The word “Igbo” (in some cases people erroneously use “Ibo”) refers to Igbo people of Nigeria, an ethic group, their origin, their culture, their heritage and their language. The Igbo people or Ndigbo, as they like to be called, inhabit the south-eastern parts of Nigeria, including parts of the Midwest region, west of the River Niger. Igboland is thus in the tropical rain forest region near the Atlantic coast. Nigeria, a former British Colony until 1960, which uses English as the official language, is located in West Africa with a population of about 150 million people. Nigeria is the largest and most densely populated country in Africa. One of every four Africans you meet is a Nigerian. Among them are about 40 million Igbo people.
Igbo people, are one of the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, the other two are Yoruba and Hausa. Because of the geographical location, the Igbo people were among the first Nigerians to make contact with the European Missionaries that came into Nigeria by ship, and thus, from the south. This location also made Ndigbo vulnerable to the severe impact of the slave trade. The Igbo people adopted, or rather accepted, western Christianity and education, which the missionaries brought along with them. As a result, Igbo people are mostly Christians (a small percentage of the population practice traditional religion)., and among the most educated in Nigeria (western education).
There have been many theories by scholars about the origin of the Igbo people. This generated ongoing debate that necessitated many studies to determine the true origin of Igbo people.
Before modernization/Industrialization, agriculture was the mainstay of the people in Igboland. The Igbos were also black smiths and wood carvers. Given the small size of their landmass, and closeness to the ocean, they are great merchants and great travellers. This is probably why Igbo people are found in every corner of Nigeria and every niche in the world for that matter. Igbo people are patrilineal in nature and the political and social structure is modelled closely on age grade system, family clans and extended family structure.
Among the Igbos, only two words are used to express the closeness of relationship among members of the community: umunne and umunna. Umu means children. Nne means mother while nna means father. Thus, the word ‘Umunna’ is used to express more distant relationship e.g. the clan and usually from the father-side of the family. These extended families or clans are groups referred to as “Umunna”.
Elders are revered and treasured in Igbo culture and the oldest male in the extended family becomes the head of that family and in consultation with other members of the clan represents the views of the said extended family in village meetings and gatherings. However, if for any reason, he is incapable of carrying out that duty, either because of age, illness, metal deficiency, or lack of moral integrity or just not able to perform or carry out that responsibility, another male member of that extended family is selected by consensus (elected) to be the functional head of the family.
Another important facet of the extended family system is the “umuada”. Umu has been explained earlier, and “ada” refers to the first daughter of the family. However, the usage of “umuada” in this aspect refers to all the daughters in the family or clan that have been married away into another family or clan. Although their primary responsibility is to their married family, they also feature prominently in their parent’s family. This is a large topic by itself, but suffice to say that the umuada “weld” a lot of ‘power’ or influence if you like in the family or clan that they were born into. In addition to other roles they play, they assume the job of policing to ensure that all wives married into their father’s clan toe the line to maintain peace, respectfulness and cordiality among the family. They are also responsible to ensure that their children (referred to variously as nwa agaba, etc) maintain a link to their maternal grandparents.
Now the name of our Association is Umunna, this does not literally mean that we are third or fourth cousins. However, taken to a logical end because we are all from the same Igbo ethnic group, we are related given that all Igbos originated from the same ancestry. More importantly, we are all tied together by place of origin, by culture, language and the same sense of purpose. Therefore, here in Canada, we are in a way, members of the same extended family. The same is true for Igbo people in USA, Europe, all parts of Africa, the Americas and anywhere around the world.
Igbo people usually form a community wherever they go or reside. They integrate very well and become active participants in the host community where they settle. Igbo culture emphasizes self-reliance, equality, education or knowledge, vigorous but fair competition for social, economic and political advancement (achievement).They are known for their quest for higher education/knowledge both formal and informal. They never stop learning; they never stop trying, which is captured in several Igbo proverbs. The Igbo people strongly believe in making themselves what they wish to be, hence the Igbo saying "Onye kwe Chi ya ekwe", translated literally means if one believes, your God will make it come to pass, which in common parlance means “If you believe, you will achieve”. This does not mean that you wish it and it happens, in practical terms, it means that if you work hard, persevere and you will achieve. Some may interpret this to mean that you can change your destiny. These are also captured in several igbo proverbs. There is no word or phrase in Igbo language that mean “I give up”. Igbos never stops trying and never gives up.
In Igboland, fame, power, kingship, honour and respect are not inherited from parents or grandparents. They are earned. None of these is handed down from parent or grandparents to children. As an adult, you work hard to earn your place of honour in the community regardless of whom or what your parents are or were.
Igbo people do not have kings, queens. The original saying “Igbo enwe eze" translates to mean something closer to "Igbo people do not have kings or queens." I hesitate to include chiefs because the concept of Chiefs is more of a set up by the government of the day given the creation of the local government areas (LGA), where the government needed a representative from each local communities hence the idea of a “chief” was thrusted (forced) on the communities. It holds that within your household you are the king if you are the man of the house or the queen if you are the woman of the house, and no one has the right to “lord” anything over you within your domain.
In Igboland, every individual is expected or obligated to be a good ambassador of his or her family, and any misdemeanour reflects badly on their respective family. Every Igbo person male or female is also expected to lend a hand to any member of his/her extended family who is in need. For example if any one of us here in Canada has a cousin, nephew or niece back in Nigeria whose parents are not able to finance his or her University education, that relative here is obliged to ensure that that needy child in Nigeria gets an opportunity to be educated. This is achieved by helping to pay the school fees of the needy relative in Nigeria and nothing is expected in return. One’s only benefit is that when this student (child) has finished school and is in a position to help someone else; he or she does it without hesitation. In some cases the only relationship with this person is that he or she hails from the same village or town.
In addition, Igbo people all over the world are involved and contribute to their village/town community development in their various towns and villages despite the fact that they are several thousands of kilometres away from home. They contribute to healthcare developments; poverty alleviation; maintenance of the village markets; schools; churches; roads; water purification; electrification and security projects. We know, because we all contribute and are levied for various development projects in our various towns and villages. This is one of the reasons why Igbo villages differ from every other village in Africa.
In Nigeria, Igbo people are regarded with admiration, envy, and sometimes resentment, for their tenacious industry and socially fierce independence. One overriding accompanying virtue is that they are, in the main, very law abiding. They are known to be great industrialists, entrepreneurs, and craftsmen. They are also very hospitable people.
In our community here in Winnipeg we have tried to instil these important aspects of our culture in our children. Again witnessing the growth of our association and the youth in our community, we feel proud that we are succeeding in maintain our culture and passing it on to the next generation. Our several Manitoba cultural extravaganzas dubbed IgboFest 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2011 are good examples.
Due to the effects of migration and the Atlantic slave trade, there are descendant ethnic Igbo populations in many countries inside as well as outside Africa. Their exact population outside Africa is unknown, but today many African Americans and Afro Caribbean’s are of Igbo descent.
For more information about Ndigbo, please see the weblinks or just Google Igbo people. Congratulations to the Umunna (Igbo) Cultural Association of MB Inc. for their dedication in preserving Igbo culture and their heritage.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Igbo_people http://www.africaguide.com/culture/tribes/ibo.htm http://www.kwenu.com/igbo/igbowebpages/Igbo.dir/People/Igbo_people.html http://www.lagos-nigeria-real-estate-advisor.com/ibo.html http://www.mshale.com/article/News/News/Umunne_and_Umunna_the_Igbo_Children/1543 http://www.umunna.org/igbos.html
By Umunna Former President, Reg Beluolisa Ejeckam.
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