The Igbos and the Ancestral Controversies -By Sunday O. Oladepo

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Sunday O. Oladepo


Now that the Igbos have been denied the possible ancestral link to the Jews through the submissions of saliva samples; where can we say the Igbos evolve?

From studies; I discover the history of the Igbos is quite atypical of other major tribes in Nigeria. The Yorubas believe that their progenitor descended from heaven. There are other narratives to the historic origin of the Yorubas, too. However, a larger fraction of researchers believe in the heavenly descendancy — history or myth.

The Hausas trace their origin to Bayajidda in Daura. He’s said to be the progenitor of the Hausa race. He migrated from Baghdad; traveling across the Sahara before arriving at Karnem-Bornu empire where he reportedly married a local princess. He left Bornu and settled with his wife in Biram. Later, Bayajidda continued his journey westside and arrived at Dala hill in Kano. He was in Kano before his eventual relocation to Daura where he lived and reigned.

Conversely, the Igbos have no such historical identity; which could be said to connect a founding father or home. Whilst researching on this article, I observe that many versions claimed different sources, resulting to many and complicated origins of the Igbos. The historical origin of the Igbos is thus the most mystical in Nigeria.

One of the many irreconcilable versions of the story is the Jew/Isreali origin. The Igbos are very renowned for their acephalous and segmentary life. This, I think, is because the Igbos had no centralized states, even from the ancient times. The Jew/Israeli narrative is one of the most popular migratory origins of the Igbos. This narrative pushes that the Igbos originally migrated from the present-day Israel.

From my researches, this assumption is merely premised on the so-called synonymousness of the Igbo and ancient Hebrew cultures. This makes some Igbo scholars consider themselves as the remnants of the lost tribes of Isreal who migrated towards the west of Africa. Don’t forget, I said the Igbo society has always been known as acephalous. Today, a noticeable fraction of the Igbo folks are Jews by the practise of Judaism, which is exclusively for the Jews.

Another scholarly narrative is what I called: The Igboland Indigenous Version. Some indigenous scholars believe that the Igbos had been in their very present abode from the onset. Thus, the present Igboland is the original and the ancestral home of the Igbos. No migration somewhat.

The Bini origin of the Igbos is the most controversial but likely the most historically accurate. The Onitsha and the Igbos on the other side of River Niger claim Bini ancestry. Since there were limited literate historians at that time; it’s arguably difficult to reconcile the many oral narratives.

Another narrative is the religious perspective of the Igbo folks. This is otherwise known as the Nri version. Most Igbos that are traditional and versed in the Igbo religion believe the Nri version as the most authentic narrative of the Igbo ancestry. According to them; the ancestor of the Igbos, Eri, descended from heaven and sailed down the River Anambra. On Eri’s arrival to Aguleri, he met some autochthonous beings, who had no memory of their very existence and settled with them. As they procreated and increased in population, the Igbos dispersed to different settlements we know today as the Igboland in Nigeria.

Needful to say is another version that claim all humans evolved from the Igbos. In thi‎s narrative, all races share a common progenitorial root from the Igbos. I will dwell more on the purported Yoruba migration from the East; being myself a Yoruba Prince. This narrative pushes that Oduduwa, the mythical father of all Yorubas, migrated from the East. The East, according to most scholars is Mecca, whilst a neglible fraction, particularly the Igbo scholars, believe it’s the present-day Eastern Nigeria. However, little or nothing is further said about the “Igbo Oduduwa”, who purportedly migrated from the Igboland.

In conclusion, it’s noteworthy that with the increasing civilization in Nigeria and widespread of knowledge; one would expect the scholars and academia of Igbo extraction to engage in an explicit and all-inclusive research to thoroughly find a nexus between all this versions and come up with an authentic origin of the Igbo ethnic group.

Sunday O. Oladepo is a journalist and a PR/media consultant. He writes from Osogbo, Nigeria.