RE- ANIOMA NOT PART OF BIAFRA.
by one Ben Etaghene from Sapele culled from Vanguard Newspapers of 3/3/2016.
1. It is strange for one Mr Ben Etaghene, an Okpe-Urhobo man from Sapele telling Nigerians whether Anioma is a part of Biafra or not. Since he is not an Anioma indigene, he has no locus standi to get involved in an issue which does not concern him. Many misunderstand Biafra to mean Igbo. But if we assume that its only Igbo (which its not), the fact is that we cannot divorce the Anioma out of it. There have been many examples across the world and indeed Africa where ethnic and linguistic ties overrides any boundary domestic or international in questions like this. Let me give some examples. In Rwanda, the Tutsi and Hutu conflict spilled over to parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo where both groups also occupy. In the Balkans , the Bosnian question got involved the sovereign nations of Serbia and Croatia since there are Bosnian Serbs snd Croats. Even in the Nigerian Civil war, the Anioma area was involved and some of the atrocities of the war committed in the area.
2. In the second coup led by Ifeajuna and Nzeogwu (the first coup was actually led by Awo in 1962). It was dubbed “Igbo-coup” and the result was the pogroms which led to the deaths of over 30,000 people. Many of whom were Anioma people from the Midwest. There was no distinction, an Igbo was an Igbo and Nzeogwu who led the “Igbo” coup in the North was an Anioma from Okpanam town. In the Civil war proper, thousands of Anioma civilians were killed because they are Igbos including Sapele, where Ben Etaghene wrote from. This was clearly written in the New York times as follows :- “Federal troops… killed, or stood by while mobs killed, more than 5000 Ibos in Warri, Sapele, Agbor…” (New York Times, 10th January, 1968). The said Ibos killed in those places were Anioma people since their eastern Igbo kith and kin had fled to their region. This excludes
the Asaba genocide which over 2,000 civilian males were executed. Over 20,000 Aniomas were killed during the “liberation of the Midwest” by federal troops often in connivance of local non-Igbo speaking natives which was captured in this report as follows :-“In some areas outside the East… Ibos were killed by local people with at least the acquiescence of the federal forces… 1000 Ibo civilians perished in Benin in this way” (New York Review, 21 December 1967). The likes of prominent Aniomas such as Peter Okocha, an industrialist and politician and Peter Otunuya Odili the former Gov of Rivers State had their parents killed during the war for the simple reason of being Igbos. It is therefore strange after these sad events for anyone to pretend that Anioma people has no connection with that unfortunate war or its legacy.
3. These confusionists often invoke the claims of “common ancestry” to deceive some gullible Anioma people that they are less Igbo. If indeed such “common ancestry” was so important, it would have been the case when the war broke out. Anioma people were accused of being sympathetic to their “brothers” from the East and the result was that thousands were killed. And the fortunes of Aniomas politically, socially and economically had a nosedive. If there is such “common ancestry” , the closest to the Anioma people are the people of Onitsha, Ogbaru and Oguta in the core Igbo States of Anambra and Imo and as such it would be natural for Anioma people to identify with those they have such “common ancestry” with. This by extension ties them more to the East even though they had always been in the Midwest. Prof Ben Nwabueze, which the writer referred indirectly as an Igbo man comes from the the same area of common ancestry with Anioma people. Prof Nwabueze is from Atani which is also called “Akriatani” and its ancestrally linked to Akarai clan of Ndokwa East in Anioma which for Mr Etaghene’s convenience should not be considered as Biafra.
4. If Anioma had no link at all with Biafra , what would the Ben Etaghene of this world talk about the thousands of Anioma volunteers that fought in the Biafra war? Some of the most important soldiers on the Biafran side were of Anioma origin such as Nwawo, Nzeogwu, Anuku, Ossai, Trimnell, Morah, Igboba, Achuzie, Nzefili, Okwechime, and so many others. So what the likes of Ben Etaghene wants is for us to pretend that the scenario which I just explained never happened. It will be disservice to the efforts of these great men (and possibly women) and the memories of those who lost their lives.
5. It was because of our Igboness as Anioma people that prompted several Deltans to declare the Anioma section of the state as if they are appendages. Accusations such as Aniomas as parasites; or do not fit and so on was prominent. Some of these detractors indulged in balkanizing the Anioma area whenever it is convenient for them. Even in Etaghene’s submission, he deliberately separated the Ukwuani(lowland) from their Enuani(upland) kith and kin. A case of divide and conquer. Since 1966 when the second coup was carried out till just last year, 2015 a period of 49 years, the Aniomas whether through the military or civilian capacity were not allowed to govern their own state be it Midwest, Bendel or Delta. This is despite the rich human capital of the area. While some of our co-Bendelites or co-Deltans did not see anything abnormal with such a phenomenon , it was often the eastern Igbo people which Ben Etaghene vainly tries to divorce from the Anioma people that often frowned at such display of insensitivity. They had often declared that no resources will be wasted in developing Anioma as part of Delta State. This clearly explains why the Anioma area remains under-developed compared to Ben Etaghene’s Urhobo area simply because they had held power and used the spoils of office to divert development to their own area.
6. The profile of Anioma seems to be gaining ground recently. The area seems to be growing quite fast and it is gradually being realized that Anioma which was once considered not properly fit into Delta or had experience mass murder while its non-Igbo Midwest administrators looked the other way is now the “beautiful bride”. Anioma now ranks third after the Ijaw and Itsekiri in oil and gas production in Delta State. Kwale is gradually becoming a second oil city in Delta State while Asaba which hosts the largest concentration of non-oil and gas industries in the state is gradually becoming one of Nigeria’s center of growth and the third most important city of Nollywood after Lagos and Enugu. In politics, entertainment, sports and many facets of life, the Aniomas seems to have bounced back and all these seem to have tempted Ben Etaghene to now speak on behalf of Anioma people.
7. Considering the age of Ben Etaghene( he claimed he worked for a German newspaper in the early 1970s), one would have asked why he never wrote anything like this suggesting that other Deltans should support an Anioma person to be the Gov of their own Delta state. He never wrote it. He suddenly found his pen when the issue of Anioma and its possible inclusion in Biafra was brought up. The simple fact is that the Midwest Igbos (Aniomas) or the Midwest-Western Ijaws of Delta, Edo and Ondo States cannot be divorced from the decision and will of their linguistic kith and kin in the old Eastern Nigeria. This ethnic question was a major issue during the war deployed by both sides; the present division of Anioma territory into Delta, Edo, Rivers and Bayelsa States cannot override it and this should also be the focus whenever Nigeria agrees to address the Biafran question.
8. Whatever Dr Okowa said about Anioma should not be deemed as binding. He is the Gov of the entire Delta State. Therefore, whatever he said or suggested that Aniomas do not belong to the SE but are Deltans should be seen as a reasonable response or comment by someone elected to govern a state which includes other people besides Anioma people. And who is interested in his re-election in 2019. His statements therefore cannot be the position of the Anioma people.
9. I will suggest that Ben Etaghene should use his energy in more sensible ventures which directly concerns him. In August of last year, 2015 a young Urhobo girl Ese Oruru, just 13 years was abducted and possibly hypnotized and transported to Kano; forcefully converted to Islam and sexually molested. Now 14, she is an expectant mother. This is what the likes of fellow Urhobo like Mr Etaghene should write on and leave the Anioma people alone. The campaign by IPOB may or may not lead to a new country but issues like the mass abduction of little girls, incarceration in various Emirs palaces, forced conversion to Islam and sexually molestation is what drives the agitation by IPOB.
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