Igbo people

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Please develop the theme on Igbo origin. The 'Pre-Habe' descent from the 'East' is considered outdated and overflogged by many African cultures following the effect of colonisation at the expense of their original lores that reflect their beliefs of origin and cradle.

Igbo people

The Igbo, sometimes (especially formerly) referred to as the Ibo, are a West African ethnic group numbering in the tens of millions. Most Igbos live in southeastern Nigeria, constituting about 18% of the population of the country; they can also be found in significant numbers in neighboring Cameroon and other African countries. Their language is the Igbo language.


File:Map of Igbo land.jpg The Igbo in Nigeria are found primarily in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo, stretching into adjacent states like Delta and Rivers. The Igbo language is predominant throughout this area, although English (the national language) is also spoken. Prominent towns in Igbo country include Aba, Awka, Owerri, Orlu, Nnewi, Mbaise, Nsukka, Enugu, Onitsha, Afikpo, Okigwe, Umuahia, Asaba, Ohafia, Ututu, Ideani, Alayi, Arochukwu, Abiriba, Ihechiowa, Item, Nkporo, Bende and Awkuzu amongst others.

Traditional religious beliefs

The traditional Igbo religion believes in a benevolent creator, usually known as Chukwu, who created the visible universe, the uwa. Opposing this force for good is agbara, meaning spirit or supernatural being.

Apart from the natural level of the universe, they also believe that it exists on another level, that of the spiritual forces, the alusi. The alusi are minor deities, and are forces for blessing or destruction, depending on circumstances. They punish social offences and those who unwittingly infringe their privileges. The role of diviners is to interpret the wishes of the alusi, and the role of the priest is to placate them with sacrifices. Either a priest is chosen through hereditary lineage or he is chosen by a particular god for his service, usually after passing through a number of mystical experiences. Each person also has a personalised providence, which comes from Chukwu, and returns to him at the time of death, a chi. This chi may be good or bad.

It is Igbo belief that the spirits of one's ancestors keep a constant watch over them. The living show appreciation for the dead and pray to them for future well being. It is against tribal law to speak badly of a spirit. Those ancestors who lived well, died in socially approved ways, and were given correct burial rites, live in one of the worlds of the dead, which mirror the worlds of the living. They are periodically reincarnated among the living and are given the name ndichie – the returners. Those who died bad deaths and lack correct burial rites cannot return to the world of the living, or enter that of the dead. They wander homeless, expressing their grief by causing harm among the living.

The Igbo expected in their prayers and sacrifices, blessings such as long, healthy, and prosperous lives, and especially children, who were considered the greatest blessing of all. The desire to offer the most precious sacrifice of all led to human sacrifice – slaves were often sacrificed at funerals in order to provide a retinue for the dead man in life to come. There was no shrine to Chukwu, nor were sacrifices made directly to him, but he was conceived as the ultimate receiver of all sacrifices made to the minor deities.

These minor deities claimed an enormous part of the daily lives of the people. The belief was that these gods could be manipulated in order to protect them and serve their interests. If the gods performed these duties, they were rewarded with the continuing faith of the tribe. Different regions of Igboland have varying versions of these minor deities.

Modern religious distribution

Some Igbo still practice traditional Igbo religion. Although the Igbo have been largely Christianized, indigenous belief systems retain some influence, particularly in the suburban and rural villages. As with most Christianized peoples, Christian Igbos incorporated many of the culture's indigenous values, customs and traditions in their own systems of Christian worship -- merely deemphasizing their origins. Most of the Christian Igbos are Roman Catholics.


The Igbo appear to have come south from the area where the Niger and Benue Rivers come together.

According to Professor A. E. Afigbo, a scholar of Igbo heritage, "the Igbo, and perhaps the Idoma and most likely the Ijaw (Ijo), would appear to be the one of the only surviving coherent ethnic groups from the first set of proto-Kwa speakers to penetrate the forest areas of Southern Nigeria and who at one time occupied areas as far to the west as Ile-Ife in Yorubaland.

The origins of the Igbo people has been the subject of much speculation, and it is only in the last fifty years that any real work has been carried out in this subject:

   ...like any group of people, they are anxious to discover their origin and reconstruct how
they came to be how they are. ...their experiences under colonialsim and since Nigeria’s
Independence have emphasized for them the reality of their group identity which they want to
anchor into authenticated history.

Analysis of the sources that are available (fragmentary oral traditions and correlation of cultural traits) have led to the belief that there exists a core area of Igboland, and that waves of immigrant communities from the north and west planted themselves on the border of this core area as early as the ninth century. This core area – Owerri, Orlu and Okigwi – forms a belt, and the people in this area have no tradition of coming from anywhere else. Migration from this area in the recent past tended to be in all directions, and in this way the Igbo culture gradually became homogenized. In addition to this pattern of migration from this core area, other people also entered the Igbo territory in about the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries. Many of these people still exhibit different characteristics from that of the traditional Igbos – for example geographical marginality, the institution of kingship, a hierarchical title system and the amosu tradition (witchcraft). For some time some Igbo-speaking peoples claimed that they were not Igbo – the word was used as a term of abuse for “less cultured” neighbours. The word is now used in three senses, to describe Igbo territory, domestic speakers of the language and the language spoken by them.(see (A.E. Afigbo,1981: Ropes of Sand, Caxton Press,Ibadan. and T. Shaw:1970; "Igbo Ukwu: An Account of Archaeological Discoveries in Eastern Nigeria", Faber and Faber, pp. 268-285).

Pre-colonial life

Pre-colonial Igbo political organization was based on communities, devoid of kings or governing chiefs. With the 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 governments were ruled solely by an assembly of the common people.

Although titleholders were respected because of their accomplishments, they were never revered as kings, but often performed special functions given to them by such assemblies. 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. The Igbo had a calendar in which a week had four days. A month consisted of seven weeks and thirteen months made a year. In the last month, an extra day was added. This calendar is still in use in villages and towns to determine the market days.

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 a 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.

Colonial period

The arrival of the British in the 1870s and increased encounters between the Igbo and other Nigerians 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 distinctions between the Igbo and other large ethnic groups, such as the Hausa and the Yoruba became sharper.

Nigerian Civil War

Following a military coup which removed Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi from power, the Igbo-dominated southeast of the country seceded from Nigeria as the Republic of Biafra. A civil war, after which the federal government reabsorbed Biafra into Nigeria, stretched from 1967 until 1970.

In July 2007, Emeka Ojukwu renewed calls for the seccesation of the Biafran state as a sovereign entity. He reaffirmed that "the only alternative is a separate existence" and went further to say that "what upsets the Igbo population is we are not equally Nigerian as the others", but was reminded that his fellow Igbo people are not equally treated by their own people. Mr Ojukwu is openly known to be pro Osu, a mean, discriminatory and pegan tradition which has left over 6 million Igbo men and women second class in their own country. "Mr Ojukwu and the Igbos should first bury discrimination at home" said one observer

The Igbo diaspora

After the Nigerian Civil War, many Igbo emigrated out of the traditional Igbo homeland in southeastern Nigeria due to an absence of federal presence, lack of jobs, and poor infrastructure. Not only have the Igbo people moved to such Nigerian cities as Lagos and Abuja, but have also moved to other countries such as Cameroun, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Togo, Ghana, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Prominent Igbo communities outside Africa include those of London in the United Kingdom and Houston, California, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. in the United States.[citation needed] Of prominence also are Igbos in Finland.

Modern Igbo society

After the Nigerian Civil War, Igboland was severely devastated. Many hospitals, schools, and homes had been completely destroyed in the brutal war. In addition to the loss of their savings, many Igbo people found themselves discriminated against by other ethnic groups and the new non-Igbo federal government.[citation needed] Due to the discrimination of employers, many Igbo had trouble finding employment, and the Igbo became one of the poorest ethnic groups in Nigeria during the early 1970s. Igboland 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, which led to new factories being set up in southern Nigeria. Many Igbo eventually regained government positions.

The Igbo, however, continue to face many problems and challenges. Even today, Igbo people have sometimes continued to face discrimination from other ethnic groups. Also, because the traditional Igbo homeland was becoming too small for its growing population, many Igbo have emigrated out of Igboland.

Igbo language

The Igbo people largely speak the Igbo language. The language was used by John Goldsmith as an example to justify deviating from the classical linear model of phonology as laid out in The Sound Pattern of English. It is written in the Roman script. Igbo is a tonal language, like Yoruba and Chinese.


Igbo music

The Igbo have a rhythm of music which consists of drums "ikoro" "udu", flute "opi", Ogene, Igba, Ichaka and other instruments. They also have a style of music called Ikorodo which involves a vocal performance accompanied by several musical instruments. Nigeria is known as the land of music, and many Nigerians express themselves through music. Nigerians have acquired a great capacity for the love of music, which usually involves percussion accompaniment, although not always. Traditional Igbo music includes a lot of drum beats. Another popular musical form among the Igbo tribe is Highlife, which is a fusion of jazz and traditional music and widely popular in West Africa.[citation needed]

Funeral ceremonies

The funeral ceremonies and burials of the Igbo people are extremely complex, the most elaborate of all being the funeral of a chief. However, there are several kinds of deaths that are considered shameful, and in these circumstances no burial is provided at all. Women who die in labour, children who die before they have teeth, those who commit suicide and those who die in the sacred month – for these people their funeral ceremony consists of being thrown into a bush. Their religious beliefs also led the Igbo to kill those that might be considered shameful to the tribe. Single births were regarded as typically human, multiple births as typical of the animal world. So twins were regarded as less than humans and put to death (as were animals produced at single births). Children who were born with teeth (or whose upper teeth came first), babies born feet first, boys with only one testicle, and lepers, were all killed and their bodies thrown away in secrecy.[citation needed]

^^ Who ever wrote that, clearly does not know what they are talking about. In the book Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe, It clearly states that anybody that dies during the sacred month, or commit suicide, or people who do not deserve a proper burial will not be thrown in a bush, but they will be caste to die in the Evil Forest. -Tiffany =) You're welcome!

Osu Caste System

The Osu caste system is an obnoxious practice among the Igbos -in Nigeria-which has refused to go away despite the impact of Christianity, modern education and civilization, and the human rights culture. Traditionally, there are two classes of people in Igboland – the Nwadiala and the Osu. The Nwadiala literally meaning ‘sons of the soil’ are the freeborn. They are the masters. While the Osu are the slaves, the strangers, the outcasts and the untouchables. Chinua Achebe in his well-known book, No Longer At Ease asks: What is this thing called Osu? He answers: “Our fathers in their darkness and ignorance called an innocent man Osu, a thing given to the idols, and thereafter he became an outcast, and his children, and his children’s children forever” The Osu are treated as inferior human beings in a state of permanent and irreversible disability. They are subjected to various forms of abuse and discrimination. The Osu are made to live separately from the freeborn. In most cases they reside very close to shrines and marketplaces. The Osu are not allowed to dance, drink, hold hands, associate or have sexual relations with Nwadiala. They are not allowed to break kola nuts at meetings. No Osu can pour libation or pray to God on behalf of a freeborn at any community gathering. It is believed that such prayers will bring calamity and misfortune.

Igbo Jews

The Igbo Jews believe they are descended from North African or Egyptian Hebraic and later Israelite migrations into West Africa. Oral legends amongst the Igbo state that this migration started around 1,500 years ago.

Members of the Igbo believe that they are descendants of Jews who had migrated to western Africa over many centuries via migrations south into sub-Saharan Africa, as well as west across North Africa, possibly following the path of the Arab conquests. Some Nigerian Jews hold that families amongst the community are descendants of Kohanim and Levites, the Jewish priests and their assistants who functioned in the Temple of Jerusalem.

Several Jewish tribes settled in Western Africa during the days of the Songhai, Mali and Ghana empires. Some sources have explained that a Jewish presence was present in Nigeria as early as 638 BCE. The Igbos are not the only group that claims such a heritage; the Sefwi people of Ghana, too, believe they are descendants of Jews that made their way to West Africa.


  1. ^ Sources vary widely about the population. Mushanga, p. 166, says "over 20 million";
Nzewi (quoted in Agawu), p. 31, says "about 15 million"; Okafor, p. 86, says "about twenty-

five million"; Okpala, p. 21, says "around 30 million"; and Smith, p. 508, says "approximately

20 million".
  2. ^ Afigbo, A.E.. ‘Prolegomena to the study of the culture history of the Igbo-Speaking
Peoples of Nigeria’, Igbo Language and Culture, Oxford University Press, 1975. 28.
  3. ^ Njoku, Onwuka N. (2002) Pre-colonial economic history of Nigeria Ethiope Publishing
Corporation, Benin City, Nigeria, ISBN 978-2979-36-8 ;
  4. ^ Kalu, Ogbu (1992) "Education and Change in Igboland 1857-1966" in Afigbo A. E. (ed.)
 (1992) Groundwork of Igbo history Vista Books, Lagos, ISBN 978-134-400-8 pages 522-541;
  5. [1]
  6. ^ Olisa, Michael S. O. (1992) "Igbo politics and governance" in Afigbo A. E. (ed.) 

(1992)Groundwork of Igbo history Vista Books, Lagos, ISBN 978-134-400-8 pages 161-177;

  7. [2].


   * Agawu, Kofi (2003). African Music: Postcolonial Notes, Queries, Positions. Routledge.
   * Forde, Cyril Daryll and Jones, G. I. (1950) The Ibo and Ibibio-Speaking Peoples of South-

Eastern Nigeria International African Institute by Oxford University Press, London.

   * Mushanga, Tibamanya mwene (2001). "Social and Political Aspects of Violence in Africa".
Social Problems in Africa: New Visions. Praeger/Greenwood.
   * Njoku, John Eberegbulam (1990) The Igbos of Nigeria: Ancient Rites, Changes, and Survival
E. Mellen Press, Lewiston, NY, ISBN 0-88946-173-2.
   * Okafor, Clement (2004). "Igbo Cosmology and the Parameters of Individual Accomplishments
in Things Fall Apart". Emerging Perspectives on Chinua Achebe. Volume 1: Omenka the Master
Artist: Critical Perspectives on Achebe's Fiction.
   * Okpala, Benneth (2003). Toasting the Bride: Memoirs of Milestones to Manhood, 2nd ed.
Trafford Publishing.
   * Smith, David Jordan (2004). "Igbo". Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Men and Women in the
World's Cultures. Volume I: Topics and Cultures A–K. Springer.
   * Smock, Audrey C. (1971) Ibo Politics: The Role Of Ethnic Unions In Eastern Nigeria 

Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, ISBN 0-674-44025-0.

   * Uchendu, Victor Chikezie (1965) The Igbo Of Southeast Nigeria Holt, Rinehart and Winston,
New York.

External links

   * [3]