WRI: Reviving The Pride Of Warri

BY MICHAEL IKEOGWU
ONE thing that keeps a people alive and be able to reshape their future is the ability to realize when things are not going on the way they should and taking deliberate steps to re-direct the ship towards a more meaningful and purpose filled life.
Therefore, it will not be out of place to say that this was the basis upon which members of the Warri Rebirth Initiative (WRI), decided to chart a new course towards building a better society devoid of ethnic rivalry, tribal mistrust and discordant relationship.
Warri rebirth Initiative is a loose social, non-political organization of Warri ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ striving to attain the peace and oneness known in and amongst all citizens of the geographical expression called Warri between the 1950s and the 1970s with a view to realigning the area for human, social and infrastructural development.
The idea for Warri Rebirth Initiative was muted in the middle of 2009 after the members saw the massive response by the original Warri boys to a clarion call for assistance to one of their own who was bereaved. By October of that same year, the inaugural meeting was held and since then the group which has experienced overwhelming numerical group, has been meeting on a quarterly basis.
The group in a bid to consolidate the peace that has returned to the city after more than a decade mistrust and ethnic disharmony evolved a programme christened “WAFI DAY CELEBRATION.” The first edition was held in 2013 and the second edition came up December 23rd to 30th, 2014.
Setting the stage for WAFI 2014 CELEBRATION with Theme, “Rebuilding the House,” was a one-day symposium held at King George V Centenary (Memorial) Hall held December 23rd, 2014. This was followed by a cultural display by different ethnic groups and a novelty football match that took place at the Warri City Stadium on December 27th, 2014. The ceremony was rounded-off with a Solemn Assembly held at King George V Centenary (Memorial) Hall on Tuesday December 30th, 2014.
Apart from the fun the glamorous event offered, participants drawn from both within and outside the country, attested to the fact that members of Warri Rebirth Initiative, have gone beyond the imaginable and have proven doubting Thomases wrong on the belief that the residents of the area cannot relate again like they used to before the squabbles. Indeed, it was a home coming to many who had lived in Warri before.
The zeal, enthusiasm, joy, dedication and the debate that the event threw up, has distinguished WAFI DAY CELEBRATION as a model that troubled societies could key into to restore genuine peace and reconciliation amongst the people. Needless say that both the major ethnic groups and all the nationalities that make up Nigeria related in a convivial atmosphere reminiscent of the good old days.
Chairman, WRI, Mr. Kes Agbosa speaking at the one day WRI symposium held at King George V Centenary (Memorial) Hall, Warri, said continuous distrust and acrimony have affected the growth and development of the once bubbling city, adding that there was an urgent need for all the parties involved to work towards returning the city to her former glory.
Mr. Agbosa stated that while Ijaws, Itsekeiris and Urhobos continue to fight and get turn apart over territorial integrity and political power struggle, strangers in Warri have taken over control of all facets of lives in Warri.
He said that the choice of women and children as the major core of invited guest, was to ensure that the message was carried home by the women and mothers, while the children who will grow to become leaders of tomorrow will have the opportunity to listen and correct the erroneous impression the division amongst residents of the area have impacted on them.
“Because we dissipate our energy and resources fighting supremacy battles strangers have displaced original Warri boys to leadership in the land. When you look at our economy, social lives and even our politics, it is strangers in our midst that now dominate”, Agbosah noted.
Veteran broadcaster and former beauty queen, Chief Julie Coker who chaired the symposium said the occasion and the vision of WRI is a clear reminder that restoring Warri lost glory is very much realizable because “the fighting spirit of the Warri man and the inclination to stand out can never be dimmed.
She said that Warri women have contributed to very large extent in promoting the rich cultural heritage of the area in their dressing and admonished the men to develop the habit of dressing in Warri style wherever they go as doing so would help in passing their cultural heritage to the younger generation.
“The whole country wants to leave us behind, but we always move forward because the Warri man of woman is a shining star in any crowd he or she finds himself, that is if they put their minds to it.”
She pledged the commitment of the women folk towards proper up bringing of the child which according to her will contribute in no small measure towards building a better society devoid of anti social vices.
Lead speaker on the occasion, Victor Eburajolor who touched on “Rebuilding The House”, and long standing hotelier, George Owarienta who examined Good Governance as Panacea Against Social Strife both suggested a return to the good old days of peaceful coexistence among the aborigines if Warri must regain it’s lost glory.
Both emphasized on the need for the residents of Warri to focus on issues that would usher in development and not to dwell on such matters that would further deepen the mistrust that has badly impacted on the economy of the people.
Eburajolor said that Warri was once a big home with all the occupants relating without recourse to their ethnic background. He said that it was of late that people begin to read meaning to where they come from, creating a scenario of a friend of his who stayed in Warri before he travelled to oversea. He said he only got to discover that his friend was a Lagosian when his friend was to bury his father.
He specifically said that the goddess of trouble readers her ugly head in 1997 and ringed till about 2004 when the people began to realize that they had lost a lot to the unwarranted crisis. He regretted that some have not recovered from the trouble as many others lost their lives to the needless war.
While saying that the crisis threw up some individuals who ordinarily will have no place in the leadership of the area, Eburajolor lamented that they have held sway against the general interest of the people as they have stumbled on money which they are now using to intimidate and suppress the people who they claim to be leading.
He said that as a Warri he is always proud wherever he goes in spite of the challenge facing the area and thereby charged all Wafarians to join forces towards reviving the pride of the once bubbling rich oil city that has produced men and women of international repute.
At the cultural dance venue where all the tribes demonstrated their rich cultural heritage including those of other tribes resident in the oil rich city, Mr. Agbosa assured Deltans the unity of the various ethnic groups, and expressed confidence that Warri will be great again.
Mr.Agbosa noted that the unity of Warri will bring about development to the city and prayed all who have one role or the other to [play not to relent in attracting investor to the once famous city.
Traditional Ruler of Udu Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Owhoru I, who was also the Chairman of the event, appealed to the various tribes to unite just as he sued for peace as no development will come to a troubled area.
The Udu Monarch who described Warri as an “idea” well conceived, said the city is blessed with both human and natural resources and as such the existing peace should be sustained.
In a keynote address, Engr. Alex Neyin enjoined parents to teach their children the unity of Warri. Engr. Neyin who represented by the Vice Chairman of Warri Rebirth Initiative, Mr. Richie Otone noted that “Warri is where all tribes are one”.
While commending Deltans outside the city of Warri for the unity shown to one another, he lamented the manner in which Waffarians fight and sow seed of discords among them.