I get so dumbfounded when I hear people or read their write-ups saying that Ika extraction as far as language is concerned has no connection or any relationship with Ibo language; neither are we Ikas, Ibos. It beats my imagination especially when these utterances come from highly respected and educated persons in Ika land.
When we talk of language, we mean that every aspect of a known language used in a given community or geographical spread is share or understood when spoken. It is socially institutionalized sign or symbol by which a people communicate with themselves and make meanings with it.
Language changes according to locational distance; the farther it moves outward from the centre of the main lingua franca, the more the language diverges and this later gives birth to variety of dialects. Take for example, Owerri in Imo State as the core or centre of the original Ibo language; the farther you move outward, the more you hear people speaking in different dialects – the Onitshas, the Anams, the Wawas of Enugu State, the Etches of Rivers State, the Aniochas, Ikas and Ndokwas of Delta State, etc.
There are over 300 dialects of Ibo language which extends westwards beyond the River Niger up to the boundary with Edo State according to Geography Alive, pp. 516 and 524 (Teachers Curriculum Institute).
As language grow more and more divergent, it collapses into dialects and this leads to a situation where people of the same stock see themselves as different people entirely.
There are factors that attributed to these variations such as natural barriers: rivers, forests, mountains and mark you, there were no accessible means for them to explore their horizon. For this reason, language was retarded and could not cross their immediate environment. This was in those dark ages when people confined themselves to where they inhabited. Their dialect was what they knew as their language without realizing that they share the same language with other people from the same stock.
Another way we can prove that these people are genetically related in language is that the speakers understand themselves without any interpreter. They may speak in their different dialects but still understood themselves because they have the same basic vocabulary or cognate; these words are innate, dominant and rooted among them. Here are a few words rooted in Ibo from origin to Ika land:
- Words denoting season – okochi or okohi, okoki, uguru or ugulu, udumiri or udumili.
- The heavenlies – eluigwe or eluigwere
iii. Weekdays – eken or eke, orie or olie or oye, afor, nkwor
- Human body – ishi or isi (head) olu or onu (for neck), eka or aka (for hand) efo or afo (for belly) ukwu or oku (for leg).
- Natural environment – ofia or ohia (bush) efifia or ahihia or afifia (weeds), ali or ala or ani (for land).
- For animals – anumanu which can be further classified as: ele or ene (deer), enyi (elephant), mgbadan or mgbada (antelope) efi or ehi (cow), and ewu (goat).
vii. For birds – nnunu; further classified as: okuku or ohuhu (chicken) udele or udene (vulture), ugo or ugon (eagle)
viii. Habitation – ulo, uno or uyo (as in Owerri) for house.
- For actions – agha or aya (war), egwu (for play or dance, oso (run), bia (come).
You discover in all these pronunciations what Language and Linguistics call “free variation.” You can see that the consonantal sound differ in the same environment but does not change the meaning of the word. For example, water still remain water, no matter whether you call it ‘mili’ or ‘mirin’ or ‘mini,’ the consonants ‘r’, ‘l’, ‘n’ do not change the meaning.
So, if we in Ika land deny we do not speak Ibo, then the question is, who interprets for you when an Ibo man from the East speaks to you. It is true you may not get the totality of what he is speaking because of the variations in the dialects but do you look for an interpreter for you to understand him?
Interactions with other people from other ethnic groups such as migrations, inter-trade, inter-marriage and occupation must have affected Ika spoken words thereby, once can see foreign words adulterating our words.
From the 13th to 16th century, there was massive migration of people even across the world. Most people from Agbor because of their closeness with the Binis were attracted by the fertile land of those people. They migrated to cultivate their land. They settled there and built houses and learnt their language. Some of them gave their children Bini names whereby today, we see people answer, Imafidon, Isibor, Irabor, Osahon, Igumbor. This has been the basis why most people here in Ika area put up claim that our forefathers came from Bini.
The question here is this; does Bini name make me a Bini man? That I answer Bamidele, does it make me a Yoruba man? Or that I answer the name, Francis, make me an English man?
Recently, somebody in his write-up in Ika Weekly Newspaper said that the colonial masters lumped us with the Ibos for their administrative convenience. This to me is fallacy. The colonial masters had a well-researched Linguistic and geopgraphical findings before they group us as such.
Even today, our friends and neighbours down south of our Delta State see the Anioma area as Igbo enclave. Fellow Ika people, we cannot shy away from it.
Travel out to the western states of the Yorubas, and as you step into
Ondo State down to Lagos, you are seen as an Ibo man. Go further to the northern part of the country, you are seen as ‘nyamiri,’ a derogatory name for any Ibo man.
Why then, do we deny what is fact? Can a leopard wipe off its spot?
The purpose of this write-up is to counter the claim that Agbor or Ika people came from Bini or that they do not speak Ibo.
WRITTEN BY F. O. UWAYA