Igbos Of South South Nigeria: Historians Should Help Now

Victor Nwoko
05 Apr 2024

Instead of reacting emotionally to Asari Dokubo's videos, where he claims or denies being Igbo, there is a crucial need for historians and anthropologists to delve into these matters academically. We should investigate the historical context of the slave trade in Nigeria's riverine areas, its impact on local populations, and the subsequent development of new communities.


Additionally, it's important to study how the slave trade affected hinterland Igbo communities. For instance, many communities in Abia state were established about 300 years ago as people fled areas heavily raided for slaves, seeking refuge in the dense forests of the south. This migration also included groups like the Abam/Ohafia/Arochukwu people.


An example is the Abam community in Ubakala, which likely originated as an outpost of the Aro slave-trading confederacy. The presence of this community suggests that Ubakala's settlements were established around the same period as the Abam community.


It's well-documented that numerous Kalabari families have Igbo roots. The establishment of Canoe houses by Igbo (Aro) merchants for slave trade facilitated trade activities. Many older individuals from these areas were fluent in Igbo, bearing Igbo names and identifying strongly with their Igbo heritage until the traumatic events of the Civil War, such as the drowning of 28 Degema chiefs in three days by federal soldiers in 1968, which significantly impacted their sentiments towards Igbo identity.


Examples like the Tam David West family using the name Okereke and the late Harry Marshall and Dikibo being of Igbo descent are not unique to Kalabari but also extend to Okrika and Bonny. The entire riverine Rivers state and parts of Bayelsa are filled with people of Igbo roots and ancestry.


It is essential to study why these communities, despite their historical Igbo connections, may hold anti-Igbo sentiments today. Academic research can provide valuable insights into the complexities of identity, history, and societal dynamics in these regions.

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