Why Ikwerre & Okrika People Don’t Agree

This is the story of 2 popular tribes in Rivers State, the Ikwerres and Okrikas. The Ikwerres are generally considered a sub-group of the Igbo people of South-Eastern Nigeria. A small majority for political expendiency now disputes this account, claiming their history was rewritten during the colonial period because of the dominance of the larger Igbo group. They are said to be descendants of long-distance traders from Nkwerre, Arochukwu, Awka, Orlu and Owerri areas. Again many dispute this account preferring to trace their origins to Benin and elsewhere. They constitute the majority of Rivers State. The Ikwerres are traditionally farmers, fishermen and hunters, but in recent times, the environmental degradation and urban sprawl associated with the Oil exploration and exploitation has caused a sharp decline in the amount of farmland, forests and rivers available for their traditional occupations.
Okrika, on its own,is a port town in Rivers State. The town is situated on a small Island just South of Port Harcourt, making it a suburb of the larger city. The town can be reached by vessels of a draft of 29 feet (9 metres) or less. Formerly a small fishing village of the Ijaw people in the Mangrove Swamps of the Eastern Niger River Delta, Okrika kingdom in the early 17th Century actively dealt in slaves. However, these 2 communities are in dispute,and they have been nursing the grudge against themselves for so many years such that they rarely marry themselves.The Okrikas, claim to have been the first settlers in Port Harcourt and they owned all the land before the Ikwerres came to dominate the city by acquiring their lands. And now the Ikwerres have unhindered access to the state’s fund owing to the fact that they control the state commercial nerve centre (Port Harcourt).
The question of who really owns Port Harcourt City has been a subject of debate for several years. However, the general belief is that the Ikwerre own Port Harcourt, owing to the fact that they dwell in the city but the Okrika people claim that the Ikwerre are Igbos who came in from different part of Eastern Nigeria as traders and thereafter, settled in the city. And because the Okrika are traditionally fishermen who love to dwell close to the water, the Ikwerre acquired all the lands while they were away farming.
Who really owns Port Harcourt? This questions have generated many mixed reactions, such that people from these 2 communities often have heated exchange of word over the right owner of the city. This rivalry has even gone on to the internet, that they usually blast themselves aside from the physical confrontations they often engage in.
The Ikwerre people often refer to Okrika people has Ijaw, and Ijaw, according to them, live on boat and can’t lay claim to Port Harcourt City. Some of the Ikwerre even maintained that Ijaw people have no land that they are river people while some say there are no Ijaws in Rivers State that they should move to Yenagoa where Ijaws dwell.
The Okrika on the other hand, call Ikwerre people Igbo, a tribe they don’t like to be identified with. The Ikwerre don’t like to be regarded as Igbo, but the Okrika say they are Igbos who they accommodated long time ago but trickishly took over the city from them.
However, Port Harcourt was founded in 1912 by the British in an area traditionally inhabited by the Ikwerre, an Igbo subgroup. It was named after Viscount Harcourt, Secretary of the State for the Colonies. The initial purpose of the Port was to export the coal which geologist Albert Ernest Kitson had discovered in Enugu.
In August 1913, the Governor-General of Nigeria, Sir Frederick Lugard wrote to Harcourt, then Secretary of State for the Colonies. “In the absence of any convenient local name, I would respectfully ask for permission to call this Port Harcourt.” To this, the Secretary of State replied, “It gives me pleasure to accede to your suggestion that my name should be associated with the new Port.”
The Port Harcourt is one of the leading Ports of Nigeria and its exports include Palmoil, Petroleum, Coal, Tin, Palm Products, Cocoa, and Peanuts. Industries of the area include Saw-Milling, Auto Assembly, Food Canning, Flour Milling, Tobacco Processing and the manufacture of Rubber, Glass, Metal and Paper Products, Cement, Petroleum Products, Paint, Enamelware, Bicycles, Furniture and Soap. The Port Harcourt Urban area (Port Harcourt Metropolis) is made up of the city itself and parts of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area. Some of Port Harcourt’s more popular and well-known residential areas are Port Harcourt Township, (simply known as Town) GRA Phases 1-5, Rumuomasi, Diobu, Amadi Flats, and Borokiyi. The main industrial area is located in Trans Amadi. Port Harcourt City which is the capital of Rivers State is highly congested as it is the only major city in the state.

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