ANIOMA: HER URGENT POLITICAL ISSUES AND THE QUESTION OF UNITY
CHIEF (DR.) JOSEPH NWAGBOGU EGWU
(THE ISAMA OF OBIOR)
BEING A PUBLIC LECTURE DELIVERED AT THE ORCHID HOTELS, ASABA ON FRIDAY, 26TH DECEMBER, 2014 UNDER THE AUSPICIES OF UMU ANIOMA FOUNDATION ON THE OCCASION OF THEIR 2014 WORLD CONVENTION.
First and foremost, I like to thank the principal officers of Umu Anioma Foundation and the totality of your membership for the honour done me in inviting me as special guest speaker on the occasion of your 2014 World Convention holding today at Orchid Hotels Asaba. Permit me also to formally salute your sense of appreciation for my humble contributions in the on-going Cultural Renaissance under the aegis of the Organization for Advancement of Anioma Culture (OFAAC) for which you bestowed on me the coveted “2013 UMU ANIOMA Spirit of Community Anioma Cultural Renaissance Award”. May the good Lord bless and keep you in your avowed mission to organize, educate and activate Anioma people and promote their general welfare.
Let me at this point in time crave your indulgence to grant me freedom to speak on Anioma: Her Urgent Political Issues and Question of Unity” in place of “There is power in Anioma Unity” which is in your invitation cards. I have personal reasons for couching the theme this way. The mission of your Foundation, I was informed is “To organize, educate and activate Anioma people and to promote their general welfare” with a proviso “to modify the objectives of this mission from time to time so as to accomplish the most urgent need of Anioma”. Compelled by the burden of this mission objective and worried by the continued eroding influence of aggressive Europeanism, on Anioma Culture, at this critical moment of Anioma political experience, I feel this is an opportune moment to address Anioma’s most urgent challenges with a view to working out modalities for meeting the target goals. The topic is therefore informed by the mood of the moment. Kindly therefore accept my modification of the theme as yours in the hope that at the end of the day, the expectations of the original theme should be met by the new one.
ORIGIN, ETYMOLOGY AND MEANING OF ANIOMA
It is my considered view that a good starting point in this lecture is the examination of the operative word ‘ANIOMA” in order to facilitate the understanding of its heterogeneous historical origins and the concomitant political challenges of the moment.
The origin of the word “ANIOMA” is traceable to our late Legal Luminary and Statesman, Chief (Dr.) Dennis Chukwudebe Osadebey (GCON, Ojiba of Ahaba, the first Administrator and the first Premier of Mid-Western Nigeria), and his political Associates, using his poetic talent to serve a political interest.
Besides, Prof. Emenanjo, a linguist of Anioma extraction, in an attempt to fully explain the word ‘Anioma’ developed a ‘Schema’ and I cannot agree more with him when he has this to say: The word ‘ANIOMA’ whatever is its origin or etymology, name or real, imaginary or proposed state at the meeting place of the sub-groups, Aniocha, Ndokwa, Ika, and Oshimili, a neologistic acronym from the initial sounds in the names of the sub-groups:
‘A’ from Aniocha
‘N’ from Ndokwa
‘I’ from Ika
‘O’ from Oshimili
And finally polished with ‘M’ and ‘A’ to arrive at the Igbo word ‘ANIOMA’ meaning “good land” inhabited by good and peace-loving people, or noun from creative thinking caps of leaders of a political Movement is now used by our friends and foes to designate the area and people in the former Bendel East or the Present Delta North Senatorial District, the territory Sociologists and Anthropologists refer to as the “Western Igbo Land”
The Delta North Senatorial District is comprised of nine Local Government Areas to wit:
1. Aniocha North
2. Aniocha South
3. Ika North East
4. Ika South
5. Ndokwa East
6. Ndokwa West
8. Oshimili North and
9. Oshimili South
The area is a geographical reality. The people and Anthropological and Linguistic reality. Anioma is a mental construct as it is a behaviorist one. A folk-and-blood reality, the term ‘Anioma’ is more elastic and embracing than “Ika Igbo” used sometimes by other Nigerians to differentiate our people from mainstream Igbo. This exercise in folk synecdoche, in which a part images the whole or the whole a part, rarely went down well with our people. The ‘Ika-Igbo’ Dictionary (1907).
Anioma is also more distinct and distinctive, and more neutral and mnemonic than the older labels like ‘Western Igbo’, traceable to the British Colonial Anthropologists like Forde and Jones in “The Igbo and Ibibio-speaking people of South Eastern Nigeria, “West-Niger Igbo in contradistinction to East-Niger Igbo or first Mid-West Igbo, later Bendel Igbo and now Delta Igbo, in tune with the vagaries of state creation exercise in Nigeria.
Anioma means Unity; the unity in diversity. It means homogeneity, the homogeneity in heterogeneity. In Anioma three dialects of the West Niger cluster of macro-Igbo Language are spoken (Enuani, Ika and Ukwuani).
The lects are mutually intelligible. It is therefore evident that diachronically, some Anioma are of Igbo ancestry and synchronically all Anioma people speak Igbo even in the recognized enclaves of non-Igbo ancestry such as the Ezechimas and the Olukumis to cite a few- a process of Igbonization which has created Ethno-historical and Socio cultural problems explained by the present lecturer in his short study on “The Origin of Anioma people of the West Niger Valley”
Again, Anioma is a towering culture and an emerging Micro-polity with abundant material resources and ever growing skilled and productive human capital. And whenever you find so much vitality of the sort packed tightly in a segment of human society as in Anioma’s case, it is evidence of a striking convergence of history, environment, biological stock, psychological traits, institutional patterns, collective will and drive. And now that such as “explosive combination” waiting to be ignited has finally caught fire in the imagination of the world and has polarized the emotional energies of men- either for Love or Hate? The quintessence of their memorable “Culture Civilization”- “Anioma-Consciousness’ encased in an operative framework of Anioma primordial mores, ethnic ethos, social psychology and cultural values has to be pushed to the fore to provide the much needed ‘ideology’ (philosophy of action)- to back the achievement of any political goal.
The thesis posited in the foregoing paragraphs demonstrates the need to also examine the word ‘Culture’ in relation to Anioma as a ‘Collectivity’ and to identify these core elements of this culture for use as pragmatic instrument for harmonizing the discordant voices in ‘Anioma-Consciousness’ for effective response to the Urgent Political Issues in Anioma.
Every society has its own way of life-ways of dressing and cooking, eating and toileting, sacrificing and playing, showing hospitality and reverence, and expressing political opinions. To examine the diversity of these ways is to examine culture for culture is a way of life.
Ralph Linton (1936) states that “The culture of a society is the way of life of its members; the collection of ideas and habits which they learn, share and transmit from generation to generation”. In other words, culture is the total way of life evolved by a people in their attempts to meet the challenges of living in their social or physical environments.
In this definition, culture gives order and meaning to the social, political, economic, aesthetic, religious norms and values of the peoples, and thus distinguishes them from other peoples. It comprises material, institutional, philosophical and creative aspects. The material aspect has to do with artifacts in their various forms, namely tools, clothing, food, medicine, utensils, housing etc. The institutional aspect deals with the political, social, legal and economic objectives while the philosophical aspect is concerned with ideas, beliefs and values.
The creative aspect concerns a people’s innovativeness in Literature (Oral or written), their Visual and Performing Arts, and their Scientific and Technological endeavours. Culture is also related to the values of a society in terms of the Society’s conception of what is right or wrong (Moral values), what is ugly or beautiful (aesthetic values) when faced by the demands of modern technology which is an essential factor of development objective, we are referring to our culture as the foundation of the underlining spirit behind all the policies on educational, social, political and economic matters.
The strategies for national development would thus depend on the understanding of cultures; the adaption of its elements for political, educational, and economic development as well as the utilization of its strengths for social integration and development. The whole gamut and the integrated totality of culture as defined above constitute the civilization of Anioma people a conditioned by Anioma History and experience.
ANIOMA’S URGENT POLITICAL ISSUES
What then are the urgent political issues in Anioma? To answer this question adequately, one needs to explore the rough, long and tortuous road Anioma has traversed since 1954 in her cognitive search for independent political identity, the present uncertainty pervading the political landscape of Anioma (Delta North Senatorial District), the leadership crisis in Anioma and the general disillusionment among the rank and file of the political class as evidenced by daily reports from print and electronic media.
For instance, reports from some Apex organization of Anioma people finger the creation of Anioma State. (a continuation of Anioma’s cognitive search for Independent identity) and the need for emergence of an Anioma son (Delta North Senatorial District) son or daughter as Governor of the State come 2015 General Elections, in the event the dream of Anioma does not come true as two urgent and outstanding issues. Also fingered are the ‘Unity question’- (the need for uniting the contending Apex organizations in Anioma) to produce an all acclaimed Apex organization that will command the respect and loyalty of all Anioma in leadership and political class and the proliferation of Governorship aspirants all over Anioma (the number is legion) in preparation towards 2015 General Elections and the need to unite them to facilitate surgical pruning in order to field an acceptable candidate with the most impressive pedigree for the purpose of achieving the desired political goal. Let us turn to these identified political issues one by one.
First in early 1950’s Anioma agitated for West Niger Province to opt out of the Benn Province and failed. Next in 1975-76 Anioma again agitated for Niger State which name was given to Niger State in Northern Nigeria at the end of the state creation exercise under the Military at that time.
Again, success eluded Anioma. Then in 1979-83 Anioma agitated for Anioma State which was aborted. All these three encounters yielded nothing either as a result of disunity or sheer absence or lack of patronage from power brokers in the state.
PRODUCTION OF GOVERNOR OF ANIOMA EXTRACTION
In 1992 Anioma (Delta North) contested Delta Central (Urhobo) won.Then in 1999, Anioma contested again and Delta Central (Urhobo) again took it. The general Election of 2007 came, Anioma was again in the contest and Delta South (Itsekhiri) got it. So you can see from the foregoing account that all effort of Anioma to produce a governor for the state since its creation failed. The reason for this heart-rending failure is anyone’s guess. But I make bold to lay the blame on the inordinate ambition of the members of our political class who for selfish reasons came out in large number and ruined their chances of winning.
The period 2012 to date has been agog with Anioma political activities in her renewed effort towards the creation of Anioma State and the production of Governor of Anioma extraction come the general election of 2015, and towards the achievement of these two Anioma goals, the many and varied Anioma Apex Organizations (the number again is legion) are sparing no effort to reach out for support. Without being told, we know that none of the two goals will be easy to achieve. Anioma’s experience in earlier attempts is a pointer to this testimony.
The demand for the creation of Anioma State has reached an advanced stage with the report of the Restructuring Committee of the National dialogue on Mr. President’s table. Without prejudice to what will happen to the report next, Anioma leaders and generality of her citizenry should “work and pray”. I salute the patriotic effort of our men and women in that committee for a job well done.
As regards the production of Governor of Delta State in 2015, the situation is still fluid and Anioma should not leave it to chance. Despite appearances to the contrary, other Senatorial Districts are not going to fold their hands on the ground of principle of equity, and justice and fair play being orchestrated now by outspoken politicians of Anioma Divide in their claim that it is the turn of Anioma this time around, to produce the Governor for Delta State. This kind of assumption misled us in the past. We have heard it loud and clear from some leaders in other Senatorial Districts that there is no written agreement or parole on the so called zoning. We have a lesson to learn from this and so Anioma should not be afraid and downcast. Anioma leaders should also, like other leasers in other Senatorial Districts, consult and come up with one formidable candidate – I say one not legion for the General elections of 2015? They should not fail us again in this for lack of unity among them and the Governorship aspirants, and their lack of much needed skill to manipulate Anioma Consciousness rooted in Anioma Cultural values for political advantage. For ease of reference, I am talking of the core elements of our culture which include:
- Anioma Communism
- Honour and Integrity
- Respect for Constituted Authority
- Dedication to a course of action irrespective of its costs and
These ethnic ethos as defined and internalized long ago and consolidated in our myths, legends, proverbs and wisdom notes; and typical behavior patterns were demonstrated by our fore-fathers during the Ekwumekwu years (1880-1910), during the years of the creation of Mid-West, later Bendel State, during the movement for the creation of Anioma State which still on-going. Delta Northerners (Anioma) should remain united if they wanted to achieve their political goals. The problem of Anioma leaders is type of ‘Complex’ All of them claim to be eminently qualified to lead. Therefore, no one gives the other any consideration. At this point I invite you to share with me the inner meaning of an African proverb which has this to say: “He who thinks he is leading and has no one following him, is only taking a walk”. In this struggle to out-do each other in the leadership crisis, we are waylaid by the transient and we miss the ‘enduring’.
Blinded by our inordinate ambition for leadership, we no longer recognize or respect the elder, we shelve honour integrity, bravery, dedication to a common course, loyalty and the communal spirit on which our fore-fathers had anchored for survival in addressing their socio-psycho, economic and political challenges in their time and clime. For the foregoing reasons the leaders of Anioma should see the present threat to the realization of Anioma’s Governorship dream posed by the activities of the two other more united and disciplined Senatorial Districts as real. They should engage in networking and advocacy trips to turn the table in favour of Anioma.
The political strength of our sister Senatorial Districts lies in their unity and respect for elders and constituted authority, in the powers mutually and respectfully vested in their Apex Organization to speak for all and in the lofty sense of responsibility and fairness with which their Apex Organization exercises its mandate. And these are also the core elements of Anioma culture as itemized in the foregoing paragraphs, as a result of which the Royal Father (the Obi) of a town selflessly represents his own Community in the Obi-in-council and a patriarch of an extended family and his ‘umunna’ exchange rights and obligations, loyalty and love. This is the essence of the popular Enuani (Anioma) maxim: “Eze nwani, Ani nwe Eze” (“The king owns the land and the land owns the King”) It requires that the King exercises his authority with utmost responsibility and objectivity. The situation at present where Anioma Leaders and Governorship aspirants think they can take Anioma to the height of her political dreams by throwing overboard Anioma’s primordial values is an aberration- “a ritual breach” similar to fishing in Anioma’s sacred River.
ANIOMA AND HER POTENTIALS
Anioma has all it takes to assume the status of a state of its own as defined in the Nigeria Constitution, and to produce a governor of Delta State now that it is still a vibrant part of the state. Anioma is one people with one language and one towering culture, having a demographic advantage. By the 2006 population and housing census, Anioma’s population figure stood at 1,236,840 which was about 30.1% of the population of Delta State. From January 1999 to 2004, she supplied 43.19% of Delta State Public Service Manpower while Delta Central had 34.59% and delta South 22.5% (See a study of Manpower profile of Delta State Public Service, January 1999-June 2004). In many other human resource endeavors, Anioma is a pace-setter.
Anioma is rich in Mineral Deposits yet to be explored and exploited, such as industrial clay, silica, lignite, kaolin, tar, sand, decorative rocks, lime-stone etc. She has twenty-seven Oil fields, seven of which are producing (See Dave Inyere, 2012). She also has the second largest gas reserve in South-South, which currently feeds the 450MWs Agip Power Plant at Okpai, “the first independent power plant in Nigeria” (Osakwe 2008).
And thanks to the Government of Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, the Executive Governor of Delta State, Anioma has an International Airport with capacity to boost commerce and industry when fully operational. All that seems lacking is the cultivation of the right attitude by which Anioma’s Cultural values, human resources and potentials could be consciously harnessed for the achievement of Anioma’s political aspirations.
ANIOMA: THE WAY FORWARD
To achieve her political aspirations even now that Anioma is evidently operating behind time;
1. Anioma must forge her own unity by coming up immediately with an “Apex Umbrella Organization” like the Urhobo Progressive Union (UPU), or the Ijaw National Congress (INC) or the Isoko Development Union (IDU), which like the patriarch of an extended family will defend the overall interests of Anioma at all times and earn the respect and loyalty of the people by its objectivity and fairness. As a matter of urgency, the existing ‘Apex Organizations’ should meet for this purpose. Each Apex Organization should attend with humility, a new lease of open mind and willingness to accommodate, in the process of forming a “Single Apex body” any adjustment to be made in order to work in concert towards achieving the goals and aspirations of Anioma people. I strongly suggest the existing Anioma Congress (AC) under the leadership of our respected Royal Father, Obi Prof. Chike Edozien, (CFR), and the Asagba of Asaba, to be the nucleus of this new and all-embracing Apex Organization. Those Anioma, leaders and politicians who claim that Anioma Congress is an Organization of “vested interests” should rethink.
2. Anioma should continue to speak with one voice on the issue of creation of Anioma State as no part of Anioma has a different culture or identity that it could rightfully claim. We should for this purpose forget the ancestral homes of our fathers either in Benin, Igala or Igbo land or Yoruba land or Urhobo land. The present political arrangement in Nigeria points to Anioma as our only home.
3. The ongoing networking to mobilize support for Anioma’s political aspirants should continue under the aegis of the Anioma Apex Organization to emerge following the recommendation in (1) above.
4. The new Apex Organization should unite our political aspirants (Particularly the Governorship aspirants) and have them present a ‘Consensus’ candidate for Anioma from among themselves or suggest to the Apex body objective parameters by which to make the selection.
5. Anioma Governorship aspirants should always bear in mind the principals underlining the spirit behind “Anioma Communalism” and political system. They should realize that for any aspirant to reach the height of his political aspiration, other aspirants must cooperate. There should be only one Governor at a time for the state but there would also be many complementary offices in Government and outside Government.
6. The aspirants must, in consonance with Anioma culture, cultivate respect for elders and superior pedigree. Otherwise, they would neither listen to the ‘Apex Body’ nor themselves and the failure to listen may once again lead to their failure and consequent liquidation of Anioma hopes in them. It is pertinent to observe here that time is no longer on our side.
7. After picking their best among equals, all further Anioma aspirants should team up with the candidate so selected to network with other Senatorial Districts towards the achievement of Anioma goals. They should also realize that respectable political networking should thrive on Justice, mutual respect and recognition of each other’s rights. They should also further realize that in politics no outsider would hand over to you, respect, justice and recognition of your rights, if you stood by without back up power and strong support base from your home and without the will and capacity to fight if necessary. Power is never given on the platter of gold. You have to struggle for it.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
This brings me to the end of this lecture; I started by examining the origin, Etymology and the meaning of ‘Anioma’ in all its ramification and historical perspective. I analyzed the word as a ‘culture’ and a ‘collectivity’ (‘micro-polity’) in Nigeria’s new political equation, maturing to develop consciousness of a kind – ‘Anioma-consciousness’ rooted in the framework of Anioma primordial mores, and ethnic ethos to facilitate adaptation to the realities of the present in an attempt to discard individual and sectional chauvinistic ideas and practices towards ‘unity’ and further ‘maturity’ to assume the status of a ‘state’ as defined in Nigerian Constitution.
Moreover, I covertly opined that Anioma has not succeeded in adapting itself to a homogenous situation satisfactorily under the heterogeneous condition as it exists in Anioma today. In the light of this, I submitted that other things being equal, all the constituents of Anioma- Aniocha, Ika, Ndokwa and Oshimili should shed their parochialism for a higher loyalty to Anioma, s anew state of their dream yet to be created from the present Delta State.
I equally delved into the burning political issues in Anioma (Delta North Senatorial District) at the moment. The demand for the creation of Anioma State and the much talked-about production of a Governor of Delta from (Delta North) in the event that the state creation dream does not come true. All these were analyzed vis-à-vis the question of unity among others. And I finally made an attempt to work out modalities for the way forward for the realization of these outstanding Anioma goals.
To conclude, let me here and now submit my prayer on these political issues to the good people of Nigeria and all Deltans. First, on the demand for the creation of Anioma State which has been long standing. Anioma State symbolizes the re-enactment of the old socio-political and socio-cultural order in a new political equation; that is within a broader context of a new social order; the federal Republic of Nigeria. The creation of a State in Nigeria is a Constitutional matter determinable by the ‘WILL’ of the people.
It is the inexorable will of the people of Western Igbo; now collectively called Anioma to be a State within the Federation of Nigeria that has given impetus and sustenance to the Anioma State Movement. If constituted, Anioma State will be a viable socio-psycho and cultural solidarity, whose ideology rests on a primeval concept of a western Igbo civilization and social psychology which are today integrated in a bigger, indivisible whole Nigeria.
The Movement has begun; it has gathered momentum into a gigantic current, sweeping across this great country. And now that it has become a burning political issue for the people, I wish on behalf of the people to re-affirm the people’s faith in the ultimate success of the movement by re-echoing a well-known Anioma philosophy to wit: “Mili onye ga-ala adi eshufee” (The water which one must drink will wait for him in spite of any delay in the interim).
Truly, the wind of change is blowing over Nigeria. It is a political wind which stresses on the development of a strong and virile nation based on the enduring principle of Unity in Diversity. Anioma State Movement is an expression of what the Nigerian Constitution stipulates and permits. The Nigerian Constitution permits the right of any people to assert their socio cultural and political identity within the constraints of law and order. It is this right that the people of proposed Anioma State are exercising without bitterness to any group; rather, they offer hands of fellowship and peace to all people of goodwill everywhere. The Ethno-history of the West Igbo (Anioma) people is distinctive within a composite unit, and it is on basis of the past that the present can be defined. The future shall take its bearing from the beacons of the past and the present. This time around, we have no reason to fear that this prayer will be heard.
Next, is the question of Delta State Governorship come the general Elections of 2015 which has become a burning political issue in Anioma.
In connection with the aspiration of Anioma to produce the next Delta State Governor from among her sons and daughters in 2015, I beg also to submit as follows. Anioma’s aspiration in this direction is a legitimate aspiration considering the role of the District in Delta State project. And now that the battle cry on the Nigerian political landscape revolves around Zoning, Rotation and Power Shift, Nigerians everywhere are clamoring vehemently that it is the turn of their geo-political Zone to produce the President or the turn of the Senatorial District to produce the State Governor or the turn of their wards to produce the Council Chairman, Anioma’s case should not be considered absurd.
Against this background the aspiration of Anioma is in order and more so since the creation of Delta State twenty-three years ago, the Delta Central Senatorial District has produced Delta State Governor two times of eight years duration and Delta South has done so and is now coasting to end her second tenure in May 2015. All this while, Anioma has been in a cooler for one reason or the other. And to question Anioma aspiration now or intimidate her to abandon it would amount to a flagrant display of historical naivety, gross insensitivity, inequity, injustice and lack of fair-play. And again Anioma’s experience of the on-going insensitive ‘Winner-takes-all syndrome has compounded the negative trend. To this end therefore, all fair minded Deltans should team up behind Delta North Senatorial District in her bid to produce the next Governor of Delta State on the basis of equity, justice and fair-paly.
What Delta North is demanding from Nigeria and Delta State is equity, what Delta Northerners demands as of right now is to produce the next Governor of Delta State.
The Delta North Senatorial District has high fliers for the position. Enough of the political shortchanging! Enough of the monstrous injustice!
All things considered, Delta North (Anioma) deserves and should produce the next Governor of Delta State.
The rotation of the Governor’s Office in the State is a political reality. One can see it, feel it and smell it. Anyone whose claims are to the contrary is to say the least, an apostle of chaos and instability. Let me use this forum to salute the courage of those sincere, God fearing and well-meaning people from the three Senatorial Districts who have openly supported the concept of power-sharing formula in the State. I have also learnt that various Organizations in the State have also opted for power SHIFT. I salute their wisdom and courage also. And finally, I sincerely appeal to all men and women of goodwill in Nigeria and Delta State in the interest of peace and equity and justice, to ensure that Delta North produces the Governor for Delta State in 2015. Give Delta North Senatorial District a chance and the difference will be clear.
One more charge to all the leaders of Anioma and all the Governorship aspirants before I am done. Now is the time for all of you to right the wrongs of the immediate past in the interest of the generality of Anioma people, now is the time for you to invoke Anioma communal spirit, integrity, loyalty, bravery and dedication to a course of action no matter its costs as rooted in our primordial values and redeem your individual and collective image as worthy sons of Anioma.
And more importantly, I urge you under the present circumstance to share with me for enduring internalization, the wisdom embedded in Anioma proverb which in Enuani dialect of macro-Igbo language, has this to say: “Igwe bu ike” (Unity is Strength”). It is indeed a master ‘key’ to open the door to the realization of our urgent political goals.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for listening and God bless.
ASIBEI QUARTERS, OBIOR
26TH, DECEMBER 2014