Following the recent crisis rocking the UPU Spy News Jon Egie had and encounter with Dr Sunny Awhefaeda who spoke on variety of issues relating to the trouble with the UPU and suggested way forward for the Urhobo nation. We present excerpts of the interview.

Kindly introduce yourself sir.

 

Dr Sunny Awhefeada

Dr Sunny Awhefeada

I am Sunny Awhefeada, the Acting Head, Dept of English and Literary Studies Delta State University, Abraka; also the Director, Special Duties and time table matters of the university and the Public Orator of DELSU, Abraka.

As an Urhobo son we also know you to be an Advocate of the Urhobo Language and culture, recently the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) purportedly held and election to usher in new leaders of the union, what is your take on the outcome of the election?

I think that the election that took place in Mosogar is an act of illegality and since that day I have been thinking if there was an antecedent in Urhoboland and elsewhere, I have not been able to find one. But again, I think those who went to court to secure an injunction against the elections that were held at Uvwiamuge played into the hands of Omene. I saw no reason why they should have gone to court to secure an injunction against the election. Some other things should have been done to secure a way out, for instance, the electoral committee should have been pressurized to release the list of delegates so that all the contestants, those interested in the office of the President General will be allowed to talk about their manifesto and vision for the Urhobo nation and by so doing many of those that people thought had been bought over and controlled by Omene, would have had a change of heart. I know of so many delegates who said, yes, this man instituted the clan executive and so on and so forth but they felt that his time was up, that they were not going to vote for him. So, whether it was Obakponovwe or Ibodje or Otomewo that went to court, I think that it was ill advised and they played into Omene’s hands and that led us into this logjam. Because the man, whether you like it or not in his act of illegality has constituted himself and the other members of the new executives and now that they have gove to court if the man wants to be rascally, he will remain there for the next ten to 20 years because legal tussle will go on and on since the matter is in court you know the mischief lawyers can spin. So I think those who went to court to stop the election did not do their home work properly. In the same way what happened in 2015 when the Ivie (Urhobo monarchs) gathered in Olomu to say they were removing the man, when I held of that intention I told a few people that led them give this man a negotiated exit, talk to him, encourage him that the Urhobo nation was fed up with you and when you talk about Urhobo nation getting fed up with Omene, who are those that constitute Urhobo nation? Is it Obakponovwe, is it Ibodje, is it the Ivie alone? No, we are all Urhobo nation, so they have listened to other stakeholders on the way forward, but they didn’t do that, they sent him packing, brought in Ofotokun, all of that came to nullity you know and Gen. Obada intervened tried to bring normalcy to the whole thing but they still didn’t see the hand writing clearly. They still went on in a rush, in an unthinking manner and see where it has landed Urhobo nation, but bye and bye, what happened in Mosogar is an act of illegality and it remains to be so but then the law is an axe, as I said the matter is court, the system can be manipulated and the man can choose to remain there for the next decade or more, so I think Urhobo people should be careful.

What challenge does this situation pose to the Urhobo elites?

It is very, very unfortunate that, first, it is an erosion of the credibility of UPU. So, it is going to take a very long time for the Urhobo people to believe in UPU because between 2014 and today (Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016), the UPU seems to be washing its dirty linen in the public. I keep telling other people that look, Urhobo is not the only ethnic nationality that is embattled. If look at the history of Nigeria let’s say from early 1990 when most of us came to maturation, the Yoruba they have their crisis; they have the Afenifere, they broke into the Afenifere renewal group, into Yoruba council of elders, Yoruba unity forum but they never came to the public to do all of this nonsense that UPU has been doing. Look at the sums of money that were said to have been collected by Omene, it was so ludicrous that it was said that some cows came and that the man said he couldn’t keep the cows in his compound and he gave the cows out and the exco came and said the cows were five in number bring the other four, such an act of verbal rascality. What about Ohaneze Ndigbo, it is also highly fractured but they never watched their dirty linen in the public. What about Arewa Consultative Forum? You have splinter groups from the North but they are working in the interest of one North. Look at our brothers here, Ijaw National Council (INC), I think about a few months ago, they had about two excos but they were able to resolve their differences  and they are coasting on so why should that of Urhobo  be intractable? Recall, around 2015, before the general election, there were almost about three factions: the Tuesday Onoge faction, the Omene faction, I think there was another one led by Austin Uloho or so but that didn’t see the light of day. Why should ours be so? UPU since 1931 has been a credible platform for the Urhobo nation but all of this happening now, the biggest challenge is that it will lose its credibility and it will be difficult for the Urhobo people to realign and queue behind any UPU leadership, so much damage, almost irreparable damage has been done to the image and credibility of the Urhobo Progress Union.

Now the call to service at this point around for people like you, the elite, the academics, the great sons and daughters of Urhobo; how are you going to respond to this challenge?

Thank you very much. We will continue talking just as we are doing now. Intervention from the sideline and gradually may be when the time permits, active participation. Apart from the era of Mowoe up to Salubi no other group has advanced the cause of the Urhobo people more than the academics. In truth, from 1982, the fortunes of UPU dipped and continue to dip, so it has been the academia, Urhobo scholars that have actually promoted UPU through their writings, lectures and other means of advocacy. Go to the website of Urhobo Historical Society you will see what Prof Peter Ekeh led UHS has done for the Urhobo nation, go to the writings of Prof G.G. Darah, check the writings of Bright Ekuerhare, look at the writings of the Poet who recently won the Nigerian merit award, Tanure Ojaide, S.W.E. Ibodje and of course, my humble self, some of the things I have done to intervene in the affairs of the Urhobo nation. So the Urhobo scholars have more than any other group signposted the achievement and advancement of the Urhobo nation. In 2004, we formed the Urhobo Study Association when we discovered that there were signs that the Federal Government was going to encourage the teaching of more indigenous languages at the secondary school level that those languages will eventually be adopted for WAEC, NECO and JAMB, Dr G.G Darah, Prof Rose Azizah said no, Urhobo people we must braze up and ensure that Urhobo, the 5ft largest ethnic nationality in Nigeria joins this trend, so we started working to ensure that we developed an Urhobo curriculum. Believe me, we worked night and day from 2004 to 2013, there stages we need to go to, seminars and workshops, officials of the Ministry of Education will come from Abuja to come and check what we are doing, translations; we did all of that, then it got to the stage when we needed money and we wrote more than 250 letters to Urhobo sons and daughters in politics: House of Assembly, Local Govt Chairmen, House of Reps, Nigerian Senate, Ministers, Commissioners; more than 250 letters, distributed them, made phone calls but no response came from the Urhobo political class. Even the so called gubernatorial candidates and aspirants who were fronting themselves as Urhobo candidates did not respond. That tells you that they were actually charlatans. All of them using the Urhobo name to advance their selfish political interest didn’t respond. But for the late Senator Pius Ewherido of blessed memory who gave us one million naira, he actually promised to give an additional one million naira the very day he passed on, Sunday, 30th June, 2013. When Aguariavwodo came, he gave half a million naira but what we need for that project was in the region of ten million naira. A struggling lecturer like myself, Prof Nyerhovwo Onokare gave us some money, then some social clubs also contributed fifty thousand here, hundred thousand there and now the project is stuck. At a time, most of us members of the association levied ourselves to ensure that the project moved on. As we speak the translation has been completed, it is also published in Nigeria national colours-Green White Green, but all this so called Urhobo political class, so called irresponsible political elite, call them come and contribute to this nationalistic project to advance the cause of the Urhobo nation, they will not respond. So that is why I am saying, the Urhobo academics more than any other group have done so much to advance the cause of the UPU and the Urhobo nation if our only achievement is to get that curriculum to where it is now, I think after Mowoe, Salubi, Michael Ibru, Urhobo scholars will be the next in line in their contribution to the advancement of the Urhobo nation.

You said those who approached the court to seek injunction to stop the election were ill advised, what do you think is the motive of Omene in all of this?

Does Omene really have any justifiable motive? No! What I think he is trying to do psychologically is to get back at the kings, is to teach them a lesson that, you are kings no doubt, but your level of influence is also circumscribed, it wasn’t like in times past when nobody could question the kings, that there is a level to which the kings can intervene after that they should actually watch their actions and their utterances. So it is like who is going to blink first. The kings removed him in 2015, he defied them. Many of our elders are not actually altruistic, many of the so called elders who were neither here nor there, who played Nicodmaus; in the day time they will say oh, Omene must go and at night they go and encourage him to continue. They didn’t do the right thing. If they had been clear headed about it this fiasco wouldn’t have taken place and Ikeep saying the man should have been given a negotiated exit. Different Urhobo groups should have come together, send delegations to him, please let us do this for the sake of Urhobo, and think about Urhobo, Urhobo is greater than you but they didn’t. Another reason why Omene is acting so is self justification. What were the allegations preferred against Omene? That it was his action that made Urhobo to lose the 2105 governorship election, but was that true, did Omene act alone? The answer is no! He acted in concert with the council of Presidents General led by Dr PC Obakponovwe so why now, though the buck should stop at his table, but then they all acted in cahoots because Omene will tell you again and again that he consulted the council of Presidents General led by Dr PC Obakponovwe, he consulted with the Ewheya, he consulted with the youths and they said let us settle for Ogboru, he consulted with this same body and they said let us settle for President Jonathan; so why now, because the venture failed, do they want to crucify him? And those money they were talking of, when they collected the Isiaguare money and the rest of them did they inform the rest of us Urhobo? Was it not when the rumour started coming that Omene collected something from President Goodluck Jonathan, collected from Uduaghan and he didn’t share that the bubble got burst? Then, when the governorship aspirants were going to Mosogar, remember what was happening, none of them dropped less than N 2 million to split Kola, didn’t they share the money? When the going was good did they inform us other Urhobo people outside UPU? And why will they share those money, why were those money not channeled into UPU account? When the going was good they were going to Mosogar to collect their share of Isiaguare but when they heard that the man collect so much from President Jonathan, and that may just be rumour, they went berserk. So you can see that they were not actually working for the Urhobo people they were working for their own interest. I think Omene is trying to tell them that come what may, the constitution is the ground norm and now I am using it to have my way. So, it is a test of will but it is unfortunate that the Urhobo nation will be the worst for it.

What is the implication of this to the political fortunes of the Urhobo nation in 2015?

It is going to plummet. Our political fortune is going to further go down again because no matter what any group or charlatan as I call them will say, the PDP right now is well entrenched in Delta State and the fortunes of the Urhobo people must first be defined, secured and safeguarded in Delta before Abuja and beyond; I do not see a silver lining in the cloud for Urhobo politically. So all of those who are jumping ship into APC is as a result of ill advise desperation. Look at Urhobo political class, apart from Obaisi Ovie Omo-Agege who has now become the shining political star, who else can you genuinely point at as a political whizz kid? There is hardly anybody. I don’t want to mention names, but from 1999, do a critical retrospection, may be Senator Pius Ewherido but Gogorogo is no more. So beside Obaisi Ovie Omo Agege who else can you point out that the Urhobo people can queue behind come rain come shine? And again, OmoAgege needs to consolidate on his Senate position, so 2019 is pregnant and Urhobo should rethink its future, not just political future but economic and social future. We should withdraw and do a critical brainstorming but unfortunately the present crop of UPU leadership cannot give us that, the present crop of so called leaders the Obakponovwes, the Otomewes cannot also give us that and that is why we need an interventionist brigade, we need an interventionist agenda of a neutral group to rethink the fyture of Urhobo and envision a new beginning, a new dawn for the Urhobo nation be it economic, political, social and otherwise so that we can rethink and retake our rightful place not just in Nigeria but in the world.

Do you see other ethnic groups in Delta taking advantage of the UPU crisis to kill the chance of Urhobo making a governor in 2019?

The truth is, no matter what anybody thinks about it, Urhobo will NOT make the governorship in 2019. Yes, maybe after 2019 because the power of incumbency, no matter what people are saying about Okowa I think the man is working within available resources and within the present socio-economic challenges. So that is what people are going to take into consideration. Look around you and you will see some states which have not been able to pay salaries and Delta is one of the most complex states in this country. I think for a time the government appeared to be in doldrums, no roads were tarred but now around Ughelli and across the state they are working in spite of the crash of crude oil that has affected Delta state revenue, the man has been paying salary up to date with the exception of local government and primary school teachers and of course, that is a joint responsibility between the state and the federal government. So the man is still in the heart of the people. Remember that people see Okowa beyond the monstrosity of PDP, they first of all see the human in him before the party he belongs because this is somebody who systematically worked his way into the hearts of all Deltans. He was into social entrepreneurship right from when he was Commissioner was it Agriculture, later Health, SSG and even as a Senator he was making inroads into Urhobo heartlands, he had political networks all over the state so how easy do you think it is going to be to dislodge such a political maestro? Again, the APC people are Facebook tigers, they say all sorts of things on facebook but they are not on ground, those Urhobo who are behaving like crabs now in APC are they on ground to actually articulate what the opposition in Delt stands for? Yes I have said a few good things about Okowa but is Okowa government perfect? The answer is no. Okowa’s government has it’s many failings too, but has the so called opposition members of APC in Delta articulated the failings of Okowa for public consumption? The answer is no. So by the time they come in 2018, a year to election and begin to make noise and people will say they have come again politicking, where have you been all this while? Look at Ondo state, Akereledo lost the election in 2010 but he didny rest on his oars, he was going to Ondo almost twice every month, he was talking but the APC people in Delta apart from scrambling for one two offices what have they really done to represent the hope and aspiration of the common man in Delta state? And take note, the APC TRAIN is Delta Central train and Delta Central political big wigs still belong to PDP, so the APC train contains those who felt they were marginalized in PDP because they felt they will not be patronized for positions they are those running to APC. Get a roster and let us actually identify the original APC people you will see how inconsequential that number will be. So Urhobo should rethink politics is not all. Many of those who have spent so much money on politicking, if they had invested those money in agro-industrialization in Urhobo land it would have been much more better for us today because those money went down the drain. Now we have lost out politically, lost socio-economically and look at the crisis of insecurity bedeviling us. So these are the reasons why we need that interventionist agenda on the way forward for the Urhobo nation.

 

 How will you describe the typical Urhobo man to a non indigene in terms of political ideology and otherwise?

 

The typical Urhobo man represents the best specie of human character anywhere in the world not all of these ones that have not actually been reprobate in the true sense on the word. You see the typical Urhobo man in Mukoro Mowoe, Senator Pius Ewherido, Professor Peter Ekeh, Professor Omafume Onoge of blessed memory, P.A. Salubi. In spite of our position in the hinterland which makes us to suffer disadvantages we came from nowhere and we seized the initiative, that the I can do spirit of the Urhobo man. The Urhobo man is very intelligent, resilient but very proud. He will not be allowed to be undone and how do they sum this up, that Urhobo people are highly republican, republican in the sense that they will say, if you are the one feeding me, break that earthen ware plate anf don’t give food again. So, I think that has become a proble because when people are highly intelligent and independent minded it is difficult to check past them, so that is where I think the problem comes from. If not the Urhobo man is very rugged, intelligent, persevering and I don’t see any specie of human being anywhere in the world that can outclass the Urhobo man, we represent the best. So, irrespective of what is happening now, the UPU problems as many as they are do not define trhe Urhobo people, it is history, it is evolution, at the right time Urhobo will rise again.

Thank you