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EDITORIAL: 10 Historical Facts Proving Ikwerre People As Igbos

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The Ikwerre natively known as Iwhuruọha is one of the Sub Igbo groups in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. They are considered a part of the larger Igbo ethnic group. They speak Ikwerre, an Igbo dialect, which is sometimes considered a separate language in the Igboid family, as a result of the quest for Ikwerre’s recognition as a separate ethnic nationality.

Geography and cultural grouping

Ikwerre land lies roughly within the coordinates of 4°:50N 5°:15N, 6°:30E 7°:15E. The geology and geomorphology of the area are intimately associated with that of the Niger Delta which was created in the Holocene by the process of erosion and sedimentation.[citation needed] The Ikwerre inhabit the upland part of Rivers State. and are predominantly settled in the Ikwerre, Obio-Akpor, Port Harcourt and Emohua local government areas of Rivers State.

The Ikwerre cultural area is bordered by the Ohaji/Egbema of Imo State to the northeast, the Ogba to the northwest, the Ekpeye and Abua to the west, the Ijoid groups of Degema, the Kalabari and Okrika to the south, the Eleme and Oyigbo to the southeast and the Etche to the east.

The Ikwerre tribe is made up of four main groups, namely the Elele group (Ishimbam), the Igwuruta-Aluu (Ishiali) group, the Rumuji-Emohua-Ogbakiri (REO) or Risimini group, and the OPA group (Obio/Port Harcourt/Akpor).

The Ishimbam or Elele clan cluster is located at the northern part of Ikwerre land, in Ikwerre and Emohua Local Government Areas. Most of these communities believe in one ancestor called “Ochichi” whose descendants founded most of the clans. Elele is believed to have been founded by “Ele”, Ochichi’s first son. This is why Elele is called Okaniali among the Ishimbam clans. The Ishimbam clans include: Elele, Akpabu, Elele-Alimini, Egbeda, Omerelu, Apani, Ubimini and Omudioga.[10] The Ishiali or Esila group inhabit the remaining parts of Ikwerre Local Government Area. Clans here include: Isiokpo, Ipo, Igwuruta-Ali, Aluu, Omuanwa, Omademe, Omagwa, Ozuoha and Ubima.

The REO (Rumuji/Emohua/Ogbakiri) cluster, or (R)Ishimini (as classified by Ogbakor Ikwerre), inhabit the southern part of Emohua Local Government Area. They are located in a riverine area. This cluster comprises:

Odegu clan:








Uvuahu clan:



Emohua clan

Ogbakiri clan

The OPA (Obio-Port Harcourt-Akpor) is a broad cluster that occupies the entire Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas. It is subdivided into the Obio and the Akpor groups.

Obio: The Obio group is divided into three: Evo, Apara and Rebisi (Port Harcourt). Obio is regarded as the common ancestor of the Evo and Apara communities; Evo is the senior while Apara is younger.

Evo: This is subdivided into three:

Oro–Evo: (Rumuodomanya, Rumurorlu, Oginigba, Rumuobiakani, Rumuobochi, Woji, Rumuibekwe, Rumuogba)

Oro – Esara: (Okporo:{Rumukwurushi, Rumuodara, Iriebe}, Rumuokoro, Oroigwe, Atali)

Oropotoma: (Rumuomasi and Elelenwo)

Apara: Apara, the second son of Obio, had nine children: Eneka, Nkpoku, Ekinigbo, Okwuta, Adaolu (a female), Epirikom, Ola, Orosi, and Rebisi. These descendants founded the principal Apara communities of Eneka, Rukpokwu, Rumuigbo, Rumuokwuta, Rumuadaolu, Rumuepirikom, Rumuola, and Rumuorosi, respectively. Rumueme was established in the Apara territory, after Ozuruoha, one of Eprikom’s descendants had invited his in-laws from Isiokpo to help him wage a war against his kinsman. Rumueme is said to be where these warriors from Isiokpo had resided permanently. Rumuomoi also joined the Apara later.

Rebisi: This is an offshoot of the Apara clan. Rebisi had fled Apara during a conflict with his brothers. Rebisi had seven children: Ochiri, Adasobia, Olozu, Worukwo, Ezimgbu, Ogbum and Abali. The descendants founded: Orochiri, Oroada, Orolozu, Oroworukwo, Oromerezimgbu, and Ogbumnuabali (a merger of Orogbum and Oroabali), respectively. Internal migrations led to the establishment of other communities from the original seven, such as Elekahia. Others are Nkpogu, Nkpolu Oroworukwo, Nkpolu Orogbum, Rumuwoji, Rumukalagbo, Oroije, Rumuibekwe and Orominieke.

Akpor: Akpor is located east of the REO group, south of the Ishiali group and west of Obio. The clan has ten communities: Ozuoba, Choba(Isoba), Ogbogoro, Rumuosi, Rumuolumeni, Rumuokparali, Rumualaogu, Rumuokwachi, Rumuekini and Alakahia.

The Ikwerre exist in well-delineated clans, with each clan having its own paramount king. The Ikwerre do not have an overall paramount ruler or king, but designated kings, rulers or leaders mostly approved by their constituents. However, all paramount rulers in Ikwerre are united in what is known as Ogbakor Ikwerre, which was formed in 1963 as an umbrella socio-cultural organization of the Ikwerre people.

Ikwerre land and industrial activities

A total of 92 oil wells, producing an estimated 100,000 barrels of crude daily, are located in Ikwerreland. The Ikwerre therefore play host to several multinational oil-producing and servicing companies, in addition to many other industries and establishments.[citation needed] Despite these, the Ikwerre, like nearly all other minorities of the Niger Delta, frequently complain of marginalisation by the oil operatives.

“The Ikwerre community faced problems of marginalization, extreme poverty and environmental degradation of its land and rivers in the Niger delta through exploitation of oil and gas resources. Calls were made for the full participation of the Ikwerre people in the control of resources and decision-making on development; the urgent provision of electricity; improved health care and education services; and youth employment opportunities.”

Establishments in Ikwerre land

“The acquisition of Ikwerre land began in 1913 by the British colonial government when it acquired a parcel land from the Rebisi clan of Diobu because the then colonial government wanted to develop a harbor in the area. Once the sea port was established, the place became busy with commerce and trade and with a beehive of activities.

In recent times, as the tempo of oil and gas exploration increased in Rivers State, it invariably put more pressure on Ikwerre land and its resources. As land was needed for development purposes within Port Harcourt and its environs, it was natural to turn to Ikwerre people who inhabit Port Harcourt and the surrounding territory

The University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State University (formerly Rivers State University of Science and Technology), the campuses of the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, as well as the Rivers State College of Arts and Science (later changed to Port Harcourt Polytechnic and thereafter Elechi Amadi Polytechnic), The Rivers State College of Health Sciences, College of Education are educational institutions sited on Ikwerre.


The Ikwerre are generally considered by a great majority of scholars as a subgroup of the Igbo people of southeastern Nigeria.

Several theories exist over their origin. One is favoured by the Igbo people and another is widely accepted by the Ikwerre people themselves.

According a theory of Ikwerre origin held by some Igbo scholars, they would be descendants from an Igbo migration from Awka and Orlu areas towards the south. Igbo scholars take the Ikwerre as part of the Southern Igbo. Amadi, an Ikwerre scholar, says that the Igbo origin theory has support even among the Ikwerre themselves, with Ikwerre as descendants of a migration of Arochukwu Igbo, and Okpo Nwagidi being the leader of the Ikwerre tribe. Before the civil war, there had been dissident voices that claimed that Ikwerre could have migrated from Owerri, Ohaji, Ngwa, and Etche areas of Igboland. But when Port Harcourt was conquered by Nigeria during the Biafran War and the Igbo people from other parts of Igboland fled the territory, a UN report says that the Ikwerre decided to claim that the Ikwerre were non-Igbo for convenience. The Ikwerre are recognized officially as a separate group in the 1979 Nigerian Constitution.

Theories of origin

Some Ikwerre people migrated from Ika a subgroup of Igbos in Delta State and Edo state while some migrated from Ngwa, Arochukwu and Ohaji/Egbema.

The Benin theory

Recently, the Benin theory of origin has become more widely accepted among the Ikwerre.

The Benin theory has so many versions. The first suggests that Ikwerre was the third son of Akalaka, the father of Ogba and Ekpeye who migrated from an area in the multiethnic Benin empire in the 15th century. It is said that Iwhuruohna, the progenitor of the Ikwerre, had seven sons which became the Ikwerre asa.

Another version holds that Akalaka migrated with Ochichi who settled at Elele and was the father of Elele, Isiokpo, Egbeda and Omerelu.

The Benin theory is rejected by many Ikwerre who are of the opinion that the Ikwerre did not migrate from Benin or descend from one progenitor. The Ikwerre are far larger than the Ogba and Ekpeye groups. The Akalaka legend originally mentioned the Ogba and Ekpeye as the only descendants of Akalaka but the inclusion of Ikwerre has gained ground as of recent time. Ikwerre people do not share any linguistic or cultural grounds with Benin People.

The assumption of Benin origin of Ikwerre could also be traced to the wars and raids of the Aboh kingdom on Ogba land, with the help of the Benin officers which triggered a migration of Ogba and Ekpeye people into what is today’s Ikwerre land. These people met existing communities there . Rumuekpe, Ibaa, Ndele and the Odegu clan are communities that could have possibly be founded by this migration. A section of Obio clan is said to have migrated from the Aboh (Ukwuani) area of Delta state which was under the influence of the Benin empire in the 16th century.

The Aro first came into the Ikwerre area through Ozuzu-Etche, settling at Isiokpo, Igwuruta, Omagwa, etc. As expected of pre-literate African societies, the history of the people is wrapped in myth and mystery. This presupposes that historians may have to resort to oral tradition for the justifiable/credible reconstruction of the people’s history. From the post-colonial dispensation to the present, professional historians and other personals have attempted to reconstruct the history of the people. For instance, the works of Elechi Amadi, especially The Concubine, The Great Ponds, The Slave (novels) and Isiburu (a verse play) are a literary attempt at reconstructing a semblance of the Ikwerre society in the pre-colonial era.

In the absence of valid historical records, historians accept oral tradition as a primary source of writing African history, the defects associated with this method notwithstanding. The history of the origin of the people is traceable to the waves of migrations from the lower Niger and delta regions.


Ikwerre people are found in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. They are within the rainforest belt which receives high annual rainfall. Some parts are blessed with creeks that crisscross Rivers State. There is also abundant raffia forest. These features, coupled with adequate sunshine, have made the soil in Ikwerre adequate for the cultivation of palm produce, cassava, yams, vegetables, etc. and the distillation of palm wine into gin (kai kai, ogogoro, akamere, manya beknu).

The Riverine Ikwerre villagers engage in fishing in addition to the general occupations of farming and trading.

Notable people

Elechi Amadi, writer[citation needed]

Rotimi Amaechi, former Governor of Rivers State

Mercy Chinwo, gospel musician

Tonto Dikeh, actress, musician

Duncan Mighty, musician

Celestine Omehia|, former Governor of Rivers State

Emmanuel Onunwor, former Mayor of East Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Austin Opara, former Deputy Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives

Obi Wali, writer, politician and minority rights activist[citation needed]

Herbert Wigwe, CEO, Access Bank PLC

Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, current Governor of Rivers State

Chukwuemeka Woke, current Chief of Staff to the Rivers State Government

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2 Comments on EDITORIAL: 10 Historical Facts Proving Ikwerre People As Igbos

  1. Ikwerre people will never be Igbo. If it’s because your so called Amaechi wants to contest for the President and he feels he will get it by calling himself an Igbo man he has missed it. What has the Igbos gained from him or his transport ministry. It will be a slap on the faces of the true sons and daughters of Igbo land if a fake person should take what belongs to them. If there was is no qualified person in Igbo land you can carve a statue of most respected Chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakiwe and present instead of giving Amaechi the post.


  2. Chibike Ikenga // __ August 7, 2020 at 5:58 AM // Reply

    In your claim that Ishiali or Esila is made up of some Ikwerre Towns, you erroneously put Igwuruta-Ali as a town in Ishiali. Kindly note that Igwuruta-Ali is the last son or village of 9 in Igwuruta. Therefore, IGWURUTA is the Town and not Igwuruta-Ali


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