A Niger Delta leader, Mr. Andy Wabali, has revealed that that the Ikwere people who mostly occupy the mainland part of Rivers State especially the Port Harcourt metropolis are not Igbo irrespective of language similarities.
He also said it is wrong to describe the Ikwere as Igbo, saying the ethnic group is distinct from the Igbo ethnic group. In a chat with Vanguard, Wabali backed his argument with contemporary examples in the country.
His words: “Clearly, the Ikwere in RiversState which I am one of them are a very distinct people. We are very differentfrom the Igbo. Yes, there are similarities in Language but that does not makeus Igbo.
We bear Igbo names like Nnamdi, which has no meaning in my language for instance when the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the President, some of our people were given the names.
Even Goodluck Jonathanwas christened Azikiwe. “That does not make him Igbo. My people are not Igbo.Culturally, we are different. We might be in the same language group, but thatdoes not make us Igbo.
Don’t forget that the Igbo language was a language of trade just like the Hausa and Yoruba languages that were used as trading languages in the past.
People might bedescribing us as Igbo, but that is an error because we are different from Igbo.For instance, in the United Kingdom, the Scottish people are not English, theIrish are not English but they all speak English.
In Belgium, the Belgians are not French but they speak French. Because most people do not read, they take everything they hear hook line, and sinker.
Most Nigerians do not read. There isintellectual laziness even on the part of our historians. Some just generalizeand write reports that can’t be substantiated.
We belong to the language group that cut across the Bight of Benin and even Southern Africa. “We are Ikwere people. We are distinct in culture, and in many areas.
Our distinctiveness can be seen in our kinship and anthropology. When people talk about dialects, there are no dialects of the English language. So the issue of dialect does not come in.
The French language is embedded in Englishjust the way the German language is embedded in English, but these are twodifferent nationalities with different identities.
Since Igbo is a language of trade, it iswidely spoken just like the Hausa language. Today, we even have a wrongcoinage, Hausa-Fulani, but there is nothing like Hausa-Fulani.
You are either Hausa or Fulani. In the NigerDelta, we have a lot of ethnic nationalities. The Urhobo and Isoko are twodifferent ethnic groups.
Their languages are similar but they are not the same ethnic group. Isoko people are Isoko people while the Urhobo people are Urhobo. It is in that same manner that Ikwere people are Ikwere while Igbo are Igbo.”
On restructuring, he said: “We have to widelyconsult and have a consensus on what we want as a nation. If there is noconsensus, we will not be able to make progress.
We have to allay the fears of the North bymaking them know what restructuring means within the context of our demands. Itmeans different things to different people. Therefore, everybody would bringsomething to the table so that we would have a consensus.’’