Saturday, 08 April 2017 17:22

Who owns Igwe Ocha (Port Harcourt)?

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AN OPEN LETTER TO EMEKA OKALA

Date: April 8, 2017

 

To: Emeka Okala

 

From: Ozodiobi Osuji

 

Subject: ON THE QUESTION OF WHO OWNS IGWE OCHA

 

A couple of years ago, when the interminable debate, driven by you, as to who owns Igwe Ocha, came up, I recall stating that it belongs to Igbos. Thereafter, I allowed you to be the self-anointed expert on everything Igwe Ocha.

 

Egged on by certain Yoruba chaps, such as Bolaji Aluko, that do not have Igbos interests in mind, you went on and on telling us that Igwe Ocha is not part of Alaigbo.

 

Igbos were defeated during the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970), so, like people with their backs on the ground, they have no choice but to allow their arrogant victors to talk to them anyhow they want. You joined the crowd abusing Igbos.

 

Apparently, your assumption is that the Nigerian military gets your back. Which, at the moment, is true? However, what you did not take into consideration is the fact that Nigeria, as Obafemi Awolowo observed, is an artificial geographical expression put together by the British to serve their Interests, and since the British believe that the Hausa-Fulanis best serve their interests, upon leaving Nigeria in 1960, they arranged for them to rule Nigeria for them.

 

If history teaches us anything it is that no condition is permanent.

 

Eventually, Igbos will rule themselves. At that time they will decide whether Ikwerri people are separate from Igbos or not. Nigerians will not be there to support your irritating claims that Ikwerres are not Igbos.

 

You have opened a can of worms, kicked up a bucket of shit, pardon my French, and when what you kicked up settles down you might find yourself a loser!

 

You keep saying that Ikwerri is not Igbo and that you, Ikwerre people, just want to live in peace with your Igbo neighbors.

 

Oh, what a nice man you are! How accommodating you are! All Igbos ought to admire you for your friendly and generous gesture!

 

You took Igbo land and then tell Igbos that you just want to live in peace with them? You are amusing.

 

Listen up; your self-serving and gratuitous views do not convince anyone that you own Ikwerre. In fact, when the shit settles you may find out that you would be forcefully thrown out of Igwe Ocha.

 

If you are not Igbo, you are a squatter on Igbos land. That is correct; Owerri people own the land that you call Ikwerre land.

 

Let me repeat, the land that you live on and call your peoples land does not belong to you. You do not falsely appropriate other people's land and then tell them that you are such a nice person and that all you want to do is live in peace with them.

 

If you want to live in peace with Igbos you have to do one of two things: pack up and leave Igwe Ocha and return to wherever you believe that your ancestors came from: Ghana, Benin, Cameroon; honestly I do not care where you came from, just leave; or if you want to live at Igwe Ocha you must accept that you are Igbo.

 

I understand that you are a pastor, and, as such, probably do not understand real politics. Let me give you a free lecture on real politics.

 

In real politics, as opposed to idealistic politics, it is understood that politics is war by other means (Von Clausewitz defined war as politics by other means).

 

Politics is mostly war by peaceful means but when peaceful means breakdown people shoot it out. You, jabbering on and on as to who owns Igwe Ocha, are engaged in politics. That is, you are at war with Igbos.

 

Igbos have tried to gently tell you that Igwe Ocha belongs to them. When peaceful politics does not solve a problem folks revert to politics as war. At war the stronger defeat the weak.

 

Given your unreasonable intransigence, the issue of who owns Igwe Ocha may have to be settled by violent means. Emeka, despite your amusing arrogance, do you think that Ikwerri folks can defeat Igbos at war?

 

Although what you are doing seems to you as child's play, it is actually deadly! Igbo have tremendous angst in their minds, so, you are playing with fire by your continued rant that Igwe Ocha is not part of Alaigbo.

 

In the fifteenth century the Portuguese explored the coast of Africa and got to India in 1494. Upon their discovery of Brazil in 1500, and needing slaves to work in their plantations and mines, they came back to West Africa and negotiated with the coastal folks, mainly the Efik at Calabar and the Ijaw at Bonny to sell to them African slaves.

 

The Efik and Ijaw went to Igbo land and captured Igbo slaves and sold them to the Portuguese. Eventually, they negotiated with the Aro Igbo clan and those hired Abriba and Abam people to help them roam around Alaigbo to capture Igbo slaves, march them to Calabar and Bonny (and Igwe Ocha) and from there they were transported to the new world (South and North America.).

 

This way, for four hundred years Ijaw and Efik folks terrorized Igbos. Let me repeat: Efik and Ijaw people were terrorists who for four hundred years terrorized Alaigbo by capturing Igbos and selling them to the white man.

 

Over time, Efik and Ijaw folks developed a sense of superiority towards Igbos. In their arrogance they saw Igbos as inferior to them.

 

Until recently Ijaw and Efik people saw Igbos as bush people; they looked down on Igbos; they saw Igbos as inferior people who are only fit to be their slaves.

 

You would probably agree that this is an insult towards Igbos, would you not? Historic insults are noted and placed in people's memories but seldom forgotten.

 

The fact that Ijaw and Efik sold Igbos into slavery is in Igbos memory. In time retribution would be sought. Oh, yes, folks do not forget such things. You do not sell people for four hundred years and devastate their land and expect them to see you as a friendly person and like you. No, they are angry at you.

 

In time, Igbos will have a showdown with the Ijaw and Efik. Write that down. Evil doers must be punished for what they did. You do not forgive oppression and abuse of your people.

 

Regarding Igwe Ocha, it became an area where Igbo slaves were quartered while waiting shipment to the new world. The ships may come twice a year; the slaves practically had to farm to obtain food to feed themselves.

 

Originally, Owerri people owned Igwe Ocha; however, due to the intensity of slavery whereby if folks stepped outside their compounds they were captured and sold into slavery, Owerri folks moved inlands, away from coastal Igwe Ocha.

 

Owerri folks moved into the bush to avoid the devastation their people were subjected to by slavery. Thus, it came to pass that Igwe Ocha appeared uninhabited (some Owerri folk have family histories telling them that their people used to live at Igwe-Ocha!).

 

In the meantime, slave sellers housed their slaves at what is now the uninhabited land of Igwe Ocha. Slaves were brought from all over Alaigbo and from as far away as Edo and other parts of Nigeria to igwe ocha. Indeed, Hausa, Chadian and Ghanaian slaves were marched to Igwe ocha and from there they were shipped to the Americas.

 

In 1807 the British Parliament abolished slavery. Thereafter, they used their navy ships to patrol the coast of West Africa; they captured ships carrying slaves bound to the new world and emptied them at Lagos, Freetown, Bonny, Igwe Ocha and so on.

 

Thus, it came to be that slaves from both Igbo land and non-Igbo areas came to live at Igwe Ocha. However, the majority of those slaves were Igbos, just as the majority of the slaves sold from Nigeria to the Americas were Igbos.

 

After the British abolition of slavery in 1807 (Brazil did not abolish slavery until the 1880s) and the harassment of slave sellers by the British, many slaves were abandoned at Igwe ocha; those slaves who were from other parts of West Africa began to speak Igbo as their lingua franca.

 

They mixed Owerri dialect of the Igbo language with surrounding Ijaw, Okrika and Ogoni languages to come up with Ikwerre Igbo language.

 

Ikwerre language is a combination of Igbo, Ijaw and other non-Igbo languages; it is kind of like a pidgin or creole language.

 

This seeming new language and the assorted people speaking it nevertheless live on what was hitherto Owerri land.

 

Let me reiterate: Ikwerri folks live on Owerri land. Emeka Okala, get this point into your head. In as much as you live on Owerri land, on my ancestors' land, where you live belongs to Owerri people.

 

You do not tell Owerri folk that they do not own a land that was theirs and that you just want to live in peace with them.

 

No, you do not live in peace with Igbos. The only way that you can live in peace with them is to pack up and leave Igbo land and return to wherever you believe that your ancestors came from or you reconcile yourself to the fact that you are Igbo.

 

I was born at Lagos and dare say that I understand Lagos. The people who live at Lagos Island are a compendium of Yorubas, Edos, Ijaws, and returned slaves from Brazil, Europe and other parts of the Americas and the slaves that the British navy dumped at Lagos when they captured them on the high seas.

 

This motley of people learned to speak the Yoruba language around them; whereas they may retain their English or Portuguese names they consider themselves Yoruba's.

 

Lagosians, who are folks from all over the place, some from Igbo slaves, do not go about telling the world that they are not Yoruba.

 

Igbos have certain personality types. In addition to their undisputed industry, Igbos, unfortunately, have annoying behavior traits. As an Igbo you exhibit those Igbo annoying behavior patterns!

 

An example of your foolish Igbo character trait is the fact that you live on Igbo land and claim not to be Igbo, not realizing that what you are doing is extremely annoying to Igbos. It is kind of like Igbos who live at Lagos and other parts of Nigeria who, unmindful that they are vulnerable, look down on their hosts hence make them angry at Igbos.

 

What you are doing is so irritating to Igbos that I can see some nationalistic and patriotic Igbos literally attacking you.

 

If you are going to live on Igbo land you must do what the non-Yoruba's who live at Lagos do: accept that they are Yoruba. Because they identified as Yoruba they are left to live in peace (if they deny being Yoruba, I am sure that Yorubas will be angry at them).

 

If you live on Igbo land and deny that you are Igbo you will not be left to live in peace. You are being childishly aggressive; you arouse defensive counter aggression in Igbos.

 

Emeka, if you persist in doing what you are doing, some Igbos will attack you. I am a person from the Igbo heartland, Owerri (Owerri is the natural capital of Alaigbo). But because I insist on pointing out Igbo problems I cannot tell you how many times I have been physically attacked, not to talk about verbal attacks on my person.

 

You do not squat on some peoples land and pretend not to be a stranger in their midst and want them to see you as a nice person.

 

Since you believe that you are not Igbo despite having Igbo name, speaking Igbo language, and having Igbo culture and Igbo characteristics you have to be treated as a non-Igbo.

 

All over the world it is the case that those who live in areas bordering folks from different tribes generally have mixed language; their language incorporate words from their neighbors hence seem different from the dialect of those in the middle of their tribes.

 

Bini people who live close to Yoruba land, say, Ore, incorporate Yoruba words into their Edo language; when you listen to such Bini folks talk their Edo language does not always sound Edo. Indeed, many such Bini persons speak Yoruba and may even have Yoruba names!

 

By the same token, Agbor people, an Igbo clan that live close to Benin, incorporated some Edo words into their Igbo hence no longer sound classical Igbo.

 

Given this logic, Ikwerri folks who live close to Ijaw incorporate Ijaw words hence their Igbo dialect no longer seems pure Igbo. This reality does not make them a new tribe or non-Igbo. This is the point that you must get into your head, Emeka Okala.

 

CONCLUSION

 

At the end of the civil war an attempt was made to marginalize Igbos. This included excising certain geopolitically important parts of Alaigbo from it. Igwe Ocha was considered a critical Igbo sea port so it was removed from Alaigbo and given to so-called Rivers State. Ikwerre people were told to seize Igbo properties at Igwe Ocha. These were all done to humble and humiliate Igbos.

 

You, Emeka, are, at least, averagely intelligent and therefore is able to understand what was been done by the Nigerian state. Instead of feeling anger you joined the oppressors and rejoiced at the evisceration of Igbos political power.

 

You gave folks the false impression that Igbo land has no seaport and are landlocked hence Igbos ought to resign themselves to second class status in Nigeria.

 

You did all these dreadful things and yet fancy yourself a good Christian. Listen, when the time comes you and your type will be appropriately dealt with. The planned action includes forcefully removing you from Igwe Ocha, may be relocating you to the Sahara desert.

 

I personally will not hesitate in having recalcitrant Ikwerre folks like you relocated to the desert. In the meantime, I must stop reinforcing your personality issues by talking on this infernal Ikwerri issue of yours. You must from now on figure out a different way to obtain attention rather than always bringing up this Ikwerri is not Igbo nonsense.

 

Generally, I do not like to gratify narcissists crave for attention by giving them attention, such as talking about them. I have devoted four pages to talking about you and your so-called Ikwerri people hence giving you the attention that you crave.

 

Igwe Ocha is part of Alaigbo; that fact is not up for debate and negotiation; your contrary opinion on the matter is not welcome.

 

If politics by peaceful means does not solve a problem folks revert to politics by other means to solve that problem.

 

I have humored you long enough. Good Bye.

 

POST SCRIPT:

 

Throughout this write up I employed the name Igwe Ocha. I am aware that the piece of real estate that Igbos call Igwe Ocha is currently called by another name. Apparently, Frederick Lugard, the first British colonial governor of unified Nigeria, in 1914, upon deciding to construct a sea port to serve as the terminal of a railway line coming from Northern Nigeria, decided to please his boss at Whitehall, London, England, by renaming Igwe Ocha with the name of his colonial secretary, Mr. Lewis Harcourt, hence the area is now called Port Harcourt. To the Igbos who own the area the original name of Igwe Ocha stands.

 

For information on the complaints by minorities against Igbos please see the below excerpt from the 1958 Willink's commission Report.

 

EXCERPTS FROM THE WILLINK'S COMMISSION REPORT

 

The 1958 Willinks Commission Report that explains Eastern minorities' rift with the Igbo
THE FOLLOWING ARE EXCERPTS FROM A THE REPORT OF THE COMMISSION APPOINTED TO "ENQUIRE INTO THE FEARS OF MINORITIES AND THE MEANS OF ALLAYING THEM", OTHERWISE KNOWN AS "THE WILLINK COMMISSION REPORT OF JULY 1958"
THE HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL BACKGROUND.
1. "More than 98% of people who inhabit this area (the 'Ibo Plateau' of the Eastern region) are Ibo and speak one language, though of course with certain differences of dialect. There are nearly five million of them and they are too many for the soil to support: they are vigorous and intelligent and have pushed outward in every direction, seeking a livelihood by trade or in service in the surrounding areas of the Eastern Region, in the Western Region, in the North and outside Nigeria. They are no more popular with their neighbors than is usual in the case of an energetic and expanding people whose neighbors have a more leisurely outlook on life."
2. "Though there has been no great kingdom or indigenous culture in the Eastern Region, the coastal chiefs grew on their trade with the (European merchant) ships and they adopted customs, clothing and housing more advanced than those of the peoples of the interior on whom they had at first preyed for slaves. They came during the 19th Century to regard the people of the interior as backward and ignorant, and it was therefore a blow to their pride, as well as to their pockets, when the Ibos began to push outwards into the surrounding fringe of the country and particularly into the Calabar area, to take up land, to grow rich, to own houses and lorries and occupy posts in public services and in the services of large trading firms."
"It was among the Ibos, formerly despised by the people of Calabar as source of slaves and as a backward people of the interior, now feared and disliked as energetic and educated, that the first political party formed."
3. "It is important to remember that of this (Ogoja) Province's 1,082,000 inhabitants, 723,000 are Ibos, almost entirely in Abakaliki and Afikpo (Divisions), while the census classifies 350,000 as "Other Nigerian Tribes."
4. The Rivers Province ...includes the two divisions of Brass and Degema, both overwhelmingly Ijaw, and the Ogoni Division. The former Rivers Division also includes over 300,000 Ibos of whom 250,000 are in Ahoada Division and 45,000 in Port Harcourt. Port Harcourt is a town of recent growth and of rapidly increasing importance; it is built on land that belonged originally to an outlying branch of the Ibo tribe, the Diobus, but is largely inhabited by the Ibos from the interior who have come to trade or seek employment....Of the total 747,000 in the Rivers province, 305,000 are Ibos, 240,000 are Ijaws and 156,000 are Ogonis."
5. "The strip to the south of the Ibo blocks, is physically, divided by a block of Ibo territory, tipped by the important Ibo town of Port Harcourt and tribally divided between the Ijaws and the Ogonis."
6. "In the whole of this non-Ibo area there is present in varying degree some fear of being over-run, commercially and politically, by the Ibos..... if Ahoada and Port Harcourt, which are really Ibo, are considered with the solid center of Ibo population, there are 54 seats for the Ibo area and 30 for COR (Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers) in (Eastern Regional House of Assembly)."
THE FEARS AND GRIEVANCES OF MINORITIES
7. "It was suggested (by non-Ibo petitioners) that it was the deliberate object of the Ibo majority in the Region to fill every post with Ibos (in public post and services)...when, however we came to consider specific complaints about the composition of public bodies, we found them in many cases exaggerated or unreasonable."
8. "The allegation was put forward by counsel (to petitioners) that the Judiciary (when not European) was predominantly Ibo, with the implication that this caused fear among those who are not Ibos. But it was clearly stated in evidence by Dr. Udoma, the leader of UNIP, that no occasion could be adduced of the judiciary acting with partiality. The fact is that the legal profession is largely Ibos and the reasons for this do not seem to be Government action. It is therefore inevitable that there should be Ibo preponderance among Judges and Magistrates. Further, it is the declared policy of Government that the Judiciary should be federal and this does not indicate a desire to control it. Again, the operation and composition of Public Service Commission here, as in the West, appeared to us in no way open to reproach."
9. "In the Police, which in this region alone are wholly Federal, the number of Ibos in the higher appointments is not out of proportion to the Ibos in the region. The force is now federally controlled and although there are a large number of Ibos in the lower ranks, this is due to the fact that it has for long been a tradition among the Ibos to offer themselves for recruitment in this force in far greater numbers than any other tribe."
10. "we noted that in five years, 1952 – 1957, from a total of 412 secondary scholarships, 216 were awarded to persons living in the COR areas, while the figures for post-secondary scholarships were 211 out of 623. The latter is about the right proportion of one-third, the former considerably in excess. It was suggested that scholarships awarded to non-Ibos were of an inferior kind and that the best scholarships went to Ibos, but we were, unable to see that this claim held any validity. On the evidence before us, we conclude that the allegations of discriminations in the matter of scholarships are unjustified."
11. "It was further suggested that loans by the Eastern Regional Finance Corporation, the Eastern Region Development Board, and the Eastern Region Development Corporation were made with some degree of preference to Ibos. It did appear that most of the loans made by these bodies were to Ibos, but that is not to say that this was necessarily improper. Ibos constitute two thirds of the population of the region and have a bigger share of financial and commercial responsibility than their numbers warrant."
12. "That there should be modern streetlight in Onitsha, and not Calabar was also quoted as example of discrimination; it proved however that Onitsha Urban District Council had financed this measure from their own resources."
13. "The question of land was repeatedly raised, it being resented by the Efiks and Ibibios that the Ibos should acquire land at all in their territory while the methods by which it was obtained were also questioned. There is no doubt that on the Ibo Plateau there is insufficient land for the people and the Ibos ate thrusting outwards where possible they acquire land and use it either for cultivation or building.....This is a matter which will require legislation sooner or later and it will be delicate to handle, but the economic process is in itself healthy and we had little sympathy with a witness who remarked that there is much undeveloped land in district and he was anxious that it should not fall into the hand of the Ibos....We believe that Governments in Nigeria should be careful not to try to protect minorities by introducing measures that would restrict development...." (This material was culled from Facebook on April 7, 2017.)

 

Ozodobi Osuji

 

April 8, 2017

 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

(907) 310-8176.

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: ozodiosuji@gmail.com (907) 310-8176