Home news Why Ikwerre People Claim Their Ancestry Is Different From Igbo Land

Why Ikwerre People Claim Their Ancestry Is Different From Igbo Land

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As part of our usual research, we were going through some sites for
interesting issues when we stumbled on this piece well written and posted on
biafraland.com. Among other things, it addresses everything you wish to know
about the Igbo race, language and controversies. Hoping you will enjoy it…
Is Southeast and Igboland the same thing? 

Not at all. Southeast is only about 3/5th of Igboland. Igboland covers the
whole of Southeast, parts of
Rivers, Delta, Benue, and Akwa Ibom states.


Why were we taught in school that Igbo people are easterners?

It is both an unfortunate parroting by teachers and careless adoption by
Igbo educated class. Igbo people come from Southern Nigeria and not Eastern
Nigeria. It may be correct to say that the Igbo are found predominantly in
eastern Nigeria. However, by saying that the Igbo are easterners, the
implication is that the Igbo in western Nigeria, numbering about 2.5 million
(Agbor, Ogwashi Ukwu, Ibuzo, Okpanam, Asaba, Orimili, Ndokwa, Anioma, etc) are
not Igbos. The best known Igbo anthropologist Professor Mike Onwuejeogwu is
from the western part of Nigeria, Chukwuma Nzeogwu, Dennis Osadebe, Okonkwo
Adibe (the famous musician), Sony Odogwu, etc. are all from the western part of
Nigeria. They are no less Igbo than those who live in the eastern part of
Nigeria. The correct answer to your question is “the Igbo come from
Southern Nigeria.”


Why do some Igbo refer to themselves as “core Igbo?” 

That is clearly arrant nonsense. Nobody is core and others peripheral. All
Igbo are the same. It is both arrogant, thoughtless and insensitive for anybody
to regard others as marginal.


Is Igboland landlocked? 

Not at all! Igboland stretches from Igwe Ocha (Port Harcourt) to Agbor. The
Atlantic ocean washes the shores of Igboland. Africa’s second largest river –
River Niger, traverses Igboland with one part of Igboland in the east and
another part in the west of Nigeria. Uguta Lake has the potential of
accommodating large ships and could be made a navigable port. If Igboland is
landlocked, then all Nigeria is landlocked.

Is there oil in Igboland? 


Yes, indeed. There is a lot of oil in Imo State, Abia, Ebonyi, Rivers State
and Delta States Igbo areas, and now in Anambra. Besides, Igboland has many
other natural resources, including coal, limestone, etc.


Are the Igbo a nation or a tribe? 

The Igbo are a nation, and a very large one. There are many tribes in Igbo
nation, just like you have many tribes within Israel.


Why do some Ikwerre people say they are not Igbo? 

First, it is not up to them to say what they are and what they are not. When
God created them, He did not ask them who they wanted to be. He just created
them Igbo. The only way you’ll know who belongs to what ethnic group in Nigeria
is the name and what language the name comes from. Anybody whose name is Amadi
or Onyeri, or Eke, or Odili, Wanodi (Nwanodi), Adaeza, chibuike, uchenna does
not need to tell you who he is. He is Igbo, his politics notwithstanding.


But they claim that their language is Ikwerre, not Igbo. 

That is politics. Ikwerre is a dialect of Igbo language. Just like an Ngwa
man speaks Ngwa Igbo, Arochukwu speaks Arochukwu Igbo, etc.


Some people say that Igbo language is not complete, is it true? 

No language is complete. All languages borrow from each other. Igbo language
is very rich. It has inexhaustible and rich linguistic features like idioms,
proverbs, aphorisms, sayings, anecdotes, riddles, folklores, etc. Igbo language
is one of the major languages of the world, being spoken by millions of people.


How many are the Igbo? 

The Igbo are very numerous. There is educated guess that if Nigeria’s census
is properly enumerated, the Igbo could easily be the largest ethnic group in
the country. They may number up between 50-60 million. Everything right now, is
speculation. Nobody knows the true stratification or ethnic populations in
Nigeria. The Igbo are the only ethnic group found in large numbers everywhere
in Nigeria, and foreign countries more than any other ethnic group in Africa.


Do the Igbo have a culture of their own? 

Yes, indeed. Igbo culture is perhaps, one of the richest and
all-encompassing cultures in this world. Igbo culture always observes the
temporal and the spiritual aspects of cosmology. The study of Igbo culture
reveals that it is extremely deep and original.


Why do the Igbo call themselves Biafrans? 

Great question! Some people have the idea that Biafra originates from the
Bight of Biafra. But that is wrong. There was the Kingdom of Biafra that ruled
most of the ancient world about 50,000 years ago. Unfortunately, nobody talks
about it, for whatever reason, I do not know. But, it is in the ancient maps of
the world. 


Were the Igbo also taken into slavery during the slave trade? 

Yes! The Igbo slaves themselves gave account of their travails in slavery.
Olauda Ekwuano an Igbo ex-slave who bought his freedom in Britain was the first
slave to write about his experience in slavery. His book has become a classic.
You ought to find it and read it. Also, other Igbos who were brought to America
revolted and some walked back on water and were said to have returned to
Africa. Several books have been written about them. One of such books is
“Ibo Landing.” It is available in bookstores like Barnes & Noble.
In Haiti, the Igbo settled there and refused to be colonized by anybody. There
are many places where the Igbo left their mark or their signature.


How did the Igbo know days and years?

The Igbo invented an accurate, if not the most accurate calendar called
“Iguafo Igbo (Igbo Calendar).” In Igbo calendar, there are four
market days – Eke, Afor, Nkwo, Orie that make one week. Four days make one
week, seven weeks make one month, and thirteen months make one year. There are
28 days for each month, with the last month having 29 days. Each month starts
the same day as the previous. Igbo calendar forms the perfect astronomical
alignment with the cosmos, and regulates the seasons, agriculture, navigation,
astrology, geography, mathematics, travel, etc.


Did the Igbo have their own alphabets? 

Yes, indeed. It is called “Nsibidi.”


How about mathematics; did the Igbo know mathematics? 

Yes, indeed. There are such inventions as “Okwe” and
“Mkpisi” which the Igbo used to resolve figures.


Did the Igbo know anything about banking? 

Yes. Igbo banking was more in the nature of Savings and Loans. The authentic
Igbo savings and loans invention called “Isusu’ in which contributions are
pooled each week and one person, who has the need, collects, is still in
practice. Igbo slaves took this invention to the Caribbean Islands where they
still practise it and call it “Sue Sue.”


Some people say that Igboland is too small for the Igbo, that they have no
alternative than to live as Nigerians: is this true?
 

False! Igboland is a large country. Do every Igbo need to stay and work in
Igboland? No. Everywhere in the world, some will stay home while others venture
abroad in search of opportunities. Igboland is large enough for the Igbo. And
it is a very rich and hospitable part of the world. It has rich soil for
agriculture, abundant rainfall, good sunshine, and table land in many parts.
Its land space and population are more than that of over half of the present
countries in the world.


Where did the Igbo come from?

That question is still being asked. There are very intriguing theories or
histories now being studied. You may have heard of the Jewish angle, the Egypt
angle, and the Origin of man angle. This twenty-first century, hopefully, will
resolve the mystery.


Why do people say that the Igbo are not united? 

Those who say so, do so out of ignorance. The Igbo are famous for their
unity. In the colonial period and the First Republic of Nigeria, the Igbo were
always envied for their unity. Under Igbo Union, they accomplished many things.
They were feared by others for this. Since after the war, the Igbo are gradually
recovering and getting rid of the individualism they developed brought about by
their war experience which enabled them to survive as a disinherited people.
Now, there are vigorous efforts to reunite them and return them to their old
glory which served them well in the past.

Some people say that the Igbo are susceptible to being bought by some other
Nigerians, and that they “sell” the Igbo in the bargain; is this
true?
 


The same parroting and recycling of unfounded talk! When you hear such a
talk, challenge the one who is mouthing it to give you evidence, or to cite an
example of such an Igbo person. He is likely to say “what of Jim
Nwobodo?” Tell him that the Igbo number about 40 million, if it would be
fair for the action of one person to represent the integrity of the other
3.99.9 million. The truth is that an Igbo is like any other human being, when
he sees where he can take advantage of a situation, he goes for it. It has
nothing to do with “selling.” Were we not told that fish clusters where
the river was deepest or that the dog follows he who has crumbs? Not long ago
in the history of Nigeria, other Nigerians were also running after the Igbo for
crumbs because the Igbo were in position to call the shots. Things will not
remain as they are today. In fact, things are changing fast.


Why are other Nigerians always persecuting the Igbo? 

I have always tried to know myself. I am one of those who believe that the
Igbo are among the most peaceful people on earth. But, because of the fact that
they are very hardworking, ambitious, and not afraid to live anywhere, or take
up any task, they tend to be resented by their less ambitious and successful
neighbors or hosts. When you confront a non-Igbo to say what specific offense
the Igbo have committed against them, oftentimes they draw blank, or engage in
fabrications, which they insist must stand for a fact. The Igbo believe in
live-and-let-live. It is virtually impossible for any Igbo to rise against
their guests or hosts. It has never happened in Nigeria, or elsewhere. It is an
abomination in Igboland for a host to cause his guest harm. Instead, a guest is
considered metaphysically and physically under the protection of the host. All
Igbo deities forbid doing harm to a guest. The Igbo are accused of “loving
money.” I suppose the charge is based on the fact that they work hard and
acquire money in the bargain. One would like to believe that the outcome of
hardwork is good harvest and hopefully prosperity. If anybody takes offense at
the prosperity of a hardworking person, then the Igbo or for that matter any
other person or persons, have no apologies to render.


Do the Igbo have their own system of jurisprudence before the arrival of the
white man? 

Yes! The Igbo had a system of resolving conflicts. The elders were presented
with cases that could not be satisfactorily settled within the family or
kindred. Matters where veracity must be ascertained, the Igbo resort to
spirituality. Oath-taking is a matter left to the spirits to settle. Those who
swear falsely were expected to be killed by the spirits within a given period.
After the period, he is acquitted and he could celebrate with public
merry-making. The Igbo did not have any prisons, but they could ostracise a
culprit, exile him, or send him into slavery or to serve to a deity.


Why don’t the Igbo teach these things you are telling me to their children?

In the pursuit of what they taught was the “new way” either from
Europeans or o Christianity, the Igbo began to distance themselves from their
heritage, and in the process became lost in the wilderness of a world they
hardly understand. They have learned their lesson the hard way. The
twenty-first century will lead them back home.

@citypulse_ng
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Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis is a communicator, Journalist, blogger, business coach and, of course, a prolific writer. He has Dip (Journalism) and B.A. (History & International Relations) from the Lagos State University (LASU). The self-effacing young man has worked for national, regional and local newspapers. He had worked with THISDAY covered community news for ISLAND NEWS and corresponded with P.M. NEWS (evening tabloid). Presently, he is the editor of CITYPULSE MEDIA and senior correspondent of PHARMANEWS, West Africa foremost health and pharmaceutical journal.

5 COMMENTS

  1. A BRIEF HISTORY OF IKWERRE

    Chambers Dictionary (William Geddie, ed. 1962) says: “A nation is a body of people marked off by common descent, language, culture, or historical tradition: the people of a tribe.” However, S.O.L. Amadi-Nna (1993) avers that: “A tribe is a group of clans under recognized chiefs and usually claiming common ancestry. Ikwerre can therefore not be a clan but a tribe. The Ikwerres claim a common ancestor. Ikwerre is an independent small tribe.” In the words of K.O. Amadi (1993), “Traditions suggest that Ikwerre is a nickname given to Iwhnuruọhna people…..They have ever since regarded themselves as a distinct group and have happily come a long way in their struggle for self-identity as evidenced by the recognition of their language as one of the Nigerian languages.”

    Amadi-Nna (1993) added that: “The Ikwerres are a small but distinct tribe. The Ikwerres have distinct linguistic, social and cultural traits and formations that distinguish them from other close neighbouring tribes like the Ijaws and the Ibos. Majority of the Ikwerre settlements have their roots traceable from the old Benin Empire.” Iwhnurọhna people descended from the ancient Bini Kingdom. The name of the grand ancestor is Akalaka. Their relations in Rivers State are Ekpeye and Ogba people. The reigning Oba of Benin when Akalaka, the ancestor of Ihruọha (later called Iwhnurọhna) fled was Oba Ewuare (Ogwaro). Akalaka, a member of the Benin royal family, fled in the 13th century on allegation of plotting assassination of the Oba. He died in 1462. Iwhnurọhna his third son settled east of the Sombrero River by 1538 AD, as detailed below.

    Chief N.M.T. Solomon (2004), native of Ikodu Ubie in Ekpeyeland, in his narrative draws heavily from the now authenticated written historical records delivered by various informed sources including “Eketu (Weber) of Ubeta, assumed to have lived for over two hundred (200) years as the oldest man in all Ekpeye, Ogba and Iwhnurọhna (or Ikwerre), at that time (and) was asked to narrate the history and customs of Ekpeye people” as unfolded in his lifetime. Here is what he said, which has been validated by the accounts of the current generation through responses to our questionnaires and direct interviews thereby increasing our level of confidence on the data:

    Ekpeye, born in Benin, was the first of the three sons of Akalaka. While in Ndoni, he married a second wife to gain the love and favour of the people. The new wife gave birth to a son, which he named Ogba. Akalaka was still in Ndoni when his first wife, the mother of Ekpeye, gave birth to his third son called Ihruoha (Ikwerre).

  2. Similar historical fact by J.N. Olise (1971) averred that: “Akalaka, a member of the Benin royal family, fled with his wife from Benin to Ndoni, a community located close to the River Niger, to save the life of his new born baby (Ekpeye) … While at Ndoni, Akalaka took a second wife. … Akalaka had two sons, Ekpeye – born to him by his Benin wife, and Ogba – born to him by his Ndoni wife. According to F.E. Otuwarikpo (1994): "After the death of Akalaka in 1462 AD, his two sons, Ekpeye and Ogba had conflict, which compelled Ogba, the younger son, to move northwards where he founded Ohiakwo (Obigwe) and settled with his family. Ekpeye who remained at Ula-Ubie had seven sons – Ubie, Akoh, Upata, Igbuduya, Ekpe, Awala and Asa. The last three sons – Ekpe, Awala and Asa – crossed to the other side of Sombreiro River (present day Ikwerreland and settled there since 1538 AD.” He added that: “Ekpe migrated to present day Rumuekpe and spread through Elele (Alimini), Ndele, Rumuji and part of Ibaa. Awala migrated to present day Isiokpo …”

    Amadi-Nna (1993) also said Akalaka migrated with his half brother called Ochichi from the area of Benin Empire. Ochichi sons were Ele (Omerele, now Elele), Elu (Elumuoha, now Omerelu), Egbe (Egbeda) and Mini (Alimini, Isiokpo).

    The crucial point here, which is of great importance in tracing the joint origin of the ancestors of the Old Ahoada Division (in the Governor Diete-Spiff administration), is the mention of the number of children that Akalaka had, namely: Ekpeye, Ogba and Ihruọha (Ikwerre). It is noteworthy that the pedigree and name of Ikwerre people, Iwhnurọhna, obviously took its root from this original name – Ihruọha. Chief Solomon therefore establishes a very vital historical link, which has been missing in literature on Ikwerre origin that would assume more significance in the discourses of Ikwerre genealogy in the future – the fact that Akalaka was the direct father of Ihruọha (Ikwerre). Iwhnurọhna, in Ikwere parlance, means the face of the community (town, city or village).

    Nigerian colonial history records that the name "Ikwerre" was given by the colonial administration when they wanted to acquire the Rebisi waterfront to build the wharf. Using an Ibo interpreter to talk to the illiterate Rebisi (Port Harcourt) chiefs, they asked them: Would you permit us to use the waterfront to build the wharf for ships to berth? And they answered: A KWERULEM, meaning – "We have agreed." What the white-man was hearing was "Ikwerre," so he recorded it in the official gazette that the IKWERRE PEOPLE have agreed for the colonial administration to build the wharf. And since it was the official record of government, the name Ikwerre became the name of the Iwhnurohna people in all official documentations till date.

    Similar cases of Anglicization of native names in the Niger Delta region by the colonial administration are Benin for Bini, Okrika for Wakrike, Degema for Udekema, Abonnema for Obonoma, Brass for Gbara sni, Bonny for Ibani, Pepple for Perekule, Ahoada for Ehuda, etc

    Even so, “… there were dissenting voices, … who believed that Ikwerre origins lay outside Igbo land, … in the Benin Kingdom of old. It is, therefore, obvious that the interminable debate about Ikwerre origins and migrations including the repudiation of the Igbo tradition is not a phenomenon of the post-civil war period. The controversy, as it were, is not necessarily the product of the present political realities wherein groups which hitherto were seen to have cultural affinities now find themselves in different states or administrative systems.” — K.O. Amadi (1993)

  3. The Ogbakor Ikwerre Convention, a cultural organization of Ikwerre people, in a paper presented to the Human Rights Violation Commission headed by Rtd. Justice Chukwudifu Oputa on 10 October 2001, said: “Ikwerre ethnic nationality is not and has never been a sub-group of any other tribe in Nigeria including Ndi-Igbo. There is no doubt that the advent of the British and later regionalization put Ndi-Igbo at the helm of affairs in Eastern Nigeria. This brought Ndi-Igbo into Ikwerre land. In course of time, the Igbo took advantage of their position in the then Eastern Regional Government to grab land in Ikwerre and occupy political positions such as the mayor of Port Harcourt. In the process, Ikwerre along with other minority groups were marginalized and driven to the background.”

    Professor Godwin Tasie noted that in 1913 the Rt Rev Herbert Tugwell, the Anglican Bishop on the Niger, undertook an experimentation tour of Ikwerre towns and villages assumed to be Ibo-speaking to test the Union Ibo Bible Nso being introduced in Iboland. "Tugwell discovered from the tests he carried out that although the Ikwerre were often regarded as Ibo… the Union Ibo Bible translation, surprisingly, was not easily understood by the Ikwere." This is obviously why Igbo vernacular was compulsorily introduced and taught in all schools in Ikwerreland before the Nigerian Civil War to the assimilation (i.e. destruction) of the Ikwere language.

    This also obviously led to the Rumuomasi Declaration in 1965. " … in their meeting at Rumuomasi in 1965 the Ikwerre had, under the umbrella of a highly promising new body that was to get the Ikwerre together as a people of new and clearer vision, they had declared themselves as a people of the distinct identity of Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality – not Ibo, not Ijo, not anything else but Ikwerre, Iwhnurọhna. This was the historic Rumuomasi Declaration of 1965 (G.O.M. Tasie, 2000). The full implication is that Ikwere people began to assert themselves forcefully as an ethnic nationality of their own and not Ibos or Ijos, and efforts were made to revert to the original Ikwere names for families, villages, communities and landmarks. For instance, there was the change from Umuola to Rumuola, Umuoro to Rumuoro, Umukrushi to Rumuokwurusi, just to name a few.

    T O N Y E N Y I A, PhD, MNIM
    CHAIRMAN, BOARD OF TRUSTEES
    IWHNURỌHNA CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION
    Saturday, 5 February 2011

    References:
    Olise, J.N. (1971)
    The Peoples of Benin, Oxford University Press
    Amadi, K.O. (1993)
    Amadi-Nna,S.O.L.(1993) Otuwarikpo, F.E. (1994)
    Studies in Ikwerre History and Culture, in Nduka, O. (ed) (1993) Craft Publishing Ltd
    Studies in Ikwerre History and Culture, in Nduka, O. (ed) (1993) Craft Publishing Ltd
    The Phonology of Ekpeye: A Descriptive Analysis, unpublished MA Thesis, University of Jos
    Solomon, N.M.T. (2004)
    A Short History of Ekpeye People (an excerpt from an upcoming book entitled “THE EKPEYE BOOK – A Comprehensive Guide in the History and Culture of Ekpeye People of the Niger Delta Region in Nigeria” published by Usama Ekpeye USA Inc,
    Tasie, G.O.M. (2000) Chairman's Opening Remarks at the Maiden Ikwerre Annual Thanksgiving Day, mim

  4. Maybe the Igbo that forced your ancestors to changed their tribal names to answer, Amadi, Chukwu, Eke, Okonkwo. Just after the civil war, you guys automatically denounce whom you are to get benefit from the federal government and always playing victims. I have seen African Americans claiming not to be blacks or from Africa, at the end of the day, people knows the truth and no one cares. When you speak your Ikwere dialect, why dont a Benin man understands you the way, an average man who never been to Ikwere land does. You guys needs to emancipate yourselves from this mental slavery, the war ended over long time. What Ikwere people speak is a dialect, just like Ngwa, Nsukka, Mbaise, Owerri and Nnewi man. The rest of Igbos are not stressing over this, cos if you guys choose to be minority and like 3 local government in other states trying to give us headache, but to other tribes in Nigeria, you are an Igbo man.
    Every structure of Ikwerre is from Igbo and to average Hausa or Yoruba, you are an igbo man, a confused one for that matter. These days other Igbos are denouncing you guys cos this stupidity is beyond redemption. Igbos in Benue, the Eezzi people and the ones in Delta, who embrace their identity, should educate you Ikwerre folks.

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