Today Nigeria is divided into six Geo-political zones, with every state of the nation falling into these categories. This idea emanated and crept into the dictionary of the country from the Late Gen. Sani Abacha, the former Military ruler of Nigeria (1993-1998) Although, the categorization of the entire nation into Geo-political zones did not come as an official pronouncement from the government, by 1997 this classification had gained prevalence in the political language of the nation. It was extremely doubtful if Gen Abacha intended to achieve democratic administrative purposes with its usage, since he made no noticeable moves to hand-over to the democratically elected Chief M. K. O. Abiola believed to have won the 1993 presidential election in the country.
The Geo-political zones set up by the Late Nigerian leader also did not certify ethnical homogeneity as certain of the zones had ethnic uniformity while others did not, although the people and states forming each of the zones have accepted it as a near perfect political and administrative exercise.
The Geo-political zones so created are thus:
South-West Geo-political zone
South-East Geo-political zone
South-South Geo-political zone
North-East Geo-political zone
North-West Geo-political zone, and
North Central Geo-political zone
The South-south zone which I shall be focusing on comprises of Delta State, Akwa-Ibom State, Cross-River State, Bayalsa State, Rivers State and Edo State, and is geographically located within the Delta region of the nation.
This zone is not grouped along ethnical line but mainly the old Bendel State, Old Rivers State, and old Cross-River State. The perfect name for this category is “Niger Delta region” and has been so known in recent times, the zone is arguably the most famous among the existing geo-political zones of the country because of the militant agitations currently taking place in that part of the country, triggered first by non-increase in the allocation formula to the oil producing states of this region, second, neglect of the communities within the region, now in absolute deplorable conditions. It is for this reason that the government of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua created a federal Ministry for the region now headed by Ufot Ekaete.
The creation of this region was considered very controversial by political observers in the country who believe that the Federal Government of Nigeria should have taken other necessary steps to ameliorate the lives of the people, and force the oil firms in that region to stop gas flaring, increase the employment of indigenes of that very region many of who are indigent. It has been widely reported that the region is facing increasing environmental degradation which in some cases denies the people of this region the acts of fishing on waters and farming. As we have known, the Niger-Delta zone is the wealthiest region of the country.
The people that make up the region are very friendly people with rich cultures. Delta State one of the states that make up the South-South geo-political region is senatorially divided into three districts namely Delta Central, Delta North and Delta South. In all five major ethnic-groups make up the region, and are the Urhobo, Isoko, Ijaw, Anioma and Itsekiri. Major languages in this state are Urhobo, Isoko, Ijaw, Itsekiri. The people of Anioma diversely speak about 15 languages amongst which are Enuani, Ozzara, Evbu, Igara, Ika, Ukwani, Aboh, etc however, the Igbo language is intelligible to Anioma people of Delta State. Interestingly, the whole ethnic-groups that are located in Delta State have one form of similarity or the other. The Urhobo and Isoko share similar ethnical similarities which extend to language as well.
The Anioma also referred to as Delta North also share obvious ethnical similarities socio-culturally, firstly the people comprising of today’s Anioma have been relating from time immemorial and this has continued till date. The much diverse people with communities scattered in the state are united by a single language which is intelligible to the group. Thus it does not require language translations for an Ibusa indigene to trade Aboh, or an Ndokwa woman to purchase an item from the popular Ogbogonogo market in Asaba, such is the beauty of unity among the people made possible by nature. The Ndokwa/Ukkwani people of Anioma also share cultural affinities with the Urhobo and Isoko people of the state. Marriage has acted as a bridge of unity between the Urhobo and Itsekiri. In all, a single ethnic tension has not been recorded between the Anioma and Urhobo, or between the Ijaw and Anioma people of the state.
Cross-Rivers State is another state within the South-South Geo-political zone, and so named after the river that bisects the state. The old Cross-River State was created in 1967 as part of the strategy to weaken the Biafran secessionists and covered today’s Igbo Arochukwu, and whole of present Akwa-Ibom State. Efik is the major language spoken in the state, several other languages are also spoken including but not limited to Ejagham, Ogoja, Ikom etc. Quite interestingly, it is common to hear people erroneously refer to people of Cross-Rivers and Akwa-Ibom Calabar while Calabar actually remains the capital of Cross-Rivers State.
Other states that make up the South-South Geo-political zone shall be discussed in the later part of this piece.