Communiqué / Press Statement - October 9, 2007


Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated, the umbrella organization of regional Itsekiri associations, in the United States, recently held its 10th Annual National Convention, in Houston Texas, from Friday, August 31, 2007 to Sunday, September 2, 2007 at The Renaissance Hotel Greenway Plaza, 6 Greenway Plaza East, Houston, TX 77046.

Themed “Ugbajo Itsekiri 10 Years Later?” the deliberations were designed to address and review the place and role of Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Inc., in the development of the Itsekiri people, since its inauguration.

While declaring the convention open at a town hall meeting, the National President of Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated, Mr. Hector Ayu, highlighted the objectives of Ugbajo Itsekiri USA at its inception in 1997. Stating:

promoting Itsekiri culture, custom and heritage
promoting unity and cordiality among the Itsekiri people
promoting peaceful coexistence between the Itsekiri people and their host abroad and their neighbors at home in Nigeria
promoting and supporting social and economic development for the Itsekiri people and their homeland
He noted that while the association has had some successes in promoting the Itsekiri culture, custom, heritage, unity and cordiality amongst the people Itsekiri, there is however more work to be done to achieve the overall objectives of the association.

Talking about the various projects being embarked upon by the association, among them Ugbajo Itsekiri Scholarship Program, the library and the medical equipment drive, Mr. Ayu expressed the need to revamp the Scholarship Program, and he admonished the members to get involved in the activities of the association, to help find solutions to the challenges that lie ahead.

Before formally declaring the convention open, Mr. Ayu asked the house to recognize the first regional presidents of the regional groups that made up Ugbajo Itsekiri at its inception. The national president also reminded the members that an election will be held at the 2008 convention, and members should be prepared to contest for national positions.

In addition, a moment of silence was held in honor of all Itsekiri who were massacred during the Warri crisis and those who have since died in the United States since the birth of Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated.

Following the president’s speech, Dr. Joseph Otumara, Commissioner for Health, Delta State, Nigeria, addressed the convention on behalf of the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. He expressed the Governor’s appreciation for the support he got from the association during the gubernatorial election. He named the three cardinal programs for the Governor’s office as: Peace and Human Security, Physical Development and Infrastructural Development.

Dr. Otumara’s address and goodwill message was followed by the convention presentations.

Convention speakers included Mr. Bawo Ayomike, first national secretary, Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated, Mr. Macaulay E-Nunu, first national publicity secretary, second national president and an elected member of the Board, Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated. Mr. Bemigho Edegbele, first national treasurer, Ms. Violet May, past financial secretary and Mr. Eyisan Omagbemi, first national vice-president, third national president and an elected member of the Board, Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated. Convention speakers also included Ms. Elizabeth Ereku, vice-president Warri National Union of Great Britain and Ireland, London branch.

Speaking on the topic; how we started? Mr. Bawo Ayomike recalled how the ethnic conflict directed against Itsekiri from 1997 brought about the formation of Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated.

Mr. Ayomike acknowledged the visionary statement made by Mrs. Queen May that the Iteskiri people in the United States must seize on the opportunity to get together and form an association that will promote Iteskiri interest and aspirations. He went on to add that Mr. Alfred Alatan, first national president Ugbajo Itsekiri and the members of Itsekiri National Association, Houston Texas were the driving forces behind the formation of the association.

He recalled that at the first meeting, a constitution drafting committee, made up of Mr. Skelly Joe, Mr. Bemigho Edegbele, Mr. Macaulay E-Nunu, Mr. Vincent Wilkie, Chief Agbeyegbe, and Dr. Okotie was set-up. Mr. Ayomike noted that the visions by the founding members went beyond the then immediate Warri crisis and encompassed having an organization that will in the future act as a catalyst, in the development of Itsekiriland.

In his address, Mr. Macaulay E-Nunu, thanked God for the time together. He admonished the members on the need to stay focused on the objectives that brought the members of the association together, no matter the differences in opinion and approach. Speaking on the topic; where we started, he noted that the scholarship program and the initiation of the library project were some of the accomplishments of the association.

Comparing the library project to a white elephant, Mr. E-Nunu also expressed his disappointment for the current state of the scholarship program. Remarking that the library project is a laudable idea, he stated that as a non-profit organization, several services and assistance are available, to help get the project off the ground. Indicating, that Ugbajo Itsekiri can obtain books and other educational items donated at no cost.

Calling for an open and honest discussion on the way forward, he urged for the resuscitation of the scholarship program and an infusion of support that will enable the library project to take off.

In a combined presentation, Mr. Bemigho Edegbele and Ms Violet May, addressed the subject, ‘where we should be. Mr. Edegbele linked the presentation title to the vision of the association stating that the initial motivating factor for coming together was based on the need to support Itsekiri in Nigeria. Nonetheless commending past efforts to assist Itsekiri in Nigeria he regretfully noted that there has been a lack of follow up on projects.

Ms. May in her presentation, said according to feedback from Nigeria, the association has become a face of the Itsekiri nation. She added that the formation of a national association served as inspiration for the emergence of several regional groups. Ms. May complimented the effort of the association, for initiatives such as the books and computer drive/shipment to Nigeria. A project spearheaded by the Southern California Itsekiri Cultural Association (SCICA); she however decried the morbid state of the scholarship program and the lack of progress on the library project.

While concluding his presentation, Mr. Edegbele urged all Itsekiri to use the forum as a meeting place to enhance the much taunted procreation of the Iteskiri race.

In his speech, Mr. Eyisan Omagbemi commended the association noting that Ugbajo has ensured that Itsekiri people speak with one voice. This he said has been achieved because of the annual national conventions.

In a presentation titled ‘looking ahead,’ he advocated for the adoption of short and long term projects but emphasized the need to start undertaking more short term projects, that will produce immediate results and impact the lives of the Itsekiri people.

Ms. Elizabeth Ereku, vice-president Warri National Union of Great Britain and Ireland, London branch, in her speech, commended the members of the association, noting that she and other attendees from the United Kingdom, have been impressed by the cohesiveness they observed in the conduct of Ugbajo’ affairs.

She told the house that she has been trying to sell the idea of an umbrella group such as Ugbajo to Itsekiri groups in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Recalling her days as a teacher, she called on the association to start teaching the Itsekiri language, culture and tradition to the children and youth. She stressed the need for the children and youth to respect their elders, and called on the elders to embrace the youth. Ms. Ereku added that as the association embarks on these ventures, they need to also advocate for the rebuilding of Ode-Iteskiri.

Concluding, she applauded the current national secretary, Ms. Patience Edremoda and Mr. Bawo Ayomike for their hard work and tenacity in helping to uphold the association and the integrity of the Iteskiri people.

Following the presentations, the moderator of the town hall meeting Dr. Felix Abeson, facilitated the question and answer session.

Attendees from Nigeria and Europe at the convention included the Chief of Staff to the Government of Delta State, the Hon. Solomon Arenyeka. Mrs. Alero Aderibigbe, Mr. Tayo Adeola, Mr. and Mrs. Victor Okoro, Mrs. Anne Abbey, Engineer Omatsuli Tuoyo, Retired Wing Commander Macaulay and Mrs. Mode, Hon Otimeyin Adams and Mrs. Adams and Dr. Tony Afejuku.

Also in attendance, were Dr. and Mrs. Oritsegbemi Omatete, Senior Itsekiri in the United States, appointed to the board of Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated. The attendees also included, Mrs. Mere Edevbie, matron Oma Iwere Association of Florida.

The convention format included a cocktail and mixer, held on Friday, August 31, 2007.

Following the town hall meeting, the convention resolved:

That Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated will continue to support Itsekiri in Nigeria, for the development of Itsekiri communities
That medical equipments and other medical supplies worth $30,000.00 will be shipped to the General Hospital before the end of the year 2007, by Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated
That Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated will organize a health drive and health fair in Nigeria
That Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated will consider short term projects that will yield immediate results
That Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated, will continue to work on the Library project
That Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated will organize a fundraising event in Nigeria, to raise funds for the Library project
That Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated will put modalities in place to address the lapses in the scholarship program
That Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated will set-up committees, to address various issues/aspect affecting the Itsekiri nation
That Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated will hold its tenth anniversary and 11th national annual convention, in New York/New Jersey in 2008.
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