4th July 2024: The Day Royalty Stooped in Search of Distressed Brothers in Okuama

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Theologians have noted two major questions the good Lord has asked humanity in their historical encounters. The first “Where art Thou”? And the second, “Where is your brother”? Adam and Cain to whom these questions were respectively directed, could not provide satisfactory answers to them.

By Emmanuel Ogheneochuko Arodovwe_

On Thursday July the 4th, 2024, the Monarchy in Urhobo land in conjunction with the leadership of the Urhobo Progress Union attempted an answer to the divine question of brotherliness when they sought after their brothers who have been in distress in Okuama since March the 17th 2024 – a period of 6 months.

But this distressed brother was not just a neighbour close by, a stone-throw away from help; he was instead, split in two – a part of him confined to an Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) Camp in Otor Ewu; the other part (made largely of gallant youths and strong women and elders) left behind, as a protective and security measure over the now-levelled territory, that used to be Okuama Community. Okuama’s location is a huge distance from the metropole, along the dangerous River Forcados, sandwiched between two hostile neighbours, with the only standing Anglican Church building being the only survivor, after the raze down and demolition of the community by the Nigerian military.

It is this Church building that is now at once a home, a sleeping place, a bedroom and living room, a kitchen, a convenience and a worship place to about 500 survivors from the devastating invasion, who must continually ‘watch and pray’ so that their ancestral home is not seized or claimed by hostile neighbours. Now no longer with a school, a maternity or any house to call a home, the Okuama people live daily in hopeless abandon wondering what hope is there for tomorrow, and when the puzzle called life would end, at the termination of consciousness.

It is to these abandoned humans, wretcheds of the earth, inconsequential brutes so to speak, that Royalty went and sought. If they had to be reached, they Royalty had to first, temporarily forget the glitter of its sacerdotal apparel, and the preciousness of its royal crown, so it could meet its distressed brother.

In place of luxury cars with cushioned seats, Royalty sat on wooden benches in roofless speedboats. The entirety of the Urhobo nation was, as it were, sat on a speedboat in the middle of the River Forcados on high speed to Okuama. Such was the magnitude of the risk undertaken in visiting Okuama. Like Christ, who left his heavenly throne as King to identify with helpless man, Royalty stooped on the 4th of July, 2024 in order to meet a distressed brother in need.

The highlight was the presentation of various items of support, first to the inmates in the Camp, and then to those in the community in Okuama, a journey of about 35 minutes on speedboat from the Arhavwarien Waterside.

But there were more points of significance than the presentation of items. The people felt important, not because they now had extra bags of rice, garri, beans, milk, noodles and toiletries to live on, (which indeed was also quite important), but more because they felt that the Urhobo people in its entirety had visited them, through this very high personalities. They felt really proud and a sense of importance.

The delegation was led by HRM Dr. Emmanuel E. Sideso, Abe 1, CON., The Ovie of Uvwie Kingdom. Umogu, as he is called, is the Chairman _Ukoko R’ Ivie R’ Urhobo_. He was accompanied by HRM Maj. Gen. Felix Mujakperuo (Rtd) Orhue 1, The Orodje of Okpe Kingdom, who is also the Chairman, Traditional Rulers Council, Delta State.
HRM Solomon Akporherie, Okukeren III, The Ovie of Arhavwarien Kingdom who is Vice Chairman, _Ukoko R’ Ivie R’ Urhobo_. Dr Matthew Ediri Egbi Owahwa II, The Okobaro of Ughievwen Kingdom, HRM Richard Okerefe, The Ovie of Agbarha, were all on this royal trip to the distressed brothers.

The Urhobo Progress Union led by the President Chief Barr. Ese Gam Owe, the General Secretary Barr. David Esiekpe and other top officials were also on the entourage. Never in the history of the Urhobo nation have such a high delegation embarked on such a high-risk trip in a courageous manner in search of a brother in distress.

If the presence of the Royalty and the gift items made a difference to the inmates and beneficiaries, which led to immediate eruption of songs and dances from the distressed people, the message contained in the speech of HRM Dr Emmanuel Sideso, Abe 1, the Ovie of Uvwie Kingdom was even more profound. He was definite that the trip was not for celebration; it was in identification with the Okuama people – in a show of compassion, empathy and solidarity.

He was insistent that Urhobo tradition and culture was at variance with the practice of IDP Camps. In his words: “Urhobo people do not live in IDP Camps, we live sustainably in our homes and communities bequeathed to us by our forebears”. The ultimate goal, according to Umogu, is to expedite actions both by the federal and state governments to rebuild and resettle the people of Okuama in the land they have always known, and have always lived on.

Umogu was also sympathetic to the government for the loss of its soldiers in the unfortunate incident, holding that the root causes of that imbroglio has to be properly addressed to forestall future reoccurrences.

Umogu noted the efforts of the Delta State Governor Rt. Hon. Elder Sheriff Oborevwori for the idea of the Camp and his consistent provisions for the inmates. He advocated for the speedy fulfilment of the government’s promise to rebuild the primary school and the maternity; as well as the sinking of boreholes for clean drinking water and the rebuilding of homes.

The Orodje of Okpe Kingdom HRM Maj. Gen. Felix Mujakperuo (Rtd.) Orhue 1, drew the attention of the Camp managers to the recent outbreak of cholera in some parts of Nigeria. He urged them to take their sanitary precautions and cleanliness seriously to ensure the health of everyone in the camp.

There is so much to say than can be adequately expressed in one piece, about this historic trip of Royalty to the womb of the Forcados River, through its turbulent high tides of water networks, to seek and identify with the distressed people of Okuama.

What can be said in summary is that: Whereas the world has always remembered the 4th of July every year as the historic day of independence in the United States of America, where the self-evident truths of the equality of men and their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were first scripted in 1776, the day now holds a new significance, and will hereafter be remembered in Urhobo history as *”The Day Royalty Stooped in search of Distressed Brothers in Okuama”*.

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