President General of Okpe Union, Professor Igho Natufe, on Sunday made a critical appraisal of the Nigerian State and concluded that restructuring of the Nigerian Federal System in accordance with the notion of federalism was inevitable.
“Our contribution to Nigerian development shall be influenced by the tenets of federalism. As a component of the Nigerian federation of ethnic nationalities, we endorse the call for restructuring the Nigerian federal system in accordance with the notion of federalism. In due course, after consulting with stakeholders in Okpe Nation and Okpe in the Diaspora, we shall announce the Okpe positions on key elements of the debate on restructuring” he said.
Natufe spoke at Okpe House, Lagos on Sunday.
In a paper entitled Internal Cohesion and Development in Okpe Nation, Natufe said that active participation of Okpe Union in Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination will encourage rapid development of Okpe kingdom.
“Nigeria is a federation of ethnic nationalities. Okpe is one of the more than 350 ethnic nationalities that constitute this federation. Like all the other components of the Nigerian federation, there are opportunities and challenges that we must grapple with to move Okpe forward and firmly establish Okpe Union as a powerful voice for the Okpe Nation in the various communities of ethnic nationalities in Delta State and in Nigeria, including the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination.”
He declared: “Okpe Union shall be an active participant in these organizations by promoting and defending Okpe interests as a distinct ethnic nationality. These interests shall be pursued at all fora, domestic and international, with inputs from all stakeholders in Okpeland and Okpe in the Diaspora. Towards this end, we shall establish and maintain strategic relationships with all ethnic organizations in Delta State and in Nigeria on the principles of peaceful coexistence and mutual respect of the rights of each ethnic nationality to define and determine its own socio-economic and political development.”
The renowned foreign policy expert hailed all the contestants, elders, delegates and observers that contributed to the success of the Annual General Assembly (AGA) and National Elections of the Okpe Union.
“Yesterday, a new National Executive Council (NEC) was elected to guide the affairs of the Okpe Union for the next four years. I congratulate all the contestants, elders, delegates and observers that contributed to the success of the Annual General Assembly (AGA) and National Elections. I commend and congratulate the Immediate Past President, Mr. Patrick Akpotor and members of the previous NEC for their stellar leadership in conducting the affairs of Okpe Union during their tenure. I also congratulate Mr. Igho Akeragha, Chair of the Electoral Committee and his committee members for their invaluable services to the Okpe Union. Be assured that every one of you shall have a role to play in Okpe Union as we move forward.”
The crucial role of the newly elected officers was equally addressed by Natufe.
“Your unanimous vote for me to assume the portfolio as the President General of our great Union is an honour and privilege which I humbly accept. With the calibre we elected yesterday as members of NEC, I can assure you that a new dawn has arrived that is anchored on the provision of selfless leadership for the growth and development of our beloved Okpe Nation and Okpe Kingdom. The gender balance in the NEC demonstrates Okpe Union’s adherence to the concept of equity which we are going to champion in Okpeland.”
The former University of Benin lecturer noted that the success of the regeneration of the union which the present executive committee is committed would depend to a great extent on reconciliation, unity and progress.
“Our immediate and foremost priority is to focus on Okpe reconciliation, unity and progress as we grapple with the challenges of youth and women empowerment in Okpeland. My dear Compatriots, I state very clearly and categorically that there is no division in our 91-year-old Union as, in fulfilment of our mandate, we have reviewed our Constitution to meet the needs and aspirations for the Okpe Nation and Okpe Kingdom in the 21st Century. We in NEC shall count on all Okpe nationals at home and in the Diaspora to contribute their advice and knowledge to this historic imperative vis-à-vis the delivery of our 4-Year Agenda.”
He commended the people for coming together and working for the progress of Okpe kingdom.
“Today, Okpe in Nigeria and worldwide celebrate the 91st Anniversary of the founding of the Okpe Union, the oldest ethnic organization in Delta State. We salute the founders for their foresight in establishing the Okpe Union as an umbrella organization of Okpe nationals in Nigeria and in the Diaspora. Founded in Lagos on May 16, 1930, the Okpe Union was technically a “near Diaspora” organization. By “near Diaspora” I am referring to Okpe residents in non Okpeland in Nigeria. It was well established in several Nigerian cities, including (in alphabetical order) Abeokuta, Abuja, Ibadan, Ilesha, Jos, Kaduna, Kano, etc. and in the “far Diaspora”, the United Kingdom and North America decades before a branch was stablished at home in Okpe Kingdom, in Sapele Local Government Area.”
To effectively discharge their responsibilities, Natufe said members of the union must redefine their strategic approach to enable them grapple with contemporary challenges.
“We are here because they were there. As we proudly celebrate our Founder’s Day and marvel at the successes and achievements of the Okpe Union in yesteryears, we must redefine our strategic approach to enable us grapple with contemporary challenges that confront us in Delta State and in Nigeria. I hereby provide a sketch of our agenda for the next four years. The task begins from building blocks for unity and development in Okpeland.”
Aside this, he said the union must strive to reconcile contending views.
“We recognize the imperative of unity within a society for it to move forward meaningfully by providing a conducive environment for its citizens to progress and develop. Our immediate action is to strive to reconcile contending views on this front in the Okpe Nation. This will be revealed after due consultation with all stakeholders in Okpeland.”
Natufe pledged to use his wealth of experience and international connections to help Okpe kingdom.
“Our focus shall be on the following, inter alia: Strive to align Okpe Union with the aspirations and consciousness of the Okpe man and woman, especially in the territory of the Okpe Kingdom. Liaise with Local Government Councils in Okpe Nation, District and community leaders on key issues affecting Okpe. Liaise with youth and women organizations in crafting developmental strategies for the Okpe Nation. Liaise with appropriate authorities to recognize Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality in DESOPADEC. Enhance an appreciation of Okpe Identity by agitating for the teaching of Okpe Language, Okpe History and Culture in all educational institutions in Okpeland. Liaise with all religious places of worship in Okpe land for the use of Okpe Language in their sermons. Revive the Institute for Okpe Studies that was established by the OKPE VOICE INTERNATONAL in 2008. Host an International Conference on Okpe Society in collaboration with the Institute for Okpe Studies in 2022. Liaise with appropriate authorities for the naming and recognition of the Airport at Osubi as OSUBI AIRPORT.”
While he admitted that the Okpe people are lacking behind several ethnic groups in educational attainment, Natufe called for the launching of a one Billion Naira Okpe Scholarship Trust Fund.
“In recognition of the value of education in the development of a society, we are launching a ONE BILLION NAIRA OKPE SCHOLARSHIP TRUST FUND for the education of Okpe nationals in post-secondary institutions. We shall establish a data base of Okpe nationals (teachers and students) in all post-secondary educational institutions in Nigeria and in the Diaspora. Facilitate the establishment of a post-secondary educational institution in Okpe Nation.
“To facilitate growth and development in Okpeland, Natufe called for strategic alliances with domestic stakeholders and foreign partners in attracting and retaining investments in Okpeland.
“This will be achieved via consultation and collaboration with the two Local Government Councils (Okpe and Sapele LGCs) and chambers of commerce and industry in Okpe Nation.”