Many historians (including several university professors) have attempted in different ways to tell and retell the story of where and how we, Igbos, had our origin.
Some scholars have said we were members of the larger Jewish-Egyptian nation who migrated from Egypt through Sudan to the present day Igboland of Nigeria some couple of centuries ago. Other scholars disagree with that viewpoint saying that we hailed from somewhere near the confluence point of rivers Niger and Benue in Kogi state. However, another group of scholars, coming from a completely different perspective say we, Igbos, never migrated from nowhere but have been the original inhabitants of the geographic area known as Igboland.
Follow me as we examine the viewpoints these 3 completely different schools of thought hold and how their promoters back-up their points.
- Jewish-Egyptian School of Thought:
The promoters of this school of thought believe Igbos originated from the Jewish nation, and that Jewish-Egyptian blood flow through our veins. They back-up their argument with the fact that there exists stunning similarities between Igbo and Jewish cultures. Several writers from the Western world who have visited Igboland affirm in their writings the fact that the two cultures share great resemblance.For instance, Basden G. T. , in his famous book: “Among the Ibos of Nigeria” published in 1982 at Onitsha by University Publishing Company wrote that the traditional laws in Igbo land were strikingly similar to Jewish traditional laws. He also asserts that our level of cultural civilization is at par with those of the Jews and Egyptians. In fact, the Igbo religious system is similar to the Egyptian religious system in that both systems recognize the place of departed holy ancestors influencing the individual and collective fate of those still living on earth.
- Rivers Niger/Benue Confluence School of Thought:
Proponents of this school of thought claim we (Igbos) manifested our existence around Lokoja in Kogi state before migrating and settling in the present-day Igboland. They base their argument on the linguistic premise that Igbo language falls under the “Proto-Kwa” group of languages. “Proto-Kwa” group of languages are peculiar to tribes that occupy the geographic area around Lokoja. This is where I get a little confused. It’s okay to classify Igbo language under “Proto-Kwa” group of languages. But why is Igbo culture remarkably different from the cultures of other tribes whose languages also fall under the same “Proto-Kwa” group?
- Original Occupant School of Thought:
Beginning from the late 1990s, a new school of thought on the origin of Igbo people has emerged. Promoters of this relatively new viewpoint completely disagree with the migration idea suggested by proponents of the previously considered schools of thought. The supporters of the original occupant school of thought claim we began our existence in the “Big 6” (The big 6 are Nri, Awka, Onitsha, Okigwe, Orlu, and Owerri cities.) and spread to other parts of Igboland. They back-up their assertion with archaeological evidence which suggests that Igbos had lived in these cities approximately 6,000 years ago and possessed advanced civilizations in arts and culture even at that time.
It’s obvious the 3 schools of thought have a case to make and some facts to back-up their viewpoints. However, none of the viewpoints made by any the schools of thought is flawless and 100% accurate. So, for me, I don’t belong to any particular school of thought rather I have taken the central message from each of the schools of thought and formed my opinion based on that. I think our origin, as a tribe, had to do with the 3 viewpoints. Hence, I believe our early fathers where Jews, who migrated from Egypt sailing through Rivers Nile and Niger they arrived at somewhere around Lokoja where they mixed up with the local people around that area through marriage and other covenants, then after sometime, shifted base from Lokoja to the present day Igboland where they subdued the local people they met on ground and lived with them as one till date.
Written by Dunu Okigbo
fell free to share your insight, belief or position on the origin of Igbos