- The Role of N.C. Ejituwu in the Development of Niger Delta Historiography
The history of history-writing in the Niger Delta was first developed by E.J. Alagoa.1 However, his work, which covers the periods from 1508 to 1988, does not go into the twenty-first century. This is the case as well for N.C. Ejituwu, who extended the Delta historiography to 1999 but without including his own innovations.2 For this reason, this paper discusses the innovations brought by Ejituwu’s role in the development of Niger Delta historiography. These are his contributions to the training of historians, the introduction of feminist history, biographical writing, and history concourse. Others include his reconstruction of the settlement histories of many Eastern and Central Niger Delta groups. Its impact on the development of the Delta historiography, analyzed here, furthered historical research in the region. Although largely a study of the work of N.C.Ejituwu, this paper is also intended as an overview of Niger Delta regional history of history writing.
According to Ake, development concerns human creativity, socially or economically.3 N.C. Ejituwu has demonstrated his creativity in historical writing on aspects of the Niger Delta, a region of some 75,000 square kilometers [End Page 191] stretching from the Mahin estuary in the west to the Cross River estuary in the east. This most southerly region of Nigeria has about fifty linguistic groups located on its islands and peninsulas. Historical writing in the Delta concerns these fifty clans of the Ijo ethnic nationality. Their settlement histories have been documented by Alagoa, Cookey, and Ejituwu.4
But Niger Delta historiography did not begin with Ejituwu. Alagoa has shown that a number of historical works have been done before him.5 In fact, it started rudimentarily with Pereira in 1508.6 Others are the British “Intelligence Reports” and the scholarship of Dike, Jones, and Alagoa, to mention but a few.7 None of this scholarship focuses on historiography into the twenty-first century, although they provided a foundation for this study. Nevertheless, studying Ejituwu is studying, what Obiegbu calls, “a man’s interaction with his environment.”8 According to Ejituwu himself, when an academic is 60 years or older, his work should be studied so that students in his discipline can learn his craftsmanship.9 Ejituwu was 65 in 2005.
European explorers and Ijo traditional historians pioneered rudimentary history-writing in the Niger Delta. While the works of the former were mainly on trade in the Delta, that of the Ijo recorded the events and settlement traditions of their communities. Duarte Pacheco Pereira in 1508 identified the Niger Delta people from Apoi land in the Western Delta to Andoni land in the Eastern Delta as the “Jos” or Ijo.10 His recorded experiences in the Delta became a signpost that guided subsequent European traders into the Gulf of Guinea. Likewise, the work of Barros and Eden centered on European explorations in the Niger Delta, while Dapper and Barbot documented the [End Page 192] Eastern Delta.11 Their work provided the best picture of the trading economy of the city-states of Nembe, New Calabar, Andoni and Bonny.
Dapper was specific on the river Loitomba (Ilotombi), otherwise called river Andoni or Rio Santo Domingo by the English and the Portuguese, and mentioned a large village of traders at its mouth. According to him, this village traded in slaves, buying from inland and “sell again to the whites.”12 Baikie recounted the establishment of the British settlement at Lokoja, which regulated trade in the rivers Niger and Benue in the nineteenth century.13 The work of Lander established the course and terminus of the river Niger. As a result Britain colonized the Niger Delta and its hinterland and renamed it, “Nigeria,” meaning the “Niger area.”14
With the colonial period came a shift from trade to settlement history of the Niger Delta Ijo in the works of Leonard, Tepowa, Talbot, Owonaro, Ikuru, and Epelle.15 While Tepowa, Owonaro, and Ikuru were native to the Niger Delta and focused on traditions of origins, migrations and settlement, Leonard and Talbot, who were...