The Obolo (Andoni) People, also known as Andoni tribe, is part of the proposed Obolo State. Obolo people are found in Rivers and Akwa Ibom States of Nigeria. They are the largest Ijaw sub-ethnic group with strong historical relations with Oron, Ohafia, Ogoloma, Ido and Ibeno people of Niger Delta in Nigeria.
The Obolo people, put together, occupies the longest stretch of the Nigeria Mangrove Coastline Belt which also houses the largest oil and gas deposits in the Gulf of Guinea. The Andoni people refer to God as Awaji or Owaji.
Historically, the Andoni (Idoni or Indo before the colonial era had commercial contacts with European traders and with other neighbouring Ijaw clans, such as the Bonny, Okrika, Kalabari, Nkoro, Ette people of present Ikot-Abasi as well as the Okoro-utip and Mkpanak people of Ibeno. In the past, Obolo people frequently fought wars with the Bonny and Ogoni people.
The Obolo people speak Obolo as the only native language. Obolo language is a distinct language based on the original Ijaw intonation. Though it contains a few words borrowed from the language of its neighbors like Efik/Ibibio, Oron, and other Ijaw dialects, statistical provisions clearly mark Obolo out as originating from greater antiquity than its other neighbours of the region. It is one of the four language the European explorers met with in the Niger Delta area about six centuries ago.
Andoni villages and towns are situated on islands. Thus, Island I comprises Ngo Town, Akaradi province Ikuru Town, Okoroboile, Unyeangala, Asukama, Agana, Egwede, Ayamboko Town Agwut-Obolo, Agbauchima, Ilotombi, Ekede and stretched to Oyorokoto, the largest fishing settlement in Rivers State. Island II includes Asarama Town, Unyeada Town, Egendem and other small villages and Island III has Ebukuma Town, Okoloile, Agbalek-Ama(Agbalama), Mbuban, Ama Ubulom, Ama Ngere Nkpon, Otako, Okorobo-Ile, Down Below, Asuk-Oyet, Ama Esuuk, Ama jaba, and several other smaller villages. In fact, it is believed that Island Three stands at the centre of Andoni as it is the link between Island One and Two. Island Four includes four major communities - Dema, Ibotirem, Samanga and Ajakajak, Dema being the largest which formed part of ancient Unyeada Kingdom. Across this stretch of land are parts of Ogoni. Other towns of Andoni that are situated on Island includes, Ataba Town , Oron-Ijah, Egbormung, Ajakajak, Ibot-Irem, Isiodum, Inyon-Oron, lwoma-asarama, Afaradigi, Emenudung, Asarama-ija and many smaller fishing ports. Aerial view of these island display a sort of shattered constellation on the surface of water.
Tradition of Obolo people
The Andoni people are the fiercest warriors in the Niger Delta, they have fought many wars with the Ogonis yet the two communities remained best of friends. The Andoni (Obolo) also migrated and settled in various parts of Niger Delta and West Africa including Ibeno and Oron in Akwa Ibom, Andoni, Kala-Ido and Ogoloma in Okrika and Kalabari in Rivers State, also Igbere in Abia State. The Andoni people are very cultural, among the key towns are Ngo (Gogo), Ebukuma, Ikuru (Ama Ikwut), Ataba, Ekede, Agwut-Obolo, Okoromboko, Okoroete, Iko, Elile and Amadaka (Eastern Obolo axis), Asarama, Unyeada, Dema and Ilotombi and so many more.
The Nwantam masquerade of Andoni celebrated every first January is one of the highlights of Obolo festivities, which they share with the Opobo, Nkoro, and Bonny. Their ancient practices includes a writing system known as nsibidi, ofiokpo cult, ngbegbengbe and the war dance. The fishing festival (Ijok-Irin) is special and percular to the people of Unyeada Kingdom.
Ijok-Irin annual fishing festival was originated by migrant fishing folks who always return home from fishing expeditions at end of each traditional fishing season between July and August for the presentation of their biggest catch, usually through smoked preservation to the King of the kingdom (Okaan-Ama) as trophies; it is the culture of Obolo people that the biggest catch can not be eat alone or sold. Due to it ecotourism potential, the festival in recent years is been rebranded to attract tourists.
Obolo land which spanned from the Oron territory in Akwa Ibom State to Bight of bonny in Rivers State is extraordinaryly blessed with natural resources. Major part of Nigeria's oil and gas revenue is been generated from Obolo land.
According to a recent report by the UNDP on Niger Delta Biodiversity Project, Andoni Island is recorded as the most endemic barrier island in the oil-rich Niger Delta, its home to some of the six IUCN Red List mammals: most notably though recent information on population numbers is not available, is the endangered (Niger Delta) Forest elephant(Loxodonta African cyclotis),
Others are: the West African manatee(Trichechus Senegalensis), the White-throated guenon (Cercopithecus erythrogaster), the Sclater's guenon (Cercopithecus sclateri), the Niger Delta Red Colobus Monkey Procolobus epieni). Other wildlife resources available are the Nile crocodile, aquatic Antelopes, forest Hog, Pyton and Waterbuck.
In recent years Pygmy hippopotamus are out of sight in Andoni. Also, the Island's Atlantic beaches are breeding ground to four endangered species of sea turtle: the Leatherback sea turtle ( Dermochelys carrettais), Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), Olive ridley sea turtle ( Lepidochelys olivacea), Loggerhead sea turtle ( Carretta caretta), and the critically endangered hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata).
Almost all parts of Andoni tribe can be reached by road and all can be reached by sea.It can now be easily reached by Road transportation.
Obolo language is the identity of the people of Andoni, it is one of the 535 languages in Nigeria ,belongs in Lower Cross River language sub-branches of Delta Cross branches of the Eastern Division of South Central Niger Congo language family.
- Comrade Emmanuel Tony Nte Former President, Maritime Workers' Union of Nigeria, Entrepreneur and a Philanthropist.
- Prince Uche Secondus, National Chairman, People's Democratic Party (PDP).
- Rt. Hon. Ikuinyi O. Ibani Honorable Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly.
- Engr Tele Ikuru, Former Deputy Governor of Rivers State
- Barr Rufus Godwins, Former Solicitor general of Rivers State and the current Head of Rivers State Civil Service
- Gomiluk Otokwala, Senior Council, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Washington, D.C., United States.
- Zilly Gabriel Tete, Nollywood Film producer and Actor
- Dr. Uche Ekereawaji Aaron, Senior International Consultant on Obolo language and Bible Translation
- Biography of Engineer Tele Ikuru the Deputy Governor 2010, River State Government website
- Comrade Emmanuel Tony Nted Former President, Maritime Workers' Union of Nigeria
2. Map of Obolo, published by andoni Progressive union and amanded by Obolo Language and Bible Translation Organisation. History of the Igbere people.
3. Map of Obolo updated by OLBTO.
Contribution made by Ephraim E. Jerry