ANIOMA: THE STORY OF A PEOPLE
The name “Anioma” is an acronym derived from Aniocha ( A ) , Ndokwa ( N ) , Ika ( I ) and Oshimili ( O ) . The last suffix “MA” was added to give it a meaning in Igbo language. The names were of the four local government areas in existence at the time. Each of these Aniocha , Oshimili , Ndokwa and Ika subgroups have a long history relationship and have always been used to identify various portions of the present Anioma region for centuries by the natives of the land and historians alike. Aniocha literarily means ” White, Clean or pure people ” or literarily an upright people; in the Northcote Thomas Anthropological report of the Ibo speaking peoples of 1914 , the people historically identified themselves as Aniocha people which clearly evidencesd that the name existed well before colonial rule began, Oshimili carved out of Aniocha in 1976 simply means the River Niger , Ndokwa comes from two words “NDO” derived from the Old Ndosimili district council and KWA from the old Ukwuani district council though it can also be translated to mean ” the noble people ” or Nde – Okwa . Ika simply means farming because the people of the Agbor area are renowned as enterprising famers for centuries. It is these ideals surrounding these names that are meshed together to give the present Anioma identity of an upright people or noble people. It is also a land drained mainly by the majestic River Niger whose major sources contribute to farming as a chief occupation of the people.
The literary meaning of Anioma itself is ” Good or beautiful land, Good or beautiful people “. The literary meaning of Anioma itself is ” Good or beautiful land, Good or beautiful people “. It may also be expanded to mean “Fertile and”. This coinage is attributed to the Late Chief Dennis Osadebay, the ex-Senate President of Nigeria and the first and only Premier of the defunct Midwestern Region of the country who was the political leader of the largely Igbo speaking peoples of the old Western region of Nigeria . The name dates back from 1977 after the attempt to create a Niger State for the Anioma people failed in 1976. By administration, the Anioma people are with the exception of Ndoni , a West Niger people and this was also the reason Anioma was administered as part of the defunct Western region rather than the Eastern region. They were concentrated in the old Aboh and Asaba divisions with little representation in parts of Benin and Ishan divisions in the old Benin and Delta provinces.
During the colonial period, the Anioma people were not administratively governed as a distinct province but were incidentally balkanized for administrative conveniences into Aboh( Ukwuani ) and Asaba ( Enuani ) later lumped in Delta and Benin provinces respectively. This intricate administrative policy delayed the attempt to create a political capital for the Anioma people. Sentimentally, he balkanization of this area was the beginning of the divide and rule strategy and in reaction to this, the people established a virgin territory called ” Anioma city ” in the geographical heart of the territory ( Ekuku Agbor/ Ejeme Aniogor and Utagba Uno axis ) but with the creation of Delta State in 1991 with the capital in Asaba, the issue of absence of a political capital was permanently settled. Asaba it must be noted served as the first administrative capital of Nigeria ( 1886-1900) and therefore fits perfectly in her role as the prospective capital of the Anioma people and the present Delta State.
POPULATION, ETHNIC GROUPS AND COMMUNITIES According to the 2006 provisional census , the Anioma area of Delta State has a total population of 1, 229 , 371 and its distributed as follows:-
Aniocha North 104, 711 Aniocha South 140, 604 Ika North East 183, 657 Ika South 162 , 594 Ndokwa East 103, 171 Ndokwa West 149, 325 Oshimili North 115, 316 Oshimili South 149, 603 Ukwuani 120, 390
Beyond Delta State, the Anioma territory of Edo includes Igbanke( approximately 50,000 ) , Ekpon ( approximately 10, 000 ) and Inyelen ( approximately 5,000 ) while for the Ndoni area of Rivers State is approximately 75,000. These communities are approximately 140,000 thus the population of Anioma land is about 1.37 million. It should be borne in mind that because of the issues of logistics , many people were not enumerated. In addition the census results did not reveal the ethnic composition of Nigerians thus it becomes awfully difficult to determine the actual population figure of the Anioma people, compelling one to resort to the choice estimate. The 1921, 1931, 1952 , 1962 and 1963 censuses which demographically took the ethnic backgrounds of Nigerian peoples into consideration measured Anioma as the largest non-Yoruba minority in the old Western Region and in fact, the most populated ethnic group in Nigeria. According to the 1921 census, Anioma numbered over 234,000 people and growingly said to rising by 3 per cent on annual basis. If this population figure is anything to go by then the Anioma population figure should have exceeded 3 million towards the end of 2011. In the 1952 census , the old Asaba division had 212,000 residents , Aboh division had 130 ,000 , Igbanke clan now in Edo State 14 , 700 people , Ekpon clan 3,700 residents while Inyelen had less than 1,000 residents . Giving a total of about 363 ,000 residents . This excluded the large population of Anioma residents in other areas .
The Anioma people are considered as homogeneous ethnic stock and for centuries have identified themselves as Enuani or Eluali in Ika and Ukwuani quarters. The Enuanis or upland peoples geographically occupy the old Asaba Division while the Ukwuani or the lowlanders occupy the old Aboh Division. Both Enuani and Ukwuani are inter-changeably used and it does not connote a dichotomy between these groups. It is merely a division based on ecological peculiarities. Thus amongst the Anioma people there is a strong sense of kinship and ties that culturally binds the various communities. This has always brought the various people and communities together and greatly manifested during the Ekumeku wars( 1883-1912 ) against British colonial penetration. Anioma people have also related through trade even as historians noted that it did not require interpreters to do transactions.