Okpe People Have No Secessionist Intentions, says Prof Igho Natufe

Okpe People Have No Secessionist Intentions, says Prof Igho Natufe

Being State of The Union Address on Pathway To Redemption In Okpe Nation By Prof. O. Igho Natufe President General, Okpe Union, On The 94th Anniversary Of The Founding Of The Okpe Union At The Headquarters Of The Okpe Union, 65 Moshalashi Streeet, Obalende, Ikoyi, Lagos.

May 18, 2024.

 

Greetings. All Protocols Observed

 

Introduction

It is my honour and pleasure to welcome you to the 94th Anniversary of the Founding of Okpe Union. I welcome you on behalf of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Okpe Union, and of all our members in Nigeria and the Diaspora. With profound reverence we recognize the presence of His Royal Majesty Alaiyeluwa, Oba Engr. (Dr.) Kabiru Adewale Shotobi, Adegorushe V, The Ayangburen of Ikorodu Kingdom, and Her Royal Majesty, Olori Kudirat Abosede Shotobi, The Treasure of Ikorodu Kingdom, who is a granddaughter of the Founding President of the Okpe Union, Pa Thomas Ometie Ake (of Blessed Memory).

 

Our being here today is thanks to the vision of Pa Ake and his colleagues who had the foresight in establishing Okpe Union, which today makes Okpe Union the oldest registered ethnic organization in Nigeria. Pa Ake hailed from Mereje Town in present Okpe Local Government Area in Okpe Nation, Delta State. The seed he and his colleagues planted here in Lagos 94 years ago has mushroomed into multiple branches across Nigeria and in the Diaspora. Therefore, the presence of Her Royal Majesty at this event and the generous support that she and His Royal Majesty have rendered to the Okpe Union in Ikorodu and in Lagos State is a continuation of Pa Ake’s vision for the redemption of Okpe Nation. We are here because Pa Ake and his colleagues were there. They deserve to be honoured for their selfless services to Okpe Nation. Towards this end, I have asked Mr. Patrick Akpotor, the Immediate Past President General (IPPG) of the Okpe Union to head a 7-member Commemoration Committee to work out the modalities of immortalizing the Founding Fathers of the Okpe Union. Mr. Akpotor and members of the Commemoration Committee shall liaise with the families of our Founding Fathers for the erection of their statues in their respective towns, which shall be unveiled during the 95th Anniversary Celebrations in May 2025.

 

We also recognize the presence of other distinguished guests and Okpe nationals at this august occasion. We particularly recognize the presence of our Keynote Speaker, Dr. S. Enajite Enajero, who shall address us from Detroit, Michigan, USA. My Address will be incomplete without applauding the selfless services of the members of the Planning Committee led by Mr. Patrick Akpotor, the IPPG, and the Secretary, Arch. Patrick Redemi. I thank all of them. I also thank all those that generously contributed financially to the hosting of this event, from within Nigeria and in the Diaspora; a testimony to the global outreach of the Okpe Union.

 

The Okpe Nation of Delta State.

Okpe is the most populous monolithic ethnic nationality in Delta State. There are two Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Okpe Nation, namely: Okpe LGA and Sapele LGA. It is estimated that Okpe nationals residing in the neighbouring Uvwie LGA exceed the Okpe population in Sapele LGA. As stated by HRM Orhue l, Orodje of Okpe, two Okpe villages, Ohore 1 and Ohore 2 are incorrectly grouped in Uvwie LGA. It is imperative that a boundary adjustment be undertaken so as to return these villages to the Okpe Nation. (See, “A Keynote Address Delivered On September 1, 2007 By Hrm Orhue L, Ll.M., Cfr, Mni., Orodje Of Okpe Kingdom At The 3rd Annual Convention Of The Okpe Union Of North America Held At Marriott Hotel, College Park, Maryland, Md. Usa, August 31 – September 03, 2007” https://okpeunionng.net/tradition-and-governance/)

 

We share Delta State with the following ethnic nationalities, listed in alphabetical order:-

1. Aniocha

2. Ika

3. Ijaw

4. Isoko

5. Itsekiri

6. Ndosumili

7. Oshumili

8. Ukwuani

9. Urhobo

We also share the Delta Central Senatorial District with the Urhobo.

 

Our Neighbours: Our immediate neighbours are the Itsekiri and Urhobo ethnic nationalities, with whom we have inter-reacted over the past centuries. We have maintained good neighbourly relations with both of them. The boundary between Okpe and Itsekiri is the Benin River towards the Ethiope River down to the Benin Creek (known as the Hole in the Wall Creek). This Hole in the Wall Creek runs through Ugbukurusu, Elume up to Ughoton/Ugbokodo boundary with Omadino in Warri South, LGA. On the east, the boundary between Okpe and Urhobo is the Ethiope River with Mosogar and Jesse on the East-Southern flank and Oghara on the East-Northern flank. The land boundary between Okpe and Urhobo on the East is between Aghalokpe and Okpara of Ethiope East LGA. On the Southern flank the boundary is at Erere Creek near Effurun Roundabout in Uvwie LGA. Lastly on the South-Eastern flank, the boundary between Okpe and Urhobo is the Okuokoko-Agbarho Bridge on the East-West Road (Effurun Ughelli Express Road). Its central location makes us refer to the Okpe Nation as the Bridge of Delta State. The Okpe have excellent relationships with all ethnic nationalities in Delta State, as we are recognized as a peaceful, friendly, and accommodating Nation. We are neither loud nor overbearing to other ethnic nationalities in Delta State.

 

Okpe and the Future of Nigeria: Okpe is one of the more than 400 indigenous ethnic nationalities that constitute the Federal Republic of Nigeria. These indigenous ethnic nationalities, including Okpe, are the core federating units of Nigeria. Thus, like other indigenous ethnic nationalities, Okpe has a voice in determining the future of Nigeria. As the umbrella socio-economic and non-partisan organization of the Okpe Nation, Okpe Union is in close collaboration with other indigenous ethnic nationalities and national organizations, including the Movement for the Reformation of Nigeria (MNR) and the TheRebirthGroup in crafting a new path for the restoration of federalism and good governance in Nigeria.

 

This new path is predicated on the retrieval of our independence that was illegally extinguished by the British Colonial government and subsequent post-colonial Nigerian governments. As forcefully argued by my friend and colleague, Prof. E. Kolawole Ogundowole, it is worthless constructing a new path in Nigeria without the retrieval of the independence of the respective indigenous ethnic nationalities. This retrieval process involves a battle of ideas within each indigenous ethnic nationality and their respective external allies. Thus, the battle for the unity of a nationality has to contend with its opposite members of the polity, who postulate contrary views to the retrieval agenda. This unity and struggle of opposites is a dialectical law of social development. We are certain of victory in crafting a pathway to the redemption of the Okpe Nation, no matter how tedious and painful the struggle might be. But first, we need to sensitize fellow Okpe nationals on the imperative of retrieving our independence in accordance with the historical foundation of Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality.

 

This distinctiveness informs us that Okpe is Okpe, and not a “clan” of any other ethnic nationality in Nigeria or anywhere in the world. As stated elsewhere, “When a people do not know who they are, or equivocate about their identity and seek coverage under the identity of a different ethnic group or a nation, then they are as good as lost in the wilderness”. (See, “The Okpe Nation In A Multiethnic Nigeria”. A Keynote Address Delivered By Professor O. Igho Natufe At The 8th AGM Of The Okpe Union Of North America At Houston Marriot At Hobby Airport Houston, TX., USA. May 27 – 29, 2016). We, Okpe, are not lost. We have for ever extinguished the sarcastic saying that “Okpe a mẹ rhen”, (“Okpe are asleep,”), a sarcasm which has hurt the consciousness of the Okpe in so many ways. We proudly declare that Okpe i rhọ-mọn nẹ (Okpe have awakened).

 

It was on the basis of this historical fact that we sought the recognition of Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality in our letter to the (then) Governor of Delta State, H.E. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa in June 2021. We have decided to re-submit the letter to his successor, H.E. Okakuro Sheriff Oborevwori in due course. An Elder Okpe statesman, Mr. Moses Akpobasah, has succinctly captured this in his congratulatory message to us on the 94th Anniversary of the Founding of Okpe Union.

 

He opined: “All Okpe need to brace up and seize this opportunity to support the Okpe Union so that it can stand up to the challenges facing our country and be in a position to represent Okpe interest well in the comity of Nigeria’s, indeed the world’s ethnic nationalities. The drive for greater Okpe identity is crucial and timely. One cannot be born an Okpe man and become non-Okpe in his life time, except by choice of an insignificant few who live outside the homeland or indeed outside the Country. I am yet to see one though. We must therefore defend who we are and pass a better nation to our successors. The Okpe Union and the Okpe People’s Forum must collaborate to lead the way”. (Exchange of WhatsApp messages. May 16, 2024).

 

We firmly believe that all indigenous ethnic nationalities, irrespective of their population size and territorial vastness, are equal partners in ensuring the survival, growth and development of Nigeria. We also firmly believe that the oppression or subjugation of one indigenous ethnic nationality is an assault on the sovereignty of all indigenous ethnic nationalities. This solidarity underlines the commitment of the Okpe Nation in constructing a democratic structure anchored on the recognition of the independence of indigenous ethnic nationalities and the Rule of Law in the polity, jointly shared by all ethnic nationalities that constitute the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is in the spirit of this solidarity that we join the Ijaw Nation in celebrating the 56th Boro Day in honour of late Major Isaac Adaka Boro, whose gallantry in 1966 placed the plight of Nigeria’s minority ethnic nationalities on the national agenda. We need more Isaac Adaka Boros in Nigeria.

 

Nigeria is currently facing an existential crisis engineered by the failure of its leaders to successfully grapple with the problems of nation-building in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious polity. Over the past two decades, the federal government has systematically forfeited its responsibility of safeguarding the well-being and security of Nigerians, as Fulani herdsmen, bandits and terrorists have become a parallel government in the country, especially in several communities in the northern states of Nigeria where kidnapping, raping and killing of thousands of persons with some of them be-headed and burnt alive, have become an accepted practice. Several indigenous ethnic nationalities in central Nigeria, especially in Benue and Plateau states, have been forced into internal refugee camps as the invading Fulani herdsmen, bandits and terrorists have seized their farmlands and villages. We are in solidarity with these indigenous ethnic nationalities, and other ethnic nationalities across Nigeria that are experiencing similar actions of internal colonization.

 

This leadership failure is replicated in all 36 states of the Federation and the 774 local government councils, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. The challenges that confront us in Nigeria are located in the gross failure of two mutually reinforcing properties that have conspired to mismanage and embezzle the wealth of the nation, and impoverish the citizens in the process. These are the elected/appointed political leaders and traditional rulers that constitute the ruling politico-military class. The second category consists of a proportion of the citizenry that is vociferous in its defense of corrupt politico-military leaders at all levels of government. The critique of poor leadership by the conscious citizenry is dismissed as “dissident” and “mischievous” by the politico-military class, a stratagem to silence reason and logic in policy formulation and to impose anti-democratic regime in the polity. The ruling governing parties, at local, state, and federal levels, irrespective of their ideological strips, employ scores of senior special advisers whose primary assignment is to literally expel the bearers of objective criticism from the public space, by tagging them as the “enemies” of the state. We condemn this state sanctioned practice that stifles debate as an agent of critical thinking and social development. When governing political parties suddenly become the custodians of knowledge and wisdom in a polity, democracy and ethics begin to lose their values in that polity.

 

A Pathway to Redemption: Nigeria’s minority ethnic nationalities are crushed under the weight of the above problems. This is evident in the onslaught of minority ethnic nationalities in central Nigeria, for example, and the arrogant inclusion of southern minority ethnic nationalities in the Biafran and Oduduwa Republic maps produced by the Igbo and Yoruba, respectively.

Prior to independence in 1960, the demand for state creation for Nigeria’s ethnic minority nationalities was meant to restructure the polity by freeing them from the marginalization which they faced in each of the three regions dominated by the tripodal hegemony. This issue was the key theme at a post-Richards national constitutional conference convened in Ibadan in January 1950 under Governor John MacPherson. To help focus the deliberations at the Ibadan Conference, H. M. Foot, the Chief Secretary posed two vital questions for the consideration of the delegates.

 

1. “Do we wish to see a fully centralized system with all legislative and executive power mainly concentrated at the centre or do we wish to develop a federal system under which each different region of the country would exercise a measure of internal autonomy?”

2. “If we favour a federal system, should we retain the existing regions with some modifications of existing regional boundaries or should we form regions on some new basis such as the many linguistic groups which exist in Nigeria?” (As cited in Kalu Ezera, Constitutional Developments in Nigeria, London, 1961, p.110.)

 

The second part of the question regarding the creation of regions (states) for the various ethnic groups recognized that the Nigerian polity had become a prison for minority ethnic nationalities. Unfortunately, only the Midwest Region was created via a referendum on August 9, 1963 under a civilian regime.

 

Basically, to restructure a political system is to reform its components and redefine the relationships governing the powers and responsibilities of all levels of government. Especially in a supposedly federal system like Nigeria, such a restructuring is expected to recognize the exclusive jurisdictions of the federating units in critical sectors of industry and the economy as evidenced in the 1963 Constitution. The resistance to this has been very loud, as the opposition perceives restructuring as a code name for the dissolution of Nigeria. In fact, those arguing for 54 or more states in Nigeria and opposed to restructuring are primarily concerned about forfeiting their fiscal benefits of the current distorted federal system that allows them to collect monthly stipends from Abuja.

 

The politico-military class in power since 1966 has jettisoned the federal principles of the 1963 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in favour of a unitary political system, even though they christened the 1999 constitution a federal republican constitution. Ironically, the United Kingdom, a unitary system, possesses more federalism compliant institutions than a supposedly Federal Republic of Nigeria. For example, political parties in the United Kingdom are federalism compliant unlike the military imposed command system that defines the form and content of Nigerian political parties. This military imposed command system has permeated all levels of governance including the state and local governments.

 

While it may be fashionable to condemn the military regimes for restructuring Nigeria via their respective state creation exercises between 1967 and 1996, it is most disturbing that the elected civilian governments (1979-1983; and since 1999) have failed to address the issue in a meaningful way to halt the various centrifugal forces in the country. For example, their refusal to restore the 1963 Republican Constitution and jettison the 1999 Constitution, which is essentially a militarized command-system constitution, can only be construed as a rejection of renewed federalism.

 

But if restructuring is to succeed in Nigeria, there must be a universal recognition of the tenets of federalism as contained in the 1963 Constitution. Assuming that we agree on the prerequisites for restructuring, then a key question to be resolved is on the number of states (federating units) in a renewed Nigerian federalism. Given that Nigeria is a collection of indigenous ethnic nationalities, it is the view of the Okpe Union that a restructured Nigerian federalism must reflect this imperative. The state creation imposed on the country by various military dictatorships (1967, 1976, 1987, 1991, and 1996) merely balkanized the three major ethnic groups into states. Thus, by military fiat, the Hausa/Fulani have 10 states, the Yoruba have 7, and the Igbo have 5. This military fiat must be discarded. If we recognize that all indigenous ethnic nationalities are equal federating units of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, then on what basis was these three ethnic groups Balkanized into several states, respectively, and thereby establishing power disequilibrium in the polity? This creates an undue access to power for these ethnic nationalities in terms of multiple federal ministerial and board appointments to each of them, compared to, for instance, 1 federal ministerial appointment for the entire 40 ethnic nationalities in Plateau State or 1 for the entire 10 ethnic nationalities in Delta State. Is this George Orwell’s Animal Farm hierarchy the basis for Nigeria’s renewed federalism?

 

As a framework for a restructured federal Nigeria, we propose the following: –

1. The creation of homogeneous federating states for the 15 most populous ethnic nationalities that have contiguous boundaries, respectively. These federating units will be 15 homogeneous ethnic-based states for the Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Ijaw, Kanuri, Ibibio, Okpe, Tiv, etc.

2. The creation of a maximum of 15 heterogeneous (multi-ethnic) federating states for the other ethnic nationalities. An ethnic nationality occupying a defined contiguous boundary in a heterogeneous state shall constitute an autonomous region with due constitutional jurisdictions. It shall also have concurrent jurisdiction with the heterogeneous state over natural resources discovered in its territory; but shall exercise exclusive jurisdiction over primary and secondary education, culture, language, and traditional institutions, etc.

3. A Charter of Rights and Freedoms protecting minority rights will anchor this restructured federalism.

 

If the proposed homogeneous and heterogeneous federating units are rejected in favour of the existing 36 states, then it is recommended that a distinct ethnic nationality occupying a defined contiguous territory, like, in alphabetical order, the Bini, Itsekiri, Nupe, and Okpe, for example, be classified as an autonomous region with due constitutional jurisdictions to exercise concurrent jurisdiction with the state over natural resources in its territory; but shall exercise exclusive jurisdiction over primary and secondary education, culture, language, and traditional institutions.

 

Another proposition which appeals to Okpe is the 18-regional structure prescribed in the PRONACO People’s Constitution of August 2006, where the Isoko, Okpe, and Urhobo ethnic nationalities are grouped in one region to be known as either ISOKPU or ISOKPEHOBO Region. Each of the three (3) ethnic nationalities shall be classified as an autonomous area with due constitutional jurisdiction to exercise concurrent jurisdiction with the state over natural resources in its territory; but shall exercise exclusive jurisdiction over primary and secondary education, culture, language, and traditional institutions.

 

In all of the above proposed frameworks, the revenue allocation formula shall be 50% derivation; 20% Federal Government; and 30% to the Federation Distributable Pool.

 

It must be emphasized that restructuring by itself does not guarantee an end to marginalization in Nigeria. In each local government area and in each state across Nigeria, there are communities marginalized out of the mainstream by leaders and political parties comprised of members of the same ethnic and religious groups, for example, in Delta State and in Okpe Nation. What we have is poor governance across all levels of government, including the traditional system, anchored on massive corruption. Therefore, we recognize that restructuring by itself is never a panacea for good governance, as long as corruption remains the mainstay of Nigerian political culture. A respected retired permanent secretary who knows his onions had this to say about corruption. He opined: “One fact Nigerians must know is that Nigeria is not a rich country per capita; it is the corruption level that projects otherwise. That is why we must learn to live within our means and fight the war against corruption a little more ruthlessly”. (Anonymous, May 4, 2024)

 

In his series of public lectures, Prof. PLO Lumumba succinctly addressed this quagmire by reminding us that those found guilty of corruption in China are summarily executed while their counterparts in Africa, especially in Nigeria, are eulogized and elected to leadership positions at all levels of government. We recommend the Chinese treatment in dealing with convicted corrupt officials in Nigeria as the most effective method of waging the war against corruption. We are aware that sitting legislators (at local, state, and federal levels) will not support this recommendation. It is left for the citizenry to determine for how long they want to watch their commonwealth stolen by political and traditional so-called leaders.

 

A good governance system is defined by its relationship to some key prerequisites, including Accountability, Transparency, Participation, and Predictability. Okpe and fellow Nigerians must be aware of these elements.

 

Accountability: In a democracy, elected and appointed government officials, from the president down to the office messenger in a local government council, must be accountable for their actions and policies. They must provide answers for their activities to the general population. Nigerian citizens, including the Okpe, must demand this from all government officials at all levels of the political system. One way of doing this is for members of each electoral constituency to construct a performance measurement framework compelling respective government officials to provide answers for their activities and policies.

 

Transparency: Simply put, transparency is the easy and unrestricted access of government information by the population. It is vital that ministers/commissioners and bureaucrats ensure the unedited dissemination of such information as demanded by the citizens, excluding information pertaining to Nigeria’s national security. All governments in Nigeria must be compelled to adhere to the tenets of transparency in their decision-making process as well as limiting the chances of government officials engaging in corrupt practices.

 

Participation: This is a very important component of the elements of governance. It is imperative that citizens, including the Okpe, participate at all levels of their government’s decision-making process, not as sycophants but as critical thinkers. It should be emphasized that their participation does not end with merely casting their votes on Election Day. For effective participation in public policy, it is essential for Okpe nationals and fellow Nigerians to organize themselves into credible interest groups that constantly review government policies, articulate the positions of the respective constituencies, and engage elected officials in public debates regarding the rationale and impact of their policies and programmes on the society.

 

Predictability: A democratic polity is governed by laws and regulations anchored on the Constitution of the country. This is not different in Nigeria. Therefore, it is imperative that the application of these laws and regulations be fair and consistent, and thus predictable, within the boundaries of the Constitution. Any arbitrary application of the laws and regulations would vitiate the Constitution and inhibit good governance. A critical element of this is the recognition of the principles of jurisdictional responsibilities, especially in a federal polity like Nigeria.

 

The above elements presuppose an educated, politically conscious, enlightened and an actively proactive population, where sycophancy is reduced to the barest minimum. In a polity where the citizenry is ill equipped to engage in any of the above, it is a certainty that the rudiments of good governance will readily be compromised by the government of the day. This situation buttresses the view that a society gets the government that it deserves.

 

Challenges of Development in Okpe Nation: In his address to representatives of the Sapele Memories and Development Foundation at his Palace in Orerokpe on April 26, 2024, His Royal Majesty, Orhue l, Orodje of Okpe faulted the role of “successive governments” in the decay of Sapele and the Okpe Nation. (See, Ediri Oyibo, “Orodje Okpe welcomes move to restore Sapele’s lost glory”, Orodje Okpe welcomes move to restore Sapele’s lost glory (thenewsguru.com), April 26, 2024.) Given the thrust of HRM’s criticism of government policy vis-à-vis the situation in Sapele and Okpe Nation, it is important to quote the relevant segments of Orodje’s statement. He declared: “Successive governments have never been fair to Sapele. That is the truth.”

 

Speaking further, the Orodje of Okpe could not conceal his frustration as he lamented: “One thing that is very painful to me is the Sapele Technical College. The college had the same status with Kaduna Technical College, Yaba Technical College, Ibadan Technical College and Enugu Technical College. They are all of the same status at the same time. But all the other ones, it is either they are now universities or polytechnics. Sapele Technical College is now like a secondary school. If the college was a university or at worse a polytechnic by now, the situation of Sapele would have been different.”

 

While we share the Orodje’s lamentation on the neglect of Sapele and Okpe Nation by “successive governments”, we situate the problem more in the failure of Okpe elected/appointed political and traditional leaders for the stunted growth and development in Okpe Nation. These leaders played and continue to play pivotal role in the electoral “victories” of the governing parties: the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at the federal level from 1999 – 2025; the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the federal level since 2015; and the PDP at State and Local government levels since 1999, with Okpe indigenes representing Okpe Nation in the Senate and the House of Representatives, at different occasions, and holding key ministerial portfolios in the Delta State Government, for example, Agriculture, Education, Works, and Speaker of the State House of Assembly, etc. Collectively, they failed to use their positions in government to impact positively on the growth and development of the Okpe Nation, as evidenced in the dilapidating state of public education institutions and the roads, and the absence of industries in Okpe Nation, compared to, for instance, the Isoko Nation. What was the role of Okpe leaders on the (then) proposed establishment of a university at Degheli? What positive impact have the two local government councils in Okpe Nation (the Okpe LGC and the Sapele LGC) had on the socio-economic development in Okpeland since 1999?How much does the Delta State Government receive quarterly from the Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) and its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR)? How much of these are allocated to, for example, the ministries of Agriculture, Education, Works, etc? How much monthly or quarterly is allocated to each local government council in the State from the actual amount received from the FAAC? These Okpe political and traditional leaders play critical role in the “successive governments” that have contributed to the under-development and impoverishment of the Okpe Nation. If we are unable to interrogate Okpe political and traditional leaders on their poor stewardship impacting on Okpe Nation, then we lack the moral justification to interrogate non-Okpe political leaders on the stewardship of their respective portfolios impacting on Okpe Nation. A people get the government that they deserve.

 

Attracting and Retaining Investors in Okpe Nation: In his celebrated book titled Politics: Who Gets What, When, How, published in 1936, Harold Lasswell opined that politics is a process engaged by elected officials to determine “who gets what, when, where and how”. This formulation subsequently influenced the widely held notion of politics as a contest for power for the distribution of resources in the polity. Thus, politics is a process of resolving societal conflicts that arise when determining who gets what, when and how. In short, politics is an ideological struggle for power for the acquisition and distribution of resources. Access to power determines the distribution of these resources to particular constituencies in a polity.

 

If restructuring is to be pursued logically in Nigeria, then the current power equilibrium must be addressed equitably. From the perspective of the Okpe Nation and the Niger Delta region, the concentration of seaports around Lagos grants overwhelming power to the Yoruba and the entire South West region of Nigeria. Sapele seaport, a natural seaport, which was second to Lagos before the military coup of January 15, 1966, has been completely abandoned, while Calabar, Koko, Port Harcourt, and Warri seaports have been left to rot, and severely underutilized. Regarding the abandoned Sapele seaport, HRM Orhue l, Orodje of Okpe expressed the views of Okpe and fellow Niger Deltans when he declared: “Meanwhile, there is politics about ports in Nigeria. It is as if there is a deliberate policy to make sure that ports in the Niger Delta are not functional. You want to import something to Warri; you have to go through Lagos. It was a deliberate act.”

 

(See Ediri Oyibo, “Orodje Okpe welcomes move to restore Sapele’s lost glory”, Orodje Okpe welcomes move to restore Sapele’s lost glory (thenewsguru.com), April 26, 2024.)

While political leaders of the Yoruba Nation have used their access to power to monopolize the concentration of seaports in their region, it must be stressed that this monopoly has caused a grave disequilibrium in access to power on the distribution of seaports in the Niger Delta region, including the Sapele seaport. It makes no sense to concentrate Nigeria’s import-export business in only the Lagos seaports. For example, it is baffling that imports from Asian countries are directed to Lagos ports, when Calabar, Port Harcourt, Sapele, and Warri seaports are closer to Asia than Lagos. This phenomenon clearly demonstrates an over balance of power problematic which we need to address in Nigeria, if restructuring is to be taken seriously.

 

It must be acknowledged that, since the establishment of Delta State in 1991, Okpe political leaders have performed very poorly in attracting businesses to Okpe Nation. Their access to power has not led to infrastructural development in Okpe Nation, compared to, for example, the achievements of Isoko political leaders in Isoko Nation. In fact, the Isoko Nation has debunked the argument that you need a governor of your ethnic nationality to develop your region. The Isoko political and traditional leaders conscientiously utilize their access to power to benefit their constituencies while, sadly, their Okpe counterparts are primarily concerned about their respective pockets.

 

Okpe Union shall continue its advocacy of investments in Okpe Nation, including reaching out to the Delta State Government on this important subject. We shall intensify our lobbying of both the Federal and State governments to ensure the revival of Sapele seaport and the attraction of industries to Okpe Nation. We shall utilize the extensive experience of Okpe nationals, especially those in the Diaspora, to identify prospective investors to invest in Okpe Nation, under the framework of a public-private partnership (PPP). To help this process, the state government must improve the infrastructural deficits in Delta State, especially in Okpe Nation, to make the environment attractive to foreign and domestic investors. An environment where an investor has to provide electricity, water, and good roads is hardly conducive for economic growth and development.

 

In Lieu of a Conclusion Okpe Union will continue to play a catalytic role to instill positive change in Okpe Nation, by liaising with other Okpe organizations on the strategies for development.

 

The fragility of the Nigerian state is aggravated by the insecurity in the country. We call on the federal government to take immediate actions to evacuate Fulani herdsmen, bandits and terrorists from the territories of the indigenous ethnic nationalities across Nigeria. While we advocate for the unity of Nigeria, we strongly believe that the unity can only be strengthened if it is anchored on the principles of justice, fairness and equity, serving the interests of the indigenous ethnic nationalities in the country.

 

We are facing an existential crisis in Nigeria. A resolution of this crisis requires inputs from all indigenous ethnic nationalities at a round table conference, if the National Assembly proves incapable of producing a renewed federalism of the 1963 variant. If not properly handled, the current crisis can lead to unwanted confrontations between ethnic nationalities with severe consequences for Nigeria. It is on record that the Hausas have given the Fulanis an ultimatum to vacate their territories.

 

We, Okpe, have no secessionist intentions. But, we recognize that the Nigerian edifice is cracked and hemorrhaging. We are committed to working with other ethnic nationalities in restructuring the Nigerian edifice to guarantee the safety of all indigenous ethnic nationalities, on the basis of justice, fairness and equity, where our rights are recognized and protected under a renewed federal constitution. However, if by omission or commission, the Nigerian edifice disintegrates, we pray it is via the velvet model of Czechoslovakia and not via the Yugoslav variant.

 

God bless Nigeria.

God bless Delta State.

God bless Okpe Nation.

God bless Okpe Union.

God bless the Orodje of Okpe.

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