Igbo Origin from Oral History - Onyeji Nnaji


We need to set the record straight. The problem affecting understanding of the origin of the Igbo race was occasioned by the white race who came to our land. That is why ordinary savages like Ijaw whose father was the servant of Ezechime could open his mouth to say they were the first to occupy the east. But when I finished compiling Ijaw history and shared it to Asari Dokubo, he Began to change his narrative with the claim that he has Igbo blood in him. The white men had ancient scrolls and stone books pointing towards the east as the origin of humanity. When they came to Egypt, they collected relevant documents from the Egyptian temple and used it to construct a history for Africa tracing us to Noah's linage called cush. Aristotle did this when he accompanied the Mecedonian legend, Alexander the Great, to Egypt and Ethiopia in search of the river of life (472 BC.).

When the Europeans arrived in Igboland, they found several imstances of Egyptian culture with the Igbo. M.D.W. Jeffery, for instance, claimed that Nri culture showed that Igbo was once a colony of Egypt. George Basden, who wrote in 1912, studied the religious observance of the Arochukwu people and concluded that Igbo left Israel during the livitical period. As untrue as these remarks could show themselves, Nri did not have any hand in the history of Egypt; in the same way, the Aro people originated from 'Ero' in Nsukka, not Israel. For details of wrong portrayal of our history see Igbo similitudes.

All these things made Ottenberg Simon to conclude this, 

Considering the size and importance of the Igbo, very little research and publication has been undertaken on them, not only in history but in anthropology and other fields, compared to, say, the Yoruba or Ashanti (Igbo Religion, 120)
Ottenberg was a Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Washington, who conducted several anthropological findings in Igbo land. 

It pains my heart most, beholding that our Igbo writers, due to these similarities, also drew the same conclusion that the Igbo descended from the linage of Jacob called Eri. Others suggested that Egypt is the home of the Igbo nation. But the Igbo had told their story as having emanated from nowhere except the sky. If these similarities stressed by these roadside writers should be considered, what would we say about the ancient Dravidian that had over 50 words belonging to the Igbo in their lexicon? Should we also suggest that the Igbo originated from the ancient Mesopotamian civilization since some heroes and kings of the ancient Babel bore Igbo names and spoke some words belonging to the Igbo language? 

What would we say then, having known that Egypt was older than Abraham the ancestor of the Israelites and hearing also that Egypt was founded by the Umudiala pygmies and civilized by the Nsukka scholars? How would you feel when you hear that the oldest settlers in Ethiopia were Igbo bearing the name Kambata? What conclusion would any historian draw from the truth that Nubian civilization, which was older than the Egyptian civilization with 2000 years and 3000 years older than the Mesopotamian civilization, only started at the third phase of iron production in Nsukka? Would such historians still stand up to say that the Igbo originate from any of these places? The problem is that these faulty historians had written without putting the Igbo oral tradition in considerations. But as Nnaji nated,

History is history and can never be separated from real life stories told through mouths which must have certain evidence on the bearers’ culture, language, myths and other facets of life obtainable within the setting of the people(Cosmic. 17).


The Ogidi born literary giant, Prof. Chinua Achebe supported Ottenberg with the following assertion,

Since Igbo people did not construct a rigid and closely argued system of thought to explain the universe and the place of man in it, preferring the metaphor of myth and poetry, anyone seeking an insight into their world must seek it along their own way. Some of these ways are folks-tales, proverbs, proper names, rituals and festivals.


Igbo Oral History Told by Obalike the Eze Nri who Witnessed the Colonial Masters

When the attempts to enter the abode of Eze Nri by the colonial Masters proved abortive, they changed plans and decided to carry out a genocidal extinction of the Igbo race. They sent natives to Eze Nri announcing that he must appear at a court in Awka, a condition without which they shall kill every Igbo person. They did this to defile the spiritual power of Eze Nri who only was heard, but not seen. To save the Igbo race, Obalike, who was the Eze Nri by that time, agreed to go. His cabinet members refuted his intention, but he insisted and went. Northcote Thomas related that when Obalike appeared at the court in Awka, people stood up and Began to run until he called them back, telling them that he is not a spirit. 

It was that day, in 1911, that the history of the Igbo race was said for the first time in the public. Unfortunately, the white men who documented it that day mixed everything up. Thank God for our erudite scholars like A. A. Afigbo and James Onwuejiogwu who later gave interpretations to the history.



Accordingrding to the Igbo creation story, which eminently rested and was told by the priest king, Eze Nri, the Igbo belonged to four distinct set of people who descended from the sky in the period of creation; probably four generations before the birth of Adam. The first to descend from the sky was Eri. He could not land properly because the earth was waterlogged; so he landed on an anthill (Mkpu Aja). He cried to Chukwu (God) who responded by sending another set of people, the Awka, to dry the water with their blacksmith. When this was done, Eri could land well. Later, God sent the Umudiala. The Umudiala were custodians of cultural practices and moral tenets. Every Umudiala was a pygmies. The fourth generation was sent far much later. These four sets of ancestors formed the ancestors of the Igbo race that live in the east and the end points of the Niger. You will find this story in Onwuejiogwu's book titled  Igbo Civilization: Nri Hegemony. For more on this, read the following:


Igbo Lived for Four Generations before the Creation of Adam



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