Esoegbue and the Anioma History

Source: Jerome-Mario Utomi.    
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Jerome-Mario Utomi.

Going by his age and physical appearance, Elder Emeka Esoegbue, historian, journalist, Anioma advocate and author, is by no means an old man. But his understanding of and competence in promoting the culture of Anioma people has conspired to confer on him, the enviable title of an Elder. Indeed, this Ibusa, an Anioma community in Delta State, born historian has proved that history does matter and that ordinary calculation can be upturned by extra-ordinary personalities.

Essentially, seperate from having to his credit five history books on the Anioma people,-namely; “A study of the Origins and Migrations of Anioma Settlements”, “A Short History of Omu”, “Essentials of Anioma History”, “A History of Ibusa”.and “The Ekumeku Movement and Resistance to Colonial Rule in Nigeria’, in this particular order, there are multiple reasons to conclude that his latest Anioma historical account has blew fresh wind to the discourse in ways that will accelerate the process and shape the evolution conducive for the reemergence of a fully functional historical document that will be trusted by both present and future generations.

Take as an illustration, from his narrative, the age long believe that the Aniomas principally has their historical Origin linked to Igbo Land, South Eastern Nigeria, no longer holds water as it currently faces embarrassing facts. Esoebue’s account proves beyond reasonable doubt that Anioma is not a ‘natural creation’ but an amalgamation of people from different tribes and location.

Before now, little did we know that; the people of Ebu are Igala. The people of Ugbodu, Ukwunzu, and Ogodor are Yoruba. The people of Ibrede are Isoko. The people of Amai are Igala. The people of Asaba, Illah and Okpanam have populations of Igala. The people of Ozanogogo are Bini. The people of Ibusa, Akwukwu-Igbo, Ishiagu and Ewulu are the only people that trace their origin to the Igbos.

From the above, it is evident that history does not obliterate the ancestry of anyone. It does not satisfy or dissatisfy people but gives account on the past.

Regardless of what others may say, this new awareness has the capacity to engineer disruptive as well as constructive ideas that will help shatter set patterns of thinking, threaten the status quo or at the very least raises peoples concern to further question time-honoured historical accounts. In my views, a circle of learning and empowerment has been created, that will allow the people of Anioma to see things that others cannot see and to formulate transformational strategies.

Adding context to this discourse, in geographical landscape, Anioma nation could be likened to a dot in the map of Nigeria. But the people, in material terms, have through hard work, planning, improvising established themselves in all sectors-finance, science/technology, sports and education among others. Appreciably also, they daily manifests signs of a people that have left behind third world challenges of illiteracy and poverty, to become a successful centre for the dissemination and distribution of best human capital resources across the nation.

Despite this virtues and attributes, Anioma people with an estimated total population of approximately 1.1 million people would have needed, if not because of this latest intervention, yet, another generation to correct their sloppy historical account.

The reason is barefaced. The vast majority of the people were already freewheeled to whole heartedly approve and endorse previous account with little or no opposition.

There is another reason to develop a second major interest in the newest account coming from Esoegbue.

History, he noted, shows that the people called “Ika” today do not have related origins. In fact, the various communities have different origins. They trace their origins to different ethnic groups in the country. The name Ika has not always been limited to the present Ika people etymologically.

This name (Ika) was originally used to refer to the entire region that we know as Anioma or Delta North today. It was only a matter of time that the suffix “Ibo” was added to make it sound “Ika-Ibo”. With time too, “Ika-Ibo” gave way to “Western-Ibo”, the change that eventually replaced it. Eventually, the name “Ika” became limited to the present Ika North East and Ika South in Delta State.

It was as recent as year 2012, that Anioma historians started to accommodate Igbanke, Inyelen, Owanikeke, Owariuzo, Idu, Igbogiji, Ekpon and good number of other related settlements now lying in Edo State in the fold of Ika.Incidentally, these areas in Edo were never originally classified as parts of Ika clan.

Again, it was Forde and Jones that popularized the name, “Ika”, giving it currency. Essentially, the name, “Ika” was first and foremost used by the Europeans to classify or give a description of the entire area called Delta North today before it was limited to its present use today. Agbor remains the largest of Ika communities and the best known and I believe that this to be so due to the settlement’s relations with Benin.

There are quite a number of Ika communities but only Agbor was able to withstand Benin in terms of military strength, proving to Benin that they were no push over. This brings us to the different wars in history between Agbor and Benin. When the British colonial government joined Agbor to Benin Province, they protested and instead decided on joining Asaba. It was the same way, Igbanke, an arch rival of Agbor protested to the colonialist, insisting they were not to be left under Agbor.

The Agbor-Igbanke War of 1895 is well recorded in this account. It was from this war that Igbanke gathered as much Igbanke patriotism as she has today and was able to match Agbor in some periods of its history. Igbanke is founded by six communities, out of which Benin founded just Oligie. Migrants of the rest five villages of the communities migrated from nearby Ika communities.

Till today, these six Igbanke villages have retained their various heads known by the people as “Enogie”. The language spoken by the people of Ika is a mixture of Igbo and Bin but we have Igbodo that also speaks a combination of Ika and Enuani dialects. The Ika are not to be mistaken for Enuani.

On the challenges confronting Anioma history, Elder Emeka Esogbue, the thorough bred historian with B. A (Hons) in History and International Studies from the Lagos State University and M. A. in History and Diplomacy from the same institution, noted that he took up interest in Anioma history because the people of Anioma rarely believed in their own.You write on others but your children do not know your own. At the completion of first degree programs in higher institutions, our children are faced with paucity of materials on our history to further researches on their projects which compels them to write on other societies.

He, however, submitted that the greatest of the problem is that most laymen do not see history from the point of view of professionals. It is worst that they expect you to favour them with your account whereas a good historical account should lack favoritism. They want to see in your account that their community was the first to be established in the whole world or that their own community is the best in society. Often times they want their wishes boldly established in your account. The social media has also come to make some ‘contributions’. With copy and paste, you get confused the more.

Utomi, Lagos, Nigeria.

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