Oyigbo Like the Disputed Child at Solomon’s Court.
Oyigbo is a Local Government Area in Rivers State located at the boundary between Rivers State and Abia State with rich oil deposits. This LGA was created in 1991 with its headquarters located at Afam. It plays host to many companies including:
Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Eastern Network Gas Pipeline (Alscon pipeline), Oyigbo Gas Plant, Afam Power Plant and Rivers State Cassava Processing Plant.
The people of Oyigbo are said to be mainly from the Eastern Nigeria, Igbos and their dialect is Ibo. Hence, many easterners who arrive in Rivers State in course of searching for a perceived greener pasture first settle at Oyigbo.
Over time, their population began to grow like the Jews at Egypt. This hard working Igbos then began to expand by approaching natives for land. In some cases land was offered them for free as was common in those days while recently, those in the neighbouring Ogoni, Eleme and Etche communities sold their farmlands to them and it became towns to them.
It has been said that many of the Igbos who claim to be indigenous Rivers take their dead parents and loved ones to parts of Imo and Abia states to bury when they pass on. This behaviour is strange in the culture of Rivers people. This has never been appealing to the government of the state. Hence, sometimes, the Rivers State Government may not give them the necessary developmental attention they yearn for.
Just recently, during the #EndSars protest, some Indigenous People Of Biafra and criminally minded men attacked some Police Stations at the area, killing some state security men and burning down Police Stations.
The government of the state took a stern decision to police the area and restore peace. IPOB was proscribed by the state government for the second time as a terrorist group as the federal government had earlier done same for promoting criminality in the state.
This action led to the fleeing of many Igbos believed to strangers but they left with blackmailing the government of Rivers State.
Some accused the government of trying to destroy the town because it hates the Igbos, a statement the Rivers State Government has denied vehemently.
Oyigbo: Ogoni-man’s Perspective
The full name of Oyigbo in Ogoni is “Oyii gbo olu” meaning: you may come for friendship. That is, a settlement that accepted arm of friendship. This was a reception from from the Ogoni parents of old, extended to people from the East when they sailed along the Imo River and crossed over to the Ogoni axis in their usual search for greener pasture. Hence, the Ogoni people accepted them (the Ibos) to settle in with them (the Ogonis) as their friends. The question is: between the Ibos and the Ogonis, who’s crosses over the natural boundary which is (the Imo River)? The Ogonis are on their land while the Ibos crossed over the Imo River to meet them for settlement. Obi means the heart. In other words to you Obigbo simply means the heart of Ibos.
It has been argued that settlement called Obigbo is not truly the heart of the entire Ibo nation. This is because there is no traditional history to back it up. Otherwise, what happens to Enugu, Owerri, Onitsha and all other ancient towns known in the land of Igbos?
“Habba! It was a name your people gave the place in recent time when they conceived the ill motive to claim the Town after the recovery of crude oil in the 60’s in order to have total control of the place having largely populated the settlement. Take it or leave, the Imo River is there and remains the natural land mark that clears the boundary between the Ogonis and the Ibos on that axis. The name of that town remains OYIGBO not obigbo.”
Oyigbo: Igbo-man’s Perspective
Obigbo was part of East Central State when Gowon created Rivers State out of Eastern Nigeria. It was in 1979 when Melford Okilo was the governor of Rivers State and Mbakwe governor of Imo State. Okilo wrote the then civilian president of Nigeria Shehu Shaggari on the need to cede Obigbo to Rivers State judging from its geographical proximity to Port-harcourt the capital city of Rivers State.
He went further to argue that Yakubu Gowon erred in the boundary demarcation between the Old Imo State and Old Rivers State by not using natural landmarks like rivers, lakes and mountainous forms rather he used ethnic identity and affiliation.
By this, he appealed through the boundary adjustment commission that the boundary be adjusted to accommodate Obigbo as part of Rivers State citing the Imo River has provided a natural boundary. The Boundary Adjustment Commission saw the logic in his argument and convinced the Presidency of Shehu Shaggari on the need.
As at then, large Deposits of hydro-carbon had been discovered at Afam and other communities in Obigbo arousing greed from people who thought Igbos would not have oil in their land. Mbakwe, the then Governor of Imo State objected to this move, countering the argument that Rivers State was created by Gowon to give voice to Eastern minorities that have been crying of Marginalization from their Igbo brothers in the old Eastern region dominated by the Igbos, therefore the objective of the creation of Rivers State was to have a State devoid of Igbo influence.
Mbakwe argued that it would be politically incorrect and catastrophic to have an Igbo speaking clan in a State with stereotyped hatred for the Igbos. Rivers State then was under the control of NPN the same party in control of the government at the center led by Shaggari while Imo was in opposition NPP led by Zik.
The matter ended up at the Supreme Court with NPN influencing the judgment, the court ruled that Obigbo be ceded to Rivers but Rivers State. Mbakwe accepted on the condition that another boundary community in any part adjoining the two States should equally be ceded to Imo to make up for the lost, the Court and Rivers State government accepted and Ohaji-Egbema, another Igbo speaking community. Gowon drafted to Rivers State during his obnoxious state creation, was returned to Imo State in exchange. Although, not all of Egbema community returned; out of the 12 communities in Egbema, 10 were returned to Imo while Rivers State retained the other remaining 2. That is why you have the same Egbema people in both Imo and Rivers State and Asa-Ndoki in both Rivers State and present day Abia State.
After Okilo got what he wanted, in creating a Local Government for the people of Obigbo, instead of naming the Local Government to reflect the aboriginal and ancestral nomenclature the people over time were known with, for best known to them, apparently to play this fast game they (Ijaws) played on the Ikwerres that resulted to them changing their igbotic communal name to things that sound strange to Igbo system of name.
When Nwike (Gov. Wike) was talking rubbish of Igbos being migrants in Rivers State, I was like; this man lacks sense of history or simply being intelligent by half. Obigbo people are not like the Ikwerre’s who play politics with their ethnicity and who are suffering from crises of identity today. You cannot be bearing Igbo name and say you are not Igbo and speaking Igbo dialect. Ethnicity is not defined by politics, though it can be influenced by it.
So Nwike (Gov. Wike) and all the minion Igbo phobias, take note; we know where Igbo land extends to and it is not definitely limited to the five South-East States.