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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Yoruba enclave in the heart of Igboland * Story of Ugbodu, others in Delta State

Written by Banji Aluko

Deep in the heart of the Igbo-speaking people in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State are Ugbodu and three other communities where Oluku mi, a derivative of Yoruba language, is the language of the people. BANJI ALUKO, who visited the communities, examines how close Oluku mi actually is to the Yoruba language and traces how the people came about the language.

HELLO, this writer said, while knocking at the door, and a young lady, emerging from the building, replied, ta ni yen? When the writer heard the reply, he taught it was a mere coincidence or that his ears were deceiving him. Of course, he had every reason to be surprised since he was not anywhere near the Yoruba enclave where such a reply can only be anticipated. After all, he was more than 100 kilometres away from the nearest Yoruba community; he was in Ugbodu, a town in Aniocha North Local government Area of Delta State.

While trying to decipher why the lady gave such a reply, what further followed put the writer in a more confused position. A girl of about five appeared and said, "mo fe ra biscuit." Perhaps, the people are part of the Yoruba community living in the town, the writer guessed as he tried to find out from the lady.

"Are you a Yoruba woman; what is the meaning of ta ni yen?" The writer asked the questions at once. Reluctantly, she answered, "I am not Yoruba o, I am just speaking my language." Apparently, she was not unaware of the similarity between her language and Yoruba language. The lady refused to entertain any further question about her language and asked him to go to the king's palace or to the elders if he wanted to know more about the language.

At the palace, the elders still would not talk about the similarity between their language and Yoruba. They asked the writer to wait for the arrival of the king, who they said can only speak on the people, their language and their history.

The period of waiting for the king afforded one time to listen to the conversation and the discovery was nonetheless remarkable. Following closely the conversation between some elderly men and with a deep knowledge of Yoruba, one could establish a nexus between their speech and actions. In fact, some words and expressions could be understood.

Following their conversation with rapt attention, expressions such as Gbemu wa-bring palm wine, me wa nani-I didn't come yesterday, me ri e-I didn't see you, mu beer oka wa-bring one beer etc could be heard, albeit with an intonation slightly different from that of the Yorubas.

Seeing the desire of this writer to follow their talk, one man finally volunteered to explain the similarity between their language and Yoruba. "I believe you are a Yoruba man," he said. He continued: "We are Oluku mi speakers but we speak a language that is very similar to Yoruba." This he demonstrated by pointing out some words and expressions in their language (Oluku mi) which denote the same meanings as Yoruba.

He gave some examples such as ita-pepper, ogede lila-plantain, ogede keke-banana; ku wu se-what are you doing; ule house; osa - market; oma-child; o dowuo-see you tomorrow, e bo-welcome. After explaining some similarities between the languages, he still refused to talk about how the people of Ugbodu, in the middle of other Igbo speaking neighbours, came about Oluku mi. Like others, he maintained that only the traditional ruler of the town can speak about how Oluku mi became their language.

But after waiting endlessly for the king, his brother, Prince Adebowale Ochei, who later arrived the scene, volunteered to speak on behalf of the king, H.R.M. Ayo Isinyemeze, the Oloza (Obi) of Ugbodu. According to him, history gave it that the Ugbodu Oluku mi speaking people migrated from Owo/Akure axis in the present Ondo State between 9th and 11th century AD to settle down in Benin during the reign of King Ogiso of Benin.

He continued: "At this period in the history of the Benin Kingdom, the most neglected of the wife of the Ogiso gave birth to the heir apparent to the throne. After the woman gave birth to the child, a male, the nobles consulted the oracle and said that the oracle told them that the child should be killed for peace to reign in Benin Kingdom. At the end, the child was not killed as it was said that the child was too handsome to be killed, so a fowl was killed in his place."

According to Ochei, this was the reason the Ugbodu people left Benin. "They felt that if a crown prince could be ordered for execution just like that, they could do worse things to strangers in their midst. As a result, they left Benin and came to Ewohimi, an Ishan speaking community in Edo State. Due to intra-tribal wars, they later left the place to settle down here in Ugbodu which is a shortened form of Ugbodumila, which means bush saved me in English Language."

He further pointed out differences between Oluku mi and Yoruba. He said one notable difference is the changing of letter "j" in Yoruba words to "s" in Oluku mi as seen in words like oloja or oja which are rendered as olosa or osa and joko as soko.

With the movement of the people was the consequent change in their language as shown in their names. According to records compiled by Prince Humphrey Ojeabu Ochei, the immediate Olihen of Ugbodu, the first six Olozas bore Yoruba names namely Adeola, Aderemi, Ariyo, Odofin, Adetunji and Oyetunde. These early kings bore typical Yoruba names years and decades after the establishment of the Ugbodu Kingdom.

As the people gradually lost contact with their kinsmen back home, they began to gravitate towards the Benin and Edo communities. The resulting acculturative process gradually led to the adoption of Edo names among the people. Hence names such as Ogbomon, Ozolua, Izebuwa, Ogbelaka, Izedonwen, Osakpolor, Esigie Igbinadolor, Osaloua, Osamewamen and Ebor emerged as Olozas.

Since Ugbodu is surrounded by the Igbo-speaking Aniomas, it did not take much time before the Igbo Language started to interfere greatly on the people's language. Accordingly, Igbo influence steadily and progressively made what has now become permanent inroad and considerable impact on the socio-cultural life as well as linguistic orientation of the Ugbodu people. With this, the Edo influence began to wane, resulting in the adoption of Igbo names in preference to Edo names. Thus from the middle of the 19th century, the general shift was from Edo to Igbo names. This can be seen in the names of Olozas, who ruled between the middle of the 19th century and late 20th century such as Dike, Ochei, Ezenweani and Isinyemeze.

Investigations conducted revealed that Ugbodu is not the only community where Oluku mi is spoken in Aniocha North Local Government as the language is also spoken in Ukwu-Nzu (Eko Efun), Ubulubu and Ogodo.

At Ukwu-Nzu, only few kilometres away from Ugbodu, the language is not also different. Although, the people are less emphatic about their history, nonetheless, the similarity between their language and Yoruba is evident in their names and greetings. "Oju e ma won ke," meaning your face is scarce in Yoruba, was what a man said to his friend he accosted on the road. When Sunday Tribune approached the man, who gave his name as Ayo Oke, he shed light on his language and provided more examples between Oluku mi and Yoruba Language.

He said that "instead of saying e kaabo, we say e bo, meaning welcome and wa ni we yi, meaning come here;" He also gave example of words which virtually have the same meanings as the Yoruba language. Some of these include obe-stew; oni-today; ola-tomorrow; otunla-next tomorrow etc.

Another elder in the town, who spoke with Sunday Tribune, said that the name of Ukwu-Nzu before the Igbo Language "infiltrated" their language was Eko Efun (efun means chalk in Yoruba Language). He also attributed the efun in the name of their town to the rich prescence of white chalk in the town which he said the community was richly blessed with.

Presently, the biggest challenge for the people of Ugbodu and other Oluku mi-speaking communities is how to protect their language and culture in general. According to a native of Ugbodu, "the elders are more connected to the original Olukumi language than the youth. In fact, we have lost the real Oluku mi and what we have now is an Oluku mi that has been greatly altered by Igbo language. Most of the people who can really speak the language right now are the elders. Ordinarily, the real Oluku mi is like the Yoruba that is spoken in Owo in Ondo State. Someone from that place is expected to understand the language perfectly but right now someone from Owo might not be able to understand more than 50 per cent of our language. This language may die if care is not taken," he said.

Another factor that also contributed to the decline of Olukumi, according to findings, is that there was a time in the past when an understanding of the Edo or Igbo language, was considered as a status symbol. According to an elder in the town, "An Oluku mi who spoke the two languages then was considered superior to others because it meant that he had travelled wide. This was the inferiority complex our people unwittingly created for themselves which we are trying to correct now."

In protecting their language which is gradually being threatened, a revival process has been started. Part of this is that some of them now choose to give their children Oluku mi names and to sing and say prayers in Oluku mi. In some cases, some radical reformers and revivalists changed the names given to them by their parents from Igbo to Olukumi. The climax of the restoration process of their linguistic ethos and identity was the christening of the incumbent Oloza with an Olukumi name, Ayo.

Reacting to efforts aimed at protecting Oluku mi, Prince Adebowale said, "I am an Oluku mi man and I am proud of my language. I am not happy that Igbo language is interfering with our language. We are trying our best to correct the situation and part of that is what my brother (the Oloza) is doing by organising an Oluku mi reciting competition. We want to know the people who can speak the real Oluku mi without mixing it with Igbo or English." As laudable as the task of protecting Oluku mi by the people of Ugbodu(mila) is, only time will tell how far they can go.

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I am an Igbo, I was born an Igbo, I live the life of an Igbo, I come from Igbo, I speak Igbo, I like to be Igbo, I like to dress in Igbo, I eat Igbo food, my heritage, culture and tradition is Igbo, my parents are Igbo.

Am sorry I cannot help it if you hate my lineage. Am sorry I cannot help it if you detest Igbo, am sorry I cannot help it if you hate me because am Igbo. Igbo is who I am, my name is Igbo and I must die an Igbo.

You see Igbo as a threat, why? You call Igbo rapist, criminals, ritualist, prostitutes, kidnappers. You attribute all negative vices to represent Igbo? Why do you do that? You do because you feel threatened that Igbo might outrun the rest of the tribes. Why do you hate Igbo and despise us? You do that because we are creative, enlightened, hardworking, industrious, genius, intelligent, smart, rich, beautiful and amazing. But its difficult for you to admit it because you feel jealous of my race.

Igbo do not own politics, Igbo do not control the economy neither do we control the natural resources and the common wealth of the nation. You do, we don't and yet, despite the fact that you own everything, we still remain one indispensable race that has outshined the other race in all ramifications.

You fear us because you want to exterminate and annihilate our race, you deny us many things and yet we are stronger, richer and mightier. You fear us because we are everywhere. You fear us because no matter how rural a place might be, when Igbo steps in, they turn it into a Paradise. We have our own resources, which lies in resourcefulness, we do not bother you and your control over the polity, but yet when we cough you and the other race begin to shiver.

Am proud being an Igbo, am proud of my heritage and culture. Igbo means high class, Igbo means independence, Igbo means hard work and strength, Igbo means riches, Igbo means resourcefulness, Igbo means self belonging, Igbo means self esteem, Igbo means pride, Igbo means swag.

Udo diri unu umunnem.
# IgboAmaka
# AnyiBuNdiMmeri

Michael Ezeaka

This is beautiful poetry ...

In response to Alaba Ajibola, the Babcock Lecturer Hate Speech against Igbos.


In Igboland women live apart from their husbands and neither cook for them nor enter their husband's quarters when they are in their period. They are seen as unclean. Even up till today such practice is still applicable in some parts of Igboland especially by the traditionalists. Before a woman can enter the palace of Obi of Onitsha, she will be asked if she is in her period, if yes, she will be asked to stay out.

Leviticus 15: 19-20
When a woman has her monthly period, she remains unclean, anyone who touches her or anything she has sat on becomes unclean.

An Igbo man's ancestral heritage, called “Ana Obi” is not sellable, elders will not permit this. If this is somehow done due to the influence of the West the person is considered a fool and is ostracized by the community.

1 Kings 21:3
I inherited this vineyard from my ancestors, and the Lord forbid that I should sell it, said Naboth.

Igbos have practiced the taking of a late brother's wife into marriage after she had been widowed until the white men came. Now it is rarely done but except in very rural villages.

Deuteronomy 25:5
A widow of a dead man is not to be married outside the family; it is the duty of the dead man's brother to marry her.

In Igboland, there is a unique form of apprenticeship in which either a male family member or a community member will spend six (6) years (usually in their teens to their adulthood) working for another family. And on the seventh year, the head of the host household, who is usually the older man who brought the apprentice into his household, will establish (Igbo: idu uno) the apprentice
by either setting up a business for him or giving money or tools by which to make a living.

Exodus 21:2
If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve you for six years. In the seventh year he is to be set free without having to pay you anything.

In Igboland , the yam is very important as it is their staple crop. There are celebrations such as the New yam festival (Igbo: Iri Ji) which are held for the harvesting of the yam. New Yam festival (Igbo: Iri ji) is celebrated annually to secure a good harvest of the staple crop. In the olden days it is an abomination for one to eat a new harvest before the festival. It's a tradition that you give the gods of the land first as a thanksgiving.

Deuteronomy 16:9
Count 7 weeks from the time that you begin to harvest the crops, and celebrate the harvest festival to honor the lord your God, by bringing him a freewill offering in proportion to the blessing he has given you. Celebrate in the Lord's presence together with your children, servants, foreigners. Be sure that you obey my command, said the Lord.

In Igboland it's a tradition that the male children are circumcised on the 8th day. This tradition is still practiced till date.

Leviticus 12:3
On the eighth day, the child shall be circumcised.

In Igboland, there is a practice known as "ile omugwo ". After a woman has given birth to a child, a very close and experienced relative of hers, in most cases her mother is required by tradition to come spend time with her and her husband. During which she is to do all the work of the wife, while the new mom's only assignment to the baby will be to breastfeed. This goes on for a month or more. In the Igbo old tradition, at this time, the new mom lives apart from her husband, would not cook or enter his quarters.

Leviticus 12:1-4
For seven days after a woman gives birth, she is ritually unclean as she is during her monthly period. It will be 33 days until she is ritually clean from the loss of blood; she is not to touch anything that is holy.


The Igbo tribe is in a serious problem and danger of extinction for the following reasons:

50% of Igbos are born outside Igbo land. Meaning that those children are not likely to live and work in Igbo land and cannot speak Igbo language but foreign language (Yoruba, Hausa, French, English).

40% of Igbos girls between the age of 25 & 45 are single with no hope of marriage because 35% of Igbo boys live overseas and they have all married white ladies.

75% of Igbo youths leave Igbo land every year in search of opportunities in Yoruba, Hausa land or overseas.

85 % of Igbos have family houses and own investments outside Igbo land. They strongly believe in one Nigeria but failed to know that NO Yoruba or Hausa man has a family house or investment in Igbo land.

Igbos are the only people who believe that living outside their land is an achievement.

Igbos are the only tribe that celebrate their tradition outside their land e.g. Eze Ndi Igbo, Igbo Village in America and this is because they have family homes in foreign lands.

Igbos have failed to know that the children you have outside Igbo land especially overseas will never think of living in Igbo land. So what happens to the properties you are building for them when you are gone?

Igbos are the only tribe who see their land as a place to visit or a tourist site than a place to work and live.

Igbos are the only tribe who instead of promoting and appreciating their culture through movies and documentaries they have sought to ridicule it by portraying rituals, killings, wickedness, love for money and other social vices which were not originally inherent in our culture thereby cursing more harm than actually promoting their culture.

Igbos are the only people who without hesitation believe their history and description when it is told or written by an enemy or a foreigner. E.g. that you do not love yourselves or that you love money.

Igbos are the ONLY largest tribe on earth who fought for their independence and failed to achieve their freedom after 40 years.

Igbos are the only tribe who fails to honour their brave heroes and heroines especially the innocent children starved to death during the Biafran war.

Igbos are the only tribe who embraced their enemy after a bloody civil war and subsequently become slaves.

Igbos do not find it necessary to teach their own version of history to their children.

Igbos fight for marginalisation in Nigeria but has no collective strength or teeth to bite.

Igbos how long are you going to fight for your relevance in Nigeria?

How long are you going to fight for a functional airport, rail networks and other structural establishments that underpin sustainable development?

How long are you prepared to wait for your enemy to guide you to your destiny?

Oh Igbos!
Where are your leaders?

Unfortunately, none of them live and work in Igbo land. If you wish to save the future of your children, your identity, your generation and your race then you need freedom and that freedom is Biafra.

Ukpana Okpoko gburu bu nti chiri ya!

By Chime Eze

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.


"My boy, may you live to your full potential, ascend to a dizzy height as is possible for anyone of your political description in your era to rise. May you be acknowledged world-wide as you rise as an eagle atop trees, float among the clouds, preside over the affairs of fellow men.... as leaders of all countries pour into Nigeria to breathe into her ear.

But then, Chuba, if it is not the tradition of our people that elders are roundly insulted by young men of the world, as you have unjustly done to me, may your reign come to an abrupt and shattering close. As you look ahead, Chuba, as you see the horizon, dedicating a great marble palace that is the envy of the world, toasted by the most powerful men in the land, may the great big hand snatch it away from you. Just as you look forward to hosting the world’s most powerful leader and shaking his hands, as you begin to smell the recognition and leadership of the Igbo people, may the crown fall off your head and your political head fall off your shoulders.

None of my words will come to pass, Chuba, until you have risen to the very height of your power and glory and health, but then you will be hounded and humiliated and disgraced out of office, your credibility and your name in tatters forever...”


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