The History of Ndokwa/Ukwuani
The history of Ndokwa People is as interesting as that of any other African tribe. This is because no written account of it is available. Much
of what is known of it, are facts handed down through oral traditions or some scanty detail and accounts as recorded by early European visitors to the area.
The most inspiring thing about our
history is the fact that I have never
come across any Ndokwa/Ukwuani man or woman that believes s/he came from Mecca as is the case with the Bayangida and Oduduwa lineages in Nigeria. Sadly, such tribes in Nigeria that see no folly in propagating such myths are in fact some of the largest black tribes in Nigeria (and Africa).
Further, the Ndokwa people have not
claimed Israel as their ancestral home,
as another big tribe in Nigeria would
want us to believe. To highlight the
flaw in the desire to seek glory
elsewhere, we introduce excerpts culled from the history page of a neighbouring town –Ubulu Ukwu – in
Anioma local government in Delta
State, Nigeria. See the quotes below.
“From Afor to Ubulu-Unor: In fact Ubulu oral tradition states categorically that the grand-parents of Ezemu migrated from Israel and settled at Ife hence Ezemu was often referred to as the king with long hairs – “Ezi Isi Iyomiyo”. From Ife Ezemu and his relations migrated to Afor a village in present day Ndokwa Local Government Area of Delta State.”
. Ironically, no Ndokwa town - including Afor - has corroborated this account of history. First and foremost, we are pure Africans and do not seek to establish our origins elsewhere. If the origins of mankind is in Africa as scientific evidence has shown, with pride and humility, the Ndokwa/Ukwuani people would want to be counted as one of the custodians of these primordial genes.
Rather than fabricate our history, the
Ndokwa people would want to concur
with patterns described by Omole
“The term “autochthonous” means
native, aboriginal, indigeous, original.
The available anthropological and
archaeological evidence at our disposal makes it clear that the settlement of the Southern West Africa region is a recent event, going back not more than 5000 years.” And, from the early history of Nigeria( ): “The earliest known example of a fossil skeleton with negroid features, perhaps 10,000 years old, was found at Iii Ileru in western Nigeria and attests to the antiquity of habitation in the region. Stone tools, indicating human settlement, date back another 2,000 years. Microlithic and ceramic
industries were developed by
pastoralists in the savanna from at
least the fourth millennium B.C. and
were continued by grain farmers in the stable agricultural communities that subsequently evolved there. To the south, hunting and gathering gradually gave way to subsistence farming on the fringe of the forest in the first millennium B.C. The cultivation of staple foods, such as yams, later was introduced into forest clearings.”
Having put the history of the Ndokwa in the context of early Nigerian history,let’s now turn our attention to Ndokwa specifically. It is relevant to point out here that the portmanteau word "Ndokwa" generally used to refer to the people of the locality is a recent
coinage. The word Ndokwa has the
morphemes: NDO from the word "Ndo-simili", the people of the Niger and KWA from the word “Ukwuani”, for the Ukwuani speaking people of the lowland. The two peoples reside in the same proximity and share a near
common history. They were both
together during the ABOH division days in the then Midwest state of Nigeria (1960s-1970s). Recently, both regions were under one local government area (LGA) before the splitting up into Ndokwa West, Ndokwa East and Ukwuani LGAs. It is very confusing for those of us who grew up when we had one Ndokwa LGA to conceptualise the emerging distinction introduced by referring to some of the people in the region as "the Ukwuanis" and "the Ndokwas" as if they are totally different entities. Is there any justification in saying that someone from Utagba-Ogbe is an Ndokwa man while someone from Umutu an Ukwuani man? We must be wary of how we present this issue, lest an unnecessary distinction be introduced.
Originally, the people (all) were referred to as the Southern-Ika people before the creation and the re-creation of the local governments of the modern era.
Our northern cousins where called the
Northern Ikas and our neighbour/
cousins from the Ika LGAs have held on to this name till date. Before the advent of the white man, the Ikas, Oshimilis and Aniochas –all in Delta State, Nigeria - were all called the "Enu-Ani" people (Upland people) and the "Ukwuani "(Lowland people) is used to refer to the Ukwuanis/Ndokwas. Prof. E. Isichie in one of her works referenced this fact.
Realistically, the inhabitants of the
Ndokwa/Ukwuani areas are a mix of
different peoples some with a strong
claim to Benin/Edo ancestry while
others lay claim to different origins. The Benin connections, a view held by a majority of Ndokwa/Ukuani clans
cannot be rejected. Although, some
intricate and complicated dimensions
such as linguistics can be brought in,
to test these claims. One must not
forget the fact that the languages in
Aboh (an Ndokwa town) and Benin are
The Abohs and some other clans in the region claim to have left Benin around the 16th century or earlier, in the same wave of migration that established most of the Igbo-speaking towns west of the Niger and even Onitsha in the east. Egharebva, writes of a period in Aboh (circa 1730 -1750) where the ruling families had to accept emissaries from the Oba (King) of Benin during a dispute.
Surrounding, the Ndokwa/Ukwuanis are other Edoid groups i.e. the Urbobos,the Isokos, the Ijaws. Their influence is palpable amongst the Ndokwas/Ukwuanis socially and culturally. By the same token, it is not out of place to notice that some individuals in a number of clans claim lineage to these neighbouring tribes mentioned above especially those on the border. Group of towns sharing borders with
neighbouring tribes including Abbi,
Emu, Onyia, Ushie and Obiaruku have
inhabitants tracing their origins to
Urhobo,Isoko, Ijaw lands.
Furthermore, a good number of
Ukwuani/Ndokwa towns of including
Afor, Emu, Amai, Utagba-Uno, Onicha-
Ukwuani claim to have been founded
by immigrants from Benin. Onicha is a
variant of the word "Onitsha" and is not a coincidence to have the original
inhabitants of Onitsha (in Anambra
State) holding on to the same story of
King Chime from Benin as its forebear.
There are four Onitshas known today
i.e. Onicha-Olona, Onicha Ugbo,
Onicha-Ukwuani and Onitsha mili (the
popular one). They all share the Benin
migration story. What should be of
import to us is, when did these
migrations take place, and the second
question: Did these new arrivals meet
some other people indigenous to the
land/locality? If so, who were they? It is indeed a tall order to to try to establish these facts because there is an innate aberration in history known that man would always, at all costs, seek to associate with greatness, fame, glory and so on. This, in our case might have robbed us of the information that might helped us pieced together our past history more accurately.
The powerful nature and conquering
role of the old Benin Empire might have influenced many clans favuoring this connection, in the process, either
knowingly or otherwise suppressing
some vital information. As one author,
Rev. Okologu (History of the Ukwuani
people) pointed out in his work, there
are however different extractions in our land – Ndokwa area. For example, some sections of the Abohs believed that they are direct descendants of people from Benin while others look across the Niger into the Igbo hinterland as their origins; yet, some even look far up the Niger to Igala homeland as their ancestral land. It is worthwhile to bring this fact to the fore. What cannot be disputed is political power that the Aboh kingdom held in the past. The kingdom stretched from the fringes of Agbor town (Ika) in the present day Delta State to Ogba (Rivers state), also covering all the Ogbaru region of Anambra State. At the height of its power, the Kingdom of Aboh even had emigrants leaving to populate other parts of old Nigeria. There are quarters in Itsekiri land that claim to have forebears from Aboh town.