I am a Yoruba by birth (born in Akure, western region) and Igbo by heritage. As a native Onitsha Igbo, I trace my ancestry to Eze Chima, a prince who rebelled against the Benin royal dynasty and emigrated from the kingdom. Other Igbos that trace their lineage to Eze Chima include Onicha-Ukwu, Onicha-Olona, Onicha-Ugbo, Obior, Issele-Ukwu, Issele-Mkpima, Issele-Azagba, Ezi, Abeh and Obamkpa.
Native Onitshans speak a dialect of the Igbo language with several Benin/Yoruba words such as "Obi" (of Onitsha) and "Oba" (of Benin). In fact, the word Onitsha (Onicha) is a corruption of the god "Orisha." The bini name for River Niger is Ohinmwin. The Onicha Igbo call it "Orinmili." In a few years, we will have DNA tests that proves (or disproves) the Onitsha-Benin-Yoruba connection.
In fact, a lost dialect of the Yoruba language, called Olukwumu, is spoken in Brazil and in a few Igbo communities named Anioma, Idumu-Ogu, Ubulubu, Ugboba, Ugbodu, and Ukwunzu (M. A. Onwuejeogwu, 1987 Ahiajoku Lecture). The absence Olukwumu in core Yoruba land proves that these communities are the Lost Yoruba Tribe that were fleeing from slave raiders.
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A READER WRITES:
April 3, 2002
I first of all congratulate you, Onicha, and the entire Igboland on your wonderful achievements. Among Ndiigbo, "age is respected but achievement is revered" - Achebe. They are solid personal achievements of yours. Ka Chukwu nye gi ogologo ndu.
On a personal thought, I view the history of Bini Kingdom as "rigged". I think that Africa less than 3000 years ago had unique language and way of life. In the same vein, I think that the Bini (Edo) and the Igbo (East and West of River Niger) had a cut less than 700 years ago. I mean that Ndiigbo and Ndiedo were just one people of one culture and language about 700 years ago. And so was with Igala and Idoma. Ndiedo have Eke-Orie-Afo-Nkwo just like Ndiigbo. Ndiyoruba do not have these market days. Also, if you observe the Igbo-Bini language, you see that there must had been sometime in the past when they existed as one.
You talked about the River Niger, saying that 'The Onicha Igbo call it "Orinmili." In a few years, we will have DNA tests that proves (or disproves) the Onitsha-Benin-Yoruba connection.' I read somewhere about Nri and the Igbo race. I also read of Eze Chima, who came from what is today called Umunri (Children of Nri) in Anambra, and as republican as his fellow Igbo, he and his priestly people went West of the Niger River. They settled far away West of Agbo, extending into Igbanke, Ibekwe, Nsukwa, Uromi, Afuze, Ubiaja. And due to disturbances from the Bini Kingdom, Eze Chima ran back to the East of the Niger. But his fellow Igbo around Ubiaja, Agbo, Ibekwe, Ubulu etc., suffered a lot under Bini Kingdom, which was part of the reasons why Agbo fought Bini sometime ago. So, I do not think that Eze Chima ran back to around Umunri with all the priests he left with. How then can Igbo have DNA related to faraway Yoruba? I do not think that so can happen correctly. And it is not a view of mine that Ndiyoruba are homogenous. You may find out that around the East of the Western Region, the people there are of Ndiigbo DNA. That is for instance. Afterall, the word "Ekiti" = "Etiti" = "Centre" in Igbo language. We have not yet explained the names of places in the Western Region with '-Igbo' attached in their spelling, like Igbo-Ora, Ijebu-Igbo etc.
Was any DNA carried out then? The results. My thinking is that the Bini Kingdom spread all over, and every community in Alaigbo in those days heard of it. Equiano was from Iseke, now in Imo. He knew about the Bini Kingdom, and so were his people, Ndiigbo. "...our subjection to the king of Benin was little more than nominal…," writes Equiano, and thus, the spread of Bini rulership revealed. And now Onicha. Wasn't Igbo half-East and all-West of the Niger ruled by Bini? How then comes the trace of DNA of Onicha to Bini and Yoruba?
If so had been tasted, Dee Emeagwali, was the result what?
I still look forward to understanding the Kings of Bini Kingdom, for their names are just sounding Igbo. For instance, 'Eweka' may be 'Iweka'. Also, 'Ewuare' may be 'Iwua' or 'Iwuani'....Perhaps, the British and early historians misspelt the right sound of the names of those Bini Kings.
I look forward to hearing from you. And once again, I highly revere your achievements. In a situation where the opportunities were somehow strictly restricted, you bravely and intelligently obtained the knife and the yam: you acquired in a high articulate way the essentials capable of leading to great achievements. And the sky is now your limit. Daalu.
Chukwu nye gi ogologondu na ahuisiike. Isee.
Nwannem nwoke dalu:
Thank you for taking the time to visit my Web site and share your thoughts with me. I was out of town when your email arrived and it took me awhile to read my past email. Your write-up is thought provoking and I hope you don't mind my posting it on http://emeagwali.com.
Let's look at the timeline.
In the 1560s: Eze Chima and his descendants left Benin. As many as one in four Igbo-speaking people are the descendants of people that emigrated from Benin Kingdom.
In the 1560s: The Benin Kingdom produced its first powerful Oba, named Esigie. All Obas derived their wealth, power and mystique from slave trading.
In the 1560s: John Hawkins took the first African slaves from The Slave Coast to Haiti.
What was then called the Slave Coast was later renamed Benin Kingdom, Nigeria, Gold Coast and Ghana. The word "Onitsha" is a corruption of the word "Orisha." The religion Orisha is practiced among Yorubas and Haitians.
Just as we shortened the name "United States of America" to United States or America, similarly the name "Orisha Edo" was corrupted to "Onitsha Ado" and then shortened to "Onitsha." The proof is that the web site for Onitshans is not onitsha.com: it is onitshaado.com.
People did not travel far in the olden days. In fact, three of my four grandparents never travelled more than ten miles from the place they were born. Therefore, it is not possible for Eze Chima to travel 200 miles through the rain forest to Benin and then return homeward in his lifetime.
It will require an entire book to expound on the Onitsha-Igbo-Yoruba-Edo connection. In the future, I will provide details that prove that as much as one in four Ndi Igbo were descendants of refugees that were fleeing slave raiders. Igbo elders have a saying that "when you see a lizard running in the daytime you know that something is after its life." The mass migration that forced Onitsha people to resettle in the east bank of the River Niger was a result of their flight from the Oba of Benin and his slave raiders.
Kene ezi na ulo gi,
A 2nd Reader Writes:
I have just finished reading your writing. I am familiar with your accomplishments in academia and technology. In fact, I visited your website about nine months ago. I was impressed. More power to you.
Let me, however, disagree with a major tenet of your polemic: that as many as one out of every four Igbo may be a descendant of those who migrated from the Benin kingdom. I refute this hypothesis not with facts of my own (because the facts are not there either way), but with a proverbial and inductive shaking of the head to denote the implausibility of your conclusions.
Much of the historical "facts" on which your thesis is based remain speculative at best and downright manufactured at worst. You and I know that our African/Igbo oral history heritage is one that pits the notoriously fallible memory of a human being against truth and authenticity especially when there is no incentive for the oral historian to be accurate. And when centuries separate the oral historians who hand us "facts" supposedly passed through numerous great-great-great grandparents, a scholar, which you are, must be careful not to elevate speculation to facts.
Take for example, your quotation of the famous Igbo adage on logical deductions: you misquoted the adage as "when you see a lizard running in the daytime, you know that something is after it's life." The correct Igbo saying is "When you see a toad running in the day time, you know that something is after it." Any serious farmhand or naturalist knows that this is an empirically verifiable truism as well as a proverb. Lizards run at any time, morning, afternoon, and night, but toads normally do not run in the afternoons. See how a reliance on your memory (the oral history tradition) fails you. Imagine then how reliable is a set of facts from the 16th century on Igbo migration based on oral history and further based on connection of similar-sounding Igbo-Yoruba names. This is the stuff of legend and night-time stories in all parts of Igboland. Speculations.
So that I don't offend our non-Igbo brothers and sisters who read this, let me state this in Igbo:
Ekweghi m na ndi Igbo gbara oso si Benin bia biri n'ala anyi. Ihe n'ile anyi mutara n'ulo akwukwo na ndi echiche anyi kuziri anyi gosiri na ndi Igbo di iche ma nwekwaa amamighe na obi nwanne nke ndi ozo bi na Nigeria enweghi. Any n'ile bi na Obodo America na ndi bi na Ala bekee ndi ozo anaghi echefu ebe anyi si bia. Onwere ihe di iche n'ebe ndi Igbo no, nke m enweghi ike ikowa na akwukwo. Anyi abughi ndi obia si obodo Benin. Ekweghi m nke ahu.
Daalu, Nwannem Chukwu gozie gi.
Nwannem nwoke, kedu ki imere:
The story of Eze Chima is widely known amongst River Igbos and Western Igbos. The reason the Eze Chima story has been passed on from one generation to the next is that we humans have an innate need to understand who we are, where we came from and how we arrived at our present location.
I do not believe that dozens of geographically separate communities, independently, created the Eze Chima story out of thin air. However, I agree with your argument that our memories fade with time and that in the telling and retelling of a story, details are obscured, lost and added. An anthropologist explained to me that in the telling and retelling of a story, the original story generally evolve into a "myth" that retains a "kernel of truth."
The "grain of truth" is that Eze Chima had a dispute with the Oba and, as a result, was forced into exile from Benin Kingdom in the 1560s. The wide geographical spread of Eze Chima descendants is my basis for deducing that a mass migration took place.
I also noted that our historical timeline shows that the latter mass migration coincided with the Atlantic slave trade. Consequently, I deduced that the descendants of Eze Chima were refugees fleeing from the Oba of Benin and his slave raiders.
A war veteran knows that for every soldier killed in battle that at least one is wounded. Similary, for every slave captured, at least one escaped capture. Olaudah Equiano, the Igbo slave boy, also confirmed the latter in his famous autobiography. It is only plausible to infer that if there are 200 million descendants of slaves now living in the United States, Caribbean and Latin America that there could be as much as 100 million descendants of slave/refugees living in west Africa.
Linguistically and geographically, we have three types of Ndi Igbo: Heartland Igbos, Igbo Rivers and Western Igbos. I believe that the Igbos that live along the River Niger and in mid-western Nigeria (Anioma, Kwale, Ika and Ukwani) are descendants of refugees that fled the slave raiders of the Benin Kingdom.
I have observed that the vocabularies of River and Western Igbos contain numerous words from the Edo and Yoruba languages. This was the basis of my conclusion that as many as one in four Igbos might be related to the Edos and Yorubas? Even the cultures of River and Western Igbos are different from that of Heartland Igbos. For example, the old adage that Igbos have no king (Igbo enweghi eze) applies only to Heartland Igbos.
As an aside, Eze Chima is at the apex of my family genealogical tree. I first learned that I am a descendant of Eze Chima, in 1970, when my uncle contested (and lost) to become the next Obi of Onitsha. My uncle was required to recite the names of his great-great-great … grand-fathers and prove that he is a descendant of Eze Chima.
Udo di ri gi,
Dear Brother Emeagwali:
Your Websites are so informative and so educative. I am so enthralled with the amount of information I get from you and fellow Africans and the world at large based on your information technology and know-how.
My question is this: Do you archive all the information in your website so that these information could be accessed at any time in future and not be lost? I would like to see archived websites.
Your Internet information is so rich that I have this fear that one day, I might not be able to access past resources as they could be overtaken and replaced by the present.
The Nigerian/Biafran war issues and discussions among others should be archived for posterity. I and my father, mother and family were in Biafra during the war; and we enjoyed the hospitality of our kith and kin throughout the duration of the war.
I enjoyed your piece on the origin of the Ibos and the criticism that followed. My mother is from Onicha Ukwu and my father is from Idumuje all in Anioma, Delta State.
I have always believed that there was some type of migration of Ndiigbo from the Yoruba Kingdom, Benin (Edo) to their present location.
Dalu. Nwanne gi.
Los Angeles California
June 29, 2003 Ldali75537 @ aol.com
I commend you for having thrown up the issue of Yoruba,Edo and Onitsha historical link . In the absense of zero archaelogical and linguistic evidence,my friends here are questioning the common sense behind this type presentation from a man assumed to have achieved something in the academia for himself,the Igbo and Nigeria in general. For you to rely so much on an apparent old and orally handed down story, to the extent of concretising and inventing new theories is baffling, especially from an emerging Igbo mouth-piece like you..
Did you ask your kindred why there was a Benin king or prince with such a traditional hard-core Igbo name as Chima? Why was he not named Osagie,Erediuwa,Imasogie........
Despite being a highly oppressed people,the Gypsy migration 1000 years ago from India to the present Eastern europe has had little or no effect to their native Punjabi dialect.Or the fulanis across the wide spectrum of the West-African sub-region. The Boers (Afrikaners) of Southern Africa are also a typical example.
In your case there is a 100% demise of Edo tongue in respectof the communities you mentioned. The proximity of Benin and Agbor which are divided by two different languages,shows despite every claim of Benin descent by the latter that a strong Igbo aboriginal factor exists. (compare Abiriba and Agbor dialects)
I could see this mentality of being proud to be linked as a subject of Ancient benin,while the evidences even without a DNA shows certainly that an Igbo man with an Igbo name Chima,most certainly an Nri priest or an aboriginal western Igbo community leader,fought and resisted the continuation of Benin administration, and retreated with his fellow Igbo-speaking subjects and resettled back home. Phil, if onichans were former Bini speakers, today,400 years after, you would find a corrupt Bini dialect spoken in Onitsha. It's simple.
While white anthropologists like (Ford&Jones),simply rejected the Benin/Yoruba origin of some Igbo communities based on linguistic and cultural differences,it is simply troubling that the concerned people are giving in to forces that are simply bent on misrepresenting and obliterating important historical exploits of our Igbo forebears. It is the duty of i and you to nuture,re-orientate our people and reintroduce our history in its true perspective to our people for posterity. The present oral facts do not simply fall into place. The military conquests of Old Benin is not in doubt but to claim that the respective Igbo communities traced their own very origin to Benin itself is a travesty of history. The communities undoubtably were invaded by Benin warriors, and their Oba style of leadership imposed on them by selecting one amongst the natives to rule them and report back to the Oba in Benin. To indigenise the system,the invaders had to select from the natives lexicon the word Obi to identify the throne.
Phil,don't forget that the Igbo both on the western side maintained their "Igbo enwe Eze" concept until being invaded.. It is very important for you to know that the word Obi has its origin in Igbo language and tradition. Obi in its meaning is a court-house obliged by every elder in Igboland to erect within his living premises from which he mediates family disputes,convenes village gatherings and makes important decisions.It has always being a word associated with authority. It was never coined out of the Benin/yoruba word Oba. Let us not forget that the word Oba also has its natural place in Igbo language and culture. For thousands of years the Igbo has always called the Alligator Oba. I even have an octogenarian aunt whose real name is Ucheoba. Therefore i don't know who has borrowed from who, or who has corrupted each others lexicon?
Hundreds of years ago the Aros (Arochukwu) in their mass emigration to different parts of Nigeria also settled somewhere in the present Ondo state (Aro-Okigbo.com). This does not neccessarily mean we should start to read meanings to phonetical coincidences such as Ijebu-Ora (Aro) or the other ones Ijebu-Igbo,Awodi-Ora.......
I don't know if you are aware that there are over 30 (thirty) commubities in the vast Eastern Igbo heartland that Onicha is appended to their names. We have Onicha-Ezza in far Ebonyi state,Onicha-umuaka,Onicha-uboma ,Onicha-Nkwerre .............These communities in their own words have nothing to do with Benin or yoruba. Those areas fall within what Igbo anthropolgists call "core-Igbo" in the sense that they did not witness waves of migration as was seen in the Coastal areas.
Igbo History and present evidences tells us that Igboland stretches as far as Igbo-Akiri to the North west (now changed to Igbanke) by enemies of the Igbo. The simple fact of the presence of Nri priests in all Western Igbo communities auhenticates the aboriginal factor,which supposedly must come first in any historical consideration.
My wife is from Ogboli,a village in Igbuzo founded by Nri priests. Yes another Ogboli in Onitsha founded by Benin speaking refugees,how do you reconcile that? Our Orinmili was also borrowed. I have discussed this issue with notable Onichans from the Emejulus to Ibekwes,Ikpeazus and Chukwurahs and we all agreed that there is a missing link yet to be found in Onitsha oral history.
You can start to know the truth this way: take time off,go home on a fact finding tour.Request for a detailed list of all communities with the appendage Onicha in the Eastern Igbo heartland. Visit the elders and note down the respective accounts of their history. With this you can start to establish the true origin of the word Onicha. And that is the key to unravel all these stuff. To publish to the world that our own Philip Emeagwali,Chike Obi and Nnamdi Azikiwe could genetically be yorubas is a slap and an insult to the Igbo race. Please apologise to your brethren.
Nwannem gbaa nbo ki me ifem kwulu! Kene lum ndi beyi.
Ossie Ezeaku,born and bred at Onitsha,a son of the royal family of Ukpo-Dunukofia writes from his residence in Belgium
August 3, 2003
First, the Onitsha version of the Igbo language is distinct: it still contains numerous words from the Yoruba, Edo and Igalla languages. In 1967, I was told that the oldest man in Onitsha could speak "old Onitsha language" which none could understand.
Again, the Yorubas/Edos immigrated in the mid-1500s, as they fled the slave raiders. The Igbos and Igallas traders immigrated circa 200 years ago. Today, 95 percent of Onitshans were not even born near Onitsha. Hence, only the descendants of the old Onicha immigrants known as Ume Eze Chima could aspire to become the Obi of Onitsha.
Second, your argument that "Chima" is an Igbo name is not sufficient proof that Eze Chima is Igbo. Please remember that Chima's contemporaries include Cristóbal Colón, the Spanish explorer that was renamed "Cristoforo Colombo" by Italians and "Christopher Columbus" by Anglo-Saxons. Spanish speakers often insist on calling me the more familiar "Felipe" or Spanish for "Philip." Since words such as Chima, Onitsha and Ado were not written down, they are certainly corruptions of Edo/Yoruba words.
Richard Henderson, The King in Every Man: Evolutionary Trends in Onitsha Ibo Society and Culture
Dear Dr Philip Emeagwali,
So many years ago when I was a schoolboy I discovered that my dad who was then a civil servant had more friends among his Igbo colleagues from Onitsha than those from other parts of Igbo land. I had to ask my father why this was so, he told me this was so because people from our town [Onicha Olona] and the people of Onitsha has common ancestry.
A few years later my dad travelled home and he brought a pamphlet titled Umu Eze Chima, which he encouraged me to read. This type written pamphlet, which I believe was the effort of a local publisher presented the first opportunity to me to avail myself of necessary information about my people and my root. Since my first contact with this literature, I made it a point of duty to always read all relevant literature and materials that I may come across
While I can not lay claim to much knowledge on this subject matter, however I can say with out fear of contradictions that any effort in establishing DNA link between the Onitshans, the Binis, and the Yoruba will prove positive due to my personal observations which I believe will lend credence to this line of thought
One very important angle to this discourse is the emergence of the people called the Ado Akure in Akure, this phrase in Yoruba translate to half Bini, half Akure. In other word it means that this people are a hybrid people sort of. They can be found in a particular quarter in Akure. The Binis calls them Edo Ne Kure. On enquiry I was told by an old man that in precolonial times virtually all the Kings in Benin then, carried out expansionist policy which invariably made their immediate neighbours of which Akure was numbered scape goats. So the people of Akure and the Binis were at war for a very long time. Eventually diplomacy was employed by both kings in settling their differences and an alliance that guaranteed peace became a source of assurance that Akure will not be attacked by their ambitious neighbour [ the Binis].
To cement this alliance the Oba of Akure gave his daughter in marriage to a Bini Prince, their descendants are the Ado Akures or the Edo Ne kures, they are of mixed blood Yoruba and Edo, they can be found in a particular quarter in Akure. Seven years ago I could remember speaking to an old woman in Akure who told me she was an Ado Akure and she was about visiting their family house in Benin.
We know that it was common trend that if anybody should fall out of favour with the monarch in Benin the most reasonable thing to do is to run towards the Niger and possibly cross the Niger to Onitsha which was a safe haven for those who cherish their freedom. And not a few crossed from Benin to Onitsha in other to escape slave traders who were eager to convert them to human wares and cargo. History even has it that princes who were independently minded even fell victim, those who were regarded as rascals and headstrong suffered similar fate. Are we saying: non of the Ado Akures or Edo Ne kures who has Yoruba blood in them made it to Onitsha.
History also, has it that at a time in Ile Ife an Ife prince Oranmiyan who was one of the sons of the seven sons of Oduduwa has a spiritual instruction to go and get some water from a big river around Benin to help cure his father of an eye problem that was almost ruining his sight. Custodian of oral tradition both in Benin and Ile Ife agrees on this story.
In the course of his journey to Benin he founded many settlements and also had children from women given to him by locales as his journey progresses. Orunmila which is a deity native to the Ile Ife, I will want to believe was one of the export of Oranmiyan to Benin in terms of religion, This more than anything suggest that he stayed long enough in Benin. Though the river Oranmiyan visited around Benin was not Specified I will want to believe that it is the river Niger. However the fact that Oranmiyan had children in Benin kingdom shows that there are Yorubas in the Kingdom and once there are such elements in Benin it is not unlikely that some will find their way to Onitsha for some reasons
All stories I have read are not unanimous in their account of the origin of Eze Chima but I know it, as a matter fact that some of the communities in Aniocha part of Delta state within Onitsha axis speaks olukwumu a lost Yoruba dialect, though convoluted but an average Yoruba speaker will understand some sentences in a statement and will ultimately comprehend what the speaker is trying to say with some effort. Ebu speaks Olukwumu and still has a Yoruba egungun cult and masqurade called igunnu ko which is not even easy to come by in most Yoruba communties now. Ukwunzu is just about forty kilometres to Onitsha which is a walkable distance for our fore fathers. So those who are putting up argument to debunk our claim of DNA link between the Binis, the Yoruba and the Onitshans should do a rethink.
The foregoing notwithstanding I beg to disagree with the erudite one, Emeagwali on his view that as many as one out every four Igbo may be the descendant of those who migrated from Benin kingdom. I do not share your view in this regard. Though those who made up the bulk of inhabitants of Onitsha are immigrants from Benin Kingdom I do not think it was possible for them to move out of that enclave as war among clans was still wide spread, human sacrifice was in practice, from what we read in the Chinua Achebe’s book Things Fall Apart the igbos of old treat strangers with suspicion, they lived in clans which are not possible for strangers to penetrate without questions from titled chiefs ruling such clans. At best the alien may end up in the Osu caste if they are permitted to stay, which invariably will have amounted to another kind of threat to their lives and liberty. No man will run that far, from one form of slavery and decide to put himself in shackles again for whatever reason
If one out of every four Igbo are descendant of the migrant from Benin, it will have been very difficult for the Ighos to retain their art form as depicted by works from Igho Ukwu the only thing common to the art of both people is the lost wax form which artisans from both communities used in fashioning moulds for their works but this was not even exclusive to the Igbos and the Binis, the Ile Ife and Igala artisans employed same in processing their work of art.
In history if a community was captured and taken into captivity the chances are high that after they must have arrived their new place in exile, they start practising the religion they knew before their present fate befell them. In some cases where their captors decrees that they must only practice the religion of their host is where you find immigrant forsaking their gods or religion for another. If it were true that one out of every four igbo was a descendant of the migrant from Benin kingdom then deities that are being served by the people of Benin Kingdom like Orunmila, Olokun, and ogun will have long found their way to igbo land. This was the case in Brazil and Cuba
You will agree with me that music and dance is very important to every African, so one will expect those immigrants to fashion out musical instruments that are similar to those in use in their place of origin in Benin in their new home in Igbo land. That is not the case here, the musical insrument used by both people are different and distinct. I do not think it is possible for a community to acquire about seventy percent of her population from another community without tell tale signs on the host community in their culture and tradition. Your statement holds true for the Onitshans and Onitsha but not for entire Igboland
One of the most well researched materials I have read on Umu Ezechima was written by one Godwin Ijediogor in an issue of The Guardian Newspaper on Sunday, it was published between March and July 2002
In conclusion, Mr Philip Emeagwali let me say here that I am pleasantly disappointed that an African in Diaspora who has been away for thirty years and a scientist whom most people believe will hardly have time for any thing outside his field could still devoted time and energy to discuss his history and provoke debates that will shed more light on our root for the benefit of all and posterity. Need I say here that you are a blessing to Umu Eze Chima, the Igho ethic group, Nigerians and the world in general.
Daalu nwa Dei,
Godwin Ifeayinachukwu Kwushue
By Onyebuchi Amene
" Nwam, Nnam gwalum na Obulu na Udala amaro ebe nkpoluguya di, O ga ada, odanye na ofia ofeke, si na obumu gwali..."
(My son, My father told me that if an udala fruit lacked knowledge of the roots of the tree that produced it, would surely fall into the evil forest of the profane, quote me)
............................................ ......Onowu Phillip Okolonkwo Anatogu.
"Izobelu nwa agu obala, oma ama na obu nnia fa nwe ofiah.............maka na awuwo na uluani gba aro obulu omenani, jegakwagodu nnai tupu ichibe ozo, inanu ife nnekwu?"
(When blood is hidden from a lion's cub, you deprive him of the awareness of his ancestral ordained dominance of the jungle........I am saying this because if fraud and breach of customs were left un-addressed in a year, they would turn to customs, go and complete the funeral services of your father before taking the Ozo title, have you heard me?
.....................................................Odu Isaac Aniegboka Mbanefo.
"Na awotaro 'Onitsha ke ke ja ke ja na ogwa' bu kwonu alu na alu Onitsha" (Not understanding of our ancestral greeting of "Onicha Ke ke ja ke ja and Ogwa is one of our setbacks in Onitsha.)
.........................................................................Owelle Nnamdi Azikiwe (Eke Nwe Mmili)
Our main problems in Africa today are traceable to the effects and affects of the imposed alien culture on Africans. These alien religions, culture, and norms were imposed on Africans without considering the African psycho-cultural dynamics. Our ways of life were discredited and abandoned. Our sacred ancestral rites (still are)were derogatory addressed and referred to as "fetish” and "paganism". Terms which reflect the user's ignorance of the African sacred approach to the divine? Ironically, I am yet to hear or read these terms in use on Hinduism, Shintoism and many other ancient religions. Shintoism is mostly practiced in Japan and China, it has the same African approach to God, ancestral, nature and Gods. There are more than 400 Gods in Shintoism. You always see the Japanese rushing to their temples to pray to his ancestors during his lunchtime in Manhattan. He would proudly display his ancestral shrine in his house and his shops, the Chinese rice vending stores display theirs a lot. They were defeated and disgraced during the second world war, but they never abandoned their ancestors and their Gods. The African Gods and the Chinese/Japanese Gods and concepts are very similar. The concept of "Chi" in Zen Shintoic Buddhism practiced in China and Japan is the same as that of the Igbos. Binis and Yorubas call it "Ori." One would not be surprised about this when one realized that the Asians were the last group of people that left Africa (See "African Genesis" by Robert Ardrey, published by Dell Publishing Co. Inc)( See also "Shintoism: The Blood of My People" by Nagasaki Jean, published by Harding Co. See also the "The Meaning of Evolution", by George Gaylord, see also the "Roots and Concept of Tai Chi" by Janet Cohen, Published by Deninigs Inc.
Many Gods also exist in Hinduism. A God is assigned to all aspect and stages of life and existence(See, "Bhagavad-Gita" by Swami Prabhupada, also see” Gandhi" an autobiography, published by the Beacon Press.)They practice vegetarianism because they believe that all animals are manifestations of the divine. Their Sacred myths, which were later put into writing, were created to guide them about their Gods, headed by Brahma(The Creator), Shiva(the destroyer) and Vishnu(the preserver). I am yet to see any Hindu or Japanese, as educated and advanced in Euro centric accomplishments as they are, referring to their rituals, belief in presence of spirits or divine in animals as fetish, paganism, or superstitious. The British did everything possible to convert them but they kept to their religion and their ancestors. They observe their festivals and customs with great pride. They all live together and proclaim their culture everywhere with pride. He explains his culture as it is and will never try to dilute or tailor them to suit any body, audience or expectations.
Nevertheless, ask an African who has had a little exposure to westernization about his ancestral ways of life. With tears in his eyes, he would apologize for his ancestors' "ignorance" and "uncivilized status". He would employ the little knowledge that he's had of Euro centric education and values to explain his ancestral ways of life, culture and religion, he would jump to trace his ancestry to the "holiest" place of the colonial master's religion and then would demonstrate his "enlightenment" by doing everything to reinterpret his culture to accord with "modern decency" and alien values. (see "Who Betrayed the African Cause" by John Henrik Clarke, published by the African World Press. See also "From the Nile Valley to the new World" and "The New Dimensions in African History" by Drs. Ben Jochanan and John Henrik Clarke, published by Africa World Press, Inc.) Also, see "The Lamentations of Oba Ovonramwhen" by Igiosa Inueben, published by Ovie Edo printing press Benin. See also "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa" by Walter Rodney, republished by Nadad house, in 1996.
Africans embraced these religions without realizing that some of the doctrines that these religions brought were meant to further the economically oriented political ambition of the colonial master. These religions came with their own disguised ancestral worship and refocused our spiritual bases to areas that were out of Africa, this was in accordance to a basic psychological tenet, which advocated, "a void cannot be left unfilled." See” Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth and Later Centuries" by Ramsay McMullen. See also "Religion and Misapplication of Psychology, by H.G.J. Beck, 1971.
His Gods were taking away and Saints who were canonized for their services to alien populations in Europe were introduced as one of the vehicles to God. Some of these saints died in furtherance of such devotions to their holy duty. Some of these saints predated the advent of Christianity in Europe, but they were still made saints because of their services to their villages and towns. (See "Lives of the Popes" and "Catholicism" by Richard McBrien, both published by Harper Collins. Also, see "The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church" First Edition London, published by the Oxford University Press. See also "The Making of Saints" by Brezzi Paolo, Newman Press, 1999).
To uplift any African to sainthood would be contrary to the directives that the colonial masters, church and other colonial agents were given before embarking to colonize Africa. They were instructed to focus on areas that would not inspire the rise of a "black messiah, religious deity or hero" whether dead or alive. They were specifically instructed to destroy concepts "like worshipping ancestral warriors" in order to discourage revolutions as we had with "the Zulus". See "A Study of Colonial Impact in Selected Primitive Societies(Thesis, Oxford University unpublished,1972). See also "The Rebirth of African Civilization" by Dr. Chancellor Williams, published by U.B. and U.S. Communications Inc. It was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, (my mother and Zik shared the same grandparents in Umudei, Mba family) that gave me this book, apart from so many other books, during my LL. B. Thesis On Pre-Colonial Laws and Customs in Onitsha, 14 years ago. I shall come to this in subsequent paragraphs.) "The Rebirth of African Civilization" Op.Cit. was dedicated to Zik and Kwame Nkrumah by the author. Zik and Kwame Nkrumah (Osagyefo) were the greatest men amongst us that Mother Africa produced. See also "The Mis-Education of the Primitive Peoples" by Hambly, Wilfred, published by Macmillan, 1926).
We now pray to Saints in Portugal, Rome, and Spain who spent most of their lives serving their people. Nothing is wrong with that! My own ancestors died serving their communities. Why would I be discouraged from ascribing sanctification to them? Do we have two criteria for this, one for Africans and one for Europeans? I do not discourage people that visit sacred places, I just do not want them to advocate that I should abandon my own. What could be holier than my honoring Princess Ojedi Dei, a woman who willingly gave up her life so that the village that gave birth to the women who gave birth to my father, my great grandfather, my children, and me could live? Without Ojedi's sacrifice of her life, Umudei might have been wiped off, many years ago. Her father Dei, left Umudei after this sacrifice, because he could not stand living around her only daughter's grave. Ojedi was a very wealthy woman (Nne na ama Odu! Nwe eze bu Okike), the only daughter of a Prince, who willingly sacrificed her life so that her people would continue to live. She wiped the tears from her brothers' faces, danced to her grave, and was buried alive. What other proof of love for one's people was more than this. Without this woman not almost all the great men that Onitsha prides herself with would have been born. Yet, I should not honor her because she did not do it in the "name of Christ"? On the other hand, maybe I should hide a representation of her image on decent grounds. However, I could hang your pictures of your saints even though the saints lived when pictures were not yet invented. Something is wrong with this picture. Did Christ teach this or was this taught by people who tried to "misinterpret Christ's teachings thousands of years after His departure to suit their purpose? In the name of the Bible and deliberate misinterpretation of some of its contents, slavery, Inquisitions, Holocaust and other vices against humanity were perpetrated. I have Uncles and Aunts who were stopped from receiving communion in the catholic church. Their sins were allowing their children to marry non-Catholics (Protestants). Were they not created by the same Olisaebuluwa? Why would our people import and practice the hostility of the Irish-Catholics and British-Protestants into Onitsha? (See "Deceptions and Myths of the Bible" by Lloyd Graham, published by Citadel Press Book, 1995. See the Text of Pope's Apology to the Primitive People of the World, Published by New York Times, in July of 1999. See "Our Black Seminarians and Black Clergy Without a Black Theology" by Dr. Ben Jochanan, published by Alkebulan Books. See” The Scramble for Africa: Causes and Dimensions of the Empire. Boston” by Raymond Betts. See also "Civilizations or Barbarism" by Cheikh Anta Diop, Published WestPoint, 1986. I had read the original publication of this book, which was written in French, at Zik's Onuiyi library.
Going back to Ojedi, I would suggest that any Onitsha person that had interest in Onitsha should obtain a tape titled "Ndunata Ojedi" produced by Chuka Nwammuo Okechukwu. This tape was made when the Umudei clan "brought Ojedi back home". Princess Ojedi was asked to come back to Umudei from Oguta, where her father Dei was buried many centuries ago, as I had written in the past. This tape was a historical masterpiece, I however objected to the video taping of the Ojedi rituals being performed by the Presiding Diokpa, Akunwata Ojiba. In this tape, many great Onitsha men were interviewed, men like. Akunwata Ojiba, the Diokpa of Umudei(One of the most powerful Diokpa stools in Onitsha), Chinyelugo Zoro Odita, Okunwa Nwammuo Okechukwu, son of Ogene Okechukwu, grand son of Orakwue Owelle and nephew of Abutu Ike Akatakwuani. Akunnia Okocha was also interviewed in this tape. Many other prominent Onitsha men were interviewed in this tape. I politely refused making copies of this tape to many friends who saw it, because it was meant to raise funds that would go to Umudei children. Again, I recommend this tape to any Onitsha man, it is still being sold in Onitsha. Apart from my friendship with many Oguta indigenes and the writings of my mother’s uncle, Mba Owelle (Eze Otu), Osuma Ibisi’s accounts, and many other sources, I had relied on this tape in my conclusion about the Dei and Oguta connection. I also witnessed the reception given to the Obi of Oguta in 1981. I was with my adopted Godfather, the late Ogbuefi Akunne Okagbue, who then taught Geography then at C.K.C. Onitsha. Present at the palace then was my classmate and the Obi of Oguta's nephew, Nwanne Oputa-Dei, now a Professor of History.
I am not writing my history as a pretentious African trying to live up to any pseudo-Euro centric expectations. I am writing as an African, who approaches the unknown from my ancestral spectacles. I know who my Ancestors were and what they contributed in making the world what it is today. My ancestral perspective was strictly holistic and sacred. They placed love, sacrifice and service above everything. He saw the world as a multidimensional expression of oneness. He approached and defined this oneness with anthropomorphic expressions. They knew that men and women could be deified upon death, so they did their best to attain this status. He knew that he did not have to "convert" "force" or "persuade" his neighbor to worship his own Gods, because he understood that his neighbor was only using a different expression for the same essence. He did not have confusing and MIS-spiritual doctrines like being sinners just by being in the world and children being born out of sins. To him the children were sacred and friend of the Gods.(See "A Friend of the Gods" by Odu Isaac A. Mbanefo, published in 1990 by Etukokwu Publishers). See "Black History, A Reappraisal" by Melvin Drimmer, published by Douy Anchor books. See also, "The African Origins of Civilizations: Myth or Reality, by Cheikh Anta Diop, published by West Port.
See also "Africa: Mother of Western Civilization" by Dr. Ben Yosef Jochanan, published by Alkebulan Books.
The African saw the presence of God in everything animate or inanimate, and approached God and the unknown from many perspectives( I try to avoid words like” Polytheistic and Pantheistic".) Employment of many of these European terms in defining African concepts should restricted, because it makes the reader to see or focus and interpret such concepts from Euro centric angles, consciously or unconsciously. Many of the African concepts like "Religion" "Dibia","Agbalanze" and many others should not be defined or equated to alien or westernized terms or concepts. This is because they do not exist in the West. There is no African word for religion, because to the African, life is all about being spiritual and not religious. RELIGION IS A WAY TO SPIRITUALITY AND NOT THE OPPOSITE. ALL DAYS WERE HOLY TO HIM. TIME AND SPACE WERE SACRED TO HIM, BECAUSE THEY BELONGED TO THE GODS, HE THEREFORE DID NOT ATTEMPT TO MASTER THEM(I will address our traditional time and space in my next writing).See "In Search of My African Identity" by John Henrik Clarke, published by Alkebulan Books,1989.
In all my writings, Africa and history are my guides. I have not mastered all these but I am still searching. I only use Onitsha as my focus because it happened that she just happened to be the vehicle through which Olisaebuluwa chose in His/Her infinite mercy to manifest my existence. I do not endorse the superiority of any African family, town, culture or tribe over another. This goes against the African spiritual concept, unfortunately, forgotten during years of the British divide and rule policy. Most of the West African and Eastern tribes passed through Egypt. The Yorubas, Igbos, Ijaws, Efiks, Fantes, Twi, Nagos and so many others, belong to the Kwa Language speaking group. In this group the dominant usages of "Ka", Kh" and "Kw" indicate common linguistic source in Egypt(See "Ancient Egypt and Modern Linguistics, by Robert Fisch, published by African World Press.) Then language was only seen as a means of expression and each borrowed each other's language in their expressions in Egypt. Difference of the languages did not matter to our ancestors. They were Gods and knew what life was. Professor Enyi. Nina Mba and I compared many notes on Igbo and Hebrew etymology. I shall address these in my next writing. Professor Mba was an Australian Jew and descended from a very long line of Australian Rabbis. She taught African history and participated in all the traditional ceremonies of her husband's village, Umudei. She also believed that Onitsha was a land of the Gods.
Onitsha is made of two words from a language spoken in Ancient Egypt, then called "Kmt" or "Kemet". Please note that the vowels were sacred to ancient Egypt and they never wrote it down. It was only chanted. Onitsha people still chant this in the Ozo sacred chant; O O O O O OOOOOO(Notice that the O would then be dragged after the fifth O.)The key here is the significance of five in our traditional numerology. "On" sometimes written as "AN" with a dot on top of A, pronounced (as Aw). The other word is "Sha", "Sa" or "Saa". "SA" also means Son or God of Knowledge. "Sha" means to cut of we still say "shapu ya isi" meaning cut away his/her head. "Saa" means to protect or "a shepherd ", one of the titles of Osiris. "Shaa" means to begin. Like I had written, "On" was a sacred place in Egypt where the priest "Onowu" crowned the Pharaoh. A crocodile guided the sacred fountain of "On." The Yoruba word for crocodile is Oni and is used interchangeably in addressing the Ooni of Ife. See "Egyptian Hieroglyphics" by Stephane Rossini, published by Dover Inc. See also "A Hieroglyphic Vocabulary" by E.A. Wallis Budge, especially pages 321, 322, 323, 392, 394,.See"Lettre a M. Dacier relative a L'alphabet des hieroglyphs phonetiques, by Champollion Jean Francois. See also " A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian" by Faulkner, R.O. published by Oxford.
Another important book was written by a Yoruba man, Dr. Olumide Lucas, it is titled, "The Religion of the Yorubas in relation to Ancient Egypt" published by Athelia press inc, in 1948 and later republished in 1996. See pages 27 and compare with my previous writing on Onowu and Ooni of Ife. Apart from tracing some Yoruba words to Egypt, the author traced many Bini and Igbo words to Egypt. See Pages 386, 387, 388, on the appendix of this book.
Onitsha could possibly mean a people that left "On", or children of "On" or those that were given the responsibility to protect the purpose of "On" or it could be people who cut away from "On", i.e. kewapu from 'On." I subscribe to the last view. The closest research I have made is traceable to a time when Imhotep(On Imhotep), a powerful priest of On(Onowu)had prophesied about a future invasion and destruction of "On" and had suggested a south ward movement and relocation of the City of "On" by a "river". See " The Book of The Beginnings" Vols.1 and Vols.2 by Dr. Gerald Massey, published by Williams and Norgate, London. See also "Egypt, Light of The World" by Gerald Massey. See also, "Recasting Ancient Egypt in the African Context" by Clinton Crawford,, published by Africa World Press, 1996. This book needs to be read by every Onitsha man that has interest in making connections with our Egyptian ancestry. Professor Okey Emeagwali gave me this book when we discussed the Egyptian(African) origin of time and space. See also "Egyptian Kingdoms" by Rosalie David, published by E.Phaidon press, 1975. See also "The History of the Ancient Benin Empire" by Chief Oronsayae, the Osayuwa of Benin, published by Jeromeliaho, 1995. This book traces the Benin ancestry to Egypt. It discusses the events that led to the emigration of the Binis and many other African tribes and families out of Egypt, attributing them to series of military invasions on Egypt. See also "Benin Studies" by Bradbury, Oxford University Press, 1973. See also "the Benin Kingdom and the Edo Speaking People of Southern, Nigeria, by Bradbury, published by International African Institute, 1957)
Onitsha is the reestablishment of the ancient city of "On" in prophecy in compliance with the ancient city of On. There were many attempts by the Benin priests to establish the city of On and Onitsha was its ultimate realization. Could the roles that the word "On" play in our cultural nomenclature be a coincidence. Also, note that places like Nri, were attempts to reestablish other religious centers that were in ancient Egypt. In Egypt, you had many different schools and belief systems all focusing on different aspects of the divine, like Re, Ra(Memphis), Ptah , Khunnum, Osa(Osiris), Amon(From On). In addition, why did our ancestors refer to Onitsha as "Ebo itenani?, even though we had never been strictly nine clans. Note that Ebo is a Benin name. The Binis went to form the Igala Royal families that took this name to Igala. Ebo family of Isiokwe retains their ancestral Benin names. (See "The Igala/Benin Ancestral Connection, by Prince Okawlobia Utubu, published by Ibadan Printing Press, 1989, also see, "A Short History of Benin City," by Jacob Egharevba Jacob, published by Ibadan University Press, 1968) The nine clans were reflective of the Ennead, the nine Gods of ancient city of On. Onowu Anatogu called Nine "ogugu akwa akwulu (a number that cannot be moved or removed). The nine Gods called Enneads protected the ancient city of On. It was the number of the Ennead(nine) that influenced the division of On into nine quarters(See "The Gods of the Egyptians" by E.A. Willis Budge(Op.Cit.) See also "Introduction to African Civilizations" by John Jackson, published by Citadel Press. See also "Recasting Ancient Egypt in The African Context" Ib.Id. The haphazard and inconsistent arrangement of these names by most Onitsha elders indicated that the source of the nine clans was not in the names that they gave as the clans that made the Ebo itenani.( see The "Ground work of Onitsha History", by S.I. Bosah.
Let us now review, the presence of many "On's" in our many Onitsha traditional institutions. The first Benin prince to establish Onitsha after Benin exodus was called" Olona", meaning he who worships "On". We have "On owu/On uiyi", "On ya", "On oli", "On ika", and "On wolu" as names that belong to Ndichie. We also see the names of many ancient families in Onitsha starting with "On" examples are Umu "Onumonu" in Isiokwe, Umu "Onira" in Iyiawu, Umu "Onaje" in Ubene Clan, Umu"Oniah" and so many others. All with "ON's" Could it be a coincidence? See "Nomenclatures, Phonology and Ancestral Links" by Watkins Ira, published by Heinemann, 1975. See also " Signs of the Primordial Men" by A . Churchward, published by Dell Pub. 1968. See also "Voices of the Ancestors" by Parrinder, Heiniman Pub. 1972. I shall expand on this in future writings.
Many years ago, we were required to write thesis for our law degrees on any area of law. I had before then, been gathering many materials on Onitsha pre-colonial history, because of my interest in our ancestral ways of life. I therefore chose to write on Onitsha Pre-colonial Traditional Institutions and the separation of powers. I went to Professor K. Igweike, a Professor of Law and an Onitsha man from Umuaroli and told him about my plans and he discouraged me and rejected my choice. This was a fair judgment on his part because it was never taught in school. He wanted me to write on International laws and conflicts. I tried with other lecturers and all refused except for a visiting Professor from the University of West Indies, Professor Irwin Gun, who decided to approve my paper. I focused on Onitsha traditional institutions and focused on Obi's powers, the Ndichie, the Agbalanze, Agbala na Iregwu, Ogbo na Achi Onitsha and other traditional checks and balances. This research took to Benin, Obamkpa and Obior. Thanks to Ezennia Ben Anyaeji, I interviewed one of his In-laws in Benin, The Ezomo of Benin. I had a private interview with the Obi of Onitsha, thanks to my Godfather, Akukalia Mike Ibekwe, who had suggested that I wore white to the interview. I found Obi Okagbue to be a very intelligent man. He gave me many insights on many of our traditions, "like his fathers told him". I also interviewed many Ndichie and 32 other elders in Onitsha, including Nnanyelugo Obinwe, Ojinnaka Gbasiuzo all sons of previous Onowus of Onitsha. I would discuss their roles in future publications. See "The Administration of Laws, Checks and Balances in an Onitsha Pre-Colonial Society" written by Onyebuchi Amene, University of Jos, Nigeria, 1989.