Today, I wrote that before the coming of the white man in the 18th century, the Igbo tribe as we know it today was not in existence.
A lot of people were aghast and I received a lot of insults for what is our history.
From Arrow of God, Chinua Achebe wrote” Six miles away well be another planet to these people so they have no common sense of purpose” Captain Winterbottom.
The Igbo Identity as we know it today came into existence n the late 40’s.
For instance, before that time, a labourer who went to work in Awka from Ogbunike was seen as a distant foreigner and not as a fellow Igbo brother.
Let me share an example.
Nnamdi is my friend and I see him as my brother because we are Igbos but our great grandfathers did not see themselves that way.
The reason is that Nnamdi is from Awka, I’m from Ogbunike so they saw themselves more as foreigners rather than Igbo people as it is today.
It took one man to change all that.
Before 1929, our ancestors identified themselves as Ndi Onitsha, Ndi Ogbunike, Ndi Nsukka, Ndi Owerri, Ndi Emeabaim, Ndi Alo but not as Igbo people as we know today.
The process for the Igbo identity as we know it today started in 1929 after the Aba women’s affair and was consolidated by OBN Eluwa between 1947 and 1953.
My ancestors recognized that there was something called Ani Igbo and to an extent, recognized that was a part of it hence the intermarriage.
But to them, they were different people and were largely foreigners.
The modern Igbo identity was created between 1947 and 1951 when BON Eluwa, then Secretary-General of the Igbo Progressive Union visited each hamlet in both Western and Eastern Igboland and convinced them to buy into the Igbo project.
He was joined in that historic visit by late Dennis Osadebe, the premier of Midwestern states.
Eluwa and Osadebe visited all the communities in today’s Igbo land where he met with the representatives of each community with the Igbo identity message.
Communities like Aro chukwu did not immediately bought into his Igbo identity project because they saw themselves as a superior clan over every other clan in Igbo land.
OBN Eluwa efforts paid off as communities who were largely independent came together under one Umbrella and the new Igbo identity was born.
However, some part of the Anioma speaking community in Delta state and then some parts of the Ikwerre community are agitating today that they are not part of the OBN Eluwa’s construct.
This is as a result of the civil war that the Igbo people lost to the Nigerian government.
I think it is their right to associate with any tribe they want to so we should leave them with their choice.
The last time, the Igbo tribe is not recruiting for new members as we are already fine the way we are.
Further readings: Ado-na-Idu; History Of Igbo origin written by Biyerem Onwukamuche Nwammo Eluwa.
And thank you to my brother Cheta Nwaeze who pointed me to this history last year and who tweeted some of the things I shared here.