Anambra is Not 100% Igbo. There Are Igala-Speaking People in The State. See Evidence
By Chinachrisikenna, 2020-03-30 01:33:27
Anambra State is considered as the heart of Igboland because it habours Nri which is considered as the ancestral seat of Igbo land. However, what many people do not know is that Anambra is not completely Igbo. There are more than 10 communities in the state that are of the Igala bloodline. These communities lie at the periphery of the state which borders the River Niger and extends to Delta and Kogi State.
Before I mention these communities, I would like to recount three real life experiences that made me know that there are Igala people living in our state.
First was in my Secondary School Days at the defunct Osusu Boys Secondary School, Aba which is now run by Anglican Church. It was around 2006 and I was in Jss 2 G. The school was then a large one with each class from JSS 1 to SS3 having sub classes of fifty (50) students each. The classes were labelled A to whichever number the students stopped. So, I was in JSS 2 G. The JSS 2 class stopped at H. JSS 1 was the largest then extending to O.
There was this boy that joined us in our second term. His name was Paschal Ojochebe. The first time our English Teacher pronounced his surname, I knew instantly it was not Igbo. Mrs Atata was not left out too. We all were astounded when Paschal told us he was from Anambra State precisely Anambra West Local Government Area. This particular incident stuck to my memory. Paschal left in our SS1 back to Anambra.
The second incident was in my second year at the University of Uyo in 2015. I was staying in Udi Hostel and it was during Post UTME period. One of our roommates had accommodated his childhood friend who came for the exam. They all grew up in Onitsha. We had this tradition of welcoming new occupants in the room after which the new occupant will buy bread and drinks for the boys. During his introduction, this new guy introduced his name as Ekenedilichukwu Omoja. This piqued my curiosity instantly.
Others were unbothered even he mentioned he was from Anambra. I have a flair of always trying to know about people, their states, ethnic groups and the like. I am very much potty about the cultural and ethnic compositions of countries of the world and trust me, I have visited several places with my eyes than legs. I am yet to meet someone that can match my cultural and anthropological zest. Well, I later met him and he said he was from Ukwala, an Island surrounded by the River Niger in Anambra.
The Last was when I read about one Reverened Father Hyacinth Jemigbola, a Catholic Priest of the Onitsha Archdeaconry in one of the National Dailies years back. According to the report, he relocated to Miami then to further his studies. Jemigbola is more Yorubaic but I was surprised to learn that he is from Anambra too. It was during my research later that I found out that he is Anambra Igala from Igbedor in the same Anambra West.
The Igala-Speaking People of Anambra State reportedly make up 2 % of the population of the state. That's more than 100 thousand people judging from the estimated population of Anambra State today. They comprise Ode, Igbedor, Odekpe ( Not Ogbaru Odekpe), Alla, Onugwa, Odomagwu and Igbokenyi all known as Olumbanasaa in Anambra West Local Government Area of Anambra State. The Olumbanasaa is an Island hemmed in by all sides by the River Niger and can be accessed only through water.
Apart from the Olumbanasaa, we have the Igala-Speaking people of the state can also be found in Innoma, Owelle, Ukwala and Nzam all in Anambra West Local Government Area of the state. Even some parts of Igbariam are Igala. Inoma, Owelle and Ukwala are collectively referred to as Inoma Akator.
Amongst all these Igala-Speaking communities in Anambra today, only Nzam remains problematic. This is due to the fact that Nzam is the local government headquarters of Anambra West. While I feel the Igbo element there is very strong, I have to admit that most of its villages have Igala names. Some of the residents there have the Igala tribal marks too. The names of its villages also replicate in Ibaji, an Igala area in Kogi State which indicates a southward drifting of migrants from Ibaji area.
Migration has been part of human existence. In fact, almost all ethnic groups in the world migrated from one place to the other. Oral history according to Elder Chife Amekwe of Nzam in an Interview with Sunday Sun some years back, Elder Chife explained that Nzam community is the Ijam and Igala speaking part of Anambra State. It is made up of seven villages, comprising of Etakolo, Odobo, Udda, Urubi, Enekpa , Ndiokpoliba and Echa. Despite suffering from government neglect, the people are a happy people steeped in various cultural and traditional festivities and are happy for that.
His Words: 'The natives of Nzam were the descendants of General Ajida, a notable warrior of Idah origin in Kogi State. Ajida is the father of Field Marshal Ogbe who was married to Iyida Ogbe and Iyida had five children-Nzam, Anam, Anaku , Oloshi and Okpanam. Ogbe and his family lived around Ankpa in Igala Kingdom. When the Apa and Jukun warriors invaded the Igala communities, Field Marshal Ogbe along with many others retreated with their families through the present Ibaji jungle moving Southwards along the course of the River Niger. As they journeyed through their way, various children of Ogbe for one reason or the other settled themselves at their present locations. This movement from the Igala Kingdom explains the fact that there are Odobo , Enekpa, Igah , Iyano towns in both Ibaji local government area of Kogi State and also in Nzam town in Anambra West Local Governent Area of Anambra State.'
One thing with the Anambra Igala is that majority of them live in denial. The mainstream Igala spoken in kogi state is significantly different from what they speak in Anambra, so also is their mannerism and culture. Anambra Igala tend to behave and dress like the Igbos due to years of acculturation . They are culturally Igbo yet they still maintain some core igala heritage. Yes they speak Igbo as a subsidiary language and bear Igbo names too. There is a fair level of bilingualism there.
Another thing is that those people are obviously marginalised.The roads are bad and inaccessible. Most of the communities are islands accessible via water. During rainy season, they are entirely flooded causing problems for their inhabitants. For instance, to get to Igbokenyi, one has to stop at Illah in Delta State first, then board a boat to the community which is 41 kilometers away from Onitsha. This journey is rigorous and takes more than 3 hours. I think the present governor of Anambra State is doing something to that effect.
This further highlights the enthroned twin evils of hegemony and the predominance of intolerance by the people of the majority ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. The Igalas constitute the majority in Kogi state. They lord it over other ethnic nationalities there but unknown to many of them, their kiths and kins suffer similar fate in Anambra.
Using the words of a social commentator on the plight of Anambra Igala in the State, hé said: 'The Anambra igalas are not tenants in Anambra state. They are not inferior or less Anambrarian to the man from Onitsha, nnewi, awka or any other part of Anambra state. They are bonafide indigenes of the state and as such are entitled to every right and privilege accorded any Anambrarian.'
All I have to tell the Anambra Igala is that they should be proud of who they are, rise up and defend their cultural heritage. Anambra People are peaceful and tolerant. They see you as their brothers and will never subject you to oppression no matter wgat. However, you don't sit, folding your hands and expecting the government to do everything for you. Stand up and work out things yourself. Demand your share wherever possible because Anambra is your home and home for all. Nobody can take that away. Nobody! Even we Igbos have identity crises ourselves. You will not be the last either. Udo,
Culled from Opera news and put together by
Ane Igala Restoration ( AIR )Directorate of Research and Documentation