Opinion

Nyesom Wike, the Igbo, and the Biafra agitation, By Dr Dons Eze

Access Bank

I very much admire Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State. This is because of his boldness, his courage, his fearlessness, and his steadfastness. Wike says what he likes, anytime and anywhere. He is never intimidated. He does not look anybody on the face, and never cares whose ox is gored.

Wike is an action man. He is a go-getter, always sets his mind on its desired goal. If not for his boldness and courage, he would not have won the governorship of Rivers State, in 2015 and 2019, because of the powerful forces arrayed against him. But he was able to triumph, and to surmount those obstacles.

Sometimes, however, Wike talks and behaves out of tune. This gets some people on their nerves, make them worried and disturbed. They say that Wike is unpredictable, that he would say one thing today, and say a different thing tomorrow. They further claim that Wike is arrogant, that he behaves like an Emperor, and is authoritarian. Such is human life, and human character. Some of us may equally be guilty.

Ordinarily, nobody will deny Wike the right to his opinion, or of belonging to wherever he wants to belong, only that he should not impose his opinion on anybody or make membership of a group look like a decree, forceful.

Nyesom Wike is an Ikwerre man, but he says that he is not Igbo, and perhaps, by extension, that Ikwerre people are not Igbo. Wike told Dele Momodu, the publisher of Ovation magazine, that though the Ikwerre people have some sort of cultural affinity with the South East, but they are not from the Igbo extraction.

He says that his name “Wike” means a “newborn baby” in Ikwerre, and not the “powerful child” which some individuals misconstrue it to mean in Igbo language.

“I’m not Igbo. You see, people must understand things. We are from the Eastern part of the country. Nobody can deny that fact. People interpret my name as ‘Weekay’. It means a new born baby. They said Wike means ‘a strong person’. I don’t care,” he said.

“My name is Ezebuwon. Now, nobody can deny the fact of our affinity with the Igbos. Nobody can. Take for example, in Benin. There is “Akpata” in Edo, and “Apata” in Yoruba. Are you now saying the Akpata in Edo is the same with the one in Yoruba. No! They may have a relationship but that does not mean that you are them.

“I’m not one politician who will change his identity. I will not change my identity. I will not! People should understand that there is a difference between the Akpata in Edo and Apata in the West. After all, there is no one that said they came (to this world) on their own,” he says.

Wike who was accused of issuing an executive order that instigated mass killing of Igbo people in Oyigbo, stated that he had nothing against the people of the South East. “I’ve nothing against the Igbos. I have lived with them. They are good people. They are very entrepreneurial. But that does not mean I will change. I cannot do that.” he said.

Wike even mocked Chibuike Amaechi, his former boss, and now Minister of Transportation, who is from the same Ikwerre stock with him, for saying that he is Igbo. He said this was because of Amaechi’s political ambition in 2023.

Whether Nyesom Wike believes it or not, from historical accounts, Ikwerre people and Ngwa people were from the same stock, offsprings of the same father. Therefore, if Ngwa is Igbo, Ikwerre is also Igbo.

Wike has the right to hold any view so far it is within the ambit of the law and not counter-productive. He can define himself in any manner he deems fit, but he has no right to impose his view on other people.

For us, if other Ikwerre people, including Chibuike Amaechi, say that they are Igbo, but Nyesom Wike who also is an Ikwerre man, says he is not Igbo, that his business. It does not remove the Igboness from other Ikwerre people who claim to be Igbo. Wike does not enjoy the prerogative of determining who says he is Igbo, or who is not.

Apart from Amaechi who told a BBC interview that: “Look, I am Ikwerre. But I am also Igbo,” there are many other prominent Ikwerre people who asserted their Igboness.

Among them were Chief Joseph Wobo, member, Council of Chiefs of former Eastern Region; Sir Jackson Mpi, first and last Ikwerre to be conferred with Knight of the Order of British Empire, OBE; Dr Obi Wali, first Ikwerre PhD holder, and Senator; Okogbule Wonodi, first Ikwerre university registrar; Emmanuel Aguma, former Mayor of Port Harcourt, and Administrator of Port Harcourt Province during the Biafra era, etc.

Nyesom Wike is not more than any of these people simply because the “gods had cracked his kernel,” to borrow from Achebe, and he becomes Governor of Rivers State. He should therefore not turn himself into a tin god, issuing orders from above, and expecting everybody to be kneeling down before him.

Wike, and some other people like him, in their desperate bid to deny their Igboness, would change the name “Obigbo,” which means, “Heart of Igboland” to “Oyigbo,” which means nothing, and thereby claim that the people were not Igbo. He says that it was the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) infiltrators that were causing trouble in the area. But that is not true. The IPOB and the Igbo are not trouble makers.

Apart from the Ikwerres, there are also other Igbo groups in Rivers State, such as the Obigbos, the Ogbas, the Ekpeyes as well as the Etches. But Nyesom Wike will have all these people deny their Igboness.

But why is Wike, an Ikwerre son, denying his Igbo roots? This is due to past prejudices arising from the defeat of Biafra during the civil war. Many other groups and individuals had to distance themselves from the maimstream Igbo so as not to be seen as associating with “ex-rebels,” and in the process, be victimized or denied what they believed should be theirs.

That was why towns like Umuibekwe had to change to Rumuibekwe; Umuokoro to Rumokoro, Igboakiri to Igbanke: Ibuzo to Ibusa, etc.

For Nyesom Wike, in particular, it is not surprising if he claims not to be Igbo, else he may be asked to do some explanations regarding the roles some of his close relations played in the “Abandoned Properties” saga in Port Harcourt that pitched the people with some Igbo residents of the area, soon after the civil war.

In the same way as Nyesom Wike is denying his Igbo roots, so also is he distancing Rivers State from the Biafra agitation. Wike claims that Rivers State is not part of the Biafran struggle.

In a television interview a few days ago, Wike says: “Like I always say, I am not against IPOB’s activities in the South-East because they have a right to whatever they are doing with their people. But as far as Rivers State is concerned, we are not part of it. So, you cannot give an order when we are not part of whatever you are doing? How does it work? It doesn’t work that way”.

In other words, Wike is trying to reduce the Biafra agitation to the South East, or an Igbo affair. He thinks that he alone owns River State and that whatever he says is law. Perhaps, he does not know that he has only two years remaining when he would no longer be Governor of Rivers State, and all the gra gra will end, except he succeeds in becoming Vice President.

He also may not have known that there are many other Rivers people like Asari Dokubu, who are into the Biafra agitation, and will continue to do so, whether he likes it or not.

Wike says that his name “Wike,” has a different meaning from what the Igbo people understand it to be. No problem, but let him cast his mind back to what happened in 1966 when people bearing Igbo-sounding names resident in Northern Nigeria were subjected to the same pogrom as the mainstream Igbo.

He should also recognize the fact that when the time comes, not many people will have the patience to start differentiating between the meaning of “Wike” in Igbo, and “Wike” in Ikwerre, as well as “Ezenwa” and “Ezenwo”.

Meanwhile, they all are facing the same ills and injustices prevalent in Nigeria, which the Biafra agitation stands against.

 

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