who will not be able to identify with the plight of the masses.
By experience, PDP caucus leaders have 50 percent input in making of choices, 30 percent from the masses and 20 percent from the leadership of Urhobo Progress Union.
The task before the Urhobo Progress Union to settle for a candidate to contest in the 2023 general election is made easier particularly given that the People’s Democratic Party has zoned the Governorship position to Delta Central Senatorial district where the Urhobo dominates. It, therefore, behoves on every son and daughter of Urhobo nation to respect and obey the verdict of the union.
In making an informed choice of a candidate to contest the Governorship election in 2023, the Urhobo nation must begin to consider and settle for a person who duly meets the following:
A. A business mogul and a successful industrialist who is well experienced in promoting economic growth and reducing unemployment.
B. A business man who has acquired wealth and will not focus on diverting government monies for his own enrichment.
C. One who has a track record of assisting the people in his community by helping them to raise funds or pay debts.
D. A person who provided palliatives with personal funds to people across the state during the lockdown.
E. Candidate must have viable business establishments in the state where people work to earn and whose source of wealth is beyond politics.
F. Candidate must have good manifesto that will make life better for the masses, and at a time must have contributed immensely by influencing infrastructural development to the community or state.
G. A person who will not discriminate between the rich and the poor in attending to issues that concern the masses; and should be a listening leader with the pedigree to win the governorship election.
The Delta State leadership caucus of the PDP on it’s part should consider the following in making an informed choice of who should succeed Governor Ifeanyi Okowa from Delta Central Senatorial District:
A. The candidate must be loyal to the party and also respect party hierarchy.
B. Must be one who has been a foundation member of the party and always contributed immensely to its growth and development.
C. Candidate should be a person who at no time defected to other parties to contest for any position against the PDP.
D. Must be a person with requisite qualification to meet the Party’s and INEC guidelines
E. Candidate should be financially ready to match the opposition so as to keep the support base of the PDP in the state.
F. Must be the one whose aspirations spread across the state, as reputed to be disciplined and submissive to constituted authority.
With all due considerations taken, the above requirements can only be narrowed down to the callibre of party men like Kenneth Gbagi, whose wealth cannot be traced to politics. By implication, having him as Governor would guarantee the right application of resources budgeted yearly for the state.
Besides, he is one person who understands the plight faced by the masses, and has ready solutions to address them. It is a fact that Gbagi remains the only individual among all the candidates who have shown interest to contest the governorship seat, with viable business establishments in Urhobo land where the people work to earn a living.
Gbagi has undertaken numerous philanthropic gestures that provided free medical and surgical services to Delta state indigenes, to mention but a few.
It, therefore, behoves the Urhobos to produce another successful Governor after the likes of Felix Ibru and James Ibori, with the choice of Kenneth Gbagi, as soon as politicking begins ahead of the 2023 governorship election.
Acting to the contrary would be interpreted to mean that the PDP caucus and the leadership of the Urhobo Progress Union have a hidden agenda not known to the masses, an impression that by all means should be avoided by making the right call in the interest of the state. In other words, PDP must avoid playing into the hands of the opposition if it intends to hold on to the reigns of power beyond 2023.
Ogheneakpobo is a Political Analyst and PDP stalwart based in Delta State