Emeka Esogbue asked:
That the Anioma people have not woken up from slumber is emphatically a fact that will remain a burden ever to ever slow down the slow pace of the people until the people decide to rouse, seek and discover the solutions to their own problems. Major catalysts to the realization of this lie with this group making proper identity and finding leadership in any one that can be counted trust worthy. There are obviously many people who will like to see the Anioma continue to play second fiddle and even sink in the politics of Delta State in particular and Nigeria in general.
Who are the Anioma people of Nigeria? Interestingly, the Anioma people themselves may not readily find an answer to this, such is expected in the midst of lack of proper knowledge and identify of group of people even by the people themselves. It is not for this author to try to define who the Anioma people are or even where they are presently located on the map of Nigeria, rather it will just be apt to state that long before many of us were born the Anioma region has continued to suffer one form of marginalization or the other because the people have failed to identify whom they are.
The Ekumuku wars which led to loss of several of the regionâ€™s communities such as Oguta, Ndoni, Onitsha, etc, Colonization in which the British failed to properly identify these people, Christianization, Westernization and the Nigeria-Biafra war in which also a number of communities in the region were terribly massacred, have not adequately shaped the history of Anioma people. It is a fact that all of these unfavorable events should have favorably woken the consciousness of any people but contrariwise is the case of Anioma people who appear to have accepted their fate, to the extent that the ethno-status of the people are currently being debated and determined from the world outside of Anioma.
Anioma for long has been toying with creating identity for itself, much less, defending it, if the Nigerian state has failed us, surely we do not have to fail ourselves, Historians today will rack brains to try to think of pointing out one remarkable gain the Anioma people made while forcefully carved into the old Benin province. In the defunct Bendel State, the case of Anioma State was very sympathetic as the Anioma area was left in rots to the extent that the roads construct by the colonial governments were in â€œextinction.â€ Â In Delta State, our woes have glaringly continued, political events in the supposedly home state of the Anioma statistically shows that in the 18 years of the existence of Delta as a state in Nigeria, the Anioma people have never tested leadership. Never has any Deltan Governor regarded the Anioma as voiceless, leaderless, submissive and timid group of people who are created to accept just anything from their â€œTrue Deltaâ€ masters than James Ibori the former Governor of the state.
Ibori treated the Anioma people like inconsequential people meant to be drenched in shame because they have no reasons obvious to him to be in the state of Delta State supported by his personal friends who shared his opinions; even the best technocrats, bureaucrats and politicians from Anioma were made to look like nobody. This caused Anioma an untold story of neglect and degradation, the definite belief was that the best was not good for Anioma. To James Ibori, Warri was the unofficial capital of Delta State, while Oghara was the unofficial commercial capital of the state. In his years as the governor of the state, the Urhobo dominated oppressed and dominated other ethnic-groups in the state.
A Delta state with 25 Local governments, in the years of Ibori who hails from Ethiope West Local Government Area had 132 Board appointments, Ethiope West produced 50 out of 132, the rest of 24 Local Governments were left with the rest 82 appointments. Yet many communities in Delta State are oil producing contrary to what Ibori and cohorts made us assume. Iboriâ€™s neglect of Anioma obviously sidelining the entire region was never hidden. The likes of Ubulu-Unor, Oko communities, Onicha-Olona, Obomkpa, Ukwu-Oba, Ewulu, Ubulubu, Ejeme-Aniogo, Ebu, Igbodo, Idumuesah, Issele-Uku, Usisa, Abah, Owa-Oyibo cannot boast any amenities derived from the Ibori administration.
The Oghara predating the Ibori administration was like any of these Anioma communities: Akah, Utuoku, Alihagu, Umu-Ebu, Oligbo, Ekpon, Obikwele, Igbuku, Obeti, Ugbodu but the emergence of Ibori became the emergence of Oghara. Without prejudice, this is a good development after all, we all in one state, and one development for any particular community could mean an advancement for all since non indigenes settlers abound in all of these communities but Ibori could have at least looked the way of Anioma communities and bring developments to their door steps which he either deliberately neglected or failed to do. Ogwashi-Uku, Ibusa, Ilah, Obiaruku, all waited to be turned to big cities but Ibori neglected them because they are Anioma communities. Agbor, Umunede, etc were already showing signs of development but were killed by utmost neglect.
The Anioma people as seen here have never really had it good with the â€œTrue Delta peopleâ€ because they have always been viewed as alien Igbo from distant South-east of the country so the question is can the Anioma people go with the Igbo?
When recently the Joe Achuzie, an Anioma was initially offered the secretary-General position as a hand of fellowship to the Anioma people, OGANIHU ANIOMA, an elite non partisan grouping of professionals in Anioma rejected the offer and advised one of their own, Achuzie to shun the appointment, in a statement made public by the president of group, it was acknowledged that though linguistic affinities exists between the Anioma and Igbo but clearly Anioma indicates a different ethnic identity which is of the Anioma people. This expectedly infuriated the Igbo especially as the group further voiced that â€œthe Anioma have never realized their hopes and aspiration within the context of Ndigbo perception as recent and past experiences show.â€
Emma Okocha blames this developmental lethargy which led to the fast embarrassment of the Igbo on Easterners. He had this to say:
â€œHaving said this, the Easterners are to be blamed for our lethargy in embracing them fast. Have they told us what happened to Nzeogwu? Have they condoled us on the massacre of our people? Have they tried to rehabilitate the aging officers who fought for their Biafra? The Western Ibos were not in the Biafra map. The II divisions made of mainly Ika Ibos never surrendered and under Colonel Nwawo defended Nnewi the only major Biafran city that never fell until the end. Has Ojukwu or anybody bothered to ask after his health or other senior officers of the Midwestern Command since the end of the war? Right now Colonel S. Nwajei (Ibusa) is suffering from stroke, Colonel Trimmel is dead (Abor) and the Commander of Biafran Navy Anukwu (Agbor) is dead and his house in Boji-Boji burnt! These officers have never been paid anythingâ€¦pension nothing and nobody from the East bothered.
They are not the same as Biafran officersâ€¦who agreed and declared Biafra. These people were Nigerian soldiers. Why have the state Eastern governors abandoned the Ika Ibos? During Okpara era, Midwest was funded by Enugu and our people gave them loyalty which led to the war solidarity. Now Enugu dismisses our civil servants, teachers, etc. Delta would never reabsorb them. To rub it in governors of the East have (sic) been appointing non-Igbo Deltas, Yorubas, and Urhobos into their cabinet. Our position remains that we must move in volumes otherwise you would be limited playing the “Politics of the Hermit” Â
If the statement of one Gabriel Nwanze titled â€œIssues in the Creation of Anioma Stateâ€ Wednesday March 8th 2006 in an article published on the internet is given proper conside
ration, then the Igbo at loss on whether to back the Anioma people in their much cherished agit
ation for the creation of Anioma State.
He wrote thus:
â€œThe current proposal by interested parties for the creation ofÂ Anioma State from the one state allocation Â being handled by Ohanaeze Ndiigbo is commendable, as it shows without doubt the ever-ready and undying quest by the Anioma people to discover their true identities and maximize their potentials by having their own destiny in their own hands.
However, there are some issues I feel should first be ironed out properly before this desire gains acceptable recognition and full support by every party concerned.
No doubt, I am a strong supporter and admirer of the Anioma people, but the issues I speak of must first be addressed properly lest the state creation becomes a vehicle for derailing the progress ofÂ Anioma people and, by extension, Ndigbo in generalâ€¦â€
He continued thus:
â€œHow will the dynamic Ndiigbo from Anioma be in a position to place the interest of the Igbo on the table of the South-South forum if they are carved into the Southeast? This, of course, will imply that Ndiigbo will further be squeezedÂ into the already crowded Southeast and be in a more vulnerable position to receive persecution and neglect by those who want to see to the extinction of the Igbo race. This, perhaps, is one of the reasons why Ohanaeze is more inclined towards creating a new Igbo state in the Southeast from the existing five states in the region, so as to not only ensure a larger representation of Ndiigbo in the social and political arena but also to spread the gains of nationhood across a wider range of Ndiigbo. Here, I want to point out that if an additional state is created from a state in the Southeast, then the Igbo still are at an advantage because, from all indications, the evolution of Anioma State is imminent and will soon come to reality, going by the agitations of the people of Anioma for their own state even before the allocation for a new state was announced by Ohanaeze. Since the near future of Anioma State is almost certain, with or without this present allocation of a new state to Ndiigbo, then wonâ€™t it be wiser for the Igbo to use this present slot to create a new state that is less likely to be created without an official state creation allocation to them?â€
Comments like this have fuelled the Anioma people fears on whether the Igbo can adequately advocate and protect their interests as a group of people, and it is as a result of this that while the Igbo of the South-eastern region have furthered their claims of Igboness of Anioma people, the Anioma people have disclaimed this claim. Funnily, anyone may be amazed on the reasons for these claims and counter claims.
The Anioma Youths obviously in search of identity as reported in this Day Nov 16, 2004, congregated Ogbe Eke Public Square in Asaba, Delta State in an aggressive rural campaign to redress the total neglect of their area as it concerns fair distribution of amenities, appointment into juicy ministries and employment. In each of the kingdoms and villages visited, the battle cry is emancipation. They cried that Anioma deserve a leader. They stated that Arewa Consultative Forum, Afenifere and Ohaneze remain shining example of what leadership should be but Anioma is lacking in this.
From the above we deduct that clearly Anioma youths have overtly and covertly disassociated themselves (Anioma) from Igbo leadership as they crave for their own, again the group identifies Anioma as an ethnic group without leadership, a major reason other ethnic groups have cheated on them. Lack of leadership becomes the first problem confronting the Anioma people as presented here by the youths of the region.
“We intend to adopt Anioma instead of Igbo because whenever anything is shared, the Igbo will not consider us as they will claim it’s for South east, when it is for South south where we supposedly belong, we are least considered. So once this is achieved then we would have solved the question of identity. We hope to put a stop to a situation whereby a multiplicity of groups pretend to be speaking for us because the need to come together as a people is now. And we need to organise ourselves in such a way after which a leader would emerge. This would be found in all fields,” he posited. He particularly picked holes on what he described as lopsided distribution of amenities and offices in the state.â€
From the above, it is also clear that search for identity is in the agenda of the Anioma people but basically the group having referred to itself as a nation has also rejected Igbo, has not decided on whether the Anioma is in South-south or Southeast geographical region of Nigeria. They could however still be won over by the Igbo upon the creation of Anioma State and with proper political arrangement made to be in Southeastern region.
â€œTheir subtle approach THISDAY checks reveal, is already attracting dividend as its momentum picked penultimate week at Asaba, during a forum organised to sensitize local governments and wards’ co-ordinators. At the event that was held at the main square (Ogbe Eke) there were some notable Anioma citizens with thought provoking lectures. One of such was, Austin Uwandulu, CEO, Strategic Management Center Lekki, Lagos State, who was special assistant to Shehu Musa in his stint as the Secretary to the federal government during the second republic. In his paper titled ‘Leadership In Anioma – A New appraoch’ he harped on the need for leaders in Anioma to begin by determining effort to reach out to one another, seek out where they are by attempting to know whom they are, while carving an identity for themselves.
According to him, “When an invitation was extended to me to address this forum by Chief Izagbo, the Ideh of Ibusa, I developed a mixture of feelings I could not explain. On the one hand I felt challenged by the enormity of a task inherent in talking to a highly knowledgeable and articulate body of persons, Anioma is blessed with. On the other hand, I felt opportune to share my views on leadership with the present and future leaders of Anioma, of Delta State of Nigeria and of the global community. In doing so, permit me to make some categorical statements, perhaps well known to some of you here. I am not a politician and so cannot aspire to become a political leader. I am also not a chief and accordingly cannot become a traditional leader in Anioma. I am not sure of a claim to being a thinker and an analyst. But this is the category of persons I aspire to belong.”
Finally, I make bold to state that Anioma has some of the greatest human resources deposits in the world today and leadership and identity discovery will enable the group to find its place in the wave of developed peoples of Nigeria