Okpe is most short-changed ethnic group in Delta State – Okpe Leaders

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Okpe Leader

... Restate support for distinct ethnic nationality in Nigeria

Notable Okpe leaders on Sunday continued the campaign of Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality in Nigeria.

‘’ The Okpe Union strongly affirms that Okpe is Okpe and not a sub-group or a clan of any other ethnic nationality. The letter of Udogun Okpe is an example of a person cutting his nose to spite his face. The Udogun Okpe letter has brought the Okpe Kingdom to global ridicule’’.

A publication authored by the Udogun-Okpe last week made several spurious statements discrediting the letter of the Okpe Union addressed to the Governor of Delta state, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa on the 22nd of June 2021 requesting for the recognition of Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality.

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But the prominent leaders in Okpe Kingdom on Sunday reaffirmed Okpe Union’s commitment to the agitation for the reinstatement and recognition of Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality.

‘’The NEC received the Udogun Okpe open letter to the Governor with shock, disbelief and regret as such a poorly worded piece, which contained several expressions intended to pit some Okpe nationals against others, is claimed to have emanated from the highest traditional authority of Okpe’’.

In a communiqué of the Okpe Union from the emergency meeting of the national executive council, held on July 15 and 17, 2021, the union vowed to intensify its sensitization activities in Okpe Nation regarding the fact that Okpe is a distinct ethnic nationality as well as the benefits of recognizing Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality.

‘’NEC shall continue its liaison with the Government of His Excellency, Senator Dr. Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa and the Delta State House of Assembly for the restatement and recognition of Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality. The attainment of Okpe Identity is a sacred historical mission of the Okpe Union’’ the leaders stated.

Signed by the Okpe Union President General, Professor Igho Natufe and General Secretary, Barrister Akpederin Kingsley, the union urged the Okpe traditional ruler to reconcile his present position with the position he brilliantly espoused in defence of Okpe Identity in his Keynote Address at the 3rd AGM of the Okpe Union of North America on September 1, 2007, at College Park, MD, USA.

“Your activities have helped tremendously to positively define, sustain and advance the place as well as the interest of Okpe in the comity of Nigerian nationalities’’

The Okpe monarch was quoted as saying that Okpe Kingdom was a unique ethnic nationality.

‘’Located in the central senatorial district of Delta State in Nigeria, Okpe is a unique ethnic nationality. It has distinctive roots in ancient history, tradition, culture, custom and language. The historical tract of the Okpe people is conclusive. The Okpe people are the most populous monolithic ethnic nationality in Delta State. Our people are rooted in migration from the Bini Kingdom. This historical experience is similar to most other ethnic nationalities of the Western Niger Delta. Of all these nationalities however, Okpe history, language, tradition, and culture are closer to those of Bini which form part of the Edo group of languages.”

The Okpe leaders noted that the authors of the Udogun Okpe rejoinder clearly have no understanding of the benefits of recognizing Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality

‘’The Okpe people will immediately occupy their pride of place in the comity of ethnic nationalities in Delta State and Nigeria as the misconception that Okpe is under another ethnicity would be buried forever. As an ethnic nationality that exclusively owns at least two local government areas in Delta State, the Okpe Nation shall immediately be recognized in DESOPADEC and therefore be entitled to an exclusive Commissioner and an Executive Director like our neighbour oil producing ethnicities of Delta State. The advantages of this include direct budget for the area, specific slots for different empowerment programs and policies e.g., bursary awards for Okpe students which they now share with Urhobo students under crass discrimination and many other direct allocations’’. ‘

The Union went further to say that ‘’ the development and teaching of Okpe language in all schools in Okpeland and beyond can generate immediate employment for Okpe language teachers which other fully recognized ethnicities currently benefit’’

The Union enlightened that the ‘’Okpe language will occupy its place in public broadcast be it radio and television as well as interpretation in churches and other public places’’

‘’Okpe music, traditional masters of ceremonies and orators shall flourish thereby generating more local employment. The development of the Okpe language will promote the survival of the language and also enhance literary advantages in the academics of Okpe children as African languages have proven to have an appreciable impact in the arts generally. The self-esteem for Okpe nationals that the recognition of Okpe ethnicity will bring about is unquantifiable. A robust self-esteem is a sine qua non for success in businesses, politics, and several other vocations. Politically, Okpe shall become a recognized bloc which is negotiated with on its own recognition with the cards placed on the table objectively and equitably. The crisis of identity which has been faced by Okpe nationals, who have, since colonial times, rejected the burden of a false identity, will finally be lifted from the shoulders of the Okpe people’’.

The angry Okpe leaders said the Okpe Union was registered to function with an unambiguous constitution

‘’The Okpe Union has the highest respect for the Orodje of Okpe Kingdom. The Okpe Union affirms that the Udogun Okpe is the apex Traditional Council of Okpe Kingdom. The Okpe Union is the apex Socio-cultural organization and membership-based organ of all Okpe, legally registered to so function with an unambiguous constitution. Okpe Union shall continue to execute this function in Okpe Nation across all the 13 Districts. The registered office of the Okpe Union is No. 67 (new No. 65), Moshalashi Street, Ikoyi, Lagos. This secretariat building of the Okpe Union named “Okpe House”, Obalende, Lagos is the property of the Okpe Union and the fact that it is the registered office of the Okpe Union can be verified with the Corporate Affairs Commission. It is true that the Union had in principle agreed to build a befitting headquarters in Okpeland, which is still a work in progress’’.

The Okpe Union leaders declared that ‘’the dissolution decree of October 3, 2020, is a breach of the sacred history of unbroken democratic transition in the Okpe Union in the over 91(ninety-one) years of existence and an unconstitutional action by the Orodje to convert the Okpe Union into an administrative arm of the Palace’’.

‘’The October 3, 2020 purported dissolution of the democratically elected leadership of the Okpe Union and banning of NEC members from contesting elective positions by HRM, Orhue 1, the Orodje of Okpe Kingdom is ultra vires and a violation of the Okpe Union Constitution’’

‘’As a legal entity, the procedure for dissolution or removal of any elected official of the Okpe Union and election of a National Executive Council of the Union is clearly provided for in its constitution. Therefore, any action by any person or group of persons purporting to remove or dissolve the democratically elected Okpe Union leadership outside the provisions of its Constitution is not binding, void and of no effect whatsoever’’.

The union condemned the attempt to return to the deceased concept of the divine rights of kings.

The leaders commended the courage of members of the Okpe Union from branches all over the country whose delegates met in the General Assembly of the Union on the 14th of November 2020 which resolved to reject the 3rd October, 2020 decree by the Orodje and opted for democratic elections.

‘’The Okpe Union recognizes the elected Okpe Union National Executive Council led by Prof. Igho Natufe that emerged during the national elections of the union at the Okpe Union General Assembly of May 15, 2021 and the purported nine man interim regime imposed by the Orodje on October 3, 2020, lacks the authority and legitimacy to speak on behalf of the Okpe Union and the Okpe Nation. It is an illegal entity and a disgrace to democratic practice. It is important to highlight the fact that only two out of the nine persons imposed interim group are members of the Okpe Union. It is therefore a contraption unknown to the Okpe Union’’.

According to the union ‘’The democratically elected leadership of the Okpe Union that emerged at its General Assembly possesses both historical and legitimate rights to speak on behalf of the Okpe Union and the Okpe Nation.

‘’ The capacity of the Okpe Union to speak on behalf of the Okpe people was clearly acknowledged in the open letter to the Governor of Delta State written for Orhue I, Orodje of Okpe and the Udogun Okpe on the 13th of July 2021’’.

The union leaders continued ‘’It is necessary for the Okpe public and friends of the Nation to know that for over six months from the date of the October 3, 2020 Orodje’s decree, the Okpe Union elected leadership had sought mediated ways out of the differences which were all rebuffed by the palace’’.

‘’Since its inception on May 16th, 1930, the Okpe Union played and continues to play critical roles in the growth and development of the Okpe Kingdom. The restoration of the Okpe Monarchy in 1945, after almost 200 years of interregnum, was due primarily to the fearless and selfless agitations and leadership of the Okpe Union. Thus, the Okpe Union birthed the modern Okpe Monarchy. The Okpe Union has been an independent organization from the administrative control of all Orodjes since 1945. This separation of powers has served Okpe Kingdom very well’’.

The leaders affirmed that ‘’the Orodje and the Udogun Okpe are not the ultimate authority to decide the fate of the Okpe people, without consulting the Okpe Agbamua-eni (Okpe People’s Assembly) which comprises the Udogun Okpe, representatives of all Okpe communities, and the Okpe Union’’.

‘’We remind the Orodje of the efforts of the Okpe Union in getting Nigerian post-secondary institutions to recognize Okpe students associations in their respective campuses. We hate to contemplate the difficulties and setbacks the letter of Udogun Okpe of July 13, 2021, is going to cause to our children’’.

The leaders eulogized the founding fathers of the Okpe Union for raising the Okpe Kingdom to an enviable height.

‘’The Okpe Union reaffirms its selfless services to the Okpe people and Okpe Nation as it has done over the decades with some notable successes which include the prosecution of landmark cases to retain the ownership of Sapele and other areas of Okpeland; the sponsorship of several Okpe sons overseas with Okpe Union scholarships, and the launching of the fund-raising process which saw the building of the modern Orodje of Okpe Palace, Orerokpe’’.

The leaders appealed to all members of Okpe Union and Okpe people the world over to be calm and law abiding as the vision of the founding fathers of the Okpe Nation for a stable and constitutionally limited monarchy which serves only the interests of the Okpe Nation shall never be extinguished’’.