Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, on Friday, commended the people of Urhobo nation for their immense support and contributions to the development of the state and country.
Okowa gave the commendation in his remarks at the 90th Anniversary of Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) held at Urhobo Cultural Centre, Uvwiamuge-Agbarho, Ughelli North Local Government Area of the state.
The governor said that UPU had, as a socio-cultural group and through its human resources, played a remarkable role in the development of the state and Nigeria in the 90 years of its existence.
According to Okowa, UPU has played a major role in the advancement of not just the Urhobo nation but the advancement of Delta and Nigeria.
The governor thanked the leadership of the union for using its relationship with the people to ensure peace and organise them for purposeful development and being of great assistance to any government in power in the state.
“I know the role the UPU has been playing in helping to build peace in Urhobo land and in trying also to extend hand of friendship to other ethnic groups across the state.
“By the time our people in Delta State relate as one, then you would have helped the government to solve its problems because once you have been able to establish peace it becomes much easier to develop the state,” Governor Okowa said.
The governor commended traditional rulers in the state for their support, saying “at every point in time I always thank traditional rulers for the role they have played individually and collectively to the growth and development of the state.
“They have always been a strong support behind all the governments of this state but particularly in my time, they have done a lot to help in stabilising the government and to ensure that we have been able to live in unity as a people.“Let me also thank the kings for their support to the UPU which had contributed in making it the oldest ethnic nationality group in Nigeria.”
He lauded UPU for the honour done to some illustrious sons and daughters, adding that it would help in encouraging others to put in their best in the growth and development of the nation.
Okowa acknowledged the cordial relationship between the Urhobos and their neighbours, saying that a hand of friendship was very important “because he who extends a hand of friendship wants to have a friend”.
according to the governor, “I don’t believe that we must fight everything through; sometimes a kind word or a conversation can help you to get to where you want to be.”
He admonished governorship aspirants to exercise restraints in their consultations and campaigns.
“I want to appeal to our sons and daughters who seek to be governor. It is usually best when you approach it on the basis of friendship.
“It is usually best that we are choosy on the kind of words that we use in the public so that we don’t start any round of fights.
“No matter how provoked, any person aspiring to the position of leadership must learn to control his anger and speak peacefully to people because in so doing, he attracts friends to himself,” he said.
He called on Urhobo people to prune down the number of aspirants in the governorship race, advising that it was in their best interest to reduce the numbers.
“When there are too many sons and daughters in a race, it creates its own challenge and I believe that the elders have understood this.
“There is a need to trim down and I believe that the time is now.
“I thank you for the support you have given me as a people through the course of governance in the last six and half years.
“It is my prayer that Delta will remain peaceful and united and whoever is coming will recognise the fact that we are better off as united people and once this is done, we will continue to be stakeholders in our own state,” Okowa stated.
Earlier In his welcome address, President-General of UPU, Chief Moses Taiga, had said that UPU was celebrating 90 years, a decade short of a century, adding that the union was Nigeria’s oldest surviving socio-cultural organisation.
He said that UPU saw education as the light that would illuminate Urhoboland and liberate its people.
Taiga told the gathering that UPU was working on bequeathing an economic legacy to future generations with the proposed establishment of Okugbe Microfinance Bank which was awaiting operational license from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Taiga said that the Urhobos would build alliances with other ethnic nationalities in the South-South and beyond to proffer a new destiny for Nigeria as the nation tottered to a new beginning.
“While we do not support secessionist agitations, we align with the call for the restructuring of Nigeria in line with the tenets of federalism.
“We support the call for the relocation of the headquarters of all oil companies to the Niger Delta and the call for election results to be transmitted electronically.
“Urhobos are in support of states’ collection of Value Added Tax (VAT), the enactment of Anti-Open Grazing Laws, the establishment of State Police and other such progressive factors that will make Nigeria great again,” he stated.
The ceremony featured presentation of awards to deserving sons and daughters who distinguished themselves in various disciplines and made Urhobos proud in the past 90 years.