Several scholars and historians have given accounts of the ancestry of Ijaws but most times to suit their respective schools of thought.
However, it is an established fact that Ijaws are among the aborigines and indigenous people who have occupied the present day Niger Delta region for centuries.
The Ijaw Nation which is the fourth largest tribe in Nigeria after Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo is endowed with abundant human and natural resources. The people are also blessed with rich traditional and cultural heritage.
Ijaw people who were predominantly farmers and fishermen are known for migration in their quest for discovery of new fish colonies, fertile lands, markets for sales and exchange (barter) trade, social interactions and others were known for their high moral, integrity and dignity.
Ijaws who were mainly traditional worshippers before the adventure of Christianity were known by their neighbours as people who spoke and always stood for TRUTH. Traditional Ijaws were so and even the immodest ones forced themselves to be upright because of fear of incurring the wrath of the gods (Oru-Juju).
There were countless cases where entire families and even communities were wiped out (killed) because of lie or crime of one single individual. So because of the instant repercussions, judgements and positions of the gods, even evil people, liars learnt to live upright lives.
Generally, morality of Ijaws was one of the things that caught the attention of the Europeans mostly the Portuguese adventurers and explorers during the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th centuries before the coming of the British.
When the European adventurers and explorers arrived, they discovered that Ijaws who were living in City-States were very wealthy and well organized. They were also shocked to discover that Ijaws had organized leadership system that can be described today as ‘Traditional Democracy’. So, they saw that Ijaws were endowed with unquantifiable human and natural resources and this later became a source of envy and jealousy and subsequent balkanization of Ijaws into pieces.
Furthermore, it is important to make it clearer that Ijaws were the first people that had contact and encounter with the Europeans before any other tribe in what is today called Nigeria since sea and river routes were the only available means of transportation. The Europeans shared Ijaws into different Districts, Provinces and Divisions to weaken them out of envy of their abundant human and natural resources beside the fact that Ijaws were the first Africans to resist and also wage war against their exploration and exploitation.
Ijaws who have countless attributes and traits that are suggestive of the participants during the building of the TOWER OF BABEL as recorded in Genesis 11:1-9 speak IZON language are found in Cameroun, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, etc while in Nigeria they are in Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo, Ondo, Abia, Imo, Adamawa States with Bayelsa State as the Home and Headquarters of Ijaws all over the world.
IZON literally means TRUTH. Traditional Ijaws before the advent of politics that has corrupted many were known for speaking the truth. Ijaws were very Honourable. They were respected and also held in highest esteem for always upholding the above virtue.
For instance, Ijaws were always invited to give final verdicts during disputes between people of different tribes. Other tribes always subjected themselves to the judgement of Ijaws because they knew Ijaws to be upright.
Ijaws are not saints. Like other tribes and human societies, there are bad eggs in Ijaw land, but then, the bad eggs were very insignificant. Evildoers and petty thieves were treated like outcast because of the way and manner Ijaws saw evil as taboos and sacrilege.
But the above seems to have fizzled out over time. Advent of our contemporary democracy and the quest for wealth has changed a lot of things including the moral uprightness, integrity and dignity of the people.
Many years ago, Izon meant Truth and an average Ijaw man or woman was ready to stand by the truth and even die for the truth but we cannot say same today.
People who speak the truth today in Ijaw land are treated as endangered species same way Intellectuals are treated.
The above are some of the contradictions that we are grappling with.
Ijaws still struggle to sermonize and sloganize about IZON meaning TRUTH but is that the true case or situation?
How many Ijaws can stake their lives to stand for and with their Ijaw brothers who are victimized and persecuted for standing for truth?
How many Ijaws can still look at the faces of their bosses and paymasters and call white it’s real colour when their bosses and principals hold contrary views?
How many Ijaws can be courageous enough to stand against their own strong, wealthy and powerful families and communities in cases where their families and communities are oppressing, repressing, suppressing, marginalizing and subjugating other smaller, poorer and weaker communities or even individuals?
IZON/NAKED TRUTH AND THE IYC PRESIDENCY
If Izon still means truth then why are Ijaw Elders and Leaders silent when an imposter, someone that never won any Election is masquerading and parading himself as President of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide and some persons are cheering him?
Why are Ijaw Elders and Leaders still allowing a character like Dr. Alaye Tari Theophilus to go to their houses and offices under any guises while parading himself as President of IYC?
Ijaw Youth Council is not like every other youth group. IYC which is an embodiment of over fifteen million Ijaw Youths is the foremost youth group in the whole of the African continent. It can only be compared to the Youth League of the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa. It is a well structured and regimented group with administrative and regimented structures.
IYC is a Revolutionary Movement. It’s leaders are not recruited or harvested like political parties where every Tom, Dick and Harry jump up and assume leadership positions based on their godfathers and others. In IYC, leaders are groomed. They grow through the structures starting from the Community to Clan, Zone/Chapter and National Levels.
Dr. Alaye Theophilus who was brought in by Peter Timothy Igbifa never attended any IYC Congress or National Convention. He has not served in any capacity in IYC. Sadly, Peter Timothy Igbifa who was a product of Unity Convention decided to reward/punish Ijaw people by dividing the Ijaw Nation and setting so much confusion everywhere.
But as sad as the situation is, Peter Timothy Igbifa bought the IYC Presidency with his money from some shameless and treacherous self-acclaimed leaders who sold it to the highest bidder and the outcome is the poor and very shameful performance and outing of Peter Timothy Igbifa and his decision to destroy everything that was remaining of the Council.
I was among the ten(10) Aspirants and later Candidates that aspired to serve the Ijaw Nation as the 9th President of IYC Worldwide.
Due to political Dynamism and other factors that played out the result came out otherwise including the fact that the Director General (DG) of my own Campaign Organization decided to bargain and trade me off and since the date of the Election till this very moment he has never deemed it necessary to call me his Candidate to give account or do appraisal and reappraisal of what led to the outcome of the election even after three different calls from me to him. It was like the case of Alhaji Adamu M’uazu the then PDP Chairman that sold out President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.
But whatever is the case, I have contested many elections in IYC and I was fortunate to win some, same way I lost some but what is most important is the spirit of sportsmanship, peace, unity and the passionate for the growth and development of the Council and the Ijaw Nation in general.
From the outcome of the Election Result that was devoid of any form of manipulation by the Electoral Committee (ELECO) outside some issues that were prevalent with the Delegate Lists which I equally raised but from the normal voting, the Delegates voted and a President was declared in the person of Sir Jonathan Lokpobiri Snr.
In the over all interest of the Ijaw Nation, it is our collective duty and responsibility to support the new leadership if we do not have our selfish interests and agenda.
Sadly and unfortunately too, we are seeing the shameless activities of some self-styled Elders and Leaders who are supporting the divisive, destructive and distractive activities of Peter Timothy Igbifa and Dr. Alaye Theophilus.
So where is our IZONNESS?
Is Izon no longer truth or what has changed?
We do not need to be bad losers, bad elders and leaders who always want things to go their own way otherwise the roof should be pulled down so that everyone will go to their tent.
Moving forward, Ijaw Elders, Leaders and youths should discourage further disunity and division of Ijaws who need to unite now more than ever.
Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide have only one President who was elected in a well publicized and televised National Unity Convention at the Venue that the whole Ijaw Nation agreed. Any other person masquerading as President is an imposter.
~~~ Most Senior Comrade Wisdom Oniekpar Ikuli aka Mirror and Conscience of Society.
A trained Sociologist, Political Scientist, Journalist, internationally certified Nonviolence Practitioner, Security Strategist cum Administrator, a Human and Environmental Rights Activist and Social Analyst/Commentator.
- Former National Director of Mobilization and Chairman of Action Committee Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide
- Former Acting President of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide.
- National President
Niger Delta Nonviolence Agitators Forum (NDNAF)
- Executive Director
Centre for Peace Advocacy and Social Rehabilitation (CPASR).