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The Enuani People of Anioma: Who Are They?

Although "Enuani" today typically refers to the language of the Aniocha / Oshimili people of the Anioma in Delta North, Delta State of Nigeria , it is particularly used to describe a number of communities that are located within this region including the Ndi Onicha-Ado ( Onitsha ). As a language, it is one of the major Igbo dialects inherited from the Igbo of the southeast but with loaned words from Edo . It is distinguished by accent or what linguists refer to as orthography and mutually intelligible to the group of Anioma people in the state.


As a language of tonality in sound, the language is spoken close to Onitsha , Obosi, Atani, Ogbaru in Anambra State and has over the time become quite standardized. The language has gained wider acceptance embracing some words from the Edoid language. Words like "Ughele" (Knife), "Ododo" (Red) and "Ugagbe" (Mirror) are examples of Edoid loaned words. These and other loaned words "Okei" (boy/man) "Nwoke" in central Igbo and "Okpoho" (girl/woman) are two of the words amounting to diversions from the central Igbo.


In Anioma, Enuani language is often referred to "Asusu Enuani". The Enuani language is rarely written but retains Igbo names, words and idiomatic expressions that ordinarily may be sensible to other Igbo speakers except minor variations as a result of loan words from the Edoid language. The Enuani language has cross-pollinated the Aniocha/Oshimili areas characteristically bringing about communication homogeneity with the adoption of words. Other languages spoken in the Anioma region are Ika, Aboh, Ebu, Ukwani/Ndokwa, Olukunmi etc. The languages of Anioma are derived from Igbo, Yoruba, Edo , Igala etc.


The word "Enu" means "High" while "Ani" means "Land" which when put together amounts to Highland suggesting "Highland People" or the "People of Highland" (Ndi-Enuani). Geographically, the Aniocha and Oshimili regions are highland and riverine people living west of the River Niger today with the exception of Onicha-Ado (Onitsha) in Anambra State mainly situated in Delta State, south-south, Nigeria. Archival sources and local histories of the people show that before the fusion of the people that today comprise Delta North which resulted in the birth of "Anioma" probably in 1953, the people referred to themselves as "Enuani".


Claims and dynamics of the people on the origins which occurred in diversity support the issue of Enuani ethno-cultural identity together and homogeneity with their dealings before and during colonialism. A good example of this is the Ekwumekwu movements carried out against the British colonial government to end the imperialism in the area. It is equally noteworthy that around this time, the people referred to the area as Enuani region notwithstanding how others viewed them.  


The people of Ibusa, Asaba, Ogwashi-Uku, Onicha-Olona, Onicha-Ugbo, Onicha-Uku, Onicha-Ukwu, Onicha-Ado (Onitsha) Issele-Uku, Issele-Mkpitime, Issele-Azagba, Idumuje-Unor, Idumuje-Ugboko, Ejeme-Unor, Ejeme-Aniogor, Okpanam, Ezi, Oko, Ashaba, Anwai, Ugbodu, Akwukwu-Ukwu, Ubulu-Uku, Ubulu-Unor etc. Uniquely, these communities trace their origin to the Igbo east of the Niger , from already established settlements within or nearby Enuani region, Benin , Igala, and Yorubaland. Enuani, Ukwani/Ndokwa and Ika are Anioma.


The Enuani have a homogenous culture for instance, the Akwa-Ocha (Oto-Ogwu, in some Anioma dialects) fabric is the traditional attire of the Enuani as won by the entire people of Anioma. It is a white fabric woven with designs sometimes inscribing the " Anioma State " tied around the chest or waist by women fashionably supported with a blouse and also won around the waist by men or sometimes made to appear as a very bogus shirt reaching the legs. The Akwa-Ocha) is decorated with beads finely worn around the wrists and hanging loosely around the neck.


The culture of Enuani regarding the burial of a loved one is same. This is generally referred to as "Ini-Ozu" and in the first of the two funeral ceremonies, in the language of the people called "Ikposu-Ozu". The Akwa-Ocha is a necessary traditional item required to bury the dead. Dedicated mourners closely related to the deceased are expected to tie the fabric around their bodies while "Itu-Uni" is often conducted with "Akwa-Ocha". A deceased may also be laid to rest wrapped in Akwa-Ocha as a traditional rite and respect. An Anioma indigene that is/has taken up a chieftaincy/traditional title may also be expected to appear in Akwa-Ocha attire. Such is the relevance of Akwa-Ocha to the people of Enuani and Anioma in entirety.    

By Emeka Esogbue 

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