Okpe People Have No Secessionist Intentions, Says Prof Igho Natufe

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…Insists Okpe Is Okpe, And Not a “Clan” of Any Other Ethnic Nationality in Nigeria or Anywhere In the World.

Delta State, Nigeria – Professor Igho Natufe, a prominent academic and advocate for the Okpe people, has reaffirmed that the Okpe ethnic group, the most populous monolithic ethnic nationality in Delta State, harbors no secessionist intentions. Instead, the Okpe people seek recognition and fairness within the Nigerian federation.

Speaking at various forums, including the 8th Annual General Meeting of the Okpe Union of North America and through communications with Delta State authorities, Prof. Natufe has consistently emphasized the distinct identity of the Okpe people. “Okpe is Okpe, and not a ‘clan’ of any other ethnic nationality in Nigeria or anywhere in the world,” he declared.

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Historical Context and Population

Okpe Nation comprises two Local Government Areas (LGAs): Okpe LGA and Sapele LGA. The population of Okpe nationals in neighboring Uvwie LGA surpasses that in Sapele LGA. His Royal Majesty Orhue I, Orodje of Okpe, highlighted that two Okpe villages, Ohore 1 and Ohore 2, are erroneously included in Uvwie LGA. He calls for a boundary adjustment to integrate these villages back into Okpe Nation, underscoring the need for accurate territorial representation.

Relations with Neighboring Ethnic Groups

The Okpe share Delta State with several ethnic nationalities, including the Urhobo, Itsekiri, and Ijaw. Despite historical interactions, the Okpe have maintained amicable relations with their neighbors. The boundaries between Okpe and Itsekiri are demarcated by the Benin River and various creeks, while the eastern boundary with Urhobo follows the Ethiope River. Okpe’s central location has earned it the title “the Bridge of Delta State,” reflecting its peaceful and accommodating nature.

The Role of Okpe in Nigeria’s Future

The Okpe, along with over 400 indigenous ethnic nationalities, play a crucial role in shaping Nigeria’s future. Prof. Natufe and the Okpe Union advocate for federalism and good governance, aligning with movements like the Movement for the Reformation of Nigeria (MNR). This advocacy is rooted in the belief that Nigeria’s indigenous ethnic nationalities are essential federating units whose voices must be heard.

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Recognition and Advocacy

Prof. Natufe stressed the importance of recognizing Okpe as a distinct ethnic nationality. In June 2021, a formal request was made to the then-Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, seeking this recognition. This request is slated for re-submission to Governor Sheriff Oborevwori. The recognition, according to Natufe, is vital for preserving Okpe identity and ensuring fair representation.

Challenges Facing Nigeria

Nigeria faces significant challenges, including insecurity and leadership failures. Prof. Natufe criticized the federal government’s inability to ensure security, pointing out the unchecked activities of Fulani herdsmen, bandits, and terrorists. This situation has displaced many Nigerians, especially in the northern states, forcing them into refugee camps. He emphasized solidarity with all affected ethnic nationalities, calling for immediate government action to restore safety and order.

Pathway to Federalism and Equality

For Nigeria to thrive, Prof. Natufe advocates for a return to the principles of the 1963 Constitution, emphasizing federalism and equitable resource distribution. He proposes creating homogeneous states for the most populous ethnic groups and heterogeneous states for others, ensuring autonomous regions for distinct ethnic nationalities. This structure, he argues, would promote fairness and balance in governance.

Economic Development and Investment

The Okpe Union is committed to attracting and retaining investments in Okpe Nation. The revival of the Sapele seaport, once second to Lagos, is a priority. Prof. Natufe calls for improved infrastructure to attract investors, highlighting the disparity between Okpe and more developed regions within Delta State. He advocates for leveraging the expertise of Okpe nationals, especially those in the diaspora, to foster economic growth through public-private partnerships.

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The Okpe people remain committed to a united Nigeria based on justice, fairness, and equity. Prof. Natufe’s remarks underscore the necessity of federalism that respects the rights of all indigenous ethnic nationalities. While the Okpe do not seek secession, they recognize the critical need for structural reforms to ensure Nigeria’s stability and prosperity.

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