Little Known Facts About the Ijaws #7


Between 1930 and 1944 the Ijaw Rivers People’s League was founded, whose main objective was to remove Ijaw territory from the Owerri province, as a direct response to the emerging pattern of ethnic domination in that province;

“Thus in 1942, at Aba a giant and a highly educated political leader from a neighbouring majority tribe addressed a mass rally of his people, inducing into their minds the ambition to dominate other ethnic groups, and outlined plans for the achievement of this ambition. Some Rivers elements present at that rally caught the hint and became gauled forthwith. All these served as impetus to prop up initiatives to form an organised body to fight for the rights of Rivers people. Thus on the 18th of November, 1943, late Chief R T E Wilcox, then a Government Supervising Teacher, with others Rivers Indigenes invited Chiefs and the people of the Rivers area to a meeting at the old Enitonna High School Hall, Port Harcourt at which he briefed the gathering on the issues involved. There and then the house resolved on the formation of the Ijaw Rivers Peoples’ League. The communities initially concerned with this movement were those of the Brass and Degema Divisions as well as Western Ijaws and those of Opobo Town. The Ndokis enlisted as members of the League later. The designation of the League was adopted to afford the communities in Ahoada and Ogoni Divisions an open door to come to when they chose to do so….”[1]

The original officers of the League were as follows: Mr R T E Wilcox (President), Mr E D Wolseley now Opu-Ogulaya (Deputy President), Messrs E MT Epelle and Abassa from Western Ijaw (Vice Presidents), S D Akanibo (Principle Secretary) A Ogudire (Assistant Secretary), D E Iwarimie Jaja (Organising Secretary), C Egi of Brass (Field Secretary), H B Thom-Manuel (Treasurer), D Achebe (Financial Secretary), W W Peters now I Daka (Publicity Secretary).

In March 1944, The President-General R T E Wilcox was transferred to Ijebu, by the colonial masters, in order to cripple the movement. In April 1944 Opu-Ogulaya was elected to take his place.

In Lagos there was a lot of pressure for a Rivers Province by members of the old Legislative Council. Individuals such as Rt. Rev E T Dimiari, member of the Legislative Council from 1944 to 1946, and the Hon Chief Obaseki, Prime Minister of Benin, continuously raised the issue. Also, the Ijaw State Union in Lagos, applied the pressure for the creation of a Rivers Province. In 1947, the Ijaw Rivers Peoples League’s President Mr E D Wolseley, now Opu-Ogulaya, led a delegation to the Chief Secretary of the Colonial Government of Nigeria, pressing for the need for the creation of a Rivers Province. As a result of these combined and sustained pressures, the Governor General, Sir Authur Richards constituted the Rivers Province with headquarters in Port Harcourt with effect from April 1947. The Owerri Province headquarters was relocated to Umuahia. This was the success legacy achieved by the Ijaw Rivers Peoples’ League.

[1] Ibid, pp37-38.