The History Of GCUOBA



Agitation for Government College at Warri

In 1919, the educational institution about which the people of Warri were very proud was the Normal College of Warri. This college was however moved to Ibadan. In its place was established the Government Elementary Teacher Training College (ETTC).But the enlightened people of Warri were not satisfied with this development. They believed that the Elementary Teacher Training College was not of equivalent status with the school that was taken away. This was the genesis of the agitation for the establishment of a secondary school at Warri. The Paramount Chief who spearheaded this agitation was Chief Dore Numa. On his death, Chief Mukoro Mowoe became the leader of the agitation.

Chief Mukoro Mowoe was a popular man in Warri and his pull included British officials in Warri Province. According to R. O. Segine, he built a magnificent house at Okere Road which he called “Providence House” where he often invited the cream of Warri society including British officials to dinner parties. At an informal conversation during these gatherings, Mukoro Mowoe established himself as a man whose interpretation of local politics and events could be depended upon. He was therefore able to convince the British officials on the spot that the agitation for a secondary school in Warri which united the Urhobos and the Itsekiris who were usually at each other’s throats was worth taking seriously.This probably influenced the Government to overrule the opposition of the Education Department and give final approval to the opening of the school.

The Temporary Siting of the College at Warri

The Government was persuaded to act quickly to alleviate the strength of local agitation. And rather than start new buildings which could take time and lead to further delays in the need to organize the necessary funds, government was persuaded to start the new secondary school in a temporary site located in a room provided by the Government Teacher Training College (GTTC) at Warri. The school was officially opened on 17th January 1945.

The struggle for the Permanent Site

It was understood right from the beginning that the Government Teacher Training College was a temporary site. And so, the struggle for a permanent site began immediately, Government gave its approval to the school. Some Itsekiri elements for example, wanted the permanent site in the suburbs of Okere. The Urhobo elements stoutly opposed this and while wishing the school sited in Warri, rejected the Itsekiri choice of Okere; though they considered Okere part of Urhobo land. The agitation for Warri to be the permanent site of the College is understandable for it was the agitation of the people of Warri for a secondary school that prevailed on government to approve the school in the first place. Also, the proposal to establish another new secondary school in Warri: the People’s College, Warri, failed, because the Governor, relying on the newly promulgated Education Ordinance, prohibited the opening of the school. For as a Government College had been approved for Warri, Government could not approve another secondary school for the same area. If the People’s College had been approved, perhaps this would have abated the pressure from Warri indigenes for Government College to be sited there. There is however the possibility that agitation would still have continued, for some people would have reasoned that it was more prestigious to have a Government College than a voluntary agency school. Even as late as 1947, the agitation to site the new Government College at Warri was still on for, the Principal, Mr. V.B.V. Powell, in his Report on various aspects of the school to the Government College Advisory Council stated:

Recently, there has been a certain amount of agitation for the College to be placed near Warri Township. What actually lies behind this agitation I do not know; but I am quite certain that neither parochial nor tribal interest should be considered in the selection of a school site.

Also, Warri indigenes were united in demanding that the College be located in Warri town, not at Effurun, or near Warri on the Warri – Sapele Road. As Warri is land-locked, the fear developed that a large enough land for a college of its proposed magnitude might not be found at Warri town. Even if it were, the compensation that would be demanded by those displaced would be prohibitive. Even if these problems were solved, the Itsekiris and Urhobos might never agree on a mutually acceptable location. All these would fuel the doubts of the Education Department which had just published a new rule that until the curriculum and class structure of a college were clearly outlined, and evidence produced that adequate administrative and teaching staff were available, no approval would any longer be given to the establishment of a new school. Government College was lucky that this new rule did not apply to the school. For Government had already approved its foundation and was operating already in a temporary site. But if problem developed about its permanent site, Government might withdraw its approval.

Chief Mukoro Mowoe, who was the head of the agitation for the establishment of the College, examining all these, came to the conclusion that the only way of saving the College was to provide an undisputed and adequate parcel of land for it to the Government. He therefore approached his friend Chief Buluku, the Otota of Ughelli Kingdom who agreed to use his good offices to facilitate the acquisition of any parcel of land at Ughelli that was found suitable for the College. Mr W.B. Benton Evans, the Provincial Education Officer, Chief Mukoro Mowoe and Chief Buluku undertook a tour of Ughelli and selected the present site of the College.

Thus Awani’s struggles, as seen above to discredit Ughelli as the permanent site at the Advisory Council came to nothing. But his suggestion that the College be sited on the Warri – Sapele Road on the parcel of land between Effurun and Igbudu represented a turn around by the Warri elements whom he represented on the Council. However, the change of heart came too late. By this time, the Warri Provincial Education Officer, acting in consonance with Mukoro Mowoe, had already conveyed his recommendation of Ughelli to the Government. Thus, the approval of Ughelli by the Advisory Council as the permanent site finally dashed any lingering hope Warri had.

An extract from the revised edition of History of Government College Ughelli

(A Cradle of Excellence) with a comprehensive list of students from 1945 to 2005.

By Benedict Itsueli