Wednesday, November 18, 2020 11:47 pm
Reviewer: Emmanuel Ogheneochuko Arodovwe
Author- Assin Godstime
Publisher: Digital Books, Benin City.
Year of Publication: first published in April 2019, republished in August 2020.
Amongst the negative consequences of the colonial experience in Africa, nay Nigeria was the misplaced optimism in the possibility of a transferred patriotism from the authouchtonous immediate nations from which the peoples had grown and had their being and to which they truly belonged, to the artificially created, and whimsically superimposed amalgams. It was thought that such artificial political creations such as Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, etc. would overtime succeed in obliterating the memories, sentiments and patriotic attachments the peoples had for their authentic immediate nations.
Several strategies were adopted to realise this undesired goal. Among these were the prejudicial design of the educational curriculum to reflect only the interest and sentiments of the colonizers’ country and interests. The language of the coloniser was adopted as medium of instruction in schools and of administration. The history curricula celebrated the heroic feats of the colonizing country in World Wars. Geographical studies were about the positions, resource endowments and alluring physical features of the country of the colonizers rather than of the home society which the student was suppose to be educated about. The naming of states and constituent units were not designed to reflect the identity of the peoples of the implicated territories but after flora and fauna and other geographical features. Hence, the names Delta, Ogun, Niger, Rivers, etc have no trace to the identity of the people in those areas. All these were calculated attempts to format whatever historical and culturally relevant information the people still had retained in their memories regarding their identity and authenticity.
Post colonial African leaders did very little to redress this anomaly. Instead, they furthered the alienation of their peoples through the retention and adoption of western-devised economic and educational policies. For instance, at Independence in the 1960s, African educational policy makers never saw the need to rework the educational curricula to reflect the interests of their local societies. Indeed for several decades in Nigeria, the teaching of history, of African and Nigerian history inclusive was outlawed. It took several advocacies and pressures for it to be reluctantly re-introduced.
As bad as the situation stated above suggests, the so-called majority groups in Nigeria – Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo have had a relatively better experience when compared to the minority ones, such as the Urhobo. For the former group, the stories of the heroic feats of some of their exceptional leaders have had the privilege of at least a mention in the curricula and other academic materials. People are familiar for example with the heroics of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Tafawa Balewa, Alhaji Aminu Kano, Uthman Dan Fodio etc of the Hausa Fulani. For the Yoruba, the heroics of Madams Moremi, Fagunwa, Tinubu, Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti, of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and countless others are well documented and publicized. The Igbo also have the heroic deeds of Dr. Nnmadi Azikiwe, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Aguiyi Ironsi, Chinua Achebe etc also well published.
But when one seeks a document that chronicles the histories and heroics of the exceptional leaders that have emerged from the Urhobo nation, as an instance of one of the minority groups in Nigeria, and their contributions to the Nigerian state, one is highly disappointed that there are no such materials in print. It is scarcely remembered for instance that Gen. David Ejoor played a crucial role in frustrating the ambitions of the break away Biafran troops during the Civil War and ensuring that victory was assured on the side of the Nigerians.
It is in light of the foregoing that Godstime Assin’s groundbreaking work, Urhobo Current Affairs Vol. 1 is rightly described as not only historic but timely and well attuned with the ideological consciousness of a postmodern age in which difference, variety, identity and authenticity are appreciated and celebrated.
The book is concise, comprehensive and encyclopedic in terms of the most important figures that have emerged from the Urhobo nation and their positive contribution to both their immediate Urhobo nation and to the larger Nigerian society at large.
The book can also be described as a “Collection of Firsts” considering that it is an encyclopedia of all major trail blazers and pathfinders in different fields of endeavor from the Urhobo nation. For instance, the first Urhobo university graduate, first Urhoho professor, first Urhobo army General, etc. are all captured in the masterpiece.
The book is encyclopedic in another sense. It does not limit itself to only a select area of human endeavor. Instead, it’s range covers virtually every area of human enterprise one can imagine: politics, academics, royalty, business, the armed forces, the civil service, law, administration and medicine.
There are at least 50 short biographies of outstanding Urhobo heroes covered in the work. This is no mean feat by any stretch of the imagination.
A major feature of Godstime Assin’s classic is the chronicling of the 24 kingdoms into which the Urhobo nation is culturally divided and the over 500 communities contained in these Kingdoms. There is even a more interesting part. The names of the kings, their royal titles and their special ways of being greeted are also included.
For gender balance, the work also includes a chapter devoted exclusively to high women achievers of the Urhobo.
The Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) is the apex socio-cultural organization of the Urhobo people, and the oldest of its kind in Nigeria. It was founded in 1931. The author commendably reserves a chapter for a compilation of the names of the patriots that have piloted the affairs of the organization from inception.
The book has 102 pages with a set of adorable, brightly coloured pictures of present important figures of the Urhobo nation adorning the opening pages. These include the President General of the UPU Olorogun Moses Taiga, the Deputy Senate President Senator Ovie Omo Agege and the Owhorode of Olomu Kingdom.
Each hero discussed also have a minimized picture at the top left hand corner of the page to add visual effects, improve the aesthetical feel and sustain the interest and attention of the reader.
It is not often that an intellectual work, in one breath, almost fixes an age-long vacuum of an entire people and puts them on the same lofty standing as others of their equals. Godstime Assin’s work seems to have achieved this easily. The work has made a case for itself as indeed “a book of firsts” of the Urhobo Nation. It would serve as a ready source of reference for all researchers with interest in the Urhobo nation and her people.