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Early History and Culture

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The Origin of The Igbo People

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                   HISTORY AND CULTURE


              (Derived from miscellaneous internet sources)


      The Igbos are one of Nigeria's three major languages,with Hausa and Yoruba being the other two.The Igbos, sometimes referred as Igbo, are one of the largest single ethnic groups in Africa. The primary Igbo states in Nigeria are Anambra, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, and Enugu states. Traces of the Igbo culture and language could be found in Cross River, Akwa Ibom, and Bayelsa states. Igbo Language is predominant in such cities like Onitsha, Aba, Owerri, Enugu, Nnewi, Nsukka, Awka, Umuahia, and Asaba, among others. The Igbos are a heterogeneous society with its clans migrating to their current locations at different times.




       There have been postulations of different origins of the Igbos; however, serious studies based on testable facts clarify that the Igbos have lived in their country for tens of millennia. The core Igbo, from which most of the culture, tradition, and religion come from, can trace their origins to village of Nri, located in the present day Anambra state, which was founded by its progenitor Eri, around 900 AD from this village. Nri spread all across what is now considered Igboland, mixing with its indigenous people and assimilating aspects of their culture.




       The language of Igbos is known is known as “Igbo” or “Ibo” (asusu Ndi Igbo).It is the language spoken in Nigeria by approximately Forty million speakers. Igbo Language is predominant in such cities like Onitsha, Aba, Owerri, Ngwa, Umuahia, Nnewi, Nsukka, Akwa, and Asaba, among others.


       Igbo has a number of dialects, not all are mutually intelligible, these include Idemili Igbo Dialect, Owerri, Ngwa, Umuahia, Nnewi, Mbaise, Onitsha, Awka, Arochukwu, Abiriba, Nsukka, Ohafia, Enugu, Okigwe, Orlu, Abakaliki, Oguta, Ikwerre, Etchee in Rivers states, and Asaba.


      In the Igbo society, the child is surrounded by members of the family who are teacher to the child. The child therefore learns through imitation and this helps him to develop socially, physically, and religiously so as to become a full fledged man in the society. The Colanut custom, music, dance, arts, oral literature and taboo are basically patterned to reflect an identical conception of Igbo society and ritual system.









     The Igbo society operates on the” Umunna” system and the “Nnamuochie” or” Ikewunne”concept. The “Umunna” system stresses the Father’s lineage which is dominant in Igbo social organization. We also have the “Ikwunne” of”Nnamochie” concept which are based on the cultural and biological realities that an individual is derived from both his father and Mother.



     The Title system such as "Ichi Ozo”, or "Ichi Eze” or "Duru” is the traditional Igbo concept of political power and authority structured and determined by the concept of the”Umunna”.






     The chief traditional source of wealth is Yam cultivation and production. With time, the Igbo economy became diversified by the introduction of new crops like cassava, and maize but even at that, Yam continues to feature as the prestigious food that is to be owned by a man of substance. Recently, Igbos now embark on trading which is also a source of wealth.

               RITUAL THEME

     To the Igbos,the universe is divided into four major departments; Uwa, Mmuo, Alusi, Okike. According to them, Uwa represented by the visible world map up to Igwe na ala, the firmament and the earth. It is occupied by human beings (Nmadu), animals (Anumanu) and forest (Ohia). Mmuo are dead ancestors - Men who lived on earth and founded the lineage. "Okike” is “Chukwu” or “Chineke", the creator. It is also called “Chi Okike” who also manifest itself as the author of light and knowledge (Anyanwu), author of fertility (Agbara), and author of procreativity (Chi). The Igbos are very industrious, very accommodating and strongly believe in being “their brothers keeper”.


     Pre-colonial Igbo political organization was based on semi-autonomous communities devoid of Kings or governing chiefs. With exception of towns such as Onitsha, which had kings called “Obis” and places like “Nri and "Arochukwu”, which had priest kings known as “Ezes”, most Igbo village government were ruled solely by an assembly of the common people. Although titleholders were respected because of their accomplishments, they were never referred as kings, but often performed special functions assigned to them. This way of governing was immensely different from most other communities of Western Africa, and only shared by the Ewe of Ghana. Igbo secret societies also had a ceremonial script called "Nsibidi". Igbos had a calendar in which a week had four days, a month had seven weeks, and thirteen months a year. The last month had an extra day. They also had mathematics called "Okwe" and "Mkpisi" and a saving and loans bank system called "Isusu". They settled Law matters by oath taking to a god. If that person died in certain amount of time, he was guilty. If not, he was free to go, but if guilty, that person could face exile or servitude to a deity.


      The arrival of the British in 1870s, and increased encounters between the Igbos and other Nigeria's led to a deepening sense of a distinct Igbo ethnic identity. The Igbo also proved remarkably decisive and enthusiastic in their embrace of Christianity and western education. Under British colonial rule, the diversity within each of Nigeria's major ethnic groups slowly decreased and distinction between the Igbo and other large ethnic group, such as Hausa and the Yoruba became sharper. The novel, "Things fall Apart " by Igbo author, Chinua Achebe, is a fictional account of the clash between the new influences of the British and the traditional life of the Igbo.


      A series of ethnic clashes between Northern Muslims and the Igbos living in Northern Nigeria took place between 1966 and 1967. Following the clash, the Nigerian military Head of state General Johnson Aguyi-Ironsi was killed by disgruntled elements in the army. In addition to this tragedy is the failure of the Aburi peace talks in Ghana in 1967. These events led  the region to secede and proclaim the Republic of Biafra on May 30th,1967. General Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu had made this declaration and became the Head of state of the new Republic. The war, which came to be known as the Nigerian civil war or Nigerian Biafra war,lasted from July 6,1967 until January 15,1970,after which the Federal government reabsorbed Biafra into Nigeria. Several millions of Igbos died between the pogroms and the end of the civil war. In their brief struggle for self determination, the people of Biafra earned the respect of figures such as Jean Paul Sartre and John Lennon, who returned his British honor MBE, partly in protest against British collusion in the Nigerian Biafran war. In July 2007, the former leader of Biafra,General Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, renewed call for the secession of the Biafra state as a sovereign entity.





     After the Nigerian Biafran war,Igboland was devastated. Many Hospitals,schools,and homes had been completely destroyed in the war. In Addition to the loss of their savings, many Igbo people found themselves discriminated against by other ethnic and the new non Igbo federal government. Some Igbo sub groups, such as Ikwere, started disassociating themselves with the larger Igbo population after the war. The post war era saw the changing of names such as the changing of the name of the town Igbouzo to the Anglicized Ibusa. Due to the discrimination, many Igbos had trouble finding employment, and the Igbos became one of the poorest ethnic groups in Nigeria during the early 1970s. Igbo land was gradually rebuilt over a period of twenty years and the economy was again prospering due to the rise of the petroleum industry in the adjacent Niger Delta region. This led to new factories being set up in southern Nigeria. Many Igbo people eventually took government positions, although many are engaged in private business and still constitute the bulk of Nigerian informal economy. Many Igbos emigrated out of the traditional Igbo land in Southeastern Nigeria due to the growing population, decreasing land, and poor infrastructure. Not only have the Igbo people moved to such Nigerian cities as Lagos, Benin City, and Abuja but have also moved to other countries such as Togo, Ghana, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Prominent Igbo communities outside Africa include those of London, UK, Houston, Atlanta, and Washington D.C, USA. In fact, Igbos can be found in virtually any part of the world.


Isichei,Elizabeth. A History of the Igbo people.London:Macmillan,1976.Onwutalobi,A.C.History of Otolo Nnewi,http// Ofotolo.php Oriji,Nwachimereze j.Traditions of Igbo Origin; A study of pre-colonial population movement in Africa. New York: P.Lang,1994. Talbot,P.A the people of southern Nigeria. Vol.4.London:Oxford,1926. Uchendu,Victor C.The Igbo of southeast Nigeria. New York:Holt,1965

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