By Stanley Agiama
Emeritus Professor and Founding Dean, School of Media and Communication of Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos, Professor Emevwo Biakolo, has called for a Council on Urhobo-Isoko Relations as a way to forging and fostering unity and stronger socio-cultural and political bonding between the two ethnic groups.
Prof. Biakolo, who made this call while delivering a paper at the Conference of the two ethnic nationalities, organised by Urhobo-Isoko Unity Forum on Saturday, June 19, 2021 at Petroleum Trainining Institute (PTI), Effurun, also called on the Urhobo nation to be extra sensitive to Isoko feelings.
According to Prof. Biakolo, an Urhobo-Isoko Council, comprising of Royal Fathers, Religious Leaders, Political Leaders, Leaders of Thought, among others, “can meetat least once a quarter to consider matters of mutual interest. For example, a cultural project, such as history of relations between the groups, matters of material development in the communities such as roads, hospitals and cloinics, schools and centers, industries and similar projects.” He further said that “Such a council wil also consider any issues of conflict between communities,” submitting that “much good can come from a collabofrative and positive approach to intimate relations between the Isoko and Urhobo.”
Urging respect for people’s identity, the Professor, who hails from Ughievwen Kingdom of Urhoboland, noted that how people identify themselves is their own right and prerogative. “It cannot be taken from them. No matter how powerful any group might be, either by conquest or political maneuvering or opportunism, the identity of a people is something they must have a hand in constructing. Cooperation and collaboration is only possible on the basis of mutual respect, “Biakolo said.
He warned: “For the Urhobo and Isoko who are so close physically, socially and culturally, Isoko identity is an even more sensitive matter principally because as the smaller nation, the Isoko might feel their identity more thereatened by the larger Urhobo group. It is incumbent on the Urhobo therefore to be extra sensitive to Isoko feelings of a unique identity. It is not a case of big brother and younger brother. That will not promote good relations. It is a case of fjundamental equality, even if in quantitative terms, some advantages might naturally accrue to the bigger group. I would even dare suggest that it might be in the interest of the Urhobo Nation for the unique identity of the Isoko to ne supported and encouraged.”
One of the Speakers at the event, Deacon Chris Iyovwaye, CEO of Wellman Groups, related to the gathering, the historical and cultural relationship between the Urhobo and Isoko. He canvassed that people of the two ethnic groups colectively “begin the practice of subordinating our personal interests for the overall interest of our people. ” Deacon Iyovwaye declared that once that is done “We shall behold more of the things we share in common as against those divisive and retrogressive tendencies, which are the stops to our togetherness and harmonious coexistence.”
Two prominent gospel artiste, Evang. Kuesiri Sharekurhe, the Abo Abo crooner; and legendary Evang. Emma Ofano thrilled the gathering with soul-lifting Urhobo and Isoko praise songs, justas Miss Akpevwe Ojogri, a student of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife made a poem recitation on “Blessings of Unity.”
The event was witnessed by prominent Urhobo and Isoko Royal Fathers, political leaders, religious leaders, chieftains of Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), Isoko Development Union (IDU), students and others including His Excellency, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Deputy President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, represented by Chief Paulinus Akpeki; former Labour leader, Chief Frank Kokori and ace comedian, Gordons, who was Master of Ceremonies.