Igbos of Delta State and Crisis of Identity (Part 1)

by Ephraim Adinlofu

If there is any separate and distinct tribal group that has been contributing a lot to the development of Nigeria, it is none other than the Igbos of delta state. I believed that if IBB’s regime had given us our cherished Anioma State, we would have fared better than under the present gang-like hegemony of the Urhobo, Itsekiri, Ezon, Isoko and Ijaw. We never bargained for this present raw deal with IBB. In fact, we were better off under the Benin Kingdom than under the present Urhobo ‘Korokoro’ arrogant domination and hegemonic tendencies.

One of the basic problems with most ethnic and tribal groups in the South is that they do not forgive. We always have this tendency to add new grudges on old grudges which does nothing but create negative multiplier effects. While the North is moving on, even though there are proven cases of wide spread poverty in that region, the South is always antagonising itself.

What has happened to our Southern Governors meeting which was initiated by Tinubu and others? It has faded as quickly as it was started and yet the Northern Governors Forum is still on course. “Ego-massaging” is daily killing the South, and yet we claim superiority in the Education sector. Acquired education, which ought to act as a catalyst to forging closer unity and ties among us, has seemingly become irrelevant in our quest for a united front.

Education is supposed to be power but in the South, because of our ego and pride and this innate tendency to sell out over a pot of pottage, we have deliberately refused to use our education for effect. We are always busy fighting ourselves. Honestly, I think we need to initiate the process of de-schooling ourselves.

On the 27 of August 1991, when IBB’s regime created Delta and Jigawa States among others, there were murmurs when Asaba and Dutse were strangely chosen as state capitals instead of Warri and Hadeija. The people of Warri and Hadeija protested but IBB’s regime stood its ground. Even Delta Igbos were not happy that they were not given Anioma State. IBB had simply thought he’d killed two birds with one stone by merging the two agitations { Delta and Anioma States} into one, but what he created was a hotchpotch and a terrible amalgam. Delta state is literally the ugliest hippopotamus I have ever seen.

One of the dangers in the game of numbers is that the Urhobos never hid their plan to deny Ika Igbos the benefits that go with a State capital. They openly proclaimed it that Delta Igbos will never see the light of development. And since that State was created, they have been behaving true to their primeval proclamation with pure antics. Going purely and cunningly by the caveman’s logic, Asaba, the State capital, is still as it were when it was created in 1991- a complete derelict of a capital. This is sad.

The irony of this act of impunity is that the same people who are fighting for injustice in the Niger Delta are deliberately and consciously denying the Igbo-speaking people justice in Delta State. The ubiquitous James Ibori, as a former governor of the state, was virtually operating from Warri, leaving Asaba in the most despicable state of disrepair. How can you be crying foul against the Federal government and fighting for justice when your stock is virtually denying Igbos in Delta State the same justice?

Yet, in the North, typical of their characteristic homogeneity, the people of Hadeija have since forgotten and forgiven and had made up and moved on, with the people of Dutse. May I please remind the Urhobos that the Igbo culture area of Delta state, as was thoroughly studied by the late Professor Mike Onwuejeogwu, though with some historical variances here and there, comprised {amongst others} the following towns and villages; Asaba, Ibusa, Okpanam, Ugbolu, Anwai, Igbodo, Achalla. Ogwashi-ukwu, Ubulu-ukwu, Ubulu-Okiti, Obior, Issele-Ukwu, Okwe, Agbor, Umunnede, Ekwuoma, Issele-Mkptime, Onicha-Ugbo, Onicha-Olona, Onicha-Ugwu, Illah, Ezi, Ebu, Idumuje-Unor, Idumuje-Ugboko, Akumazi-Umuocha, Kwale, Utagbu-egbe, Utagbu-Unor, Obinomba, Obiarukwu and Owerri-Olubor.

These are towns and villages inhabited by human beings, not cockroaches. They have been dominated, made pauperised and completely alienated by the Urhobos in criminal collaboration with their kiths and kin. None of the aforementioned towns and villages have witnessed any atom of development since that state was created. Every development is channelled to Warri, Sapele, Oghara, and Ughelli – the homes of the Urhobos, Itsekiris, Izons, Isokos and the Ijaws.

What crime have we committed? After all, we never had the slightest premonition of IBB’s intention when that creation was about to be announced. All that everyone knew was that, two states were requested from Bendel, and the likelihood was that it would only get one. Again, most of the Igbo speaking towns never bargained for the capital to be in Asaba.

Even in our quest for Anioma State, it was agreed that the capital must be central to act as a centrifugal pull, and not push, to its inhabitants. In other words the chosen Anioma State capital would have pulled people to it and not push people away from it for lack of space. So, what crime did we commit that is beyond the redemption of the Urhobos?

It beggars belief for some to have argued and still argue that Asaba was chosen because IBB’s wife, Mariam, was from that town. As far as I am concerned, that argument did not and still does not hold water to this very day. Had IBB a wife in Dutse which, against all odds and bets, was the chosen capital of Jigawa instead of the more favourite Hadeija town? If your answer is a definitive no, then throw such insinuations about Asaba into River Sapele for good.

Besides, of social relevance here is the fact that most of the legacy of developments in this area were the ones provided by Col. Ogbemudia during the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon. The roads linking up most of these communities were constructed under his government. The general hospitals and very clean public pipe borne water were provided by him.

Today, all the public taps have dried up. The hospitals are just “mere consulting clinics”. Most of the feeder roads Ogbemudia constructed are still better than the new ones that were done afterwards. A typical example is the old road linking Asaba, Ibusa, Ogwashi-ukwu, Ubulu-ukwu, Obior, Umunnede to the present newly expanded Benin / Onitsha express road, which was constructed after the civil war. That road is still better than the ones other regimes- put together- have constructed in subsequent years in that area.

Ogbemudia’s record held him in good stead that when he contested the governorship election of the then Bendel State under the NPN ticket, against Prof. Ambrose Ali in the1983 election, he swept the polls in that area to the discredit of the UPN. His past record of performance spoke for him. And up to this date, |I still reckoned he is the best. Whatever oil money |Ibori got from the federation account he literally ‘drank’ like water with nothing to show case in these Igbo communities.

I hope Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Daniel Okumagba, and Rtd General Paul Omu, who were both alumni of Saint Thomas Teacher Training College, Ibusa, and others, will re-adjust their definition of injustice. Let them pay a visit to their alma mater and I can assure them that they will develop goose pimples. If they feel that the injustice of the Niger Delta is unmerited, then they should check their glaring injustice against the Igbo people of Delta State. No tribe has the monopoly of violence. The fact that our people have not reacted does not depict cowardice.

Our stoical silence is philosophical and historical. Philosophical because we are a mature people. And, historical because of the seemingly heroic act of our two sons, Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu {from Okpanam} and Captain Tim Onwuatuegwu { from Illah} in the 15 January 1966 coup to which our people are still being held some time in opprobrium.

The area still has people of calibre, namely: Prof. Pat Utomi, Prof. Nwawolo, Prof. Okonjo, Dr. Okonjo Iweala, Prof. Fidelis Odita { QC and SAN },Col. Nwawo, Col. Okwechime, Col. Achuzia, Prof. Okoh, Prof.Emenanjo, Prof. Onwuachi, Prof. Elueze, Prof. Edozie, Prof. Emmanuel Nwanze, Mike Ovie {MD, Zenith Bank}, Sabastin Adigwe {MD, Afrique Bank}, Atuche Francis { MD, Bank PHB}, Tony Elumelu {MD, UBA} and an up and coming sharp chap called Mr. Rowland Nwanze.

With what I saw in these areas when I went home in October 2007, I just hope that one day, a push will not become a shove. I also pray that one day, these oppressors will be given their so called “genuine Delta State“, believe it or not, it would be good riddance to bad rubbish. Go, soak yourself in your crude oil but the present fact remains, that whenever you point one of your accusing fingers to the Federal government for the neglect of the Niger-Delta, you forget that the other four fingers are pointed towards you.

If these people, shouting injustice, would be honourable and sincere enough to themselves, let them show their humanity by embarking on a fact-finding mission of the Igbo culture area of the state. They will be ashamed and shocked of what they will discover. It is poverty, misery and neglect of a people callously being executed by “educated” Urhobos as pre-planned, since 1991. Most developments in these communities are simply being executed through self-efforts.

To most Urhobos and their kindred-spirit, it is better for the North to seep the crude oil than for their closest neighbours to enjoy it. It is this same surreptitious and slippery attitude that they exhibited during the Biafran war, supporting General Gowon to keep Nigeria one and to annihilate us.

Today, it is a fact which has come to dawn on all of us that the chickens have come home to roost. Whether we believe it or not, the three regions in the South have been humiliated in one way or the other by the same North in systematic fashion. First, it was the Igbos during the civil war. Second, was the Yorubas in the light of the arrogant and criminal annulment of the June 12, 1993 election; and finally, the Niger-Deltans who are now feeling the heat from the same North.

The final onslaught against the whole South by the North is now on cause; and that is, to make sure that they bring the Southerners to their knees until they learn to wink no more. Their mission statement of the early1960s as proclaimed by their leaders, of throwing the “Koran into the Atlantic ocean,” is about to be accomplished. The interpretation of that aphorism for those who care to know is simple. It means partly, the conquest of the South.

And I can assure all Southerners that the North will succeed if we continue with this our braggadocio, endless divisive bickering, chronic unforgiven spirit, stereotypical and antagonistic attitude and blame game. May I use this opportunity to call on the South to rally round Alhaji Asari Dukobo and to also take cues from Bode Eluyera’s analysis of our luggardist Nigeria. Besides, I just hope the Urhobos will change for good and use their numbers for the positive and even development of the state. What is good for the geese is also good for the ganders. “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”.

It is unfortunate that our crisis of identity extends to our own Igbo brothers and sisters across the Niger who are supposed to know better. Unfortunately, they regard themselves, as “the proper Igbos” while the Delta Igbos or Ika Igbos or Western Igbos are often lumped and regarded derogatorily as “Hausa-Igbos”. This is despite the solid research and studies to the contrary by the late Prof. M. A. Onwuejeogwu. His studies, and here I refer to Nri Museum, show that there is no nomenclature like “Hausa Igbo” or “proper Igbo”. Igbo is Igbo! Period.

These “proper Igbos” exhibited this same ambivalent and marginal behaviour towards our Biafran officers of Delta Igbo extraction during the civil war. The “proper Igbos” should get it into their heads that there is strength in numbers and that we feel unperturbed about their historical ignorance about us, because all Delta Igbo communities know their origins and history. I rest my case!



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OSADEBE JUDE September 26, 2011 - 10:37 am

First of all, I appologize to all my Igbo Kinsmen for my “nonchallance” on an issue as sensitive as this; this is why I read it late. Adinlofu, I salute your initiative, especially on this wonderful topic and in my honest assessment, you did excellently well. I absolutely agree with you, and I have a special interest in the quality of human resources that area is blessed with. Such can only be found in ancient greece, during the development of philosophy. Prof. M A Onwuejeogwu is an authority in anthropology, whose works has in no small measure motivated the Anioma people in the cause for liberation from the oppression of the Urhobos. Without fear of contradiction, I always boost with the brains that the Igbos in Delta state have across ALL disciplices and with global recognition too – prof. Utomi, prof. Odita. Dr. Iweala and her professor parents to mention but few. We have all it takes (not an opinion, but a fact) in terms of physical, mental and artistic strength to be inedependent and I challenge every concerned Anioma born to rise up to the occassion. We must be proud of who we are and accept our Igboness. Oga nihu ka anyi cho na Anioma

Chris March 24, 2011 - 5:33 pm

Mr. Onyeyiri,

Major Gen. Alexander Madiebo is not from Delta State. He is from Anambra

chukwuma nwachukwu February 16, 2010 - 8:33 pm

The fact of the iboness of our brothers across the River Niger has never been lost on us. Geography may appear to have created a gulf but I assure you that the blood is still thicker than the waters of the divisive River!

Adinlofu, weep not becuase I assure you in our lifetime, the Ibo nation will achieve its greatness as the “Master Nation” of the black race or as Nnamdi Azikiwe stated in 1952, I quote “It seems to me that the God of Africa has destined the Ibo Nation to lead Black Africa out of the bondage of ages”.

I rest my case.

igwe December 29, 2009 - 8:22 pm

i read this article and i like everything about it. i have great respect for the writer. i have ask myself why do igbo people from delta deny that they are igbo. do you know that only few igbo people now where nzeogwu come from all we know is that he is an igbo man till today we hold him in high esteem. we have to let ika people realise the are igbos,no only when it is convinient even when it is not. we from the east love our brothers and sisters in west. we are all in this together. i support the creation of anioma state forget the oil state are not build on oil alone. they should have sense of belonging, it is bigger that mineral resources. thanks adinlofu.

Victor Okenyi. MA Management Systems (Hull). DipM. May 22, 2009 - 2:16 am

I am very surprised that Anioma state has still not been created. Could it be the powers that be are afraid of the result of the brain power that would be unleashed? We should all keep up the pressure. What we need are more advocates & sympathisers at the seat of power in Abuja no less. I know a lot of people, myself included, who would return to Nigeria if we had Anioma State. Not only Anioma would benefit was that to happen. See what Dr Okonjo-Iweala, an internationally respected financial manager, achieved in her time in charge of the fimances of Nigeria. She is back out of Nigeria now! There are lots more Iwealas in virtually every field. Not just certificate PhDs but people with knowledge & experience, and who can perform. Enough said.

Chukwuemeka Onyeriri February 10, 2009 - 2:00 am

This is a very beautiful article. My good brother Ephraim Adinlofu, I give you all the adulation you deserve. As an Igbo I strongly believe that we Igbos are one irrespective of our state or differences in Igbo dialect. Without trying to point an accusing finger on anybody or group, I think that our fellow Igbos from Delta State should first of all admit that they are Igbos. I have heard several times with utmost dismay Igbos from Delta State deny their Igbo origin. Many of them say that their tribe is simply “Ika,” some also say that their tribe is Delta or kwale, while others call themselves all sorts of names. I have heard some bluntly said that they are not Igbos. Some times they refer to the Igbos outside the Delta State as “you Igbos” and I wonder whether the people saying this are not also Igbo. May I appeal to our fellow Igbo brothers and sisters from Delta State to accept their “Igboness,” though I must acknowledge that it is not all the Igbos from Delta state that do this. We have many great heroes from Igbo speaking Delta. People like Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu, Col Victor Achuzia, Major Gen. Alexander Madiebo and a host of others. These were the pillars of the Biafran nation during the Civil War. I think this denial of Igbo tribe by some Igbos from Delta State started just after the Civil War. Let us imitate our elder brothers and sisters who united and formed a formidable union. We are all Igbos whether you are an Igbo in Delta, Enugu, Abia, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi, or Rivers. Biafra still lives. Igbo Kwenu!!!

Emeka November 20, 2008 - 6:51 am

Good article from a sound author, but never expect insightful judgement from the Obioras who are verily ignorant of what sound mind like you mean this is because it may take them a long time before they realize what you articulate.

Prince Otah Ayika 11 September 25, 2008 - 1:14 am

It is a good article, but I want to know how the author came with the idea that Tim Onwuatuegwu is from Illah. All I know is Emanueal,wife is from Illah.

obiora August 28, 2008 - 6:55 pm

Good article but you really spoilt it with your continous tantrum at the urhobo people. I think we should strive to hold our leaders responsible for what they do and not the people that did not even elect them in the first place. Being a Delta nwadiala, i know too well that the Urhobo’s didn’t get any fair share of ibori’s wealth and with the quota system in place, there may never be any better governor in that state even when the delta igbos from the upper region rule, i bet you. Delta igbos are the largest ethnic group in Delta state and arguably the most succesful, so why are you complaining?

On the issue of Asaba being the state capital, let’s face it, IBB did that probably to satisfy his igbo inlaws because Warri should’ve been the capital. Why support that injustice to the Urhobo people because your people were not affected by it? “For we shall know the truth and only the truth shall set us free”(Jn 8:32).


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