Origin & History of the Igbo’s
Many theories have been put forward about the origin of the Igbo people. Some claim that the Igbo migrated from the East and are one of the lost tribes of Israel. Another claim that they migrated from Western Africa. But available evidence such as Language diversity and archaeology suggests that the Igbos migrated from Sudan from the ancient city of Meroe in about AD350. It was said that the ancestors followed the sunsets until they encountered River Niger upon which they sailed down to their present location.
The traditional homeland of the lgbo people lies in the south-eastern region of Nigeria. They are situated between the Niger and Cross Rivers State, with the Ibibio, Ijo, Igala, Idoma, Edo as their neighbors. The ancient scttlement at Igbo-Ukwu in eastern Nigeria was an outpost for West African’s long-distance trade routes, one of which was the Trans-Saharan trade routes. The main items traded were gold, slaves, salt, cowries shells (the major unit of currency), weapons, expensive cloth, pepper,ivory, kola nuts, leather goods.
The arrival of Europeans on the coast of West Africa undermined the Saharan trade, but did not finally finish it until well into the 19th century. This also made the south-eastern region flourish, primarily trading slaves but after the abolition of slave trade in 1807, turned to trading in palm products, timber, elephant tusk and spices. The Igbos are a self-helping race who strongly believe in making themselves what they wish to be, hence the Igbo saying “Onye kwe Chi ya ekwe”. They are a people rich in culture and tradition. Although generally having very similar cultures, they also show a local variation in cultures and customs.
Based on these variations the Igbo land can be divided into five main subgroups:
1. The Northern Igbo:- Igbo-Ukwu, Onitsha, Enugu, Nri-Awka
2. The Western Igbo:- Ogwashi-Ukwu, Asaba, Agbor,
3. The Southern Igbo:- Umuahia, Ngwa, Owerrinta, Port Harcourt, Eleme
4. The Eastern Igbo :- Afikpo, Arochukwu-Ohiafia, Bende
5. The North-Eastern Igbo:- Ogu-Ukwu, Abakaliki
After several military conquest, Igbo land now became under British colonial rule. This was a style of government not very popular amongst the Igbos, hence the British were faced with a lot of protest and resistance, but Igbo land still became a British Colony.
In 1900 the area that was once administered by the British Niger Company now became the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. Control of this area then got passed from the British Foreign Office to the Colonial Office. By 1900 – 1914 the Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated. Then afterwards the Eastern Region was formed and subsequently was divided into several other states.
Map of Eastern Nigeria
Yes! We know…geographically, some of these States are not in the East. What we have tried to represent here are areas where there are Igbo speaking communities and parts of.
- Abia State
- Anambra State
- Delta State
- Ebonyi State
- Enugu State
- Imo State
- Rivers State