- I welcome you all delegates from various branches and affiliates as well as the members of the Okpe National Executive Council to this year’s 2020 Annual National Conference of the Okpe Union. The last Annual Conference of the Union held in 2018. That of 2019 could not hold due to some unfortunate circumstances that we could not handle efficiently. We are grateful to God and to all those who have been steadfast in ensuring the continuous functioning of the Union despite several difficulties in the course of this year 2020.
2 Brief Surgeon into the History of the Okpe Union.
The Union was founded by our forefathers officially in 1930. It was registered with the Colonial Government of Nigeria in 1934 under the Land(Perpetual Succession) Ordinance No. 22 of 1924. We celebrate our founders’ day 16th May of every year. The Union which started in Lagos, has grown to several towns, cities and countries of the world. At a point especially between the 1970s and the 1980s, the union could boast of no less than sixty branches. Though there has been a drawback in its growth in recent decades, we have started experiencing some revival of the Union due to increase in communication from especially new media as well as the dedication to duty of the current leadership. We hope that with the growing interest amongst our youths in the affairs of the Okpe Union, we shall achieve a turnaround for our Union.
In 2016, we agreed to relocate the Okpe Union National Headquarters to Orerokpe. The past four years have indeed been remarkable in the affairs of the Okpe Union as it is the first time that we have experienced a National Executive Council whose members are elected from the various branches in the country. The efforts to implement the relocation of the headquarters is still ongoing as the legal procedure to accomplish it is still a work in progress. The registered office of the Union is still the Okpe House, No. 65 Moshalashi Street, Obalende, Lagos. It is our sincere wish that with unity, a befitting edifice will be built in Okpe Kingdom in Delta State that will house the National Headquarters of the Union.
- The Okpe Union at Ninety Years Anniversary
It is regrettable that as our union, the Okpe Union marked its ninety years anniversary this year 2020, circumstances beyond our control especially the incidence of the global pandemic, COVID 19 did not enable us to have the elaborate celebrations that we had planned. We hope that next year 2021 when the Okpe Union shall be 91, we shall have the intended celebration.
- Current Challenges of the Union
The Okpe Union has several challenges at the moment. The Union is experiencing challenges of reforming it from the age long analogue ways of doing things to that of the digital information technology era of smooth interaction and communication. In today’s reality for example, it is no longer necessary for decision making process to be by physically travelling hundreds or thousands of kilometres to meet. With contemporary communication technology, members of executive and committees of organisations are able to meet in secure platforms like WhatsApp, Zoom, Skype and many others without the risks, inconveniences and expenses that physical meetings entail. Delegates in this National Conference are therefore called upon to fashion out a way of breaking from the analogue past through resolutions and constitutional amendment to put the Union on the part of progress consistent with modern realities. In the same vein, sections or articles of the constitution relating to notices of National Executive Council meetings, national conferences/meetings and such others should be reviewed accordingly to enable electronic transmission and modern media as communication means. We should also consider the possibility of voting through similar means as the reality for example of COVID19 has made this necessary.
Secondly, the Okpe Union has the challenge of funding. The Union must find a way of conveniently funding its activities without the current near dependence on individual members of the National Executive Council. The current subscription from branches of five thousand naira annually is a far cry from the funding requirements of the Union.
Thirdly, though I have alluded to this earlier, the constitution of the Union needs thorough reworking for it to meet the requirements of a modern ethnic union regarding administrative structure. The Union Constitutional framework must also provide for how the various people of the communities of the Okpe Kingdom can be incorporated into the Union. This is the only way that the Union can ultimately become relevant to the Okpe people generally in contemporary Nigeria and Delta State today.
One immediate challenge currently is the transition of the current National Executive Council whose tenure is constitutionally due to end by the 17th this month November, 2020. As the NEC was not able to set up an Electoral Committee for the purpose of organising elections in our last meeting of the 29th of August, 2020, this National Conference as the highest decision making organ of our union has to set it up and also determine the transition framework that will be in charge of running the Union at the national level from the 17th of November, 2020. It is also necessary that this conference fixes the date and modalities for the next elections. Let us consider the possibility of the electoral committee which we shall set up adopting on line voting for the next elections.
I must on behalf of the National Executive Council also bring to your notice the events of the 3rd of October, 2020 in which His Royal Majesty, Orhue I, the Orodje of Okpe swore in a nine member interim Committee to take over the administration of the entire Okpe Union and purportedly dissolving the elected National Executive Council. The imposed NEC is made up of two members of the Okpe Union and seven non members. The Okpe Union Constitution does not contain any provisions for such. It does not provide for any role for his Royal Majesty. As the Royal father of the Okpe Nation, we have always received advice from our Orodje. However, it is clear that our royal father by the decree of the 3rd of October, 2020, has overthrown and suspended the constitution of the Okpe Union which is a registered organisation under the Corporate Affairs Commission with its legally recognised independence. There is no law whether of the constitution, federal Act, or State law which empowers His Royal Majesty to do so. We expect this National Conference of the Okpe Union to respond to this development with all sense of responsibility so as to determine the limits of the role of our royal father in the face of the fact that the Okpe Union is a registered organisation under the Corporate Affairs Commission with its registered constitution. Allowing the overthrow of the Union is the beginning of the destabilisation and destruction of the Okpe Union which our forefathers handed over to us as independent of the Palace. We must collectively protect the respected traditional stool of the Okpe people from coming down to matters which do not fall within its legal jurisdiction. In its more than ninety years history, the Okpe Union has always had its autonomy and mechanisms of internal dispute resolutions.
- Some Recent Developments in Okpeland that the Union should be abreast with.
Within the last four years, we have noticed some not pleasing developments in our dear Okpe Kingdom relating to economic development. The dwindling economic fortune of Okpeland of recent calls for urgent attention. Many companies and establishments which have accounted for the employment of our youths and teaming population have either been relocating out of Okpeland or folding up outrightly. In 2017, one of the highest employing companies in Okpeland and Delta State located in Sapele, Eternit Ltd folded up and relocated its proposed huge infrastructure installation to Emenite Ltd, Enugu for the inability of the investors of the company(which include the Delta State Government) to raise the sum of one billion naira only. Our area lost the thousands of direct and indirect jobs thereby. Similarly, Sapele City has lost the sister companies of the seaboard group. The largest of all, the African Timber and Plywood is in a sorry state now as production is hardly taking place there now despite the reported take over by the Delta State Government. The exact investment structure of the company is currently shrouded in misery. If properly structured and managed, we believe the African Timber and Plywood Company, Sapele can employ a large number of our teaming youths. The NTA Amukpe has ended its operations reportedly because of seven hundred thousand naira for equipments. Many smaller companies and enterprises have gone under too. The factors militating against the growth of smaller enterprises in Okpeland include poor power supply as well as the current activities of government backed touts who harass vehicles bringing goods to and from the area especially Sapele on the pretext of stickers and other charges. It is said that trucks from different parts of the country are scared of bringing goods to our area and many a time ask that the goods will be dropped at neighbouring cities.
Another area that is disheartening is the abandonment of the Sapele Polytechnic, Elume which the Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s administration approved and commenced construction. We hope that there can be a strong resolution here in this National Conference today to call on all our Okpe politicians to close ranks to project a common front to the government of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa to revisit the issue of the only higher institution proposed for Okpeland.
Also it is shocking to realise that the entire Okpe Local Government Area still does not have a bank. The bulk of the salaries of council workers, primary school teachers, the Udogun Okpe accounts, and the several towns and villages around Orerokpe are sufficient to attract a commercial bank to Orerokpe if we can get the political, traditional and trade union leadership of the area to act in concert.
To improve job creation and enhance economic activities in Okpeland, there needs to be a multi faceted approach. The power sector has to improve, the conduct of our youths has to encourage investors and the agricultural sector like palm trees, cocoa, fish breeding, livestock and the like have to be exploited. The Okpe area has comparative advantages in many of these areas and the hydra headed problems of unemployment and poverty have to be addressed from this robust perspective. I urge this confidence to table a strong resolution calling on the government of Delta State as well as the administration of the two local government councils of Okpeland to intervene in the issue of hindrances to businesses regarding free movement of goods to and from , the Okpe Kingdom which have brought down businesses enterprises and activities in the area. The Governor Ifeanyi Okowa led administration of Delta State needs to revisit the matter of the proposed Sapele Polytechnic as there is yet to be a higher institution in the two local government areas of Okpe Kingdom.
- About Some National Issues in Nigeria.
Permit me to address a few issues that are of national relevance in our country Nigeria. On the recent End Sars protests nationwide, we urge both the federal and state governments of our country Nigeria to achieve synergy in ensuring that the Nigeria Police Force is restructured in such a way that guarantees the protection of lives and property of Nigerians while at the same time respecting the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Nigerians. The issue of police reforms must be taken holistically.
Of great importance to the country at large and especially to areas in the country with so much water resources is the current controversial Water Resources Bill at the National Assembly. Firstly, it is a misnomer for there to be an attempt for the central government in a federal system to make provisions for a legal framework which attempts to cover the entire field of water resources management. That can only be tolerated in a unitary system. One problem of the Nigerian governance system is that after transition from military administrations in Nigeria which are basically unitary with concentration of powers at the centre, we as a country neglected to firstly restructure the country to a federal system. The adoption of a new imposed constitution is not sufficient in getting back the country to a federal system. The existing water resources legislations have already violated the federal nature of the Nigerian system of government. Much of the contents of the controversial Water Resources Bill like control of rivers and other water bodies as well as underground water are purely within the jurisdiction of the state governments and communities of the local government councils. I urge this general assembly to pass a resolution calling on the various ethnic nationalities of Nigeria especially those of the Niger Delta to close ranks and present a common front not only to prevent the passage of the current Water Resources Bill but also to evaluate existing ones which have already violated the agreed federal principles for the governance of Nigeria at independence.
- What should be immediately done by the this National Conference and Branches of the Okpe Union.
As the President General of the Okpe Union elected along with us the other members of the outgoing National Executive Council on the 17th of November 2020 Union, Chief Robert Onome, has accepted the imposition of an unelected interim Committee to take over the affairs of the Union in contravention of the constitution of the Okpe Union, this general assembly of the branches of the Union should act decisively to save the Okpe Union.
The Okpe Union constitution provides as follows:
“The Union shall not be governed nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the government of the Union or any part thereof except in accordance with the provisions of this constitution”.
The road to the disability and destruction of our union has begun if strangers to the Okpe Union are permitted to take over the union. The Okpe Union is an organisation which has membership. It is not every Okpe person that is a member of the Okpe Union. The reported interim National Executive Council by the Orodje decree of the 3rd of October, 2020 has only two members of the Okpe Union out of nine. By the provisions of the Okpe Union Constitution, such members who have permitted themselves to be part of what overthrows the Okpe Union constitution are guilty of gross misconduct. This conference is called upon to look into this too. The Okpe Union Constitution has no provisions for the role any external powers within or outside Okpe Kingdom. This National Conference must be decisive in protecting the Okpe Union.
To buttress the need to act firmly, it is important for us to understand that we have a duty to reach out to our royal father, the Orodje whenever we are not happy with any of his decisions.
Believing in the Divine rights of Kings which presupposes that kings make no mistakes and therefore cannot change their decisions at this age is not supportable. The dark notion Divine Rights of Kings has been condemned to the dustbin of the dark age. It is even a burden too heavy for monarchs as it will restrain them from correcting errors which they later realise thereby causing their societies underdevelopment. This account for the incidence of modern monarchies being transformed into limited offices. They only reign but never rule now. This explains the refusal of successive governments of Nigeria since 1976 to provide constitutional governmental roles for traditional rulers in the Nigerian constitutions.
For immediate attention is the matter of transition. I had earlier alluded to the fact that the tenure of this outgoing executive is to end in three days time which is precisely the 17th of November, 2020, this National Conference being the highest decision making organ of the Okpe Union, is duty bound to put in place a transition template which includes the setting up of an electoral committee to organise an election for a new National Executive Council of the Okpe Union. The outgoing National Executive Council could not set up the electoral committee in the last NEC meeting where this Annual National Conference date was fixed. A Union of the status of the Okpe Union worthy of its name and history cannot afford to permit a vacuum in its leadership.
Lastly, delegates need to know that all the trustees of the Okpe Union registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission have passed on. This conference is required to approve other names of prospective Board of Trustees members for subsequent registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission, Abuja.
Once again, I welcome delegates to this auspicious gathering of representatives of the Union from various branches. With unity, we shall surely realise the dreams of our forefathers who founded this Okpe ethnic organisation to protect the interests of the Okpe people.
Okpe Union wadooo! Okpe! Agbamueni! Okpe! Agbamueni! Okpe mẹ naa! Owhu ọvoo!
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Long live Delta State of Nigeria!
Long live the Okpe Nation!
Long live the Orodje of Okpe Kingdom!
Mr. Patrick Akpotor,
Acting President General, the Okpe Union.