The Anioma, a group of people concentrated in Delta state have since 1951 been agitating for a state of their own within the Nigerian nation but the people have been continually denied of what most political analysts believe is long due to them by the various military regimes that have had to create states in the country. A well-studied history of the 36 units of the Nigerian federation including Abuja shows that only four states are more economically viable than the proposed Anioma State. The reason behind the absolute refusal of the Nigerian leaders to create the state leaves political observers in the dark but dogged insistence for the actualization of the state has continued.
No region in the country has been constantly subjected to unpalatable and unhistorical grouping and regrouping, aligning and realigning with unrelated nationalities than the Anioma region, yet the people have endured this for too long in a peaceful manner which is the symbol of the region. The British colonial government’s unhealthy creation of provinces and uncharacteristic dumping of unrelated peoples was the most undoing for the Anioma people. This was followed with the categorization of ethnic groups many of who were not historically correlated in what was termed “Divisions” and the Anioma were largely victims of this unhealthful classification. One would have thought that Ndokwa, Aboh and Asaba Divisions be unified for the emergence of Anioma State but this never was.
The Nigerian government that emerged after independence did not only ignore synthetically created regions but allowed many of Anioma’s historically linked communities to vanish or aligned to other unrelated groups. It could be argued that the Anioma history is the most misunderstood in the entire country by the early European missionaries as evidences now show. The documents of the Europeans testify to the confusion of whether the people were wholly or partly Igboid, Edoid, Ika, Ukwani or a different ethnic group altogether. Whereas the British assumed that there were no chronological relationship between the group today scattered in five states of the federation, this postulation is deceitful to cultural historians because the people shared common ancestry and are exceedingly related in many ways.
Victimization of Anioma persisted in 1960, with the loss of important communities of Oguta, Ozubulu, Ogbaru, Onitsha, Obosi, Iganke, Ekpon, and many more to other regions. Ndoni was added to Rivers State in 1976. We shall come to this later in this piece. Although, the Anioma leaders as early as 1951 sought autonomy within the federation because of fear of annihilation, the Nigerian government did not heed this for reasons unknown. The Midwestern region was a disaster for the people because it was not deemed fit that institutions be sited in the area. No one state educational institution, ministry or government parastatal was located in any one community of Anioma as part of the region. Bendel State failed to correct the anomaly so it was the location every government institution in Benin Division. Babangida would not favour the people with a state of their own so it was Anioma again in Delta State and with true Delta claimants. All the same, Delta State to a reasonable extent is proving to better the lives of the people when compared with former Bendel State where Benin imperialism was too harsh for the people. Delta is still not a true home for the Anioma. What Asaba Division suffered in defunct Bendel State is the present experience for Igbanke, Ekpon and other Ika speaking people of Anioma in Edo State.
Today, the Anioma have the “paper capital city” of Asaba while the so-called “core Deltans” relishes governance. The Anioma region contributed so much finance from oil to the defunct Bendel State but they relocated to Delta State in 1991 with nothing. Whether they left with any meaningful development is a matter for conjecture as it now seems. She had lost her important Ika speaking towns of Igbanke and Ekpon left to rotten in Edo state so that today about 96 percent of its indigenes are crying because they want to rejoin their kith and kin Anioma in Delta State to maintain their ancestral link and truly grow. Since the 1991 years when Edo State was created no Igbanke man can aspire to lead the state. The Ika speaking people are the least developed in Edo State with nothing but internal wrangling between the youths who have become eager to exit the state and Edo title holders who are bent on remaining in the state.
In 1976, the Nigerian military cabal upon discovering oil in Ndoni felt that it was no longer good enough for the Anioma axis so the cabal quickly came up with insubstantial reasons that artificially aided their ceding of Ndoni to Rivers State where it presently lies. The reason invented was that the community geographically lay across the River Niger. This made no sense because the River Niger is not a constitutional criterion for state creation in the country but it is a country that anything unconstitutionally goes, so it has since remained so.
If the Olusegun Obasanjo, Bola Ajibola and Richard Akinjide could willingly cede Bakassi to Cameroun to keep Nigeria afloat within the international community, what difference does it make ceding Ndoni to another state in the country in the name of one Nigeria? It was the same military cabal that invented several simulated logics that enabled it to relocate the nation’s capital from Lagos to Abuja. The same leaders would wake up to “relocate” nearly all the oil wells in Cross River State to Akwa Ibom with decision taken by few individuals.
The various examples cited above show that we all suffer same fate in the country but in different dimensions and the ceding of Anioma’s oil rich Ndoni to Rivers State is therefore one of those modern balkanizations of the Anioma region visited upon the people by the British and Nigerian governments. That Igbanke, Ekpon and Ndoni leaders, chiefs and youths have continued to relate with their Anioma kith and kin on matters that regard customs shows just how insensitive the government of Nigeria is to the history of groups that make up the country.
The Anioma region is a homeland with well-known natural, traditional, and historical boundaries that enable various communities to promote relations in form of trade and inter-marriage before the British imposed its rule on the nation. Anioma is a nation of people with a common destiny defined by linguistics, culture and customs and the people have known this to be so. Some of its people have historical link with the Igbo of the South East but the area now referred to as Delta North in Delta State including the Igbanke and Ekpon in Edo State have today evolved a distinct socio-cultural pattern that makes them only one of its kind thus defining them with a new uncommon identity.
Historians, anthropologists, missionaries and geographers whether Africans or Europeans have over the time recorded the events that exclusively distinguished them as a group of people with homogenous patterns of life. Thus for centuries, the people have always seen themselves as one which is why it was easy seek identity in Anioma umbrella in 1951 when the leaders of the people, rising from the effects of balkanization of the British gathered themselves and sought autonomy to live as one indivisible people. That agitation has continued in form of Anioma State. What is worrisome to the people is that the Nigerian governments have in the past turned deaf ears to the state agitation tunes of the Anioma people.
Anioma is more than qualified for a state in Nigeria economically and otherwise if oil is the major determinant factor of the nation’s wealth. With oil as the criteria for determining the wealth of a state, only Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa-Ibom and what is left of Delta State in that order will be richer than Anioma State. Edo State produces a total of 18,800 bopd of oil and 50 billion scf of gas production annually, Anioma produces far more than this. The oil wealth of Edo State are situated at Oredo field which is operated by NPDC and and produces bopd, Oziengbe South field also operated by NPDC generates 1,000 bopd, Ologbo with 7 oil wells produces 8,200 bopd and operated by Pan Ocean, Ossiomo producing 5,200 bopd operated by Pan Ocean, Gelegele is known to produce 400 bopd operated and is operated by Dubri Oil and while Oben originally operated by Shell generates 2,000 bopd. The oil wealth of Edo State is thus put at 18,200 which represent 2.5 percent of the total oil generation of the nation.
Imo state has Oguta (an Anioma community though) operated by Shell producing 7,500 bopd , Egbema is known to produce which is also operated by Shell produces 3,000 bopd for the state, Egbema West operated by Shell has 4,100 bopd production capability. The Jisike oil field of the state operated by Chevron produces 4,400 bopd, Akri, an Ndoni territory (another Anioma community) operated by Agip produces 6,500 bopd. Izombe by operated by Adaax generates 2,000 bopd ,Ossu another oil well also operated by Addax generates 2,000 bopd while Ibigwe operated by an indigenous company produces 1,000 bopd .Thus, the total wealth generated by Imo state is put at 30,500 bopd while gas production is put at 45 billion scf annually or a little over 2 per cent of the nation’s total oil generation.
The Anioma region otherwise referred to Delta North has Kwale operated by Agip producing 5,500 bopd. Beneku is operated by Agip and produces 4,000 bopd. Umuoru operated by Agip has a production capability of 2,500 bopd, Okpai which is still under the services of Agip and generates 3,000 bopd. Umusadege is under the operation of Midwestern oil and gas with 6,500 bopd, Umusati by Pillar oil with 1,000 bopd, Umutu is by Platform petroleum with 3,500 bopd, Obodeti is operated by Energia with 2,000 bopd. This brings it to a total for Anioma land of 28,000 bopd with a gas production at 75 billion scf annually or about 4 per cent of the nation’s total for Aniomaland.
The above data can also be sourced from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for authenticity but what is relevant to the Anioma is the marginalization that the people have faced over the time in the hands of the Nigerian government that has refused to give the people a state of their own while creating economically impoverished stated mushroom states like Jigawa, Katsina, Taraba, sprawling Niger State without economic viability. Even the nation’s Federal Capital Territory unfortunately suggested by Murtala Muhammad and artificially created by General Ibrahim Babangida cannot boast of the abundant wealth that exists in the Anioma region. It is not more starling than further agitations for states canvassed by groups that can hardly feed their cattle economically much less humans.
Agriculturally, the Anioma region is considered richer than many states in existence today. It is region that feeds itself because it is blessed with enormous agricultural crops. It is still one of those regions here the people have not abandoned farming and fishing as a means of livelihood Many communities in the region such as Nsukwa, Ukwu-Oba, Agbor, Umunede, Obiaruku, Ejeme-Unor, Idumuje-Ugboko remain areas with cassava, yam, palm-oil, rubber, tomatoes etc can be found in abundance. Solid minerals in form of lignite, kaolin, silicon, gypsum etc are also deposited in Anioma.
Anioma scores high in the human resource area as it boasts of great sportsmen, banking chiefs, scientists, technocrats, military men and women, politicians, educationists, artists. It is unnecessary to resort to mentioning the names of individuals because the list will be endless but one thing that is sure is that it is doubtful if any state in the Nigerian polity as presently constituted will do better than the Anioma region in terms of human resource.
In the 2006 UNDP report on the nine oil producing states of the country, Delta was ranked first in Human Development Index. Out of the ten top performing Local Government Areas in Delta state, six were within the Anioma region being Oshimili South, Oshimili North, Ika South, Aniocha South, Ndokwa West and Aniocha North. “The core Deltans despite their domination of the state had four councils namely Ethiope West (because of what we all know), Udu, Warri North and Burutu”.
According to Osita Mordi, a pro-Anioma state Activist, if Anioma were to be a state within the federation of Nigeria she would have been the most highly ranked because all her nine councils did very well with relatively higher rate of school enrollment, access to basic health facilities, maternal and infant mortality rates, life expectancy and so on.
If all these are considered, the Anioma people surely deserve a state of their own in Nigeria, a state that will include Igbanke and Ekpon presently in Edo state.