Written by Ossai Akachi Akarugo
The Anioma are the indigenous Igbo people of Delta state. Right from the colonial era, the River Niger was used as a geographical barrier, to separate the Anioma from their kith and kin in the East. Thus, Anioma was at a time included in the Yoruba dominated Western region.
The Same River Niger which was used as a geo-political barrier to balkanize Igbo land could not stop the Present day Kwara and Niger states from being in the same northern region, even as they were of different ethncities. Idoma land is divided into two by the River Benue, but both sides are in one state. Jukun land is divided into two by the Benue and both sides are in one state, but River Niger divides Igboland into two and both sides are not only in different states but in different regions and political zones.
The Anioma people united and fought for their rights under the western region and with people like Chief Dennis Osadebe, they fought for the creation of the mid-western region. The term ANIOMA was then formed to embrace all the Igbo speaking groups in the defunct mid-west:
N= Ndokwa (Ndosumili+ Ukwuani)
I = Ika
the suffix "MA" was picked and it turned out to be an Igbo word "ANIOMA" meaning "land of beauty"
A strong cultural and political force was formed to protect Anioma interests in the Midwest. Anioma became a formidable force and others, envious of such unity began to sow seeds of discord.
During the 3 year civil war, Anioma people were actively involved in the war, such that there were many soldiers of Anioma extraction on the Biafran side. Many Anioma sons lost their lives, fighting for the Biafran cause. The Anioma people could not be at rest while their kith and kin across the Niger were at war.
Thousands of Anioma sons were killed too. And though, they were in the Midwestern region (which was not in the map of the secessionist Biafra) then, they fought for Biafra, going against the Midwestern Nigerian government. They could not join the rest of Nigeria to fight their own blood, their kith and kin.
After the civil war, they still bore the stigma with their kith and kin across the Niger. They fought tirelessly for the creation of Anioma state.
Today, Anioma people, because of their unity are grouped into one senatorial district (Delta North). They see themselves as one and Anioma is a formidable force in Delta state. Though there are a few Anioma people who differ on their Igbo identity, Anioma is proudly Igbo. An Anioma man like Pat Utomi is also fighting for the Igbo cause. Anioma is ready to become a state on its own and its people are very united and can not be divided on dialectal lines to serve the selfish interest of Politicians.
BUT HERE IN RIVERS STATE.. THE CASE IS DIFFERENT!
There are no reasonable or significant geographical barriers that separate us from our kith and Kin in the South East. We have always been in the same region right from colonial area. Much of the Igbo speaking parts of Rivers state was under the Owerri province then ( Ogba, Egbema, Ahoada, Ikwerre). We were all under the same political administration.
During the civil war, some of us turned against our kith and kin and supported the enemy, to fight against our kins. We denied our God-given identity to gain favour from the enemy.
We allowed the political structure of our nation to divide us. We used the imaginary geo-political boundary to define ourselves. We started to see our South- East brethren as enemies, and we distanced ourselves from them. We told our children hateful and bitter stories to pass on and on.
We kept being divided and along dialectal lines and instead of fighting for a common interest, we fought for our individual interests. The enemies used us and laughed at us. The minorities laughed at us and oppressed us as we made ourselves minorities.
We did not speak with one voice! We did not agree, we did not come under one union to protect our collective interests. Instead, we were creating new ethnic identities from the one God had given us. We did not struggle for our own state until we felt marginalisation.
Even till now, we are not grouped in one senatorial district, all our people think is politics, all our politicians think is themselves, look at where we are now? Un united. No love, no ethnic consciousness, all because of politics.
We should learn from the Anioma Igbo and come together. We could become a formidable force. We should stop creating divisions among us, let's stop this division along dialectal lines. Just as the Aniocha, Oshimili, Ndokwa and Ika came together, united as one great Anioma family, we the Etche, Egbema, Ndoni, Ogba, Ndoki, Ekpeye, Asa and Ikwerre should come together, as one, forgetting political differences. Let us look at the things that bind us together and not what divides us. Together we can be a formidable force.