By John Oghojafor
The unwarranted inclusion of Urhobo land in the map of Biafra by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has drawn the ire of a prominent Urhobo Leader, Chief (Engr) Joe Omene, saying that in the event of disintegration, the Urhobo people of the Niger Delta have more than enough people and resources to exist as a country and therefore do not need to be a part of Biafra.
Chief Omene who is the factional President General of Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), stated this in an exclusive interview with The New Diplomat at his country home, Mosogar, Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State recently.
According to him, the Urhobo people have nothing in common with the Igbos of South Eastern states, pointing out that they have different culture and way of life. He queried why the so-called IPOB which claimed to already have their head of state, their capital and Judaism as their religion in their imaginary country, would now include non-Igbos in their territory without consultation.
He said: “Now, in wanting to have a nation of your own, you already have a head of state, you already have a capital, you already have your own religion as Judaism. You already have everything in place, whereas the people you want to join you to form your country you have not consulted them. So, what manner of country do you want to form? Urhobos are not part of the Igbo agenda, we are not part of them and we cannot be part of them.”
Omene noted that Urhobo land which boasts of more than three million people and the fifth largest ethnic nationality in Nigeria, has all its take to become a strong and viable country in the event of a decision for each nationality of the country to go their different ways, adding that the Urhobos do not need the Igbos to exist.
“You cannot borrow a name and force other people to use the name with you. They are Igbos, they are Easterners from the Eastern part of Nigeria. There is what is called the Bight of Biafra and there is the Bight of Benin. So, if you say oh, you Igbos are Biafra, Urhobo cannot be Biafra. If we don’t want to be part of Nigeria then we can go alone. We have what it takes to be a nation. We have airport, we have seaports, we have rivers.
“Quite apart from that, we have human and mineral resources and we have agriculture to sustain us. So, there is nothing lacking in the Urhobo nation if it comes to the issue of the requirements for us to be a country of our own. We have nothing in common with the Igbos; traditionally, we have nothing in common. If you look at their culture, it is quite different from our own. So, what makes them feel that we should be part of them”, he queried.
The Urhobo leader expressed support for restructuring of the country in such a manner that will give each federating unit to be independent and exploit the resources within its region and pay taxes to the centre government, recalling that it was so before oil was discovered in Nigeria.
“I’m in total support of the restructuring of this country. If it is to allow the individual federating units control their resources and pay tax to the Central government I support. The Urhobos will survive under that arrangement. We have oil and other mineral resources. And like I have said we also have good and arable land for agriculture. So, under any form of restructuring the Urhobo nation will do extremely well. I support restructuring and I can tell you, that is the position of the Urhobo nation”, he noted.
Chief Omene who recalled with nostalgia, stated as a President-General of the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), he took the Union to an enviable height, adding that it was his intention to establish its branches in at least twenty countries in Africa including others in the UK, America and Asia.
He said: “I can categorically claim that I brought the UPU into an enviable position. It was not functional like this before. I did not run the UPU where the President-General sit in one place and at the end of the year, in August or September, travel to UPU UK and America and come back home. If not for this crisis, I would have had the UPU well established in not less than twenty African countries and many European, American and Asian countries.”
Omene commended the UK branch of the UPU for offering scholarships to several Urhobo sons and daughters in tertiary institutions in the country, adding that it was the demonstration of the spirit and the blood of Urhobo in the members.