URHOBO PROGRESS UNION: The Coup that nailed Omene
By Joseph Esivwenughwu
If there is any one Urhobo personality that I respect, Chief Joe Omene, the former President General of Urhobo Progress Union is one of them. The reason is very simple. I am always at home with those that can take an action and stand to the end to defend it no matter who is involved. The fact that Chief Joe Omene is not a mean man in the politics of Urhobo nation also works out for him and his person. Teaming up with the late General Patrick Aziza to win the UPU general election, Omene became the 1st Deputy Vice President to General Aziza. There is no gainsaying the fact that his loyalty to Chief Aziza was not in doubt. To him, Late Aziza represents everything Omene believes in. The issue of rancor that characterized the position of the head and his assistants in Nigeria did not rear its ugly head until death took Aziza away without any notice to the Urhobo nation and the world at large. The fact that the late Aziza was able to carry all his executives along with dignity did not come to me as a surprise. Having acted on behalf of late Senator Felix Ibru who went on medicals at the time, Aziza’s election drew much of bad blood but having won the election, he threw all those issues behind and focus on how to move Urhobo forward. As a military general with a formidable wealth, the issue of money was never a problem to him and with these combination, he led Urbobo Progress Union with all the seriousness it deserves.
On his death it was normal that Chief Joe Omene will take over the mantle of leadership and it was so. Haven taken over, he was on a great match towards the kingdom set for him but as man, the gods are not to blame. The 2015 presidential elections became the litmus test for Joe Omene and his executives but like students that did not prepare for an examinations, the Urhobo nation was taken aback on the level of scandals and impunity that has rocked the Urhobo body. The executives was the first casualty as its decisions on Ogboru and Emerho threw itself into an open fire. To make it worst for the entire executives, the Urhobo nation threw away the two candidates and voted Senator Okowa during the 2015 general elections as the governor of the state. This was an indication that the end was in sight for the Executives but like George Orwell in his famous book, ‘’The Animal Farm’’, the Urhobo nation is always right and his children will work harder. The Urhobo traditional rulers having detailed the entire scenario decided to dissolve the Omene led executives but this could not resolve the crises as Mr. Ofotuku who was appointed the chairman of the caretaker committee was himself not acceptable to the Urhobo people. The entire Urhobo nation agreed that Omene should serve his term and quit by the end of December 2016 but as man, being a political animal he his, Omene has another card on his chest.
For the past six months, Chief Joe Omene appears to be taking Urhobo for a ride. He promised to conduct the last December election for the election of a new President General only to come around to collect forms for the same position. All entreaties to him by well-meaning Urhobos to stay away to allow for peace fell on deaf ears. The Urhobo nation became a laughing stock in the comity of nationalities. The Urhobos were then largely seen as people that cannot even put their own house in order. It reaches a crescendo that the life of every Urhobo man is in the hands of this Mosogar Chief. Having fixed an election for the month of December, he sneaked to his country home and organized what is now known as the first ‘’charm’’ election in Urhobo land. The charm election conducted by Chief Omene was won by Chief Omene and sworn into office by Chief Joe Omene. Up till date Chief Omene has not deemed it fit to call on all sons and daughters of Urhobo land to discuss the venue of the election if the cultural center cannot accommodate the personalities expected at the venue. Rather than sneaked to his country home for an election meant for the entire Urhobo, he would have made use of late Aziza country home or other notable properties owned by the Urhobos.
It is a fact that when a man is pushed to the walls he must fight back and so the entire Urhobo nations decided to say enough is enough to Joe Omene. The plan to remove him from his self-tangle began on the Christmas Day and it was well executed that every ant closer to Omene was shut out of the discussion. First was the contestants led by Chief Taiga and others. The next was the entire President General of the Urhobos including those outside the country. It is true that those the devil wants to kill it first made mad. In spite of the fact that it was no longer convenience for Omone to preside over the affairs of the body, his heart was hardened like the Biblical Pharaoh who led his people to drown in the red sea. Since the Urhobos are tired of staying in Egypt and are ready to return home with peace the body of Urhobo Traditional Rulers was immediately contacted to endorse the entire plan which they did with great joy. The election was then fixed for 2nd January 2017 and Chief Joe Omene and others interested in the elective positions were contacted by the electoral committee to report for the election as there was no room for postponement.
On the day of the election, the road to the cultural center at Uvwiamuge was like an Olympic carnival, an indication that the people are ready for the election. After the welcome address by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the electoral body took over the conduct of the election and Chief Taiga was declared the winner and President General of the Urhobo Progress Union including all other executives. The officers were immediately sworn in by Chief Justice Dugbo, an Urhobo erudite jurist. In his welcome address Chief Taiga promised to carry all Urhobo sons and daughters along, vowing to restructure the entire Urhobo land so that it can occupied its rightful place in history. What I saw and was most interesting to me is his promise to ensure Urhobo University to be named after one of the founding fathers of the Urhobo apex social political body. Even before the conctualisation of the cultural center during the period of late Okumagba, I shouted severally that the place should be used for an Urhobo University but no one listens to me. Urhobo does not need any cultural center as it is not only a waste of resources but drawing us backward. Chief Joe Omene and his team have every opportunity to carry on with an idea of the university but selfishness, greed and internal fighting deprived them of the thinking cap.
While I will not apportion blame on who was responsible for the crises in the body, this may have serve as another bitter lessons for the entire Urhobo nations. It is now a lesson for all those that wants to occupy positions in communities and are not ready to vacate at their expiration because of greed and looting of the people’s common heritage. It is a fact that Urhobo nation has the highest number of Okada riders in the state due to mismanagement of our resources from 1999 when this democracy started. This was the time when money was flowing like river Ethiope but rather than buy Delta Steel Aladja, Eternit Sapelt, AT & P Sapele, Salt Company Oghara and reorganize these companies to create the desired employment, our people looted the resources and stacked them away in foreign countries to the detriment of the masses. Others invested their loot heavily in building mansions that their children cannot maintain after their death. It is very surprising that till date no reputable company exists in the entire Urhobo land. The only school of Midwifery at Amukpe is like a ghost town when I visited the school last month. It is not better than chicken hall.
The only way for the Taiga team to succeed is to focus on the future and plan ahead while at the same time ignoring Chief Joe Omene. Continue to trade words with Omene on the pages of newspaper will not produce the result expected from the new team. He who wears the big hat should know that the people did not need any lame excuses. Omene and his team has become history but it is a fact that they did their best for the Urhobo nation and should be treated as worthy sons and daughters of Urhobo land. This does not mean that I am supporting indiscipline and destructive elements. Urhobo belongs to all of us and all necessary weapons should be assembled to achieve greater results. Today most of the smaller ethnic groups has viable higher institutions of their own but ours is zero. I want to call on Chief Joe Omene to apologize to the Urhobo traditional rulers for ridiculing them. They have no need to be at Uvwiamuge for this election if Omene has done the right thing. To all those that want to use this to cause confusion in Urhobo land by betraying and castigating Omene and his team should know that two wrongs does not make a right. To the board of trustees and the electoral commission that conducted the election, I say kudos. Chief Joe Omene has every opportunity to write his name in gold or destroy it but he chose the latter.