Department of English and Literature, University of Benin
Being Text of Paper Presented at the 2nd Chris Ghomorai Memorial Lecture and and Launching of Ijaw Almanac
by Ijaw National Congress, Benin on Saturday, 12th March, 2011 at 4, Ogbeifun Street. Benin City.
It was with mixed feelings that I received an SMS from the Chairman of Edo Branch of the Ijaw National Congress, Sir B.J. Braie, in the early hours of Sunday, 20th February, 2011 asking if I would be willing to deliver a "lecture" on "The Unity of Ijaws: A Tool for Development." The first feeling was one of surprise mixed with fear. I was surprised because I felt I had not been involved enough in the affairs of the INC to be called upon to do such an important task. There was also an element of fear because I was being asked to address a gathering of people, most of whom knew better about the subject matter than I did. I was also worried because the current demands on my time in my place of work were already straining me to breaking point. How would I make the time to think the topic through and say something worthy of the academia, it is my duty to take intellectual challenges and use them an opportunity to share ideas with people and in so doing learn from the audience I shall be addressing. After a moment's hesitation, I replied, accepting this arduous task.
Therefore, here I stand before you, not to "lecture" us on what we do not know, but to provoke us to talk more about what we have already known. I also believe that in the end, the discussions and reactions to my presentation will enable us all to learn more about the Ijaw ethnic nationality and advance its cause for development.
I shall divide my presentation into four sections. First I shall talk about the Ijaw people as an ethnic nationality. Secondly, I shall address the need for development among them. Thirdly, I shall address the obstacles to Ijaw unity at present; and lastly, I shall proffer a few suggestions on how we as a people, can pursue unity for development.
2. Ijaw as an Ethnic Nationality
The Ijaw nation is largely acknowledged to be the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria, after Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. The name is written in various ways. In present application, the spelling "Ijaw" usually applied to refer to the entire group while "Ijo" is used to refer to the entire language cluster. "Izon" usually refers to a group of mutually intelligible dialects within "Ijo" language. Geographically, the Ijaw people occupy the southern parts of Nigeria, a large expanse of space by the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and delta of the River Niger. Its closest neighbours include the Atlantic Ocean to the south; the Ibibio and other related tribes to the east; the Igbo, the Igbia and Abual-Odual to the North; the Isoko, Urhobo and Itsekiri to the north-east and the Ilaje and Yoruba to the west.
Its topography is essentially marshy divided with the tropical rain forest, with rivers, creeks and canals. The rivers around it vary in salt content- from the very salty near the Ocean, through the brackish in the delta to the fresh in the hinterlands. This makes them principally fishermen.
Historians and linguists have divided the Ijaw territory into roughly three segments, each compromising several sub-ethnic groups, clans or ibe (Alagoa 1972): The Eastern Ijaw, comprising Okrika, Kalabari, Bonny (Ibani) Opobo, Ke, Kula, and Nembe as well as the fringes of Nkoro.
(1) The Central Ijaw, comprising Apoi, Bassan, Olodiama (East), Oporoma, Ogboin, Tungbo, Kolokuma, Opokuma, Gbaran, Zarama, Okodia, Buseni, Ekpetiama, Tarakiri, Buma, and Akassa as well as the fringe of Ogbia, Atissa-Epie and Oruma;
(2) The Western Ijaw, comprising communities like Obotebe, Mein, Seimbiri, Tuomo, Tarakiri, Kabowei, Kumbowei, Operemo, Oyakiri, Ogulagha, Iduwini, Apoi, Arogbo, Furupagha, Olodiama(West), Egbema, Gbaramatu and Ogbe.
To the above we add
4, The Abureni clan comprising Idema, Okoroba Emaguo, Amuruto and Amurikeni.
In the present Nigerian political system, the Ijaws are known to be aboriginal in six states, namely Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Ondo. However in Lagos State probably true that there are some aboriginal (rather than settler) Ijaw in Lagos State.
Culturally, the Ijaw clans share certain features in common, such as dressing, marriage system, inheritance\descent, music and dance, etc. In language, most of the communities have speech patterns that share the same grammatical structure although with varying degrees of diversity in vocabulary, hence varying degrees of mutual intelligibility. We shall return to some of these issues shortly.
3. Patterns of the Needed Development
A common parlance has it that ~United we stand; divided we fall. ~ The search for progress, for development, is part of the definition of human life. After all, man is given the authority to ~subdue the earth~ and make it better for his habitation. The Ijaw ethnic nationality is undoubtedly in need of development, both for its own sake and in comparison with other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria and the rest of the World.
Development is desirable for its own sake because of the peculiar geographical terrain inhabited by the Ijaw people. Their standard of living has always been low. But it has been aggravated by the oil prospecting and exploiting activities which have caused various forms of physical and social degradation to these communities. While the despoliation of the physical environment has received significant attention by environmental and human rights campaigners, the social damage caused to the people has not received enough attention. I have addressed these matters elsewhere (Teilanyo 1997).
In comparison with other peoples in Nigeria and the global community, the Ijaw people may be among most the wretched of the earth. The most painful part of it is that, right under their noses; the natural resources and the abundant wealth therefrom are taken from their bowels and used to develop other places. These matters need not be over-laboured here. We may only highlight some of the area where urgent development is needful.
An important area is infrastructure. This includes roads, portable water, electricity, health facilities, banking services and telecommunications. Even today most Ijaw communities lack these amenities I may share some of personal pains arising from being deprived of these amenities. I never saw any vehicle moving on land until 1984 when in Class 5, I had to go with some classmates to Port Harcourt to represent my school (Nembe National Grammar School, Nembe) in an inter-school science quiz competition. Hence, everything I was reading in our readers about cars, buses, lorries and trains made no sense at all. I know there are still some children in a similar position. I never read my books with electric light up to about my fourth year in the secondary school. I know many Ijaw communities are still in darkness even through the oil rigs and house-boats are a few meters away from their huts bellowing carbon-monoxide smoke and noise and acid rain into their noses and ears and waters and roofs.
Most of our communities are in dare need of basic health facilities like hospitals, health centres and maternities. Am I the only one here who has suffered the pain of losing someone while in search of or while taking the person on a long journey in search of a health facility? Owing to the lack of modern amenities, qualified medical personnel either refuse posting to our communities or spend most of their time in the town and cities while our people die of neglect or remain with the often inadequate traditional medical they have been with all along. And how many Ijaw communities have banking services? Because of the absence of roads and telecommunications, hardly can any bank open offices there these days since their operations are almost wholly dependent on reliable telecommunication facilities.
Infrastructural development has been very much canvassed in recent years, it may be said to be secondary to Human Capital Development. Should there be the development of human mind in terms of formal education and general exposure, development of amenities is likely to follow suit naturally. This is so because the enlightened mind will both create those amenities and lead others to the appreciation of and agitation for the amenities. One of the excuse companies operating in Ijaw communities used to give for not employing us is that we did not have the required skills. To some extent it was true, although on some occasions qualified Ijaw sons and daughters were denied and non Ijaw people who are even less qualified were employed. I have a personal experience. This is where the Skill acquisition component of the so-called "Post-Amnesty Programme" is heart-warming. But the woes are not over. Only a few days ago, it was on air that about four of the ex-militants that were sent for training in South Africa were being returned because they were un-teachable.
Another area where I believe the Ijaw nationality needs development is our presence in the nation's political landscape. Until recently, the Ijaw people had been unable to project individuals that had national stature. We had almost surrendered leadership at the national levels to only Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, preferring to play second fiddle in forming alliances. For example, in the former Rivers State, for fear of domination should it align itself to the Igbo's, would always align with the North. But the Ijaw need to realise that they are in no way inferior to any other group in Nigeria and have as much right than most others since it is true that "he who pays the piper dictates the tune" our territory provides the wealth that keeps the nation, so we ought to be prominent in deciding how this wealth should be managed.
Another area of needful development is state creation. One of the greatest obstacles to our development is that the Ijaw nationality is splintered among six different states of the federation. Were it not for divine providence, we might not have had even Bayelsa State, the so-called homogeneous Ijaw State in the country. Only in Rivers can the Ijaw be said to be among the majority ethnic groups. In each of the other four States (Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Edo and Ondo, the Ijaw constitute a minority and suffer untold deprivation and insult. This is very much a disadvantage compared with other ethnic groups. For example, the Yorubas have six states and the Igbos have five. There has been the agitation for at least two more homogeneous Ijaw states. Some names that have been thrown up are Toru-Abubo State, Ala Minji State, etc.
All the areas of development that are needed require unity and solidarity with God's help to achieve. So why have we not achieved the level of unity we desire? This is the question I address in the next section.
4. Obstacles to Ijaw Unity
I believe it will be well acknowledged that the Ijaws do not have the level of unity and solidarity comparable to other ethnic groups like the Yoruba, the Itsekiri, the Urhobo, etc. What accounts for this difference?
4.1 No Single Theory of Origin
One obstacle to the unity of the Ijaw group is their inability to subscribe or trace their ancestry to a single source of origin. We may compare this to other groups like the Yoruba who collectively believe in Oduduwa as their common progenitor and Ile-Ife as their centre of dispersal. Historians, anthropologists and linguists have established that the Ijaw "have lost all remembrance of a time before they entered the Niger Delta" (Alagoa 1966: 288) without a sense of common history, each Ijaw community has largely emphasied its uniqueness base either on dialectal differences or on a socio-political structure.
4.2 Differences in Socio-Political Structure
Another area of disunity is the diversity in socio-political structure. It is believed that most Ijaw communities or ibe had theocracy as a system of political leadership. This means that the priest of supreme deity of the people, that is the pere, also wielded the supreme political power. But the Ijaw sub-ethnic groups in the Eastern Niger Delta have long gone beyond that to embrace political monarchy. Thus from Nembe, through Kalabari, Bonny, Opobo, Kula, etc, there is no longer a political role for the pere. It is the amayanaobo that has this power. In many other Ijaw sub-ethnic groups, we have both the pere and the amananaowei or ibenanaowei exercising some measure of political power.
Again, the sub-ethnic groups in the eastern Ijaw sub-ethnic groups have developed strong city states under monarchs (Alagoa 1971) where each groups has a major "city" and has several villages and settlements under it. This is unlike other Ijaw sub-ethnic groups that do not have such strong city states. We may compare this also with others groups like Benin, Yoruba, Tiv, Nupe, etc which have strong monarchs like the Oba of Benin, the Oni of Ife, the Tor Tiv or the Etsu Nupe who constitute strong rallying forces for all the people in those ethnic groups.
4.3 Linguistic Diversity
Added to the above is the linguistic diversity among the various Ijaw groups, clan or ibe. One of the strongest credentials of an ethnic group is of a common language. While it is true that several languages have varieties or dialects, there is generally mutual intelligibility. Thus while the Yoruba ethnic group has the Ijebus, the Ekitis, the Egbas, the Oyos, etc, there is never a time that they do not mutually understand one another. Indeed, they have a standard Yoruba dialect used in writing and other formal occasions. But this is not the case with Ijo. Indeed, Ijo has been described, not as a language, but as a "language cluster" or a group of closely-related languages" (Williamson and Timitimi 1983: xiv; Williamson 1965: 1-2). At least four sub-languages
a) Eastern Ijo, comprising Kalabari, Okrika and Ibani dialects;
b) Nembe dialect, together with the Akassa dialect;
c) Biseni, Okodia and Oruma dialects; and
d) Izon, comprising the majority of such dialects as Kolokuma, Gbarain, Ekpetiama, Ikibiri, Tarakiri (East and West), Bumo, Apoi, Bassan, Olodiama (East and West), Oporoma, Oyakiri, Ogboin, Seimbiri, Operemo, Tuomo, Mein, Kumbo, Kabo, Ogbe-Ijo, Iduwini, Ogulagha, Oporoza, Arogbo, Egbema and Furupa dialects. All these are mutually intelligible and comprise all the dialects in Delta, Edo, Ondo and the dialects west of Nembe and Akassa. They are easily mutually intelligible.
These dialects cannot, strictly speaking, be considered as dialects of a language because mutual intelligibility is lost between many of the dialects at the extremes. Thus a speaker of Okrika or Kalabari will understand very little of what a speaker of any of the Izon dialects says. Even between Nembe and Kalabari which are physically very close, there is often only one-way intelligibility whereby the Nembe speaker would understand much of what the Kalabari man speaks, but the Kalabari man would not understand much of what the Nembe man speaks.
This is why it is virtually impossible to use a particular dialect of Ijo for communication in a Pan-Ijaw gathering like the Ijaw National Congress (INC). Even common terms of greeting would not command mutual loyalty. For example, greetings like Haa Izon! has no place among the Eastern Ijo groups like Nembe, Kalabari or Okrika. Even Koi-de is not part of the greeting system of those people.
In addition, while the above sub-languages have the same grammatical structure and some common lexical item to justify the name Ijo for them, there are a few other groups whose language is completely different. These include Ogbia, Epie-Atisa and the languages of Abureni Clan, a clan that is fragmented among different three local government area and two states (Rivers and Bayelsa) These have very little or no similarities with Ijo. Indeed, they are Edoid languages, rather than Ijoid languages. Thus, it is mainly in political and geographical terms that these groups are considered to be Ijaw, but not on any linguistic terms.
4.4 Dichotomy in current Political Arrangement
As if the above factors were not divisive enough, the current system of government in Nigeria has not helped matters. The Ijaw people are split into at least Six (6) states of Nigeria (Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Ondo and somehow Lagos) Thus, people who are kith and kin are now separated by political boundaries, which in turn constitute centrifugal forces rather than centripetal ones.
4.5 Lack of Prominent Political Leaders
We may add to the above factors the absence of a strong political figure to whom the Ijaw owe allegiance. The Igbo had Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe as a rallying force. The Yoruba had Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the Hausa had Sir Ahmadu Bello who used the concept of Arewa (Yan Arewa: "We are the North") to unify even different ethnicities in the North to come under one roof. The above personages even formed political groups and parties that had ethnic colouring. Thus, we had Action Group AG and Unity Party of Nigeria -UPN, for the Yoruba under Awo (recently Alliance for Democracy -AD and Action Congress of Nigeria ACN). Zik formed the National Congress of Nigeria and Cameroons NCNC, and National People's Party -NPP, for the Igbo and Sir Ahmadu Bello and his people formed Northern People's Congress -NPC and Northern Elements Progressive Union -NEPU, for the Hausa Fulani. There has been no such equivalent among the Ijaws. Hence it has been difficult for Ijaw people to have a force to unite them politically as is the case with the others.
A last point to be mentioned here is the sorry trend of betrayal for pecuniary gains among Ijaw people. This is a trend that has gained prominence with the recent efforts by stake-holders, including those involved in armed struggle (so-called "militants"). Our musician, Barrister Smooth, has expressed it succinctly:
Hummer-o I say fine oo
Hummer-o i-ebi me
If you buy am for me I go sell am for you
Niger Delta business no pass moto.( Smooth "Hummer Jeep")
The picture being painted here is that we are not able to have enough cohesiveness in heart and mind to forge a common front to pursue our objectives. Elsewhere, I have discussed in greater details how this musician has used his art to prosecute the recent political and economic demands of the Ijaws in Nigeria.
5. The Way Forward
Having mentioned some of the impediments to the unity of Ijaw people, I shall now attempt some suggestions that could help in forging the much -desired unity among all Ijaw people for purpose of pursuing their ideals within the current Nigerian landscape. The thrust of my proposals is that we can achieve unity only when we recognise and emphasise those things that we share in common and de-emphasis those things that tend to splinter us. Secondly, we take pride in those positive things that are unique to us and are capable of marking us out as a distinct people. My suggestions are long these lines.
5.1 Unified Political Support for the President Political leaders
The Ijaw people have never been blessed as they are now, and have never had a better opportunity than we have to unite and make advances for development in Nigeria. One of the factors I mentioned that had hindered unity and development among the Ijaw is the absence of a strong political leader. This has largely changed in our recent history. Of recent we had produced a Chief of Defence Staff in General Owoeye Azazi. He is currently the Chief Security Adviser to the President. Recently we had a Head of Service, Ms Ama Pepple. We have Ijaw sons and daughter holding some of the most strategic ministries in our country: Elder Godsday Orubebe for Niger Delta; Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke of Petroleum Resources; Mr. Odein Ajumogobia of Foreign Affairs. Then we had the vice President and now we have the President in the person of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. We add to this is our indefatigable patriarch, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark and other figures that are well known to us in and outside the Ijaw National Congress -INC, some of whom are gathered in our midst today (including Sir B.J Braie). Therefore, absence of strong political leaders is no longer a factor in our disunity. What is left is for all Ijaw people, regardless of which communities they come from or what dialects\languages they speak to rally around these personages and advance the cause of the Ijaw nation. A starting point is the resolve of all Ijaw people to use all legitimate means to ensure the victory of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in the impending presidential election. Goodluck Jonathan has shown many of the signs of King David for leadership, and it will be sad if we do not partner with God to achieve what many consider to be a divine mandate for Jonathan.
5.2 Recognition of Celebration of Our Intelligentsia
Besides our political leaders, there are many figures in academic, business, religion, science and technology for the Ijaw people to celebrate. We have the Professors E.J. Alagoa, the Tekena Tamunos, the Peretonmodes, the Tawari-Fufeyins, etc. Probably many of us are not aware that the first Professor of English, in Nigeria, in West Africa, in Africa is our own Professor J.P.Clark-Bekederemor.
I have made reference to only the field with which I am most familiar. In business, in the military, in religion, in health, in Law, in the Civil Service and Administration, in the organised private sector, etc, we have people (both dead and alive.) whom we can identify and celebrate. This is where the almanac that will be launched today will is most relevant. These figures will constitute a fulcrum for our unity and development.
Another area which we must tap towards ensuring unity is our fashion of dressing. While there are modifications in styles of dressing, there is much that is common among the dress patterns of Ijaw people. For men, the central and western Izon-speaking people have a mode of dressing that tilts towards the patterns of their surrounding Urhobo and other groups, compare to those of eastern Ijaw like Nembe, Kalabari, Okrika and Bonny. This eastern Ijaw pattern is what largely become a national dress style through its promotion by people like the Graham-Douglases, the Abiye Sekibos, the DSP Alamieyeseighas, the Odilis, the Melford Okilos and presently President Jonathan. It is fast assuming the status of a national dress in that people from all over the country are adopting it. Sadly, there are some Ijaw people who are still not taking advantage of the wind to sail along.
5.4 Linguistic Harmony: The Pan-Ijaw dictionary
I had mentioned that lack of uniformity and mutual intelligibility among the different dialects is a minus to our unity. The desire for a homogenous language or a standard Ijo dialect has been a long-standing one. As far back as 1963, Kay Williamson had discussed it intellectually (Williamson 1963). The desire has continued to present day, but not enough has been achieved. However, there is a way out, and I am aware that a group of people are already working on this. This is the compilation of an all-Ijaw dictionary where the different dialectical variations of a particular concept are entered in the dictionary as synonyms. Thus the word for "water" would have "Beni" (Izon), mindi (Nembe) and minji (Kalabari\Okrika) as synonyms. Where this will ensure unity is that as Ijaw people from all over read this dictionary, they gradually come to learn the different lexical\phonological renditions of the same concept and so ultimately become people who understand the words in the different dialects. This is one of the ways in which English has come to have a wide vocabulary with many synonyms: it borrowed different words for the same concept from different languages, and they became synonyms. Justice J.A.P Oki has also emphasised this possibilities (Oki, 1998: 10)
But this may not cover groups like Ogbia, Atissa and Epie that do not have much in common with Ijo. But there is a way out. Already, these groups, being in the minority, have over the ages been borrowing lexical items, including human names from Ijo. This will continue. But in addition to this, Ijo has started becoming a second language to these people.
5.5 Art Forms
The commonality of our art forms is another area to be tapped for unity and development. In music Owigiri is very popular in all Ijaw communities with the artists like the late Echo Toikumo, Robert Ebizimor, Barrister S. Smooth, late Prof. I.K Belemu and others performing in all Ijaw communities wide acclaim. This music is to be encouraged to become an Ijaw national music form like juju and fuji music among the Yoruba.
Our dance pattern is also unique in the world, often concentrated around the waist and hips. Further-more, Justice J.A.P. Oki has pointed out that masquerade display is aboriginal to Ijaw people. He says "the Ijaws are originators of masquerade dances which have now been copied by many other ethnic groups" (Oki 1998:3). To these I wish to add our traditional wrestling. This is another area where we out-perform every other ethnic group in Nigeria. Can we not organise festivals of wrestling, masquerading displays and other dances among Ijaw communities across their states of origin in Nigeria?
5.6 State Creation
One other step that needs to be pursued relentlessly is the creation of at least two more homogenous Ijaw states. The achievement of this will help in mobilising the people towards the attainment of many of the goals indicated above. It will also reduce the pressure on Bayelsa as the only State every Ijaw man wants to claim. This trend has been counter-productive as some persons have abdicated their birthrights in the other states they belong to while straining the limited resources in Bayelsa and denying some of the citizens there. New states will both provide instruments for further development and also provide a rallying point for the Ijaw groups in those areas to forge bonds of unity.
5.7 Continued Integrative Fora
I also suggest the continuation and further encouragement of patronage for such integrative fora like regular meeting of Ijaw Cultural Association, the Ijaw National Congress, the Ijaw Youths Council, etc. Also to be encouraged are concepts like Ijaw Prayer Day and other Scio-cultural avenues for regular interaction among Ijaw people.
5.8 Pride in Our Unique History and Language
One more important area which we need to exploit for our unity is our unique history and language. It has been argued and established over time that the Ijaw people are the oldest inhabitants of the Niger Delta, Nigeria and West Africa at large. As far back as 1926, P. Amaury Talbot as expressed this repeatedly in his multi-volume book, The People of Southern Nigeria:
The earliest inhabitants of [Warri] Province appear to have been the Ijaw….. (vol. 1: 317)
The most ancient of all [the inhabitants of Southern Nigeria] are the Ijaw, descendants perhaps of the earliest Negroes who penetrated the West Africa Forest. (Vol. 11: 1) …the Ijaws, who are perhaps the most ancient people in West Africa…. (vol. 11: 39) J.A.P. Oki has corroborated this, saying "the Ijaw are the most truly indigenous to Nigeria. As the first people of Nigeria - indeed of West Africa -they have always been the owners of the coastal areas they occupy…..the Ijaws are unique in that they are the most indigenous to Nigeria" (1998: 2)
If the origins of the Ijaws are mysterious, aspects of their culture are even more unique and mysterious and thought-provoking. Talbot has written that "the religion of the Ijaw… is still distinct from that of all surrounding tribes" (vol. 11:239) an aspects of this religious distinctiveness is their "feminideism." that that is their concept of the Supreme Being in feminine terms, tempting Talbot to refer to Tamuno (one Ijo word for Creator) as "goddess…who lives in the heavens, reign over all, pervades all and is the author of all" (vol.11:16). This feminidesim (God as a woman) has been echoed by Alagoa (1972: 20; Clark 1977: xxiv). Thus all the words for God in the different dialects have the feminine import: Tamuno\Tamarau (She Who Creates; Creatress \Creatrix), Ayeba (She who begets and kills), and Woyingi (Our Mother). It is several ages of interaction with societies that conceive God in masculine terms that is altering this notion of God as woman among all Ijaws.
The Ijo are also peculiar among its neighbouring group in practicing matriling in descent, their closest relatives being a few ethnic groups in Ghana.
Just like the people, the Ijo language is known to be the oldest in West Africa. Talbot writes that the earliest of all Nigeria languages is Ijaw; which would appear to date back to primeval times, a relic of pure Negro speech (vol. IV: 72). Williams adds that Ijaw is over 3,000 years old, more that the age of every other language. While Alagoa concedes that there might be some dispute about the age of Ijaw in relation to other Nigeria languages, he concurs with others about the uniqueness of Ijaw:
The evidence of glottochronology suggests that the distinct between Ijo and neighbouring languages is such that no traditions or speculations deriving the Ijo from any of their neighbours can be sustained. (Alagoa 1966: 288)
In terms of linguistic features, Ijo is different from every other language in Nigeria in terms of its sound system and especially in its grammatical (morphological and syntactic) structure in terms of articles, pronoun system, verb and clause structure.
Even in functionality, Ijaw has not faired too badly. At least, one of its dialects, Nembe, is about the fourth language to have the full Bible translated into it (1956), after Yoruba (1906), Igbo and Hausa (1911) (see Hanson, 1976). We ought to take pride in this uniqueness of our language and use it as a pedestal for unity.
In this presentation, I have endeavoured to draw attention to the identity of the Ijaw people, the impetus for unity and development among them, the constraints to the attainment of that unity and the avenues available to the Ijaw groups to exploit towards attaining unity and development. Basically I have argued that there is enough common heritage in historical, socio-cultural and environmental terms among the Ijaws for them to harness for their unity. It is said that where there is a will, there is also a way. Thus if the Ijaws say "Yes, we can" then certainly we can (apologies to Barack Obama).
While I have said virtually the oblivious, I hope the presentation here will galvanise our energise further towards the pursuits of our goals of unity and development.
I thank the elders and other leaders of the INC for giving me this opportunity to share these thoughts with you. I also thank you all for listening.
Alagoa, E. J. -"Ijo Origins and Migrations 1". Nigeria Magazine (December, 1966): 272-288