By Marcus Ekure
Since the untimely death of our dear brother and friend, Amb. Joseph Orekereke a few days ago, there have been conflicting shadows, accusations, and counter-accusations from various ends especially from the angle of the appeal he made for assistance shortly before his demise. Some persons believe he wouldn’t have died if the appeal was responded to promptly. Some believe Urhobos have left so much to be desired when it comes to emergency situations involving their own.
As much as am not trying to make case for or against it, I want to state from a retrospective appraisal that such belief may not be entirely true.
I recall a few years ago the UPYA TEAM discovered The then Popular Urhobo Highlife Music Maestro, Chief Sally Young who was languishing in poverty, lack, and want in his near dilapidated and ramshackle Oria-Abraka country home mud house.
As an association, we initiated an appeal for support to alleviate the sorry state of the man via various social media platforms. But before that, UPYA clothed him and brought him live to grace its 7th Anniversary where we honoured him with a lifetime legendary award, and close to 500k was raised through concerned Urhobo groups and dignitaries present.
Thereafter we took the appeal to social media with a mission to renovate his house and improve his environment to which many individuals responded (both Urhobos and non-Urhobos alike). Later some politicians politicized the situation and that was the end. The point here is that there was response from some Urhobo people (both the highs and the lows).
Moreso, early this year, Basikoro amongst many others championed an appeal for funds on behalf of a popular Udje Musician, Sir Friday Odogbor. The effort no doubt yielded positively as it was greeted with positive responses from well-meaning Urhobos as was evident in the man’s note of appreciation.
Just after that of Sir Friday, a few weeks ago, the news of Chief Okpan Aribo suffering kidney failure came to the front burner on social media through the UUWU platform which also attracted collective responses and support from all nook and cranny of Urhobo Nation (both home and in diaspora).
However, since the death of Amb. Jorek , I have heard and read many comments and accusations trailing the fund appeal made by our dear brother Amb. Joseph Orekereke. The truth of the matter is that it would be unfair to generalise that Urhobos are not their brothers’ keepers or that we do not respond in times of emergency such as health-related eventualities.
As much as I strongly share in the pain of the family of the patriotic Urhobo Ambassador, and as an apostle of the philanthropic school of thought, I hold that the appeal came too late. He passed on within two days after the request was made of which efforts were already being galvanized from various fronts including the UPYA family.
THE REAL PROBLEM
The biggest challenge facing us as a nation is that of leadership. I know of ethnic nationalities that have over 4 billion in their reserve from where scholarships and interventions are furnished in times of dire needs such as health-related issues or otherwise.
Now the question: Is there anything wrong with UPU having a common purse or initiating a system where communities (both oil/gas producing, pipeline bearing, etc), politicians, and individual Urhobos (both at home and in diaspora) can make a monthly contribution?
It is so painful that UPU today has lost its saltiness and its very essence of existence. I recall in the days of Okumagba, his 3rd Deputy PG, Chief (Dr) Arc O.C. Majoroh initiated an idea in this regard in the Urhobo compulsory ID card project as well as compulsory dues payment of N100 to N1000 monthly. If this had scaled through, Urhobo would have had not less than a Billion or 2, if not more, by now.
For instance, the Urhobo population today is over 4 million. Assuming we have 2 million Urhobos contributing 100 naira in the last 10 years, Urhobo nation should have boasted of a whooping sum of two billion four hundred million naira (N2,400,000,000) in its reserve my now.
To achieve loyalty from Urhobos that would stimulate their willingness and responsiveness to such calls by UPU requires quality and responsive leadership which UPU has not been able to achieve. The UPU today has become so divided along political party lines which have made it increasingly impossible to earn trust from Urhobos.
FAILURE ON THE PART OF OUR URHOBO POLITICIANS
Also, needless to say at this point that our political representatives have left so much to be desired in the aspect of quality health investments. From a reliable source, Late Amb. Jorek for long kept treating high blood pressure, Malaria and Typhoid because these are the everyday realities that our medical facilities can reveal across Urhobo communities.
Usually, when these symptoms persist for a long period of time, the song changes by way of referrals to Oghara Teaching Hospital which is fast becoming another death trap due to poor management and investment. Without fear or favour, the guarantee that when a patient crosses the gate of the Oghara Teaching Hospital, hope is rekindled has become a past glory as it no longer has the capacity to handle complex health issues nor does it have state of the art test equipment.
Imagine late Amb. Jorek who was referred to UBTH from Oghara, shuttling at short intervals between UBTH and Teaching Hospital Ibadan as a result of a special test that can only be done at Ibadan.
The worry here is that you imagine what is so expensive about such medical test equipment that the Delta State government is unable to afford with its huge federal allocation monthly? Sometimes, Oghara Hospital depends on consultants from UI to even attempt some ailments which automatical means increment in bills for the ordinary man or woman.
The point is that our Urhobo sons and daughters in government should also go a little beyond attending funeral and birthday ceremonies to showing some level of concern in areas of health. Imagine the stress late Amb. Jorek must have gone through shuttling between UBTH and Teaching Hospital Ibadan at short daily intervals under his condition? Is that not enough to kill the patriot?
If we had well-equipped hospitals and sound working health facilities within Delta, would that have been the case? From a reliable source, the cancer was not diagnosed on time. He was fighting BP unknowingly to him it was just the symptom he was fighting. A good diagnostic center in Ughelli would have been detected early enough.
Finally, my fellow brothers, this is not a time to blame blames. The family of this great departed hero needs our prayers and support now. That should be our focus at the moment. And considering his impact in promoting Urhobo Culture and value system, I propose that UPU should name its film village at the Ughwiamuge after the late Amb. Jorek Udusan Orekereke to immortalize him.
Most importantly we must learn the lessons embedded in the experience by putting in place the necessary institutional framework or system that can provide emergency solutions to such eventualities. Above all, we must entrench commitment to awareness creation, especially in the area of preventive or proactive responses, as well as Alternative medicine to our health. The belief that it’s only when you feel seek that you go for a check-up must be jettisoned by our people.
Marcus Ekure is my name!