Sunday, 15 May 2016

A little part of the history of Ikwerre

Just in case you didn't know, Ikwerre is a tribe in Rivers State which is located in the southern part of Nigeria. That is just an overview of this unique tribe. Now, to expand more on this.
    Traditions suggest that Ikwerre is a name given to Iwhnuruoha people. The Ikwerres have a distinct language, social and cultural traits that distinguish them from close neighbouring tribes like the Igbos and the Ijaws. Majority of the Ikwerre settlements have their roots traceable to the old Bini( Benin) Empire. Iwhnurohna people descended from the ancient Bini kingdom. The name of the grand ancestor is Akalaka. Their relations in Rivers State are the Ekpeye and Ogba people.
  The reigning Oba of Benin when Akalaka, the ancestor of Ihruoha (later called Iwhnurohna) fled was Oba Ewuare (Ogwaro). Akalaka, a member of the Benin royal family, fled in the 13th century on allegation of plotting assassination of Oba. He died in 1462. Iwhnurohna, his third son settled east of Sombrero River by 1538 AD.
    Akalaka had three sons : Ekpeye(first), Ogba(second) and Iwhnurohna aka Ikwerre(third). Akalaka fled with his wife from Benin to Ndoni- a community close to the River Niger- to save the life of his new born baby-Ekpeye, While at Ndoni, Akalaka took a second wife and had his second son- Ogba by his Ndoni wife. While still at Ndoni, his first wife gave birth to his third son- Ihruoha(Ikwerre). Akalaka died in 1462 AD.
       Ekpeye had seven sons. His last three sons- Ekpe, Awala and Asa- crossed to the other side of Sombreiro River(present day Ikwerreland) and settled there since 1538 AD. Ekpe migrated to present day Rumuekpe and spread through Elele(Alimini), Ndele, Rumuji and part of Ibaa. Awala migrated to present day Isiokpo.
       Akalaka also migrated with his half-brother, Ochichi from the area of the Benin Empire. Ochichi’s sons were Ele(Omerele now called Elele), Elu(Elumuoha now called Omerelu), Egbe(Egbeda) and Mini(Alimini, Isiokpo).
       Ihruoha/Iwhnurohna in Ikwerre parlance means face of the community(town,city or village). Nigerian colonial history records that the name Ïkwerre” was given by the colonial administration when they wanted to acquire the Rebisi waterfront to build the wharf. Using an Igbo interpreter to talk to the illiterate Rebisi( Port Harcourt) chiefs, they asked them : Would you permit us to build the wharf for ship to berth? The Rebisi chiefs answered : Akwerulem( Ayi kwerulem) which means We have agreed.. What the white colonials heard seemed to sound like “Ïkwerre”. So it was recorded that the “Ikwerre” people have agreed for the colonial administration to build the wharf. Since it was the official record of the government, the name Ikwerre became the name of the Iwhnurohna people till date.
         The advent of the British colonialism and later, regionalization of the country Nigeria, put Igbo- a major and neighbouring tribe- at the helm of affairs in Eastern Nigeria. This brought the Igbo people(Ndi-Igbo) into Ikwerreland in the course of time. The Igbos took advantage of their position in the then Eastern Regional Government to grab land in Ikwerre and occupy political positions such as the mayor of Port Harcourt. In the process, Ikwerre and other minority groups were marginalized and driven to the background.
    In 1913. Rev Herbert Tugwell, the Anglican bishop on Niger, undertook an experimentation tour of Ikwerre towns and villages. He had assumed them to be Igbo-speaking and wanted to test the Igbo Bible Nso(Holy Bible in Igbo language) that was being introduced in Igboland. Tugwell discovered from his tests that although the Ikwerre were often regarded as Igbo, the Igbo Bible was not easily understood by the Ikwerres. This was probably one of the reasons the Igbo vernacular was compulsorily introduced and taught in all schools in Ikwerreland land before the Nigerian  civil war to the detriment(perhaps, destruction) of the Ikwerre language.
       Today, the people of Ikwerre still reside and is one of the major tribes in Rivers State. The local governments : Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor, Emohua and Ikwerre are regarded as Ikwerre because of their history and closely knitted culture.
  Notable Ikwerres are Elechi Amadi(writer), Tonto Dike(actress), Duncan Mighty(muscician), Nyesom Wike(Rivers State governor) and many others.
    To meet with this wonderful Ikwerre tribe and experience life in Ikwerre land and culture, you can just come to Rivers State, Nigeria. Hope you’ve enjoyed some history!


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