Friday, March 31, 2017

Who Exactly Is An Igbo?

By Ozodi Thomas Osuji
This morning I read at Facebook a girl from Agbor, Nkechi Bianze, saying that her tribe is Ika and not Igbo. She fumed from both sides of her mouth saying how angry she is at any Igbo who calls her an Igbo; indeed, she asked why Igbos have the audacity to call those who do not see themselves as Igbos as Igbos. On the issue of her having what seems an Igbo name, Nkechi, she presented an interesting logic that goes like this: you (I am assuming that she is referring to those not from England) have an English sounding name, you speak English so does that make you an Englishman, she asks?
*Onitsha, South East of Nigeria
(This particular logic is interesting; it assumes knowledge of who is an English person; is English a function of biological heritage or language or culture? There are black people born in England who are called English. By the same token, what makes one an American? People from all over the world come to the USA, which is about the size of West Africa, and call themselves Americans. I was born at Lagos, Nigeria and am an American. What makes me an American? Since the USA was begun by the English is it possession of English DNA that makes one an American? Is it the ability to speak the English language? Is it enculturation to American culture? What is American culture? Nkechi, apparently, did not take courses in logic so we shall overlook her illogical and incoherent statements on who is English.)

I thought about what the girl said and it reminded me of what an Ikwerre permanent fixture at Nigerian Internet fora called Emeka Okala says; the man claims that he and his Ikwerre people are not Igbos.
(By Emeka’s logic, since folks from Egbema, Omoku, Ahoada and so on do not speak Ikwerre language they are not Ikwerre; Ikwerre is composed of those who live at the water front of Igwe Ocha and Diobu.)
I have heard folks from Agbor speak and honestly do not understand what they are saying. I am then supposing that either they are not Igbo or I am not Igbo. 
I do not understand what Ngwa (Aba) people say when I hear them speak; does that mean that they are not Igbos or I am not Igbo?
I do not understand Bende/Umuahia people; does that make them not Igbo or makes me not Igbo?
I do not understand Onitsha people when they speak; does that make them not Igbo or me not an Igbo?
I do not understand even Mbaise people (who are close to Owerri; from Enyiogugu to Emeke-Ukwu is less than ten miles) when they speak so does that make them not Igbo or me not Igbo?
I do not understand Enugu, Abakaliki, Ikwerre, Nkwerre and all kinds of people who call themselves Igbos; does that make them not Igbo or me not an Igbo? 
The only people whose language I understand are Owerri people. Therefore, Owerri people are either not Igbo or are the only Igbos! 
Since those who live in what is called Alaigbo often do not understand folks only ten miles away from them are these people all Igbos? 
Who exactly is an Igbo? This is a question that I would like somebody to answer for me. If nobody answers it for me I am going to proceed on the assumption that there are no people called Igbos and that the term Igbo is made up, a misnomer!
People from all over the world come to the USA, become naturalized and call themselves Americans. Igbos live in an area of no more than Southern California (from Santa Barbara to San Diego). These people who could all be squeezed into Los Angeles take pleasure in telling the world that they are not Igbos.
Only a few years ago, Onitsha people did not consider themselves as Igbos; they gave us the false narrative that they came from Benin and yet tell us that their ancestor was called Chima, an Igbo name. Bini people do not have such Igbo names. Indeed, they looked down on other Igbos and called them OnyeIgbo and fancied themselves superior to other Igbos (what is it with Igbos fascination with seeming superior to other people, inferiority complex or delusion disorder, grandiose type?).
It seems that Igbos are the most confused breed of human beings that walk on the surface of planet earth; they talk and do illogical things, such as a person with an obvious Igbo name, such as Chima, Emeka, Nkechi etc. telling the world that he is not an Igbo. 
(My name is Ozodobi, an Igbo name but you could forgive me if I told you that I am not an Igbo!).
Apparently, each Igbo village would like to see itself as different from other Igbo villages and declare itself a tribe, if not a nation-state!
That would mean that in the geographical space of South Eastern Nigeria, a place no more than 150 miles from West to East and North to South would probably have more than thousand tribes and nation states in it!
Let us have this debate as to who exactly is an Igbo. It is about time we stopped humoring every south-eastern person who gets up one morning and claims to not be Igbo and find out who really is an Igbo.
There is an open secret known to all Non-Igbo Nigerians. It is that Igbos love money more than they love themselves. Give or promise money to a particular Igbo town and tell them to declare that they are not Igbo and they would do so. As long as there is monetary gain in it for them Igbos would say and do anything. 
Igbos are the most easily divided and manipulated tribe in Nigeria! Ikwerri who have Igbo names and speak Igbo were promised oil money by the rulers of the Nigerian state and told to deny that they are Igbos. Adult Ikwerre folks who are not aware that they are being manipulated by Nigerians come to the Nigerian village square and tell us that they are not Igbos; yet they speak better Igbo than I do! (I had a friend at the University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, called Kelechi Wami; he is Ikwerre; he helped teach me the little Igbo that I understand!
Ikwerre, like Nkechi above, tell us that speaking Igbo or having Igbo names does not make them Igbo. How about DNA Test? Are they amenable to science? Ikwerre’s DNA is probably more Igbo than Owerri's! And the same probably goes for Agbor. 
(My grandmother, Mather, Mgbere, called her God “Obasi dinelu”...which is Efik term for God; I am supposing that that makes her not an Igbo despite living in Owerri. I do not speak Igbo well, although I do understand it if you speak it around me. I am supposing that that makes me non-Igbo.)
I am sick and tired of Igbos identity disorder (there is a personality disorder characterized by identity disorder, it is called borderline personality disorder; google and read up on it).
Let us once and for all times ascertain who exactly is an Igbo? We should begin by doing DNA test on all Igbos and see if those Igbos who claim to be non-Igbos do not match the Igbo DNA indicators, and see if they match the other people they identify with.
Dr. Ozodi Thomas Osuji published this on his  facebook page

March 30,2017

1 comment:

  1. A key issue in this otherwise very interesting article by Prof Osuji is his seeming inability to properly situate the places of the (central) Igbo language and its dialectal varieties in daily Igbo life. He appears to see the various dialects as full, distinct languages, which have created language blocks among the Igbo, and linguistically separate one Igbo community from the other. The central Igbo, which is the language of education and mass media, is in most cases mutually intelligible to virtually all those people that speak the various dialects, and readily comes handy in interactions between Igbos from various areas – whether from Rivers, Delta, Enugu, Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi or Abia, or even parts of Cross River and Kogi states.

    Dialectal varieties are not exclusive to the Igbo. I once read an English expression by an American which I could not understand and which the writer referred to as a “Texan expression.” Now, does that now make the fellow from Texas to be any less an American than his counterpart from say, New York, who might not be able to understand the "Texan expression"? Even with sufficient mastery of the English language, you would still find it very difficult decoding Cockney, a dialect of English spoken (and written) among East Londoners.

    I therefore fail to see any "identity crisis" among the Igbo. What unite the Igbo, all Igbos, are more than the dialects that evolved over the years due to some socio-cultural experiences peculiar to them in the areas they reside. To take it further home, there are some expressions used in some families which their neighbours may not be able to decode. Some experience peculiar to the members of that family may have given rise to the expression; but with time, this same expression might transcend their family and circulate into the larger kindred, and would soon become part of their dialectal heritage. That is how some of these dialects evolve. And when they do, they do not wipe out the Igbo originally spoken by the people before the dialects evolved. Indeed, these developments should be viewed as enriching rather than be celebrated as divisive features.

    And as for some Igbo-name bearing fellows swearing that they are not Igbo, nobody should split hairs over that. When the Palestine terrorists hijacked the Air France aircraft and wanted to release non-Jews, some Jews with foreign passports denounced their Jewish origin (in mostly failed attempts to escape from captivity). To be Igbo in Nigeria comes at a heavy price, and it is not surprising that some people would want to get as far as possible away from their shadows. Haven’t you heard of the popular actress who confessed that their family had to drop their family name “Ojukwu” and chose “Damasus” in order to escape the massive violence visited on the Igbo in the mid-sixties? So, that should surprise no one. It is not new. Those who think that there is a problem with who they really are and believe that the solution is to pronounce themselves some other person are entitled to their choice. But, they must also realize that every choice has its own price. ‘Na so this world be’


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