In view of the various rejoinders I have received from my teeming audience particularly my Igbo brothers who have always expressed the view or notion that the whole lot of Anioma people are Igbo, I have decided to address this very aspect of history of Anioma people by citing the Agbor people of Ika as a case study as it pertains to the origin of the Kingdom together with the civilizations and influences that helped to shape what we now know as the Agbor people of Ika in Anioma.
Although Agbor kingdom is now regarded as part of the present Anioma region of Delta state, this people have never in history been Igbo because the kingdom of Agbor as it known was never founded by emigrants from Igbo land as our Igbo brothers misleadingly believe, and there has never been any dominance of Igbo culture in Agbor. Most people who point to Igbo Quarters called “Elugo Igbo” which once existed in Boji-Boji (Agbor) fail to understand that there also existed similar Hausa Quarters, Yoruba Quarters in Boji-Boji (Orogodo) Itsekiri Quarters, Ishan Quarters etc. Evidences of the existence of these Quarters however do not factually suggest that the Agbor or Ika group of people is Igbo, Yoruba, Ishan or Hausa.
Consider that Ika (Eka) means nothing in Igbo, Hausa, Ishan or Yoruba languages or dialects. It remains much doubtful if any part of Igbo land or else where whether mentioned here or not ever have evidential claims or oral records to genuinely lay claims in myths or legends that a wave or band of their migrants from across the River Niger or else where by military conquest or negotiation finally settled in the area known as Agbor. Any Historian of great intellect conversant with the history of origin of Ika people and further developments that came to shape the Anioma region should well be tutored in the understanding of communities within this region laying claims to the Igbo of across the Niger as their ancestral homes. These Anioma communities include but limited to Ibusa and Ogwashi-Uku.
Ibusa (Igbuzo) an example of a tripartite town will have us know that Prince Umejei was a prince from Isu in Igbo land, and the second group of founders or settlers of the town are from (Nshi) Nri, an ancestral lineage the town shares with numerous other Igbo towns all over the country. The Ogwashi-Uku people also share this Nri relationship with Ibusa and other Nri people of Igbo land. The oral traditions of these two towns therefore exclusively agree that Ibusa and Ogwashi were founded by two biological brothers.
The picture I am trying to paint by bringing the above into consideration is that in as much it is historically a fact that some Anioma towns and communities have Igbo land as their original homes not all Anioma people are Igbo. The Ancient Benin Empire also played major roles in the origin of much of these Anioma towns, and in the socio-political developments of every single community of what is today known as Anioma. Simply put, Benin Empire of ancient times was responsible for the origin of larger towns of Anioma but the very aspect which concerns Agbor people of Ika is what this article is set to unfold or establish.
Origin of Agbor
The History of Agbor Kingdom like those of other African ancient kingdoms, empires and peoples is based on oral tradition. Various oral accounts on the origin of Agbor and Ika people exist but the most credible being that “Ogunagbon” and his followers who founded Agbor came from Benin and first settled in “Ominije” presently located in today’s Agbor-Nta. Following what can best be described as personal crisis between two princes in Benin and subsequent settlement of this dispute as agreed to by the chiefs and elders of Benin determined by casting of lot, one of the princes settled in what became known as “Agbon”. Agbon like other Anioma towns and communities was later anglicized by the Bjritish who found it difficult to pronounce as “Agbor” the present name of the town. For certain reasons, I have decided to ignore all other events that transpired leading to the foundation of the town called Agbor in acknowledgement of the fact that what concerns us here is the progenitor of the kingdom and his origin. Agbon (Agbor) in Benin means “Earth or “Land”.
Anglicization of names of Anioma communities found difficult to pronounce was not new by the British was not uncommon to these peoples. Igbuzo in circumstances beyond the understanding of the indigenes was anglicized as “Ibusa,” Ahaba (Asaba,) Ogwanshi-Ukwu (Ogwashi-Uku) Isei-Ukwu (Issele-Uku) Isei-Mkpitime (Issele-Mkpitime) Okpam (Okpanam) Umuede (Umunede) Notice also that in some cases the name remains the same but the spelling may change as in the case of Onicha (Onitsha) of Anambra state another of Anioma city.
As noted earlier Cheime, a refugee from Benin is historically credited with the foundation of majority of Anioma communities. Historical accounts records Cheime who was driven away from Benin fled from the kingdom traveling eastwards towards the Niger River and founded Onitsha where he finally settled, his followers having been exhausted founded certain of these Anioma towns. Many of which includes the present day Onicha-Uku, Onicha-Ugbo, Onicha-Olona, Onicha-Ukwu, Issele-Uku, Idumuje-Unoh, Idumuje-Ugboko and a lot more.
At the present day Onitsha in Anambra state, his final place of settlement, Cheime had had a daughter called Owuwu, Owuwu was believed in oral history to have abandoned Onitsha fearing she might lose her life after her father lost nine of his sons in this very town owing to witchcraft. Owuwu was soon to return to Agbor settling at Osarra in Agbor. The name “Owuwu” which now is a Quarter in Agbor is a historical testimony of this.
The argument in certain Quarters that Agbor people bear Igbo names and to some extent imilates Igbo language and vocabularies is well a defeated one, it is asking why the language of Onitsha people is Igbo having been founded by Cheime from Benin.
Available records show that the British colonial government encouraged Christian missionaries from Igbo land who taught the Ika people using Igbo Bible, hymns and songs. Again the British disregarded homogeneity in their creation of provinces and regions in Nigeria as in else where. Onitsha emerged as a commercial nerve of Anioma but after the Anioma people lost in the Ekwumekwu wars, the town was put in separate province where it now finds itself.
The following names similarly exists between Ika and Bini
Common festivals celebrated with Benin
The following places with same names exist in Agbor and Benin