The Origin and Meaning of 'Biafra' - Onyeji Nnaji

Anytime the vibratory word, BIAFRA, is mentioned, attentions go straight to the Igbo people of the present contraption called Nigeria. With this, one may be pricked to ask such rhetorical questions as:

* Are the Igbos the Biafrans only?

* Why are other Biafrans, connoting the entire areas mapped out as Biafra during the Nigerian civil war, not feeling the same way?

These questions beat imaginations to answer correctly without scourges left in people's minds. The reason is that, after the civil war of 1967-1970, many Biafrans began to repudiate from their real history and began to assert new names that relatively took them disassociatedly out of the Biafra core, the Igbo race. The nations in River State and others in Delta and Ibibio/Anang communities openly denounced their Igbo origins in the claim that they acquired the Igbo language via trade and other communication means through which they had met with the Igbo in the past. This historical repudiation afforded them the criminal opportunity to seize Igbo proparties in their areas for selfish gain. Key actors in this devilish act was Ken Sarowiwa of Ijaw nation and Emma Umana (Emesco) of Akwa-Ibom State. 

The first time the Igbo observed sit-at-home following the refusal of the Nigerian DSS to allow His Excellency, Mazi. Nnamdi Kanu to appear in the court. An Akwa-Ibom business man accounted to me how the IPOB ordered sitatsit-at yielded total compliance. To him, it was a marvelous thing experiencing the Biafran sit-at -home in Biafra land. Immediately as he had just spoken thus, another person asked, "Is Akwa-Ibom not part of Biafrans?" You may help me answer this question.

You know, when you come from a conquered territory, everyone speaks and addresses you in his own disenfranchised manner. That was why Obasanjo had to call the Biafran agitators "miscreants seeking attention"; Asari Dokubo Called the Igbo "Ijaw servants"; Reno Omokiri had the same got to munch his barbarically inherited slave trading involving the Igbos. President Muhammadu Buhari also explored the same barbaric intent on the Igbo and called them "a dot in a circle" with a promise to approach them in war language.

All these things constituted the questions people throw to me on the true origin and meaning of Biafra. To those asking to know more about Biafra, there must be something so peculiar connecting the Igbo and the loudly heard Biafra. One of them remarkably said, and I quote:"

  • If Biafra is a person, he must have come from among Ndigbo. And if it is a spirit, such spirit must have come from the ancestors of Igbo land.

Well, I will surprise you to note that, Biafra is a Spirit, it is not human. Details are shown in the succeeding paragraphs. 

Origin and the Meaning of Biafra

The word, Biafra, gained global attention with the declaration made in 1967 by the Nnewi born Igbo War Lord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu informing the world of the Biafrans' intention to be a self country. Ojukwu, a very careful leader, made this pronouncement devoid of the clear knowledge of the meaning of the word, Biafra. On that day, 30th May, 1967, it was an Ijaw man (Francis Opigo) who, replying Ojukwu''s question on "What shall we call this new nation," whispered into Ojukwu's ear the word, Biafra. 

Ojukwu did not hesitate to ask what the word meant; but the king was very tactical to tell him that here is not a proper place for such an answer. Meaning, he will tell Ojukwu the meaning later. The king was wise; he finally never told Ojukwu the meaning as he promised. Although the tide of the hours wouldn't have given room to this historical meeting, the truth was that the Ijaw King was not prepared to tell the meaning. See the Origin of the Ijaw Nation for the king's reason. This essay will benefit us, specifically on the origin of Biafra; for the meaning of Biafra had years back been stated by the Late Professor Catherine Acholonu.

Before Ojukwu's time, the term Biafara or Biafra comes up in a 1584 map by Abraham Ortelius from Antwerp in modern day Belgium where it is shown to be located on the south bank (some later descriptions say north) of the Camarones River. The 1584 edited atlas by

Ortelius was 

considered as the first proper atlas, depicting Africa with inland towns named. The Camarones River where Cameroon gets its name (from the Portuguese word for prawns), is known today as the Wouri River. 

The Portuguese navigator and explorer, Fernão do Pó, whose name was given to Bioko Island in Equatorial Guinea, was the first European up the river in 1472. It was from a town identified as 'Biafra' or 'Biafara' on the river in the area east of the Benin Empire. Later on, the coast of these areas were known as the Bight of Biafra.

In Ivan Van Setimer's works on the meaning and origin of the term "Africa", he stated that it was a word which metamorphosed from the Kamiu (Ancient Egyptians) word, Af-rui-ka, referring to the home of the ancestors of Egypt. He directly said that, "ancient Egyptians used Af-rui-ka to designate the place in the inner Africa where the ancestors of the ruling class originated. Rightly, "Ca" in Egypt means home. But the reference to the ancestors of the rulling class here is confusing. Why? Egypt was founded by the Umudiala pygmies and civilized by scholars of ancient Nsukka civilization. Therefore, the reference should be to the ancestors of Egypt, not the kings. For according to the 1890s unearthed potteries examined and documented by Flinders Petries, it was stated that the kings of Egypt of the old and middle ages were people who came from inner Africa and civilized Egypt.

The first publication of Late Professor Catherine Acholonu's antiquity documentaries, The Gram Code of the Ancestors of Adam cleared air on the meaning of Biafra. Ivan Van was the first African to look into the meaning of this, but Acholonu's late publications showed enormous light on the team. In her words on the origin of Biafra, Acholonu wrote thus:

  • Biafra originated from a god-man called ‘Afra’ the ancestor of modern Africa. This word ‘Biafra’ is further deconstructed in Igbo, meaning ‘Be-Afra’ or ‘Obi-Afra’ derived from the Igbo ethnographic epistemology meaning homestead (‘Home or House of Afra’ hence ‘Be-Afra’ or ‘Obi-Afra’) shortened by the earliest European (Portuguese/explorers to ‘Biafra’. Prof Acholonu posits that Igbo is the organic source of the Kwa group that populates the Africa’s Niger/Benue/Congo/Nile basins.

Who is Afra?

Coming to Acholonu's except above, Afra was not a god-man. God-men existed before the flood. In the era of the Umudiala Peopling of Okigwe civilization, the ancestors were no longer gods; the gods via marriage with the daughters of mortal men became defiled and changed to flesh, Genesis 6: 3-5 made this clear. What was left of them was the spirituality gained through ingratiation with nature and gods. The Umudiala were generation or race of pygmies; and so also was Afra.

Afra was a self-made legend with descendants who could not succeed him in his abode. He inhabited the part of the Niger coastal corners presently marked by the name. There he lived as a king, guarding the entire village solely like the legendary Nimrod chanted in the biblical story. People of old went to the Afa land where Afra lived to consult him mostly in times of different natural occurrences and nature ailments. Legend reveals that Afra was a healer and a nature scientist who was gifted to the ominous wonders of Stella powers. He lived and watched over his territory alone. 

Afra's mastery of cosmic sciences popularized the Okigwe civilization of old and helped to make the era's fame spread like fire. As Idu was popular due to the traditional position he occupied in the lost civilization of Eridu, the same was how great Afra was in the Okigwe civilization. That was why, even at his death, he was still sung as song among the old Umudiala. When Afra died, his children and members of his community could not sustain his solitarily designed self-made lifestyle. They moved to the upland of the delta and reunited with the populous society, while many others went to unidentified places. The deserted the Afa. The reserve of Afra are found in a very little population of people with such denotation in their names as Afa... and Afara.

Also Read: Okigwe Civilization (1.6m - 500,000BC)

With the fall of Okiwe civilization due to the rapid uprising in the metallic explosion in Nsukka, the Afa dwellers, who hardly had found compatible habitations among their Umudiala mainland, moved to the new empire. Around that same time/period some of them went beyond via the sahara plain. Those who travelled farther landed first in the present day Ethiopia. There they also called their new home after their original home, "Afa". They are known in Ethiopia as the Kambata. Ethiopia history documented them as the oldest clan in Ethiopia. They  were the populous walker-travellers who carried the Umudiala culture and language to Egypt. Mentionable among those in the train who founded Egypt was Tera Nata. History revealed that he was a Lord leading the group of the founding fathers; all were pygmies and were explained to have belonged to the race of Ani which in the Egyptian Book of the Dead were addressed in either ways: Ani or Anu. Their mystic knowledge of the cosmos and Stella courses was later masterminded by Osiri Ani. See details in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, page 120.

Egyptian words of Igbo origin

Isn't the Portuguese knowledge of the word "Biafra" during their adventure to this part of the world in the early 15th century AD striking? The reason they called the crescent watertight delta biafra was that they had had knowledge of the word earlier before they got there. Read the account of voyage kept by Mungo Park to notice that, even before he came to Africa, he had had knowledge of the course of the river. How did he get that? He read it from the account of the early Africans kept in England. See your surprise on page 162 of his travel account. The knowledge of Afra in them before traveling gave them the impetus to call that part of the world Bight of Biafra. The Ijaw living in the area wrongly called the place "Biaflo", but the Portuguese refused because they had known about that part of the African land beforehand. You can see it on the 1644 map of Africa shown below.


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