An Ikwerre Bride

AN IKWERRE BRIDE In the ancient times, to escape the wrath of a tyrant king was to disappear how ever to a far away land through forests and rivers. In the 13th century AD, in

AN IKWERRE BRIDE

In the ancient times, to escape the wrath of a tyrant king was to disappear how ever to a far away land through forests and rivers.
In the 13th century AD, in Beni Kingdom, the despotic king, Oba Ewuare the Great, instigated the escape of the very fore ancestors of Ikwerre Land in Rivers State. From Beni, it must have been a settling and rising journey in some other people’s lands but one of the descendants eventually settled in Ikwerre Land in the Sombrero River area bordered by Rundele, he is IGHOROHA now anglicised as IWHURUOHA, hence, Ikwerre people are also popularly known as Iwhuruoha people. Or Ikwerre land is called Eli Iwhuruoha. Iwhuruoha means the face of the people, stating that Ikwerre people could be diverse due to social factors from Ekpeye, Elele, Emohua through Aluu to Obio-Akpor yet they are one. This beautified a popular phrase by the people voiced proudly that Eli Iwhuruoha bu otu -Iwhuruoha land is one, Ikwerre people is one.

 

Ikwerre land is not a sub group of Igbo land. (Wikipedia and others should correct this erroneous assertion in their platforms very very soon.)

In the South-South geo-political zone of Nigeria, the hitherto Eastern Region was dominated by people of the mainland-the Igbos and Rivers State people-the Riverine people. The Rivers People consisting of Ikwerre, Kalabari, Ibani, Nembe, Yenagoa, Okrika, Ahoada, Ogoni, Opobo–Nkuro and Bile are a minority group in the southern part of the former Eastern Region along the coastal Areas of Nigeria. They are mainly traders, fishermen, and farmers. Most of them live on small islands and towns along the Atlantic Ocean and the creeks. They embraced Education due to their early contact with the Europeans in the 17th – 18th century and a good number of them were highly educated and qualified in their various fields. The Igbo people were totally different in culture and origin, they were traders, farmers, mainly people with sojourning spirit and drive and they came to dwell in Rivers State. The Chiefs in the Riverine Area were civilised and powerful because of their early trade contacts with the Portuguese and other Europeans that first came to the area now called Nigeria in the 17th to 18th century. Due to the lucrative trade with these Riverine Chiefs, the British Government in 1884 declared sovereignty over the Riverine Areas by establishing it as the Oil Rivers Protectorate which was confirmed in the Berlin Conference in 1885. The Oil Rivers Protectorate was administered by the British Foreign Office. This means trading with Europeans in what is now called Nigeria started in the Riverine Areas of the Niger Delta, Badagry and Lagos.

 

Due to early development, the bountiful Rivers State had better water, effective telephone lines, regular power supply, fine streets, sea port, rail way lines and above all, the environments was very peaceful and attracted various businesses to the city. The city in the imagination of the Igbo strangers, was like a heaven on earth.
As the name ‘Igweocha’ implies, it can be interpreted as “bright heaven”. That is to say that the Igbo strangers, who were captivated by the beauty of Port Harcourt city, as it was like a heavenly place, described the city in their Igbo tongue as “bright heaven” as the city was decorated with street lights that shine brightly in the night.

When the land was leased to the British Government in 1913, the Igbos who dominated the land did not interfere neither did they raise protest. It is because the land did not belong to them. And as you know, one cannot lease what does not belong to him except by permission from the owner. And so the ancient Igbos, as strangers in the land, knew the laws of the land and they observed them by not interfering when the owners of the Land were negotiating with the British colonial masters. The names of all the villages whose lands were leased to the British Government were listed in the Port Harcourt Lease Agreement of 1913. The names of their chiefs and representatives were also listed in the said Agreement. But the title ‘Igweocha’ was not in that agreement, and also no chiefs or elders represented Igweocha as a village whose land was leased to the British government. The reason is that Igweocha, as stated earlier, was not a village. The name is only but a nick-name given to Port Harcourt city by Igbo-strangers who were firstly called ‘Usoma’ meaning slave. Now pronounced, ‘Isoma.’

Eli Iwhuruoha continued to bear its name till the colonial administration, the name “Ikwerre” was given by the colonial administration when they wanted to acquire the Rebisi Waterfront to build the Wharf. Using an Ibo interpreter to talk to the illiterate Rebisi (Port Harcourt) Chiefs, they asked them, “Would you permit us to use the waterfront to build the wharf for ships to berth?” And they answered, “A KWERULEM” meaning – “We have agreed.” What the white-man heard was “Ikwerre.” Thus, it was recorded in the official gazette that the IKWERRE PEOPLE have agreed for the colonial administration to build the wharf. And since it was the official record of government, the name Ikwerre became the name of the Iwhuruoha people in all official documentations till date. Similar cases of Anglicisation of native names in the Niger Delta region by the colonial administration are Benin for Bini, Okrika for Wakrike, Degema for Udekema, Abonnema for Obonoma, Brass for Gbara sni, Bonny for Ibani, Pepple for Perekule, Ahoada for Ehuda, etc.

The Igbo were strangers who came to dwell in Rivers State for greener pasture. Their long sojourn later led to the suffering of political marginalisation and repression by Rivers people as the Igbo people began to dominate rapidly. Isaac Adaka Boro vexed by that, declared the Niger Delta Republic on February 23, 1966 and fought with federal forces for twelve days. His formidable effort resulted into the creation of Rivers State as an individual state in 1967. Rivers State refugees who found themselves in Igbo lands during the Nigerian Civil War tell tales of the wickedness and selfishness melted on them by the Igbos. On their return, after the war, the people of Rivers State commenced the exit of the Igbos by destroying their buildings and retrieving their lands, also renaming streets and quarters. Although, the Igbos could not totally vacate Rivets State as they are forever neighbours.



Till date, the Ogba people (One of the three sons of Aklaka, the father of Ekpeye, Ogba and Ighoroha do not sell lands to the Igbos and have never for once visited any Igbo traditional ruler but, The Eze Egi of Ogba Land, Eze Ogba Ukwu, His Royal Majesty, Eze Kingdom Elemchukwu Elenwa, on December 22 , 2008 paid a historical and cultural visit to the Omo N’Oba , N’Edo Uku Apolokpolo, His Royal Majesty Oba Erediauwa CFR, The Oba of Great Benin Kingdom . The historical and cultural visit is a happy reunion of Egi Ogba people acquaintances with the Kingdom of Benin , their ancestral home.

Ikwerre people has similar physical features as the people of Benin. As in, not too hairy, full lipped, pointy nose, tall, strongly lanky with naturally shining brown skin as the clay sand of the earth quite represented in Benin red-colour aesthetics whereas the Igbos are mostly too hairy, thick flat nose, very thick lips, short, rounded, fat, thick or sturdy bodied. Also, one must note the use of the ‘v’ sound in rural Ikwerre dialect in Benin people’s tongue. Hence, Ikwerre dialects were derived from the mixture of Igbo dialect due to contact and few Benin sounds as a result of origin with Igbo dialect as the super-strate and Benin as the sub-strate.

The Ikwerre nation is arguably the largest ethnic nationality in present day Rivers State. 
 It is made up of four major Local Government Areas; Emohua, Port Harcourt, Ikwerre and Obio-Akpor and occupies the largest land mass in the state. Ikwerre is often highlighted as the richest and most industrious people in Rivers State. They are known for their receptive and cordial nature, widely receiving strangers with limitless arms. They relish ceremonies like land victories, burials, naming ceremony, appointments, weddings, etc. This form of enjoyment is referred to as “oriri nu nkwari” which means eating and digesting, then eating again.

An IKWERRE BRIDE in the olden days is first sighted by more beads around her waist and the high spirited steps of her legs around the village when her husband-to-be had just expressed his good intentions to her people. The young man signifies interest by taking kola nuts and a keg of palmwine with his father to the bride’s kinsmen. After some market days, the village gathers in jubilation for the marriage ceremony. In those market days, the bride is usually preserved in her hut for special herb ointment on her skin, more feeding, tattoos on her body and admonitions by her mother and elderly women. Outsiders but for elderly women are not meant to see her. She is revealed on the marriage day, bare-breasted with charming reddish transparent beads heavily adorning her waist, atop a special akwete lapper, tight around her waist. The special hair style is called ‘rishi ojongo’ wound up, high with threads, cowries, combs, beads, etc. She wears local leg shackles called ‘ekpiri’ a pretty sound generating thingie around her feet, this adds more rhythm as she dances. Many gifts like wood carvings, clay pots, guords, dried fish/meat, baskets, hoes, akwete lappers, morter, etc are presented to her as she dances within her cheering people. She carries the gifts in a large basket while being sang to her husband’s homestead. Dowries were usually two kegs of palmwine and four cowries. Kola nuts, alligator pepper, dried meat, fish, palmwine, foofoo and soup ‘mini wiri’ were joyfully consumed that day. At night, sacrifices will also be offered to good gods for blessings and safe child bearing.

In the time of bicycle, the bride comes out in a George-wrapper firmly tied around her, under her armpit, she is still decorated by beads and specially identified by her ‘rishi ojongo’. Laali leaves, whose water while squeezed on the finger nails gives it a glistening brown effect is used on their fingers. Little girls from her kindred usually known as “ogada girls’ dance before her as she greets her people and visitors. Her fellow maidens later sing her to her husband’s home, her gifts in a wooden rectangular basket or baskets on bicycles. Though with bicycles, they walk to her husband’s place as a way to again, inform people of a new bride. Her husband’s people gives gallons of palm oil to the maidens who brought them safely their bride, the maidens share the oil in bottles when they get home. In her husband’s place, very early, the next morning, she is accompanied by some women from her husband’s people to sweep ashes from every kitchen in her husband’s kindred, this joyfully notifies every home that a new wife has arrived. Any woman who sees the sweeping, loudly cheers with a loud, ‘osaaaah’ shout, any woman who hears, answers her with, ‘eh eh iwoi iwoi eh eh iwoi’ and together they run to the new wife’s home to sing, dance, eat and merry, cheerfully welcoming a new woman amongst them. The bride has to always rise very early to do all the sweeping before the day breaks.

Ikwerre brides are not initially known for looking for their husbands with a cup of drink. They only dance in the midst of their people, greeting and receiving blessings before sitting beside their husbands for more blessing and words of advice.

 

Transparent reddish beads, combs, tiny beads, ekpiri, George and akwete wrappers, rishi ojongo are usually associated with the ostentatious but simple beautification of an Ikwerre bride. Recently, civilisation has overturned Ikwerre culture as every bride wears what they love according to their standard of enlightenment on culture and heritage preservation. The marriage proposal list is now very long with unending things to buy including cigarettes and lighter, every sector of the bride’s kindred waiting to receive a handsome sum of money to share. That not withstanding, Ikwerre people are more considerate in their bridal demands than many ethnic groups. A notable vision is therefore, on reiterating our culture and being able to love and greet our fellow brethren proudly and properly,
“Ikwerre Meka o! Eli Iwhuruoha Mela o! Meka! Meka! Dieli vadu meka!
Osagiri ri oooo
Eleh riya nmaaaaa! Oyoyo!
Anu whiyale weeeeeeh!

Oweeeeeh!”

 

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