Onyeji Nnaji Replies Reno Omokiri's Succinct History of Igbo Slavery
Discussing historical criticism, Ama Ata Aidoo, remarked that, in writing about one's own people, the writer should know that certain aspects of the people's history should be put into consideration, else the people would be left vulnerable. The Ghanaian critic and playwright did not mean an expunge of any aspect of the people's history; rather, that those areas be treated with care.
For a man I so much treasured his constructive critical works to treat a dehumanizing lifestyle that is completely barbaric with the fancy that makes it look like an honourable lifestyles of a people rather than a show of wickedness against humanity and the victim tribe concerned, simply because he wants to react to a displeasing statement of one person, is something I found with apparent intellectual misgivings. For precision, here is the succinct information about how Itsekiri proudly sold many Igbos to slavery as gloriously documented by Pastor Reno Omokiri,
It may please you to see the response that led Reno Omokiri into informing the world that Itsekiri were at the forefront of the most barbaric and inhuman act perpetrated by the heartless blacks against their fellow blacks.
Reno Omokiri (Pastor) did not understand the semantic implication of the referent term "slave" in the culture of his victims as he clearly mentioned. Did he, he would be careful in the writing above. Igbo do not take it lightly when they are called slaves. To the Igbo, a slave is rightly a captive of a war or a similar uncommon situation. In the later days, after callous and heartless blacks like the Itsekiri and Edo had taken to the sale of fellow brethren, it became wedded into the Igbo lexicon that one could possibly buy another as slaves. Then came several other roles slaves played in the traditional Igbo society, such as being used for burials.
So, the knowledge of slavery and the trauma of being a slave was not the nature of the Igbo in the beginning; instead they were introduced to some haughty Igbo people who, due to the affluent rewords they found their Itsekiri merchant friends with, found it lucrative. Nevertheless, there were a handful number possessed by the some Igbo warriors after they were hired by a Benin Oba to fight their Yoruba neighbours. These slaves were pushed to the waterside of the Atlantic (the Oru). Apart from this, Igbo had not had any conquest war of savagery advancement with any of her neighbours in the past, save some meager wars within the Igbo settlements. For this reason, Itsekiri did not use any Igbo person, except those they had stolen moments to kidnap along the boundary tracts. This is what Omokiri refused to tell the world. He wanted his readers to see legendary on the part of the Itsekiri over the Igbo. He did not want his readers to know that Itsekiri and Benin were the first set of cannibals to emerge in West Africa. They kidnapped their neighours at the unintelligible deception of the White. It was when the boundary neighbours stood up to a war challenge that the Itsekiri changed course and moved against their most hated people, the Igbo.
The hatred the Itsekiri had against the Igbo those days bothered on her name. Ginuwa who was claimed to have founded the Itsekiri and formerly ruled the enclave as their first king did not give her the name she bore today. Speaking on the history of the Itsekiri, the British Encyclopedia reveals that "Ginuwa, the Itsekiri founder and first olu (king), was originally a prince of Benin, so that subsequent kings are descendants of the oba of Benin". The Igbo of Obosi and Ahaba who had contact with the Itsekiri via ancient barter trade, had earlier made bad remarks on the Itsekiri, as an elder reliably told me. They insulted them over their infirmities and called them "Ishi Ekiri" in the Igbo Language, meaning a peoeple with deformity on the head, referring to the unkempt and raugh hair the inhabitants wore.
Could this be the reason why the Itsekiri feel happy and shoulder-high with the deadly act against humanity to announce that they are descendants of thieves and people who sold fellow neighbours for cheap rewards by foreigners. Every people have certain aspects of their history that is terrifying and unhistoric in nature, just like Omokiri himself noted that "History is not always pleasant." The bad aspects of people histories are not abandoned entirely, instead they are diplomatically contained within the spectrum of discrepancy; what deconstructionists would realize through binery oppositions.
How would it look to you, should I tell you that my ancestors were swindlers, or that they were professional rapists responsible for all the women raped, killed and sold to slavery from your community? If you feel normal, then I doubt if your father really is your father. Itsekiri committed this whole atrocious and inhuman acts and it is presently a thing of pride to their children. This is quite disgusting, barbaric and unheard-of.
But, why did Pastor Omokiri choose to write this way now? I am not surprised; when you are from a conquered territory it is very easy for the rulling Fulani to call you a dot in a circle. Maybe in the same solitude, Asari Dokubo called the Igbo Ijaw servants. Now, Omokiri has come up to reiterate Asari's claim and makes it more insulting that Igbo were Itsekiri slaves. Perhaps tomorrow President Goodluck Jonathan will speak for his Okrika descents and call the Igbo their "Osu". One day, I mean one day, all these will end and the Igbo nation shall be hallowed as the god's we are and the mother home of greater African population. I remain grateful to Pastor Reno Omokiri for confessing to Nonny that his generations from the beginning have been thieves, Kidnappers, rapists and proudly the first people to introduce the sale of fellow humans. And of importance to Nonny, Omokiri''s fathers were responsible for the adoption of his ancestors. Should Nonny wish to know further, Omokiri has shown him "Ogidigbem" where Omokiri's fathers sold them. It is a welcomed piece, a sad story but relevant as denoting the barbarians with barbaric culture around the Niger River.