WHO IS WHO IN ISOKOLAND?
The Isokos are a unique and delightful people, a district ethnic group made of nineteen (19) clans with a total of about 2.1 million people. Isoko occupies a space of land in South East of Delta State of Nigeria; bounded by Kwale to the North, Urhobos to the West, Ndokwa Osimili/Aboh to the East; and Ijaws to the South while the Delta Igbos and Itsekeris are not left out. The Isokos are a peaceful people as there are no records or history of conflicts or wars between them and their neighbors in the past. The major occupation of Isoko people are farming, trading, fishing and teaching. They thirst for education and they are directly progressing in these areas of specialization. It is of record that today Isokos can be found in most of the sensitive professions in Nigeria like Lawyers, Accountants, Economists, Engineers, Doctors, Estate Surveyors, Journalists and general business contractors.
No doubt, if the trend continues of Isoko people pursuing professional courses in Nigeria, then the sky is just the beginning of having great Isoko nation in the nearest future. One thing that battles me a lot is the issue of Pull Him Down Syndrome (PhD) in Isokoland and destructive criticism which negatively limited the political development and growth of the region over the years. The Isoko nineteen (19) clans are Aviara, Ellu, Emede, Emevor, Iyede, Enhwe, Okpolo, Erowa, Umeh , Igbide, Owhe, Ofagba, Irri, Oleh, Olomoro, Okpe, Oyede., Ozoro and Uzere. Out of these so-called 19 clans in Isoko, villages are founded by each of the clan representing Isoko nation while Irri has the highest villages in the land but politically marginalized by powers that be.Isoko people do not have regard for themselves and the issue of I know it all is more pronounced in the land.
The oral history has it that the first group of Isoko ancestors migrated from Benin Kingdom in about 1600 AD at the same time as the ancestors of Aboh. The ancestors in the first group were Erowa (the senior) Uzere, and Okpe. Isoko oral history told that the second group led by ancestors of Iyede left Benin about 1650- 1700 AD during the reign of Oba Ozolua, the Oba of Benin. After, a short while the ancestors of Ughelli, Ogor and Agbarha- Otor (3 brothers) in Ughelli North Local Government area followed the trail of Iyede ancestors and settled in their present sites. Between 1600-1700 AD there were many migrations from Benin kingdom to many parts of the present Edo and Delta States as a result of incessant internecine wars coupled with the unbridled wickedness of the princes of Benin Kingdom. There were further migrations by some of the first and second groups and in some cases their children moved from their parents settlements to settle in virgin lands.
The ancestors of Effurun- Otor in Ughelli local government area, LGA, came from Erowa in Isoko South LGA, whilst Effurun In Uvwie clan migrated from Effurun- Otor. Ekpan and Ugborikoko towns moved from Effurun to settle in their present sites.
Irri came fom Uzere whilst Oleh and Agbon clan in Ethiope East LGA migrated from Irri , Agbon consists of Kokori, Okpara , (Inland and wasterside ) and Eku towns. The present Okpe clan in Urhoboland, i.e in Okpe and Sapele LGAs migrated from Okpe in Isoko along with Ozoro. Ozoro settled in their present site whilst Okpe went further to Orerokpe their present settlement. Ofagba clan came from Okpe. Emevor and Owho clans migrated from Iyede and Ibrede and Iyede- Ame in Ndokwa LGA are direct descendants of from Iyede to settle in their present sites. Ellu clan, i.e Ellu, Aradhe and Ovrode are descendants of Owho. The ancestors of Aviara migrated from Benin and came to its present settlement through the River Niger. The only Isoko community that migrated from Urhoboland is Olomoro clan which descended from Olomu clan in Ughelli South LGA about 1750-1800 AD.
The ancestors of all the cans in Isoko migrated from Benin with the exception of Igbide, Okpolo/ Enhwe and Evwrheni now Ughelli South , which came from East of the river Niger, i.e the present day Anambra, Bayelsa and Rivers states. They came through the river Niger to Isoko creek (a tributary of river Niger) near Patani, and advanced in land to settle in their present sites. Late Professor Obaro Ikimi elucidated on the historical facts of Isoko nation. Umeh ancestors came from Onya on the River Niger opposite river Nun, a tributary of river Nun, a tributary of river Niger and came through Isoko creek near Patani and advanced in land to settle on the banks of Isoko creek where they are at present. There was further movement of Owhawha ancestors from Igbide in Isoko South LGA to settle in Jeremi clan, Ughelli South LGA.
The re-migration of people from Isoko to Urhoboland was due to insufficient choice of land for settlement and also due to constant flooding during rainy season and also due to river Niger flowing its banks.
Before the advent of the British to the Niger Delta the communities in Isoko were frequently engaged in conflicts between and amongst themselves owing to disagreements resulting from ownership of land struggle for crude power to have dominion over others. The salutary point however, was that wisdom prevailed in the long run, and as a result the leaders initiated and entered into covenants between themselves to ensure sustainable peace . Some of the covenants are still in existence today and they are respected by the communities that covenanted as they were respected in those days. For example, the covenant between Erowa and Iyede and Aviara is highly respected and feared. It promotes peace and understanding among the people of these communities; no evil or harm is done to each other under any circumstances. The one between Igbide and Oyede is also highly respected.
In 1951, the Richards constitution came into operation in Nigeria. The Western Region Delimitation Commission created two constituencies from Eastern Urhobo Native Authority (NA) , and elections to the Western House of Assembly were conducted by electoral college system on individual or personal basis although political parties were behind the candidates. Late Chief James Otobo from Uzere kingdom for Isoko. Chief Mowarin for the other side of Eastern Urhobo, NA. They both contested and won their elctions to the Western House of Assembly, Ibadan. Late Chief James Otobo for NCNC and Chief Mowarin for Action Group.
At the 1954 general elections, Chief James Otobo again contested, this time under the platform of NCNC party and won and was returned to the Western house of Assembly. In 1957 Isoko was given a modicum of Independence of Isoko District Council from Eastern Urhobo ,NA. Chief James Otobo influenced the creation during his tenure as a member representing Isoko at the Western house of Assembly. Ibadan.
Isoko people are an ethno linguistic group that inhibits the Isoko region of Delta State of Nigeria. One of the confronting challenges in Isoko nation is the ability to sustained good leadership and followership within the region which has plunged the region into thin darkness of retrogression. The inability to create more local governments here has met a brick wall while sentimental politics is more pronounced in Delta state. Those in power prefer to settle their regional problems than others. Most Isoko people do not encourage themselves to grow than armchair criticism which has drawn the region backward over the years without immediate solutions. Isoko is large enough to have its own state without qualms and not allowing minority complex to override us.
Some of the highly intelligent and bravery Isoko sons and daughters who have one way contributed largely to the sustainable development of the region in likes of Chief Ufuoma Edwin Ozah, Chief (Mrs) Rita Ozah, Hon Raphael Okelezo, Hon Fineboy Dickson,Prince Frank Egbodo, Hon Benjamin Essien, Chief Paul Eriri, Felida Essi. Otunba Isaac Emiyede, Engr Okpithe Solomon, Chief Oke Akpojene, Stella Omu, Owho Ovuakporie, Archbishop Apena, Chief John Okih, Evang Saviour Ede, Cordelia Okpei, Barr Ejta Otouniyo , Iduh Amadhe , Barr Akporero, Alex Ogbomudia, Felix Ogbaudu, Ben Oheri, Goodluck Orie, Goodluck Ofehe, Paul odhomor,Hon Osiga Oghale, Hon Mike Ogwah, hon Obi Eneruvie, Apostle Joseph Ovedhe, Comrade Samuel Macaulay, Elder Peter Erebi, Prince Obaro Unuafe, who contested for 2011 Delta state governorship election, Prof Stephen Akpavie, Emmanuel Omojefe who donated #10 million to recent flood victims in Isoko, Zeb Ejiro, Barr Jonathan Okiogbero and just mention but a few . Many Isoko sons and daughters have done so well to salvage the region while some still believe in traditional system of leadership which no longer in vogue.
With the large history of peace which Isoko nation have sustained without rancor, yet the federal or state government do not recognized the present of Isoko nation in terms of political and economic leadership. All Isoko sons and daughters must learn their culture and language in order to be indoctrinated into formidable leadership of Isoko nation. Bayelsa was just having three local governments when it was created as a state in1996 by late General Sani Abacha. The recent constitution amendment which some regions demanded for their own states like Anioma , Urhobo and others while Isoko kept mute in all ramifications The Isokos in Ndokwa East are grossly marginalized by the kwales while language barrier is a strong force of disunity in that region. Isoko man finds it difficult to understand their language while the kwales learn Isoko language faster than the Isokos. Isoko nation have over 100 oil wells and second region to discover oil and gas after Oloibiri in Bayelsa in 1957.It contributes 35 percent of crude oil to the Nigerian economy yet Isoko people are politically relegated to the background. 45 percent of Isoko youths are unwaged and resorted to motorcycles popularly known as Okada in Delta state, though the Delta State Governor Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan recently banned Okada riding and legally introduced tricycles to Deltans.
Come to think of Delta politics, Isoko people always play second fiddle and interested in collecting money from politicians and sell their mandates to other region for fear of being intimidated. How long Isoko man or woman will sit on the fence in Delta politics would rather wants political appointments and nothing else. Isoko man only once assumed a ministerial appointment but unable to produce a governor or deputy governor, even when we had the speakership in person of Late Igbrude which never lasted as a result of alleged corruption and collusion. Even the so-called Isoko people appointed in key positions are bigheaded ones who never wish the growth and development of Isoko region due to egotistical and selfish agenda. To the extent that they do not pick calls or reply text messages. If any Isoko man or woman wants to contest for any election now, town meeting would be organized to understudy his or her political manifestoes. With the 19 clans, only two local governments are created while there is no political father for Isoko region. The likes of chief S. Urede, Chief Tom Egbwonke, Senator Okpozo, Dr Abel Ubeku and Chief Oke Akpojene (MON) must work hand in hand to build the unity of Isoko nation. It is time for all Isoko sons and daughters to be united and involved massively on community development.
BY GODDAY ODIDI, 08058124798. 20 Oro Street Ajegunle Apapa Lagos. Public Affairs Analyst.