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INTERVIEW: Crisis Rocking UPU Youth Wing Is Evidence Of Bad Leadership– Omene

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Chief (Engr.) Joe Omene, President-General, Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), Worldwide

Says IMC Members Have Betrayed The Trust Reposed On Them

…Blasts Buhari, NDDC For Neglect Of The Niger Delta

…Exonerates Okowa, Blames Urhobo Politicians For UPU Crisis

...Praises Umukoro-led Youth Body

As the crisis rocking the youth body of Chief Taiga’s faction of Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) rages on, Chief Joe Omene has said that the authentic youth body led by Comrade Efemena Umukoro under his leadership of UPU, is continuing to promote Urhobo interest in all spheres of life. Omene who stated this in an interview with newsmen recently, also reversed himself on the ongoing probe of the NDDC, saying that the Interim Management Committee has betrayed the trust reposed on it by mismanaging Niger Deltan’s money in their care. Among other things, Chief Omene also sued for peace between the warring factions in Evwreni Community, noting that both attacks and reprisal attacks and casualties are all from among Evwreni indigenes.

Excerpts:

Recently, the youth wing of the Moses Taiga’s faction of UPU has been rocked with crisis. What is your reaction to this?
I’m not surprised that this thing is happening in the so-called Taiga’s faction of UPU. You see, the product of something that is not properly organized will always be a bad one. It is often said that what goes around comes around. How did Taiga, who now claims to be President-General of UPU, come to be? Did anybody hand over to him? Who did he take over from? Nobody. Election was properly and constitutionally conducted and a President-General emerged. But some kings and politicians who have no interest of Urhobo went to conduct another parallel election. Who were the delegates of that election? No single branch of the UPU participated. So, if an election was conducted and somebody was constitutionally sworn in as President-General, and if another set of gullible Urhobo went to conduct another election unconstitutionally, and that exercise was bad, why is Taiga complaining about his youth wing. Why is he claiming that a youth election had already been conducted and that there was no need for another youth election? Why is he crying that Hon. Oyibode cannot conduct another election? He ought to know that Hon. Oyibode is more patriotic to the Urhobo cause than Oshevire and he (Oyibode) is in a better position to conduct the youth election. While he was a student in Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Hon. Oyibode was organising the National Association of Urhobo Students in that institution. He continued to demonstrate high passion for Urhobo affairs. It didn’t just start today. Taiga should have known that the Urhobo youths election he conducted was more credible and authentic. You see, if you build your house on a sandy foundation, any small wind will make it collapse.
Now, there are about two or three factions of youth wings under Taiga. But in the constitutionally elected UPU under my leadership, our youth wing is working. There is no quarrel. One will handover to the other and it is always peaceful. So, as the crisis in the Taiga’s youth wing is concerned, I’m not surprised. Taiga said he can only govern Urhobo from Lagos and in the Diaspora. But that is not the spirit of our founding fathers when they established the UPU. They did not rule from Lagos, Calabar or London. They ruled from within Urhobo land. So, I’m not surprised. There is no way anything bad can produce a good thing. It can’t happen.
In the first place, what has Taiga achieved since he claimed to be President-General? The kings and politicians that brought him said that Taiga will develop Urhobo, that he is a rich man. The Urhobo people did not know they were being scammed. All the things which Taiga promised, has he done any one? He promised to rebuild Urhobo College. Two, he said he was going to bring MicroFinance Bank. Three, he said he was going to build Urhobo University. Four years after, has he done any of these things? The answer is no.
Taiga was not interested in the governance of Urhobo. He was only interested in the name President General. The people thought they will force me out, make me disillusioned and say I will back out. But I said no way. Instead, it makes me stronger and resolute. And I said I will continue to defend the interest of Urhobo. There is no way I will hand over to an Ijaw man. So, what is happening now? Can Taiga point to anything he has achieved? The renovation of the Urhobo House, it was here we put it in DESOPADEC budget under Makinde for the government to execute. What about all the millions which the goverment gave to him, what has he done with them? He just squandered all the money.
Let me also say that the Moses Taiga UPU has no youth President, they have no Emete (women wing). We inaugurated our youth executive and Hon. Efemena Umukoro emerged as the youth President. Since he became president, he has made tremendous progress. During the Covid-19, he went everywhere giving out palliatives. He also resolved that the harassment of Urhobo youths by police was getting too much. For example, some policemen from Abuja purportedly from the Inspector-General of Police, came to the state and started arresting some Urhobo youths and extorting money from them. In one instance, they extorted the sum of N1.5 million from a single individual. The youth President, Hon. Umukoro, got in touch with the Delta State Police Commissioner, the AIG zone 5 and even Abuja and the culprit policeman was identified. He was made to refund the N1.5 million to the owner. That is work.
Another instance was when some policemen arrested an Urhobo man travelling to Benin a few days ago, under the allegation of being a Yahoo boy. They demanded the sum of N200,000 from him and when he said he had no money, they detained him. The youth President got in touch with me about the incident and we alerted the AIG zone 5, a very kind and wonderful officer. He ordered the arrest of the policemen involved and as I speak with you, they are still being detained. Also, UPU under my leadership rescued a Nigerian girl who was sold to Burkina Faso as a prostitute. The UPU branch in that country rescued her and brought her to my house here where we rehabilitated her and sponsored her to learn a trade. The same way the UPU under my leadership also intervened in the case of that Urhobo girl in Bayelsa State, Ms. Oruru. We played a prominent role to rescue her from her abductor, an emir in the North. As a President-General, I met 25 branches of UPU world wide. Two years after, I increased the branches to 67. All these things I’m counting, can Taiga count any one? No. Which means he is not working. As a UPU President-General, I visited all our branches abroad and in Africa. When I visited Malaysia to check on Urhobo people there, I paid courtesy call on the Nigerian Ambassador to that country. He was shocked to see me. He said if the leader of an ethnic nationality could come all the way to Malaysia to check on his people, no wonder Urhobos in Malaysia are not into crime

Some people are saying that the current crisis bedeviling the Moses Taiga youth leadership is perpetrated by politicians. Is that your opinion too?
Yes, some of the greedy politicians in Urhobo are behind the crisis among the youths in the Taiga’s faction. They are looking towards 2023 and how they can take control of their positions. Since the Taiga group are basically PDP, there are factions as to which group will produce the Governorship in 2023. So, the struggle is centered on who will produce the structure for the 2023 governorship. I used to blame the governor, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa for his intervention in the affairs of UPU, but I have come to discover that it is these greedy top Urhobo politicians that are selling dummies to the governor. I’m no longer bitter with the governor again.

State of the nation. Where is Nigeria drifting to at the moment?
I’ve commented somewhere before that all what is happening in the country today are products of personal interest, greed and uncontrolled tendency to steal. What would an individual be doing with billions of naira whereas just one billion naira can transform the lives of the people of a community. If a community is to have one billion naira and they choose to give out a repayable loan of N50,000 to each person to trade and pay back so that others will be able to access it, it will turn around the lives of people in that community.
Let’s take the case of the NDDC which is trending now. It is very painful because all the actors being talked about are from the Niger Delta. The budget of the NDDC is about N300 billion a year but over these years there is nothing to show for it in the Niger Delta. The people have been crying of poverty and lack of infrastructure but those managing the Commission keep sharing billions to themselves. I was supporting the Interim Management Committee before now. And I said if the National Assembly has anything against the IMC illegality, they should go to court. If they discovered that there is misappropriation of fund among members of the Committee, they should be summoned to explain. But during the course of the investigation, they admitted that they had actually shared billions among themselves. Two things really angered me. One, they gave out about N600 million to the police for face masks. What is the business of a Commission meant to develop the Niger Delta with a federal government police? Not only that, they shared palliatives among themselves where some individuals got some millions, the least worker going home with N500,000. It is funny, to put it mildly. These open confessions are irritating. We are very resilient as a people. Otherwise, in some societies, since these confessions, the people of the Niger Delta would have by now be revolting over what has been happening to their money. Look at the state of our roads, potholes everywhere.
Warri to Benin that used to take motorists one hour, now takes over three hours to arrive Benin because of bad spots. Yet, the NDDC members keep sharing billions among themselves. Can’t there be patriotic Nigerians whom we can trust to run the organization? I’m not cut out for that.
What is the President still doing with them? The President is one of our problems. Act, you won’t act; correct, you won’t correct; talk, you won’t talk. When people talk you would say they want to destabilize your government. You came in and promised all kinds of things to Nigerians. And because of your antecedents as a military Head of State with late Gen. Tunde Idiagbon as your deputy, we voted massively for you. There was discipline during that regime, and we thought that you were responsible, not knowing it was Idiagbon that was responsible. Now that you don’t have a fire-spitting Vice like Idiagbon as Vice President, you cannot perform. So, that is the state of the nation as of today. Security, zero; development zero; standard of living zero; education zero and even health, zero.

So, what is the hope for Nigerians?
Hope for Nigerians? Prayer now. When you hope for something, you pray for it. And life is all about hope. What is happening now, if it was the time of military, a lot of persons would have been cooling their feet in jail. We were thinking civilians would do a better job than the military. How can you still be habouring these people in your cabinet? Under the military, it is either you perform or you don’t perform. If you don’t perform you get kicked out.
During the time of Jonathan regime, they took loans but there were no such clauses in loan agreements that ceded away Nigeria sovereignty as a country to the extent that if we defaults in payment the creditor country will enter Nigeria and seize anything except military and foreign service assets. And the Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi is warning the National Assembly from probing the clauses that mortgage the sovereignty of the country. According to him, if the National Assembly probes those draconian clauses, we cannot secure more of such loans from China. Does he think he is talking to fools?

For sometime now Evwreni kingdom has been embroiled in crisis involving the king and some politicians in the community. You will recall a similar crisis that tore the community apart about three decades ago. What is your message to the people of the community?
What I can say is that they should forget what happened in the past and they should come together in the interest of peace for the Evwreni people and in the interest of the peace of Urhobo. If the king thinks he can win the war, he is deceiving himself. He should have known that there are two or more persons in the kingdom he cannot undermine. And any responsible person in the community should also know that his king deserves respect. This is because if you don’t respect your king other people from outside the kingdom will not respect him. So, both sides should come together and settle the matter. They should not forget that it is only an Evwreni son or daughter that are likely to lose their lives if they continue in attacks and reprisals.

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