In the next 20 years Ughelli would swallow her neighbours——-Austin Uloho
Chief Austin Uloho as he is popular called spoke to Jon Egie ahead of the 25th coronation anniversary celebration of the king of Ughelli and the projectile of the view of the famous community leader is here presented for you savour.
Kindly introduce yourself to us sir
My name is Chief Augustine Oghenevwogaga Uloho, I am President General Emeritus, Ughelli Descendants Union and Chairman of 25th coronation anniversary celebration.
The history of Ughelli in modern times cannot be written without your input, what testimony would you give about the growth of Ughelli for the past 25 years?
Well, looking back at what Ughelli used to be as at the time we were even born Ughelli was not up to 100th of what it is today. At that time, every young boy in the town we knew ourselves by name; those that were in primary school, in secondary school and even the schools they went to, and at that time we knew almost every family that was in Ughelli but today, you can see the differences, very big. What used to be the population of the entire of students in Ughelli at that time is not compared to one of the smallest primary schools today. Ughelli has grown tremendously over the years and we are seeing it will grow beyond what it is. Some factors were responsible for the growth, one; when the colonial masters or white men came Ughelli people were generous in providing them with accommodation, when we ceded a lot of parcels of land: the entire GRA, Police station which you see there is more than one square mile then later they got us also part with the land of Government College, Ughelli which is another square mile; all we did because we wanted development. At that time we didn’t see development as it is today, we were seeing development in terms that the town will be a little bit bigger but the outburst is not something most of us could imagine. That generousity brought in the white men, they were able to build D.O’s quarter and the district office and people started seeing more as a centre. The influx of Igbo men into Ughelli in 50s and 60s was enormous, the Isokos were coming in and at a stage everybody was just milling in to this community. Now for every one that came they felt comfortable because the community was not harsh, the community was very friendly and as such they just fitted in and most of them were like natives, you do not know the difference between them and the real Ughelli people and that is the way the it tends to be till today. So Ughelli people are very generous and they give people the opportunity to come and develop and live in this place. We are also so open in terms of people acquiring land, business opportunities and several opportunities abound. In particular when Shell came in the late 50s and early 60s brought in influx of many other persons, businesses grew and from that point on others were coming. So, Ughelli has grown, it has grown tremendously and when the father of this royal majesty was installed as a king I walked with him from Ighwreko to Edon (in Otovwodo), Ughelli was still very small, that was in 1980, so many areas were all bush, almost the entire Uloho Avenue was bush, areas like Ikprukpru and Dortie were just scantly populated and even Apkodiete Street. Within that time and when his son ascended the throne, there was a massive development again and of course, this our present royal majesty I will say luck is on his side because in his time the town has boomed, there is development everywhere. I just imagine sitting here and finding that Ughelli is almost going into Oviri- Ogor, developing both left, right and centre, everywhere. Very soon most of the villages that were distinct on their own they are all now merged with Ughelli and the merger is going on. If you drive from here now and you are going to Ighwrekpokpo and Ekredjebor which used to be bush you cannot see any open space now they are all built almost going to Agbarha, Saniko junction. The banks have also been of great help to Ughelli because their coming has increased business in Ughelli and most of the neighbouring local government councils have their accounts in banks in Ughelli here: Patani, Bomadi, some Isoko and Ethiope East they all come here because Ughelli is just like their commercial centre and the banks are so many here that they can continue to cater for them. So people see reasons to come to Ughelli to transact and invest. So, Ughelli has actually grown tremendously.
What is your expectation of the growth of Ughelli in the nearest future?
From what I am seeing in Ughelli in the nearest future like I have just said, I am sure in the next ten years, we are already bursting into Ogor, there is no difference between Ogor and Ughelli now, if you want to differentiate Ogor in terms of boundary it is going to be by who sold, the original seller is what you are going to use to determine if not the two towns are already merged and as they are going on at the Agbarha side Otokutu will merge very soon and will continue to flow towards Isoko. We are already flowing towards Oviri-Ogor and if care is not taken it may go beyond that to other villages in Olomu and from the Oteri axis you can see growth going and before you know it Ovwor will be part of the town. Actually the town is growing and I am certain that in the next ten years there wiil be serious growth, I am even seeing a situation between ten and twenty years ahead you would not be able to differentiate Ughelli and Agbarho because of the level of development that is going on along the road.
But this geographical growth is devoid of industrial growth, what is your take on that?
Industrial growth, there have been several industries here some of them not working now but you see there are so many small industries that are driving the economy of the town, they are the nerve centre of the town, you may not see them because they are not big enough but with time I am sure bigger ones will come because people will definitely invest into big manufacturing company and things like that, it is a possibility.
What are the opportunities available for foreign investors?
As an oil producing community, there is nothing wrong with coming up with a modular refinery in future, it is just the people who will come and want to invest, people are planning so many different things but one thing is to plan and another is to put your palns to work and when the plans come to work you will see those things physically and I do hope that the level of growth will be matched with industrialization.
Economic growth and its sustenance is dependent on political and economic policies and regulations, how would you advise sons and daughters of Ughelli in the political class?
By nature and by what I am doing, I have been in politics since 1979 when I was youth leader of the then Ughelli local government and I know at a stage there was politics of bitterness where people of one party tend to fight against people of another party, but to a lot of us now we are believing that we should forget about party politics, nothing stops us from belonging to whatever political party but first and foremost we are Ughelli people, so Ughelli must come first in our mind. When we go out to do our politics and get home we should be able to sit down as brothers and sisters, eat and discuss and plan strategies to bringing good things from these various parties to our community because it is what you are bringing that is yours. So if you are in PDP bring whatever you can, if you are in APC bring whatever you can, if you are in any other party that is also there, bring whatever you can and let us be united in whatever we are doing because once we are united then I think all our problems are solved. I will continue to plead and I want to plead that we must forget politics of bitterness, we must put politics aside and be united as Ughelli people.