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WESTERN IJAW AND HER ITSEKIRI NEIGHBOR IN PRE-COLONIAL PERIOD
Background of the study
Before the European colonisation of the area that became Nigeria in 1914 the various peoples of Nigeria had been in existence. Many of these peoples had, by the beginning of the nineteenth century, lived in their present locations for centuries, and had had their own ways of life (Orugbani, 2005). They had, for example, practised their own traditional religions and had operated their own social and political systems based mainly on the principles of gerontocracy and primogeniture. Blood and family ties determined, to a large extent, the nature of relationships. Life in general was essentially communal; everybody was his brother’s keeper (Orugbani, 2005).
Precolonial Niger Delta comprises the history of incongruent city-states inhabited by distinct ethnic nationality groups, including: the Ijaw, Urhobo, Itsekiri, Ibibio, Efik, Ogoni and other minority ethnic nationalities inhabiting the south coastal region of Nigeria. Archaeological finds show that some of these societies (especially Ijaw) had existed in the Niger Delta (West African coast) for centuries before the advent of European merchants. The archaeological record is a useful complement to oral traditions and written sources, but much work remains to be done in this area. Fortunately, the personalities and events covered in this section (late 19th century resistance) can be found in written history even though such works may have been prejudiced or meant to serve particular agendas.
According to written accounts, Portugal recorded the first western foray into the coastal plain of West Africa in the fifteenth century. Before the arrival of Portuguese navigators in the West African coast, the Niger Delta (and by extension the whole of the West African coast) was not integrated into the global political economy. The Portuguese maintained a monopoly on slave and merchandise trade with city-states in the West African coast until the intrusion of trade merchants and missionaries from other nations (Sweden, Holland, Denmark, France and Britain) in the 16th and seventeenth century. Trade with these western nations transformed West Africa’s coastal region into an outpost of the trans-Atlantic commerce and brought it into the global capitalist economy. Since the fifteenth century, therefore, the Niger Delta has been significantly influenced and in fact transformed by global political economic processes through commerce and social relations with European capitalist merchants. Between the 15th and mid-19th centuries, the Niger Delta played a strategic and significant role in the trans-Atlantic slave and merchandise trade. As a prime example, from the seventeenth century until the prohibition proclamation in 1807, city-states of the delta supplied a great proportion of slaves to the Atlantic world compared to other regions of the West African coast. In all, more than three million African slaves were shipped from the coastal city-states of the Niger Delta to Europe and the Americas.
In some places where conditions were favourable, well-organised states, kingdoms and empires sprang up and flourished. In the north for example, were the Kanem-Bornu Empire and the Hausa States of Kano, Katsina, Zaria, Nupe, Kebbi, and Kwararafa. In the forest region were the powerful kingdoms of Benin and Oyo, while in the extreme south, in the area popularly referred to as the Niger Delta, were the citystates of Nembe, Elem Kalabari, Okrika, Andoni, Bonny, Opobo, Ode-Itsekiri etc. (Alagoa, 1970; Stride and Ifeka, 1971, Crowther, 1978).
With regard to inter-group relations, the various peoples of Nigeria had freely met and traded together. The coastal peoples such as the Ijo, Andoni, and Itsekiri produced fish, crayfish and salt, which they exchanged for the agricultural products of their hinderland neighbours such as the Isoko, Urhobo, Ukwuani and so on. The major rivers such as the Niger, Benue, Forcados, Benin, Bonny, Escravos etc, for a long time served as trade routes and means of contact between the various peoples of Nigeria, especially in the south and the middle belt. In the north, pack animals such as camels, mules and donkeys were effectively used in the movement of goods and people from one place to another. These economic contacts, no doubt, led to social, political, and even religious relations amongst the peoples of the different geographical zones.
In the Ijo-Itsekiri area, the focus of this article, there is the general consensus that the people had “lived together for several decades” (Ayomike, 1990a: 17; Clark, 2003). The common impression is that it was the advent of the Europeans with their alien systems of trade, education, religion, and government that strained the hitherto cordial relations between the two groups. This article is an attempt to properly document the relations between the Ijo and Itsekiri in precolonial times. The aim is not to divide the people, but to enable Nigerians and the international community to put in proper perspective the recently hostile relations between the two groups.
Objective of study
The broad of the study is to discuss the Western Ijaw and Itsekiri relation in precolonial period. The enornimity of this working will lead to presenting an overview of the state of Niger Delta in the pre colonial era, the evolution of Itsekiri and Ijaw land in niger delta and their pre colonial relation
Significance of the study
This conducting this research, the researcher searching for history of relation of the geographic location has to follow two lines simultaneously. The first of them observes geographic location and the practice of residence in the area at a given period in this case the pre colonial era. The second line observes geographic location practice within society, putting emphasis on global aspects, culture, language and political context. (Danto, 2008) in essence the study will serve as a historiography of Western Ijaw And Itsekiri in Niger Delta.
Scope and Limitations
The scope of this study centers on the historical relation of the geographical location and demography of Western Ijaw And Itsekiri in Niger Delta. The major limitation faced by the researcher in conducting this research is the financial burden.
This research used a doctrinal research method and a survey research method. The doctrinal research method which is library oriented involved the collection of relevant articles, published materials, periodicals, articles and journals related to the subject understudy.
The Survey method aims at obtaining primary data, which can be analyzed, patterns extracted and comparison of such data to be made. Similarly, survey design is used in this study because it enabled the researcher to collect data from a informants that will be used for the study. The instrument used for this data collection is oral interview. The researcher asked the selected informants questions relevant to the objective of the study.
TABLE OF CONTENT:
1.1 Background of the Study
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
1.3 Objectives of the Study
1.4 Significance of the Study
1.5 Research Questions
1.6 Research methodology
2.1 Sources of Literature
2.2 The Review
2.3 Summary of Literature Review
Identifying the challenges facing western ijaw and itsekiri in precolonial times
Opportunities in relations among western ijwa and her itsekiri neighbours
SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.2 Recommendations for Further Study
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