The Igbos occupy the South Eastern part of Nigeria. They were part of the southern protectorate before the amalgamation of 1914. The predominant language spoken by the Igbo people is Igbo. The Igbos constitute a very enterprising and resourceful people. In every state of the federation, they are the second largest in population, only second to the natives of the land.
During the colonial era in Nigeria, the Indirect Rule System of administration introduced by the British Government in Nigeria was a complete failure in the Igbo society which was predominant in the South Eastern Nigeria. This was owing to the cephalous nature of the society.
During pre-colonial rule the system of administration in the Igbo society was decentralized. Family heads called the “Oparas” were the main symbols of authority, a system of gerontocracy where oldest in the family rule thrived.
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The Igbos are predominantly traders and are also active in every other sector of business in Nigeria. The origin of the Igbo people has remained controversial for decades as several versions of her origin makes it hard to tell which is most acceptable.
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There are those who believe that the Igbo people migrated from either the North or the Middle East. The Igbos are also said to be from the Jewish race. So you sometimes hear statement like, the Igbos are Jews.
The Nri version holds that the ancestor of the Igbo, Eri descended from the sky and sailed down River Anambra. On arrival at Aguleri, he settled with a group of people who had no living memory of their own. There are several other versions that explain the history of Igbos, but one of the most popular versions of the migratory stories of the origin of the Igbo people is the one that points to Israel. This is based on the similarities between the culture of the Igbos and the ancient Hebrews.
Baring these diverse versions of the origin of the Igbo people, it does not take away the uniqueness and richness of their cultural heritage. The Igbos are mostly craftsmen, farmers and traders. Yam is a major crop and harvesting period is usually celebrated annually. The people are also highly educated as they boast of several professors and people who have made a mark in several endeavours as it concerns the advancement of science and art.
Until the introduction of the position of the warrant chiefs to aid the indirect rule system of administration, the Igbos did not crave for title as it is today. There were not many centralized chiefdoms, hereditary aristocracy or kingship customs except in the kingdoms such as those of the Nri, Arochukwu, Agbor and Onitsha.
The city of Nri is considered to be the foundation of the Igbo culture. It is where the Igbo creation myth originates. Archaeology evidence suggests that Nri hegemony in Igbo land may date back as far as the 9th century.
The Igbos believe in God as the creator of man and address him as Chineke. However, most still believe in their personal god called Chi. It is believed that every individual has his own Chi whom he or she can blame or praise for any misfortune or fortune that comes.
History of the Igbos
The history of the Igbo people dates back to 3000BC and significant events have occurred within that time, till date. In 1043, the kingdom of Nri began with Eze Nri Ifikuanim. By1934, the Igbos made contact with the Portuguese explorers who had come to Africa in search of extended territories to meet their economic needs. 1630 is significant to the Igbos because it marked one of the brutal wars fought by them, the Aro Ibibio war. The war led to the establishment of the Aro confederacy in 1690 but between 1901 to 1902, the Aro confederacy suffered a decline as a result of the Anglo Aro war, a war between the Aro confederacy and the British colonial masters. The Aro confederacy gave way in 1906 when Igbo land became part of southern Nigeria.
War at Igbo Land
In 1929 the Aba Women’s Riot broke out as the women protested tax imposed on them by the British Government. 30th. May 1967 will remain a major part of the Igbo history; General Emeka Odumegwu Ojukuwu, Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria declared his Province an independent Republic of Biafara, marking the secession of South Eastern Nigeria from the Federation. What follow was three years of civil war which came to an end on January 15, 1970. The Nigeria, Biafra War saw the union of the parties into one Nigeria.
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Today the Igbos have to a large extent recovered from the war to dominate in commerce within the federation and partly outside the Nigeria state. Culturally, the Igbos have a very distinct dressing style. The red cap is known to be very popular among the Igbos. Their dancers are unique especially the Atilogwu Dance Troops.
Igbo Culture and Religion
An Nsude pyramid was one of the unique structures of Igbo culture. In terms of religion the Igbos are predominantly Christians with a large Roman Catholic background. The Igbo mythology refer to the Supreme God as Chukwu, meaning Great Spirit. It is believed that Chukwu created the world and everything. The Igbos believe in reincarnation that a child can be born several times. Once a child is born he or she is believed to give signs of who they have reincarnated from.
Marriage in Igbo land is glamorous as the girl is given out in honour amidst pomp and pageantry as she is adored and termed the very epitome of beauty, “Omalitsha” to her would-be husband. The Igbos are a peculiar group of people in Nigeria and holds a place of pride.