Anioma: Waiting to be Created by the National Assembly of Nigeria
Anioma means good land and, Anioma State is a reality and not a dream, and we must work harder if this reality is to be realized. Before we proceed, we need to take a look at the brief history of the Anioma nation, including its origin, peoples, societal values, and answers to the ethnic identity currently confronting the nation.
It is pertinent to understand that before now there was nothing like Anioma by that that name but the community of people and the place have existed for centuries having been cohabiting from time immemorial. Quite understandably, the name “Anioma” was coined by the fathers of the group led by Chief Dennis Osadebe, Anioma therefore is an acronym derived from the then four existing local governments of the area, Aniocha, Ndokwa, Ika and Oshimili. This development gave birth to Anioma but this should not lead to the hasty conclusion that Anioma is an artificial creation as many are poised to hurriedly conclude since there is no natural or divine creation in existence anywhere.
Not all Anioma are Igbo and not all Igbo are Anioma as the nation comprises of people with different histories of origin, while the oral history of origins of notable towns such as Ibusa, Asaba, Ogwashi-Uku etc lay claims to Nshi (Nri) Isu, Ogboli factor, Nteje factors and theories with progenitors of Igbo extraction such as Umejei, Edini, Nnebuisi, Odaigbo etc, other Anioma towns such as Issele-Uku, Issele-Mkpitime, Onitsha (in present Anambra State,) Onicha-Ugbo, Onicha-Olona, etc are believed to have been founded by Ezechime of Edo extraction, there is however a theory to buttress that certain descendants of Ezechime must have added to the population of Ibusa and Asaba in the origin periods of the communities.
There are also the Ika people of Agbor, Igbanke whose origin are traceable to Edo prince. What is also significant to the Anioma is that Igbo is intelligible to all of these communities.
Suffice it therefore that peoples are what they are because they so chose, the Anioma in particular have decided there fate because “a people are defined by their culture, history and geography. More importantly, a people are defined by how they perceive themselves. In effect, a people are who they say they are” (Anioma People of “The Delta,” by Kunirum Osia.) Essentially, the Anioma have emerged as a nation in the polity of Nigeria . The Anioma have come to represent in Nigeria today an insignia of dignifying and unifying culture as one.
The geopolitical definition of Nigeria today recognizes the Anioma nation as located in the South-south region of the country and in Delta State, finely situated too among the Urhobo, Ijaw, Isoko and Itsekeri all of the ethnic nations that the Anioma have related with for ages and having shared same provinces with in the past. Anioma has 9 Local Governments out of the 25 Local Governments that presently makes up the Delta State in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria .
Anioma people as noted earlier do not share similar origins, histories, ancestries and linguistics for obvious reasons; in fact, about 13 languages are spoken by the people and include Igbo (Enuani,) Ozzara, Olukunmi (an extinct old Yoruba Language,) Igara, Ika, Ukwuani, Edo, Odiani, Utagba, Aboh etc still the Anioma have been woven by oneness which has uniquely manifested into a globe of one community.
An Ukwuani man however as Monn Olodu remarks
“The culture, food, dressing, names, market days are basically the same. An Ukwuani woman does not need an interpreter to trade at Asaba or Abavo markets” Please note that the culture and languages of Igbo, Edo and Yoruba may have started diverged at a period as postulated here by sanders in his studies of “who are the Nigerian?”:
He wrote that:
“Ibo, Anioma, Yoruba and Edo languages and culture may have started diverging about five thousand years ago; this claim is further strengthened by the archaeological discoveries of the Bronze in Ezerra, by Dr. Hertle.
He further recommended, that the burial grounds in Isele-Uku, Abor and Abudu be excavated for more explanation on the missing links (Anioma, Culture: The Past, Present and the Future, a keynote Lecture Delivered by on the Occasion of the Organization for the Advancement of AniomaCulture (OFAAC) Stakeholders Forum, at Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos, !3 October, 2005)
The Anioma people are noted to abhor violence, a situation that has placed the people in the list of marginalized people of Nigeria , placing them in utter obscurity even with collective unheard voice in the cry for the development, crass neglect, degradation and absence of government agenda for the betterment of the lives of the people. Roads are missing in the region, lack of amenities all of which has left the youth of the region in pitiable conditions.
Anioma is blessed with natural oil and gas but the derivations from the availability of this oil have not reflected in the lives of the people as developments have been concentrated in other parts of State except Anioma.
True to its name, the Anioma soil is fertile, and several other mineral resources such as rubber, rivers for fishing can be found in Anioma but visible State and Federal presence have been found missing in the development of the region.
The case of Anioma is akin that being suffered by the minority ethnicities in the polity of Nigeria , and the founding fathers such as Chief Dennis Osadebe, Honorable F. H. Utomi, Honourable Obi of Akumazi, Honourable Frank Oputa Ututu and Honourable Oki must have realized this, a situation which led to the formation of Movement for the creation of Anioma State.
The neglect of this people has continued till this day. It is as a result of this that the creation of Anioma State is deemed necessary today because of the long neglect of this people in the hands of the Igbo their kit and kin, a people the Anioma have stood for/by when it has always mattered. The Anioma people struggles can be equated with those of the Igbo of the South-East as a people the Anioma have always viewed themselves Igbo but this has yielded almost nothing in return for the Anioma region.
The recent adoption of the creation of any one of Adada, Orashi, Orlu, Aba States by the Igbo show that the creation of Anioma State is not on the agenda of the Ohaneze and indeed Igbo, and the Igbo are in some way skeptical about the ethnic identity of the Anioma people. The Igbo has expressed fears that if allowed to be created as a State in Nigeria , Anioma would eventually become part of the South-South region of Nigeria .
This is best explained in the words of Gabriel Nwanze thus;
“The first issue is that of geopolitical location. Will Anioma State regard itself as a Southeast state or as a South–South state? If the former should be the case, this means that the Igbo have lost half of their foothold and influence in the South-South, leaving only Ndiigbo from Rivers to carry the Igbo flag. The implication not only ends there; it will extend to issues like insufficient representation of Ndiigbo in the affairs of the South-South and thus further marginalization of the Igbo nation” (Issues in the Creation of Anioma state, 2006)
He further contradicts thus while hoping that Ndiigbo benefits from future Anioma State :
“If Anioma State remains in the South-South, then it stands a chance of enabling many more Ndiigbo to benefit both from allocations to the Southeast and to the South-South simultaneously.”
In fact the Iwuayanwu led committee on additional State creation for Ndiigbo ha ssince ruled out the Anioma region in their quest for State creation stating clearly that this would mean additional State for the South-South, interestingly the South-South that considers Anioma people Igbo as Itse Sagay, a renowned professor of International Law and an Itsekiri indigene once suggested that the in Urhobo Historical society website that the Anioma be either moved into Anambra State to join their kit and kin or be given their separate State with capital at Asaba.
It is unnecessary to enumerate here the condition of Anioma in the Delta State as presently constituted, series of these actions have continually pointed to us that we do not belong to Delta State , so we need not vie for developments and the betterment of the lives of the people of Anioma in the State of Delta . We have before our very eyes seen developments exported to the other regions of the State except our own Anioma and hue and cry has been our portion rather than fight against the ugly leper eating our bodies. We have also embraced individualism as against unity.
This brings us to the ethnic identity crisis being suffered by the Anioma. So to which ethnicity do the Anioma belong? The uniqueness of Anioma culture surely has landed the ethnic group in identity crisis, which may live for ages with the people if they fail to take the destiny of the region in their hands (Igbo and Anioma: The Bitter truth, Emeka Esogbue, 2008) Kunirum Osia would put it this way “No Anioma person wishes to be recast in a mould that is not Anioma” The Anioma people have all they want in ethnic identity so they do not need to look elsewhere to acquire ethnic identity, the legend, folklore and history of this people have changed over the time and only Anioma can provide us with full irrevocable sense of history.
With illustous sons and daughters like Chief of Defense Staff, Air-Chief Marshal Paul Dike; the ever glamorous Dr (Mrs) Maryam Babangida; our own Diplomat, Chief Ralph Uwechue; the erudite Professor Pat Utomi; Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of World Bank; Mr. Nuel Ojei automobile conglomerate; Chief Sunny Odogwu, the renowned industrialist; Tony Elumelu of UBA; Mr. Jim Ovia of the Zenith Bank International; Chief P. C. Nwaodua, the security guru; Professor Augustine Esogbue the Only African in NASA and Scientist; Peter Eloka Okocha Business Mongul; Amb. Ignatius Olisemeka; Frank Atuche; Chief Godwill Obieluem; Chief Sabastine Adigwe M/D Afribank; Austine “Jay Jay” Okocha; Chief Benjamin Elue former Deputy Governor Delta State Nigeria ; and many more, the Anioma community need not look elsewhere to claim its identity.
It is as result of this that the people believing that no other ethnic group would fight its cause should as a matter of urgency rally round Associations like Oganihu-Anioma, Onu-Anioma, Anioma Association USA Inc, Organization for the Advancement of Anioma Culture (OFAAC) and other well meaning individuals and Association of Anioma ethnic group to present oneness in its renewed agitation for the creation of Anioma State. Only the realization of our own State administered by our own indigene will solve our own socio-economic and political problems and marginalization which has pauperized our sons and daughters with untold hardship. The messianic tool for salvaging this must live and come from our midst.
Anioma State is a reality!
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