Naturally the Urhobo of ldimi-Sobo in Okere were over the years assimilated into Okere. Their lingua franca was until recently the Itsekiri language. Their dress modes, traditional burial rites, marriage rites and masquerade dances and songs are modelled on those of the Itsekiris and have remained so till date despite faltering attempts at “urhobonizing” themselves so as to be seen as “independent”.Okere Juju Masquerade in action
Further cultural ties are manifest in the Itsekiri names almost always given to the children of the Urhobo of ldimi-sobo in Okere. For example, the late Chief Okumagba-Eboh gave Itsekiri names to almost all his children :-
(i) Henry Uyakominor Okumagba (late) – Uyakominor is an Itsekiri name, meaning “I am fed up with suffering”.
(ii) Chief Daniel Etseoforonetorinmi Okumagba – Etseoforonetorinmi is an Itsekiri name, meaning “It is not the fault of those who laugh at me”.
(iii) Benjamin Oyeoforetseogho Okumagba – Oyeoforetseogho is an Itsekiri name, meaning “wisdom with words is not wealth”.
(iv) Madam Esidami Okumagba (late) – Esidami is an Itsekiri name, meaning “created/protected by God”.
(v) Madam Ejutemiweden Okumagba (late) – Ejutemiweden is an Itsekiri name, meaning “my kind is not rare”.
(vi) Even the name “Okumagba” is not an Urhobo name! It is either a slight corruption of the Itsekiri adage, “Uku e ma agba”, meaning “death does not know/respect age/elders” or a corruption of a common Itsekiri name “Akomagba”.
(vii) Other well known Itsekiri names within Urhobo of Idimi-Sobo in Okere are: Eyitene, Eburu, Emebiren, Oghotemi, Amaofororitse, Eminokanju, etc., etc.
OKERE AND IDIMI SOBO LITIGATION
Unfortunately, what used to be a union of brothers and sisters have for some years now been set more or less asunder by internal strife instigated by largely selfish interests. The Itsekiri of Okere and the Urhobo of Idimi-sobo in Okere co-existed peacefully as one entity until 1927 when Chief Okumagba-Eboh, the fourth in line of the Idama descendants, strayed and attempted to take possession of the land given them by the Itsekiri. This attempt was, however, thwarted by Nikoro, the then Olare Aja of Okere. In suit No. 784/27 held at the then Warri Native Court, Chief Okumagba-Eboh was ordered to pay the sum of five pounds as rent to the Ogitsi family (and therefore to the Itsekiri). An appeal was later lodged by Okumagba-Eboh in the Warri Native Court of Appeal and there setting aside the issue of rent, a new twist was introduced into the case: the question of economic (rubber) trees. The Court President ruled that when the rubber trees were ripe (mature) and sold for money, the Idimi-sobos should pay the sum of five pounds per annum for sacrifice to Ogitsi (a prominent grandson of Ekpen, the founder of Okere). This case was again revisited in 1942 (reference Suit No. W/14A/1942) held at the Magistrate Court of Warri Magisterial Area on 7th January, 1943 before His Lordship William Roland Awunor-Renner. In his judgement, the Magistrate stated inter alia, and we quote, “It is not disputed that the land belongs to the Ogitsi family. There is ample evidence that the defendant/respondent (Okumagba-Eboh for Idimi-sobo) and his ancestors have been on the land for generations. In fact he and his father were born on this land and for him (Okumagba-Eboh) to be removed, it was necessary for the plaintiffs/appellants (Chief Omatsone Tsegbeyeri Awani and Regbeti Popo for Ogitsi-Ekpen family) to prove such grave misconduct, acts and omissions, which would make him (Okumagba-Eboh) liable in law and equity to be dispossessed of the land…”
The other major litigation was suit No. W/48/68 (SC309/74) in respect of the so-called “Okumagba Layout” of recent years. This case was not directly between the Itsekiri of Okere and the Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu families of Idimi-sobo in Okere. However, it is noteworthy that in spite of all odds, the Supreme Court did not grant Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu families of Idimi-sobo radical title to the land in question. Gani Fawehinmi Chambers, acting as counsel to the Olare Aja of Okere and all Okere people, pointed out as follows in an advertised reaction to a July 1, 1992 write-up by Benjamin Okumagba published in the Guardian:
“The judgement of the Supreme Court referred to in the write-up (Idundun & Ors v. Okumagba & Ors [SC 309/74] delivered on 8th October, 1976 and reported in (1976) 1 N.M.L.R. 200,  10 S. C. 227) did not grant title or ownership of the land in dispute in that case to the respondents therein represented by DANIEL OKUMAGBA & ORS.
“The Supreme Court made it clear in pages 201 and 229 respectively of the above-stated reports where it stated as follows:-
The averments in the plaintiffs’ amended statement of claim and the evidence adduced in support showed clearly that the claim was based partly on traditional evidence and partly on acts of ownership. The averments in the defendants’ statement of defence and the evidence given by them in support gave a completely different version of the traditional evidence. The defendants also testified as to their acts of ownership on the land in dispute. It must be pointed out at this stage, however, that the defendants did not counterclaim for title to the land.”He concluded that “… it is trite law and beyond any legal argument that no court has power or jurisdiction to grant to a party a relief he did not claim. In essence, that judgement dismissed the claims as framed which covered only 281.1 acres but did not grant title to the land in dispute to the defendants therein i.e. Daniel Okumagba & Others”.
Obviously, the Olodi, Oki and Ighogbadu families did not ask for radical title to the land because they could not have done so, conscious as they were of the outcome of previous relevant litigations and, more importantly, the fact that it was not their ancestral land. But on the basis of that Supreme Court judgment of 1976 that granted them merely a possessory title to 281.1 acres of land in Idimi-Sobo, they have since then sought to prise themselves from the larger Okere Community, preferring instead to refer to themselves as belonging to an Okere-Urhobo clan which later metamorphosed to “kingdom”. Through political intrigue and maneuvers with a complicit political class in Delta State, they succeeded in the early 2000s in procuring the title of Orosuen and having it gazetted by the State government as their king even when they manifestly have no kingship tradition. Nevertheless, the Okere people remain resolute in their rejection of this scheme and do not recognize any other traditional title in their land than the Olare Aja who is the Ogieboro of all Okere.
OTHER RELEVANT LEGAL CORRELATES
In the case of Ometan versus Dore (Suit No. 25/26), Ometan, an Urhobo man from Agbassa, said under cross-examination that Itsekiri people own Okere. Another Urhobo man, Okandeji, also testified in the said case that Okere is Itsekiri land.
The Deed of Lease over the land presently occupied by the Federal Prisons in Okere was entered into between the people of Okere (Itsekiri) on the one hand and the government of Nigeria on the other hand.
ROOT OF CONFLICT IN OKERE AND WARRI IN GENERAL
Impunity and Disregard for the Rule of Law
The foremost cause of conflicts between the Urhobos in Warri and the Itsekiri is sheer impunity and refusal to obey court judgments and orders.
The Urhobos of Agbassa have refused to accept Supreme Court decision in Ometan versus Dore (supra) cited in Essi versus the Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria and Others (supra) which declared them tenants of the Olu of Warri in respect of Agbassa and Igbudu lands. A faction of the Urhobos of Idimi-sobo in Okere, led by Mr. Benjamin Oyeoforetsogho Okumagba, have likewise refused to accept the decision in suit No. W/14A/I942: Omatsone and Others versus Okumagba which declared them tenants of the Okere people. They have also refused to accept the more recent decision of a Warri Court in Suit No. M/51/92 which quashed their claim to an Okere-Urhobo clan and restrained the said Okumagba from parading himself as the Otota of a non-existent clan. This non-acceptance of court decisions has on occasions translated into outright hatred, use of abusive language, and even violence, against the Itsekiri and the institution of the Olu of Warri as was shown in the combined Agbassa and Idimi-sobo attack on the Olu of Warri’s coronation anniversary carnival train in May, 1993.
On the Ijaw side, several court judgements declaring them tenants within the Warri Kingdom (refer to Suits Nos. W/116/56, W/148/56, SC/450/65, W/20/46, W/29/51, WACA No. 3707, W/37/61, SC/393/64, W/30/62, SC/37/1973 and W/143/84) have been publicly described and dismissed by the Ijaw, particularly Messrs. W. Okrika and an otherwise eminent Ijaw leader, E. K. Clark, who ironically is a lawyer, as being fraudulently obtained thus precluding any basis for reasonable or meaningful dialogue. Like the Urhobo of Idimi-Sobo in Okere, they too have had recourse to political maneuvering and intrigue to procure kingship titles for their settlements within the Warri Kingdom in recent years.
Chief Onanefe Ibori, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan – Governors of Delta State to date – Triumph of Politics and Nuisance Over Rule of Law?
Pan-Urhobo and Ijaw Movements
The activities of the Urhobo Progressive Union and the Ijaw National Congress, worldwide umbrella organizations for Urhobo and Ijaw interests respectively, have encouraged chauvinism amongst these two ethnic groups in their relationship with their Itsekiri neighbor.
The existence of these umbrella organizations encourages the Urhobo and Ijaw in Warri, who are minorities in the kingdom, to team up with their kith and kin from outside the Warri Kingdom to suppress Itsekiri rights and annexe their lands.
While the Itsekiri have no linguistic or cultural affinity with any ethnic group in Delta State, the Urhobo have and are in league with heir kith and kin from the Urhobo lands of Ughelli, Okpe, Uvwie, and Udu Local Government Areas, as well as with their cousins of the Isoko Local Government Areas. This way, they swell their numbers in Warri kingdom, dominate the State House of Assembly, unduly influence executive political appointments to favor themselves, and so are able to pass resolutions and freely issue gazettes to give legal backing to their every whim.
The Ijaw on the other hand, team up with their brothers in Burutu, Patani, and Bomadi Local Government Areas of Delta State as well as with the entirety of Bayelsa State to also suppress the Itsekiri people in their homeland, invade their communities, forcibly take over their lands and communities, and rename them with impunity. The strife of the 1990’s is a case in point. The Itsekiri were attacked, brutalized and killed in their hundreds in the guise of an ethnic conflict or war whereas indeed it was a deliberate one-sided assault of the Ijaw on defenseless Itsekiri elders, women, and children, with annexation of Itsekiri land and political domination as their singular objective in keeping with their original Kiama Declaration where they claimed that all coastal lands from Akwa Ibom State to Ondo State, regardless of subsisting court judgments, belonged to them. It is thus that despite subsisting 1972 Supreme Court judgments in favor of the Itsekiri with regard to the ownership of Okerenghigho and Bakokodia communities in Warri South-West Local Government Areas, the Ijaw under the presidency of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan (himself an Ijaw man from Bayelsa State), annexed and renamed the communities as Okerenkoko and Kokodiagbene respectively and got the State Government to gazette them as such!
In the ethnic configuration of Delta State, and indeed the entire South-South geopolitical zone therefore, the Itsekiri people, despite their absolute majority in their own homeland comprising the three Warri Local Government Areas, find themselves crowded in, particularly at the legislative and executive arms of government, by two ethnic groups with filial affinity to other Local Government Areas and a neighboring State that actively support and collaborate with them on all fronts. This is a situation that must be addressed urgently.
The Delta State Government, and by extension the Federal Government, has also been a significant spoiler in the quest for peaceful coexistence among the the Itsekiri, Ijaw, and Urhobo in Warri in their inability to uphold and enforce the rule of law. It can even be rightly said that they are complicit in the subversion of the rule of law. How else can one explain the absurdity of creating a kingdom (Okere-Urhobo) out of a community (Okere)?! And the gazetting of a king for such a kingdom by the government in defiance of a subsisting and explicit court judgment (Suit No. M/51/92) that such a kingdom does not exist! It is impunity taken too far. The government, particularly in the aftermath of the Warri crisis of the 90s, rewarded nuisance; the higher the nuisance value, the more substantial the reward. They thus set an unfortunate precedent. It is this precedent that has continued to encourage acts of lawlessness and crass impudence, like the current call for the renaming of parts of Warri Township. The Urhobo and Ijaw in Warri do not have a monopoly of nuisance. Government must live up to its responsibilities to uphold the rule of law and give justice even to the quiescent lest they too be encouraged to deal in nuisance.