The conundrum surrounding the ancestry of the Anioma people have reached its peak with the Igbo with claims and counterclaims. As the Igbo historians uphold arguments to support their claims and the Anioma people counterclaim attachments to any existing ethnic group in the country, this article will discuss such claims and counterclaims.
The Anioma people are geographically located in Delta State of Nigeria although some of their
communities can be found in other states such as Edo, Anambra, Rivers and Imo States. The word
"Anioma" is a coinage and not a name as several historians misleadingly understand and was made by
Chief Dennis Osadebe.
The history of agitation of the region for creation of its own state within the Federal Republic of Nigeria began in 1954 and predates the emergence of the Nigerian nationhood. However, it is an agitation that has been a monumental failure which political observers in the country link to the marginalization of the Igbo. The much the people got was the announcement of Asaba as the capital of Delta State in 1990 which attracted condemnation from the people of Niger Delta.
The history of Anioma presents an origin of a people immersed in ethnic identity crisis which the people say is premeditated from the outside to rewrite the history of the region. While the people hinge their argument on its geographical location with the south-south region of the country, insistently maintaining that they are an ethnic group distinct, separate and independent of the Igbo, the Igbo argue that The Anioma are of Igbo ancestry.
It is an argument the Anioma hate to hear as they argue that they are of diverse background. In other words, the communities that make up Anioma share different ancestry, history and origin even though the Igbo language is intelligible to every single community that makes up the region. They further argue that more than 13 languages are spoken within the region which includes Enuani, Ukwani, Edo, Ika, Olukunmi (an ancient and extinct Yoruba language), Igarra, Aboh etc. The people further state that only a few of the communities that make up the region such as Ibusa, parts of Ogwashi-Uku, parts of Asaba, parts of Ejeme, Oko that trace their origin to the Igbo of the southeast. The Ibusa are from Isu and Nri, parts of Ogwashi-Uku are from Nri and Ejeme particularly owe their ancestry to Ibusa.
Also worthy of mention from the point of view of the Anioma scholars is that the Anioma who prior to the coming of the British had one faith extends to states outside the Delta region. The Onicha-Ado (Onitsha) in Anambra are Anioma. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe acknowledged his Anioma ancestry in his autobiography "My Odyssey". The Obosi and Ogbaru are also parts of Anioma. In Imo state, there are the Oguta people who speak Ukwani language. In Edo state, the history of Igbanke people is well known.
The Igbanke are currently engaging the Nigerian state for their inclusion in the proposal of Anioma state. The balkanization of the people by the British after they lost the Ekwumekwu Wars to the British imperialism is also well known.
It is the view of the Anioma sons and daughters that their elders never acted in error when in 1954 they decided to come together under the umbrella of Anioma. The uniqueness, economic relationship and cultural homogeneity, similar way of life of the people might have motivated the elders of the region to identify themselves as one big family within the ethnicity of Anioma. To further cement their argument, the agitation for the realization of Anioma state has been in place for more than 50 years and still counting.
They further argue that the Igbo is a language as well as an ethnic group just as the English refers to nationality of a group of people as a well as a language. That the Americans have seemingly or are in actual fact losing their native languages does not mean that Americans are of English nationality. Many English men and women might have migrated to the new world but still, it does not make the USA an English nation today. The English nationality today exclusively refers to people of England. The Itsekiri another ethnic group in Nigeria presents a similar example. Today's Itsekiri is a foundation of Yoruba and Edo. The Yoruba first migrated to the region called Ode-Itsekiri, later followed by Ginuwa, a fugitive from Edo. The Itsekiri are now seen as distinct from the Yoruba and Edo even though their languages are all similar. The Urhobo ethnic group owes its origin to the Edo but it is today seen as distinct from the Edo. From history, the Iranians were never Egyptians until they became Arabized at some point of their history.
For the Igbo, the Anioma remains parts of Igbo land as seen in the history of Igbo made available online. It is their argument that the loss of the Nigerian Civil war which ended in 1970 led to the denial of the Igbo ancestry by the Anioma and Ikwerre people of Rivers State. Online writers of the Igbo history affirm that the election of Ambassador Ralph Uwechue, an Anioma born-diplomat as the leader of Ohaneze Ndigbo, an Igbo Pan-social organization is a pointer that the Igbo belong to the Igbo race. They further state that this aimed at winning back the people lost with the Civil War, an argument the Anioma people have offset with prominent Anioma indigenes not shifting their grounds and disclaiming Uwechue as one on a self interest seeking mission instead advising him to contribute his mental strength to the people through Ogani-Anioma, Izu-Anioma and other Anioma based social organizations.
In all, the Igbo and Anioma have agreed that the creation of Anioma State is over due to give the
people an opportunity to grow within the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is however hoped that the
creation of this state for the people will help end the ethnic identity crisis for the people.