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Thursday, February 25, 2021




Igbo travelers in the early 90's crossing the River Niger


I’m from Anam. Our ancestors are Igala and we’re located as far away from Igboland as you can imagine. So far removed we’re not even physically connected (the present bridge over the Anambra River was only built in the 80s). 

Take a look at the map below. We’re not in physically in Anambra. We’re physically in Kogi. A mighty River separates us. Do you see the mighty River Niger and Ilushi in Edo State at the other bank? They’re our blood brothers. Nzam too. (And Okpanam on the other bank in Delta) 


Below is a bit of our history recorded by Prof Adiele Afigbo. And also other bits about our culture (the yam barn is mine)


Even now we refer to other Igbos as “Igbos.”
They are too intelligent, too cunning and live a hardscrabble existence in contrast to our laid back culture- ofe nsala with fresh fish, ogogoro (supplied from the Ijaws down the River Niger). 

Just like our brothers in Anioma in Delta State who availed themselves of the whiteman’s education first and preferred the civil service and learned to “wear the top hat and drink tea.”

In the days gone by you could hardly marry Igbos (for fear their women would dominate us, tbh). In our local myths, Igbo women have a reputation for being hard and domineering, especially Owerri women. Ngw? Mbaise? Might well be Hausa (anyone beyond Nsukka (lol).

You see, Igbos are viciously competitive amongst themselves indeed so competitive they would make fun of towns considered to be lagging behind. I remember a popular song about Okigwe in the 70s: “Obodo nine emepesigo ofodu so Okigwe. Eze Okigwe amaro akwukwo...” (everywhere has developed except Okigwe. The King of Okigwe is uneducated..).

They disparaged Anam as too simple and backward (we probably were according to their very high standards- don’t worry, we’ve since caught up). In the 50s, 60s and 70s towns competed fiercely and contributed funds to send their children to England -Oxbridge, LSE, America, etc.

Anam, Anioma, Onitsha, Ogbaru, etc, are cut from a different cloth. The truth is that we are not as hardworking and are very fearful of being dominated by the Igbotics- Abia, Imo, Mbaise, etc. Fear them! (Lol). (Luckily for us in Anambra, we had the Nnewis etc to guide us).
And for this lack of ability to compete we sought refuge in the “Igbos are crass and domineering” narrative. This is the crux of the “I’m not Igbo” narrative of the Igbo fringe sitters that you see today (also see note below).

After the civil war to punish the Igbos, Nigeria applied very punitive measures against them. First, to cut them off from the sea and second, to divide them.
The politics of oil exacerbated the dynamic.
They offered all sorts of bribes and incentives to the Igbos lying at the fringes. They created states and carved in some Igbo people with other minorities.

Some of the Ikwerre (a group in Rivers whose brothers are still found in Imo State) took the opportunity to alienate their brothers’ properties (they so called abandoned properties). They changed the Igbo names of their towns by adding an “R”.
It is probably the guilt of this betrayal that has pushed some of them into the “I’m not Igbo but Bini narrative” notwithstanding the fact that the Igbos have since forgiven and moved on.

To my fellow fringe dwelling Igbos (and it doesn’t get more fringe - in language and location - than me and I’m very proud to be Igbo), I encourage you to be proud of your heritage. Recognize the role of the war in dividing us.
And ask yourself this: 50-years after the war, who really won the peace? The most intelligent members of the black race (according to UK and US academic studies), the owners of 70+% of your country’s capital, or others?
How long will the oil last? 

Dr. Aloy Chife

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