The people of the lower Niger region (Ijaw, Igbo, Urhobo-isoko, Efik-ibibio, itsekiri) have lived in harmony sharing history long before the invasion by the British and colonialism. They traded, inter-married and peacefully co-existed.
Evidence of Igbo and Ijaw unity can be seen at Opobo and Bonny where the indigenes are bilingual , speaking both Ijaw and Igbo, and Arochukwu where there’s a mix of Igbo, Ekoi and Ibibio cultures. Together we lived and together we resisted the white man oppression and invasion. Together we resisted Islamic Jihads. So united we were despite tribal and linguistic differences.
We were put in the same region (eastern Region) of Nigeria. Though the colonialists used River Niger as a geo-political barrier to Separate us from the Igbos of the mid-west (Anioma), Urhobo-isoko, the western ijaws, etc. We were persecuted together and so strong our bond was that we started a war together until they started to weaken our unity.
First they incited hatred among us. Don’t join the Igbos, they will dominate you! . If you support us and fight those rebel Igbos, you will have your own states, control your oil and we’ll even give you war booties’ they said to the minorities. they divided us from our brothers! They gave us arms to fight our brothers ! In the name of liberation, they isolated us from our brothers, the once powerful East became three bitter entities. We looted Igbo properties calling them abandoned. The war was finished but did they fufil their promises? Did we control our oil? No!!!! All they did was batter the Igbos the more and kept stirring up our hatred for the Igbo.
They blindfolded us and created new names: SOUTH SOUTH. I look at the cardinal points and all the geography books I could find but there’s nothing like SOUTH SOUTH. It is only in Nigeria where it is just used as a divisive term. Aba is more south in location than Obudu in Cross River state that shares boundary with Benue state. A western state like Edo is now regarded as South South with its savannah area around Auchi. They created the term ‘oil producing states’ but when they realised the Igbo state (East central state as at then) had oil, they ceded the oil producing areas of the state Egbema, Obigbo, etc to other states to create an impression that the Igbo constitute a land locked non oil producing state. If not for Mbakwe’s struggle, Oguta and Izombe would have been lost to Rivers State as Delta State lost Ndoni and Osekwenike( two Ukwuani- Igbo communities) to Rivers and Bayelsa States respectively because of oil. They created the term Niger Delta and they made it a political term, a. Name that was used to describe the place where river Niger splits into many parts, along its creek. they politically incorporated states that were hundreds of miles away from the river Niger into the region.
A man from Ogoja who doesn’t know how River Niger looks like until he travels hundreds of miles west of his village to Onitsha can now confidently call himself a Niger Deltan . They even made an Ondo man a Niger Delta minister but when an Egbema or Oguta or Aboh man whose village is just at the Niger estuary calls himself a Niger Delta, he wil be crucified because he is Igbo. Even when the term Nigerdelta became used for oil producing states.
Imo and Abia states produce more oil than Ondo, Edo and Cross River states but they are regarded as peripheral states who just happened to be in the NDDC scheme by chance. Even the allocation for South east oil producing communities was withheld by the Obasanjo administration while that of ONDO,EDO and CROSS RIVER states (states that produced less oil and were more than 100 miles from River Niger) were released. After all these where are the oil blocs? Where is the oil money?
We all end up in the same shoes with the Igbos we insult! Have we not seen what divide and rule have caused? We see Igbos as enemies but they are actually our brothers. Let’s unite and be stronger under one name. The zoo Republic Nigeria) have done us much harm! No More SOUTH EAST no more SOUTH SOUTH.
Go and read the definition of delta in your dictionary if you haven’t and you’ll realised that you that call yourself a Niger Deltan is an aquatic animal because Delta means a place where a river is divided into many parts. Look at the map of Nigeria again and look at where river NIger divides into many parts . If the place is not around your state of origin, then you’re deceiving yourself by calling yourself a Niger Deltan.
Niger Delta is all about Rivers from Niger that flow into the Atlantic and not a zone or a region or an imaginary cardinal point called South South. Igbos, ijaws, ibibios, Urhobos, and Isokos let’s unite for we are one. We share one history. Let’s avoid anything that will divide us again for we’ve seen the effects of DIVIDE AND RULE.
Written by a Niger Deltan.