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Ikwerre to Ohanaeze: We are not Igbo, hails from Benin

.’Language, name, dances, songs, dressing alone can’t be sole determinants of who we are’

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EMMANUEL NLEWEDUM, Port Harcourt

 

The people of Ikwerre ethnic nationality in Rivers State have dismissed claims by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo that they are Igbos.

The Ikwerre people, under the aegis of Iwhnurohna Progressive Organisation (IPO) at a press conference in Port Harcourt over the weekend described the claims by Ohanaeze Ndigbo that Ikwerre is Igbo, as false and insulting.

Recall that the President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu had during his first official visit to Rivers State recently, proclaimed that Ikwerre people alongside the people of Ahoada, Omoku, Etche and others in the state, as well as other groups, in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Kogi, Edo, Delta and Benue states are Igbos.

Iwuanyanwu while briefing Journalists in Port Harcourt said it was not correct for Ikwerre people to say that they are not Igbo, because the language they speak, the names they bear, their culture, habit and everything they do show that they are Igbo.

He advised the Ikwerre people to participate in the programmes and activities of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, to maximise the impact and serve the purpose for its establishment.

But in his response, the President of Iwhnurohna Progressive Organisation, (IPO), Dr Okachikwu Dibia advised the public to disregard claims by the Ohaneze Ndigbo that Ikwerre is Igbo.

Dr. Dibia told newsmen that there is no historical evidence to back the claims by Ohanaeze Ndigbo that Ikwerre people originated from Igbo.

The IPO President who stated that the history of Ikwerre people is traced to Benin, urged Ohanaeze Ndigbo to stop assuming that anyone who speaks language similar to that of Igbo is Igbo.

He explained that most Ikwerre people learnt how to speak Igbo language through social and economic interactions before, during and after the slave trade, adding that Ikwerre language could appear similar, but its not the same as Igbo language.

He maintained that “Language, name, dances, songs, dressing cannot be and should not be used as determinants of who Ikwerre is.”

Speaking further, he said, “Another way our people learnt Igbo language was through the millions of Igbo women married to Ikwerre men. After marriage, the children are sure to learn and know Igbo language from their mothers. This is how our children understand and speak Igbo language. Does that mean these children are of Igbo origin?

“The IPO finds it offensive and insulting for Ohaneze Ndigbo and it’s President, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu to say that Ikwerre people are Igbo. To us at IPO, Ikwerre is Igbo means all the ancestral communities in Ikwerre originated from Igbo, this is not true and can never be true. Ikwerre is a distinct ethnic nation and her language is recognized in Nigeria and the United Nations.

“While Ikwerre is our political name, Iwhnurohna is our native name and both refers to us Ikwerre ethnic nationality. The rich history of the Ikwerre people have been well written, documented and established.”

“If they are talking about history, they shouldn’t just say we are from Igbo, they should give us a piece of history that relates us to Igbo. We are telling the world today that we are not Igbo, and that there is a piece of history that relates us to Benin.

“When the Igbo will claim that Ikwerre do not speak Benin language. They forget that Itsekiri and Urhobo are from Benin but they hardly speak Benin language. They forget that Igbos claim to be Jews, but they do not speak Jewish language. They forget that as Nigerians, we communicate through English Language and bear English names, yet we are not English people,” he said.

Dibia further posited that Ikwerre people are direct opposites of Igbos in character and business life.

“Ikwerre people are contented and risk averse, while the Igbo people are risk-takers and has great drive for profit. One of the innate qualities of the Igbo is their itinerant mobile nature.

He added that Ikwerre or Iwhnurohna as they are called, is a federation of aborigines and migrants who have come together under one political roof called Ikwerre Ethnic Nation, and that among all these original immigrations and intra-Ikwerre migrations, none could be traced to Igboland except the Aro later settlers.

“This IPO’s reply to Ohanaeze Ndigbo on the origin of Ikwerre is that Ihnuruohna (Ikwerre) is a federation of ‘Aborigines and Migrants’ who have come together under one roof called Ikwerre Ethnic Nation, and in all this migrations in our land, none could be traced to Igbo, except Aro.

“It is therefore, very unthinkable to claim that Ikwerres are Igbo because of the existence of few Aro Communities allowed to settle in Ikwerre land.

He however, warned that Iwhnurohna (Ikwerre) people will not tolerate it anymore to be described as Igbo people, and advised Ohanaeze Ndigbo to maintain good neighbourliness, recognize the need to change its antagonistic attitude towards Ikwerre, and as well stay and develop their five states and let Ikwerre be because, Ikwerre is not Igbo.

The IPO President also disclosed that “Late Chief Eguma (not Aguma, Igbo version) was fined a cow by Ogbakor Ikwerre Organisation WorldWide for being part of Ohaneze Ndigbo and he paid the fine. This payment shows that Eguma realized he did the wrong thing and was restituted. IPO notes that our late father Eguma may have committed that error involuntarily to secure his job in Enugu.

“Ohanaeze should respect Ikwerre as a distinct ethnic nation instead of insulting Ikwerre through claims that provoke and promote disaffection between Ikwerre and Igbo. Then, we can all co-habit as good neighbours,” he advised.

 

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