|Regions with significant populations|
The Ikwerre (also spelt Ikwere) are one of the many native ethnic groups in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. They are a subgroup of the Igbo people, although a small minority for political expediency now dispute this account, claiming their history was rewritten during the colonial period because of the dominance of the larger Igbo group. The Ikwerre are said to be related or share common ancestry with the Ogba and Ekpeye people (Akalaka brothers). They trace their origins to Owerri, Ohaji, Etche, and Ngwa areas of Igboland. They constitute the majority of Rivers State, although there are other populations in neighboring states. The Ikwerre speak the Ikwerre language, a dialect part of the many diverse Igbo dialects, and are predominantly settled in the Ikwerre, Obio-Akpor, Port Harcourt and Emohua local government areas. They are traditionally farmers, fishermen and hunters, but in recent times, the environmental degradation and urban sprawl associated with oil exploration and exploitation has caused a sharp decline in the amount of farmland, forests and rivers available for their traditional occupations.
The Ikwerre exist in well-delineated clans, with each clan having its own Paramount King, therefore, the Ikwerre do not have an overall paramount ruler or king, but designated kings, rulers or leaders mostly approved by its constituents. Although all paramount rulers in Ikwerre are united in what is known as Ogbakor Ikwerre which is an association of Ikwerre traditional rulers. A total of 92 oil wells, producing an estimated 100,000 barrels of crude daily, are located in Ikwerreland. The Ikwerre therefore play host to several multinational oil-producing and servicing companies, in addition to many other industries and establishments. Despite these, the Ikwerre, like nearly all other minorities of the Niger Delta, frequently complain of marginalisation by the oil operatives. The University of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, the three campuses of the Rivers State College of Education, as well as the Port Harcourt Polytechnic, are all sited on Ikwerreland.
There are several theories over the origin, and the strongest and most widely accepted one is the theory linking the Ikwerre to an Igbo origin. They would be descendents from an Igbo migration from Awka and Orlu areas towards South. Igbo scholars take Ikwerre as part of the Southern Igbo. Amadi, an Ikwerre scholar, says that the Igbo origin theory has some support even inside Ikwerre themselves, with Ikwerre would be descendants of a migration of Arochukwu Igbo, with Okpo Nwagidi being the leader of the Ikwerre tribe. Before the civil war, there had been dissident voices that claimed that Ikwerre could have migrated from Owerri, Ohaji, Ngwa, and Etche areas of Igboland. But when Port Harcourt was conquered by Nigeria during the Biafran War and the Igbo people from other parts of Igboland fled the territory, a UN report says that the Ikwerre decided to claim that the Ikwerre were non-Igbo for convenience. The Ikwerre are recognized officially as a separate group in the 1979 Nigerian Constitution.
Some notable people of Ikwerre origin:
- Elechi Amadi, writer
- Emmanuel Onunwor, former Mayor of East Cleveland, Ohio, USA
- Chibuike Amaechi, former Governor of Rivers State
- Obi Wali, Writer, Politician and Minority rights activist
- Tonto Dikeh, Actress, Musician
- Celestine Omehia,former Governor of Rivers State
- Monalisa Chinda, Actress
- Duncan Mighty, Musician
- Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, Current Governor of Rivers State
- Hon. O.K Chinda, Politician
- Bobby Ogoloma, Actor
- Okogbule Wonodi, Poet, former Mayor of Port Harcourt
- Stephen Amanwo, President, University of East London Students' Union London UK
- Chigere, Nkem Hyginus M. V. (2001). Foreign Missionary Background and Indigenous Evangelization in Igboland. LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster. p. 17. ISBN 3-8258-4964-3. Retrieved 2008-11-24.
- Udeani, Chibueze (2007). Inculturation as Dialogue: Igbo Culture and the Message of Christ. Rodopi. p. 12. ISBN 90-420-2229-9.
- Yakan, Muḥammad Zuhdī (1999). Almanac of African peoples & nations. Transaction Publishers. p. 371. ISBN 1-56000-433-9.
- Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version: Linguistic Lineage for Ikwere
- Kelechukwu U. Ihemere (2007). A Tri-Generational Study of Language Choice & Shift in Port Harcourt. Universal-Publishers. pp. 26–35. ISBN 9781581129588.
- Okwudiba Nnoli. Ethnicity and development in Nigeria. Research in ethnic relations series. Avebury Series in Philosophy. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. ISBN 9781859721155.
The Igbo indigenous who remained found it advantageous to deny their Igbo origin and claimed, instead, a non-Igbo Ikwerre identity