Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ki Ke Umu Olubor Kwu Zi?

When OPU Lagos was born in April 1946 at a quiet place in Onikan, Lagos, it was without fanfare, but with the focus and aim of taking Owerre-Olubor to autonomy and to greater heights.  Indeed, the formation itself was a radical departure from acquiescing with the clannish posturing of Akumazi.  The six Umu Olubor who took that decision to be autonomous were from the five ogbes of Owerre-Olubor.  They were men of honour in the persons of John Awanah, Godfrey Anene, Jombo Idewu, Pius Okorie Monye, Geoffrey Uzoelue, and Augustine Ndikanwun, the last being the only surviving titan among the six.  They had conjoined with Akumazi natives in Lagos to form a union.  They broke away to form the union called Odimma Obodo, and they foresaw then that autonomy was something desirable.  It is therefore worrisome that the present generation of Umu Olubor appears not to be exerting the required effort to realize this chiefdom.  What went wrong?  Many things have gone wrong – beginning from attitudes to procedures.

For instance, attendance at OPU Lagos meetings.  This has always been very discouraging.  Out of over 120 members, scarcely do we cross 40 in attendance; and even then, up to 37 members come late with some arriving two hours behind the starting time of 2:00 p.m.  Many members also cleverly stagger the dates of their attendance so as to beat the membership expiry term.  This attitude leaves room for dearth of badly needed ideas for advancing the cause (or causes) of our dear homeland.  Therefore, a matter that should have been concluded at one meeting would take several meetings before a firm resolution could be reached.  This is a major drawback!

Foul and inflammatory statements during deliberations.  It is not uncommon to hear statements such as “you Umuikpulu are supporting him because he is your brother.”  A statement similar to this was uttered during OPU’s deliberation on the performance of the ward councilor on 3rd April 2011.  This sort of utterance is very divisive and it is unbecoming of a member of a progress union like OPU Lagos.

Added to this are innuendoes which border on naivety, ill-will and undermining of progressive actions.  One sometimes would hear members asking: “what are they going to do with the fund being raised?”  Or “why should this braggart be made the president?” as if the members raising that question did not vote at the election.  And it is even possible that such members were not present at the election so as to vote against the bloody braggart.  This is the attitude of scoffers; and scoffers never make progress in any cause, or course of action.

Another attitudinal problem is the disgusting unwillingness to participate in action committees, with excuses such as church activities and distance of residence. The irony is that members in this mold are the very ones who pay lip service to the love for Owerre-Olubor. Love is played out in actions, not in mere words!  Does the Bible not say that faith without works is dead? Similarly, love for (or faith in) the homeland must be demonstrated in works (i.e. actions).

Furthermore is the perfunctory performance in assigned tasks, e.g. reporting on field work by OPU Exco departments; the search for a new meeting venue; the review of the OPU constitution. For instance, the committee set up in February 2010 to search for a new meeting venue has not found any venue and yet has not reported back to the OPU meeting since then – 18 months ago! Again, a 5-man committee was set up to review and amend the OPU constitution and that committee was given two months to submit its report.  To do its work properly the five men should sit severally and discuss the job at hand, but it is sad to say that only two men met throughout the time frame to review and amend the constitution.  The other three gave excuses such as church activities and travels.

Still with regard to shoddy execution of assignments, the OPU Exco members cannot be exonerated. At the beginning of the term of the present administration (Feb. 2010/Dec. 2013) the Exco was carved out into six departments with specific tasks and to report on their research activities which are called “field work.”  It is painful that only one department out of six actually reported any field work.  That means the other departments never did any research, much less to give any written or oral report.

What more? The Youth Wing, which ought to be the soul and vanguard of the Union in Lagos, has refused to form, conform and perform!  Efforts were exerted on 2nd October 2010 to resuscitate the Youth Wing at a meeting in Festac Town where some pioneer members were selected and given the noble task of assembling their peers.  Eight months after, petty squabbles and old animosity among the arrowheads have been the wedge and the youths are yet to assemble.  Certainly, their confessed love for the homeland is not in action. Love in action is the language!

Now the procedural problems.  We see these at play in the conduct of meetings. A meeting well conducted and directed will certainly bring progress. This is where the chairing of OPU Lagos meetings and even the Town Conference should be methodical and directional, but certainly not didactic as some OPU Lagos members have often complained about.  Matters should be exhaustively debated by floor members and with less of presidential veto, so that sensible resolutions can be reached and followed up concertedly.

If it took 65 years to open a bank account for the union, then something had fundamentally gone wrong with procedure and chairing of OPU meetings. The OPU Exco of 2001/2010 told the Union that a bank account had been opened in the name of the Union, but that was a lie. And that was a blatant procedural failure as far as sections 8(i) and (ii) and article 51 of the OPU constitution are concerned. Subjoined is an extract from my letter dated 8th August 2002 to the OPU president at that time.

“I am greatly disturbed by the information that our union, the Olubor House in Lagos, has never had a bank account for all the funds being gathered every month at our meetings!  Two views immediately hit me, and they are: first, that we are loose in our organization; and second, that we must have lost huge amount of interests on funds that should have been placed in the bank.  As I always say, Owerre-Olubor is no longer a fledgling community.  We have come of age and our eyes are wizened enough to have seen too many ways and means of doing things properly.

Our constitution (at page 13: subsections 8(i) & 8(ii) and article 51) clearly states that the union shall operate a bank account.  If, in the past we could excuse our not having a bank account because we had no constitution, we should correct this anomaly now that we have a written constitution – with a clause to operate a bank account.  I had been with the women’s wing for two years and, before then as well as throughout my service the women operated a savings bank account.  Indeed, in Year 2001 alone, the women’s Omegabank saving account gathered interests amounting to N23,000 plus.  The bank balance as at December 2001 was N224,000 plus.  If our wives could do this, even without a written code of ethics, why can’t we – who have a written constitution?

My dear President, in view of the gravity of this matter, I will appreciate it if it is top on the agenda of the meeting of September.  Failing this, I may propose a motion for the audit that will be due in September, and then the immediate transfer of all cash in the treasury to a bank account in the month of October.  It will not matter whether that account is in the name of a trustworthy member or in the union’s name.  This has become an emergency!”

It is cheerful to know that this systemic failure was corrected by the present OPU Exco in May 2010 – barely five months into its administration. And this is a procedure that ought to have been in place 65 years ago.

Another procedural failure – now with the hue of financial malfeasance – is the N112,000 which is still being held by Chief Jebose’s committee on health centre.  Two years ago that committee submitted a report to the Town Conference about how it had spent N88,000 out of the N200,000 donated by Chief Vincent Ojogbo.  The balance of N112,000 is yet to be tendered either in cash or by cheque to the Town Conference Exco in spite of Chief Jebose’s resignation as Town Conference Vice-Chairman immediately after election in April 2010. The Conference Exco, whose chairman is also President of OPU Lagos, has not effectively redressed this misappropriation.

Money answers all matters, so says the holy writ.  However, the case of OPU Lagos is that of poverty in the midst of plenty! So, our lean purse can answer only very few things.  Today, OPU Lagos has a debt figure of 1.3 million naira due from members. This is another procedural hindrance to our efforts at making progress.  Many members who come to meetings do not think of paying their subscriptions, not to talk of offsetting their huge debts. We need to have a rethinking.

I cannot end these views without saying something about the obiship process.  The methods so far used reek with scuttling of the process in words, deeds and intrigues.  The DI Committee will not perform and words of doubt have become a scarecrow to those rallying to actualize this inalienable right.  There is need to put some vim into the process, even in a radical and abrasive way.

My take in all these is that OPU Lagos has fallen grossly short of expectations since its founding in April 1946.

Frank Monye
Lagos: 27 July 2011