By Professor Obasi Igwe
The Igbo since antiquity have been a major coastal and maritime nation in West Africa, singularly blessed with several internal waters (Niger, Cross River, Imo, Omambala, Sombreiro, etc.) some of which they share with others, with territorial/coastal waters and oil and other resource-rich sea-bed, all of which became the foundation for a dominant centuries-old subsidiary impact on the high seas as appropriate to almost every other colonized and neocolonized peoples worldwide.
Apart from the Igbo sons (the Ndoki-Igbo Opuamakuba, Alagbariye, Maduka, Okpara Asimini, Okpara Ndoli, and others) that founded Ubani; the several hinterland, Aro and Rebisi/Ogirisi (the legendary Elechi), Diobu, and other Igbo that evolved and developed ancient Igweocha; as well as Mbanaso Okwara-Ozurumba of Umuduruoha Amaigbo alias Jaja who with the help of his hinterland kith and kin founded and developed Opobo – three world-famous coastal cities, all directly founded, owned and used by the Igbo, without denying them to our loving neighbours – there is hardly any other Eastern coastal city-state, be it Brass-Nembe, Olodiama, Ekpetiama (all other “ama”), the Kalabari states (Abonnema, Bakana, Buguma), Calabar, Bakassi, etc. without original Igbo foundations or at least heavy imprints.
While the Igbo carelessly and individualistically looked the other way, many of these places would be renamed into Bonny, Port Harcourt, etc, their royalties changed from Kings to Amanyanabos, and their histories revised to people with Igbo blood (instead of Igbo), and/or who had migrated either from Benin or central Niger Delta “centre of dispersal”, and so on as founders. No one was any longer prepared to give the Igbo credit for anything, despite a general tradition of relative peace and mutually beneficial harmony that governed life in the Eastern Region even before the white man came.
1. If the Igbo were landlocked why did Gowon decide to do his own landlocking with an ethnic-cleansing cruelty code-named Abandoned Property?
2. Why are some people still begging and preaching to Igbo communities in the Rivers State to de-Igbonize and delink themselves from their hinterland kith and kin in order to join them and forge a contiguity in a non-contiguous anti-Igbo South-south, in part to spite and/or cage the rump of the Igbo in the hinterland?
3. Why so much apprehension about Igbo coastal history instead of the peace, prosperity and harmony that would be revived with each nation continuing with her coastal ports?
4. Why the selective reference to the Willink’s Report and pretended ignorance of the settlement that Igbo contiguity to the coast separates the Ijaw from the Ogoni? Since creation the Igbo had conducted their affairs without hindrance from their neighbours, but there are some elites who don’t want that situation to continue, and who probably see their survival only in a context of Igbo handcuffing, and they, not the general populace, are the authors of the policies, machinations and “histories” of Igbo landlocking. Igbo effort to reunite themselves down to the coast as had always been the history and traditions is partly borne out of the Igbo love and respect for their own history and also for their AkwaCross, Andoni, Ijaw and Ogoni neighbours, so that in any future negotiations for a possible restoration of an expanded Eastern Region, everyone would proceed from a position of mutual trust and interdependence, without bitter hangovers from an Abandoned Property substantially instigated from outsiders.
Also, any ethnic group unable to unite herself and achieve internal cohesion would be destroyed in any solution to the national question, which is the major issue in today’s Nigeria. Any Igbo politician or elite telling the Igbo that after all landlocked nations equally prosper is in effect rubishing Igbo history in the gutters, a part reflection of a selfish psychology of readiness to sacrifice a more worthy objective for a minor immediate material necessity that some Igbo are rightly or wrongly accused of. If the Igbo can sacrifice our Rivers kith and kin and still survive, they can also sacrifice the Ndoki-Igbo and survive, then Anioma, then Waawa, then, then, then, until the entire nation is gone, arrising from the great wisdom of selfish opportunism.
The Igbo today are facing an existential challenge and the major key to survival is UNITY, not divisions into bits and pieces. Hear our Chris Nwofor: “The challenge of being landlocked is not just about commerce. It’s also about strategic security.”! The Igbo love and respect their neighbours but have no desire to turn round to depend on any of them in our future maritime traditions. As in olden times, Egbe bere Ugo bere. Thanks greatly.