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Telling Our-story, Not His-Story

Our fore-parents said  Igbo bu mmuo - Igbo are spirits, they also said that it is impossible to tell the Igbo story.
We, the members of Ekwe Nche Research Institute/Organization do realize that we attempt to do the impossible, but since it is important that "the Igbo story" be told, by no other but Ndi Igbo, we have taken on this most important challenge.

Nno nu (welcome to you all).
Igbo Kweenu  Yah!
Igbo Kweenu  Yah!
Igbo Kweezuonu  Yah!
All Praise and Glory to Chi Ukwu (The Supreme Being), the Mighty Yah.

Using a series of quotations from the writing of the few who have attempted to study the Igbo, we shall try to paint a picture of the Igbo.
One of the questions that we, the members of Ekwe Nche Research Institute/ Organizations will try to answer at the onset is, how far does written record trace The Igbo?

As our research digs up more written information, this page will be updated.

One of the early mentions of the Igbo is in Babylonia, regarding the contributions of Igbo sages in the writing of the "Talmud",  this strengthens and puts to rest any doubt about one of the claimed heritage (by members of Ekwe Nche Research Institute) of Igbo, the Hebraic Heritage of the Igbo.
It is important that we stress and be reminded that the Hebraic Heritage (worldwide) come out of the "Omenala (of Igbo)', as we shall eventually prove from our research.

What is the Torah or Talmud?

"The purpose of the Talmud is Talmud Torab (literally study of Torah) in the widest sense of the word, that is, acquisition of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, since Torah is regarded as encompassing everything contained in the world. An allegory in the Talmud and the commentaries depicts the Torah as a kind of blueprint for the construction of the world... The concept of Torah is immeasurably wider than the concept of religious law, and while Jewish religious jurisprudence encompasses all spheres of life and overlooks almost nothing, the scope of the Torah is even wider. Habits, customs, occupational hints, medical advice, examinations of human nature, linguistic questions, ethical problems, all these are Torah and as such are touched upon in the Talmud."

IF THE BIBLE is the cornerstone of Judaism, then the Talmud is the central pillar, soaring up from the foundations and supporting the entire spiritual and intellectual edifice. In many ways the Talmud is the most important book in Jewish culture, the backbone of creativity and of national life...

The formal definition of the Talmud is the summary of oral law that evolved after centuries of scholarly effort by sages who lived in Palestine and Babylonia until the beginning of the Middle Ages...

The Talmud is the repository of thousands of years of Jewish wisdom, and the oral law, WHICH IS AS ANCIENT AND SIGNIFICANT AS THE WRITTEN LAW (THE TORAH), finds expression therein. It is a conglomerate of law, legend, and philosophy, a blend of unique logic and shrewd pragmatism, of history and science, anecdotes and humor...

By Adin Steinsaltz

And to think that the father of the Babylonia Talmud R. Abba Ben Ibo, the more complete and more quoted Talmud, of the Two Talmud was Igbo. Interestingly, Abba Ben Ibo's lineage is traced back to the House of David.

Some of the Igbo sages who played very prominent roles in the writing of the TALMUD:

1.) R. Abba Ben Ibo (known as Arikha)
2.) R. Hiya (Iya, correct Igbo spelling)  Uncle of Abba Ben Ibo
3.) R. Huna (Una, correct Igbo spelling)  disciple of Abba Ben Ibo
4.) Rabba (uprooter of mountains) – name of his father is Nahmani (Nnamani, correct Igbo spelling)
5.) Abbaye or Nahmani Ben Kaylil nephew of Rabba

6.) Rava or Abba Ben Rav Hamma (Amma, correct Igbo spelling)

As the importance of the Palestine center diminished, the great amora R. Abba Ben Ibo (known as Abba Arikha Abba the tall one) was confronted with the task of establishing a spiritual center in Babylonia (it eventually overshadowed the center in Palestine). In his youth R. Abba traveled from Babylonia to Palestine with his uncle and teacher, R. Hiya, a disciple and colleague of R. Judah. R. Abba himself had completed most of his education under Rabbi Judah and was one of the members of the Sanhedrin. He lived in Palestine for many years, though apparently he returned to Babylonia on occasion, and in the end he went back to the country of his birth for personal reasons. There he found a number of eminent scholars but discovered that scholarship was only imperfectly organized and standards were lower than in Palestine. R. Abba was acknowledged to be one of the outstanding Palestine scholars, ordained by R. Judah himself, a compiler of mishnayot and an expert on the traditions of both Palestine and Babylonia. To avoid offending the existing communal leadership of Babylonia, he settled in the small town of Sura, rather than in one of the main centers of scholarship, and established an academy there. Babylonian scholars were soon attracted to the new center and thousands of disciples flocked to study there. R. Abba exerted such a strong influence over the Babylonian community that he began to be referred to simply as Rav, the name he is known by to this day. The authority of the Sura center over most of Jewish Babylonia was recognized, and the Sura academy survived in various forms for 700 years.

Renowned as a pious and noble man, Rav succeeded by his own personal example, aid, and encouragement, in raising Babylonian standards of scholarship. One of his younger contemporaries, the Babylonian sage Samuel, established a second center in the town of Nehardea. Although this academy later moved, it remained the partner and friendly rival of Sura as long as Babylonia flourished as a Torah center.

Rav and Samuel together constituted the first generation of Babylonian amoraim who cast the mold of Torah scholarship in that country for generations to come. They were close personal friends, although completely unalike in character. Rav’s family traced its lineage back to the House of David, and he was connected by marriage with the resh gulut (exilarch, or hereditary leader of the Babylonian Jewry). He was well versed in the Palestinian tradition of study and edited several collections of mishnayot. It was in his academy that the definitive commentary on the Book of Leviticus (known as Sifra Debei Rav) was composed, and several of the main New Year prayers are attributed to him.
Samuel was a totally different personality, not only in outward appearance but also in occupation. Whereas Rav engaged in trade on an international scale, Samuel was one of the outstanding physicians of his day, a great astronomer, and head of the court of the exilarch.

In the following generations many Babylonian sages made their way to Palestine and became prominent there, but the Babylonian academies were already so large and important that they evolved their own independent methods of study and schools of thought. Rav was succeeded at Sura by his disciple R. Huna, while Samuel's heir was R. Judah, who had also studied under Rav and who transferred the academy from Nehardea to Pumbedita, where it remained. The scholars of this period include R. Hisda, who lived to a ripe old age; blind R. Sheshet, one of the most erudite men of his age, who had a sharp tongue and very definite views, a man harder than iron,  and R. nahman, the son-in-law of the exilarch, who was a scintillating judge in the tradition of Samuel.

The third generation of Babylonian amoraim boasted two outstanding personalities: Rabba (short for R. Abba), a brilliant man ("uprooter of mountains," according to his contemporaries) who became an academy head at a very early age; and R. Yosef, the great expert on the Torah. R. Yosef went blind in his old age but maintained his congeniality and warm relationships with his disciples, eventually replacing his friend Rabba as academy head. The debates between these two men became part of the regular curriculum of the academies. There were scholars who brought summaries of Palestinian scholarship to Babylonia, and this renewed contact inspired two sages who are regarded as the central pillars of Babylonian learning, Abbaye and Rava. Abbaye was the nickname that Rabba gave his nephew, Nahmani Ben Kaylil (the word apparently means “little father,” since he was named after Rabba’s father, Nahmani. An orphan, he was brought up by his uncle and lived like him, in penury, farming for a living and studing by night and during the slack agricultural season. He was a favorite disciple but also a sharp critic of R. Yosef, and he learned from both mentors, becoming academy head after R. Yosef. Rava, whose full name was Abba Ben Rav Hamma, was the follower of another school, that of R. Nahman and R. Hisda. A very rich merchant who was on close terms with the Persian royal house, he lived in the important and prosperous commercial center of Mehoza. Rava was apparently younger than Abbaye, but they were friends from youth despite their conflicting opinions. Hundreds of debates between them are quoted in the Babylonian Talmud, and the discussions which they and their disciples held are classic examples of the methods of the Babylonian Talmud. Both had incisive minds, but Abbaye tended somewhat to formalism, while his colleague generally represented a more realistic outlook. Abbaye was more moderate in his conclusions and preferred simple solutions, while Rava’s decisions were clearer, although his halakhic method was more complex. In numerous areas they were in accord, and many important halakhic elements are the fruit of their joint efforts.

By Adin Steinsaltz (1976)


"The history of many peoples begins with a migration, and a founding father. But the available evidence suggests that the Igbo and their forbears have lived in much their present homes from the dawn of human history."
The IBO People and the Europeans
The Genesis of a Relationship – 1906

For what are called lgbo we now are told to us by historians, archeologists and linguists to be remnants of a wider spread of autochthonous people, by the same name, who become the raw materials for the empires of immigrant empire-builders since 900 AD. They tell us the Igbo have been around for tens of thousands of years. And the ‘Great-Yam-Experiment that established the lgbo as an Agricultural civilization is said to have occurred about 3000 BC. Parallel civilizations were developing in Africa’s Niger-Congo and Nile Basins. The lgbo before 900AD, we can call ancient or paleo-lgbo for the purpose of this discussion and that would include many people who are no longer called lgbo, like the Ekiti or ljesha of western Nigeria. And exclude some called lgbo now, who came to lgboland after 900AD. A worldwide hundred-year drought between 900-1000 AD, we are told, resulted in the collapse of empires, including the Mayan and peri-Saharan ones. And a flood of empire-builders, some with the cobra-clad headgear of the Egyptian pharaoh and obelisk, poured into the forest zones of Africa, both the city-state of Kano and Ile-ife date from that period, for example.
The Three Great lgbo Disasters
Three major disasters have hit the Igbo in the last one thousand years. They are:
The great world drought of 900-1000AD
The Trans-Atlantic slave trade
British Colonialism
The great world drought (900-1000AD) resulted in further desiccation and expansion of the Sahara desert. Societies that were in former grasslands collapsed. Affected people poured into the forests seawards. So came Eri and his people to the Anambra valley, Oduduwa and his people to Igbomokun and Ogiso and his people to Iduu. They came, like all myth-making empire-builders, with complicated stories, which the autochthonous Igbo concluded were fairy tales. Till today, therefore, the alternative lgbo terms for fairy tales are:
i. Akuko Ndi Eri = Eri peoples tales
ii. Akuko Iduu N'oba = Edo and Oba tales
iii. Akuko Ife = Ife tales
iv. Akuko Mbe N'Agu = Tortoise and Leopard tales.

World Struggles for a Just World.
By Maazi Chidi G. Osuagwu, PhD.

From Eri, and the waves of Hebraic immigrants returning home to Ala Igbo (Igbo Land), who came before and after Eri, came the Hebrew heritage of the Igbo; From Edo returned our brethren who had gone to build the Benin empire, due to the many pogroms against Igbo in Benin, and started Onitsha, Oguta... Igbo who remained in Ife - our brethren who had been conquered by the Yoruba and remained in present day Yoruba land became Yoruba; but the most interesting and least investigated of all would be "Akuko Mbe N'Agu", further investigation will prove that this is where Igbo scientific heritage came from - from the greatest and oldest civilization that the world has ever known.

"And he shall judge the Gentiles, and rebuke many people: and they shall turn their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they be exercised any more to war."

Isaiah 2: 4.

The most recent Igbo Hebraic civilization, which existed for many centuries in Africa, up to the 15 th century, was Biafara. It was the only nation in recent memory that as far as we know actually practiced what was prophesied in Isaiah 2:4.

“Many communities, to the west and to the east of the Niger have sectors which were founded by Nri men. During the era of the slave trade, when human sacrifice became common, the Nri continued to avoid it, bearing steadfast testimony to the sacredness of human life. Ewenetem was an Eze Nri who died in about 1820, and who is remembered for his clear teaching ‘that a slave was a human being and to kill one was abomination’…. They turned the weapons of aggression into the ritual implements of purification and peace. The spear became the staff of peace, otonsi, or the staff of political authority, alo. The club became the ofor, symbol of truth and justice. The cutlass was used in the yam cult."

The IBO People and the Europeans
The Genesis of a Relationship – 1906


"Archaeological findings in Iboland go back as far as four thousand years. But archaeology in the area is still in its infancy, and its flourishing growth was sadly disrupted by the events of the recent years, one of the lesser casualties of war. Only a few sites have been excavated , but these have yielded material of enormous significance, which has, in some respects, transformed our knowledge of the Ibo past. It seems likely that the systematic archaeological work in Iboland in the future will add greatly to our understanding of its history, though there are, of course, major limitations to the kind of information which the remains of material cultures can supply."

The IBO People and the Europeans
The Genesis of a Relationship – 1906


"These spring largely from the fact that Iboland was not a centralized state, but consisted of a very large number of independent and relatively small polities. Their number makes the scientific study and collation of their traditions difficult, and their complicated and democratic systems of government were not particularly conducive to the systematic preservation of knowledge about the past."

The IBO People and the Europeans
The Genesis of a Relationship – 1906

Ohacracy – The oldest and purest form of Democracy:

The Igbo faction of the aboriginal group, looking on those in the city who had succumbed to the ideas perpetrated by the Oduduwa groups as traitors, continued their raids over the settlement.
We underline the reason the Igbo were fighting a thousand years ago at Igbomokun (Ile-Ife): IDEAS. Unacceptable ideas! They were engaged in an ideological struggle against a perceived unjust and un-natural system. Struggle for a just world!
Writing in the same book, Isola Olomola had recorded that “in Ife tradition, also, reference is made to ‘Kutukutu, Oba lgbo’, that is, ‘Early morning, the king of Igbo’ - What this means is that the dawn assembly of the people ruled the lgbo (talk of lgbo enwe eze debate a thousand years ago!) The people, assembled, is king of the people, which the lgbo held, would be contradicted by the ‘ILE” system introducedby the Oduduwa group. What “ILE” means is House (ulo in modem lgbo). Same thing as OBl 1 (Great Hall) or IGWE (Great Roof). This is precisely what the Egyptian term “Per aa”, corrupted to Pharaoh, means: GREAT HOUSE. The lgbo, a thousand years ago, struggled against a system of government where oneman’s housewas the house of all - One man who controlled the economy by monopolizing bead-making and owing the market as OLOJA. It is like one person today controlling the petroleum industry in Nigeria, as Olupetro’, as well as the Central Bank.
The lgbo believed a thousands ago, and today, that political power and the economy should be controlled by "all the people" to avoid injustice. No one man can be father of all - OTU ONYE ANAGHI AWU NNAM OHA! It was and is a struggle for a just world, by the Igbo, a thousand years ago and later. The idea of the people as king still exists in those parts of lgboland that did not come under the direct hegemony of immigrant monarchists. One such is Obowu, from where the writer comes. The popular expression still is  "Ohanawueze!"  The people who are the king’. Exactly the idea at lgbomokun a thousand years earlier! No well-groomed Obowu person fails to address the people assembled as Ohanawueze, as preamble to a public speech. 

‘World Struggles for a Just World.’
By Maazi Chidi G. Osuagwu, PhD.


"The traditional philosophy and religious beliefs of the Nri like that of other Igbo peoples, are interwoven and centered on five interdependent major concepts which are as follows: Chukwu, Alusi, Uwa, and Ike Mmadu."
“Chukwu is the Great Creator of all things. The Great Creator has four major aspects which are manifestations of his existence. First, Chukwu is Anyanwu, in the symbolic meaning of “the sun”. Nri believe that as the sun’s light is everywhere so is the presence of Chukwu manifested everywhere; as the sun is all powerful so is Chukwu all powerful and as the sun is the light that reveals things so is Chukwu the source of knowledge. Secondly, Chukwu is Agbala, manifested in the fertility of the earth and the beings that inhabit it. Thirdly, Chukwu is Chi, manifested in the power and ability of living things to procreate themselves from generation to generation. Fourthly, Chukwu is Okike, manifested in the creation of everything visible and the invisible. Chukwu as Okike creates the laws that govern the visible and the invisible. These laws are neither good nor bad. They are simple laws that enable things to work. Both good and evil are the products of the invisible beings, and forces, and the Alusi.

Nri Kingdom and Hegemony, A.D. 994 to Present
By Maazi M. A. Onwuejeogwu (Prof.)

The Hebraic Heritage of Igbo:

"In tracing the sources of many Ibo customs, the investigator cannot help being struck with the similitude between them and some of the ideas and practices of the Levitical code. The people are intensely religious. A casual observer might pronounce them superstitious, but the fact is, the belief in the spiritual exercises a profound influence over every detail of their lives. Their religion is not an idolatrous one as that term is commonly interpreted, the idols, so called, being merely tangible symbols to assist them in the service and worship of the invisible.…
In language some of the idioms met approximate very closely the Hebrew tongue."

Notes on the Ibo Country and the Ibo People, Southern Nigeria
By the Rev. George T. Basden, M.A.
The Geographical Journal
Vol. XXXIX. No. 3. March 1912.

The Igbo in a Nutshell!

Among the Egboes, women hold a superior rank in the social scale; they are not regarded, as among other tribes, as inferior creation and doomed to perpetual degradation, but occupy their 'rightful status in society.
The Egboes are considered the most imitative and emulative people in the whole of Western Africa; place them where you will, or introduce to them any manners and customs, you will find that they very easily adapt themselves to them. Stout-hearted, or, to use the more common phraseology, big-hearted, they always posses a desire of superiority, and make attempts to attain it, or excel in what is praiseworthy, without a desire of depressing others. To them we may apply the language of Dryden - A noble emulation beats their breasts.
Place an Egboe man in a comfortable position, and he will never rest satisfied until he sees others occupying the same or a similar position.
It is a peculiar law among the Ibos, that when the inhabitants of one town are at war with another, and one part or division of the town will not join in the war, they can, without molestation, visit their relatives in the town which is at war with a division of their own, whether men or women, no person touching them. Strangers living in the country might visit the belligerent towns freely, without apprehension, because they are said not to have a hand in their quarrels. Should there be an intermediate town between the two contending towns, neither the one nor the other can step over the intermediate one to attack his enemies without a due notice and permission from the intermediate one, unless they beat their way in a roundabout direction to affect their purpose.
The religion of the Egboes is Judaism intermixed with numerous pagan rites and ceremonies.
The Egboes cannot be driven to an act; they become most stubborn and bull-headed; but with kindness they could be made to do anything, even to deny themselves of their comforts. They would not, as a rule, allow anyone to act superior over, nor sway their conscience, by coercion, to the performance of any act, whether good or bad, when they have not the inclination to do so; hence there is not that unity among them that is found among other tribes; in fact everyone likes to be his own master. As a rule, they like to see every African prosper.
Among their own tribe, be they ever so rich, they feel no ill-will toward them. A poor man or woman of that tribe, if they meet with a rising young person of the same nationality, are ready to render him the utmost service in their power. They give him gratuitous advice, and 'embrace him as their child', but if he is arrogant and overbearing, they regard him with scorn and disdain wherever he is met.

West African Countries and Peoples
By James Africanus Horton (1868)


Below is an interesting piece from Maazi Mbonu Ojike, an Igbo patriot and genius, he used the term African but we have taken the liberty of substituting Igbo for African since he was primarily writing from his experience as an Igbo. It comes from the passage ‘Religious Life’:

1. Is there a God?

GOD, As A CONCEPT, is as old and universal as the word man; the idea of God is inseparable from the fact that there is man. Whether God made man in His own image or it is the other way around, the Igbo have always believed that there is God, the Being to whom he attributes all creation.
In my state, He is Chineke, God the Creator. In other parts of Africa He is known by some other names as Olisa, Leza, Allah, Osebuluwa, Eke. Everywhere in IgboLand man’s life is very much conditioned by his relation to God. When, therefore, one uses the word “Heathen” in describing Igbo, one makes a great philosophical blunder indeed. If there is one thing that is homogeneous in Igbo culture, it is religion. If there is one phase of Igbo thought that should have commanded universal respect, it is religion. But it is not the religion of one hero, of one humanitarian, or of one saint. Igbo religion respects virtues, ancestors, or the souls of the dead, but it does not make one human being or character the centre of religious philosophy.

2. Concepts of God

The religion of the Igbo is not founded upon man but for man: he does not make attempts to equate God to man. No man, we believe, is so good that he should be deified, considered God, or even worshipped as a special son or prophet of God. Consequently, you cannot find a human in Igbo religion who is a prototype of Jesus Christ, Buddha, or Bahai. All of these were humans whose character ranked higher in their respective and contemporary communities. Igbo has produced men and women of similar noble lives, but they were never deified, because a real God is invisible and superhuman.
If it is necessary to give a name to the Igbo religious system so that it may be more clearly understood by those who like definitions, the word is Omenana . It is a system which holds that man’s activities are limitable by what is good for all. The name comes from the word ana, which,…,means the earth, the soil, the land, and also custom, tradition, law, constitution. Doing things in conformity with the constitution of the land or the good of all is called Omenala.
For us, religion and law are unalterably interdependent. Religion establishes the social reason for an ideal, while law or government regulates how the ideal can be attained. Stealing is evil because it is contrary to the general social aim, namely, that a man is entitled to the possession and use of his own property. The thief has not conducted himself in accordance with what is good for all. God, under whom the community set up the Omenana system, does not sanction theft. Thus the action is both sin and offence. To God, it is a sin; to the man robbed, it is an offence. The thief must, therefore, cleanse himself and his family of double guilt. First, he must perform sacrifice to God; and second, he must recompense his neighbour twofold or tenfold, depending upon the custom prevailing in the community where the loser lives.
Broadly speaking, there are two related concepts of God:
Chineke, and Chi. The first idea is the Supreme Being, God the Creator, the universal God. He is the same for all persons and races and nations. He has no angels or holy messengers because He needs none. He can do everything. He created the whole cosmos alone and without fatigue. He is not human and does not possess an animal nature that would need food and drink; our sacrifices are symbolic. No one has ever seen Him physically and no artist dare portray Him in wood, bronze, or painting. He is a spirit and communicates to man not in body but in spirit.
We believe that man is different from lower animals only in one primary sense: God left in every man a portion of His breath. When this element leaves the edifice called man, the residue is mere matter. From this belief we derive our idea of personal gods, called Chi in the Ibo language. There are many such Chi as there are personalities. No one Chi is like another, because no two persons are identical. A rich man’s Chi is rich and a poor man’s Chi is poor. A man’s Chi is masculine while a woman’s Chi is feminine. A man’s Chi is equal to that man. This personal God does not leave its master until death. It is a personal guard to which God entrusted every human being.
It is a common saying that a man is as great as his Chi. Thus in art, the personal god of a baby is represented as a baby. This god is visible through the individual persons. Hence it is not an invisible being, although it cannot be separated from the person without causing death to the individual. This is the concept of Igbo religion which has been most seriously misunderstood and misrepresented both by foreigners and by some Igbo who are trying to interpret its relation to the social order.
My Africa
By Maazi Mbonu Ojike (1955)

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