It is often said that a lie told so many times may, over time and generations, begin to pass for the truth if it is not challenged. One of these is the terrible lie and brazen propaganda that Igboland is landlocked or does not have access to the Atlantic Ocean, which has been institutionally propagated against the Igbo since the end of the Civil War.
As of late, this vexatious untruth became transcendent right after the ethnic-goading of Igbos in Lagos following the questionable 2023 official and governorship races. Igbos, a merchant race, are being taunted once more and told to return to their “landlocked” homeland instead of leaving Lagos and its seaports. To put it another way, Igbos are being told that they are stuck in Nigeria, as if the country were a hellish prison for Igbos.
As a result, the goal of this essay is to refute this big lie with straightforward historical, geographical, and topographical evidence that can be found if you look in the archives or do some basic physical research on your own. In a similar vein, those who make fun of the Igbo on this account should just drink the truth and return to reason and reality.
It will suffice to say that it is a profound tragedy that entire generations of Igbos in the immediate post-Civil War era never questioned this flagrant institutional lie and instead seemed to swallow it whole. They had no idea that it was meant to frustrate the Igbo’s entrepreneurial spirit. Due to their generation’s involvement in the disastrous Civil War, some older Igbos who knew it was false simply no longer cared.
The fact that the majority of people no longer take physical geography (or even adventure) very seriously is another factor that has unwittingly contributed to the persistence of this lie to this day. Without this attitude, it would have been simple for them to discover that the Imo, Azumiri, Niger, and Urashi Rivers in Abia, Imo, and Anambra States all offer distinct short routes to the Atlantic Ocean. It is unquestionable that the British corrupted Igbani island into Bonny, a diaspora Igbo enclave.
You can easily confirm this if you know how to read Google Earth or if you conquer your fear of swamp snakes and walk through these areas on foot. Either way, it’s not really rocket science. Assuming you attempt, you will find that there are many scarcely investigated streams and crawling feeders, including the remote scopes of Oguta Lake and Urashi waterways (at Oseakwa, Anambra Express) that wandered through Igbo-delta wetlands toward the Southeastern starting points of the Atlantic waterfront or foothold.
These rivers have short navigational paths to the Atlantic that vary in length, and in some cases, these paths are significantly shorter nautically (and even on footpath) than the seaports of Portharcourt, Calabar, and Ibaka are on their respective sides of the Atlantic. Many of these routes, particularly those that lead from the Imo and Azumiri Rivers’ outer reaches, reach the Atlantic within 15 to 30 nautical miles of the beachhead. In layman’s terms, one nautical mile is equal to 1.8 kilometers. Therefore, all you need is some basic dredging, which the colonialists did without a hitch in previous eras. You don’t have to start from scratch.
As a result, the Atlantic is closer to the dredged seaports in Calabar, Onne, Ibaka, Lagos, and Portharcourt than it is to the Southeast (not even the greater Igboland). It will be significantly less if you take out the territories that were illegally taken from Igboland during the creation of the State and the damnable boundary adjustments that followed. Dr. Ikedi Ohakim made extraordinary efforts to bring this issue to the attention of the federal government while he was governor of Imo State in an effort to convince the federal government to construct a seaport that borders the core of Igboland. To clear things up, seaports are on the Constitution’s Exclusive Legislative List, which means they are not subject to state legislation.
Ikwerre land, or Igweocha, which contains the majority of the Portharcourt seaport, was, without a doubt, dredged up to 50 miles to the Atlantic shore via the Bonny River. One seaport was partially dredged up to 60 nautical miles to the Atlantic, and the other, Calabar, was partially dredged up to 45 nautical miles. Ibaka seaport is around 30 nautical miles to the Atlantic and the Lagos seaports brought up to around 50 nautical miles to the Atlantic. This does not mean that some dredging was less difficult or easier than others.
Compare all of this to Obuaku in the state of Abia, which is only 25 nautical miles from the Atlantic from the confluence of the Imo and Azumiri Rivers. Azumiri, on its own, is only 30 nautical miles from the beachfront on the Atlantic. The more subtle one is the generally secret Oseakwa (Urashi) in Ihiala, Anambra State which is simple 18 nautical miles to the Atlantic, all with its 65 feet of regular profundity, apparently unique to no other Stream in Nigeria.
In addition, the area that is now referred to as Igboland on a geopolitical level is significantly smaller than what the constitution intended it to be. As far back as 1856, William Balfour Baikie – one of the earliest and dependable Geographers of old Nigeria, had this to say: ” The Igbo homeland stretches east and west from the Old Kalabar river to the Kwora, or Niger River, and includes some territory at Aboh, where an Igbo clan is located to the west of the latter stream. On the north it verges on Igara, Igala and A’kpoto, and it is isolated from the ocean simply by trivial clans, all of which follow their starting point to this extraordinary race”. Google it if you’re unsure.
Igbos physically (and even psychologically) lost geopolitical control of the delta lands that had vested in their ancestors for generations due to that infamous post-War abandoned property policy, the egregious institutional injustices in the subsequent boundary adjustments, and the widespread anti-Igbo gerrymandering. Igboland’s natural proximity to the Atlantic Ocean allowed Igbo ancestors to see the Atlantic Ocean and gave it the name Oshimiri, which means “The Great Sea” or “The Infinite Sea.”
Some of the descendants of these Igbo ancestors (nearest to the Atlantic and now geopolitically located outside the Southeast) are no longer certain whether they are Igbo or not because the psychological assault and gang-up against the Igbo that took place following the Civil War became so severe and institutionalized that they are unsure of their identity. This is how the idea that Igboland is landlocked quickly spread and became a tool for mocking Ndigbo and stifling their entrepreneurial spirit.
The most flagrant act of injustice occurred in 1976 when the Justice Nasir Boundary Adjustment Commission deliberately divided some core Igboland territories into some South-South neighboring states. However, they were not entirely successful with it. They missed the southernmost Southeast lands, which are home to rivers and tributaries that meandered through Igboid or Igbo-speaking South-South territories before reaching the Atlantic, which was fortunate for the Igbo.
To clarify, there is, in particular, the Obuaku confluence in Ukwa West (Abia State), which flows through greater Ikot Abasi in Akwa Ibom State (where Igbo communities are scattered) before reaching the Atlantic coast. You can also consider the River Niger, which washed distantly into the Atlantic Ocean via a vast network of hardly explored delta creeks and mangrove swamps adjacent to the Bight of Biafra, which is now officially known as the Bight of Bonny (that is: After the Civil War, Igbani). Regardless of your position, Igbani or Bonny are, without a doubt, Igbo.
In conclusion, it is pertinent to make it abundantly clear that the persistent taunts, mockery, and “ntoor” that Ndigbo are hopelessly trapped in Nigeria because their native land is landlocked (Buhari called it a “dot”), in addition to the erroneous refusal to build a seaport into core Igboland, are some of the primary factors that have agitated the average Igbo to the point where they seek an alternative to Nigeria. This is
Lawyer Ejimakor writes from Alaigbo.