Verifiable Historical Records on the Ijaw's Ancient Roots in Nigeria
Verifiable historical documents consistently affirm the Ijaws as one of the oldest and indigenous inhabitants of the riverine areas in Benin, Warri, and Ugbo. Their deep-rooted presence in these regions is older than many other ethnic groups. Not only are the Ijaws considered the earliest inhabitants of Nigeria, but they are also recognized as among the most ancient populations in West Africa.
In "Nigeria: Background to Nationalism," Professor J.S. Coleman underscores the Ijaws' distinct linguistic heritage, noting its minimal similarities with other Nigerian languages. This assertion is further supported by Professors Stride and Ifeka in their research, where they categorize the Ijaws among the ancient coastal dwellers. This group includes the Jola, Pepeh, Sorer, Sherbro, Bulom, Lagoon folk of Ivory Coast, and the Guan of Southern Ghana.
Dr. P.A. Talbot, during his tenure as the acting Resident of Benin Division in 1920, provides a detailed account of the Ijaws. He describes them as a unique group, distinct in language and customs from neighboring tribes. His records emphasize the Ijaws' extensive dominance over a 250-mile coastal stretch, spanning between the Ibibio and Yoruba territories.
Further evidence of the Ijaws' ancient lineage is found in Professor Wilfrid D. Hambly's research. He delves into the Ijaws' age-old beliefs, particularly their veneration of pythons. Hambly identifies the Ijaws as potentially the oldest inhabitants of Nigeria and sheds light on their distinctive serpent worship traditions, which are unparalleled in the broader African context.
In essence, the Ijaws' ancient heritage in Nigeria is well-attested by multiple historians and scholars. Their unique cultural, linguistic, and religious practices are documented in verifiable historical records, emphasizing their distinct identity in the region.
Coleman, J.S. (1963). Nigeria: Background to Nationalism. Los Angeles.
Stride, G.T., & Ifeka, C. (1971). Peoples and Empires of West Africa 1000-1800.
Talbot, P.A. (1932). Tribes of the Niger Delta.
Hambly, Wilfrid D. (1931). Serpent Worship in Africa. Chicago, U.S.A.