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Thursday, July 7

The History, Traditional system and Origin Of Igboland

The Igbo people, often erroneously spelled and pronounced "Ibo" (because certain Europeans had difficulty making the /ɡ͡b/ sound), are an indigenous linguistic and cultural people of southern Nigeria. Geographically, the Igbo homeland is divided into two unequal sections by the Niger River– an eastern (which is the larger of the two) and a western section. Culturally and linguistically, the Niger River has provided an easy means of communication and unity amongst the Igbo natives on both sides, as well as promoted ancient trade and movement of peoples between Igboland and rest of the world.

Known as Ndi Igbo in the Igbo language and sometimes identified by their respective Igboid dialects or subgroupings, such the Anioma and the Ngwa, the culture of the Igbos has been shaped primarily by Igboland's rainforest climate, its historic trades, ancient migration folklores and social ties with its neighbours as well as far-flung trading and political allies and lately with the Europeans through colonization and the entire Western World through globalization. They speak Igbo, which includes various Igboid languages and dialects. The Igbo homeland is almost surrounded on all sides by other ethnic peoples of southern and central Nigeria namely, the Ijaw, Edo, Itsekiri, Ogoni, Igala, Tiv, Yako, Idoma and Ibibio.

The Igbo people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. In rural Nigeria, Igbo people work mostly as craftsmen, farmers and traders. The most important crop is the yam; celebrations take place annually to celebrate its harvesting. Other staple crops include cassava and taro. The Igbos are also highly urbanized, with some of the largest cities and metropolitan areas in Igboland being Onitsha, Enugu, Aba, Asaba, Owerri, Orlu, Nnewi, Port Harcourt, Umuahia, Abakaliki and Agbor.

Before British colonial rule, the Igbo were a politically fragmented group. There were variations in culture such as in art styles, attire and religious practices. Various subgroups were organized by clan, lineage, village affiliation, and dialect. There were not many centralized chiefdoms, hereditary aristocracy, or kingship customs except in kingdoms such as those of the Nri, Arochukwu, Agbor and Onitsha. This political system changed significantly under British colonialism in the early 20th century; Frederick Lugard introduced Eze (kings) into most local communities as "Warrant Chiefs". The Igbo became overwhelmingly Christian under colonization. Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is one of the most popular novels to depict Igbo culture and changes under colonialism.

By the mid-20th century, the Igbo people developed a strong sense of ethnic identity. Certain conflicts with other Nigerian ethnicities led to Igbo-densely populated Eastern Nigeria seceding to create the independent state of Biafra. The Nigerian Civil War or the Nigerian-Biafran War (6 July 1967 – 15 January 1970) broke out shortly after. With their defeat, the Republic of Biafra once again was part of Nigeria. MASSOB, a sectarian organization formed in 1999, continues a non-violent struggle for an independent Igbo state.
Due to the effects of migration and the Atlantic slave trade, there are descendant ethnic Igbo populations in countries such as Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, as well as outside Africa. Their exact population outside Africa is unknown, but today many African Americans and Afro Caribbeans are of Igbo descent. According to Liberian historians the fifth president of Liberia Edward James Roye was of Igbo descent.


THE IDENTITY
The Igbo people have had fragmented and politically independent communities. Before knowledge of Europeans and full exposure to other neighbouring ethnic groups, the Igbo did not have a strong identity as one people. As in the case of most ethnic groups, the British and fellow Europeans identified the Igbo as a tribe. Chinua Achebe, among other scholars, challenged this because of its negative connotations and possible wrong definition. He suggested defining the Igbo people as a nation although the Igbo do not have an officially recognized physical state of their own.
Due to the effects of migration and the Atlantic slave trade, there are descendant historical Igbo populations in countries such as Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, as well as outside Africa; many African Americans and Afro Caribbeans are believed to be partially of Igbo descent.
The most common name for the Igbo in English was formerly "Ibo". They have also been known as the "Iboe", "'Ebo", "Eboe", "Eboans", or "Heebo". Their territory and main settlement have often also been known by their name.



History

Origin Of Igboland

Pottery dated at around 2500 BCE showing similarities with later Igbo work was found at Nsukka, along with pottery and tools at nearby Ibagwa; the traditions of the Umueri clan have as their source the Anambra valley. In the 1970s the Owerri, Okigwe, Orlu, Awgu, Udi and Awka divisions were determined to constitute "an Igbo heartland" from the linguistic and cultural evidence.

Nri Kingdom 

The Nri people of Igbo land have a creation myth which is one of the many creation myths that exist in various parts of Igbo land. The Nri and Aguleri people are in the territory of the Umueri clan who trace their lineages back to the patriarchal king-figure Eri. Eri's origins are unclear, though he has been described as a "sky being" sent by Chukwu (God). He has been characterized as having first given societal order to the people of Anambra. The historian Elizabeth Allo Isichei says "Nri and Aguleri and part of the Umueri clan, [are] a cluster of Igbo village groups which traces its origins to a sky being called Eri."

Archaeological evidence suggests that Nri hegemony in Igboland may go back as far as the 9th century, and royal burials have been unearthed dating to at least the 10th century. Eri, the god-like founder of Nri, is believed to have settled the region around 948 with other related Igbo cultures following after in the 13th century. The first Eze Nri (King of Nri) Ìfikuánim followed directly after him. According to Igbo oral tradition, his reign started in 1043. At least one historian puts Ìfikuánim's reign much later, around 1225 AD.

Each king traces his origin back to the founding ancestor, Eri. Each king is a ritual reproduction of Eri. The initiation rite of a new king shows that the ritual process of becoming Ezenri (Nri priest-king) follows closely the path traced by the hero in establishing the Nri kingdom.
E. Elochukwu Uzukwu.
The Kingdom of Nri was a religio-polity, a sort of theocratic state, that developed in the central heartland of the Igbo region. The Nri had seven types of taboos which included human (such as the birth of twins), animal (such as killing or eating of pythons), object, temporal, behavioral, speech and place taboos. The rules regarding these taboos were used to educate and govern Nri's subjects. This meant that, while certain Igbo may have lived under different formal administration, all followers of the Igbo religion had to abide by the rules of the faith and obey its representative on earth, the Eze Nri.

Traditional society

Traditional Igbo political organization was based on a quasi-democratic republican system of government. In tight knit communities, this system guaranteed its citizens equality, as opposed to a feudalist system with a king ruling over subjects. This government system was witnessed by the Portuguese who first arrived and met with the Igbo people in the 15th century. With the exception of a few notable Igbo towns such as Onitsha, which had kings called Obi, and places like the Nri Kingdom and Arochukwu, which had priest kings; Igbo communities and area governments were overwhelmingly ruled solely by a republican consultative assembly of the common people. Communities were usually governed and administered by a council of elders.

Although title holders were respected because of their accomplishments and capabilities, 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. Umunna are a form of patrilineage maintained by the Igbo. Law starts with the Umunna which is a male line of descent from a founding ancestor (who the line is sometimes named after) with groups of compounds containing closely related families headed by the eldest male member. The Umunna can be seen as the most important pillar of Igbo society.

Mathematics in indigenous Igbo society is evident in their calendar, banking system and strategic betting game called Okwe. In their indigenous calendar, a week had four days, a month consisted of seven weeks and 13 months made a year. In the last month, an extra day was added. This calendar is still used in indigenous Igbo villages and towns to determine market days. They settled law matters via mediators, and their banking system for loans and savings, called Isusu, is also still used. The Igbo new year, starting with the month Ọ́nwạ́ M̀bụ́ (Igbo: First Moon) occurs on the third week of February, although the traditional start of the year for many Igbo communities is around springtime in Ọ́nwạ́ Ágwụ́ (June). Used as a ceremonial script by secret societies, the Igbo have an indigenous ideographic set of symbols called Nsibidi, originating from the neighboring Ejagham people.

Igbo people produced bronzes from as early as the 9th century, some of which have been found at the town of Igbo Ukwu, Anambra state.
Igbo Trade Routes before 1900
A system of indentured servitude existed among the Igbo before and after the encounter with Europeans. Indentured service in Igbo areas was described by Olaudah Equiano in his memoir. He describes the conditions of the slaves in his community of Essaka, and points out the difference between the treatment of slaves under the Igbo in Essaka, and those in the custody of Europeans in West Indies:
…but how different was their condition from that of the slaves in the West Indies! With us, they do no more work than other members of the community,… even their master;… (except that they were not permitted to eat with those… free-born;) and there was scarce any other difference between them,… Some of these slaves have… slaves under them as their own property… for their own use.
The Niger coast was an area of contact between African and European traders from the years 1434–1807. The Portuguese were the first traders, then the Dutch and finally the British. Prior to European contact, Igbo trade routes stretched as far as Mecca, Medina and Jeddah on the continent.

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