An opinion leader in the Niger Delta, Mr Andy Wabali, has clarified that the Ikwere of Rivers State, 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 Rivers State which I am one of them are a very distinct people. We are very different from the Igbo. Yes, there are similarities in Language but that does not make us 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 Jonathan was 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 that does 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 be describing 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, the Irish 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 is intellectual laziness even on the part of our historians. Some just generalize and 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 English just the way the German language is embedded in English, but these are two different nationalities with different identities.
“Since Igbo is a language of trade, it is widely spoken just like the Hausa language. Today, we even have a wrong coinage, Hausa-Fulani, but there is nothing like Hausa-Fulani.
“You are either Hausa or Fulani. In the Niger Delta, we have a lot of ethnic nationalities. The Urhobo and Isoko are two different 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 widely consult and have a consensus on what we want as a nation. If there is no consensus, we will not be able to make progress.
“We have to allay the fears of the North by making them know what restructuring means within the context of our demands. It means different things to different people.
“Therefore, everybody would bring something to the table so that we would have a consensus.’’