IKA LANGUAGE IS NEITHER BINI NOR IGBO BY ONYEKPEZE
However, elements of admixture Edos and the Igbos can be found today in Ika people’s language, religion and other customs. Whereas the Obiship culture is essentially of Benin institutions, some of the recent Chieftaincy systems follow Igbo lines. The Ikas bear names similar to Edos and Igbos. The strongest cults in Ika area are Olokun of Benin origin and Ikenga origin of Igbo or the dual mode of origin, Benin and Igbo of Ika people has influenced their physical features. The older generation of the Ika people had tribal marks (tattoo) Igu or Egbugbu, which the youngest generation have discontinued due to Westernization, and so on. This situation however, tends to pose a crisis of an ethnic identity of the Ika people being neither Edos nor Igbos.
The original language of the Ika people is believed to be Edo. But migration from communities to Ika commercial, marital and social intercourse, the Igbo Language seemed to supersede the Language of the former. This situation perhaps, has to do with the classification of Ika with the Aniocha Oshimili and Ndokwa people in a group dubbed Ika-lbo in the Nigerian socio-political nomenclature. This taxonomy is occasioned by the scanty information about the Ika, which gained prominence during the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970).
But even then, the author shares a view that Ika are not Igbo-speaking, but Ika-speaking people. The truth of the matter should not be lost sight of. The discourse is about Ika ethnic identity. Ikas in Delta State now have an identity in Nigeria, for which they have come a long way in the struggle to reposition, reconstruct and re-engineer Ika nation. One of the surest ways to achieve these objectives is the development and preservation of Ika language as language is the vehicle that drives culture. It is the primary identity of a people as it is the key for all their education agenda.
The Ika people, especially the elite have transcended the culture of paranoia and achieved a mental liberation that is enabling them to take full responsibility for their fate and engaging with the rest of Nigerians as equals. The fact that Ika belonged to the old Asaba Division has probably caused people of Ika to be mistaken for the Ibos. This is because Ika identity has not been fully known by many including historians, anthropologists, sociologists, linguists, etc. Ika has a language of her own, which has some similarities with the Igbo Language. But this is not enough to conclude that Ikas are Igbos per se.
SEE ALSO: FEATURE: IKA WORLD BY CHIEF DR ONYEKPEZE
Ika (Eka) is not Igbo. The argument that some names or words or expressions in Igbo language are found in Ika language appears baseless. Different ethnic communities could have very identical names and words across the nationalities. For example, many people in Edo North areas of Edo State, bear Yoruba names and use similar linguistic expressions, but the Yorubas did not claim these communities. Igbo people do not extend their claim to the Isoko people because such names like Okoro, Okoh, Orkah, etc. are found in that community. The Itsekiris and the Yorubas have very many cultural and linguistic similarities, but they see themselves as different distinct ethnic groups. The Urhobos and Isokos have very in many similar words, names and expressions, but no Isoko person agrees to be referred to as an Urhobo. The Igbirras and Igarras speak more or less same language, but both groups belong to different ethnic nationalities, etc. Why then do Ibos lay claim to Ika because of linguistic similarities?
Because the Enuani people are Igbos living west of the River Niger, many have erroneously taken Ika to belong to the Enuani group of Anioma extraction (Delta North), but that is still no justification to foist language or association on them by any group. Let it be known that the Enuani group of people in the west of the River Niger are in Aniocha North, Aniocha South, Oshimili North and Oshimili South Local Government Areas of Anioma region. Ika only bound Enuani to the west.
It should be known that Ika are not Igbo- speaking but Ika-speaking people, the close similarities between the two languages notwithstanding. If other communities in the old Asaba Division are Igbo-speaking, the Ika are not. From all indications, Ika speaks distinct language, which is Ika. Before their contact with Igbo people, the Ika people had their homelands (call settlements or political space) where to all intents and purpose each entity exercised sovereignty. Since then, Ika have had this common language. All Ika Kingdoms have been bound together in nationhood by this language for their communications, arts, religion, education, politics, trade, etc Ika language has been the vehicle through which for centuries, the Ika had transmitted all Ika values of civilization from generation to generation.
Besides, Ika has for long been a language of its own. In that recognition, Onu-ika Nigeria has put in place, a committee on the development of Ika language and culture in order to preserve and project Ika culture, and thereby protects Ika people’s identity. These Committee has been charged, among other things, with the task of ensuring the dynamic development of the language, technological documentation, creating awareness and ensuring the practice of the language through encouraging its use and learning in established fora. In that regard, Ika language is taught in educational institutions in Ika Local Government Areas including former College of Education, Agbor. This positive indication suggests eventual introduction of Ika studies within the academic programmes of the Colleges and University of Delta, Agbor (UNIDEL, Agbor).
Also, a clarion call has gone to all Ika at home and diaspora to speak and teach their children the Ika language. Ika is one of the ethnic languages in which the State News and other vernacular programmes are transmitted in Delta State Radio and Television. Towards this aspiration also, the Ika Bible and the four Gospels of the New Testament have been translated into Ndi Ozi Eno (Gospels according to Matthew, John, Luke and Mark) by the Ika Bible Translation Project Many books are already written in Ika language. Recently too, the DAARSAT Communications Plc, Lagos Nigeria have started to incorporate programmes on Ika language and the culture in the Internet through the Ogene Television Services. (concluded).