The Igbos Of Delta State And Crisis Of Identity - (Part 2)

Part One of this article

In 1999, Mr. Peter Okocha { from Ibusa} contributed financially and campaigned vigorously for the OBJ/ Atiku ticket. In 2003, as a PDP party loyalist, he did exactly the same, supporting the duo. There was an unwritten agreement that after James Ibori, the governorship would be zoned to the Delta Igbo senatorial district. All eyes were on Peter Okocha who belonged to the Atiku camp to clinch that ticket.

Thus when the war of ÔÇśattrition' between OBJ and his Deputy started, Peter Okocha, rather than following the much hackneyed principles that in politics, there is no permanent friend but permanent interest, remained loyal to Atiku. That, became his undoing. He probably thought he was still doing business. So, OBJ mobilized the state apparatus to make sure that he did not clinch the ticket. Okocha decided to go under AC to contest. Prof. Maurice Iwu's INEC did another abracadabra on him. He was ÔÇśdisqualified'. His case is still pending in the electoral appeal court- to be determined by only God knows when, by a seemingly compromised section of the judiciary.

Chief Ibori, who benefited from Peter Okocha's electoral largesse and support throughout his stay as governor, did a u-turn and stabbed Okocha on the back. Overnight before the 2007 charade called election, a decision was taken that the PDP governorship race should be zoned to the other senatorial district while Delta Igbos were to make do with state Chairman of the party. That was how Mr. Peter Nwaoboshi became the state PDP Chairman. The Urhobos, Itsekiris, Izons, Ijaws, and Isokos, aptly supported by OBJ, ganged up and executed that coup against us. They rounded it up with the puerile logic that since we have the state capital, we should not produce the next governor.

Again in the 2007 election, as a prelude to that charade, Prof. Pat Utomi { from Ibusa}, whose wife is from the East, went to OHANAEZE to solicit for support for his presidential ambition. Chief Orji Uzor Kalu also went to solicit for his too. A section of OHANAEZE that rejected Pat Utomi, gave me a terrible food for thought. One of them, according to some daily Nigerian newspapers' reports, hankered abject adroitly : "Is he really a proper Igbo man? Look at him, he cannot even speak Igbo properly." Others even insinuated that his name did not sound Igbo. I was shocked to the bone marrow. I couldn't believe what I was reading from prominent Igbo citizens.

Instead of asking the two candidates to present their programmes and manifestoes, they were busy hankering on whether one of them is a "proper Igbo" or not. I was shocked of words. If any Igbo person does not know the meaning of Utomi, then that person should take a suicidal dive into the river Niger.

I guess some Igbos will ask of the true meaning of my surname - ADINLOFU. An Igbo man ones asked me in London whether I am a Yoruba man, that my surname looks like one. I just laughed { even though my spouse is Yoruba} and politely asked the man to pronounce my name. He ended up pronouncing it with all the Igbo-ness and accent which goes with it. While he was slowly pronouncing it, the meaning was unfolding before his eyes. He simply laughed and laughed himself to scorn.

Besides, it is a historical fact writes Emma Okocha of Izu-Anioma, that when Ojukwu even declared the Biafran Republic, he never had us in mind. Ojukwu's Biafran and its boundary ended at Onitsha, living his kiths and kin - Midwestern Igbos - to their destiny. And yet during that pogrom of 1966, most Delta Igbo officers ran, not to Mid -West or to the West but to their kiths and kin in the East. The Chief of Biafran Navy, the late Captain W. A. Anuku, was from Agbor.

Ojukwu went further to choose Col. Banjo against the overwhelming preference of Nzeogwu {a then Mid-Western Igbo officer}, to lead that tactical assault on Midwest and on to Lagos. Most writers call it tactical because, the choice of Banjo and his subsequent antics {Read WHY WE STRUCK 1983 by Ademoyega} changed and swung the war to the advantage of the Federal troops. In that assault, Col. Banjo, who was then assisted by Lt. Col Igboba { from Ibusa}, got his assistant locked up in Benin prison over disagreements on tactics and the way and manner the invasion was being compromised.

However, while the Biafran soldiers were retreating from the Federal counter attack, Banjo, Ademoyega, and coy deliberately left Lt. Col Igboba behind at the Benin prisons only for the invading ÔÇśBritish troops' called Federal forces under the command of Lt. Col. Murtala Muhammed to stroll casually into Benin prison, locate Igboba and had him beheaded. That was the same Igboba who helped General Ironsi to quell Nzeogwu's coup in Lagos.

Even in their genuine demand for more Igbo states, the East never count the Igbos in Delta state as worthy. Their request ought to always incorporate the demand of our people for the creation of Anioma State out of the present amorphous Delta State. After all, it will still be another seemingly full fledged Igbo State. However, I still remembered quite vividly that the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo ones in while, had requested that the Igbos of Delta State should be given appropriate hearing in their quest for Anioma State which would have extricated and freed us from the strangle-hold of the Urhobos. But that was a lone support in the wilderness.

There is a need for the Igbos in the East to reach out to their brothers and sisters across the river Niger. This is not to say that we cannot stand on our own. The point here is that there is strength in number-"Igwe-buike". The Igbos in the East should always seize the initiative because of their strength. They should make it their statutory duty to come to us and embrace us.

They are our fathers and, like most migration theories have confirmed about the origin of most of these communities, we are their children. We may not be business inclined like them because we are not cut out for such but we are educated and are good civil servants. Our word in most cases is always our bond. Our people are sincere to a fault and are prepared to fight with anybody for a just and sincere cause in as much as you don't cunningly backslide or sabotage the cause. The causes that Major Nzeogwu, Pat Utomi, Col Tim Onwuatuegwu, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, Col.Nwanwo, Col. Achuzia had fought and still fighting for, is a testimony to our strength and character.

In fact to reinforce this view, I want OHANAEZE to move forthwith, their headquarters to either Asaba, Ibusa, or Ogwashi-Ukwu. I believed that the closer you are to us the better. Let us have a sense of belonging. By this invitation, I am not saying you should now come and colonise us. I am saying that we should relate and that there should be a strong cultural affinity and rapport.

Anybody in the Igbo culture area of Delta state who is in doubt about his or her Igbo historical connection, should contact Prof. Nolue Emenanjo, Executive-Director, National Institute Of Nigerian Languages, Aba, for more explanation and Professor Okoh, UNIBEN. The late intellectually versatile Prof. M. A Onwuejeogwu, another Igbo encyclopedist, who was from Ogboli-Ibusa, and founder of the Nri Museum, should have been another contact but for his death.

The intellectual bloc of OHANAEZE should not shy away from its responsibility. The bloc should pickup the pieces and do more research work in this Igbo culture area of Delta state to establish more historical connectedness and build on such relationships. The Israelis are doing exactly that all over the world. When the State of Israel was created, most Falashas of Ethiopia, were lifted to that state because it was established that they were Jews. The Yoruba is doing the same, tracking their Oduduwa kiths and kin all over Africa and even beyond, as far as to Brazil.

Besides, this is not a question of whether the people of Agbor or Ndokwa are disclaiming their Igbo-ness or have decided or deciding to opt-out, no, it is a question of research, based on solid historical and archaeological evidences. I reckoned that all research should focus on that title of "Obi" which has been handed over to our traditional rulers from generation to generation. "Obi", as the title designate, is an undiluted Igbo nomenclature. It is not an Hausa, Bini, Yoruba, Ishan or Fulani terminology. Apart from the differences in Igbo dialects, accents or phonetics, and historical variances in origin, the other common variable for research revolves around this term and title of "Obi ".

Flowing from this, and of secondary relevance, is the Igbo name of their subjects. For Example, the people of Agbor and Ndokwa bear names like Isioma, Ngozi,Nwabuzor, Nduka, Chukwuma, Chukwuekwu, Chukwuka, Ibegbulem, Nwanyimogor, Nwajei, Obika, Ijeoma, Ifeoma, Nwaokolo, Nwoko, Iwebelua, Chiedu, and other names with the prefix-"Umu". And "Umu" is a complete Igbo terminology which means "Children". Thus "Umu-dein" means the " Children of Dein" and there is a street in Agbor with that name- Umudein street.

It is not an issue of sentiments, emotions and unsubstantiated trivialities. Almost all the traditional leaders of Delta Igbo communities that I'd listed in part {1} hold the title of "Obi" and not Oba. And if any of them wants to invoke the anger of the gods by changing to another title, just because the leader does not want any linkage with the Igbos, may the ancestors and IGBOPHOBIA take care of that person.

In about 1979, I travelled from Agbor to Benin-city to spend some days with late Prof. Mike Onwujeogwu, who was then { I think}, either the Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences or the Head of Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Benin. One day, he told me to get dressed that we will all be travelling to Enugwu-Ukwu, the wifeÔÇśs village. While we were meandering through pot holes and following some short cuts here and there and stopping over here and now for the Prof. to greet his friends and for the wife to greet relatives, we came to a village called { I think} Isu or Isu-Aniocha near Awka. I was already fast asleep in the car.

Then the Prof. woke me up and said. This is Isu, where the founder of Igbouzo anglicised Ibusa, migrated from. He then gave me a thorough lecture of what happened. I was so stunned and flabbergasted. Since then, that indelible sight and lecture, even though he has written a book on it since 1972, has not left my memory.

After the civil war in 1970, my parents decided to migrate to Agbor. The Obi of Agbor then, Obi Ikechukwu, welcomed Igbos like wise was the Obi of Owa. Obi Ikechukwu has a friendly, approachable and welcoming disposition. By 1978, the Obi, just like any other Obi and going by the principles and practice of the patrilineal system, was anxious to have a son - a heir apparent. Fortunately, his Royal Highness had one from one of his wives, who was pregnant for him before he {the obi} died.

It was alleged that the heir's life was in danger from other jealous wives and sensing that, the Agbor Council-of-Chiefs in consonance with perhaps, the Oba of Benin, decided to smuggle the young "Obi" out of Nigeria to London, where he lived and studied at Lewisham college, imbibed western cultures, MORES and ways of life and came back to assume his throne in about 2002. Since then, the young "Obi" has been behaving like the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Royal Highness should take time to study the history of his community. He should thrive to do away with most of his westernised ways. His subjects are complaining about that. Rumours have it that he wants to, or has changed his title from "Obi" to "Dein". If unchecked by Agbor elders, then I won't be surprised if at a later date he changes to Emir of Agbor. Although, I learnt from my source that it is a rumour; however, if is true and it is assented to by his Agbor Council-of-Chiefs, may the council direct all their subjects with Igbo names to drop such names and choose Benin names like Anini or Osunbor. Enough of this hypocrisy! If in this age some educated people are still contesting their culture and cannot make do with profound evidence before them because of a peculiar phobia of their own creation, then such a culture is a dead culture. "A contested culture is a dead culture."

And this is why I call on OHANAEZE to embark on further research in this "Igbo culture area" of Delta state, establish the historical links, migration trends, patterns of settlement, cultural diffusion, symbolisms, feast and festivals and their resemblances, contacts and acculturation in the whole amalgam and; to try as much as possible, to harmonise researches that have been done already and to stand firmly by the synthesized result. There is a need to focus research on the following movements in their chronological order as culled in the late Professor Onwuejeogwu,s book titled: The traditional Political System Of Ibusa {1972}, namely;

"the Owerri-movement before A.D. 800 ; the Eri-movement about A.D. 800; the Nri-movement about A.D. 900 to 1911; the Isu-movement between the 15th and 16th centuries; the Ubulu-movement around the 17th century; the Aro-movement around the 17th and 19th centuries; the Idu or Bini-movement around the 18th century and the Igala-movement between the 18th and 19th centuries." These movements, especially the Nri, Isu, Ubulu, Idu, Aro and the Igala movements should be of tremendous interest to OHANAEZE research unit and this is because these movements seemed to be the ones which have had profound impact on the cultures and thought processes of the people of these communities.

The studies and research should be based on technique of participant observation. By this, I mean the researchers have to live with the people they are studying over a long period of time. You don't stay in the USA and London and lift opinionated articles devoid of any research technique to claim that you are Urhobo or Benin while your name is Emeka Okafor.

I believed strongly that If tomorrow the Jews are to prove that there is a trace of archaeological evidence establishing consanguinity between Igbo and Hebrew and as such, have come to lift the willing Igbos to the State of Israel, as they did to the Falashas of Ethiopia, I guess those people of Ika and Ndokwa and some others, who are still in a state of denial about their Igbo linkage, will automatically turn around to announce that their father's father's father's father's name is NRIJIOFO, just because they want to migrate to Israel. Funny world! I rest my case!

Ephraim Emenanjo Adinlofu - B.Sc, 1987; M.Sc, 1994 Sociology- UNIJOS. The writer resides in London and is a member, Champions For Nigeria Organization, London branch}