(also called Ndokwa) are one of the tribes in the Southern part of Nigeria in the Western part of the Niger Delta. They are found majorly in the Northern part of Delta State and in some parts of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government area of Rivers State, Nigeria.
The Ukwuani-speaking people of the Niger Delta occupies the area lying approximately between longitude 606, and 6042, East, and latitudes 6031, and 50251 North. The Ụkwụànì comprise one of the major ethnic groups of the Delta State region, the others being the Igbo (Asaba), Itsekiri, Ijaw, Isoko, Ika and Urhobo (This Day 17 Apr.2002; Aweto, 2003). The geographical boundaries of the territory are as follows: on the North by the Edo speaking people; on the south by the Ijo; on the East by the Niger River; on the West by Urhobo and Isoko speaking people, on the North-East by Ika and Aniocha people; and on the South-East by Ahoada Local Government of the Rivers State. The important rivers in the region are Niger, Ethiope, Adofi, and Umu while the Ase creek is the major creek. Ukwuani speaking people, although a minority group in Nigeria, consists of three robust Local Government Areas: (Ndokwa West, Ndokwa East, and Ukwuani) with over three dozens of towns and villages thus making it the second largest ethnic nationality in Delta state after the Urhobo people. They are also the largest group in Delta North senatorial district which is usually referred to as Anioma region. The three most popular ones are Kwale, Aboh and Obiaruku. The geographical position of Ụkwụànì places the country within two belts: deltaic swampy forests, which occupy the southern and South-Eastern coastal towns and villages, and the tropical rain forests, situated in the Northern part of the territory rain forests, situated in the Northern part of the territory. In the swampy region, numerous creeks and impassable dense forests abound, and there are floods in certain periods of the year.
Ukwuani people speak the Ukwuani language. It belongs to the branch of the Volta-Niger language family and it has varying dialects within the Ndosumili-Aboh area. The one spoken by the majority of the people which is regarded the standard dialect is the Utagba dialect. It is easily understood by the speaker of the other dialects and it is the dialect that is used for Ukwuani language studies. It is also included in the list of 27 Nigerian languages approved by the Federal Government for the purpose of "mother tongue education". A bible will soon be published in Ukwuani. Grimes and Grimes (2003) claim that the dialects called Ụkwụànì (Ukwani, Ukwali, Kwale), Aboh (Eboh) and Ndoni are spoken among over 150,000 - 900,000 people in the regions of Delta State, Ndokwa West, Ndokwa East and Ukwuani Local Government Areas (LGA) and the Ndoni of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA in Rivers State. They also note that these dialects form a family cluster within the Igbo language cluster. Nevertheless, the Ụkwụànì language, which is intelligible with the dialects of Aboh and Ndoni, is distinct enough from Igbo language. Hence it is considered a separate language.
The Ukwuani people also belong to those groups whose history was largely undocumented but from the varying accounts of the elders, three waves of migration appeared to account for present population of the Ukwuani people. <Okolugbo2004,page2> stated that the first wave are represented by the clans who claimed to have originated from Benin Kingdom. Some of these clans include Umu-akashiada, Ebedei, and Akarai. The second waves of independent settlers are those whose ancestors migrated from Eastern Nigeria. The clans in this group settled along the bank of the River Niger and they include Umu-obarauchi, Ndoni, Onya, and Adawai. A third wave is in the form of a well-organised expendition of Edo conquerors and some of this group include, Aboh, Amai, Umukwata <Okolugbo 2004,page3>. Ogbe-ani in Utagba-uno clan also claimed to migrate from ancient Benin Kingdom. <Okolugbo 2004,page 4> stated that apart from these three waves of immigration, there are also mixed eastern and western Igbo origin Edo immigrants. Hence, the Ukwuani's are by origin a mixture of Bini (Benin) and Igbo extraditions (Odili, 2010).
Culture and Mode of dressing
The culture of the Ndokwa people is also related to several cultures in the Niger-delta. Their mode of dressing in which they cherish so much is the same with the entire Delta peoples-the Urhobos, Ijaws, Itsekiri etc. as they traded and intermarried for centuries before the colonial rule. - were originated from the foreign mode of dressing by the Europeans-cowboy hats, wrappers, and beads.
Society and the arts
Ụkwụànì people are large-scale farmers. Those living in communities traversed by rivers and creeks also fish. Rubber and palm oil extraction have been the major source of income. Indigenous arts include basket weaving, metalwork and sculpture (Okpu-Uzo). The Ụkwụànì are also widely known for their music, having produced such Late artistes as Charles Iwegbue, Ali Chukwuma, King Ubulu, Prince Smart Williams Achugbue, Issac Rogana Ottah, Sir Daddy Kris, Agu Lato, Franco Lee Ezute, they still have on the list names which are ever present in the scene such as Julie Bright, John Okpor, Prince Tonny Kiddy, sir kendo, Queen Azaka, Bob Fred, Eric Enuma, Computer Onah, Steady Arobbi, Deskenny, Prince 2 Boy, Ishioma Henry Ossai, Orji Moore, Chris Hanem, Eric Enuma, Capt Dennis Abamba, Murphy Gingo, Chuks Igba, Ogwezi Ubulu and many others. Their music is one of the main influences they have had over their neighbors, many of whom have adopted Ụkwụànì music as their own traditional music. They remain a socially tight-knit group. Community unions and clubs are the rule, even among those who have emigrated to North America, Europe, or Asia. These organizations routinely hold festivals and celebrations. Marriage and burial rites are also often the occasion for elaborate ceremonies. The people are deeply religious as most of the people are Christians; Large Catholic congregations are found in Obiaruku, Ashaka, Obinomba, Umutu and Kwale where Catholic missionaries established churches and elementary schools during the colonial era. Protestant churches are also common. Like other African societies (Mbiti, 1969) they believe in the Supreme Being (Chukwu) - Olisebunuwa - Ogagankwagidi, pantheon of divinities, myriads of spirits, the ancestors (who play vital roles in their lives) and magic. Traditional worship still takes place in nearly every community and there is also a small Muslim minority in Amai commmunity. Ndokwa play host to several multinational oil and gas companies. The Italian company AGIP commissioned the first Independent Power Plant (IPP) built by an oil company in Nigeria (at Okpai-Kwale), etc. The area has a reputation for providing a business-friendly environment. Despite its contribution to the wealth of the Nation, the Ndokwa people like nearly other ethnic minorities of the Niger delta region frequently complain of marginalization. Despite all this the Ndokwa people have been very peaceful. All the youth restiveness in the Niger Delta was approached peacefully by them.
Colonial History of Ndokwa
The colonial history of Ndokwa people began in 1905 with the formal establishment of colonial administrative office in Kwale. It was then known as Aboh Native Authority and later renamed Aboh Division in 1952 with headquarter in Kwale. In 1976, there was Local Government reforms and Aboh Division became Ndokwa Local Government with headquarters still in Kwale. The name Ndokwa was formed from two words; Ndoshimili and Ukwuani. They signify the two major districts of Aboh Division. Following the 1991 and 1997 Local Government creations embarked upon by the Military led Government, Ndokwa came under three Local Government Areas (LGAs) namely; Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West and Ukwuani with headquarters in Aboh, Kwale and Obiaruku respectively. The three LGAs speak Ukwuani language and are known and recognized as a distinct ethnic nationality since pre-colonial times. In the last century, something incredible occurred in the annals of human history. The Juxtaposition of nations, cultures and peoples found an expression in the name: NIGERIA when Lord Lugard amalgamated its Northern and Southern Protectorates. Ndokwa people were a part of the nations in the Southern protectorate. Although it included the great Aboh Kingdom which, arguably, was the greatest naval force on the Niger Delta Coast for close to a century before the arrival of the Europeans, the people were subjected to British rule and would later be ruled as part of the Western region-one of the two regions carved out of the Southern protectorates. By 1963, Mid-west region was created to include Ndokwa Land and other Non-Yoruba speaking parts of western region. Ndokwa people remained as part of Mid-West region until Ndoni people were carved out from Aboh Division to join parts of the old Eastern region to form Rivers State in May 1967 as part of a new 12 State Federal Structure. The rest of Ndokwa Land remained in the Mid-west which was now renamed Bendel State, fusing the first three letters from the Benin Province with the first three letters of Delta Province. Ndokwa remained as part of the Mid-west Bendel configuration for 28 years until the creation of Delta State in 1991. Today, Ndokwa people are proud Nigerian Citizens, proud of their heritage and patriotic to the core. Their sons have served the Nigerian Nation in all of its Armed Forces and their scholars occupy the Ivory Towers in not only the Nigerian Universities but in several institutions around the globe.
- Mary H king,1899
- College of Languages