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13 July 2017

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The Kirike People

The Kirike People: a brief introduction by Monibo A. Sam, PhD

This summary write-up offers a glimpse of the Kirike people and culture, hopefully wetting the reader‟s appetite for more about them. It skims their social organization, core economic activity and hints at adaptation.

The Kirike people (also called the Wakirike people, or the Okrika people) are part of the ethnic Ijaws in the Rivers State, Nigeria, that inhabit the southern-most part of the country, the Niger delta estuaries. Okrika clan or Kirike Se, comprised of nine towns, Okrika, Ogoloma, Ibaka, Ogbogbo, Ogu, Abuloma, Isaka, Bolo, and Ele, locates on the extreme eastern edge of the Delta, where the saltwater creeks and mangrove swamps give way to the extensive dry ground of the mainland (Williamson1962).

A number of these towns, like Okrika and Ogoloma, have satellite towns called iwo-ama (new towns). The nucleus of the clan from which the earliest settlers migrated to form the other settlements that comprise the clan is the island of Okrika which hosts Okrika, Ogoloma, Ibaka and Ogbogbo.

The island settlers were themselves said to have settled first at Okochiri from where they migrated to the island. The story of the first or earliest settlers of this island, especially the Okrika portion of it, is shrouded in the local politics of kingship.

Oral tradition places the first settlers‟ arrival in the fourteenth century but archaeological excavations at Okochiri and Ogoloma place the first settlement time in the tenth or eleventh century (Ogan 1988).

Like city-states elsewhere in the region, Kirike Se lost its political independence to colonialism. Thereafter, the colonial and post-colonial governments administered the clan as part of different administrative units at different points in time. This ended in 1989 when the Se became a local government area (LGA)ii. The local government reform of 1996 created another local government area in the clan, giving it two local government areas: the Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area, and the Wakirike Local Government Area.

Thus, today, Kirike Se has two local government areas with a total population of 203,351 (National Population Commission 1991). Each town is organized into War-Canoe Houses called wari oromu-aruiii, the basic unit of social administration in Kirike Se.

Originally based on the extended family, the population of thewari grew with the addition of slaves, through natural reproduction, and the absorption of new immigrants and refugees. As the name suggests, the War-Canoe House was a fighting unit capable of providing and replenishing the manpower and supplies needs of a war-canoe.

A middleman role Okrika played between the hinterland and Bonny in the trade in slaves and later palm produce transformed these combat units into trading outfits (Dike 1956; Jones 1964; Williamson 1962).

As a fighting and trading corporation, the War-Canoe House was led by the Chief called Alabo or Waridabo. The war-canoe house remains the basic unit of social/cultural administration in Kirike Se, although it has since lost its fighting and trading roles.