Foremost unionist and former General Secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Chief Frank Ovie Kokori, on Friday, called for a change in certain Urhobo traditions which he described as “rustic”.
The Ovu-born chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Delta State made the call during church funeral service for his wife of 53 years, Mrs Esther Kokori, which held at St James Anglican Church, Ovorie-Ovu, Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta State.
Kokori, in his remarks at the tail end of the church service, frowned at the scantiness of the attendance and the hurriedness which he said did not befit a woman who held the forte for democracy while he was incarcerated at Bama prisons in Borno State by late General Sanni Abacha.
The “rustic Urhobo tradition,” the Urhobo chief was probably referring to, might not be unconnected with the age-long tradition that ensures a legitimate deceased wife is returned to her parental home (in this case so hurriedly from the church) for internment instead of the home of her husband.
Mrs Kokori, who was born on August 14, 1947 and died November 10, 2020, hailed from the family of Omavuohrerhe of Ohrerhe-Agbarho in Ughelli North Local Government Area where her remains were returned for internment after the church service on Friday with her husband not permitted to partake in the internment.
“….of a rustic tradition of Urhobo, that at this age when the whole world is on one side and you see one small, tiny tribe in the whole universe sticks to one rustic tradition.
“And the church service is early so it is not full as it supposed to be, but I know that at the reception, there’ll be so many people. But here because of this rustic Urhobo tradition, that for someone who did so much for democracy in the country, the church was scanty and the rush,” he lamented.
Our correspondent gathered that the former nightmare of General Abacha, before the burial rites, had made several entreaties with his in laws to allow his heartthrob to be buried in his house at Ovu all to no avail.
It was gathered that among other ethnic nationalities still enmeshed in the tradition of separating legal wives from their husbands in death included the Esan people of Edo State.
The septuagenarian, who described his wife as virtuous, loving, courageous and the rock of Gilbratar, said the Urhobo appears to be living behind time as other nations, locally and globally, have moved up in jettisoning rustic traditions.
Earlier, priest of St.James Anglican Church, Venerable SAB Ikpesa, who took his message from Thessalonians 4:13-18 and John 11:25-31, eulogised Mrs Kokori for her genuine service to God and humanity, urging the people to live a good and selfless life.
Meanwhile, speaking at the Ovu country home of Chief Kokori, the national president of NUPENG, Comrade Williams Akporeha, who was at the funeral with his general secretary, Comrade Wale Afolabi, described late Mrs Kokori as an epitome of womanhood and struggle for democracy.
“She was somebody I didn’t have the opportunity to meet in person but I remember as a young man growing up, I watched her on the TV during her struggle for democracy while her husband was incarcerated.
“My impression about her them was that she was an epitome of womanhood and democracy. She provided leadership for her generation.
“As young people, we saw her as a role model. She was a brave and courageous woman that even under military regime, she was not afraid to challenge the junta.
“Unlike now when everybody is running under the bed when there’s an oppression by the government. We’ll miss her greatly. May God give her family to bear the loss,” he enthused.
Dignitaries at the funeral, which commenced on Thursday with service of songs, included other labour leaders from across the country, Delra APC chieftains and others from all walks of life.
Mrs Kokori was an alumnus of Abadina Primary School, University of Ibadan and worked with former British Paints (now Berger Paints) as a stenographer before she delved into business and unionism with her husband.
The symbol for the struggle for the actualisation of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential elections left behind her husband, five children and six grandchildren as well as siblings.