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The Impact Of Igbo Diaspora In Nigeria, 1960-2010: A Case Of Benin In Edo State Of Nigeria.




This study centres on examining the extent to which Igbo movement to Benin brought about obvious development in the land. It  covers a spectrum of events that spans the period of 1960 to 2010. Emphasis is placed on factors that aided Benin contact with Igbo and the intercourse between Igbo in Benin with other countries of the world. The effect  these contacts had on the political, economic, environmental and socio-cultural development of Benin was assessed. In order to achieve this objective, history research method became important. Field survey was embarked upon to locate interviewees whose contributions were relevant to the study.  It was discovered that Igbo contributions to the development of Benin can not be exhausted in a piece of work. However, the noticeable impact of Igbo presence in Benin as contained in this study are felt  in the government of the land, agricultural activity, formation of hybrid-like cultural identity, education, religion and Christian evangelism, and transportation.



          For one thing, if a comprehensive survey of the globe were to be made, it will be found that in almost every quarters of it, is an Igbo man1.  For the past hundreds of years, the Igbo have scattered all over the world, dotted the world nations and adding to their population.  It is no gainsaying that wherever the Igbo is seen, they leave foot-print in the dust of time.  Every Igbo man is known to be concerned with how to solve the major economic problems of Societies: What to produce, how to produce and the efficient use of resources.  For this reason, anywhere they are found, they dominate the trading front of national economy2.  It is often said that the life-blood of an Igbo man is his money.  Trading activity is brought to its fullest scale is made necessary only with the acquisition of capital defined in terms of money in the case of an Igbo man.

It should be said also, that the movement of the Igbo over time was not made possible only by the desire for trading.  The Igbo people spread to all nationalities for the desire to seek greener pasture, especially, in the contemporary time.  The people are seen virtually in all countries of the world forming a major part of their work force3.  In today’s Nigeria, with the bottleneck posed by unemployment and the monopoly of the aristocratic blood over the limited employment opportunities, the Igbo Youths try everything humanly possible to migrate to other countries of the world where they could be integrated into such nations’ affairs.

Besides the above mentioned means of movement; sports, boxing, athletics, swimming, football among others serve as baits for attracting the presence of the Igbo into such nations.  A closer look makes it revealing that the Igbo features greatly and forming part of the sporting teams of other nations.

It should be noted that Nigeria is a plural state embracing multifarious ethnic groups4.  Among these groups, the Igbo have integrated so much that these Nigerian peoples cannot dismember them when making salient internal policies which concern security and economy.  It should not be forgotten that the Igbo’s intermingling bred culture hybrid in some cities5 and its attendant social problems like crisis.

This study will look at Igbo as a nation in Nigeria.  As a nation that has scattered all over the country, there is the need to examine how much the Igbo impacted in Benin City of Nigeria.  Igbo migration to Benin is accounted for by several factors.  These factors include economic, social and cultural.  Igbo migration to Benin City and the history of development among the Edo-speaking people are linked6.  This implies that since the earliest period, the Igbo have been migrating to Benin.  Since the time of Igbo settlement in the land and city, certain economic and social effects have become noticeable.

Economic consideration is one of the major determinants in people’s migration and settlement such was the case of Igbo in the South-eastern Nigeria.  Unrestricted opportunity for food crop production, adequate amount of rain fall and conducive temperature as well as security potentials are some of the environmental factors that have served as pull and push factors in the migration and settlement of the people.  Proponents of environmental determinism have suggested that man has no control over his environment and his totality including his behavioral and genetically characteristics such as languages, skin colour and innate tendencies are determined by the characteristics of the environment7.  This means that the environment dictates man’s actions.  It is evident that physical condition affects human condition and environment.  For example her climatic conditions have led to the evolution of protective dark skin while the existence of tropical forest may prolong the hunter stage of development and retard agricultural progress.

This school of thought lays the foundation upon which the migration of Igbo into Benin from 1960 to 2010 could be approached.  The almost cultural and environmental similarities dictate the migration of the Igbo into the land.  Other environmental factors of climatic conditions and fertility of the land of Benin suggest the economic motivation for Igbo movement into the area.

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Karl Marx contributed to the theory of economic development in three respects, namely in broad respect of providing an economic interpretation of history, in the narrower respect of specifying the motivating forces of capitalist development, and in the final respect of suggesting an alternative path of planned economic development8.  In his materialist interpretation of history, he attempts to show that all historical events are the result of a continuous economic struggle between different classes and groups in the society9.  In this approach, one begins to see the cause of the movement of the Igbo, especially, after the Nigerian Civil War.  The other parts of Nigeria that constituted those we may call the ‘Haves’, who were less devastated by the war and the Igbo who bore the brunt of the war, became the “Have-nots”.  As the ‘haves’ continued struggling to retain their affluent position, the ‘have-nots’ struggled

also to get out of the domination of the wealthy class.  For this reason, Benin which provided both the fertile land for farming and a centre for commercial activities attracted a set of Igbo who sought prosperity in the land.

Diaspora in its proper sense implies movement of a people from their original home land to a new area.  The movement of the Igbo into Benin is significant in the history of the people of Benin.  The impact of this is numerous, but one shall dwell on economic, social and cultural effects as all encompassing broad classification.

Scope of Study

          As is the case of most Diasporas peoples, displacement and voluntarily / involuntarily migration starts with earliest times of slave trade, inter ethnic tribal wars and other forms of traditional practices which involves the exchange of people for either goods or as restitution and banishment.  Thus the case of Igbo Diaspora and its impact tolls along this line, but this research work shall focus on the case and impact of Igbo Diaspora in Benin Kingdom within the periods of 1960 to 2010.

Within this study period, the Igbo have increasingly migrated to the land.  There is the need to explore factors that account for massive migration into the kingdom of Benin.  The presence of Igbo, as they are called by the aboriginal inhabitants of the land leaves some foot prints both welcoming and deleterious.  All will form the subject of discourse in this study.

No doubt, no one talks about today without first looking at the nearest past.  This work will equally go back to discuss the origin of Igbo Diaspora so as to give migration to Benin a befitting analysis.

Aims and Objectives

The main concern of this work on Igbo movement to Benin is to:

  1. Explain the meaning of Diaspora especially as it relates to the group called Igbo and their movement to Benin Kingdom.
  2. Trace the origin of Igbo Diaspora and point out the effect in each phase.
  3. Identify diasporic Igbo, pointing out their activities and position in the affairs of Benin Kingdom
  4. Point out the impacts of Igbo Diaspora, both economic and socio-political in Benin internal affairs.

Literature Review

          Scholars of all recorded history have endeavoured to reconstruct the past of the land and peoples of the world.  It therefore becomes imperative that what people have said concerning the migration of the Igbo into Benin Kingdom is examined and the extent to which existing literature could benefit the present literature.

Over the span of 400 years between 1500 and 1807, over eleven million Africans survived the middle passage to the New World through the process of enslavement.  What resulted from this?

Massive international transportation of Africans was the creation of African Diaspora-the spreading of Africans across the globe10.  In 2002, the African Union defined the African Diaspora as “considering of people of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality to contribute to the development of the continent….”11.  From this one can deduce that diaspora implies the movement of people from their original home land to a new area where their effort is needed for the development of the area.  But this discourse was not centered on the Igbo diaspora, rather, dispora as a general term. Zeleza, P.T. in his treatise on African diaspora asserted that, “People of Africa descent in countries throughout the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia represent the African diaspora. The continent of Africa is considered the main hub, with the diaspora regions representing satellites of African culture and the rest. One fact that is not objectionable is that wherever people move into, they transport their cultural identity, in some cases this will result to the existence of diverse culture while in another the settler’s and aborigine integrate to create a new identity-a hybrid.  This was the case of the Igbo whose presence in the city of Benin had created a new identity and far-reaching impact in trading activities: though Zeleza was not  writing on Benin Kingdom.

Omolade, Z.A in his analysis shows the people within Benin culture.  According to him, “the Edo-Seaking people are the Benin group”.  In the whole of the present Benin Kingdom, Edo is the dominant language.  It is against this backdrop that one begins to see that the movement of the Igbo into Benin equips our knowledge of why “pidgin” English is widely used in the land.

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Without the introduction of Pidgin English, the immigrant Igbo would have found it difficult to communicate with the aboriginal Bini people. However, Omolade failed to identify the effect of Igbo presence in Benin.

Ezeifedi, U. Emmanuel writing on Okada, a town in Benin Kingdom asserted that,…..Other changes in the land is brought about by certain factors such as immigration of different ethnic                    groups, which include the Igbo with their control over trading activities in the land… Buying and selling was made possible with the arrival of the Igbo.

This lays credence to the assertion that the presence of the Igbo in any land brings about progress in commerce, in fact domination of trading activity.  This by all indications was the case of Igbo in Benin Kingdom. Corresponding to this, professor Isichei maintained that the presence of the Igbo in any community in Nigeria will open up trading activities.  This she buttressed in her discourse on the Igbo who migrated during railway construction in Idoma.  That their presence in Idoma brought progress to marketing of agricultural produce.  They bought the produce from Idoma farmers directly in their farms and sold to people in the town.  This continued till they linked up to Europeans and started selling Europeans goods to the Idoma residents.  The same was the case of Igbo who migrated to Benin during colonial era and interacted with the Europeans along the coast, got their goods and sold to the Benin people. Though both Ezeifedi and Isichei never concentrated on Benin land as a whole. Their findings only lent support to the economic effect of Igbo presence in the land.

Oguagha, P.A. in his work on Nigeria inter-group relations wrote that during the pre-colonial and colonial times, the Igbo interacted with their Benin neighbour.  They bought fish from Benin fisher men and exchanged their own articles of trade with these Nigerians.  Along the line they borrowed each other’s culture. But Oguagha did not account that this inter-group relations led to immigration into the land.  Another relevant work is M.L. Jhingan in his Economics of development and planning.  The material presented Karl Marx economic determinism that history attempts to show that “all historical events are the results of a continuous economic struggle between different classes and groups in the society”.  The struggle for wealth creation by the Igbo-immigrants into Benin has been the desire of every Igbo man who is seriously managing to grow financially.  One of the ways to compete with the rich and elite in their various communities was to move away to a new land where they felt greener pasture was available, with the hope that one day, they would come back rich and form part of the elite. Though some of them got the affluence but remained permanently in Benin.  Indeed, capitalism is not short of competition between the “Haves” and the “Have-nots”.  Going by this, it became obvious that the increasing immigration of people into Benin is traced to the success the early immigrants made in the land.  Once anyone finds fortune either in farming or trading or other activities, they come back to pick their relatives to join them. Jhingan’s interpretation was not restricted to Benin, but, it presented a broader look at reasons for economic development.

Philip Sarre and John blunden in their treatise pointed out that “the behaviour of man is dictated by some environmental factors such as the fertility of land, climatic condition, proximity among other variables”.  One can see that from this book that these factors aided migration of the Igbo into Benin.  Though, this environmental determinism is general and not restricting explanation on the land. But it is obvious that environmental factors aided Igbo settlement in Benin.

Uwa Kanu writing on wage employment in Arochukwu, attempted to show that it was this desire for wage labour that propelled the dispersal of many Igbo-nationals to other parts of Nigeria.“….The Ibos brought European goods into the market.They had the lorries and maintained trade links between the other parts of the country….. The Ibo man was the headmaster of primary schools.  He was the railway station master, he was the post master, etc…..before the civil war they were the controllers of trade….. Before the Crisis, some of the Ibo traders were buying farm products directly from the farmers in their farms.

Though, Uwa in his discourse was not particular about the Igbo movement to Benin, being as a result of the desire for wage employment.  But those Igbo who diasporized during colonial era were motivated by this desire in general.

Amali O. Samson maintained the same view as Uwa, but was rather restricted to why the Igbo spread to other parts of Nigeria during colonial times as well as trying to give the estimate of the population that migrated.

In 1911 there were 291 Igbo in Lagos; in 1921, there were 1609, most of them men.  Thirty years later, there were 31,887.  They formed 44.6 percent of the non-Yoruba inhabitants of Lagos; many of them lived in Yaba, or along the Ikorodu and Agege roads.  They                       formed 53.5 per cent of the non-Edo inhabitants of Benin, 38 per cent of the non-northern inhabitants of Kaduna.  There were nearly 167,000 in the northern region: about 40,000 of them were border minorities, and the rest lived in the strangers’ quarters of the cities of the north….. there were substantial Igbo communities in Ibadan, Zaria, Lafia, Maidugari, Gusau, Minna, Kafanchan, Benin City and Makurdi.

This illustrates that mass movement of the Igbo into other nations in Nigeria started long during colonialism.  Looking closely on the study carried out by Amali, one will discover that right from time immemorial Benin Kingdom has housed many Igbo nationals who came to seek greener pasture.  In Amali’s analysis, Igbo formed  53.5 per cent of non-native population of Benin during colonial times. But Omali did not attempt to show the contribution of this population to Benin development.

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U.I. Ukwu commented that the Igbo since the colonial times had dominated every market in West Africa and Nigeria by extension.

Now they remembered that no large Nigerian market could (at that time) be fully effective without an Ibo contingent.  Ibo had access to certain types of trade goods-especially European cloth and hardware-which were available only at much greater expense from other peoples.  Ibo were also good carpenters and blacksmiths…. If a market is to be fully successful the Hausa said, it must have Ibo.  The Tiv, however, stood adamant: no Ibo…. The Tiv finally did allow Ibo to come to market.

The comment of Ukwu concerning the domination of Igbo in Nigeria markets is the case of Benin, in which all the major markets that have developed to the brim have Igbo presence.  Anyone who is skeptical should visit any or combination of these market centres in Benin City of today: Ring road, New Benin, Ugbohor, Oba’s market, Uselu, Iyaro among others.  The truth is that the Igbo found in Edo Civil Service, contribute to the work force in the land, both in education and others.  Some have risen to become proprietors of schools.  In fact there is no aspect of livelihood in the land, both good and bad an Igbo man is not found.  They are pastors and Priests of churches; they are also herbalists in towns and villages of Benin Kingdom.  It is upon this that the effect of Igbo Diasporization to Benin will be assessed. Ukwu never gave any explanation concerning the occupation of Igbo present in the land.

Purpose and Significance Of Study

This Study is done with the major purpose of contributing to existing literature and research on the movement of the Igbos to other parts of Nigeria with special reference to Benin in Edo State of Nigeria.  The extent to which their presence has helped in the development of the land or otherwise will receive proper attention.

This study therefore, becomes an eye opener to people of the world to the contribution of ever-migrating Igbo on the overall development of the world societies where Igbo are found.  The study spans the period 1960-2010.

Research Methodology

          Owing to the nature of this area of study / research, historical method will be used.  Historical research is to reconstruct the past systematically and objectively through diligent collection, analysis and systemizing evidence to establish facts and conclusion that are capable of equipping our knowledge and understanding.

Primary and Secondary sources of information are of utmost importance and necessity in this study.  By primary sources we mean those places, people and human remains that provided raw information which will be studied and analyzed by the researcher.  Such primary source of important information in this study have been acquired from the elders of the land, survey have been acquired from the elders of the land, survey or observation made by the researcher, interpretation of few artistic works.

To this effect, interviews have been conducted and will still be conducted, some of the questions raised are:

Which group of Igbos first moved into Benin?

What can be said of the percentage of Igbos in Benin during the colonial days?

What economic opportunities attracted the Igbos to Benin?

Were there wars of conquest in any part of Igbo land at the time of Igbo migration.

How prosperous were the Igbos who moved to Benin at different times?

How have the Igbo contributed to the development of Benin since 1960?

Were there business opportunities available in the villages of Benin? etc.

The interviews were carried out in English language and pidgin english.  In collecting the information, audio tape recorder was used to record the responses of the respondents.  These pieces of information collected were interpreted objectively in this study.

Equally, by secondary sources, the researcher essentially reports the observation of others in a more or less, in personal or detached manner, the account of the reporter who is not an eye witness of the events.  In this study, such secondary materials like books and journals which were acquired from University and community Libraries, inter personal borrowing and personal Library were helpful. Internet source of information was not neglected.  Information derived were interpreted objectively and utilized to the effectiveness of this study.

Pages:  109

Category: Project

Format:  Word & PDF        

Chapters: 1-5

Material contains Table of Content, Abstract and References.

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