Olorogun Peter Tobore Akpofure is the Otota of the Great Ughelli Kingdom, In this interview with our Correspondent, OMOGHENE BENEDICT , he bare his mind on why Ughelli Monarch should be recognized just like the Oba of Benin and Olu of Warri.
He spoke on how Ughelli Kingdom is been marginalized by Oil companies in the area, the state and federal governments.
How has it been performing as your duties as the Otota of Ughelli Kingdom?
Traditionally, I assist the King in duties that are assigned to me periodically and also, to stand as the spokesman of the Great Ughelli Kingdom.
The duties assigned to me are really more of a Public Relations Person, an image maker of the Kingdom, a front line person assisting the King.
Since January 5, 2019, that I was installed as the Otota, I have been active not as much as I really want to be, because I am still passing through a transitional period of settling permanently in Ughelli.
Most of my professional activities are in Port Harcourt but as I slowly approach the age of 70, I have decided to move most of my activities back home. I believe by the end of the year, that transition period will be over and I will be more available for my people in the Ughelli Kingdom.
Would you say the kingdom is having its fare share from the state and federal governments in terms of development?
I will say no. Let me take you back to history. Ughelli kingdom spans the major landmarks of Ughelli North Local Government Area and as a town it used to be a divisional headquarters in the days of the British people ruling over us.
The Oil Company you call Shell Petroleum Development Company in Delta State now, originated from Ughelli, the Ughelli Production Center was their first local production center in the then Mid-West region.
Ughelli also has the premier secondary school. There were only four of such secondary schools in the country as at then, where we talk of Kings College, Government College, Umuahia, Government College Ughelli, before we talk of one or two schools in the Northern part of the country.
In the days past, Ughelli was well positioned but as at today, it is lagging behind in terms of development, towns that were not heard of before, I am not trying to bring them down, but in those days, Asaba was not popular like Ughelli, Warri was compared to Ughelli, towns that were not in that same category with Ughelli have overtaken Ughelli in terms of development. The straight answer to that question is, we are not getting fair of development both from the federal and state governments.
We used to be a cassava, palm oil producing community and we are still an oil producing community but when you go through the town, there are only two major roads.
After the two roads, all the infield roads are sand based. We don’t have factories to attract foreign investors, No Shopping Malls because we are left behind.
The Ughelli Kingdom ought to have housed the first University in the then Mid-West region, it was the former governor of the region, Ogbemudia that moved the University from here (Ughelli) to Benin or by now the Ughelli would have been a University town right from the time of Mid-West region.
Abraka use to be a town of College of Education, but now, it is a University town and Ughelli is still left where it is. We are blessed that we have the School of Health, but it is a mono institution and we are asking that it should be upgraded to a College, so that it can be multi-disciplinary.
Ughelli is left behind in terms of development, presence of the government is not felt. Yes we are in the time of politics but the government touch is not being seen in Ughelli. Look at the flyovers, Shopping Malls, road networking in Warri, the Shopping Malls in Asaba, though it is the headquarters and it ought to be developed than any other place but we have an airstrip before Asaba, Warri and Benin. The airstrip at Eruemukowharien used to be the only air entrance into the Midwest region and it is abandoned there till date.
These are are things we think government should look at in Ughelli Kingdom, and say these things that were the torchlight in those days let us improve on them and see how they can come to limelight again, the king and the people will be very grateful.
What is your take on the security situation in the kingdom?
When there is mob action, it is very difficult to control the activities of individuals, the intention of the youths is to express their minds on some of the current happenings in the country. But what happened in Ughelli is that some miscreants, some thugs overran the peaceful protest and we had the unfortunate incident that got a policeman being killed.
We rose to it. It was strongly condemned by my very self, it was condemned by the president general of Ughelli Kingdom, the King and the member representing Ughelli North Constituency II, at the Delta State House of Assembly, even the Deputy Senate President also condemned it outrightly.
We regret the incidents, we met security meeting with all the security chiefs in the local government where we sympathize and pledged our support to them. We told them that to listen to what the youths are saying and where government need to correction, that let them take correction. We advocated for a peaceful and cordial relationship between the security agents and the civilians.
In our meeting with the security agencies, they told us that the gun of the the slain policeman was still missing and the Ovie of Ughelli promised that he would talk to all community leaders and the local vigilante to go out and ensure that the missing gun is recovered and that gun was recovered within two days and I think that there is a good relationship between the security agents and the communities.
What exactly are some of the challenges facing the Kingdom?
We need development and good recognition, I admire the way government recognizes the Oba of Benin, I admire the way the Olu of Warri is treated and we want to be recognized in that same manner. The Ughelli Division use to span the whole of Isoko and Ijaw areas, we needed to be given that recognition.
The biggest challenge we have in the community is that when our young ones graduate from either the Universities, Colleges of Education or Health Institutions, we don’t have these industries, factories that can take them in as employees. So we have these young ones helpless, I have over 20 graduates in my family struggling to ride Okada, struggling to ride keke. That is not what you sent a child to school for, go and return to be struggling with people who didn’t go to school to be riding Okada to make a living.
We need industries, factories, cottage Industries to employ these youths so that we can have a growing communities. These are major challenges.
Your Kingdom is an oil producing, would you say the oil companies is carrying the communities along?
I would categorically say No. I grew up here as a child. When the now SPDC, which was initially called Shell BP, was the only oil company operating in this area, all the internal roads connection were constructed and some of those roads are still existing as at today.
They used to come to government College pick the best students and train them to be oil workers. Anything that got spoiled in the community then, there was a slang we used to say at that time, ‘Shell Go Pay’ but today, the oil companies have politicized everything, they look for one or two persons in the community, make them rich to the detriment of the general public in the community. That is not the way the oil companies should be relating with us.
The oil companies should assist in the development of the places they explore, there is what is called Environmental Impact Analysis study in an area where they do construction or drilling and when they finished drilling, they ought to return that place to its original state but that is not happening as at today.
So, the direct answer to that your question is that we are not feeling the impact of the oil companies operating in our communities. We must engage the oil companies, I will not encourage individual communities to lead a riot or make a protest and all that, we will intelligently sit on a roundtable and ask them their long and short term plan for our communities and by so doing, we would have an MoU that will span the whole kingdom that will provide employment opportunities for our people and know the number of persons to be employed in a year, number of scholarship per year, number of rods network to be constructed in a year and from there, we will monitor their compliance.