The Igbo people is one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria. Among Igbo are variations in the language, which can be seen as dialects; but it is a part of affinity and affiliation of the people. There is no real oral tradtion about Igbo people. Mbaegbu (2012:2) opines that dearth of oral tradition has made Western authors claim that Igbo are people without history. It also goes that they were not ruled by a monarch. But there was a council of elders known as ‘Nze na Ozo’.
In tracing the origin of the Igbo people, certain facts need to be consulted to make it authentic. For Nwankwo (2007:25), three areas need to be considered in tracing the origin of the Igbo people. These he calls the Independent origin, Niger-Benue confluence origin, and the Jewish origin. According to him, independent origin which relates to archeological findings reveals that the Igbo people did not migrate from a place or must have lost the story of their migration. Archeological discoveries at Igbo-Ukwu and other parts of Igbo land confirm this.
Mbaegbu (2012:92-93) posited two hypotheses on the origin of Igbo people. He called them Ancient hypothesis and Outside hypothesis. In his Ancient origin hypothesis, he presented the opinion that the Igbo did not migrate from anywhere. This opinion is confirmed by Edeh (1985: 13) who stated that Hartle’s archeological collection made at Bende, Afikpo, Okigwe, Awka and Nsukka showed that the Igbo were already settled in these areas as far back as 205 AD. Nwaoga on his own part gave the side of Nri oral tradition that the Igbo originated from Eri, “…a sky being who descended from CHUKWU”, Nwaoga (1998:44).
Uchendu (1995:3) opines that through the analysis of demorgraphic patterns, traits, lists and cultural features, added to the local tradition would help to expose more of the inter-related hypothesis of Igbo origin. These are that there is an area that could be seen as the “nuclear” or “core” Igbo land; “and that waves of immigrant communities from the North and West planted themselves on the border of nuclear Igbo land as early as the fourtheenth or the fifteenth century. “Considering the use of the word nuclear or core Igbo land, it could be seen that he is reffering to the people as not migrating from anywhere. According to him, the Igbo he refers to as nuclear are those living within Owerri, Awka, Orlu and Okigwe areas. Other people came from these areas, he opined.
There is still more propositions that the Igbo people came from no where outside their home land. This buttresses the version of Eri as founder of Igbo people. This belief according to Okwelogu (2012:6), is among Nri-Awka in Anambra and Orlu-Owerri in Imo State. This belief has it that Eri, the Igbo ancestor, fell from heaven and began his life, which gave rise to Igbo people using the expression – “kemgbe Eri”, meaning a very long time (literally since the time of Eri).
Originally, the present day Igbo-Ukwu bore the name Igbo. Coincidentally, the archeological findings in this community have something to say about the Igbo people. The possibility is that the original Igbo people first settled in the place or must have “sprouted” from this post.
Another aspect of tracing Igbo origin stated by Nwankwo is on linguistic basis. In the Niger-Benue theory, the story has it that the Igbo and some tribes of Nigeria namely, Yoruba, Igade, Igala, and Idoma who had some common vocabrary in remote past had lived in a common area and shared some kinship. The theory gives the impression that the Igbo people have some ancestral link with other tribes in Nigeria. It gives basis for evidence of common origin of the ethnic groups residing in the South and middle belt of Nigeria. Okwelogu (2012:5) confirmed the linguistic basis which proposes that Igbo people came from around the region of River Niger-Benue confluence, but went further to say that they migrated to the present location. He is of the opinion that there is no one source or generally accepted beliefs as regards the origin of the Igbo. The reason was lack of early written record, secrecy and inferior syndrome or oral tradition (Okwelogu 2012:4).
The other area that needs to be considered in tracing the origin of the Igbo people is what Nwankwo called theory of Jewish origin while Mbaegbu called it outside origin hypothesisi. In this, Nwankwo, Mbaegbu, Okwelogu and Ikeanyibe in one way or the other referred to the orient or Israel as having link with the Igbo people. These people cited one thing or the other which the two groups of people have in common.
The word Igbo according to Nwankwo (2007:276) is a corruption of Hebrew as he stated that European merchans initially wrote Igbo as “Heebo”, considering the similarity in the pronunciation of the two names. It is not wrong to trace the origin of Igbo to the Hebrews. In trying to prove the Igbo origin, he Cited Basden and Crow as stating Igbo similarities to Jewish Old Testament laws and complexion (the existence of light complexion among the Igbo as things that link these peoples (Nwankwo 2007:38). According to him, the most striking resemblance between the two group of people is the law of inheritance which is patrilineal and man inheriting his brother’s wife. There is a sharp distinction among the two groups on God the Creator and the devil. To Confirm this, a reference could be made to the Bible, (Matt. 22:23-28). The encounter between Jesus and the Sadducees will help to illustrate this. This group of the elders did not believe in resurrection. They asked Jesus who should be the husband of the woman married by seven brothers during resurrection. Jones (1967:78) quoting Equianos authobiography stated this:
We practiced circumcision like the Jews and made offerings and feasts on the occasion in the same manner from some events, some circumstances, or fancied foreboding, at the time of their birth. I was named Olaudah which in our language, signifies vicissitude or fortune also; one favoured, and having a loud voice, and well spoken.
Equiano happened to be a slave who fought for his freedom and after self effort became educated and wrote his authobiography. In it he traced his origin to Igbo tribe. Following what he said about the Igbo, (his people), he attempted to trace some similarities in culture. The circumcision which Equiano referred to was a sign of covenant between God and Abraham in the Bible (Genesis). This is done on the foreskin of every male child and on the eight after birth. This same practice is done by Igbo people exactly as was agreed between God and Abraham.
In the issue of naming a child, just as Equiano pointed out, the Jews give name according to circumstance. Once again, a reference could be made to the Bible (Gen. 21:6). Isaac means laughter. Sarah said, “God has brought me joy and laughter. Everyone who hears about it will lough at me”. For Samuel (1 Sam. 1:20), Hannah said, “I asked the Lord for him”. This could be as a relationship between the races under consideration, just like the Igbo woman who had problem having a child, she could name the child Ogechukwu (God’s time). A male child sought for a long time when he finally arrives can be named Afamefuna, Obiefuna, Obiechina, to show that an heir to the family has been born. This is a pointer to culture similarity between the Jews and the Igbo. Nwankwo (2007:30) confirmed the culture similarities. He cited the publications of I.C.K. Anadi from Oraeri and B.I.O. Odunanwa who wrote on the immigration of Eri from Jewish tribe down to Nri as the ancestor of Umunri and the founder of Nri people.
Okwelogu (2012:7) on his own stated that in 1997, the Israeli government officially recognized Igbo tribe as descendants of ancient Israelites. Another version he posited was that Eri migrated from Egypt and settled in Agulu-Eri where he built a palace in memory of his father Gad: Obu Gad. There had been a record of this man Eri in many parts of Igbo land. As Nwankwo (earlier cited), he, Okwelogu, cited Basden but added Palmer and Equiano, and through oriental hypothesis posited that the Igbo migrated from the East. He went further to state that the religion of the Igbo carried them to the East.
Mbaegbu (2012:93) confirmed Nwankwo and Okwelogu in mentioning G.T. Basden as stating that the Igbo and Jews have similarities in rites of circumscision, marriage, birth rites, blood sacrifices, inheritance and taboos with respect to food and drinks imposed on individuals. He also posited that the Igbo people were not a complete ethnic group rather they migrated from certain parts. For instance, according to him, the Efiks, neighbour of Igbo and their Southern Igbo neighbours claim to migrate from Egypt; while Onitsha-Igbo came from Benin Mbaegbu (2012:94).
Considering the opinions so far mentioned, the argument tend to move towards the idea that the Igbo migrated from the orient. There has been the belief, by some people that the Igbo have ancestral home at Nri. Legend has it that the Igbo migrated to the places they live now from Nri. Ikeanyibe (1997:25) quoted Ogbefi Enemmuo from Nri as making the following statement about the Igbo people:
We have a tradition in our place, Nri, about a man called Eri who fell down from heaven. He was later known and addressed by the title “Igwe” (descended from heaven). We have also a written (Bible) record that Eri lived during the period of the fifth Pharoah. In the process of time Eri, a contemporary of Moses, migrated with some people across the Nile into Sudan. They proceeded southward until they came and settled at a meeting place of Anambra and Niger Rivers, the present Nri environment. They late assimilated the little strange group they met there.
This statement seems to agree with what Okwelogu said about Eri in Agulu-Eri. Incidentally, the name Eri is in the Bible as one of the sons of Gad (Gen. 46:16)
He further stated that in 1994 Israeli government sent delegates who visited Nri to confirm the historical relationship between the Igbo and the Jews. He also said that Enemmuo went further to say that the Israeli delegates were surprised at the similarities. The visitors according to him believed that the Igbo were the lost tribes of Israel. Going by this record one may state that the speculations that the Igbo people migrated from Israel could be true. In 1996, the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria paid the same visit to Nri and confirmed the report of the delegates (Ikeanyibe 1997:26).

Edeh, E.M.P., (1985). Towards an Igbo Metaphysis. Chicago: Loyal University Press.
Ikeanyibe, U.P., (199). The Quest for the Origin of Igbo people. (2nd ed.), Lagos: Aikman
Jones, G.I., (1967). Olaudah Equiano of Niger Igbo in P. D. Curtin (ed.), Africa Remembered narratives by West Africa.
Mbaegbu, C.C.A., (2012). Hermeneutics of God in Igbo Ontology. Awka: Afab Educational books.
Nwankwo, T.N., (2007). The Igbo and their Neighbour. Enugu: Snaap Press.
Nwaoga, P.I., (1984). The Supreme God as Stranger in Igbo Religious Thought. Ahiazu Mbaise: Hawk Press.
Okwelogu, F.A., (2012). The Origin of Igbo and their Culture Accepted by the Church. Abuja: Louis Oharie co.
The United Bible Societies (1979). Good News Bible. Britain: Collins.
Uchend, V.C., (1995). The Igbo of Southern Nigeria. London: Rinehart and Winston.

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