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The Impact Of Colonialism On The Ogoni Relations With The Igbo/ Igbo” Stranger Elements, 1900-1960. 


 Benedict, B.B. Naanen (PhD) Department Of History & Diplomatic Studies University Of Port Harcourt 

Uebari Samuel N-Ue Department Of History And Diplomatic Studies Ignatius Ajuru University Of Education, Port Harcourt, Nigeria Tel: +23480374667 E-Mail: samuel12@yahoo.Com 


Colonialism, as a global phenomenon, violently spread to the pre- colonial nationality of Ogoni in order to achieve the economic and political interest of the British. To entrench colonialism in the area and indeed in what became today’s Nigeria, many fundamental changes were made. This paper adopts the historical methods of primary and diverse secondary sources as well as multi-disciplinary approach in its analysis to interrogate the nexus between colonialism and the Ogoni-Igbo relations in the colonial era. The work maintains that the British colonial policies and actions helped to foster more intricate and complex web of contacts between the Ogoni and their Igbo neighbours and Igbo stranger elements in Ogoniland. Colonialism also created conditions that increasingly made intermingling of culture and ideas essentially antagonistic. This paper, however, argues that colonialism was a paradox whose balance sheet shows more deficit than credit as it generated most of 

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the conflicts and violence that created huge socio-economic cum political gorges between the peoples of Ogoni and Igbo and the stranger elements. The work summit that if the suggested remedies such are tolerance, avoidance of internal colonialism, inter-group hatred and jealousy inter alia are sincerely adopted, Nigeria will be a safe place for us all as a country where justice, equity, peaceful co- existence, harmony and sustainable development shall abound. 


There is apparently no gain saying the fact the country Nigeria did not exist before 1914. What existed were polities, empires, kingdoms, chiefdoms and so on which regarded themselves as independent and sovereign and related between and among themselves as such. The point to stress is that Ogoni like most parts of Nigeria was violently incorporated into the British colonial empire from 1900 onwards. Thus, the Ogoni territory seems to become the last to fall under the British alien rule in Niger Delta given that Nigeria was not colonized at once and Ogoniland was not situated near the coast where the major activities of the Europeans started. Prior to the British invasion and occupation of Ogoniland, her neighbours including the Igbo had for long been conquered and brought under colonialism as a grand design to occupy Nigeria due to their proximity to the coast and early contact they had with the British conquerors. 

For decades now, colonialism remains a watershed in the history and development of African societies (Ogoni inclusive). It actually bequeathed an indelible impression on Africa and the Africans. As Oliver and Amore (1972:245) aptly remark “measure on the time scale of history, the colonial period was but an interlude of comparatively short duration, but it was an interlude that radically changed the direction and momentum of African history”. The basic Point here is that since most African Countries became independent, scholars are yet to unanimously agree on the balance assessment of the colonial situation in African history. Aside from this, the 

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pre-occupation of scholars was mainly the changes in the political, social and economic spheres and the significance of these on the emergent states, thereby neglecting, and ignoring an important theme like Colonialism and inter-group relations. Okpeh (2006a:19) states pungently “the actual consequences of Colonialism on the dynamics of intergroup relations in Africa did not capture the imagination of scholars until perhaps, recently”. Even when they do, attention was only concentrated on mega or macro societies, leaving the nature, pattern and character of human relations in micro societies like Ogoni untreated. Against this backdrop, the study critically analyses, interrogates and historicizes the actual consequences of colonialism on Ogoni relations with her Igbo distant neighbours and Igbo stranger elements. 

Conceptual Explications 

In this segment of the work, we attempt an exploratory analysis of conceptual/and theoretical, issues on our subject matter – colonialism and inter-group relations. There is a general consensus among scholars that colonialism is not a modern phenomenon and restricted to a specific epoch in history. Historically, colonialism dates back to ancient times and the Roman Empire provide a vivid and classic example of the greatest colonial empire of ancient times. Rome embarked on expansionist policy about 264 BC and forcefully wielded half of Europe, much of the Middle East, and the entire north coast of Africa under its hegemony (The World Book Encyclopedia, 1995:8 13). 

Phenomenally, colonialism changed dramatically given the breakthroughs in technology in the sixteenth century. The massive revolution in navigation significantly linked more remote parts of the world together and sustained closer ties between the centre and the oversea colonies (Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy 2000, retrieved on 03/03/15). Apparently, this development gave birth to modern European colonial project as it was easier to convey multitude of people across the ocean and to establish political sovereignty over other territories despite the wide 

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distance and geographical dispersion. At the bottom of the above idea is the notion that colonialism is a tern used to describe the process of European settlement and political control over the rest of the world, including America. Australia and parts of Africa as well as Asia (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2000. retrieved on 03/05/2015). 

According to Dort (1959:234), colonialism refers to “the control of weak’ or ‘backward’ areas of the world by stronger and economically more advanced nations” cited in Onwuzurike, 2006:1). Brookfield (1972:1-2 sees colonialism as a thorough going. comprehensive and deliberate penetration of a local or ‘residentary’ system by agents of an external system, whose aim is to restructure the pattern of organization, resource use, circulation and out look so as to bring these into a linked relationships with other system”. On his own part, Fieldhouse (1961:187) submits that colonialism was the product of political ambitions, international rivalries and complex situations in the non-European world. Nkrumah (1957:vii) maintains that colonialism is a policy through which the colonial power binds her colonies to herself by political ties with the primary object of promoting her economic advantages. Submitting to Nkrumah’s position, Okpeh (2006b:19) says “colonialism was a system of foreign domination that had no calculation about the development of the natives, but how to ensure the objective condition for the exploitation of the economic and human resources of the colony. Colonialism was also an illegitimate regime searching for legitimacy” 

The above definitions portray that there are conflicting views on colonialism. However, it is discernable that the central idea of colonialism is domination, competition and exploitation. The economic explanation of colonialism has made some scholars to believe that imperialism and colonialism are synonymous and could be used interchangeably. NekaBari (2002:261) insists that they are antonyms which must not be used interchangeably when he avers that imperialism refers to the outward drive for overseas territorial possessions while the national rivalry and cut-throat competition associated with such drive for territorial possession overseas 

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prompted the need for secured and material sources and markets which is the essence of colonialism. In the main, imperialism denotes the forceful integration of a regional economy into the orbit of an expanding economy while colonialism refers to the political or administrative structure of political dominance of one country over the other in order to secure their economic interest. Ho ever, the philosophical bond of these concepts is the domination of one country by another economically, socially, politically and otherwise. 

Inter-group Relations is another concept that is central to our study and worth examining. It has to be stressed from the onset that inter-group relation is a complex and multi-dimensional phenomenon and as such its meanings are located in both the Social Sciences and the Humanities. In concrete terms, there are multiple definitions and perspectives of inter- group relations. Suffice that it is the independent interactions and contacts between and among groups which might be simple or complex, confliction or accommodation, co-operation or competition, alliance or enmity, peaceful or acrimonious, and peace or war. These are markedly manifested in political, economic, religious, socio-cultural, philosophical, cosmological, technological, legal and judicial system and so on. As we shall see later in this work, the manner the British colonizers forcefully imposed colonialism on Nigerians and sustained it made the impact of colonialism to be quite phenomenal. 

The Aetiology of Colonialism in Ogoniland 

The Ogoni people are one of the distinct and earliest ethnic nationalities of the forty different ethnic groups that are speaking two hundred and fifty languages and dialects in the South-South Geo-political zone of Nigeria (TCND, 2008:102). They occupy the eastern mainland of Eastern Niger Delta and are bordered to the South by the Atlantic Ocean and Ijaw (Ijo) communities, to the north by the Ndoki/Igbo, to the West by Ikwerre and to the East by the Annang/Ibibio people (N-ue. 2011:64). 

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However, for the purposes of political and administrative convenience, the area is balkanized into four local government areas which are Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme with Bori as their traditional headquarters (N-ue, 2012:174,). Consequent upon the dictate of her ecology coupled with her strategic location, Ogoni, from time immemorial, has effectively played and is still playing substantial role in the history of Niger Delta and Nigeria. 

The Ogoni, like other communities in today’s Nigeria came under the purview of the British colonialists in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 19th century, precisely on 19th April, 1898, while on an expedition to suppress the political and economic rights of Chief Woke Wogu of Rumuokwurushi (Ikwerre), the British had the only treaty in Ogoniland with the people of Ebubu, Eleme (Ngofa, 1988:203, Akekue, 1994:1, Gomba, 1993). By this treaty, the people were believed to have signed away their independence to the British overlords. 

The British conquest of Ogoni in the 20th century took the form of brute force. The British’s penetration came through two prongs the Egwanga-Opobo-Kono axis and Akwete-Obete-Sogho axis. It was through the Egwanga-Opobo-Kono axis that the British declared a protectorate over Ogoniland in 1900 through the instrumentality of the Ogoni Native Proclamation Decree No. 7. By this means, the British conquerors vigorously planted their “Union Jack” Flag at Kono (Ogodist, 4/1/12). Although, this was peaceful but the penetration through Akweete-Ohete- Sogho axis was characterized by the application of brute force. The Ogoni people, who have always considered themselves independent and was never conquered by their neighbouring communities, sternly resisted the penetration of the British intruders. However, it took more of force and overwhelming technological superiority of Britain to compel obedience rather than persuasion or willful surrendering of their land to the colonial overlords. 

With the total conquest and successful subjugation of Ogoni territory, the kingdom was brought under the British alien rule in the Niger 

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Delta. Thus, the forceful imposition and establishment of consequent British rule in Ogoniland and its consolidation actually brought about profound changes which altered the nature and pattern of inter-group relations between the Ogoni and their Igbo stranger elements. To properly analyse and examine the far-reaching consequences, the various implications were coalesced into positive and negative impact. 

Positive Impact of Colonialism on Ogoni – lgbo/strangers Elements in the Colonial Period 

With the subjugation of the people of Ogoni, the British registered their presence in Ogoniland. Colonial activities in the region kick-started with the gradual establishment of basic features of British rule such as Judicial Native Authorities, the Native School and the Church. The first Native Court established in the area was the Sogho Native Court in April, 1912. Others were established later in Nchia Eleme in 1923 and Kono (Khana) in 1926. These courts were the hubs around which judicial, economic and administrative processes reo1ved. They represented the symbol of Her Majesty the Queen of Britain in the area. Ikime (1977:173) lucidly argues that ‘they rendered material assistance in the control of the territories which were only just being brought under British rule”. In another sense, the establishment of these courts was very historic to positively influence the Ogoni-Igbo relations in the colonial period. This was so because the Sogho and Eleme Native Courts entertained cases brought by litigants and warring parties from both Ndoki/Igbo and the Igbo stranger-elements. As it was the tradition, judges in these courts were drawn from both sides. Our investigations disclosed that Mr. E.O. Okoroji who hailed from Arochukwu served in Sogho Native Court as the first court clerk, while Mr. Nwankwo Ntambu and Chief Fred Opanwa both warrant chiefs were sitting members or the Judiciary Panel of the Sogho Native Court. Also, Mr. Nodumele of Oyigbo was also appointed by warrant to serve as a judge in the Eleme (Mboli) Grade “C” court. Colonial 

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administration, therefore, promoted the age-long relationship that existed between these peoples. 

Also, for the British interim administration which was later renamed the Native Administration to survive in Ogoniland, indirect rule was adopted. In the new administration, the Ogoni people were to be ruled by their laws and customs but supervised by the British District Officers. To bridge the communication gap between the British Officials and the locals including the Tere-bue which the British overlords met on ground and called them chiefs, the services of the Igbo were employed. The reason for the choice of Igbo who were the major bureaucrats of the Native Authority in Ogoniland and the horde of colonial auxiliary workers were not far- fetched. First, since the pre-colonial days Igbo Language was generally spoken by many communities outside Igbo land due to its well-developed industries and trade acumen (Koler, 1840 quoted by Isichei. 1977:14-15). Second, was the maneuvering skill of the Igbo to endear themselves into the hearts of the British. As Nwabughuogu (2013:7) vividly testifies: The fact that the Igbo quickly adapted to the environment created by European colonialism, steadily they learnt the new trades occasioned by colonial rule and quickly surpassed their neighbours. Many went to school and acquired the English language. Others took to retail trade in European goods. So, the Igbo who were literary everywhere in Ogoniland had made the Ogoni hosts to be speaker of two languages, Igbo and Eleme/Khana/Tai/Gokana. 

We note that English language was the sole medium of communication and fluency or competence in the language fast track colonial administration. The Igbo elements, therefore, played pivotal role in Ogoni during the colonial period variously as school teacher, interpreters. Kotima, clinic attendants dispensers, labourers, court attendants, messengers colonial public servants, cooks, political agents, catechists, missionaries, and many others. Even as recent as 23 May, 1947 when 

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hospital was established in Bori, the traditional and administrative headquarters of Ogoni, the first indigenous medical officer came from Igboland. He was Dr. S.O. Egwato. The Igbo’s appointments made Bori to experience a tremendous influx of population from Igboland and other places. Most Ogoni themselves started to migrate, into Bori than the pre- colonial era. The Igbo, no doubt, provided the hub on which intense socio- cultural interaction was grafted in Ogoniland. 

We also need to emphasize here that the Igbo who had earlier embraced western education encouraged their Ogoni hosts to send their children to school. This claim can he exemplified in the likes of one Gbarazia Kip. Gbarazi kip, one of the principal landlords in Bori who generously gave a parcel of his land to the Igbo teachers for their settlement. They reciprocated the kind gesture by persuading their donor to send Paul Gbarazi (his son) to school (Paul Gbarazia. 02/01/2013). This feat is recorded of the Igbo in almost all the oral traditions of the Ogoni villages. 

They formed the nucleus of the missions’ teaching staff who taught the natives how to read and write English and Igbo languages and solve some commercial arithmetic. These were achieved through the organization of Adult Education (both day and night) as well as Sunday Schools for the Ogoni non – literate population. Mention must be made of the fact that majority of them acted as interpreters, lay preachers, catechists, and helpers to the European Christian Missionaries in Ogoni land. By this development, they significantly helped to deepen Christianity in the land and encouraged the locals to launch deeper for God. Their influence in proselytizing the Christian faith has remained historic and memorable. Church services were simultaneously conducted in both Igbo and Khana/Gokana/Eleme languages. Most Christians in Ogoniland till date still prefer Igbo Bible to Khana/Gokana/Eleme Bibles for better understanding and interpretation of the word of God. Indeed, a more pro- active and transformational inter-course resulted as the Igbo language speakers borrowed more Ogoni words (loan words) while the Ogoni also borrowed the Igbo words. Taken together, those new colonial institutions; 

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courts, schools and churches acted as catalyst for social change and new cultural change that over-hauled and broadened the network of the Ogoni- Igbo relations in the colonial era. 

It is also crucial to point out that the advent of British colonial administration facilitated the scope of the colonial Ogoni and the Igbo relations. The Pax Britannica which is evident in dense network of roads, like the Trunk ‘A’ and Trunk B, the massive construction of bridges and culverts, the completion of the Enugu- Port Harcourt railway in 1926 as well as the maintenance of peace and order quickened and encouraged migration of people, guaranteed their safety and protected the business of the Igbo people, The railway construction resulted in what Afigbo (1987:83) aptly describes as the influx of “native aliens” into the Ogoni country. From their concentration camps at Afam, Kom Kom and Rumokwurushi, the Igbo work force migrated into Ogoni area and later invited their relations and friends to come and explored the business opportunities in the area such as cooks, stewards, gardeners, wood boys, water boys, mail boys, and carriers, among others. This development coupled with the fact that the Ogoni and the Igbo/ were recruited to form the bulk of the ad hoc staffers of the Railways Corporation meant closer ties, leading to huge exchange of culture and ideas. 

What we must note is that the railway and Pax-Britannica attracted people of diverse political and socio-cultural cum linguistic backgrounds to Ogoniland especially Bori, the traditional headquarters of the people. Igbara (2013:35) gives an insight of the cosmopolitan nature of Bori when he beautifully reveals that: 

Besides the Ogoni and the Igbo communities of Eastern Nigeria, other ethnic groups of Nigeria also settled in Bori. There were Hausas (sic) of the North, Yorubas (sic) from the West as well as the Edos (sic) of the Midwest. Special mention must be made of the Ogoni neigbours in the East, the Efik and Ibibio, who 

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represented a significant presence in the peopling of Bori. The Point in emphasis is that the establishment of Bori as an urban centre serve4 as a melting pot for people from different parts of the country. Basically speaking, Bori emerged as one of the major centers for cross- cultural marriages, sharing of ideas and cultural development east of the Niger. It is an axiomatic fact that the Igbo were the purveyors of trade in Ogoni but the nature and scope of the trade assumed a transformational dimension with the provision of modern means of communications and transport system which more than ever linked and integrated the various Ogoni clans together as well as with their neighbours (both far and near). As Hopkins (1973:197) sharply observes “railways and roads pushed back and reshaped the traditional frontiers of trade”. Afigbo (1987:85) supports that: 

The new roads and the railways made long distance travel easier, safer and more attractive than previously. Not only were distance centers of economic enterprise visited but the traditional center along the borders were even more intensively exploited than hitherto. 

It is striking to note that the itinerant artisans of Igbo extraction which formed part of the immigrants in Ogoni taught the Ogoni people skills necessary for private entrepreneurship. The established Igbo artisans residing among the Ogoni people taught their hosts and several other peoples from different cultural backgrounds the skill or art of carpentry, tailoring, business, bicycle repairing, block moulding, hotel management, trading activities, blacksmithing, oil palm processing and so many others. Upon the perfection of these trades, their Igbo ‘masters’ paid the successful ones some money, commonly referred to as ‘settlement’, to start their own business. They were also introduced into the guild of the particular trade which was exclusive to non-members. Through these means, most Ogoni 

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people emerged as independent artisans and businessmen. Special mention must be made here of some prominent Igbo elements who excelled in these skills in Bori-Ogoni. They include Mr. Okereke from Awka. Onitsha who taught people how to ply the trade of bicycle repairing, Mr. James Opara from Mbaise of Owerri who was the proprietor of Moon Light hotel. Mr. Kamalu from Nkwerre who was the proud owner of Oil Palm Processing Industries situated between Kor and Kaani junction now in Bori town as well as Mr. Asode another celebrated owner of Oil Palm Processing business located along Taaba road in Bori town (Paul Igbara, 02/01/2013). The point here is that these apprentices graduated as independent private business owners who contributed effectively to the growth of the Ogoni society. Concomitantly, the convergence of the lgbo and Ogoni peoples meant cross fertilization and the emergence of a mixed urban culture. 

The Igbo formed various unions in Bori which helped to foster peace and understanding not only between the Ogoni and the Igbo but also amongst members of other ethnic groups residing in Bori. More socio- cultural ties were enhanced through inter marriages and concubineage as well as sharing of cultural items such as names, dance groups and masquerade plays. For example, the Ogoni’s Amanikpo, Karikpo, Ndeede and others were adopted by the Igbo stranger elements. The Ogoni also imbibed the Ibani’s Nwaotam which was popularized by the Igbo in Bori and other socio-cultural plays and dances. They all celebrated Christian festivals like Christmas, Easter and so on together. Equally important, is that they jointly obeyed religious rituals like baptism, Holy Communion, harvest, to mention but a few, irrespective of their ethnic nationalities. In point of fact, most Igbo people have now become assimilated into Ogoni culture that they cannot be differentiated from autochthonous Ogoni people. All these new factors of cohesion strengthened inter-group and inter-ethnic relations positively despite general air of political and economic disagreements and wrangling during the colonial era. 

The various changes inherent in the British colonial administrative structures also went a long way to deepen political ties and foster unity 

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between Ogoni and her northern neighbours. For instance, colonialism lumped together the Ogoni and Igbo and other elements like parts of Ijaw, lbibio, and Abua (Afigbo, 1987:95) to form Owerri Province. This is also true of the Richard’s constitution which came into force on 1st January 1947. The Constitution formally divided Nigeria into three administrative units of North, West and East in the Eastern Region were many Nigerian peoples. Prominent among them were the Ijaw, Ikwerre, Ekpeye. Odua, Etche, Engenni, Ogba, lbibio, Annang, Efik to mention but a few. The constitution also provided for a House of Assembly. This was followed on August 8, 1957 by the creation of the Eastern House of Chiefs. It was to serve as a second chamber akin to the bicameral Legislature in the North and West. These administrative structures coupled with the advent of partisan politics gave the Ogoni – Igbo relations more doses of harmonious political inter course. It is worthwhile to recall that the people of Ogoni gave massive support to the National Council of Nigerian and the Cameroons (N.C.N.C) since 1952 when the party was officially launched in the area till 1957. Late RT. Hon. P.T.N. Birabi during the launch of the party in Ogoni had described the party as “Black man’s party” (Gbenenye, 1983:20). Hence, the wide embrace of the party by the people of Ogoni. Without much embellishment, suffice to note that it was on the platform of the National Council of Nigerian and the Cameroons (N.C.N.C.) that late RT. Hon. P.T.N. Birabi of Ogoni and Hon. A.G. Nwapa were elected to represent the Rivers Province on 5th January, 1952 at Enugu, an Igbo heartland. They were both sworn in by Sir james C.M.G. Pykenott the then Lieutenant Governor of Eastern Region of Nigeria (Gbenenye, 1983:22). It was on the platform of the National Council for Nigerians and the Cameroons (N.C.N.C) that other Ogoni frontline politicians were shot into political limelight. These included chief (Hon) F.M.A. Saronwiyo, Hon S.F. Nwika, Rt. Hon. Kentem Giodom, and so on. The Igbo dominated political party, the National Council of Nigerian and the Cameroons NCNC, continued to enjoy much popularity in Ogoni until 1957 when the people voted against 

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  1. Doubtlessly, a close political affinity developed between the Igbo and Ogoni during the period under review. 

It is also instructive to add that following the steady growth and large concentration of various ethnic and cultural groups, the Bori Municipal Council was created in 1957 to take into account the interest of the various peoples residing in Bori in particular and Ogoniland at large. The council was to effectively do this through their elected representatives. One of the ethnic groups that were incorporated into the Ogoni decision making body was the Igbo ethnic nationality. The Igbo which comprises Abiriba, Mbaise, Onitsha, Bende, Ohafia, and Orlu extractions were afforded viable platforms as members of the Council to express the views of their people (Eastern Regional Gazette, 1957). The new political arrangement was actually a ground breaking step in Ogoni-Igbo inter- ethnic relations. 

Judging from the foregoing, it could be gleaned that colonialism was a potent factor of inter-group contact between the Ogoni and the Igbo. It also brought together peoples from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds to co-habit and co-exist in Bori-Ogoni. The hospitable nature of the people therefore encouraged integration and inter-mixture of ideas among the various peoples who intercourse at different levels. Bori, subsequently, emerged as an important urban centre, indeed, a melting pot of integration for diverse elements and callings. 

Negative Impact of Colonialism on Ogoni-Igbo/ Igbo “Stranger- Elements” Relations During the Colonial Era 

Aside from the foregoing harmonious variables of colonialism, there were also antagonistic variables which were highly divisive, disruptive and concorous. Prior to the establishment of British colonial rule in this part of the world, each ethnic nationality was its own master. They determined how they related with their neighbours and managed their own affairs in their own ways (Orugbani. 2005:1). This was dramatically and diametrically opposed to the colonial situation when the tone and tenor of 

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their contacts and relations where dictated by “outside influence” and “‘new rulers”. Corroborating this conceptualization, Afigbo (1987:79) with incisive articulation notes: 

…Colonial rule in Nigeria had important implications for inter-group relations It meant among other things that people had to take into account ideals, interests and institutions arising not only from their indigenous experiences and sanctioned by their traditions and usages, but also others introduced and imposed by new rulers…. By and Large, each community brought under effective control by the British learnt that it had lost the initiative to determine whether its relations with its neighbours were going to be peaceful or war like. There was no longer any choice. Thinking along the same lines, Ikime (2006:97) correctly contends “that in terms of inter group relations, colonial rule was something of a paradox: on one hand, it brought Nigeria peoples together in new groupings and for new purposes: on the other hand, it emphasized new ones”. The sense being made here is that the “new rulers” exerted enormous control over the people they colonized economically, politically, socio culturally and otherwise. To effectively achieve its economic exploitative motive, the British colonial administration advertently created situations that actually disrupted the hitherto cordial, co-operative and peaceful economic relations between and among ethnic nationalities in colonial Nigeria. Okpeh, (2006a:20) makes bold the point that colonialism “generated extreme scarcity of socio-economic and political rewards and an intolerable degree of inequality. It was this scarcity and unbearable scope of inequality that gave impetus to the destructive socio-economic competition within and between ethnic groups”. The Ogoni case was not an exemption to the rule. The socio-economic changes introduced to the people by colonialism placed the Igbo better above their Ogoni hosts. The former began to feel superior to the natives. As a result of this inequality, the lgbo dominated the Ogoni in almost all spheres of life such as colonial 

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administration, commercial activities, school, Church and missionary endeavours, politics and many others. Indeed, the Igbo elements used their influence, advantaged positions and early contact with the British overlords to compete for virtually every position in Ogoniland during the colonial times. For example the Mbaise of Igbo extraction, exercised undue commercial monopoly over the indigenes in the area. Through cut-throat competition and poor bargaining, the few Ogoni business men were edged out of their businesses. In most cases, they vehemently prevented the Ogoni and sometimes their Ndoki trade partners from trading in markets like Ohankor, Akwete, and others established in Ndokiland (Gbarazia, 02/01/2013). Other Igbo traders at Bori market made frantic and desperate efforts to scheme out their hosts from business or to out rightly stop the Ogoni traders from competing with them. Some of the Igbo made barriers were strategies like poor pricing, dictations of prices at which some certain goods must be sold, confiscated or destroyed on trump up charges (Igbara Paul and Gbarazia, Paul 02/01/2013). 

The lgbo business men monopolized the trade in Ogoniland to the point of periodizing the market in to Ogoni and Igbo market days. The Ogoni landlords had different days to trade in Bori and Kaa markets while the Igbo had separate market days to trade in these markets. Queerly, enough, these markets days chosen by the Igbo were the days in which foreign business associates will come to the markets for buying and selling. In such situations, they resold the Ogoni goods they bought previously from the Ogoni traders. This development confirmed what Orugbani 2013:157) vividly describes as the economic aggressiveness and Machiavellian altitude to material success of the average person from Igbo ethnic nationality”. This ultimately reduced the Ogoni people (hosts) to the rank of executors of menial jobs on their land. Ntor-ue (2005:77) makes bold the point that “it is on record that in one of the villages in Ogoni, an Igbo man was a traditional ruler. Bori, the only Ogoni Township at the time, was completely dominated by foreigners (Igbo inclusive) while bonafide owners and natives served as slaves and errand boys”. 

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The Igbo’s domination among the Ijaw of the Eastern Delta was also pervasive and overbearing. In a moving and telling account, Okorobia (1999:224) discloses: 

If there was any single policy which was so effectively used to internally colonize and under-develop the erstwhile virile and progressive city-states of the Eastern Delta, it was the regionalization policy that brought them under the social, political and economic domination of the larger, aggressive and self-conscious Igbo ethnic nationality. A number of political, economic and social politics and programmes were initiated and executed by the Eastern regional government, and these had had more negative than positive impact on the land and people of Eastern Delta. The attempt by the Ogoni to assert their true positions in the scheme of things led to occasional tension and resentments. 

It is interesting to point out that the Igbo dominance in the economic- cum-commercial sphere was not restricted to the people of Ogoni. The Igbo’s sphere of influence is felt among almost all the ethnic groups in today’s Nigeria. It is along this line of thought that Awodi (2006:49) bares his mind on the Otukpo situation: 

It is pertinent to point out that the Igbo have a monopolizing attitude, this have given them an edge over their host and other ethnic groups commercially. To many Idoma traders on Otukpo the Igbo monopolizing attitude has been the major frustration to their efforts in recording in their business trade. This development sometimes cultivates in open confrontation between the Idoma and the Igbo traders. 

The resultant effect was the development of anti-Igbo feelings among the Ogoni which strained the age-long relations between Ogoni and 

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Igbo. Obviously, an artificial gorge between these groups who previously lived and enjoyed an African ‘give and take’ lifestyle was not a healthy development for inter-group and inter-ethnic relations. They began to see themselves as “ethnically and culturally self-conscious and became suspicious of each other”. The Ogoni landlords started to see the Igbo in their midst as “stranger elements”. 

To actually demonstrate this “ethnic self-consciousness and particularism”, the Igbo now known as “stranger-elements” prevented their Ogoni hosts from gaining access into the stranger quarters built on their land. Some of these stranger quarters which were mainly situated in Bori, the only township owned by the Ogoni people include Abriba quarters which was located where the present Wisdom street is found today, Owerri Quarters situated at opposite the present day Methodist Church and the Onitsha quarters previously situated along Bo-ue junction. Apart from the Ogoni example, other stranger – quarters that were established in colonial Nigeria, to obviously generate ethnic exclusiveness and particularism among Nigerians, include the Sabon Gari of Kano created in 1913 and later in other towns like Jos. Kaduna and Zaria, the Ibadan stranger quarters was established in 1916, The Birni for the sons of the soil, Tudun Wada for Muslim settlers, and the Abakpa in the South eastern part of the country. These situations further entrenched their British ‘divide and rule’ tactic so as to achieve their economic exploitative motive. This seed of inequality sowed in Nigeria during the colonial period had made conflict a common phenomenon in post-colonial Nigeria, leading to several obvious cases of unhealthy competitions by the ethnic groups for the socio- economic cum political powers that exist in the multi-ethnic nation state. 

Worst still, the Igbo cheated the Ogoni indigenes by using fake manillas to purchase their goods. Ngofa (1988:7) recalls that the Nkwerre people who replaced the Aro following the abolition of the Slave trade were able blacksmiths and later traders. They made counterfeit manillas, using them to buy yams and meat which they sent home. The Nkwerre of Igbo extractions were exploitative for which reason the Ogoni people (their 

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hosts) hated them so much. It was the inability of the natives to say ‘bad’ in English language, due to language barriers that made them to say ‘Pya Pya” meaning bad or counterfeit currency while rejecting the terms of trade with the Igbo. The event led to the stereotype of the Ogoni as “Ogoni pior pior”, a corruption of ‘pya pya” (Nwigbo Sylvester, 11/06/2011). These false biases also made it difficult to promote cordial and genuine relationship between the Ogoni and the Igbo neighbours. It also went further to impede the establishment of good inter-personal relationship. In effect, their dealings were based squarely on suspicion, pretense and ill feelings as attitude and values reflected those of their groups. The point to stress here is that, with these hostilities on their minds, it indirectly contributed to the disaffection, conflicts and tensions in Ogoni-Igbo inter-group interactions in the colonial era. What is more, the Igbo stranger elements who refused to be absorbed into or to imbibe the Ogoni culture especially the language contributed to deny the Ogoni people the privilege of learning and thereby developing their local languages or dialects as the case may be. They compelled the indigenes to learn Igbo premier, bible, hymns, and others in their bold attempt to plant Igbo language as their lingua franca at the detriment of Ogoni local language. They went to the extreme by making jest of their hosts who came to buy and sell in Bori market and cannot speak their language (Igbo). Such categories of Ogoni people were either cheated, abused, insulted and given appellations and nomenclatures like Ogoni “pior pior”, “Nde-Ogoni”, “Lazy”, “unproductive”, and so on. All these, the Ogoni people did not only dislike but also contend, thus, the phenomenon seriously helped to deepen the jealously and indifference between the two parties or groups. The implication of this to our study is that it hindered real integration of the stranger element which would had acted as the catalyst of inter-group relations in colonial Ogoni during the period under review, Afigbo (1987:90) agrees: 

…The colonial situation tended to militate against the integration of stranger-elements into the society and culture of their hosts… Thus the chances of absorption into the 

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society of their hosts became very much reduced. In this new situation the stranger-element could afford to be more independent of his hosts. And being independent he could easily be or appear to be arrogant, over bearing and exploitative. This was a situation that easily bred irritation and mutual suspicion. Another incidence which brought about a stall in the inter-group relations of the Igbo and the Ogoni in the colonial era was the refusal of the Igbo stranger-elements especially the Nkwerre to pay their poll tax into the Ogoni coffers. Taxation is defined as compulsory transfer of money (or occasionally of goods and services) from private individuals, institutions or groups to the government (Boxter and Ress 1972: 395). Colonial tax, therefore, refers to the extraction of direct taxes from indigenous communities by the government tax agents. Perhaps, basing on the gorges of inter-ethnic jealously, suspicion and indifferences, the Igbo deliberately refused to pay their poll taxes to the Ogoni even when the taxes were used to provide the social amenities and medical facilities in which they enjoyed with their hosts. For the British Colonial Policy on development maintains that the Ogoni people must pay the cost of their own administration and development. This was the gospel preached by the District Officer when he embarked on tour in Ogoniland. He reiterated that taxes levied and collected by the people are used for their development, without which the people would not have much of a stake in the development process. 

This act of tax evasion brought altercations between the Ogoni (hosts) and their Igbo tenants (stranger-elements). By and large, the introduction of taxation altered the previously peaceful and congenial relationship enjoyed by these peoples before the advent of colonialism. Nevertheless, the action of the Nkwerre in Ogoni as anti-social. This is hinged on the fact that if they, who dominated the Ogoni economy as traders, artisans and money lenders refused to pay taxes into the Ogoni Native Treasury at Yeghe, how then can peace and tranquility be achieved 

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in Bori by the Ogoni Native Authority? The colonial record bears eloquent testimony to this when it perceptibly notes: 

The Nkwerre people, however, present a distinct problem in Ogoni country, both from their numbers and from their several positions among the local people as money-lenders and traders. It is indeed not too much to say that the Nkwerre have a strong hold over the Ogoni of an extremely serious nature… On many occasions, the Ogoni chiefs have expressed to me (i.e. the District Officer) their dissatisfaction with the position in respect to these strangers in their midst more especially with regard to payment of tax… There has been a great deal of evasion by them (Gibbson, 1932:45). 

What again that must be added here is that the Igbo did only refuse to pay tax into the Native Treasuries of the Ogoni people but also exploited their Ogoni hosts. As money lenders, the Igbo short-changed the Ogoni tax payers and made great profit as the expense of the people. The point worth noting is that currency and coins were relatively scarce in Ogoniland while manilla was very popular during the colonial days. So for them to pay tax, manilla needed to be changed into currency. The Igbo stranger elements used this unique opportunity to marginalize and exploit the Ogoni people. Gibbons (1932:67), a Colonial District Officer of the area reports: 

Money changing is in the hands of the Nkwerre (of Igbo extraction) settlers who appears to derive a huge profit from it when tax collection puts the Ogoni at their mercy. During the 1931 collection manilas were exchanged commonly at 15 and in certain instances, it is said, at as much as 20 to the shilling when the rate current on the other side of the Imo River was 12-12 to the shilling. The rate of exchange in February 1932 was 9-10 to a shilling. It is submitted that currency in this area presents a problem even more serious than elsewhere in the Calabar Province (Emphasis Mine). 

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Another British Colonial Official in the Opobo Division, Mr. D.A.F. Shute (1933:23) substantiates, “Moreover, the scarcity of coin in the country (Ogoni) enables avarious traders, usually foreigners and belonging to more enlightened tribe (sic) to hold out for more than the current rate of exchange or compels the Ogonis (sic) to go long journeys to distant markets to effect the exchange”. The point being made is that the Igbo dominance and exploitation caused a fundamental strain in the erstwhile congenial and mutual relationship which existed between the Ogoni and the Igbo, hence, the rampant mutual suspicions and hostility in their relations during the colonial period. 

In the social realm, the Igbo’s venom of manipulation, discrimination and “take all approach” were conspicuously exhibited and displayed to the letter. All the secondary schools which were built by missions in Ogoniland as well as Birabi Memorial Grammar School, Bori which was built by community self-effort and opened to the public in 1957 were unjustifiably manipulated by the Igbo elements, arising from their massive numbers as school administrators and teachers in the area. Clearly, they manipulated the admission procedures of these schools in their favour while qualified and prospective students from the host communities of Ogoni were denied admission. Queerly, too, qualified and trained teachers of Ogoni origin were not offered employment in these schools that were controlled by the Igbo who occupied the high echelon position of the administration in both the missions and the community-owned schools (Akekue, 2004:103-104, Tanen, 2005:168, Ntor-ue, 2005:79, Anokari, 1986:151) Igbara and Keenam, 2013:51). 

Administratively, too, the tenure of Igbo administrators in the famous Birabi Memorial School during the period of our study was mainly characterized by mal-administration, gross-indiscipline academic incompetence and tensed moment which almost crippled the laudable goal and philosophy behind the establishment of the Ogoni premier college. It would be recalled that Mr. H. Okwosa, an Anglican faithful from Oboso- Onitsha of Igbo extraction was the pioneer principal of the college. He was 

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succeeded by another Igbo man called S.M.O. Nwoso. Taken together, their three years’ tenure of administration was the inglorious era of the first Ogoni indigenous college. Commenting on the inept administration of the Igbo’s administrators, the official minutes of the meeting of the Khana County Council (K.C.C.) held in 1965 beautifully recalls: 

…for more than three years running the authorities of the school (B.M.G.S.) bluntly refused that school’s accounts be audited, despite series of appeals and negotiations. This was followed by tribal (sic) intrigues and ugly discriminations which led to violent students rioting and wanton destruction of college property. Qualified Ogoni sons were denied employment opportunities in the school. There was conflict between management and administration which weakened the staff-position to entire detriment of the young school (cited in Akekue, 2004:138). What is to note significantly again is that the Igbo did not only unjustifiably manipulate the Ogoni educational system by commandeering the lion share of the admission slot in schools in Ogoniland but also enjoy all the scholarship available in the Eastern Region. Although, between 1952 and 1956, the Ogoni had negligibly five scholarship awards (Akekue, 2004:129) but the Ogoni were completely denied scholarship in the 1958/59 academic session. Their crime was that they voted against the incumbent National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (N.C.N.C.) in the 1957 General Election in the Eastern Region. “The electoral rebellion on the part of the Ogoni was to earn them every hatred, every tenant from the majority Igbo in Eastern Nigeria” (MOSOP, 2004:35). Of the ninety nine (99) scholarships awarded to ninety nine (99) students from the various ethnic groups that made up of the then Eastern Region none went to the Ogoni. Table 1:01 below tells better. Table 1: 01: 1958/59 Eastern Region’s Academic Session Scholarship Awards According to Divisions 

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S/N Name of division Number of Scholarship 

Awarded 1 Aba 3 2 Abak 3 3 Afikpo 1 4 Ahoada 1 5 Akwa 10 6 Bende 4 7 Brass 2 8 Calabar 9 9 Degema 4 10 Eket 2 11 Enoyong 6 12 Ikot-Ekpene 3 

13 Ogoni 0 14 Okigwe 3 15 Onitsha 19 16 Orlu 1 17 Owerri 14 18 Udi 6 19 Uyo 1 

Total 99 Source: Gbenenye, 1983:40; 1988:96 

The inter-ethnic and inter-group hatred and jealously between Ogoni and Igbo also degenerated into huge infrastructural inequality. The self-conscious Igbo perfected different policies and programmes characterized by discrimination, exclusion and marginalization to dominate the Ogoni minorities socially, economically, and politically. This is also the contention of the foremost nationalists of Niger Delta, Dappa- 

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Biriye, when he aptly notes that the Igbo controlled Eastern Regional Government rolled out a plethora of obnoxious political and socio- economic policies which aimed at discriminating against the minorities in the area of employment, scholarships, provision of public infrastructure and recognition of the privileges of the traditional rulers (Dappa-Biriye, 1995-6-8). This led to what scholars variously regarded as local/internal/indigenous colonialism (Saro-Wiwa, 1989:11, Okorobia, 1999:224, Bolade and Adelemo, 1982:12, Jeyifo, 2009:7-9). 

As a result of these discriminatory programmes and policies orchestrated by the Igbo against the Ogoni, the latter suffered from acute lack of basic and essential facilities like good roads, hospitals and other essential amenities. Throughout the period, Ogoni greatly suffered from lack of adequate medical services, constant water supply, post and telecommunications and other needed facilities. It is, therefore, not surprising that the Ogoni chiefs and indeed Ogoni people contended against this economic marginalization and subjugation in the colonial period and it became the pivot on which their self-determination, self- emancipation and ethnic identity was anchored in the waning days of colonial rule. They demanded to opt out of the Igbo controlled Eastern region. They heaved a temporal sigh of relief on 1st April 1947 when Khana County Council was created. 

Saro-Wiwa (2012:72-73) was absolutely correct when he trenchantly posits: 

The advent of British colonialism was to shatter Ogoni society and inflict on us a backwardness from which we are still struggling to escape. It was British colonialism which forced alien administrative structures on us and herded us into the domestic colonialism of Nigeria. Right from 1908 when Ogoni was administered as a part of Opobo Division…, the Ogoni people have struggled to resist colonialism and return to their much cherished autonomy and self-determination. 

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The above development has clearly shown that colonialism actually destroyed the Ogoni-Igbo harmonious relationship that existed before the advent of the British conquest. Given the ethnic consciousness entrenched, the Ogoni people agreed not to sell any parcel of their land to the Igbo ‘stranger elements’, stressing that there would remain no land for the natives to build. Little wonder. Therefore, that Ogbogbo, Olaniyi and Muojama (2012:2) conclude that “the British colonial rule created dichotomies and imbalances which had profound repercussions on inter- group relations…” 


Arising from our study, we recommend the following measures to manage or contain inter-group, inter-regional and inter-ethnic virulent violent and crisis 

We argue that the study of inter-group relations by all Nigerians should be made compulsory in Nigerian schools. This will foster mutual respect, tolerance, co-operation, justice, fairness, and equity between and among all ethnic nationalities in today’s Nigeria. Indeed, it will offer us the great opportunity to reflect and improve on positive elements of pre- colonial contacts that bind us together. 

To resolve inter-ethnic conflicts that seem intractable in Nigeria, there is the urgent need to denounce, and de-emphasize those negative colonial social values like individualism, particularism, ethnic segregation, dichotomies in the realm of citizenship and ministration, domination, marginalization, exclusion, discrimination, manipulation and so on that are pernicious to peaceful co-existence in Nigeria. 

It is imperative for all the ethnic groups in Nigeria to adopt viable virtues like tolerance, diplomacy, dialogue, trade agreements so as to enforce unity, peace and sustainable development as well as to avert conflicts, disagreements and hostilities. 

The hydra-headed monster euphemistically called variously as indigenous, internal, and local colonialism should be completely avoided 

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and eliminated from our polity. In its place, there should be equitable and fairly distribution of resources available in the state. Likewise, systems based on majority and minority divide, quotas; reservations, catchment areas, and so on in the state’s allocation of resources, appointments, employment, and promotions in the public service of the federation, in admission to federal and tertiary institutions should be jettisoned. The abandonment of this bias would help to promote harmonious relation between people of disparate histories, languages and religion who find themselves intertwined in the Nigeria nation state. 

We also submit that the government of Nigeria should ensure good governance and create conducive platforms where all ethnic nationalities should have a role to play in government as equal entities. Also, ideologies like national integration, national development, nation building, democracy, accountability and sustainable development, inter-alia should be cultivated and encouraged. 


This paper has explored the impact of colonialism on the Ogoni-Igbo inter-group and inter-ethnic relations. The thrust of our analysis is that colonialism was a blessing and a curse. As demonstrated above, colonialism was a blessing as it brought about more avenues for the people to interact. The “new order”, more than anything else, incorporated the pre-colonial independent communities of Ogoni and Igbo into a common judicial and administrative framework. 

Given the features of the Ogoni-Igbo colonial relations, it is sad to observe that the two groups which once had fledgling and historical contacts which were complementary, harmonious and co-operative later lived in resentment and animosity. This is basically the product of colonialism. It ruptured the congenial relationship with much emphasis placed on differences and distinctiveness so as to achieve their selfish ends. These antagonistic variables gave birth to the concept of ethnicity and 

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particularism, hence, the high rate of socio-economic insecurity as well as inter-ethnic tensions between these previously co-operative groups. The point to note is that the British introduced antagonistic variables which greatly altered and weakened the historic ties between the Ogoni and the Igbo stranger elements. The paper posits that the intergroup balance sheet of colonialism shows more deficit than credit. 

The work therefore contends that, if the above suggested recommendations are sincerely put into practice, Nigeria will be a safe country for us all – a country where love, unity sustainable development, peace and harmony shall abound irrespective of her multi-ethnic nature and varied sizes. 

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Name of Informant 

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App. Age 

Sex Occupation Date of 


Place of interview Samuel N- ue 

85 M Rtd Clergy 03/03/2015 Zor- 

Sogho Paul Mienye Gbarazia 

75 M Rtd Teacher 02/01/2012 Bori 

Nwigbo Sylvester 

69 M Rtd Banker 11/06/2011 Baen 

Paul Igwe Igbara 

65 M Administrator/Clergy 02/01/2012 Bori 

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