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Published On: Thu, Oct 17th, 2019

Agitations For Creation Of Kingdoms In Urhobo Land And Matters Arising

By Young Erhuirhobo
LAGOS OCTOBER 17TH (URHOBOTODAY)-Recently, it was reported in both print and social media over Gbaregolo community seeking for autonomy from Ewu kingdom in Ughelli South LGA of Delta state.
Without beating around the bush, the questions we need to ask ourselves is that, what are the causes for these agitations in these modern times?

We should not equally forget that before Gbaregolos demand, there are many other Urhobo communities that are agitating to become autonomous and independence of their original kingdoms.
It is interesting to note that one of such communities which now a kingdom is Mosogar, that was formerly under Idjerhe kingdom. Mosogar was fully recognized as a kingdom by the Delta state government under Chief James Ibori’s tenure as Governor of Delta State. Coincidentally, C Ibori is Oghara man but yet, he granted autonomy to Mosogar as kingdom.
Though so many Urhobo people and cultural organizations especially the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) vehemently spoke against this break away but however, the deed has been done and it couldn’t be reversed again. At last, Mosogar is today legally and culturally recognized asone of 24 kingdoms in Urhoboland today.
The same Mosogar scenario was about to play out early last year with some communities in Udu kingdom especially Orhuwherun community which attempted to cut away from Udu kingdom to independently be on their own. It was even reported in the papers that the Udu case was in a law court for adjudication. It was not only in Udu kingdom but also in other kingdoms across the Urhobo nation.
Be that as it may, one would be forced to ask, why are all these agitations to create more kingdoms out of the existing parent kingdoms in Urhoboland?
What are actually the causes for these numerous agitations from different communities around Urhobo land?
Will they add to the power base and population figures of Urhobo as an ethnic group in Nigeria if they are created?
Will the Urhobo nation have lesser political power if more kingdoms are created from the existing ones?
What is the legal or cultural process of creating a kingdom in Delta state? These and many more are the questions we shall provide answers to in this short discourse.
However, before providing answers to the aforementioned questions, we should not forget that independence or autonomy is not easy to come by. It’s never placed on the platter of gold as many think. We know how our fathers fought before Nigeria got her Independence in 1960. The story was not different in most African countries. What about kingdoms and empires under traditional government in pre-colonial period in Nigeria? The story is also the same.
We must not forget that almost all the 24 kingdoms in Urhoboland were established or created from other ancient kingdoms as a result of internal unrest, banishment for capital offences or hunger and outbreak of foreign diseases. This made our forebears or ancestors to migrate from their original abodes to the present location.
For instance, historical records revealed that majority of Urhobo forebears migrated from Benin Empire through land and water to establish all the present kingdoms in Urhoboland.
According to history, the major migrations took place during the reign of the Ogisos in Benin Empire. Even after the harsh reign of the Ogiso dynasty, many of our monarchs were still obliged to pay allegiance, loyalty and homage to the sitting Oba every time.
The point I want to make here is that, it’s never easy to obtain autonomy and Independence without rancour and crisis. This is because the parent kingdom won’t let go easily because of the honour and respect they usually assume from their leadership and authority. But if it’s so difficult to achieve autonomy and Independence from parent kingdom as our people are taking it today, then it means no Urhobo kingdom would claim to be kingdom since our origin and ancestry are tied or traced to the ancient Benin kingdom. Urhobo traditional rulers and political leaders should be aware that the process of achieving autonomy and independence today or moving from the traditional status of a community to that of a kingdom rests more on both political and legal processes than on the ancient practice of following traditional processes. Mosogar kingdom is a living example of this modern process and practice in Urhoboland.

There are many causes why different communities agitate for autonomy and independence in Urhoboland in modern times. Let’s look at some of them now.
Firstly, the major causes for these numerous agitations are not far-fetched. In one of my featured articles published recently, I talked extensively on the issue. One of such causes is political marginalization of these communities by the parent kingdom. Political marginalization where almost everything especially projects and positions in a kingdom are concentrated in the ancestral headquarters or in few hands is very much pronounced in Urhobo nation. This is done in detriment to the adjoining communities. The traditional and the political leaders have quickly forgotten that they are being referred to as kingdoms because of the adjoining communities. I also mentioned it in another article titled, “Ten Prerequisites For Creating A Kingdom In Urhobo land”, that a kingdom can be created where there is a conglomerate of different communities. We should not forget that only one finger cannot remove a louse from the head. It’s a combination of different communities that form a kingdom.
Secondly, we also have traditional marginalization. In many kingdoms across the Urhobo nation, their traditional stools are not hereditary. In most cases, they are rotational among ruling houses or royal families in the kingdom. In the same way, we have found that such traditional leadership positions are also concentrated in the ancestral headquarters. In this case, the other communities feel oppressed in their own inheritance. This has led to various crises and litigations in many kingdoms. For instance, the present issue of the right occupant to the royal throne of the Okere-Urhobo kingdom. That kingdom is at the keg of crisis as we write. The leaders have written petitions and counter petitions against one another to the police station. We must know that there is no way you can forcefully eat the food that belongs to many and you will have peace of mind. In fact, key traditional leadership positions should be spread around all the communities as traditions demand.
Thirdly, the issue of distance between the ancestral headquarters and the adjoining communities matters in this case. I also sited this in the article quoted above as one of the prerequisites in creating kingdom from old or parent ones. In fact, the issue of distance is very important. For instance, it’s not ideal to group Ofoni community in Sagbama LGA of Bayelsa state under Ughelli Kingdom; even though Ughelli kingdom is their parent kingdom. The distance in this case is just too far. The same way with Odorubu in Patani LGA and Uduophori in Bomadi LGA. In this case, the distance between Gbaregolo community and Ewu kingdom is too far.
Lastly, we want to look at government undue intervention. What we mean by government undue intervention here is the actions and inactions of using government to fight an unjust cause by our leaders in the seat of government. In this case, communities that have range of people around government circles always use such advantages and opportunities against other communities that are not so opportuned, even though they belong to the same kingdom. When such oppressive motives are so much felt by the other communities, they may be forced to seek autonomy. A very good example is the case of Oghara and Mosogar.

More importantly, before we should pass blame on communities seeking autonomy from their parent kingdom, we should equally look at the root causes because there is no smoke without fire. However, I’m not an advocate or supporter of creating more kingdoms from the old ones in Urhoboland but, our traditional rulers and other political leaders must look intently before they leap. In most cases, this issue of creating more kingdoms in Urhoboland is getting out of hands at the moment. In short, it’s beyond the authority and jurisdiction of the Urhobo Progress Union as a foremost Urhobo socio-cultural organization. In this case, the parent kingdom would always result to violence or legal battle to combat the issue. But in case, the agitating community resists, it usually results to crisis. This has led to various degrees of crises in different parts of the Urhobo nation in recent times.
Conclusively, to stop this frequent breaking away of communities from parent kingdoms which is not doing us well in Urhobo nation, the UPU should rise up now to its responsibility of keeping the Urhobo nation united. Without wasting much time, the UPU constitution should be reviewed to accommodate this new development. Secondly, traditional rulers should always carry along all the communities under their traditional leadership or domains to avoid unnecessary agitations and breaking away motives being perpetuated by such communities. Not only that, leadership and political positions in the kingdom should also be spread round all the communities in the kingdom to show sense of belonging, peaceful co-existence and cordial relationship between the ancestral headquarters of the kingdom and the rest of the communities. Let Urhobo think wisely!

Young Erhiurhoro;Kjc is a reporter and a member of the Urhobo Historical Society.

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