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Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Jews inherited Igbo traditions
A mountain of issues has been made of the supposed Jewishness of the Igbo people of Nigeria. In fact, the issue had been the subject of a controversial litigation war that was fought all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court some years back.
But eminent afro-centric scholar and author, Prof. Catherine Acholonu, says it would amount to historical revisionism to claim that the Igbo are a part of the Hebrew race. If anything, she says, the Jewish culture had been enriched by Igbo traditions as result of earlier interface between the two peoples thousands of years before the birth of Jesus Christ.
“So rather than say Igbo are Jews, I would say that the Jews are among the people that have inherited Igbo traditions,” Acholonu told Daily Sun in Abuja.
As a matter of fact, she insists, the Hebrews inherited the Canaanite traditions that were already entrenched in the region before they arrived. According to her, those traditions were more Igbo than Jewish, hence there is a closer relationship between Igbo and Canaanite traditions than there is between Igbo and Jewish traditions. The author who has documented her latest findings in a forth-coming book, Origin of the Igbos, says there is evidence that the Hebrews encountered the Igbo people on their arrival to Canaan and were influenced by the traditions of the Igbo.
This is not the first time Acholonu is towing an un-treaded path. As a young academic in the early stage of her researching career about 20 years ago she had written the Igbo Roots of Olaudah Equiano, a work which traces the ancestry of the famous African American slave-author to Isekke in Anambra state. Her latest major work was the Gram Code of the African Adam which suggests that the biblical Adam might have been African after all. Surprisingly, nobody has come out to challenge the information contained in the two seminal works.
In arriving at her conclusions about the relationship between the Igbo and Jews, she says she never relies on what the Igbo say about themselves as this could be misleading and may not stand up to close scrutiny. Instead, the author says she has studied a number of phenomena, including the oral traditions the neighbours of the Igbo, like the Binis and Yoruba as well as those of the Hebrews and the Sumerians: “I have studied the Ifa with regard to the Igbo, the records about the Igbo in Yoruba Ifa tradition; I have studied what the Binis say about the Igbo; I have studied what the Igbo say about themselves; I have studied the Hebrew phenomenon; and I have gone beyond.
I have studied the literatures of the Igbo and have gone beyond the literatures of the Igbo. And I have studied pre-Abraham era to know what actually happened. I studied the Canaanites to know who is actually who.”
Her background in linguistics easily comes in handy in her research. Using her linguist’s skills, she explains, she is able to trace the journey of a languages from the beginning, and analyse it to arrive at a conclusion. “I trace the languages backwards, where words meet, where they touch, where people have followed words.”
According to Acholonu, a situation in which Igbo words occur in other civilizations that had existed some 5,000 - 6,000 years ago, would normally trigger a question as to the relationship between the two cultures, especially where the words have the same meaning and the same sound.
“When you find words with the same sound, the same meaning three four, five six, ... 10, 11 times between Igbo language and another language, it means there is some relationship. It is either that they are the same people or they encountered themselves at one point. And if Igbo words are borrowed, it means that Igbo made some impact in that civilization for them to borrow some Igbo words,” she explains.
Not unmindful of the controversy the present work might generate, Acholonu dares anybody who holds a contrary view to prove her wrong with his own research evidence. She describes herself as a mere researcher who does not invent anything, but only relies on the information she unearths in the course of her scholarly researches.
She explain further: “I search everything, everywhere I look for information. When I get information I put them together and put them on paper. The highest I can do is to tell you this thing suggests this, this suggests that. I won’t tell you this is this or this is that, I’m a researcher; I don’t invent anything. So when I present the information, you can go and search and check all the quotations I have made and know whether I invented anything at any point. If everything I quoted is as it is, then you might have to do more research to be able to prove me wrong".
She thinks it would be wrong for anybody who is not comfortable with her position to engage her as a person because she has invented nothing, but has only put things together. If anything, she invites people to engage with the issues raised in the book through their own independent research to either validate or dismiss them. And she says that since she wrote the book on Equiano over 20 years back, nobody has challenged it as a book.
“No one has taken that book and done research to say, Catherine is talking nonsense or not. People can pick up a chapter or a particular point and say, oh, why this, why that. But you have never had anyone who did research as a way of engaging that book. I have never had any researcher engaging me as researcher qua researcher, that is how is dine abroad. In which case you go to the field, do your own work and say this person is wrong because I have better information,” Acholonu says.
Not even a more controversial work like the Gram Code of African Adam, which is now being reversed has been so engaged. Of course, the pre-publication interview granted by the author elicited a flurry of criticisms from across the world. But as soon as the first copies of the book rolled off the press, everybody shut up, and nobody has engaged the thesis of the book till tomorrow. It is three years since the book came out, and Acholonu is still challenging people to disprove it through research “because I feel that research is the future of education.”
Although Acholonu has been appointed a professor of African history and philosophy by a university in North Carolina in the US, based on the Gram Code, she does not consider herself a historian. Nor does she see herself as another scholar of Igbo studies by reason of her ongoing work, instead, she sees herself as a pure researcher, a detective who uses what is known to unravel the one that is not know.
One interesting thing is that Acholonu has never been known to engage Igbo issues in her research. But for her work on Equiano, none of her earlier research efforts had centred on the Igbo. She explains that her research interest has always been in the Africa issue because she is intrigued “our blackness and Africanness”. It is this need to know who the Africans are as black people vis-a-vis the rest of the world; what makes them unique that fires her zeal.
“I have great ideas, so what is this thing about black and blackness, I have to engage with that. And then I engage myself with my Nigerianness. I know that Nigerian people are wonderful people. They are some of the most intelligent people that you can find anywhere in the world; the most courageous, self confident human beings you find anywhere in the world are Nigerians; so that intrigues me. I like to know why Nigerians are the way they are, so I research into our Africanness and our Nigerianness, that’s why you find me doing work in Cross River State and things like that,” she explains.
Her present work was a child of circumstance in the sense that she stumbled on the information contained in the book while researching on other issues. According to her, while trying to trace the place of the black man in world civilizations, she found a lot of things concerning the Igbo by the way. The author says: “Everywhere I looked, I saw something to do with the Igbo. That wasn’t my subject, I played it down. The African thing was what I was interested in. But at a point I now realized there was need to put together things I have found out about the Igbo, because when I read some of the things that are being written about the Igbo people by themselves, I realize that there is a lot of misinformation and there is very little information, and people don’t know much about who we are. That’s what the book is about.”
Acholonu has almost finished the book, and intends that the public presentation coincide with the 50th anniversary of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart this December. Part of the book was presented at the Igbo studies Association Conference in Howard University in April and, according to the author was very well received.
On the subject of anti-Christ which was the title of a most recent book authored by Dillibe Onyeama and reviewed by her, Acholonu thinks the issue is most timely results of her research works in both Africa and the Americas suggest that something drastic would happen to the world soon, just as the bible has warned. According to her, there are so many signs coming that have been given in the scriptures about end time, and those signs are all there for people to see.
Noting that authors from all over the world, especially in the west have been engaging the issue of end times and the second coming of the Christ, she says it is interesting that a Nigerian is talking about the issue of anti-Christ which also means Nigerians are talking about the issue of the second coming. “However, where I disagrees is that he named someone as the anti-Christ.
THE IGBO RANT
BIBLICAL TRADITIONS OF NDI IGBO BEFORE THE MISSIONARIES CAME TO AFRICA* IGBO 101.
THE IGBO TRIBE AND ITS FEAR OF EXTINCTION
The Igbo: We die for causes, not for personalities
Written by Emeka Maduewesi
~on fb. 28th September, 2016.
The Igbo will never die for anyone. We will not even riot for anyone. But the Igbo will die for any cause they believe in because the Igbo have a true sense of justice and a determination to obtain it.
The Igbo will not riot because one of their own lost an election. Operation Wetie was the Western response to a massively rigged 1965 election. The Yoruba doused fellow Yorubas in petrol and burnt them alife. Properties were burnt with occupants. The Igbo will never do this.
In 1983, the Yoruba went on a rampage again over the massive rigging by NPN. Lifes were lost and properties destroyed. The riots were over personalities.
Contrast that with Anambra State where Chief Emeka Ojukwu was rigged out by his own NPN, who also rigged out Chief Jim Nwobodo. The Igbo did not protest because the goat's head is still in the goat's bag.
In the North, ba muso was the battle cry when Sultan Dasuki was imposed on the Sokoto Caliphate. The riot and protest lasted for days and crippled economic activities.
The Igbo will riot over issues and causes. The Aba Women Riot was over Tax. The Enugu coal mine riot was about conditions of service. The Ekumeku Uprising was over British colonialization.
Those of "Ekumeku" ancestry - Umu Eze Chima and Umu Nri - were at the forefront of the struggles for Nigerian independence, with people like Dr. A A Nwafor Orizu and Chief Osita Agwuna serving prison terms. Any struggles the parents could not conclude is continued by the children by other means.
The Biafran war was a response to the genocide. The war in fact was brought upon us. The battlefield was Eastern Region. The war ended in 1970 but the issues and causes were not resolved. That is where we are today.
The Igbo will also jointly rise to fight evil in their midst. They did it in Onitsha in the 1980's, Owerri in the 90's, and with Bakkassi in the 2000.
The Igbo will not die for any man. But the Igbo will stand by any man who symbolizes their cause and their pursuit of justice. Even if the man dies, the struggle continues, and like the Ekumeku warriors, the children will pick up the baton from their parents.
This is the Igbo I know, the Igbo I am, and the Igbo we are. This is my story. Feel free to tell yours.
RT. HON. DR. NNAMDI AZIKIWE TO DR. CHUBA OKADIGBO (1981)
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