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The Ikwerre, (originally known as Iwhnurọhna) is one of the many native ethnic groups in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. They are widely believed to be part of the larger Igbo ethnic group (This is still contested by the Ikwerre people themselves). The Ikwerre constitute the majority of Rivers state, The Ikwerre speak the Ikwerre language  and are predominantly settled in the Ikwerre, Obio-Akpor, Port Harcourt and Emohua local government areas. A total of 92 oil wells, producing an estimated 100,000 barrels of crude daily, are located in Ikwerreland. The Ikwerre therefore play host to several multinational oil-producing and servicing companies, in addition to many other industries and establishments.  Despite these, the Ikwerre, like nearly all other minorities of the Niger Delta, frequently complain of marginalisation by the oil operatives. The University of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, the three campuses of the Rivers State College of Education, as well as the Rivers State College of Arts and Science, are all sited on Ikwerreland.
Several theories exist over their origin. One favoured by the Igbo people and another widely accepted by the Ikwerre people themselves.
According to a version widely accepted among the Igbo tribe, they would be descendants from an Igbo migration from Awka and Orlu areas towards South. Igbo scholars take Ikwerre as part of the Southern Igbo. Amadi, an Ikwerre scholar, says that the Igbo origin theory has some support even inside Ikwerre themselves, with Ikwerre would be descendants of a migration of Arochukwu Igbo, with Okpo Nwagidi being the leader of the Ikwerre tribe. Before the civil war, there had been dissident voices that claimed that Ikwerre could have migrated from Owerri, Ohaji, Ngwa, and Etche areas of Igboland. But when Port Harcourt was conquered by Nigeria during the Biafran War and the Igbo people from other parts of Igboland fled the territory, a UN report says that the Ikwerre decided to claim that the Ikwerre were non-Igbo for convenience. The Ikwerre are recognized officially as a separate group in the 1979 Nigerian Constitution.
Accepted Origin Among the Ikwerre People
As expected of pre-literate African societies, the history of the people is wrapped in myth and mystery. This presupposes that historians may have to resort to oral tradition for the justifiable/credible reconstruction of the people’s history. From the post-colonial dispensation to the present, professional historians and other personals have attempted to reconstruct the history of the people. For instance, the works of Elechi Amadi, especially the Concubine, the Great Ponds, the Slave (novels) and Isiburu (a verse play) are a literary attempt at reconstructing a semblance of the Ikwerre society in the pre-colonial era.
In the absence of valid historical records, historians accept oral tradition as a primary source of writing African history, the defect associated with this method, notwithstanding. The history of the origin of the people is traceable to the waves of migrations, which stated in the 13thcentury AD in the Benin kingdom. The migration was influenced and introduced by the despotic or tyrannical rule of Oba Ewuare the great (Ogwaro) (Bon woke et al, 1993;p2).
Some other historians prefer to trace this migration to the old Mali empire and also date it to the 13th C. [Chukwu and Amadi forthcoming]. According to this source, a band of this migrant moved through Onitsha [where their language was said to have been influenced] to Ogbaland and finally to their present abode. The fact that Ogba, Ikwerre, and Ekpeye ethnic nations maintained the same tradition of origin lends credence to this source of oral tradition.
The oral tradition holds that one epoch in the reign of Oba Ewuare witnessed the mysterious death of his two sons. The Benin monarch, therefore, issued a decree making it punishable by death for any man to give birth to a son before the Oba had two new sons to replace his dead ones. Akalaka and Ochichi, the putative founding fathers of Oba. Ikwerre and Ekpeye rejected this draconian decree. Their refusal to accept the decree attracted the attention of Oba Ewuare. Realizing the enormity of rejecting the Oba’s order, the two brothers fled at night. They moved southwards to Agbor, Obigwe and later settled by river Imoku from where Omuku derived her name. (Woke et al 1993; p3)
Akalaka had two sons. Ogba and Ekpeye. As both sons had started procreating, Ekpeye was said to have accidentally killed one of the children of his brother, Ogba when the latter was away on a hunting expedition. This ugly incident coincided with when Ochichi was to move further south. Ekpeye for fear of obvious reprisals joined his uncle. They moved towards to Sombreiro river; Ekpeye settled at Ola-Ehuda (now Ahoda) the traditional headquarters of Ekpeye land. Ochichi crossed the river at Akpabo through Eligbo before finally settling at the present site of Elele, the traditional headquarters of Ikwerre land.
The above stance by Sam Woka in Akwa, 1993 makes room for further historical studies. In this vein, Chuku and Amadi (forthcoming) agreed that Alkakaka and Ochichi were related and made the necessary migration together. however, they argue that it is faulty that Ochichi had four sons from which the clans of Ikwerre were derived. They have pointed that Ochicha had seven sons from which the seven clans of Ikwerre (Iwherioha Asa) were derived. The seven sons were Elele, Isiokpo, Rumuji, Emuoha-Ogbakiri, Allu-Igwuruta, Akpor and Obio. The seven sons begat the seven major and sub-clans of Ikwerre.
Of these clans, the Akpor people lay claims to autochthony – a belief that they came to be in their present settlement through divine providence not through migration i.e. God planted their progenitor in Akpor land. Professor E.J Alagboa et al (1989 p56) says “…. The single recorded claims to autochthony are the Akpor Ikwerre who have been recorded as stating that they have been in their location from the beginning.’’
Pursuing this issue further, the incumbent Nyenweali Akpor, His Royal Highness, Eze B.O.O.Oriebe JP. stated “if we could believe that people migrated from Mali, Benin or anywhere else, we should also believe that God kept some people here and that there is nothing wrong to suggest that people also migrated from here.’’
The issue of autochthony as can be seen in the Yoruba tradition holds that in the beginning, when all was void, Oduduwa descended from heaven with an empty calabash and landed at Ile-Ife. (S.B. Biobaku, 1989, pp 30-31).
Historians may do well to investigate the claim that during the British colonial rule, certain clans of Ikwerre were excised for administrative convenience and purposes.
A majority of scholars have held on to the fact that the Ikwerre could not be classified as a clan but an independent small tribe. Not Ibos, not ijos but Ikwerres. This has been buttressed in a poplar publication known as the Rumuomasi Declaration in 1965:
“… in their meeting at Rumuomasi in 1965 the Ikwerre had, under the umbrella of a highly promising new body that was to get the Ikwerre together as a people of new and clearer vision, they had declared themselves as a people of the distinct identity of Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality – not Ibo, not Ijo, not anything else but Ikwerre, Iwhnur ọ hna.” This was the historic Rumuomasi Declaration of 1965 (G.O.M. Tasie, 2000).
As part of preserving their origin, and culture, they formed and currently run the Ogbakor Ikwerre Cultural Organisation Worldwide
Ikwerre people are found in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria. They are within the rain forest belt which notices high annual rainfall. Some parts are blessed with mangrove forest and creeks that crisscross Rivers state. There is also abundant raffia forest. This features, coupled with adequate sunshine have made the soil in Ikwerre adequate for the cultivation of palm produce, cassava, yam, vegetables.etc. distillation of palm wine into gin (kai kai, ogogoro, akamere, manya beknu).
The Riverine Ikwerre villagers engage in fishing in addition to the general occupation of farming, and trading. The Ikwerre land played a promo0nent middleman position in trade (including the slave trade) between the hinterland and the coastal people.
Notable Ikwerre People
- Austin Opara, former Deputy Speaker House of Representatives
- Celestine Omehia, former Governor of Rivers State
- Chibuike Amaechi, former Governor of Rivers State
- Chukwuemeka Woke, Current Chief of Staff to the Rivers State Government
- Duncan Mighty, Musician
- Elechi Amadi, writer
- Emmanuel Onunwor, former Mayor of East Cleveland, Ohio, USA
- Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, Current Governor of Rivers State
- Monalisa Chinda, Actress
- Obi Wali, Writer, Politician and Minority rights activist
- Tonto Dikeh, Actress, Musician
- Amadi, Prof. Eric (20 June 2018). "History of Ikwerre people in Nigeria". Edo World.
- CHIMENUM, AKANINWOR ISAAC (11 July 2018). "History of Iwhnurọhna (The Ikwerre People)". Ikwerre TV.
- Chigere, Nkem Hyginus M. V. (2001). Foreign Missionary Background and Indigenous Evangelization in Igboland. LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster. p. 17. ISBN 3-8258-4964-3. Retrieved 2008-11-24.
- Udeani, Chibueze (2007). Inculturation as Dialogue: Igbo Culture and the Message of Christ. Rodopi. p. 12. ISBN 90-420-2229-9.
- Yakan, Muḥammad Zuhdī (1999). Almanac of African peoples & nations. Transaction Publishers. p. 371. ISBN 1-56000-433-9.
- Kelechukwu U. Ihemere (2007). A Tri-Generational Study of Language Choice & Shift in Port Harcourt. Universal-Publishers. pp. 26–35. ISBN 9781581129588.
- Okwudiba Nnoli. Ethnicity and development in Nigeria. Research in ethnic relations series. Avebury Series in Philosophy. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. ISBN 9781859721155.
The Igbo indigenous who remained found it advantageous to deny their Igbo origin and claimed, instead, a non-Igbo Ikwerre identity
- ogbakorikwerre (2017-03-16). "History of Ikwerre". OGBAKOR IKWERRE CULTURAL ORGANISATION WORLDWIDE. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
- Amadi-Nna, S.O.L (1989). The evolution of Ikwerre as a people. Ibadan, Nigeria: Kraft Books. pp. 26–33.