We aren’t Igbo, Rivers clan tells Ohanaeze

By Dennis Naku

An Ikwerre socio-cultural group, the Iwhnurohna Progressive Organisation has faulted claims by the Ohaneze Ndigbo and its President, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, that Ikwerre is part of Igbo.

The IPO said it was careless and insensitive for Iwuanyanwu to be associated with such a claim that the Ikwerre people in Rivers State were Igbo, describing it as false and unfounded.

The IPO President, Dr Okachikwu Dibia, stated this at a news briefing in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital on Friday.

Recall that the President General of the Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Iwuanyanwu, at a media briefing in Port Harcourt a fortnight ago, said the Ikwerre people were Igbo, saying the position of the Ikwerre nation that they were not Igbo, was a lie.

Iwuanyanwu said, “One major factor to know the ethnicity of a people is language. Everybody identified to be Igbo and called Igbo, they spoke Igbo. They could have had some little differences, but it doesn’t stop the truth.

“For example, the word first son, in Owerri and Umuahia, we call it “Okpara”, in Onitsha it’s called “Okpala”, and in Ikwerre it is called “Epara”.

“It’s not me or my parents who say that Ikwerre are Igbo. For the Ikwerre people to say that they are not Igbo, it is not correct because their language shows that they are Igbo.

“For example, they answer ‘Amadi, Amaechi, Onyesoh or Nyesom’, these are pure Igbo names with definite meanings. Some of them here in Ikwerre say they are from Benin; there is nothing wrong with it.

“Someone can say I was originally an Igbo man, but now I have made up my mind to change to Benin. It’s normal and will be accepted. But for somebody to come and tell a blatant lie that an Ikwerre person is not an Igbo person, it can’t be possible, and it can’t be defended in any modern society, because your culture, habit and name; everything is Igbo,”

While noting that he was raised in Rivers State, Iwuanyanwu, said, “In those days, we didn’t have such controversies whether Ikwerre was Igbo or not. The truth remains that Ikwerre is Igbo.”

He therefore urged the Ikwerre people in Rivers State to participate in the programmes and activities of the organisation (Ohaneze Ndigbo) so as to maximise the impact and serve the purpose for its establishment.

But Dibia said features of appearance or similarities in language should not be used to determine where a person comes from, saying the Ikwerre people will no longer tolerated such ‘hate-claim’.

He stated, “To us at IPO, Ikwerre is Igbo means that all the ancestral communities in Ikwerre originated from Igbo. This is not true and can never be true, hence our reply to him (Iwuanyanwu) and indeed Ohaneze.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Ikwerre people are a distinct ethnic nation recognised in Nigeria and the United Nations. Ikwerre language is one of the recognised languages in Nigeria and the United Nations.

“Whoever is in doubt can contact the appropriate government authorities in Nigeria and the UN. While Ikwerre is our political name, Iwhnurohna is our native name, and both refer to the same people: Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality.

“We live and own the Emohua, Ikwerre, Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City (in alphabetical order) local government areas in Rivers State, Niger Delta, South-South geo-political region of Nigeria”.

Citing the works of some renowned scholars like Prof. Otonti Nduka, Dibia used thematic headings of appearances, innate qualities and history to explain that the Ikwerre remained distinct from the Igbo despite similarities in their language.

He said: “Consequently, IPO’s reply to Iwuanyanwu is that language, name, dances, songs, dressing cannot be and should not be used as determinants of who Ikwerre is. IPO wishes to reply to Iwuanyanwu that who a man truly is, is more about his core innate character and behaviour than the physicals he sees.”

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