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Nigeria’s Underdevelopment, Ultimate Realities and Meaning

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By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

Evidence abounds that prior to the present decade, Nigeria and Nigerians paid little attention to what constitutes sustainable development. Such conversation, however, gained prominence in the country via the United Nations introduction, adoption and pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which lasted between the years 2000 and 2015. And was among other intentions aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger as well as achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improve maternal health among others.

Without going into specific concepts or approaches contained in the performance index of the programme, it is evident that the majority of the countries including Nigeria performed below average.

And it was this reality and other related concerns that conjoined to bring about 2030 sustainable agenda- a United Nation initiative and successor programme to the MDGs, with a collection of 17 global goals formulated among other aims to promote and cater for people, peace, planet, and poverty.  And has at its centre; partnership and collaboration, ecosystem thinking, co-creation and alignment of various intervention efforts by the public and private sectors and civil society.

Nigeria as noted in a recent intervention is plagued with development challenges. But of all, this piece will focus on, and discuss in detail a little known, yet most pernicious of these challenges called promotion of segregation by the nation’s political leaders. It daily fractures the nation’s geography into polarized ethnosyncrasies and idiosyncrasies.

Understandably also, some supporters of those in governments have at different times and places argued that the aggregation of members of a society in categories and groups based on superiority and inferiority in terms of specific criteria is a natural order of things.

To others, members of a society are never equal but fit into various layers called strata and the process of categorization and the way in which members of each stratum relate to one another is described as social stratification.

To the rest, even in societies that claim to be classless, there have always been some forms of hierarchical systems in the governance of the state, in the administration of industries and other social institutions like the church, school and even the home. Classless, non-hierarchical societies are largely the mental constructs of philosophers, the dream of museum-bound political prophets and the visions of religious idealists or the promise of the demagogues, they concluded.

It is true to some extent that across the globe, wherever leadership and followership are identified; there may be a kind of class differentiation, however, if what happens in other nations is considered a challenge, that of Nigeria qualifies as a crisis.

Here, because leadership is a product of bitter, relentless struggle/politics, they (leaders) are utterly merciless and ruthless without human feeling. They are reputed for using the opportunities, laws and public policies that flow from the position of authority they occupy to stack the political and socioeconomic decks against the poor and the disadvantaged.

A similar strategy is employed to perpetuate poverty, create division, promote powerlessness and other harsh principles that exacerbates the visible gully of segregation between the leaders and the led, the haves and the have- nots. Tragically unique is that their slanted policies ‘traps the poorest in the most desperate poverty as corrupt governments siphon off funds and prevent hard-working people from getting the revenues and benefits of growth that are rightfully theirs’

Regardless of what others may say, the truth is that any law that uplifts human personality is just. But ‘any law that degrades human personality is unjust. And all segregation statutes are unjust because ‘segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority, and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the great Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes an “I-it” relationship for the “I-thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. So segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound but it is morally wrong and sinful.

Making Nigeria’s case a reality to worry about is that it runs contrary to the detects, spirit and provisions of the nation’s 1999 Constitution (as amended) which provides for the rule of law-a provision that not only made the nation’s constitution “our king” but preaches equality of all Nigerians before the law.

Instances of such gradual and silent encroachment on, and outright abridgements of the masses’ welfare in ways that left them (Nigerians) wonder in dilemma by the President Buhari led Federal Government includes but not limited to; the electricity and petrol price hikes crisis which are inextricably linked both in their causes and solutions. The piece also remembers with nostalgia the Federal Government slanted attempts to increase Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5 to 7.5 per cent, re-introduction of Stamp Duty Charge, re-introduction of Stamp Duty on house rents and C of O transactions etc.

Away from the Executive arm, to the 9th National Assembly, the list of such anti-people decisions is endless.

Take as an illustration, in 2019, while Nigerians were still waiting for the commencement of governance, the leadership of the National Assembly began moves to procure operational vehicles for the lawmakers that make up its dual legislative chambers. Essentially, while there was no question that high-offices such as the National Assembly need operational vehicles to facilitate their responsibilities,  the stunning aspect of this episode going by reports is with the estimated current price of the chosen vehicle now N50 million. And the Senate needed about N5.550 billion to get enough quantity for its members.

What is in one considerably different is the question; how can a nation spend over N5 billion on such a project in a country with slow economic but high population growth? Where excruciating poverty and starvation daily drives more people into the ranks of beggars? And where so many children are presently out of school?

As if Nigerians were never tired of receiving frightening packages from the 9th Assembly, at about the same time the world leaders were standing up with sets of values that encourage listening and responding constructively to views expressed by citizens, giving others the benefits of the doubt, providing support and recognizing the interests and achievements of its citizens, the  Senate came out with two Bills that critical minds and of course the global community qualified as obnoxious-the Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, and the hate speech bill.

At the most basic level, the Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019, sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa,(APC Niger East), among other provisions, seeks to curtail the spread of fake information. And seeks a three-year jail term for anyone involved in what it calls the abuse of social media or an option of a fine of N150, 000 or both. It also proposed a fine of N10 million for media houses involved in peddling falsehood or misleading the public.

The hate speech bill, on its part, proposed that any person found guilty of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person shall die by hanging upon conviction. This is in addition to its call for the establishment of an ‘Independent National Commission for Hate Speeches’, which shall enforce hate speech laws across the country.

The above defect is by no means unique to the Senate. In fact, if what is happening in the Senate is considered by Nigerians as a challenge, that of the House of Representatives is a crisis. Take, as an illustration, a glance at the history of attempts seeking regulation of non-profitable organizations (NPOs) in Nigeria will reveal that no bill has ever received the level of knocks like the 9th Assembly planned but now suspended re-introduction of the NGO Bill formerly sponsored by late Umar Buba Jibril of the out-gone 8th Assembly.

The reasons for such knocks were built on the fact that if passed, it contains far-reaching, restrictive provisions than its counterparts. But one point they(House) failed to remember is that Non-Profitable Organizations are not just another platform for disseminating the truth or falsehood, information, foodstuff and other relief materials that can be controlled at will.

Rather, it is a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas; in the same way, that government is a decentralized body for the promotion and protection of the people’s life chances. It is a platform, in other words, for development that the government must partner with instead of vilification.

Looking at commentary, what also made the Bill a very controversial one lies in its quest for a regulatory commission established which shall facilitate and coordinate the work of all national and international civil society organizations and will assist in checking any likelihood of any civil society organization being illegally sponsored against the interest of Nigeria.

Weeks after the suspension of the Bill due to public outcry, the House in a related move declined the opportunity to promote local content- an expression that is daily preached within the government circle without compliance.

As the house refused to patronize the locally assembled vehicles by Innoson Group, said to have been recommended for them; and in its place, opt for the 2020 edition of Toyota Camry which will not only double the price of the initially recommended but, will cost a whooping N5 billion to purchase 400 of the Toyota Camry model needed by the house.

Essentially, aside from the rejection of Innoson brand of SUV’s initially recommended for members, and in its place, went for 2020 edition of Toyota Camry, that will gulp about N5billion of taxpayers money, what, however, made the development newsy is that the house going by the report has before now been at the forefront promoting the local content laws in the country. Of course, one strategic implication of the above is that it explains why what is today said at the floor of the national assembly hardly matters that much more to the people.

In the same vein, the House a few weeks after, through Honourable Odebumi Olusegun, of Ogo-Oluwa/Surulere federal constituency (APC, Oyo), pushed for the passage of a bill tagged; “Bill for an Act to Alter Section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended), which provides that: “no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against the President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors during their period of office.” And have the same provision extended to accommodate/cover Presiding Officers of Legislative officers during their period of office.”  This and many other worrying developments from the current 9th Assembly in the last year is in my view not the best way to legislate for the poor.

No nation, I insist, can develop under this circle of segregation called leadership.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and can be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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International Youth Day 2022 and Nigerian Youth Ordeals

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International Youth Day

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

Friday, August 12, 2022, is a very important date in the global calendar. It is a day that the global community sets aside to celebrate this year’s International Youth Day. The important purpose of this annual celebration, going to information from the United Nations (UN), is to among other things raise voices against any injustice or discrimination happening in the world against the youth. Again, going by available records, International Youth Day was recognized by the United Nations when they passed a resolution towards creating it in 1999 at the United Nations General Assembly. This day came into existence with the recommendation of the World Conference of Ministers and they are responsible for 12th August being declared as International Youth Day.

Essentially, there was a need for this day because a very large amount of youth in the world are struggling with issues related to physical or mental health, education and employment and thus all these issues need to be addressed. When the government or society does not focus on the proper development of the youth, they tend to become rebellious and many times they can opt for the choices which are neither good for their development nor for their country.

Certainly, the global community uses workshops, concerts, conferences, cultural events, seminars and meetings involving national and local government officials and youth organizations to celebrate the day while recognizing the contributions of young people and volunteers who are working towards the betterment of the society and are raising important issues that need more attention of the society, there are, however, painful signs that the situation back here in the country says instead of celebrating, the average Nigerian youth is currently in a state of frustration.

From commentaries, the frustration of these young victims of our nation’s socioeconomic challenge was not only fuelled by the gap between the extravagant promises made in the past by the government without fulfilment but predicated on the ills that flow from bad leadership which daily manifests in the tradition of leading without recourse to transparency and accountability. And as a consequence, ‘stifles development, siphons all scarce resources that could improve infrastructure, bolster education systems and strengthen public health and stack the deck against the poor masses.

To explain this position, a recent report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), reveals that in the second-quarter Q2:2020 unemployment rate among young people (15-34 years old) was 34.9%, up from 29.7%, while the rate of underemployment for the same age group rose to 28.2% from 25.7% in Q3, 2018. These rates were the highest when compared to other age groupings. Nigeria’s youth population eligible to work is about 40 million out of which only 14.7 million are fully employed and another 11.2 million are unemployed.

For a better understanding of where this piece is headed, youth in every society, says a study report, has the potential to stimulate economic growth, social progress and our all-national development. The strategic role of youths in the development of different societies of the world such as Cuba, Libya, China, Russia and Israel is obvious.

Youth unemployment is potentially dangerous as it sends a signal to all segments of Nigerian society. Here in Nigeria, the rate of youth unemployment is high, even during the period of economic normalcy i.e. the oil boom of the 1970s (6.2%); 1980s (9.8%) and 1990s (11.5%). Youth unemployment, therefore, is not a recent phenomenon. But if what happened in the 1980s/90s was a challenge of sorts, what is happening presently, going by the latest report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), is a challenge. This and many other concerns have expectedly caused divided opinion and a proliferation of solutions.

From the above, it is obvious that ‘we are in a dire state of strait because unemployment has diverse implications. Security-wise, the large unemployed youth population is a threat to the security of the few that are employed. Any transformation agenda that does not have job creation at the centre of its programme will take us nowhere.’

From unemployment challenges to the poor education sector, it is accurately documented that many Nigerian children are out of school not because they are not willing to be educated but because the cost of education is beyond the reach of their parents. The public schools are short of teachers with dilapidated buildings. Private schools on the other hand where the environment is conducive to learning are cost-intensive and out of reach of so many students and their parents.

In like manner, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike since February 14, 2022. The group embarked on such industrial action to protest the government’s inability to implement their demands on salaries and allowances of lecturers, and improved funding for universities.

The implication is that for the past six months and counting, these youths have been idling away at home and the Federal Government has not considered the damage such failures impose on this future strength of the nation that their generation will provide the next leaders.

Now, looking at the above painful account, and considering the fact that the nation Nigeria races to the 2023 general election, the question(s) may be asked; how far can the youth go in a nation where tribal loyalty is stronger than our common sense of nationhood?  Can the youth effectively guard their courage? How far can the youths go as change agents in a country where excruciating poverty and starvation continue to drive more people into the ranks of beggars, whose desperate struggle for bread renders them insensible to all feelings of decency and self-respect? Or in a society where the majority of the youths can easily be induced to work across purpose and in a political space where a high density of the youth’s population resides in various villages with no access to information or livelihood? Can they truly create any impact? Or remain united for a very long time.

While the answer(s) to these questions is being awaited, the truth must be told to the effect that to make this year’s world youth day rewarding as well as change this trend, and achieve the objective of engaging youth in formal political mechanisms, increase the fairness of political processes by reducing democratic deficits, contributes to better and more sustainable policies which have symbolic importance that can further contribute to restoring trust in public institutions, especially among youth, there are inescapable actions that the youths must take, there are steps/action plans that Nigerian youths must execute.

Separate from constructively and sustainably engaging the Federal Government, It will not in any way be described as out of place if the youths harness their population advantage and their demographic dividends to form a formidable opposition that holds the government accountable or better still seek political offices come 2023 general election.

Supporting this position is Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution adopted from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN, 1948) which gives everyone the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The youth must also access the power of the press as Section 22 stipulates that “the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall, at all times, be free to upload the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter [Chapter IV: Fundamental Rights] and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people”, which has been emboldened by the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.

It is important that Nigerian youths continue to speak up against violations of human rights, suppression of free speech and freedom of the press. Unlike their elders, youths must not initiate, encourage or spread false, mischievous or divisive information capable, or with outright intent, of misleading the populace and disrupting societal harmony and peace. Within the ambience of the law, they must speak up with facts against any wrongdoing or oppression by the government or fellow citizens capable of endangering sustainable democracy and the effective delivery of good governance.

They (youths) should view as evil the argument by political deconstructionists that Nigerian youths must face difficulties as there is no nation where each has his/her own job and house, and where all children receive as much education as their minds can absorb. This claim is not only ‘rationally inexplicable but morally unjustifiable. It is a fact that government lacks the capacity to fix socioeconomic challenges alone. But any government with goodwill and sincerity to save and serve the people must develop creative and innovative channels to promote sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development, environmental protection and job creation.

Also, Nigerians are in agreement that the law is the supreme instrument of the state which must be respected and no one is above the law. This particular fact, if well understood, will assist the youths to comprehend that as citizens, they are constitutionally eligible to vote and be voted for.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). He can be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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Design Mistakes That Make Your House Look Cluttered

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SweepSouth design mistakes

We’d all love our homes to have an inviting, well-put-together look, but there are a few common design mistakes that make a room feel messy and cluttered. Clearing clutter away seems an obvious first step towards a more polished look, but there are other simple decorating tricks that will bring order to your space, making it more open, organised and tidy.

Not having a dedicated drop zone

We all have that spot in our homes where we put our keys, and our bags, take off our shoes or just drop random things. It’s usually close to the front door or wherever you enter your house from. It’s where you unburden yourself of everything that’s in your hands when you get home. This space can, however, end up being a mess and it makes your house look untidy.

To combat this, allocate the most convenient space to be a drop zone, and put out storage baskets for items such as shoes. Add a table if there’s space and place pretty little containers on top of the table to hold keys, wallets and even letters.

No cable management 

Everyone is guilty of having little to no cable management in certain parts of their home, especially in the living room where there are lots of electronics. Cable management isn’t the most fun thing to do in the world, but if they’re left open and exposed, they can be a massive eyesore.

Cables can be hidden in a number of ways, such as running them along the wall at floor level or through the ceiling or cupboards to keep them out of sight, but it requires expert knowledge to do so and can require extending cables and drilling holes.

Using oversized furniture 

Nothing cramps up a space more than furniture that’s too big. You might want that great coffee table, but the truth is that it’s too big. And if you insist on it, it’s just going to make your home look overcrowded and uncomfortable.

If you already have the furniture, consider selling it online and using the money from that to purchase items that fit the room you need it for. Take measurements before you shop so that you don’t end up buying the incorrect size. Crowding a room with too many bits of furniture can also make it feel disorganised. Cut down on the amount needed by using multi-functional furniture, such as sturdy pouffes that can be used both for seating and as side tables, coffee tables with storage for cables and TV remotes, and mirrors with shelving attached to them.

Keep it fresh

“Unmade beds, dull floors, and a generally dirty space all contribute to making a house look disorganised. Get into a habit of tidying up your space. If you have family living with you, teaching them to clean up after themselves helps. Even better, save yourself time and stress by hiring a vetted, reliable, excellent and affordable cleaner to thoroughly clean your home on a weekly basis,” advises Awazi Angbalaga, Country Manager for a home-cleaning tech company, SweepSouth.

“A home that feels fresh and smells wonderful can instantly improve your mood and mental health, whereas a house with dirty carpets and unattended old furniture usually holds stale, musty odours that feel stifling. You might not even notice it because you’ve lived in the same space for so long but be aware of the way your home feels and smells the moment you step into it after having been outside in the fresh air,” she says. “your rooms can do with a good routine freshening up that includes dusting them from top to bottom, thoroughly cleaning the floors, opening up the windows and washing up dirty bedding. The good thing is that SweepSouth always has the right SweepStar to do the job on your behalf”

If you can’t throw out old furniture or carpets, try these clever tips from the SweepStars who clean Nigerian homes every week through SweepSouth’s service, to banish smells:

  • Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda on carpets and couches, let it rest for an hour, then vacuum up every trace of powder

  • Put a ball of cotton wool that’s been dipped into a fresh-smelling essential oil, like lemon or eucalyptus, into the vacuum bag for a fresh smell every time you vacuum

  • Clean hardwood furniture with a polish made from two parts olive oil with one part lemon juice and use a soft cloth to rub it into the wood. You could also use almond oil with a few drops of lemon essential oil sprinkled in, dabbing a bit of the mixture onto a cloth, then rubbing gently into wooden surfaces

Overfilling open shelving 

Open shelving is all the rage, and it looks lovely – when done right. It’s a common mistake to fill open shelves with books, picture frames and all the other objects you can’t find a home for, but this type of storage actually works best when it’s not overcrowded.

Resist the temptation to fill every inch of shelving, and rather space things out. Edit down what you’d like to display and leave open space between some of the items. Put your favourite decor items out, but bear in mind that too many decorative pieces will make it look cluttered.

The same rule applies when you’re styling a coffee or dining room tabletop. Give careful thought to what is visible in the room, especially if it’s a small space. Display only what you love, and make sure not to overfill the table. Group small items together in a shallow bowl or on a tray so that the arrangement stays tidy and keeps small objects from looking lost by elevating them on a stack of two or three books.

Not using vertical space

If you’ve ever mounted your TV on the wall, you will know how much of a difference it makes to space to not have your TV sitting on the cabinet or table. Making use of wall space – vertical space – isn’t good just for small areas, it frees up every room in the house. Put up shelves or hang things from your ceiling to get them off your countertops and floors.

For example, use wall-mounted shelves to arrange books and get rid of the bookshelf taking up some much-needed floor space. Using vertical space makes a huge difference in almost any room.

Keep these tips in mind when you’re decorating your space and your home will feel like a clutter-free oasis.

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Redefining the Role of UPU for the Urhobo People

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Mike Owhoko May Nigeria Never 9th National Assembly

By Michael Owhoko, PhD

The Urhobo is among the first 10 major ethnic groups and the fifth largest in Nigeria, yet, its initial capacity to command considerable influence in the Nigerian polity was weakened by the lack of brotherliness, unity and trust among its people, unarguably, owing to the multiplicity of dialects, as depicted in the 24 kingdoms that make up the nationality.

In an attempt to eliminate this deficit, prevent disunity-induced regression, and raise sustained awareness for unity and trust across the divide, the founding Urhobo leaders came up with a philosophical slogan of Urhobo Ovuovo.

Specifically, the concept of Urhobo Ovuovo was informed by the need to foster unity as a strategy for driving the collective interests and aspirations of the Urhobo people, particularly within the Nigerian space. The concept, which simply means, Urhobo is one, became the major thrust of the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), formerly Urhobo Brotherly Society at its formation, in 1931.

Its founding leaders recognized clearly from the outset that without unity among a people, unison and progress might be hampered, prompting them to identify and highlight the dangers of disunity to peace, growth and development in pursuit of the Urhobo vision.

On the strength of this, the leadership of UPU led by Chiefs Omorohwovo Okoro, Mukoro Mowoe and Thomas Erukeme made unity a catalyst and driver in their quest for progress in Urhobo land, as aptly captured in the union’s motto: Unity is Strength.

This was also reflected in the Aims and Objectives of the union’s Constitution, namely: “To foster the spirit of love, mutual understanding and brotherhood among Urhobo people.”  Since then, unity has remained one of the guiding principles in the decision-making process at UPU.

All free-born of Urhobo, irrespective of place of birth and location, are automatic members of UPU. Branches of UPU exist in all corners of the globe, particularly in countries with a significant presence of Urhobos. From Europe to the United Kingdom, Australia, and from America to Asia and the Middle East, UPU is active. All positions held by UPU executives are held in trust for all Urhobos.

Thus, it came as a surprise to many sons and daughters of Urhobo ancestry about the alleged decision of the current national executive of UPU led by Chief Moses Taiga to endorse a particular candidate for the 2023 governorship election in Delta State. Regrettably, up till this moment, the executive is yet to deny the allegation. However, since silence means consent, it is assumed to be true, at least, for now.

By this position, the leadership of UPU is unwittingly laying a foundation for potential cracks in the body of the oldest socio-cultural organization in Nigeria. The endorsement negates and runs contrary to the vision of the founding fathers, as it is not only a recipe for disunity in Urhobo land but capable of encouraging the emergence of parallel bodies or equivalent associations.

The UPU could be likened to a father with members as children. Like children in a family, it is absurd for a father to overtly demonstrate preference or declare support or identify or show love for one over the others. This can permanently put a division in such a family.

Since all gubernatorial contenders in the 2023 general election in Delta State are of Urhobo descent, it was needless for the UPU to have expressed a preference for one candidate over the others, more so, when the outcome will ultimately produce an Urhobo son as a winner. Therefore, in line with the spirit of unity and progress for the Urhobo nation, UPU should have invited all candidates for a counselling meeting premised on peaceful electioneering conduct devoid of violence.

If it was a contest involving Urhobo sons and other ethnic groups, then UPU was obligatory to back its own, as demonstrated by the support given to Chief Daniel Okumagba when he contested as the governorship candidate of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in 1979. UPU also extended similar backing to Chief Felix Ibru when he ran for the same office under the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1993.

It is, therefore, imperative for the national executives of the union to strive at all times not to deviate from the objective of UPU, but focus on issues that can deepen unity and progress in Urhobo land, particularly within the context of emerging challenges.

It must draw from the experience of the founding fathers, who at the time, were confronted with daunting challenges, but overcame them through sheer vision and action plans as they did with the establishment of Urhobo College in 1948 when UPU identified education as a major tool for boosting opportunities and aspirations. This also led to the sponsorship of Messrs Gabriel Ejaife and Ezekiel Igho to universities abroad during the intervening period.

Besides, Urhobo territories straddling other ethnic neighbours that were facing expropriation threats were all reclaimed and regrouped within Urhobo geographical boundaries. Some of these cases involved litigation and these were won and recovered with the support of UPU. There was no true son and daughter of Urhobo who was not proud of these accomplished milestones then.

Even the translation of the Holy Bible into the Urhobo language was part of efforts to advance and strengthen Urhobo unity, which became a source of pride, as it went a long way in defining the Urhobo personality.

The Urhobo nation cannot be insulated from current dynamics and challenges in Nigeria.  UPU must therefore be proactive and respond to these vulnerabilities, particularly those that can potentially hinder development in Urhobo land.

Insecurity is currently a threat.  Fulani herdsmen have become a menace in Urhobo forests and savannas, stalling farming business and creating fear across the land through criminal activities. This is also responsible for the reluctance of Urhobos to come home to invest.  While efforts by UPU in this regard must be acknowledged, it should take further steps through concrete action plans to nip this criminality in the bud.  Urhobo Security Network (USN) and other surveillance groups should be strengthened and equipped to provide intelligence and sundry activities.

Urhobo wealth is outside Urhobo land, partly because of deve (development fees).  UPU should discourage youth from harassing and collecting these levies from potential investors and developers. Monarchs collaborating with youth in this shameful act should be sanctioned. If five per cent of Urhobo wealth can be attracted home for investment, jobs will be available for youth.

Also, UPU should constitute Economic Advisory Council to hold Urhobo Economic Summit annually aimed at identifying opportunities that will promote empowerment and stimulate development in Urhobo land.

The future is science and technology.  While the proposed Mukoro Mowoe University is commendable, it should be STEM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  Currently, there is under-admission of Urhobo sons and daughters to Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) and Federal University of Petroleum Resources (FUPRE).  UPU should sensitize and encourage all secondary schools in Urhobo land to predominantly pattern their syllabus after science to enable them to take advantage of these opportunities.

Also, there is a dearth of qualified artisans in Urhobo land.  UPU should establish technical schools similar to the former Sapele Technical College or Atamakolomi Trade School, where Urhobo youth can acquire vocational skills in carpentry, electricals, automobile engineering, welding, bricklaying, tiling, painting, tailoring, and other artistry works.

Of note is the Urhobo Historical Society (UHS) which was set up to study, research and document Urhobo history and culture, just as the Urhobo Studies Association (USA) was established to promote scholarships pertaining to Urhobo language, literature and culture.  UPU should support these institutions, particularly the USA to drive the study of Urhobo language and literature in universities up to the doctorate level.

Urhobo and her immediate neighbours have common socio-economic challenges and aspirations but are unable to work in unison for this purpose due to the trust gap engendered by domination fear.  This was one of the reasons the Itsekiri opposed the creation of Delta State from the old Delta Province with Warri as capital.  Rather than demonstrate leadership morality, Ibrahim Babangida took advantage of the confusion to appease his wife and in-laws, obviously due to oil benefits, by merging the Anioma region, which was hitherto under Benin Province, with Delta Province, and also made Asaba, an obviously unsuitable location, as capital.  The Anioma region should have rightly been made part of Edo State, not Delta.  UPU should therefore build bridges across its immediate neighbours to restore confidence.

It is therefore imperative that the current roles of UPU should be redefined within these contexts, to reposition Urhobo for the emerging challenges of this 21st century.

Dr Mike Owhoko, Lagos-based journalist and author, can be reached at www.mikeowhoko.com.

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