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By Gamleader • 27 days ago • 58 views • 7 comments

A Brief History Of The Ikwerre People.

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 Ihru ọ ha (later called Iwhnurọ hna)
fled was Oba Ewuare (Ogwaro). Akalaka, a member of the Benin royal
family, fled in the 13 th century on allegation of plotting
assassination of the Oba. He died in 1462. Iwhnurọ hna 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 Iwhnurọ hna (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) . 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 Ihruọ ha (Ikwerre). It is noteworthy that the pedigree and
name of Ikwerre people, Iwhnurọ hna, obviously took its root from this
original name – Ihru ọ ha. 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 Ihruọ ha (Ikwerre). Iwhnurọ hna, 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) 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,
Iwhnur ọ hna. 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) Otuwari kpo, 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, mimeo


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