Like was mentioned earlier on, the distinctive sub-cultural traits of Bini and Igbo find expression in their manner in economic activities, religious belief system, settlement patterns and linguistic variation. In short, these sub-cultural traits affect, in no small measure, the Ika culture and cultural heritage, and hence a succinct discourse on the’elements and admixture of the Igbos and the Binis.’
Elements of admixture of the Igbos and the Binis can be found today in Ika people’s features, language, religion, customs and indeed, the culture of the Ika people. The physical characteristics that distinguish the mainland Igbos and Binis are visible on the Ika people. This is because this mixture of Igbo and Bini people in Ika often meant that Ika laws and customs vanished and a new law and order evolved based partly on the invaders’ precedent and experience, and a little after, partly on the contact with the British.
Although the Ika-Igbo factor may not have preceded the Bini factor, yet it has assumed a greater pervading influence and has even become embedded in the subconsciousness of the Ika people. Hence overwhelming influence of the Igbos in Ika language cannot be explained strictly on the basis of this founding role.
The Igbo influence on Ika nowadays is all permeating in all spheres of human endeavour. For example, these are seen in commerce, where the Igbos are present in Ika towns and villages as traders and businessmen; or with the Ikas travelling to Igbo towns and villages to transact business. For most Christians, the texts for worship (Bible, Prayer Books, Hymn Books) were written in Igbo Language, which had been more accessible to greater majority than English. Even the early preachers, church workers, carpenters, interpreters, teachers, brick layers, etc., were mostly Igbo and Igbo-speaking. The young ones in schools were exposed to the Igbo Language as one of the major Nigerian Languages recommended in the school curriculum. Moreover, on the political front, the Ika-Igbo solidarity was fostered and sustained by the equation of the issue of Anioma Movement. These phenomena constitute effective linguistic bridges between the Ika ethnic nationality and the Igbo-speaking people of Anioma extraction of Delta State. Therefore, contrary to the Bini situation, here, the elements of mutual comprehension seem to have played heavily in favour of the Igbos and thereby creating favourable conditions for the establishment of affinities between Ika and the Igbo.
On the Bini side, it is instructive to note too the similarities between some common Bini and Ika names such as Amenata, Agbogun, Adagbon, Obazuaye, Igbenije, Igumbor, Igbenigun, Igbenedion, Igbenehi, Osunde, Igheghe, Okundaye, Igbenoba, Aghede, Imudia, Isibor, Iyama, Ihator, etc. Also, it could not have been by accident that many common place names and quarters in Ika bear Bini names such as Ogbeisere, Ihogbe, Ogwaide, Ogbeiwase, Ogbe-Isogban, Idumu-Oza, Iregwa, Ogbe Akina or Ogbeleka, Alizomor, Owuwu, Ozara, Ogan, Idumu Agbado, Idumu Iwase, Alisogbe, Ibiegwa, Ukpeworo, etc., found in Agbor, Abavo, Ute-Okpu, Umunede, Owa and in other kingdoms in Ika. In addition, as in Agbor tradition, the Idumu-Oza quarters in Benin has the traditional function of fabricating ceremonical copper anklets for the members of the royal family. There are similarities of other cultural ideology which are not lost among the Ika people.
Whereas the Obiship and traditional chieftaincy titles are essentially of Bini institution, some recent chieftaincy system follows Igbo line. The Ikas bear names similar to Bini and Igbo. Indeed, the Ika people do not have any shared physical characteristics distinguishing them from the Bini and the Igbo. The strongest cults in Ika are Olokun, of Bini origin and Ikengan, Uzun and Ehi (Chi) of Igbo origin. The Ofo (a patrimonial instrument of authority, which represents continuity) is also of Igbo origin.
This dual mode of origin, Bini and Igbo, of the Ika people has influenced them in many ways. For example, the older generations of the Ika people had tribal marks (Igu or egbugbu) of Bini origin, which the younger generations have discontinued due to Western civilization, and so on. This situation, however, tends to pose a crisis of ethnic identity of the Ika people being neither Binis nor Igbos. This mixed, but not exactly confused origin and history is evidenced mostly in Ika culture and her cultural heritage.
However, no matter the divergence of opinion and the identified diversities, the Ika ethnic nationality is an identifiable and vibrant entity, whose existence is not in doubt. Ika identification with larger ethnic nationalities should not create any identity crisis, but should rather be seem as a factor for highlighting Ika specificity, their uniqueness and so their autonomy as a group capable of making clear and conscious choice of whom their friends, brothers or sisters are. Ika are neither Igbo nor Bini, but essentially and intrinsically themselves, that is the Ikas.
The original language of most Ika people, as mentioned earlier on, is believed to be Bini. But through recent migration from Eastern communities (Igbo) to Ika, commercial, marital and social intercourse, the Igbo language seemed to supersede the language of the former. This situation, perhaps, has also to do with the classification of the Ika with the Aniocha, Oshimili and Ndokwa people in a group dubbed Ika-Igbo in the Nigeria socio-political nomenclature. This taxonomy is occasioned by the scanty information about the Ika people, which gained prominence during the Nigerian Civil War (1967 – 1970).
But the point must be made that in spite of the affinities between Ika and Igbo, Ika language cannot be described as an Igbo dialect. “Ika is an autonomous linguistic entity made up of its grammatical, syntactic phonological and lexical structures. It has its own literature, which is for the time being and for obvious reasons essentially oral. According to the great linguist, Professor Key Williamson, ‘Ika is a cluster of dialects.’ This implies the acceptance of the true status of Ika as a language. For logically, a dialect cannot be at the same time a dialect and a cluster of dialects. Therefore, Ika is a language with its positive political and ideological connotations rather than a dialect which often connotes inferiority. In other words Ika’s interactions with other ethnic nationalities should be seen on the basis of equality and fraternal relationships and not on the superiority equation.”
Indeed, the Ikas are not Igbo-speaking but Ika-speaking people. The truth of the matter should not be lost sight of. Ika in Delta State now have an identity in Nigeria for which they have come a long way in the struggle to position, reconstruct and this way, re-engineer Ika nation. One of the surest ways to achieve these objectives is the development and preservation of Ika language, as language is the vehicle that drives culture. It is the primary identity of a people as it is the key for all their education agenda. Onu Ika Nigeria, the mouth piece of the Ika ethnic nationality is currently addressing this issue. A committee has been put in place for the development of the Ika language and ensuring the practice of Ika language through encouraging its use and learning in established fora. Towards this aspiration, Ika language is taught in educational institutions in Ika Local Government Areas including the College of Education, Agbor. The Ika language autograph approval is seriously on the pipe line. This positive indication suggests the eventual introduction of Ika studies within the academic programme of the Delta State University.
Also, a clarion call has gone to all Ika at home and in the diaspora to speak and teach their children the Ika language. Ika is one of the ethnic languages in which the Delta State News and other vernacular programmes are transmitted in Delta State Radio and Television. In keeping to this aspiration also, the Ika Bible and the four gospel of the New Testament have been translated into Ndi Ozi Eno (Gospels according to Matthew, John, Luke and Mark) by the Ika Bible Translation Project. The translation of the other parts of the Bible has been completed. The first edition of an Ika Dictionary has been published and serious attempt is being made to increase Ika vocabulary in the second edition that is in progress. Many books have been written in all aspects of the Ika language, etc.
Chief (Dr) Onyekpeze .F.A. (JP)