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Friday 8 June 2018

An Exposition Between Biafra As Our Identity/Nation And The Niger Delta As A Mere Geographical Expression; Preserving The Very Fabric That Binds Us Together As A People

By Chukwuemeka Chimerue, Chief Editor | The Biafra Times

June 9, 2018

History teaches us that Britain established a colonial protectorate over the Bight of Biafra in June 30, 1849, under the authority of the British Consuls of the Bight of Benin which its protectorate was established in February 1, 1852. On August 6, 1861, both the protectorates which were neighbours under its own separate British consuls respectively, were merged to form what was called the “United Bight of Benin and Biafra Protectorate.”

From July 16, 1884, this merged into the British Protectorate over Brass, Bonny, Opobo, Aboh and Old Calabar(excluding Lagos Colony), which was confirmed on June 5, 1885, and named “Oil Rivers Protectorate,” where in August 1891, an effective consular administration was established, headed by a Consul general. These areas would in different steps merge further via the May 12, 1893 “Niger Coast Protectorate,” which on January 1, 1900, was renamed “Southern Nigeria Protectorate, SNP” into which on February 16, 1906, Lagos was incorporated. On February 28, 1906, SNP was made into the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, and since January 1, 1914, it became part of Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.

From the above historical illustration, it is unambiguous that the Bight of Biafra was the oldest, then the Bight of Benin came, followed by the Protectorate of the Niger Coast before its final integration with Lagos and the Western Protectorates to form the single Southern Protectorate. These protectorates were all established from a well-organized last “West African Dynasties” called the “Aro-Confederacy.”

Taking inferences from historical teachings, the Aro-Confederacy (1690–1902) was a political union orchestrated by the Aro people, Igbo sub-group, centered in Arochukwu in present-day southeastern Nigeria. Their influence and presence was all over Eastern Nigeria, lower Middle Belt, and parts of present-day Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Arochukwu Kingdom was an economic, political, and an oracular center as it was home of the powerful Ibini Ukpabi oracle, High Priests, the Aro King Eze Aro, and central council (Okpankpo). The first king, Eze Aro 1 Osim Nnubia of the Aro Confederation hailed from Okonyong, present day Calabar, Cross-rivers state.

Aro-Confederacy was carved out from Ibom Kingdom. It was formed following a decree from Calabar (which was originally called Akwa-Akpa and renamed Calabar by the Portuguese in the 15th Century) ordering the Akpa-Forces to liberate and grant Right of Occupancy to those now called Igbos from the Ibibios whom were their Lords. Thus, ARO-Chukwu was carved out of Ibom Kingdom and a Confederation was decreed after the collapse of Ibom and thus, the administration of Aro-Confederation from Aro-Chukwu.

It was from the domiciliation of slaves by the Portuguese in an Island part of Equatorial Guinea originally called “Fernandopo or Panya” which was later called “BIA-FRA,” that the term “Bight of Biafra” came into existence.

Other than Akwa-Akpa (later renamed Calabar) the Eweka dynasty(1180-1246) and Ewuare (1440-1473) which expanded its City States to an Empire that was annexed by the British in 1897 and sent Oba Ovonramwen into exile in Calabar, were only internationally recognized pre-colonial Kingdoms.

From the above historical statements, it is glaring and evident that Biafra is not Igbo. Biafra is the name the Portuguese used to refer to the present Cross-River, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, some parts of Edo, Delta and Rivers States of Nigeria; South East Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Search for the maps drawn by cartographers in the 15th Century. Early modern maps of Africa from the 15th–19th centuries, drawn by European cartographers from accounts written by explorers and travellers, revealed some information about Biafra which today covers the old Eastern region in Nigeria and southern part of Cameroon and which its name was changed from Bight of Biafra, to Bight of Bonny by the Nigerian government in the 1970s through the National Assembly as a result of the sad memories of the Nigeria-Biafra war.

However, after the gruesome fratricidal war in which millions of Biafrans were mindlessly massacred and starved to death, many policies and/or strategies was invented by the Nigerian government under the tutelage of the British colonists to alienate our coastal brothers in the riverine areas of Biafra from those of their hinterland counterpart such that they completely deny having any ties with Biafra or Igbo-speaking tribe of Biafrans in today’s Southeastern region of Nigeria. Some of them who have been so misinformed about their true identity and the roles their forebears played during the war, continued to ridicule themselves knowing or unknowingly that the Niger Delta Republic as declared by Jasper Adaka Boko is their true identity and that they have no ties with the Igbo-Biafrans.

The way and manner that the Igbos have been so abused and denigrated by our supposed brothers, compatriots and neighbours is really heartbreaking. What manner of deep seethed hatred is this? What have the Igbos done to the people of the riverine enclave? What is their crime that some of you do not hesitate to pass uncomplimentary and debasing remarks on the Igbos? Why this level of hatred against the best from our part of the country and unarguably the best from the country as a whole? Do you seek their blood to appease your gross misadventure with stupidity?

We all, especially those in the Eastern part of Nigeria must understand that we are all admixture of Igbos; there’s Igbo in everyone of us, despite whichever tribe we belong to. The entire Southeastern parts of Nigeria today referred to as "IGBO" is the admixture of other tribes across the region. Idoma, Ibibio, Efiks, Ijaw, etc, are all which culminates to IGBO.

To further buttress my point, in the Igbos of Abia and Ebonyi States of today, you can clearly find the Efiks, Ibibios, Anangs, and the Bantus of Cross-River State making up a reasonable proportion of their tribes, while also in Anambra and Enugu States, you will find the Edos, Idomas, Igalas, etc, the same thing with Imo State where you can find the Ikwerres, and Ijaws, and slightly Edos.

Coming to the Igala people, they share boundary with the Igbo people at the south, Idoma at the east, Benins at the west and Ebira people at the north.

The Igala people which its 55 percent population inhabits Kogi state and are also found in Anambra west are mostly Mmiata Anam, Umuoba-Abegbu Anam, Umuenwelum Anam, Oroma-Etiti, Umueze Anam, Umudora Anam, Umuikwu Anam, Inoma-Akator, Nzam, Igbedor and Iyiora Anam, all from the family of Ogbe, the descendants of General Ajida, a notable warrior of Idah origin(Idah is traditional headquarters of Igala kingdom). Ajida is the father of field marshal Ogbe who was married to Iyida.

But unfortunately, some of our people who has failed to realize that the name “Niger Delta,” is a mere geographical expression and not a people’s identity nor a country would want you to tender paper documents before they accept that fact. Just like our local gin "Ogogoro" is referred to as "Illicit Gin" while the names like MacDowell, Hennessey, etc, which are mere derivatives are applauded and preferred. Indeed, “Orients and Occidents” are chalklines drawn before our eyes to mock our timidity. It is said that the Ignorant wears his ignorance like a gold chain and displays it with pride believing it to be gold chain.

I love the terms Isaac Adaka Boro used in his definition of his proposed Niger Delta Republic. He said, “strictly we shall consider Niger Delta, to be the areas occupied by the Ijaws...” Spanning through the BIGHT OF BIAFRA. Isaac Adaka Boro was simply giving a landmark description of his proposed Niger Delta Republic which he intended to carve out from the old Eastern region of which the Ijaw League had been formed to agitate against their perceived Igbo domination just like similar agitation which brought about the creation of Mid-Western States (later Delta and Edo) from the Western region because of their perceived dominance of the Yorubas against other tribes within it.

This does not mean in anyway that Boro created the word “NIGER DELTA” which is a geographic landmark expression that have existed as far back as the words were invented in the dictionary. The 18th Century had the city of Calabar serving as the “COAST of the NIGER PROTECTORATE,” from whence the ROYAL NIGER COMPANY was formed... So, NIGER & DELTA & REPUBLIC are separates words existing respectively but coined by socioeconomic and political intents to express diverse meanings.

Some who are misguided in their line of thoughts will say that their own version of Niger Delta was a country, yet they can’t prove this. In what year was their so-called country declared? What evidences of its existence do they have in currency notes, government and institutions such as the military, police, the judiciary, a legislature; do they have evidences of these in pictures and in videos? What nations of the world recognized their nationhood and as such had diplomatic relations with them? Please can they bring all these to bear to back their submissions with hard undisputable facts. Then, I will give them a minute before I flood everywhere with evidences of the nationhood of Biafra which was very inclusive of all groups of the geographical Niger Delta minus ethnic groups from Kogi, Ondo and Edo states who were clearly not captured in the territory referred to as Biafra of 1967.

However, the issue here is not about Biafra superseding anyone or anything because we all are “Biafrans” by blood, association, history, challenges and creed. The word Biafra was never associated with secession until necessity mandated that its proponents found a tool with which to inspire, rally round and give its people an identity in the face of the mindless genocide meted out to them all irrespective of ethnicity. The Calabars would attest to this that the invasion of the old Eastern region started from their land at Ogoja before the invasion of Obollo-Afor, Asaba, Onitsha and Port Harcourt(formerly known as Igweocha). So we all are victims of a common history of genocide, oppression and seclusion which has still culminated into the rape been carried out on the resources our coastal States that produce crude oil.

Some misguided fellows who has got deep seated hatred for their Igbo brothers and whom Niger Delta means anything more to him than oil, will even today, tell you that they are Niger Deltans by origin while being ignorant to the fact that the word Niger Delta is not an ethnic group but more or less a description for ethnic groups living within the estuaries, lakes, deltas, river banks and tributaries of the great River Niger which clearly cuts across Kogi State to the North, Rivers State to the far South, Ebonyi and Cross-River to the far East and Edo/Ondo to the Western axis. Therefore, how can one in the riverine area opine that the Igbos are their neighbours. Igbos are not your neighbours but your brothers. Is one not being divisive and lavishing in self-deceit if he calls an Abia man who is just by his doorstep in Akwa Ibom, a neighbour, only for him to call a man far away in Edo and Delta his brothers? If brotherhood is to be considered by proximity in habitation, who amongst these would you rationally say are your brothers? Then, if culture and inter-marriages are to be considered too, who amongst them is to be regarded as your brother and who is to be regarded as your neighbour? Can they sincerely stop immolating us needlessly?

The act of prostitution is generally associated with selling one’s body for money, but in my understanding, that is the least significant example of the prostitute archetype. The Prostitute thrives most bountifully in subtle ways and in the ordinary, everyday circumstances. It comes into play most clearly when our survival is threatened. Its core issue is how much you are willing to sell yourself - your morals, your integrity, your intellect, your word, your body, or your soul - for the sake of physical security. The Prostitute archetype also dramatically embodies and tests the power of faith. If you have faith, no one can buy you. You know that you can take care of yourself and also the Divine is looking out for you. Without faith, however, you will eventually meet the price you cannot turn down.

How then can we beat this evil if we allowed shallow-minded ideologies to rip us apart? The more reason why educational series such as this is much-needed. Some knows but are not willing to imbibe it because they hold onto the lies in their heads and the prejudices in their hearts. It is these ones that are most dangerous to our existence as a people and as such we must continuously promote our ideology until there is no more room for them to keep trying to break our resolve to stand together as one by repeatedly infusing bitterness at every given chance.

There are persons amongst us whose toxic mindsets are more poisonous than the venom from the ones outside. They are the ones we are to be worried about. We need to thinker on how to plug this weak link which is the reason why we have been porous as a people. I remember writing one time that ignorance is our biggest enemy, it is in fact, a disease more dealdly than HIV/AIDS and Ebola.

They keep referring to Niger Delta as if it’s not same as Biafra from the territorial point of view. The only difference is that Niger Delta is a geographical reality with well-defined borders while Biafra is an ideology borne out of necessity and the need for the survival of our people. The land mass identified as Biafra is within the geographical boundaries of the Niger Delta and as such makes Biafra a component of Niger Delta and vice versa. Biafra needs not to be laid to rest in the minds of our people who bore the brunt of that bitter genocidal war because from that we can together spice-up an added identity and ideology which far outweighs the shortfalls of our past glories and mistakes.

Talking about the oil that has since been our burden, a curse rather than a blessing and the most employed tool of division amongst us as a people, I wish that we as a people would modify the admonition in this post and use it in taking our eyes and hopes away from crude oil to human capital development in Niger Delta. I pray that the oil fanatics would learn a lesson or two from Enugu state which was once the beehive of solid mineral exploration and the center of British mineral expedition in old Eastern Nigeria. Today, Enugu is a shadow of itself because coal is no longer a feasible source of fossil fuel. Shale gas, renewable fuel, bio-fuel and solar energy are fast becoming mainstream power/energy drivers and researches to further expand and harness their potentials are growing exponentially. It is only a matter of a few years from now and we would witness a global swift turn-around from heavy dependency on petroleum.

Atimes, I would sit back to think about what would the Niger Delta look like without crude oil? Would there be any word such as “Niger Delta?” Would it have been a political ticket in the hands of our cousins from the coastal habitations in bargaining lots and favours at the center? Would it have been a ground for the ethnic nationalities domiciled within its boundaries to malign and reject one of her own and call her all manner of names simply because they imagined a fantasy like "domination" from her offspring? Would they have depended on this very much derided brother of theirs who despite his willingness to stand with them when it matters, but have in return gotten the worst form of rejection from these cousins of his? I sincerely pray for the Lord of the Earth to dry up the oil wells if that is all it would take to bring a rude awakening and that our cousins be made to face the reality of tomorrow.

Again, why do we kill ourselves over names and identities which are merely expressive and situational? Why divide us over mere expressions? We have a common ancestor. My late grandfather told me about our ties with “Ndi mba mmili” meaning the riverine communities of the geographical Niger Delta and how we spread further Northward because of the Slave expedition of the Portuguese and the Aros. My community in Anambra State is on the bank of River Niger and we are very close to our brothers from Asaba and nothing separates us in culture or language or ancestry except the fact that the river crosses between us! So, will one tell me that simply because I am on the other side of the river that I am not from the "Niger Delta" but my brother from Asaba is simply because he is from Delta State?

From the deliberations so far, it is obvious that the Niger Delta region cannot progress if we keep seeing reasons for division amongst ourselves. Developments and progress can only be achieved in unity, that is the way God Almighty has destined our people. We have lived so many years apart and seeing only the diversity in each other which has taken us nowhere but in great suffering and drastic poverty even in the midst of all the resources and intelligence we claim to have. There are so many similarities in our cultures as a people and also amongst our brothers and sisters in the Middle Belt. We should all come together and make genuine efforts towards unity, living no one behind. All our deliberations should be towards understanding how to achieve this purpose and how to peacefully implement ideologies that will unify us and lead to the progress of our people.

We all have a great task of educating, informing, re-orientating and re-programming the minds of our riverine brothers, those whose hearts have been biased by the lies and sentiments of the older generation. We cannot afford to be disunited at this point in time of our existence. A very big applause goes to the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu whose great teachings on Radio Biafra has greatly bridged the divide which has been a cankerworm in the midsts of our riverine and upland Biafran brothers. The sooner we the informed and consciously liberated minds in our land stood up to champion this ideology, the sooner we would extinguish all divisive voices which have held onto unrealistic sectional and clannish ideologies that divide us even further apart. Our own people are misguided and lost in their own ignorance masked as knowledge. When knowledge becomes counter-productive, ignorance is bliss. For Water and Sugar to mix and form a perfect solution, both have got to sacrifice the part that makes them what they are. Water has got to sacrifice its tastelessness and Sugar has got to sacrifice her solid nature so that both can mix and form a solution of “Sweet-Water”. Unite my people and say no to division and sectional allegiances.

Finally, looking at the state of the contraption called Nigeria, it is said that only the truth saves a nation and not lies and propaganda, resulting from blind partisan politics or financial inducement. This is the type of ideology driving those who see Nigeria as their real estate; those with the mentality of born to rule and advocates of unity by force.

It is common knowledge that Britain colonised Nigeria and abolished slavery. Have we asked ourselves why they abolished slavery? The same Britain that massacred the people of Scotland in the 12th and 13th century when they demanded independence is now the same British that conducted referendum for the Scottish in 2014 when they made same demand. Have we asked ourselves the reasons why? The answers are in history and knowledge about the nature of man.

Now, to juxtapose it with the Nigerian approach till this day, it is completely obsolete as you cannot apply force to get different nations to co-exist. If you do, instead of moving forward, such a union shall be retrogressive. All agitations, from Boko Haram to Shia Muslim group, Niger Delta militancy, IPOB agitation for the restoration of Biafra Republic, etc, are as a result of poor government approach to solving social crisis and ideological agitations.

The brains in government today and their model cannot solve our problems. It is however, sad that some acclaimed leaders are already thinking and approaching issues in this same obsolete manner. They still want to force people to unite and co-exist naturally without setting out the standards. I wonder why anyone would continue to insult our sensibilities by joining issues with them and their infantile pettiforging meanderings as they have proved again and again that they are not within the radar of rational reasoning.

Publisher: Chijindu Benjamin Ukah
Contact us: [email protected]

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