Ndigbo Nwere MmaduNdigbo - Who we are
Ndi Anyị bụ
Ndigbo is generally believed to have descended from the line of Jacob – the Jews from Israel. The Igbos can be found in the five eastern states of Nigerian (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo); parts of Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Benue and Kogi States of Nigeria. The Igbos are also natives in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon in West Africa. With a population of over 60 million people, the Igbos can be found in all parts of the world outside their ancestral homes. There is a saying in Igboland that if you go to any place in the world and you do not find an Igbo person, you should pack and leave because life does not exist there.
Oral tradition has it that Ndigbo (the Igbos) are descendants of Eri, the fifth son of Gad, the seventh son of Jacob. According to oral history, Eri migrated from Egypt to the confluence of Ezu and Omambala River. There are two variations of the oral tradition on the first place of Igbos settled (Nri and Aguleri versions). However, it is widely believed that the Igbos first settled in Nri. The Igbos believe that it is from this first place of Eri’s settlement that the Igbo dispersed to other parts of Igboland as we know it today.
Originally, Ndigbo were practicing traditional religion. In that tradition, they believe in the supreme being which they call “Chi”, “Chukwu”, “Olisa”, “Chineke” etc. With the coming of the Christian missionaries to Igboland, a lot of the Igbos converted to the Christian religion. A majority of Ndigbo practice Christian religion will a minute percentage practice traditional and other religions.
The Igbos had a very late start in western education in Nigeria due mainly to when Christian missionaries arrived in Igboland. History has it that some other parts of Nigeria had over 100 years of head start in western education before the Igbos as a result of this factor. The resilience and doggedness of the Igbos are what enabled them to catch-up and indeed overtake other ethnic groups in Nigeria who started before them. At independence in 1960, Nigeria had 5 universities and two Igbo sons were the Vice-Chancellors of two of the universities. One of the mantras of the Igbos is “education is our industry.” Today in Nigeria, the Igbos are the most educated in all fields of human endeavour. Their education achievement has transcended the shores of Nigeria to many parts of the world.
In pre-colonial era, the Igbos were mainly farmers and traders. These two occupations still dominate in Igboland today. However, a good number of Igbos can be found in all fields of human endeavour.
Igbos are republican and conservative by nature. That is buttressed in the saying “Igbo enwe eze.” The Igbos believe that every voice is important and needs to be heard. In Igboland, decision-making starts at the grass-root at the village or kindred level and moved up to the town unions. Igbo government system is mostly administered by “Umunna” and the “Ezes”. They assist in the settlement of disputes creating peaceful environment which reduces the incidence of litigations in Igboland. Igbo government extends far beyond Igboland. Any place you find two or more Igbos, they must form a union called “meeting.” The unions play the same role that Umunna occupy in towns and villages in Igboland. The meetings provide an avenue for networking and social interaction. The advent of social media has not replaced the Igbo networking spirit but has rather facilitated the organization of such meetings.
ABA WOMEN’S RIOT
Women have always played important roles in Igbo society. In the 18th century, EzeAro IV Nnenne Mgbokwo Udo Omini Oke Nnachi (1799-1825) was a woman. In 1929, following the imposition of direct tax on women by the colonial government and the creation of political and governance institutions that excluded women from the roles they hitherto played in the enthnic groups of Igbo, Ogoni, Ibibio, Andoni, Opobo and other, the women protested. During the protest, many women were killed while many of the Warrant Chiefs were forced to resign. This was the first major revolt by women in West Africa. In 1930 the colonial government abolished direct tax and the system of warrant chieftains, and appointed women to the Native Court system. The riot is credited with being one of the prelude of civil disobedience that eventually led to Nigerian independence.
NIGERIAN BIAFRAN CIVIL WAR
Prior to independence and up to 1966, the Igbos had the fastest growing economy in the world, highly developed infrastructure network, high standard of living and quality of life. The outbreak of the civil war from 1967 to 1970 eviscerated all those achievements. It is believed that over 3 million Igbos died as a result of the war. Losing the war set the Igbos back and has invariably subjugated the Igbos to somewhat second class citizen in Nigeria up till this day. The Igbo will continually honour our heroes killed during the civil war, who laid their lives so that many of us in Igboland can live.
This is the central core of any Igbo being. Every Igbo person in any part of the world is wired with a unique DNA. This is evident in the “can do” spirit of an Igbo. They don’t believe that anything is impossible for them to achieve if they determine to do it. The Igbos are achievement-driven. The Igbos do not depend on anybody or the government to do or provide for them. That is why they raise money to build most infrastructures that ordinarily would have been provided by the government.
The greatest strength of the Igbos aside from education is now commerce and business. With only £20 given to any Igbo with an account in the bank irrespective of the bank balance after the civil war, in 50 years, the Igbos have been able to rise from the ashes of the civil war to dominate commerce in Nigerian and indeed West Africa. This singular achievement was made possible by the Igbo apprenticeship scheme which is a unique wealth transfer system created and practiced by the Igbos. The practice enables young Igbo children to “serve” as an apprentice or trainee to his “master” (boss) for a period between 5 – 7 years. During the period, the apprentice learns every aspect of the trade or business. At graduation, the master will “settle” him/her by renting a shop for him/her, stock the shop with goods or in alternative, give him/her money enough to rent a shop and purchase goods to stock his shop to enable him to start his/her own business. Depending on the relationship between the apprentice and the master, the master may be allowing him/her good worth millions of Naira on credit to him/her sell, make profit and pay back the principal to his/her master. The master also provides mentorship to the graduated apprentice until he/she is able to stand firm on his/her own. The apprentice now master takes in an apprentice of his own and groom the person through the same process. This is called “onye aghala nwanneya” (no one left behind) in Igboland. The Igbo apprenticeship scheme is being studied and researched in many research and academic institutions all over the world. This apprenticeship system has created many millionaires and billionaires in Igboland and has improved the standard of living of Ndigbo. Though the Igbos may not account for the top 10 multi-billionaires in Nigerian, they can boast of producing more millionaires and billionaires than any other ethnic group in Nigeria. This has set up as a middle-class egalitarian society. The Igbos have a knack for business and are always looking for opportunities to fill a need that others may not recognize.
While other ethnic groups in Nigeria concentrate their investment in their geographical ethnic regions, the Igbo businesses are spread all over Nigeria assisting and leading developments in communities where they reside “ebe onye bi ka ona awachi” (where you live is where you develop) is a common saying in Igboland. This is why the Igbos are the second-largest residents in any part of Nigeria behind the indigene. Igbo entrepreneurial spirit, business successes and opulence have earned them the envy and jealousy of other ethnic groups in Nigeria. The Igbos and their properties are always the targets when there is crisis in any part of Nigeria even when the issues have nothing to do with them or even things that happened outside Nigeria.
The Igbos have a unique culture that they love and cherish tremendeously. Igbo culture is present in every facet of Igbo life. The Igbo week is made of four market days Orie, Afor, Nkwo and Eke. Each Igbo market opens and operations on a specific day of the market days. Most Igbos names are obtained by prefixing Igbo words to the market days for example Nwaorie or Mbgorie (somebody born on Orie market day), Nwafor or Mgbofor, Nwankwo or Mgbokwo and Nweke or Mgbeke. There are so many other prefixes to the market days to form an Igbo name. God is central in the life of an average Igbo. The Igbos idolize the awesomeness of God in different reverential citations for example Chukwu Abiama, Obasi dinelu, Chukwu Okike Abiama etc. Long before the advent of the colonialists, the Igbos were highly educated. They have their writing symbol called Nsibiri. This is a graphical language that the Igbos used to communicate. This was destroyed by the colonialists as they could not understand it and replaced it with western education. The Igbos are highly religious, believe in their culture and tradition. To an Igbo, family is next after God and closely followed by community spirit. That is why they celebrate all their traditional events by travelling to their various villages. Holidays are not left out as it is an opportunity to visit the village and interact with extended families and community members. Igbo culture is deep and varied that it cannot be covered in a space like this. Igbo culture cannot be complete no matter how small without a mention of Ikeji (New Yam Festival). This annual event is a celebration and thanksgiving to God for abundant farm harvest in the past farming season and supplication for more harvest in future. It is spiced with cultural dances, merrymaking, marriages, social activities, meetings to name but a few.