The attention of the Proudly Anioma-Proudly Igbo Group of Nigeria, a friendship/family group of Anioma people and their eastern Igbo kith and kin has been drawn to a “Press Release” written by some deluded individuals claiming to speak on behalf of the entire Anioma people. To begin with, it is important to note that the said group “Ndi-Anioma” as they call themselves is not the umbrella body of the Anioma people at home and in the Diaspora. This responsibility lies with the Izu-Anioma organization head by Brig. Gen Alabi Isama (rtd), the Ajieh-Osa, Anagba and Ochiagha of Utagba land.
In the charter of Izu-Anioma, the Anioma people were not defined as an “ethnic group” but rather an umbrella body covering the people identified in the course of Nigerian nationhood as West-Niger Igbos, Western Igbos, then Midwest Igbos , Bendel Igbos and now its often called Delta Igbos. Anioma is a political identity covering the entire area and was coined by the venerable Chief Dennis Osadebay in the late 1970s. It is important as well to note that our leader, Gen. Isama has stated in several fora and without any bit of contradiction that Anioma people are Igbos.
We of the Proudly Anioma-Proudly Igbo organization concur with his assertions. Therefore any claim, a self-seeking one for that matter by a group of political wannabes parading themselves as “the umbrella body of Anioma people” should not be taken by the general public seriously. Their rant is not worth a pinch of salt. We are aware that those parading themselves as “umbrella body of all Anioma people” have their loyalties tied to a particular political party in Nigeria. With such interests, their unfounded claims should not be taken by the public seriously.
As stated by one of our leaders Col Achuzie, the Ikemba of Asaba, we believe that the issues leading to the end of Biafran war and the pacification which followed thereafter has not assuaged a good percentage of the Igbo people of Nigeria that they have been fully integrated in the country. Many of them still feel they have been treated as second-class citizens and there are empirical evidences to suggest that some of these claims have some taints of truth and reality in it.
- Among some of the issues include the slicing off of some Igbo communities out of core Igbo states and merger to other states. We can give examples:
The area of Ndoki south covering the present Oyigbo (originally Obigbo) transferred from the old Aba division and lumped to Rivers State in 1976. Also, in the 1980s, three Ndoki villages namely Ohaobu, Mkpukpuaja and Ogbuagu villages carved from the then Imo State and lumped to Etim-Ekpo LGA of Akwa Ibom State. It is noteworthy to state that Oyigbo LGA apart from Oloibiri was the first place in Nigeria to produce oil and gas in commercial quantities (at Afam). Unlike Oloibiri which has dried-up since the 1980s, Afam and other Oyigbo oil-fields keep yielding vast quantities of petroleum.
- Egbema communities now in Rivers State. Egbema has 16 villages and out of these 16 villages , 3 namely Mgbede, Aggah and Okwuzi has the largest reserves of oil and gas in the community. This is apparently the reason they were lumped to Rivers while the other 13 villages were left in Imo State where they had to contend with more modest reserves of the commodity.
It is important to note that this “punishment” at least as perceived by many Igbos did not end up with the eastern Igbo people. The Aniomas or Western Igbos had to lose Ndoni area to Rivers State and Osekwenike-Onyah area to Sagbama area of Bayelsa State. Just like the other examples we gave, all of these areas are oil-producing. It is often claimed that the Nigerian Civil war was a war fought over oil and gas and the actions of the federal government just like these examples seems to reflect suggest that the federal government had intended to give a tag of non-oil producing to Igbo areas including Anioma.
While it is interesting to note that parts of Igbo land has been excised and lumped to other states, a good part of Itsekiri land embracing what is defined as Ugbege area was lumped to Ondo State; A state where Itsekiri people are not indigenous. This is one just an example of the double standards in Nigeria which seem to swell such protests. It therefore lies with the federal government to initiate moves to douse such feelings of alienation or punishment for the war. A common song by Peter Tos , which has one of its iconic lyrics “Everyone is crying out for peace but no one for justice” brings to the fore what we are trying to pass across here.
Prof Chinua Achebe’s book “There was a Country” puts to rest any country called Biafra. There was indeed a country called “Biafra”. However, Col Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu talked on a “Biafra of the Mind”. This “Biafra of the Mind” has in our opinion different dimensions to it. Biafra is a part of the history of Nigeria and there is no way we can forget about it collectively as Nigerians and more importantly as Igbos.
Therefore, anyone in whatever guise declaring “Biafra died permanently in 1970 with the surrender speech made by Philip Effiong” is being comical. In the United States of America, people freely talk about the Confederate States of Southern USA and the old Confederate flag is embedded in the state flags of many Southern States because it is deemed as a part of their heritage. Telling Igbos and other Nigerians who suffered a lot to pretend that no Biafra of the Mind exists is a sheer display of wickedness and irresponsibility. There is nothing to ever stop a war which led to the death of one-seventh of the Igbo people and left much of Anioma land decimated.
Anyone who claims that a “few resentful people of South-East origin” are the ones behind the protests. We have seen some pictures of the protests and such pictures do not seem to suggest that the protests were the handiwork of a “few resentful people”. It seems to demonstrate a mass movement among the youths of the South-east region in particular and areas of the South-south as well. Protest like this as far as it is peaceful is a hallmark of a vibrant democracy. Laying accusing fingers on MASSOB is diversionary.
The government must do the needful and address the grievances of these people no matter how “stupid” it would seem. The idea of trying to separate Anioma from Biafra is laughable. In the 1960s when the Biafra war was fought, the Aniomas were drawn to it. The reason is not far-fetched; the war was perceived as a rebellion of Igbos and Aniomas being western Igbos were involved. This is not a peculiar case. From Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo were drawn into the conflicts between the Hutu and Tutsi.
5.”Understand that barricading our roads and shutting down socio-economic activities cannot earn them our backing nor patronage”
Well, for people of wrapped minds nothing don , no matter how civil it would be would them any support. This is the same people who woke up one morning and manufactured a new ethnic group. We ask them here to tell us what the Midwest Igbos were called before Osadebay coined the name “Anioma”. It is not the responsibility of a mere facebook group like Ndi Anioma to talk about support, or alliance or whether the elites of the Igbo people support the agitation or not. We are aware just like most Aniomas that in any protest no matter how peacefully it was conducted would bring some discomfort. This, we understand and this is why our rulers and leaders are indifferent on the matter at least for now.
6. “Asaba remains the capital of Delta State and Delta State remains one of the 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” We are not aware that the status quo has changed. Even the protesters are aware they are Nigerians so this issue is misdirected and a case of raising false alarm.
7. “Slaves overnight”: Slaves to whom? It is strange that those who are now claiming the Niger “as the natural boundary” were just few years ago champions of claiming Onitsha and Oguta. They went further to declare that those towns are not “Ndi-Igbo”. Now, since it suits their interests, the Niger has suddenly become the natural boundary.
Our response to this is an emphatic No! The Niger is the boundary up to Ndoni/Aboh axis, where the Anioma people occupy both sides of the Niger and the boundary shifts in this axis to the Orashi River. These people have proven once again to be meandering snakes, inconsistent with their claims and positions. Ours on the other hand had never for once been adjusted to suit some myopic political gains. When these people talk of slaves, the question we raise is simple, slaves to whom? Because we are aware that our closest relatives in the Southeast region had never for once been slaves to anybody. From Onitsha the likes of the Azikiwes, Asikas, Anyaegbunams, Mbanefos, Arakas, Bialonwus, Ofodiles, and so many others have risen to fame because of the support of their supposedly “slave owners”.
From Ogbaru, are the likes of Prof Ben Nwabueze, Osita Osadebe, the Kaines of Ossomari, Oduahs of Akili, Oscar Onyema now DG of the Nigerian Stock Exchange etc have gained prominence with tactic support of their “slave owners in Igbo land” and lastly from Oguta are the likes of AC Nwapa, the legendary mayor of Port Harcourt, Nzeribes, Nwakuches, Oputas, Nwadialors and many others have rose to fame as well. We cannot compare the level of infrastructural development of the Ogbaru/Oguta axis who are supposed to be under servitude to those of their closest kith in Ndokwa East area of Anioma are according to the authors of that “Press Release” are not under slavery. Such claims by these liars and enemies of peaceful coexistence are ridiculous and cannot be backed by facts or history. One of the reasons, the Asaba metropolitan area is even developing is because of the investments our supposed slave owners are pouring into the city.
8. The said Mazi Kanu is neither familiar to much of the SE therefore separating Anioma and making it a special case is the height of mischief. Frequent announcements that Anioma is part of Biafra are of no consequence because there is nothing like Biafra in International law. If we say, a “Biafra of the Mind”, many Aniomas are convinced they are involved in it. Nigeria is a democracy and a free country and people have to right to associate with whom they share certain commonalities with. Nobody has branded Anioma people as messiahs except in the wrapped imagination of the authors of the said “press release”. Many people mix up the demand for Biafra as demand that would lead to the break-up of Nigeria. We do not see it in that perspective.
The agitators are of the opinion that Nigeria has a lot of flaws and if those flaws are not addressed, they have every right to seek for self-determination. The founding fathers of Nigeria such as Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa as well as Dr Nnnamdi Azikiwe had been quoted to have raised the issue of a possibility of a break-up albeit peacefully. Narrowing this line of thinking to Igbo people is therefore absolute rubbish. Igbos were not the people who staged the Araba riots which not only called for the break-up of the country but were violent with thousands of people killed. It is strange too that the authors of the “Press Release” did not bother to add that fact in their write-up.
There was no reckless drive into Anioma territory. It was just a military strategy and that has been well-laid in many documents including the recently declassified Biafran files by the American government. We are also aware that those who committed massacres in Asaba, Igbodo, Ibusa, Ogwashi-uku, Isheagu , Aboh and other places were the Nigerian troops. Not the Biafran troops. And the casualties were civilians not combatants, so putting the blame on “reckless drive” is misdirected. The blames lie squarely on the federal troops who forgot the proper engagement of war. Deliberate mass starvation of civilians to death which was used in the Biafran enclave can as well been judged as a carry-over of the same deliberate plan by the federal troops to teach the Ibos a lesson. We cannot rewrite what happened. Recalling the fall of the Niger Bridge is yet another attempt to create issues where none should even be thought of.
Anioma has over 100 miles along the West bank of the Niger. We therefore do not see why the bombing of one bridge would be the reason to claim the Asaba massacre was carried out. The story of the Asaba massacre was well documented in this book “Blood on the Niger” by “Emma Okocha”. The writers should also tell us of Proudly Anioma-Proudly Igbo why thousands of people from the Ndokwa East/Ndoni axis were brutally killed. Many were accused of trying to smuggle food into the Biafra enclave using the waterways which connects that axis to Oguta.
9. The whole exercise of this “Press Release” is an exercise in futility. It is not the opinion of the people of Anioma. Those who are signatories many of them failed politicians who are now in the ruling party merely did a “Press Release” so that a piece of the cake would reach them. These people do not mind to distort history and our collective interest as far as it suits their selfish ambitions and greed. Their “Press Release” can therefore not be the position of the Anioma people. It is only the Izu-Anioma as well as the Anioma Council of Chiefs which has the likes of the Asagba of Asaba, the Obi of Owa, the Obi of Aboh and others are the ones to make decisions for us.
It has become imperative to advice the general public to beware of these people who are parading themselves as spokesmen and women of Anioma. Nobody knows them in Anioma. It is important to state categorically that we pledged our support of a democratic and fair Nigeria. We thank you are for the attention.
1. Comrade Ephraim Adinlofu(Igbo man)
2. Diokpa Dennis Ajufo
3. Mr Amaka Ejiofor
4. Mr. Patrick Okobia
5. Mr Ike Okonta
6. Mr. Osita Mordi
7. Mrs. Nina Okocha
8. Mr. Samuel Chukwuneku
9. Mr. Carlos Chinwendu Ijomah
10. Mr. Louis-Michael Chukwuma
11. Mr.Robert Iyade
12. Mr Hilary Nduka.