Mukoro Mowoe deserves honour

PHOTO: SSU Awards

This article is not to remind us of who Mukoro Mowoe was or means to the Urhobo people. It is not to correct what has so far been written or said about him or to refute them. But it is to remind us, the Urhobo people that decades after his death, no public place or institution has been named in memory of a man who used his resources and spent most of his life to unite and defend his people. It is also necessary to refresh the memory of the older generations and inform the younger ones of who and what Mukoro Mowoe means to the Urhobo Nation and the Urhobo people. Going by the publication authored by renowned Prof. Obaro Ikime: ‘A Member for Warri Province – The Life and Times of Chief Mukoro Mowoe,’ Chief Mukoro Mowoe lived between 1890 and 1948 (58 years) and left behind a fulfilled life and a legacy that would likely be unsurpassed by the generations of our leaders in Urhoboland.

His outstanding success in business brought him recognition and respect, not only amongst his own people but also amongst the colonialists and missionaries he had honest and respectable dealings and interaction with. Within his 58 years of existence, he became a successful businessman and also was considered fit and proper to represent his people and province in politics. With such approval and nomination, he became the first Urhobo man to be appointed into the Western Regional Assembly as a Representative of Warri Division, the highest political office held by him and by any Urhoboman at the time. Chief Mukoro Mowoe had outstanding success in business which spanned through, importation of building materials, building and road construction, oil palm produce, mining in Jos, shipping in Lagos and many other ventures. With this kind of profile, one would understand why his approval to represent the Warri Division was well received by the various tribes in the division.

It is on record that there was something special and unique about the character of Mowoe, as he served and worked hard to justify his appointment. The records of his achievement while in the Western Regional Assembly showed clearly how much he cared for the constituency. His achievements in the Assembly include, but not limited to the following:

. In July 1947, he fought for the Government Teacher Training College in Abraka to be expanded to accommodate 250 students.
. He fought for the CMS Teacher Training College, Oleh to be subsidised by the government to enable it cope with the training of more teachers.
. He fought for the improvement of budgetary allocation to the Province to take adequate care of Education.
. Facilitated the establishment of Government College, Ughelli.
. Establishment of Oil mill in Warri.
. Rehabilitation and construction of Warri/Sapele, Okan/Kwale, Abraka/Kwale, Effurun/Ovu and Sepele/Asaba roads.
. Upgrading of hospitals in Sapele and Warri.
. Deployment of Fire Brigade to Sapele and Warri.
. Establishment of Special Grant in aid of flood victims in Ijaw towns and villages from the Colonial Development Funds.

In all these, he displayed selflessness. None of the projects were preferred for establishment in his native home, Evwreni, as our present day politicians would have done.

When your thoughts, words and actions are pure and pristine, they are duly recorded in heaven as they are recorded on earth. In the 1930s, the British colonial administration created Urohobo/Itsekiri Division and grouped some Urhobo nationalities under Kwale Division. This did not go down well with the Urhobos as it meant that their people had been fragmented, and so the Urhobos decided to protest to the officials of the colonial administration. Chief Mukoro Mowoe was known to have stepped in and the matter was resolved amicably resulting in the Urhobo nationalities being returned to Warri Division. In 1936, the Urhobos inaugurated Urhobo Progressive Union (now Urhobo Progress Union). A year later, Mowoe was unanimously elected as the first President – General, the position he held till 1948, when the Urhobo nation came a unified umbrella.

Under his leadership, every Urhobo living walked tall and proud because, for the first time, he felt protected and emancipated. During his tenure as President General, Urhobo College was founded to promote education and also funded the education of brilliant but indigent Urhobo students and pupils both at home and in Diaspora. Urhobo students were sponsored abroad to read law, medicine and other courses. It was indeed the renaissance of the Urhobo nation. The most outstanding achievement of Mowoe’s administration as President General to my mind, was the celebrated epic struggle over the ownership of Sapele between Okpe and Itsekiri in which the UPU railed support of the entire Urhobo nation for the Okpe Kingdom, the rightful owners. In the entire litigation that ensued, Okpe-Urhobo won, up to the African Court of Appeal, the highest court at that time. All over Nigeria, every ethnic group honours its own heroes and patriots. In their states, streets, institutions, highways and monuments are named after them to immortalize their struggles and achievements. Regrettably, in our case, the most important personality or legend of the united Urhobo nation and others who succeeded him, are not known to have been so honoured.

The time is now! It may have been out of oversight or omission, but to honour him now is the best we can do for him and those who are also championing and carrying on his good works, particularly, the Urhobo Progressive union. I therefore, urge our leaders, assemblymen, councillors and various institutions to arise and to give honour to whom honour is due especially to Mowoe, Dr. Chief Jereton Mariere, Chief T.E.A. Salubi, Chief Ayomanor, Chief Asan Edwin Omarin, Dr. Chief F. U Esiri, Dr. Chief James Ogboko Edewor, Gen. David Akpode Ejoor, Olorogun Michael C. O. Ibru – foremost industrialist, Olorogun Felix Ibru, Chief Benjamin Okumagba, Justice Ayo Irikefe, Justice Ovie – Whiskey, His Royal Majesty Ovie Richard Layeguen Ogbon Okworode of Olomu Kingdom, HRM Gen. Felix Mujakpoeruo, Orhue I – Orodje of Okpe Kingdom, Gen Chief Patrick Aziza, Prof. Chief Bruce Onobrakpeya, Prof. Obaro Ikime, Prof. Chief Sam Oyovware and many others.

There is a saying that: “If you don’t say that ‘I am’, no one will say ‘thou art’”.

Johnson D. Ukueni lives in Lagos.



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