By Henry Ovie
Okpe Union, a foremost socio-cultural and political organization in Africa, on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, celebrated its 93 years of existence with a call for the Okpe Nation to be accorded recognition as a distinct ethnic nationality in the Nigerian federation.
The dignitaries who congregated to celebrate the Okpe Union Day fumed at various attempts by some uninformed and mischievous elements within and outside the group to classify Okpe as a sub-group or clan of any other ethnic nationality in Nigeria, ostensibly referring to the Urhobo people.
The notable leaders, therefore, were dismissed as unverified, the narrative being propagated by some traditional rulers and political turn-coats referring to Okpe kingdom as one of the twenty-four kingdoms of the contemporary federated Uhrobo nationality of Delta central senatorial district.
Addressing journalists, the President General of Okpe Union, Prof Igho Natufe, insisted that the Okpe Union remains committed to the agitation for the restoration and recognition of Okpe as an independent and distinct ethnic group in Nigeria.
He called on stakeholders and institutions of nations and Okpe people worldwide to focus on achieving synergy for the growth and development of the Okpe Nation so that Okpe can once again attain its rightful place in the committee of other ethnic nationalities in Delta state and by extension Nigeria.
The occasion provided an opportunity for some of the leaders to review Okpe Kingdom’s past and draw a roadmap for the future.
Their suggestions once again centered on the unity and development of the Okpe kingdom.
Natufe whose speech was entitled: Restatement of Okpe distinct ethnic nationality reviewed events in Delta State and expressed dismay at the role of politicians in the underdevelopment of Okpe Kingdom.
Amidst intermittent applause from the cream of the nation’s social and political elite, who gathered to add colour to one of the events marking the union’s 93rdanniversary in Lagos, Natufe condemned the marginalization and often the denial of some positions as a result of lumping of Okpe with Uhrobo, citing the case of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development.
Commission (DESOPADEC), where the Okpe Nation has been denied its rightful slots of appointment and awards of projects due to the placing of Okpe under Urhobo whereas the Ijaw, Ika, Isoko, Itsekiri and Ndokwa ethnic nationalities were accorded due recognition and therefore received their respective slots as recognized ethnic nationalities.
Paying tribute to Okpe Union founding fathers, Natufe however noted the pathetic case of Orerokpe which is one of the oldest local governments in Nigeria and yet without a bank and other amenities as a result of neglect by succeeding governments both at the federal and state levels.
He restated the call for the restoration of Sapele, Warri, and Koko Ports abandoned by successive governments as these will shore up social-economic activities and create value addition in these areas.
The Okpe Union President General also noted with commendation the recent Federal Government directive on the teaching of indigenous languages in local government across Nigeria as this will give credence to the age-long agitation for the teaching of Okpe language in all educational institutions situated in Okpe kingdom as a critical component of Okpe identity.
He urged elected officials to change the world’s perception of Okpe Kingdom and make the people proud by performing creditably.