Deputy Senate President, Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege has emphasized the need for Urhobo nation to pay special attention to industrialization so as to create jobs for the youths and bring out their full potentials in developing the land.
Omo-Agege stated this during a lecture titled: The Challenges and prospects of Urhobo Progress Union in Contemporary Times, which he delivered to declare open the on-going 90th anniversary of the Urhobo Progress Union at Uvwiamuge-Agbarho, Ughelli North Local government area of Delta State
Addressing the massive crowd of Urhobo people from all walks of life who gathered for the opening ceremony, Omo-Agege decried the rate of unemployment in the land which, he said, has become a major problem bedeviling the lives of our youth, causing militancy, kidnappings, restiveness and social delinquent behaviours.
‘’Indeed, youth unemployment is devastating our people, families and the society as a whole both psychologically and economically. The critical question is how did we get here? What can we do as a people to get out of this mess? These are not easy questions to answer, and I don’t know if I’m right. But I believe strongly that when our youth graduate from university and for years they roam the streets without jobs or ride commercial motorcycles and keke to eke a living or forced to resort to crime, what it says about our economy is that it is not strong enough to provide the basic means of livelihood for our people. This growing opportunity gap must be closed by widening the economic base of Urhobo land.
‘’Urhobo had a thriving economy in time past. We were self-sufficient in food production. Our people were great farmers, hunters, fishermen and distillers. We were also leaders in cash crops production like rubber, timber, oil palm for exports to Ghana, Benin, Sierra-Leone, Liberia and even Britain, as well as other parts of Europe. Our palm oil lubricated the Industrial Revolution in Europe.
‘’Urhoboland was also a big industrial hub with industries in Ovwian-Aladja, Oghara, Ughelli, Effurun, Warri, Agbarha-Otor and Sapele. Steel company, glass factories, breweries, salt factories, power stations, a petrochemical plant, rubber processing plants registered their presence in Urhoboland. The African Timber and Plywood (AT&P) made Sapele the most important city in Nigeria after Lagos, before the advent of the oil boom. All of these are gone. So too are the jobs. We must turn the situation around very quickly and we can by having a rethink on our approach to community development. We must industrialise Urhobo land. This has to be a top priority for UPU and every Urhobo son and daughter, whether in government or in the private sector.
‘’Undoubtedly, Urhobo has what it takes to confront this challenge. Urhobo land is gifted with abundant mineral and agricultural resources including crude oil, gas, palm oil, rubber and glass-making soil for industrialisation. We also have clay suitable for pottery, rivers, tributaries and streams suitable for electricity generation, fishing and other marine activities, to transform our economy and create jobs for our teeming youth.
‘’In the same vein, with mineral resources such as sharp sand, silica, kaolin, clay, barite and forest resources such as timber, oil palm and raffia palm available in Urhobo nation, there is no reason we should not have a thriving cottage industry. We must harness these natural resources for the growth of our economy and development of Urhobo land to create employment and reduce the level of poverty among our people’’, Omo-Agege said.
He noted that the 90th anniversary of the UPU was significant in many ways. ‘’First, Urhobo Progress Union is the very symbol of Urhobo unity and it is designed to work for the welfare of the Urhobo people. I am proud that Urhobo Progress Union has remained resilient to promote the socio-cultural, economic, environmental and educational development among the Urhobo people. I urge you not to relent in your efforts.
‘’The unbroken continuity also stands as testimony to the resilience, doggedness and visionary qualities of the average Urhobo person. I salute and congratulate your dogged approach to Urhobo nationalism over the years’’, he said stressing that the unity and proactive approach to issues by the founding fathers of the union deserved to be reinvented to so Urhobo could face those challenges that impelled the founding of the UPU in 1931.
‘’That is the spirit we are called to show once more, especially now when we face similar challenges: lack of unity, falling educational standards, loss of economic power and political marginalization. We are also faced with new challenges such as violent crimes, herders – farmers clashes and rising youth unemployment that is fuelling insecurity in Urhoboland, and threatening our way of life.
‘’These challenges did not come about overnight. But because we failed abysmally to build on the foundation of unity and brotherhood which our forebears – Chief Mukoro Mowoe, T. E A Salubi just to mention a few – laboured to establish for us, we watched helplessly as the pendulum swung too far towards individualism. And now a nation that was once the envy of other nationalities can no longer speak with one voice’’, Omo-Agege declared writing off the Chief Joe Omene’s group as a belligerent set of rebellious tendencies in Urhoboland.
‘’The UPU of today is seemingly united but we all know that we have an insurgent group that is laying claim to the leadership of UPU. This group remains so belligerent and continues to carry on despite the fact that the rest of us have moved on with the Olorogun Moses Taiga led Executive of UPU. This situation has resulted in conflicting press statements on national issues to the embarrassment of the Urhobo nation.
‘’We also have multi-subgroup organizations, which are competing with UPU for relevance and visibility in defending Urhobo or speaking for Urhobo. Many Urhobo leaders now move in opposite directions and speak with different voices; a situation which is inimical to the advancement of Urhobo national interest. This is rather unfortunate and it must stop’’, he said.