Sunday, August 30, 2009
I would aver that the Jewish people have exhibited remarkable intelligence in many more areas of endeavor; more than any other group of people in our world.
On the position that the Jewish people have demonstrated what I chose to identify as higher intelligence, some other persons seem to have an opinion similar to mine. The Economist of 4th June, 2005, has a story that presents the Jews of Eastern and Northern Europe (the Ashkenazi) as having shown more intelligence than their peers (the non Jewish population), on the average.
Quoting the story briefly would help: ‘Ashkenazim generally do well in 1Q tests, scoring 12—15 points above the mean value of 100, and have contributed disproportionately to the intellectual and cultural life of the West, as the careers of Freud, Einstein and Mahler-affirm.’
The above is part of a study by Gregory Cochran, Jason Hardy and Henry Harpending of the University of Utah; in which they sought to prove not only that some ethnic groups are more intelligent than others, but the process through which that become possible.
In the story the scholars averred that while the Jews generally succeeded by using their brains, their non Jewish peers generally achieved success by engaging in activities like conquests and colonization of other peoples, brigandage, and wars, etc.
Thomas Cahill, Christian scholar, and author of The Gifts of the Jews sums up the mental acuity of the Jews with the following words: ‘The Jews started it all-and by “it” I mean many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and gentile, believer and atheist, tick’.
I am interested in studying the possible reasons why the Ashkenazi (Jews), and peoples akin to the Jews have shown more intelligence than their peers.
According to the above-mentioned authors, ‘persecution and marginalization’ of the Jews in Europe; might have enabled the Ashkenazi Jews to become conspicuously intelligent.
I will try to find out if what the above-mentioned authors listed can contribute to higher intelligence; by discussing Jewish and Igbo intelligence, and comparing both from the prism of their experiences, and other variables. The Igbos who are also widely seen as ‘Jews’ are observed to be a very intelligent people too. I will look at other things which I feel that they could be possible contributors to higher intelligence. Things like ‘culture’. I feel that culture, and other factors, may even have been more crucial in making the Jews formidable; perhaps more than ‘persecution and marginalization’.
Before continuing I would like to show some statistics which depict the Jews as an intelligent and brilliant people:
Though the global Jewish population is approximately only Fourteen millions (14,000,000m) i.e, about 0.02% of the world population, yet, from 1910 to 2000 the Jews won the following Nobel Prizes: Literature:1910 - Paul Heyse1927 - Henri Bergson1958 - Boris Pasternak1966 - Shmuel Yosef Agnon1966 - Nelly Sachs1976 - Saul Bellow1978 - Isaac Bashevis Singer1981 - Elias Canetti1987 - Joseph Brodsky1991 - Nadine Gordimer World Peace:1911 - Alfred Fried1911 - Tobias Michael Carel Asser1968 - Rene Cassin1973 - Henry Kissinger1978 - Menachem Begin1986 - Elie Wiesel1994 - Shimon Peres1994 - Yitzhak Rabin Physics:1905 - Adolph Von Baeyer1906 - Henri Moissan1910 - Otto Wallach1915 - Richard Willstaetter1918 - Fritz Haber1943 - George Charles de Hevesy1961 - Melvin Calvin1962 - Max Ferdinand Perutz1972 - William Howard Stein1977 - Ilya Prigogine1979 - Herbert Charles Brown1980 - Paul Berg1980 - Walter Gilbert1981 - Roald Hoffmann1982 - Aaron Klug1985 - Albert A. Hauptman1985 - Jerome Karle1986 - Dudley R. Herschbach1988 - Robert Huber1989 - Sidney Altman1992 - Rudolph Marcus2000 - Alan J. Heeger Economics:1970 - Paul Anthony Samuelson1971 - Simon Kuznets1972 - Kenneth Joseph Arrow1975 - Leonid Kantorovich1976 - Milton Friedman1978 - Herbert A. Simon1980 - Lawrence Robert Klein1985 - Franco Modigliani1987 - Robert M. Solow1990 - Harry Markowitz1990 - Merton Miller1992 - Gary Becker1993 - Robert Fogel Medicine:1908 - Elie Metchnikoff1908 - Paul Erlich1914 - Robert Barany1922 - Otto Meyerhof1930 - Karl Landsteiner1931 - Otto Warburg1936 - Otto Loewi1944 - Joseph Erlanger1944 - Herbert Spencer Gasser1945 - Ernst Boris Chain1946 - Hermann Joseph Muller1950 - Tadeus Reichstein1952 - Selman Abraham Waksman1953 - Hans Krebs1953 - Fritz Albert Lipmann1958 - Joshua Lederberg1959 - Arthur Kornberg1964 - Konrad Bloch1965 - Francois Jacob1965 - Andre Lwoff1967 - George Wald1968 - Marshall W. Nirenberg1969 - Salvador Luria1970 - Julius Axelrod1970 - Sir Bernard Katz1972 - Gerald Maurice Edelman1975 - Howard Martin Temin1976 - Baruch S. Blumberg1977 - Roselyn Sussman Yalow1978 - Daniel Nathans1980 - Baruj Benacerraf1984 - Cesar Milstein1985 - Michael Stuart Brown1985 - Joseph L. Goldstein1986 - Stanley Cohen [& Rita Levi-Montalcini]1988 - Gertrude Elion1989 - Harold Varmus1991 - Erwin Neher1991 - Bert Sakmann1993 - Richard J. Roberts1993 - Phillip Sharp1994 - Alfred Gilman1995 - Edward B. Lewis Physics:1907 - Albert Abraham Michelson1908 - Gabriel Lippmann1921 - Albert Einstein1922 - Niels Bohr1925 - James Franck1925 - Gustav Hertz1943 - Gustav Stern1944 - Isidor Isaac Rabi1952 - Felix Bloch1954 - Max Born1958 - Igor Tamm1959 - Emilio Segre1960 - Donald A. Glaser1961 - Robert Hofstadter1962 - Lev Davidovich Landau1965 - Richard Phillips Feynman1965 - Julian Schwinger1969 - Murray Gell-Mann1971 - Dennis Gabor1973 - Brian David Josephson1975 - Benjamin Mottleson1976 - Burton Richter1978 - Arno Allan Penzias1978 - Peter L Kapitza1979 - Stephen Weinberg1979 - Sheldon Glashow1988 - Leon Lederman1988 - Melvin Schwartz1988 - Jack Steinberger1990 - Jerome Friedman1995 - Martin Perl
Even though we know that certain people who have shown exceptional intelligence have not been awarded the Nobel Prize, we can still say that the Prize is more or less won by people who demonstrate above average brilliance, intelligence and achievement.
Discussing Igbo Intelligence
The Igbos were observed to be on the average; exceptionally intelligent. Nigerians have recognized the uncommon and unusual Igbo intelligence in the coinage “Igbo sense”. In the recent past if a person in Nigeria displayed uncommon intelligence he was said to have Igbo sense. A witty Bini (non Igbo Nigerian) musician; Joseph Osayomore; had in his album entitled ‘Igbo no be beggars’ rhetorically questioned why there is no Yoruba or Hausa sense. The Yoruba and Hausa peoples are the other big nations that are in Nigeria.
The Igbos have been observed to have a certain genius which is not common. I will try to elaborate with the following illustration. Between 1999 and 2007 Nigeria’s president was Olusegun Obasanjo. This man took over from the military who had ruled the country for many years, and had in the estimation of many Nigerians ran the country aground. When Obasanjo came there was a sort of consensus to rebuild the country. Many of the ‘best’ Nigerian brains were sought out and invited to come and man strategic places in the country. Without fear that I would be contradicted, I would say that most of the Igbos that were invited stood out. They introduced and implemented revolutionary and successful changes in their various domains. A young Igbo, Chukwuma Soludo became the Central Bank governor, and stabilized the Nigerian banking industry which had been in shambles. It is generally agreed that if Soludo had not stabilized the Nigerian banking sector, that the Nigerian economy would have collapsed completely when the global economic malaise started. Another, Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, a young woman called back from the World Bank became Nigeria’s Finance Minister. While in that position she devised strategies that enabled Nigeria to get debt relief. Before Iweala came and presented an articulate Nigerian position on the need for debt relief Western donors had shunned all entreaties for Nigeria to get relief. Another, Dora Akunyili tamed the menace of fake drugs manufacturing and importation into Nigeria. Before Akunyili a Nigerian suffering from diarrhea would more likely than not get talcum powder as ampicillin from many of Nigeria’s pharmacies and hospitals. Still another, Ngozi Ezekwesili was able to introduce ‘due process’ which is an euphemism for orderliness and discipline, into the Nigerian government business. Remarkably before these Igbos stepped into the positions from which they did so well, Nigerians from other Nigerian nations with equivalent formal education have been in the positions, but as we say in Nigeria they ‘didn’t perform’.
A British colonial officer, Robert Collis, was clear in his comparative study of Nigeria’s peoples that the Igbos had sufficient nutritious food in the era when whole populations starved to death due to inadequate knowledge of farming techniques and occasional droughts. That the Igbos achieved the feat of self-sufficiency in food production, and knew the right and proper things to eat in the period that Africa was described by outsiders as the ‘Dark Continent ‘(which Africans have not risen to deny) are in themselves evidence of high intelligence.
The same Robert Collis, the author of Nigeria In Conflict, was clearly hostile to the Igbos in his book. In fact because of his clearly demonstrated hatred for the Igbos I drew close to labeling him an anti-Semite in another write-up of mine: The Igbos: Jews In Africa. It is interesting that even though he couldn’t hide his hatred for the Igbos, yet he mentioned the following repeatedly:
‘(The Igbos) Being more hardworking and energetic by nature than the other Nigerians………But there is no doubt that Ibo men are the hardest workers in Nigeria, and their women among the most charming and the most intelligent. They are neither mentally nor physically lazy, and have shown themselves to have IQs as high as any race or group anywhere in the world’………..Many expatriates have found the Ibos easier to work with than the men of other tribes in Nigeria. I, myself, found them very pleasant work companions. They had a greater capacity for hard work than most and could grasp the significance of what they were doing very quickly. They often made first-class research workers’.
The author was British and quite hostile I repeat. So his opinion can be relied upon.
Also, after the British left Nigeria, the Igbos, still new to Western methods of life, were still able to set up the rudiments of a modern state in their Eastern Region in Nigeria. This Eastern Region’s economy was the fastest growing economy in the world in the period- 1950-1966. And during the Nigeria-Biafra War-1967-1970, in which the Igbos as the Biafrans tried to protest against genocide by attempting to secede from Nigeria, they achieved unimaginable feats; scientific and otherwise. Even though there was clear evidence that genocide was attempted and carried out against them, the whole world with the exception of four African states and Haiti turned their backs on them. Blockaded by Cameroun and other neighbors, and isolated, while their foes were supported by most of the World powers, they fell back on their intelligence, and so acquitted themselves that they were variously described as the Israel and the Japan of Africa, because of their ingenuity and resilience. During the ‘War the Igbos were able to conquer science and technology; the bogey-man of Africa.
In support of the foregoing are other evidences that the Igbos are a highly intelligent people:
One of their own, Chinua Achebe, the author of Things Fall Apart is definitely always mentioned as one of the icons of literature for all times. His book is listed by the British Broadcasting Corporation as one of the greatest one hundred books of the twentieth century. He is acknowledged to be the ‘Father of African literature’. Many believe that his greatest contribution to the peoples of Africa and the rest of mankind in extension, is that he first saw that political independence, not coupled with cultural independence for Africa’s peoples, amounts to nothing. In other words that the resources, human, material, aid, etc that is available in Africa will not improve the lot of the African peoples until the people look inwards; at their own history, and culture, and from them fashion out the systems and institutions that will work for them.
Another one of them Philip Emeagwali is referred to as the ‘Father of the Internet’, because of the revolutionary work he did in that field.
Also recent research is revealing that an Igbo, Olaudah Equiano, was one of the real beginners of the anti-slave trade movement (the Abolitionist movement). Now what he did may seem quite common-place and ordinary, but when he did it, it was quite revolutionary. It can be averred that he used his brains well by initiating the battle to eradicate an aberration like slavery which I can make a case that the average person in the middle of the 18th century might have thought of as natural.
While all that I have enumerated above may show that the Igbos are a brilliant people, they may not prove that the Igbos have shown as much intelligence as the Jews. My opinion is that expecting the Igbos to have achieved as much as the Jews would be unfair, because of the following reasons: While the Jews in discussion live in Europe-the continent that has moved the world more than any other since at least the last five hundred years-the Igbos live in Africa-the continent that has been most upset and moved by the Europeans. In addition the Jews in discussion have never lost control of their affairs to the extent that the Igbos have. Since the advent of the Europeans in West Africa the Igbos have lost control of their affairs to the extent that even the educational curriculum available to the Igbos was not designed by the Igbos. An Igbo has to give more attention to learning English language, than his own language-Igbo. European history and culture have been presented to the Igbos as more important to the Igbos than Omenana-the Igbos culture. Yet in spite of all these the Igbos have managed to find meanings in things that are strange, and to thrive. But the people’s best can’t be expected to come out, because much of their time and resources is spent in trying to understand things that really shouldn’t be important to them. From all the foregoing we can see that the Igbos have used their brains well, even though they haven’t done as well as the Jews.
Now as to what could have contributed to the intelligence of the Jews and the Igbos: The above-mentioned Economist report suggests persecution and marginalization for the Jewish case. We have overwhelming evidence that Europe mistreated the Jews of Europe for centuries, and that the Arabs though not as cruel as the Europeans, were nevertheless not paragons of tolerance to the minority Hebrews in their midst. Because of some factors which I will talk about soon I can accept, though with reservations that persecution and marginalization contributed to Jewish intelligence. With reservation; because it could be argued that the intelligence existed before the persecution and marginalization. That in fact the intelligence of the Jews helped to make the conditions that aroused the jealousy of their neighbors. We can argue that the persecutors and marginalizers of the Jews were plainly evil men and women who were out to loot a vulnerable minority community. We can also argue that the Jews would not have been singled out for special persecution and marginalization if they had behaved like, and had believed in what their neighbors believed in. We can argue that clearly they were different, and they had a higher (more decent standard/not necessarily materially) standard of living which they were ready to fight to preserve, so they were perceived as a threat that had to be checked. We can argue that the checking was the ‘persecution and marginalization’. All the foregoing hints that the Jewish way of life was unique, better and superior. And what, if it is not higher intelligence that would have enabled the Jews to have a better way of life? And that it is the Jewish way of life that created the condition that excited their neighbors jealousy. And that their neighbors paid them back with persecution and marginalization. From this point we can go on and aver that the persecution and marginalization helped to sharpen the already existing unique intelligence of the Ashkenazim.
Evidence that may be regarded as ‘empirical’ has not been thrown up that the Igbos suffered extraordinary persecution before their contact with Europeans, to the extent that the Jews of Europe suffered. Perhaps this is because very little is known about the Igbos prior to their contact with Europeans. But there is evidence that they suffered more persecution and suffering than their neighbors since they made contact with Europeans. Their odyssey during the trans-Atlantic stave trade was quite harrowing. The following taken from A Hundred Years of the Catholic Church in Eastern Nigeria, 1885-1985, more than illustrates the extent of suffering that befell the Igbos during the trans-Atlantic slave trade:
‘…… it is strange and humiliating that West Africa received the true Faith in the
context of colonization and a dehumanizing phenomenon like the slave trade
……The inhuman trafficking in human lives went on for over three hundred
years during which a large population of black Africans was transported into
Europe, the United States and Central and South America. At the end of the
18th century, Eastern Nigeria alone supplied 20,000 slaves a year. It is equally
on record that the Igbo as a race, suffered most during the slave trade’.
And F.K. Buah noted on page 138-9, of his History of West Africa that:
“….Iboland and the states in the Niger Delta suffered more from the slave trade
than did many other West African states. Every year thousands of able men and
women were carried away across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World. Bon-
ny became the chief port for this inhuman trade. At the peak of the trade no fe-
wer than 20,000 slaves were sold in Bonny every year for transportation to the
Americas. Of these more than three-quarters were taken from Iboland. In a mat-
ter of twenty years, over a quarter of a million people passed through the port
And on how they were treated Buah noted:
“When the slaves were captured, they were put in chains and dragged along
down to the coast, to start their journey in misery to the unknown world. As well
as being chained, the slaves had to carry heavy loads of other goods which the
agents had bought for re-sale to the European merchants. This made their
journey more unbearable. Special overseers, who treated the slaves very
harshly, were employed to bring the captured slaves down to the coast”.
Writing about his travel in West Africa in search of the true course of the Niger, Mungo Park described the sad scene of a slave caravan in these words:
“The slaves greatly fear a journey toward the coast, for the slave traders keep
them always fastened together and watch them very closely to prevent their
escape. They are commonly fastened by the right leg of one to the left leg of
another. They can walk, though very slowly. Every four slaves are also fastened
by the neck with a strong rope. In the night their hands too are tied up.
Those who complain have fastened to one leg a heavy piece of wood three
And how much were they sold for? In most cases not more than a mere £20!
But the hardship which these poor people suffered on the journey from their
homes to the coast was slight in comparison with the hardships which lay ahead.
While awaiting shipment, they were kept in dark dungeons in a castle built
specially for this purpose. They could see very little or no light, and were given
just enough food to keep alive. When the ships arrived, the slaves were packed
on board so that no space was wasted. Under such hardship, thousands of them
died on the voyage before the slaves ship arrived in the New World.
In the plantations, the slaves were sold by auction. Then their dismal life of
hard work started. They were forced to work on the plantations and in the
mines from morning until dusk, and were allowed just enough food to keep
alive. They looked forward to death –the end of their miserable lives. In their
misery, they found some solace in what is now called ‘Negro spirituals’.
They were songs with religious theme, and were often sung by the slaves as
they worked. This explains why most of these songs are so heart-rending”.
We have gotten a taste of what the primary victims; the captured, passed through. Horrible! is the softest word that we can find to describe what happened. History is yet to beam its search-lights on the situation in the lands where the primary victims were captured from. Where the slave raiding wars, the kidnappings, etc, took place, for over three hundred years.
Also even though history has not really seen Africa as very important, and has accordingly not given some events the attention they deserved, yet we have manifest evidence that the Igbos were among the groups that bore the real brunt of British imperialism and colonialism, because they were among the few groups that challenged the imperialists for extended periods, some say, due to religious reasons.
In addition the Nigeria/Biafra war was pure agony for the Igbo people. Millions died slow agonizing deaths because of starvation. Millions more mourned painfully.
Also after the war, just like before it, the people have been killed needlessly in ethnic cum religious conflicts that legally and morally should not have affected them.
Lastly, to use the softer term; marginalization: the Nigerian state’s marginalization of the Igbos has brought suffering and deprivation too.
So we can say that Igbos have suffered more than their peers. But can suffering release the juice of intelligence? My mother ’Amaka Ilona, nee Nwosu; used to say that ‘afufu na eme ka mmadu mar’ ife’ (that suffering induces people to become sensible). Suffering can actually lead to innovativeness, to a bursting of the barriers. Certain types of suffering can lead to inventiveness. Here I will still rehash what I mentioned before. There are subtle suggestions that the Igbos were targeted. Why? The answer is that they were unique. Higher intelligence made them unique. The uniqueness aroused the ire of their neighbors, and antagonists.
At the end of the day one may be wrong to just dismiss the argument that persecution, marginalization and oppression may release the juices that give rise to high intelligence. However one would in my opinion be on surer ground if one also looks at other variables that could give rise to higher intelligence. In my opinion ‘culture’ is one such variable.
At this point I will like to bring in a story that will help to buttress my argument that culture is a major contributor to higher intelligence. The Igbo intelligence which I have talked about for a while in this write-up; from my observation; was more manifest when the Igbos were more traditional, i.e, when they lived more like Igbos. In the present era most Igbos have in pursuit of ‘modernity’ became ‘over modern’, and the higher intelligence is not noticed in most Igbos presently. The term ‘Igbo sense’ is hardly mentioned in Nigeria again, because most contemporary Igbos do not display the type of intelligence that moved people to realize that the Igbo intelligence was unusual. And when this higher intelligence rises in this contemporary period it has been noticed that it is in those Igbos who stay close to, and have sympathy for the culture of the Igbos. In other words, there is reason to look into the Igbos culture and traditions (Omenana) as a major contributor to their high intelligence. I can throw more light on my points by relating my experiences with four Igbos who have sympathy for, and are positively interested in Igbo culture, and also by talking about Igbo music. I ran into some Igbo professors recently. Our discussions were based essentially on Igbo culture, the society, its problems, and its prospects. I observed that the gentlemen were interested in Igbo culture and language. In our discussions about the Igbo people they all brought out suggestions which if implemented they will go a long way toward the improvement of the Igbos situation. They were observant enough to see that the Igbos could come together, and be healed when and if they value what they have in common; their language and culture. Truly many an Igbo who is not interested in Omenana would not know that Igbos would not be able to find unity unless and until they treasure their binding instruments: their language and culture. And on the music: Igbo music was extremely fascinating when the Igbos had not absorbed so much foreign customs, and dropped their own. G.T.Basden; an European scholar made the following observation about Igbo music in the early 19th century:
‘Whether the Ibo trace their ancestry back to Jubal-Cain it is not my purpose to discuss, but they certainly have inherited a fair share of the art originated by the “Father of Music”…..The more one listens to native music, the more one is conscious of its vital power. It touches the chords of man’s inmost being, and stirs his primal instincts. It demands the performers whole attention and so sways the individual as almost to divide asunder, for the time being, mind and body. It is intensely passionate, and no great effort of the imagination is required to realize that such music could only have originated from the son of Cain! Under its influence, and that of the accompanying dance, one has seen men and women pass into a completely dazed condition, oblivious and apparently unconscious of the world around them………it lifts men and women out of themselves’
We have a few Igbo musicians like Show Promoter, Ozoemena Nsugbe, Afam Ogbuoto who stayed traditional. They made intelligent music, which has stood the test of time. We cannot say the same about many Igbo musicians of the present era, and we can’t say the same about those that became ashamed of playing music in Igbo language. Presently the majority of those in the earlier category that sing in Igbo language would starve if they don’t praise-sing. And those that sing in English merely imitate American gutter music.
The case we have made about Igbo music, we can also make about every other field of endeavor. In this contemporary period that only very few Igbos still try to live according to Omenana (Igbo culture); fewer and fewer Igbos exhibit the uncommon, the awe inspiring Igbo intelligence and genius. As I have mentioned before, most Nigerians do not mention ‘Igbo sense’ again because most Igbos do not show extra-ordinary intelligence again. So we can say that Igbo culture is a contributor, or contributes to Igbo intelligence.
On what Jewish culture may have contributed to Jewish intelligence I am seriously thinking about what an Igbo scholar; Patrick Ugwuanyi, said about the Jews and Monotheism; the type favored by the Israelites; the imageless type.
‘The Israelites with their practice of focusing their concentration on an unseen, an abstract imageless Deity definitely had higher chances of reasoning and thinking above the ordinary and the mundane, than their peers who could only think of a deity that had physical form’.
I still have a lot of ground to cover on the area of what culture contributes to intelligence, but for now I will sum up by saying that I feel strongly that Jewish culture and Omenana contributed to the Ashkenazi, and to the Igbo intelligence, more than oppression and persecution. And I hope that I have presented convincing argument in support.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
08065300351, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, www.igboisrael.com
Among the Igbos one is an Osu if one is a descendant of an Osu man or woman. In other-words one is an Osu if one is a member of an Osu family. Osu families exist in almost all the clans that constitute the Igbo people. Accordingly the Igbos know who is an Osu, because Igbos proper identification is by their clans and families. The writer; Remy Chukwukaodinaka Ilona can be very easily traced in Igboland if the person interested in tracing him finds out that he is from Ozubulu. The next step is to ask about the Ilona family, and in minutes the author will be accounted for. The same way the author could be traced is the same way that Igbos know who is an Osu and who is not one.
Since most Igbos would remember, the Osu is among the Igbos an inferior Igbo. He or she could be very well educated, and be super-rich; but to the rich, educated, very religious, poorest, not educated, and irreligious Igbo, he or she is still an inferior person. He could even be a Christian priest, thus falling into the category of Igbos that command respect among the Igbos today, yet to the Igbos he is still inferior. He is less than a ‘normal’, ‘freeborn’ Igbo. An Osu man would not be inducted into the prestigious ozo society of the Igbos, nor would he be made a traditional ruler in any Igbo clan, even if he is the most qualified member of the clan. .An Osu can hardly get a spouse of his choice from a non Osu Igbo family.
Today only very very few Igbos know why the Igbos treat fellow Igbos in such an ungodly way. Physically the Igbo who is an Osu, and the one who is not, are the same. They shared the same Igbo culture (Omenana), which it must be mentioned that the Igbos have generally abandoned, as they are abandoning the Igbo language. Since the Igbos are almost all Christians today both would invariably be Christians. Yet in spite of all these shared commonalities the non Osu Igbo still looks down on the Osu Igbo, and would not intermarry with him or her. A few Igbos, a few that can be counted off one’s fingers have tried to cross the lines. Their families have generally disowned and ostracized them so that the entire family would avoid the taint, and the disadvantages that follow being an Osu. Today there are millions of Igbos consigned to perpetual spinster-hood and bachelor-hood because of this problem. Well meaning Igbos; of Osu, and non Osu stock have tried to fight the problem, but have failed woefully, because rather than getting weaker, the discrimination is getting stronger. In my opinion Igbos have failed to tackle the problem successfully because the matter has not been studied at all. Any problem that is not studied cannot be solved.
I am from a noble Igbo family that was chosen to become a royal family when the Igbos began to have kings in imitation of their neighbors; the Igala, and the Bini. The Ilona/Udoji family of Uruokwe, Egbema, Ozubulu in Anambra State produces the obi of Egbema in Ozubulu. The obi is the traditional ruler (king) of Egbema, Ozubulu. Accordingly in this my present sojourn or existence in life there is no chance that I would suffer what the Osu Igbos suffer. Yet for as long as I can remember I have been disturbed about this form of apartheid that the Igbos practice. To be candid; even though I was disturbed I never thought or imagined that I would rise up one day, and fight for the eradication of the blight. Perhaps I did not give the problem much thought because I accepted as accurate what the Igbo people ‘know’ about the Osu Igbos, and the Osu issue, even though I doubted the genuineness of such knowledge: That the Osu Igbos are people whose ancestors were sacrificed to idols, gods, and deities (agbara or arusi). And people whose ancestors ran to idols, gods, and deities (agbara or arusi) for protection. Like many Igbos I have wondered about, and doubted that the explanation is accurate. This is because if the Osus became Osus because their ancestors were associated with idols, gods, and deities, and today the Igbos generally do not worship those idols, gods, and deities anymore, why do Igbos still treat the Osus descendants as if the idols, gods, and deities are still relevant? More than seventy percent of the Igbos are Christians today. Since the colonial era all the political leaders that the Igbos have produced are Christians. Presently the 5+1 Igbo governors are Christians. Also the business leaders of the Igbos are Christians. With the foregoing we can say that all the people that make and influence policies in the Igbo society are Christians. With the statistics that I have reeled out, even Europe, the continent that Christianized the Igbos can’t boast of a stronger attachment to the religion than the Igbos. Yet it appears that the Igbos still respect the ‘idols’, ‘gods’ and ‘deities’, that they are thought to have worshipped in their pre-Christian milieu as if their very lives depended on respecting them. Otherwise why do openly fervent Igbo Christians who are not of Osu stock participants in the drama of shunning the Igbos of Osu stock, who together with them are Christians? One would expect old things to have passed away, now that the ‘idols’, ‘gods’, deities’, have been abandoned, and a great majority of Igbos worship Jesus.
I felt bad, and confused but suppressed my bitterness, and doubts, and continued to pursue my career in legal practice. At a stage in my life I developed an unusual interest in the Igbo people. I began to have an urge to know the Igbos. I began to study the Igbo culture. And Igbo studies led me to Jewish and biblical studies. And working intensively in the three fields I found the origins, and meaning of the Osu institution, and how misinformation and ignorance have created a problem that never existed before, and that is today an albatross on the neck of the Igbos.
Every adult Nigerian is familiar with the notion that the Igbos are Jews. The most cursory examination reveals that Igbo culture and Jewish culture are similar. Since 2002 I have been comparing the Igbo and Israelite cultures in a systematic and scholarly way. I am well positioned to begin this. I have help and motivation from very important Jewish organizations like the Kulanu Inc, Tikvat Israel, Derusha LLC, Forest Foundation, Brandeis University, etc. I am also connected to great Jewish scholars; anthropologists, historians, archeologists, linguists, language experts, ethnologists, and theologians who have interest in finding out if Omenana Igbo (Igbo culture) is truly like Jewish culture. With collaboration from the groups and individuals mentioned above, and with the biggest Jewish and Igbo private library south of the Mediterranean at my disposal, dissecting, analyzing and studying the Igbos was not as onerous to me as it should have been. A small portion of my findings have been published as “The Igbos: Jews In Africa Vol 1”, with contributions from Ehav Eliyahu-New York, U.S.A, Israel, “The Igbos: Jews In Africa-With Reflections on the Civil War and Solutions to the most critical Igbo problems”, “Introduction to the Chronicles of Igbo-Israel and with the connections between the Afro-Americans and the Jews”, with contributions from Anthony Edwards-San Francisco, U.S.A, ‘A Short Story from Igbo Israel”, “Igbo-Israel Union Handbook”. I contributed to “The Encyclopedia of Diaspora Jewry” edited by Professor Errhlich, “The Black Jews Of Africa”, by Edith Bruder. Also much of my thoughts are reflected in ‘Biography of Remy Ilona-The man who worked for Igbo-Israel” by Uche Onwumelu Umeokolo, and www.igboisrael.com, by American Friends of Igbo-Israel, and Derusha Publishing LLC.
Any proper study of the Igbos must engage the Osu matter, because of its centrality and importance to the Igbo people. Accordingly in my study of the Igbos I gave the Osu matter much attention. As I looked at the Osu I was led deeper and deeper into the Igbo religious culture which we believed that it gave us the Osu, and the problems associated with it, such as the discrimination which I mentioned earlier. As I probed I began to see and understand things that could only be understood if properly studied. I discovered that the Osu person was not what the Igbos think that he is today, but a different person who played a very important and holy role in Igbo life in ancient times. I also confirmed what an European scholar suspected: that the Osu institution must have become corrupt and perverted because of Igbo contact with Europeans during the European sponsored Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
To find out if the Osus were actually sacrificed to idols/deities/gods I investigated the Igbo religion. I did not find idols as objects of worship or veneration. Traditionally the Igbos do not prostrate or kneel in prayer. Also traditionally the Igbos do not kneel, prostrate or bow to any object that has physical form. The Igbo person is onye ogo Mmuo (worshipper of the Spirit). His God has no form. Also I did not find deities or gods. Interestingly the Igbos do not have a word or phrase that could be used for gods or deities, as they have a phrase-Chi- ukwu that is used for the Supreme Being (God). In English language ‘God’ stands for the Supreme Being alone, and ‘gods’ stand for ‘false’, ‘smaller’ and ‘other’ gods. This suggests strongly that the English people knew many, or at least more than one god. In other words that culturally that they are polytheistic. In Igbo language Chi-ukwu means ‘big God’, but the Igbos have no equivalent phrases like chi- nta or chi-obere (small gods) or chi-ozo (other gods) or chi ugha/asi (false god). So even at this stage we can rule out the falsity that any Igbo person was sacrificed to any idols, deities or gods. As I advanced further I found out that there was actually an Igbo religious practice that called for persons to be dedicated to the Supreme Being (Chi-ukwu). I saw an equivalent practice in ancient Israel. The Gibeonites were dedicated by Joshua, the successor of Moses. Samuel was dedicated by Hannah his mother. As I did not find idols/gods/deities worshipped by the Igbos in Omenana I ruled out the option that any person was dedicated to any phantom idol, god or deity among the Igbos, but to the Supreme Being. At this stage it was easy for me to confirm what I suspected; that it was only after the British defeated the Igbos, and the European missionaries that took charge of Igbo education and instruction taught the Igbos that the Igbos were idols, and ‘gods’ worshippers that the Igbos began to think that the Osu was dedicated to idols, deities, and gods.
Igbos also think that an Osu is someone who ran to an idol, a deity or a god for protection. Truly there was an ancient Igbo practice that guaranteed immunity to anyone who fled to Chi-ukwu for protection. As there were no idols or deities or gods among the Igbos it is simple to understand that it was the same process that led the Igbos to forget as in the former case that also made them to forget in the case in question. In ancient Israelite culture there was automatic immunity for an Israelite that ran to the God of Israel for protection.
Contemporary Igbos; cut-off from their culture, and history, would identify mmuo, arusi or agbara with idols, gods or deities. Mmuo means spirit. Arusi is an abbreviation of the following phrase: ‘ife nkea wu si aru’ (this is abominable). Ancient Igbos regarded idolatry and image worshipping as abominable. They opined that worshipping of idols was abominable. Abomination is aru in Igbo language. Anything that hints of idol or image worshipping was/is aru to the Igbos in pure Omenana.
Agbara is used to refer to illustrious personalities; living or departed. Igbos have much regard for their ancestors. In some Igbo localities these ancestors are known as ndi ichie. In some they are known as agbara. In some Igbo communities great Igbo women like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dora Akunyili, Chimamanda Adichie, Irene Malizu-Ilona, Ndi Onyiuke-Okereke, Onyeka Onwenu, Uche Onwumelu-Umeokolo, Nchedo Ilona-Onwuamegbu, my mother ‘Amaka Ilona, etc, are addressed as agbara nwanyi (strong women) I am going to great lengths to prove that in Igbo culture that there are no gods, because it would not be easy for many persons at this stage to agree that there were/are no Igbo gods, but only one: Chi-ukwu, and that the notion that there were more than the One was imported and imposed by non Igbos. With common-sense one would easily realize this; because if there were gods there would have been phrases similar to Chi-ukwu identifying them in the Igbo language.
So if we see that in Igbo culture that there is only one God-Chi-ukwu-the Supreme Being, we would easily see that the Igbo Osu was dedicated to serve that God, and that the Igbo that ran for protection to Chi-ukwu ran to the God that most Igbos believe that they are worshipping today.
And on why the Osu receives the ignoble treatment that he receives today? As in ancient Israel, the person, among the Igbos, who was dedicated to God was not to be killed, or molested. Also as in ancient Israel, among the Igbos a person that fled to God had automatic immunity from all pursuers. He could not be killed, or even molested. In fact among the Igbos it is an abomination to draw blood from an Osu; i.e, to wound him or her. With all the foregoing it is easy to see that it is the fear of violating the custom that has resulted in what we have today. A reconstruction of how the present apartheid-like situation evolved could present the following picture: ‘I shouldn’t hurt this priest-like personality. To avoid ever doing so let me give him/her a wide berth’. With time the reasons for giving the Osu a wide berth was forgotten, but the giving of a ‘wide berth’ remained, and took on the present form that is shameful.
One could ask why all these have not occurred to most Igbos. Igbos do not know all these because Igbo Studies is still very very undeveloped, and most Igbos have not yet realized that there is anything worth studying in their own history and culture. This is because the little that the Igbos have been taught about their history and culture, though filled with lies, inaccuracies, and forgeries, are not edifying, but are what the Igbos know to be Igbo history and culture.
For something that hints at support for my last statement I would like to continue this article with a quote from the ‘Ropes of Sands’ by A .E. Afigbo.
“Nevertheless, every now and again, one has a sense of an older culture lying behind what one sees, long forgotten by the people themselves, grown so faint that it is only in certain lights that one catches a glimpse of it, but the glimpse is of something so rich, so vital that the present sinks into insignificance beside it. I heard it twice in a woman’s song, saw it once in a woman’s dance, once in a ritual gesture of embrace, once in the shape and decoration of a water-pot, once in the mural decoration of a mbari house” (Mrs. Sylvia Leight-Ross on Igbo culture in African Women, 1939, p55).
I have my most substantive findings on the Osu in my forthcoming book: ‘From Ibri to Igbo: Forty Million More Jews In West Africa’, which will very likely be published in the U.S.A, by Derusha Publishing LLC this year.
The Igbos would seem to have collectively agreed to forget their problems; and concentrate on programmes and objectives that are not very important to the Igbos as a people. If the Igbos had not taken the suggested decision the Igbos would have been fighting tooth and nail to find redress for the Osu problem. This is because the problem has poisoned and divided the Igbo nation, and would not let the nation move up, or forward. I will be contributing pieces on how the problem, and other topical problems have been hindering the Igbos. I will also be suggesting solutions.
Questions and comments could be directed to me via my E.mails, and telephone.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Erudite Afro-American Anthony Edwards' response to Remy Essay 'Freedom,Democracy,and Family: The Society of Biblical Israel and the Igbo Experience'
The essay is good I think. My ancestral homestead (where my father was born is an obi). My love for the compound; the ancient altars, the ofo tree, the oji tree, the ancient walls, etc, was what inspired me. And when I began to write it began to flow. But it must be mentioned that the work became more beautiful as you saw it after the Kulanu leaders and Gladys Schwarz had helped me to review it. Also Gil Kobrin's (Derusha member) masterful editing of it contributed greatly to its profundity. When I read the piece I began to appreciate professional editing.
I have a local version of it, which is less free flowing; with many citations which I will send to you soon.
Tony your kindness is unparalleled. Your words really spur me on. And so do your great discoveries and acuity in the fields of African and Hebrew studies. I consider myself blessed to be opportuned to work with you.
I also doubly agree with you that knowledge is what we need to be free and to excel. I consider myself a beginner in Judaic Studies, but because I am looking at the subject from the Igbo angle which is very old and deep I have been able to see that Jewish Studies, resources, and their application can help humanity a great deal.
I will share your correspondence with some dear Hebrew friends who are not only keenly interested in the subject, but are also very knowledgeable about it.
On Mon, Mar 9, 2009 at 3:06 PM, Anthony Edwards <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Remy I have just read your essay: Freedom,Democracy,and Family: The Society of Biblical Israel and the Igbo Experience.I am absolutely amazed beyond words, at the profound magnification of this most important subject, i'm almost speechless!You definately write with the clarity, and spirit of the Hebrew sages Of Old, there could not possibly be a single doubt left in the mind of anyone who understands the ability of the Hebrew to excel in ways that others marvel at when it comes to thinking processes, and ingenuity, and who read your work, that you are a man of Israel, a man of all the feelings, emotions and deep mental intuitiveness that comprises all the great Hebrews of ancient and modern time.I know this is quite an honor to bestow upon you Remy, and one not readily given unless due credit is in order, but I must say you have definately earned, and deserve this honor my brother.You are going to be an extremely important person, as you are already becoming, to liberate the African at home and abroad in a most revolutionary way, through knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, and as they say where the mind goes the body follows, so its the minds of people that is the gateway to true liberation, and what better tool of liberation to do such work than truth itself from the living document, the Scriptures.I have also done some thinking on the name CHUKWU, and how some Hebrew Israelite pronounce YAHWEH hard with a very strong Shemitic accent, and how Chukwu can easily been seen as sounding similar to the hard pronunciation of Yahweh.Thanks again for the great research my brother, and believe me, I am sharing it with many persons here.Shalom Aleichem, Tony
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Da'alu maka aziza gi (thanks for your response)!
About Igbos and Igbo culture: Its time for those that are knowledgeable, and that care for the Igbos to come together, and educate Igbo leadership about the urgent need to start teaching Igbos Omenana Igbo in primary, secondary, and tertiary schools.If this step is not taken NOW, there won't be anything to salvage in the very near future. The colonialists/missionaries succeeded too well. They taught Igbo children that eventually grew into adults that Igbo culture is pagan, and because the Igbos are Israelites who have an instinctive fear of paganism, the Igbos grew to fear, and hate their culture. And consequently grew to fear and hate themselves.
About the Igbos and the Jews: The 'educated' Igbos are not pulling their weight in finding out who we are. Available evidence points seriously to an Israelite ancestry, but because some of us are 'educated' we became too proud to accept that the 'great' Igbo people came from the Jews. Really this is tragic, because as we Igbos ourselves have in an important saying: 'onye a ma ho ebe mmiri bido r' mawa ya adaho ama ebe o madeber' ya (he who lacks knowledge of where he's coming from will not know where to go). (forgive my Ozubulu dialect). A rough account of the Igbos' oddyssey proves the truth of this saying. We have generally degenerated, while the competing Yorubas have hurtled forward almost into a developed status. In the '80s they had 6 universities, and we had 5. Today they have over 50, and we have 9. The Hausa/Fulanis are also strategizing. I have carefully studied and analyzed why the Igbos have as a people failed. We have failed because the 'education' that the colonialists/missionaries gave us programmed us to refuse to find out who we are, and to behave as He who created us asked us to behave.
I have written several books about the Igbos ancestry. I urge Igbos to study, study, and study.
About Igbo music: A Jewish film-maker's comment about Igbo music opened up my eyes about the great opportunities that lie before we Igbos only if we can pause and listen. He studies what some persons call native music. He heard Igbo music, and wrote that this 'music' can heal sicknesses. I began to study Igbo music seriously, and discovered that its part of our medicine.
Thank you for providing an answer to the question that set out the article on Introduction to Igbo Medicine. Since publishing this article in the website and Journals, I have been overwhelmed by the continous response readers give it. I count on it as an eye-opening contribution as some readers described it as well as a new direction to re-examine Igbo culture and its resources in a changing world. Students, I have been told, are using the effort to rethink Igbo culture and healthcare pragmatics in Nigeria.
I really appreciate your goodwill, and also for giving me the clue to google you and therefore read some of your work on Igbo and the Jews, history and settlement.
All the best,
- Hide quoted text -
remy ilona <email@example.com> wrote:
Nobody Wants to Write in this Area; Why?
ANSWER: Everybody avoids this area even though it holds solutions to most igbo problems, because the forces arraigned against the IGBOS; FROM THE INSTITUTIONS PLANTED BY THE COLONIALISTS TO THE ONES THE IGBOS NAIVELY BORROWED FROM OUTSIDE, HAVE BRAINWASHED THE IGBOS TO SEE NOTHING GOOD IN THEIR CULTURE AND THEMSELVES ANYMORE.
THE CONSEQUENCE-A PEOPLE HELD IN DISDAIN IN NIGERIA TODAY.
REMY ILONA-A LITTLE ABOUT ME CAN BE FOUND THROGH GOOGLE SEARCH.
THANKS FOR CARING FOR THE IGBOS.
Monday, January 26, 2009
INTRODUCTION TO THE CHRONICLES OF IGBO-ISRAEL
The connections between the Afro-Americans and the Jews
Written by Remy Chukwukaodinaka Ilona
With contributions from
[They worked very hard and played very hard. Their music, even in latter years could ‘wake’ the dead because of the intensity and the sweetness. In G.T. Basden’s words; ‘Whether the Ibo trace their ancestry back to Jubal-Cain it is not my purpose to discuss, but they certainly have inherited a fair share of the art originated by the “Father of Music”…..The more one listens to native music, the more one is conscious of its vital power. It touches the chords of man’s inmost being, and stirs his primal instincts. It demands the performers whole attention and so sways the individual as almost to divide asunder, for the time being, mind and body. It is intensely passionate, and no great effort of the imagination is required to realize that such music could only have originated from the son of Cain! Under its influence, and that of the accompanying dance, one has seen men and women pass into a completely dazed condition, oblivious and apparently unconscious of the world around them………it lifts men and women out of themselves’15
I felt the power of in Show Promoter’s songs, and in Ozoemena Nsugbe’s Olaliputu].
Pic by Daniel Lis-the author in the agbo akpu forest in his clan-Ozubulu. The tree groves like this one contained the sites where the ancestors of the Igbos worshipped God. In the forests the Igbos recreated places like the grove which contained the oak of Mamre, where Abraham worshipped the Lord. Only very few of such places have survived in Igboland, because contemporary Igbos, taught to be ignorant and afraid of their past, have also been convinced that the groves are idolatrous, and have cleared many. The groves are very beautiful, and have the potentials to become tourist attractions if they are developed. The Igbo Israel Union is preparing a proposal for the development of the agbo akpu grove
The Igbo-Israel Union has started to draw Igbos back to Omenana (Igbo culture). It began this by starting to educate Igbos that Omenana is excellent, that it is the only thing that can unite Igbos, and that European culture which Igbos think they can replace Omenana with has brought only disunity, immorality, and poverty.
Support the Igbo-Israel Union. This organization will reposition Igbos for normalcy.
On another note; if anybody wants to participate in a program to comprehensively compare Igbo and Ibrit (the Hebrew language); they can. Two Jewish scholars, and I have began to work on the project.
http://www.sunnewso nline.com/ webpages/ politics/ 2009/jan/ 26/politics- 26-01-2009- 001.htm
Only unity will give us strength – Afam Obi, deputy Speaker, Anambra House of AssemblyFrom MATHIAS NWOGU, UmuahiaMonday, January 26, 2009
Anambra State Governor, Peter ObiPhoto: Sun News Publishing
More Stories on this Section
The Sun recently organized the South-East Economic Summit in Owerri. Deputy Speaker of the Anambra House of Assembly in this interview speaks on the theme of the summit and proffer suggestions on the revamping of the region’s economy. ExcerptsSynergy between legislature and ExecutiveI sat down for the whole two days of the summit because the Executive will not do it alone without the legislature. For the governors to go along with the same projects they will need specific legislations and these legislations would not work Unless they are uniform.I envisage the synergy between the Executive and Legislature. That is why I stayed all through the preliminaries to the implementation stages.If we want to promote Igbo language as a means of institutionalizing our culture for example, and there is a decision that for one to be employed in the civil service of the state he must posses a pass in Igbo language, it would not make sense if it is not implemented in all the five states. We therefore need uniformity of legislation to achieve things like these.If the governor prioritizes on economic emancipation, industrial growth, infrastructure development, industrial park, it would not work if different Governors have their individual priorities. If any state wants to prioritize in harmony with others, it requires the approval; of the Legislature. So what we need at all times, is that the House of Assembly need to come together so that the emphasis of Imo would be the same with Abia at least in one particular area. That is what we mean by going to the future through the past.The Eastern Region was able to achieve many things things, develop genuine industry and build hotels, but when state creation came, though it brought government closer to the people, it weakened the capabilities of the government to engage in some certain types of development projects.Regional integrationIt is a kind of move to the past so that we can rescue the future. ODUA Investment is the driving force in the Economic well being of Western Nigeria. AREWA is also the driving force for the North. What we are putting together now is what he would have done in the past, but the next best time is now.CooperationCooperation is not only needed on roads or energy. Erosion is a regional issue and the soil texture of the South East is almost the same ,so instead of each state checking its own erosion sites, the states could together carry out a survey of the menace jointly and use the same data to check it. Criss-crossing the states are many roads. It does not make sense if one state builds its roads to the boundary with another state, and the road does not continue the other state.So the emphasis should be on uniformity. If Anambra plans to build Ihiala-Orlu road, people will not be ready to do it unless they agree that one governor would do the bills of quantities and another governor would agree to reimburse him. Those are the type of cooperation we are looking for.Need for legislators to be meetingAbsolutely, if the Legislators cannot come together, absolutely the governors cannot come together. This is because the legislatures make the laws if they do not have the requisite laws. If we don’t come together, Governors cannot work together because they make the policy and we make the laws. As the Governors are coming together we should be coming together. TOO. If they do not do so, they will find that when they finish coming together, they will have to wait for us. That is why I am pushing that we should also come together so that we can move along together.State creationThis is one reason why the Igbos must come together. We will achieve the creation of one state easier if all the South East Governors agree on one extra state, then work on THAT one THE entire South East together can agree on the creation. We will achieve it better than when Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu are all calling for one state from their own state. So when we go to the Federal level we begin to fight ourselves, while others sit back and watch us. If all the states in the zone agree that the state be created from a particular area, it well be a lot easier to achieve that state creation.Every organ in Igboland needs to come together including the Ohanaeze. It should be all embracing and that is the message everyone who attended the summit should go home with. We must all make the move, the Judiciary, the Executive and Legislature. Nobody should be left out. It must be a holistic thing, or anybody left out will constitute a weak link.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
UNIZIK JEWISH INSTITUTE DREAM GETS SUPPORT
Few months after the Nnamdi Azikiwe University declared its plan to establish an Institute for Jewish studies, a group of researchers and academics has indicated interest to support the dream.
Welcoming a member of the group Mr. Remy Ilona in his office, the Ag. Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Boniface Egboka thanked the group for choosing to support one of UNIZIK's laudable dreams.
The Ag. Vice-Chancellor said that Nnamdi Azikiwe University is eager to have a Jewish study unit in the University which he believes will lead to open doors for the University.
According to him, Igbos have a lot of similarities with the Jews which has led to assertions that the establishment of the Institute will help clarify.
Prof. Egboka said that the University through the Faculty of Arts will study urgently the groups' proposal with a view to moving into action immediately.
Barrister Ilona said the establishment of Jewish Institute in the University will help South Easterners go deeper into the knowledge of Igbo language which has a lot of similarities and ties with the language of the Jews.
The writer and researcher pledged as Igbo man to help ensure that the Institute be established in the University as soon as possible.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Many Igbos are beginning to realize that the Igbo people will only be happy and fulfilled when they do teshuvah, return, and begin to practice Igbo-Jewish culture, which in asusu Igbo (Igbo language) is called Omenana.
We already have a large body of literature about how the Dispersion, the Exile, and the relocation of the Igbo-Jews to the forests (ime ofia) of West Africa isolated the Igbos from other umu Yisrael (children of Israel). And how the Slave Trade and colonialism devastated the Igbo society, and paved the way for the colonialists to demonize Omenana, and attempt to replace it with the colonialists’ culture which is at best very strange to the Igbo-Jews and thus unworkable. We also have information about how some Igbo-Jews thought erroneously that Omenana could be discarded, the colonialist’s culture adopted, and the Igbo-Jews still thrive. Evidence exists that many Igbo-Jews entertained such thoughts, and even took steps to jettison Omenana. However the effort only resulted in disappointment, misery and unhappiness, because the Holy One of Yisrael, the God of Abraham, known by the Igbo-Jews as Chukwu Abiama made it clear in Deuteronomy 28, that happiness and well-being for Israel lies in practicing the culture embedded in the Tora(Omenana), and unhappiness and ruin, in jettisoning the Tora.
It is the realization of many Igbo-Jews that the Igbo society can only be happy if and when it practices Tora/Omenana that we want to talk about here.
Since some decades this realization that the colonialists’ stories and models couldn’t be absolute truths nor good for Igbo-Jews has been with many Igbo-Jews. And many have taken steps to return to Tora/Omenana. We can’t pretend at this stage that we have a complete record of all the Igbo-Jews who have taken steps to do teshuvah, and how they have tried to achieve the return. Accordingly we’ll discuss only the most high profile cases here.
The Igbo Sabbatharians
Some three to five decades ago, some Igbos who had pass through the indoctrination of the colonialists just like other Igbos somehow realized that the Laws, regulations, etc of God-set out minutely in what they know as the ‘Old Testament’ couldn’t be a shadow of things to come. That for a people (the colonialists) who brought laws when they came to Igboland to teach that the era of the Laws (of God for that matter) has passed is grand fraud. To head back to Law, and its observance they began the Sabbatharian movement. This movement believed that the Laws of God are alive, and that their observance will give the Igbos order in their society. Definitely what they began was a return to Tora/Omenana. After all what is Omenana? Omenana if translated to English is: doing (keeping) on the ‘Land’ the commandments that God gave Israel. Our work on the Sabbatharians could be found at …………………….and to purchase the hard copy of the monograph in Nigeria contact: 08065300351, 08022237028.
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com , firstname.lastname@example.org
This is another interesting movement. This relatively new religion which we can say that it is an Igbo initiative was ‘founded by His Highness and Chief priest, Chief Kalu Onu Kalu Onyioha.’
Because Godianism as it is called has produced only few literatures we have managed to do only a little study about it. However we can say that what motivated the founder to start it is a desire to go back to Omenana. According to Nze Ifeanyichukwu Obimdike-Chukwuka, a Godianist, “Godianism is the direct worship of the supreme God according to the good traditional and cultural beliefs and practices of every race.”
This definition instructs us that the Godianists would worship God with Omenana which the good traditional and cultural beliefs and practices of ‘the Igbo-Jewish people’. The Godianists’s beliefs are in many respects in accord with the beliefs of the Igbos. Examples of such beliefs are-Belief that there is only one self-existing supreme God, who must be worshipped. Belief in reincarnation and in retributive justice. I would not be able to go deeply into the Godian position on this belief which they adhere to, but the Igbos believe that “ife onye metar’ oburu na isi ya” (what you sow you reap). Godianism also canvasses respect for ones ancestors.
Another thing that we think that it is an impetus that might have contributed to the birth of Godianism is the desire to save and preserve what is left of Igbo-Jewish artefacts.
We count the Godianists among the Igbo-Jews who are keen to salvage the Igbos because of their positive interest in Igbo ideas and history.
1. Christopher Ejizu, In: T. I. Okere, ed., Religion in a World of Change: African Ancestral Religion, Islam and Christianity (Owerri: Assumpta Press, 2003) 194.
2. Godianism in Practice, July 2002, Lagos, p.3.
Igbo rabbinic Jews
Rather than refer to Godianism as a revived form of Omenana as some Godianists would like to think I will refer to Rabbinic Judaism as the modern model of Omenana.
Judaism is the culture of the people of Israel. God began to give it to Israel when He called Ibri (Hebrew) Patriarch Abraham, and gave him monotheism. Abraham handed over what God gave him to Isaac, and Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob, the 12 sons, who in turn handed them to the multitudes of Israel. And at Mount Sinai God gave Moses the full complement of the Israelite culture. Christian writer, Mcdowell Stewart, in essence agreed with us. He observed thus; ‘Judaism had its origin when a man named Abram received a divine call from the one true God…
Today what God gave Abraham is called Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism. Judaism is derived from Judah, the name of Israel’s 4th son, the son who survived the vagaries of Dispersion, Exile, persecutions, etc, better than his brethren, as that Patriarch, and ‘prophet’ Israel, their father prophesied as he was about to rejoin his ancestors.
Millions of Igbo-Jews found themselves outside this culture, due to the Dispersion, Exile, isolation caused by the forests of West Africa, the destruction of the Igbo-Jewish society by the Slave trade and colonialism.
Today Igbos are returning to Judaism. For obvious reasons I say ‘returning’ to Judaism, and not ‘becoming’ Jews. Many synagogues have been set up, and more are going up by the day. In the synagogues the Igbos study Israelite culture and practice the ones that must be practiced communally. For what Igbo-Jews, and Jews generally believe in browse in www.derushapublishing.com
The Igbo Jews and Christians Organization
This organization was spawned after a serious discussion of the deteriorating condition of the Igbo-Jews by Remy Ilona, the executive director of the Igbo Israel Union, and Nestor Nzeribe, an avid Igbo-Jewish scholar, and Christian minister. Nzeribe requested to meet Remy after reading Remy’s latest edition of The Igbos: Jews In Africa. Apparently Nzeribe who has been disturbed for a long time about the plight of the Igbo-Jews saw too many verities in the book. And from Remy’s analysis, too many things that could be used to heal the Igbos too. At the meeting both men agreed that as the book recommended that as a matter of urgency that the mass of the Igbos must be re-educated that they are Igbos; children of Israel. That restoring Igbo pride in the identity which is being forgotten, and shed off, will prepare the people for enlightenment about their duties, responsibilities, and rights as Children of Israel.
Igbo-Jews, Jews and others who contribute through scholarly efforts and opinions
Almost every honest Igbo-Jew acknowledges that the Igbos lost so much, because much was not written down, nor preserved on easily transmittable materials. Many have began to try to recover lost ground. Set out hereunder are some Igbo-Jewish efforts:
In his book, Nri: The Cradle of Igbo Culture and Civilization, a notable clan head in Igboland, Chief Chukwuemeka Onyesoh also suggested that the Igbos from Nri clan are descendants of Eri son of Gad, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham.
Another Igbo gentleman, P. J. O. Nwadinigwe, in his books, Umu Nshi Royal Stool and The Origin Of The Igbos, also maintained that his own findings are that the Igbos are Jews.
Similarly, prolific Igbo author and academic, O. Alaezi, while writing on the subject states much the same in his book, Ibos: Hebrew Exiles From Israel -Amazing Facts And Revelations. He cited on page 30 of the book other Igbo writers who have suggestions in their writings that the traditions of the Igbos and of the Israelites are similar. The list includes Arinze; Catholic cardinal, who vied with the present pope, Benedict, for the headship of the Roman Catholic church, and Ilogu, Njaka, Oraka, Ezeala and Ononoju.
Another Igbo academic and former government minister, Miriam Ikejiani Clark, who even by Halakhah (Jewish Law) is Jewish, because she has a Canadian (rabbinic) Jewish mother, and an Igbo father said the following: ‘You know I’m from Nri (an Igbo clan) and there are similarities between the customs that we have and the Jewish customs’ (Daily Sun, Monday, July 18, 2005, p.15).
And still another Igbo man, the clan leader of Igbo Ukwu, one of the more traditionally minded Igbo clans, HRH Martin N. Eze, told the world through the Daily Sun newspaper of Friday, May 27,2005, on page 29, that ‘….Igbo Ukwu, as has rightly been said, came from Israel.’
And an Igbo, Evangelist Iheanacho, who heads an ‘Evangelical Outreach’ in Obi Ngwa, Abia state, speaking to the Saturday Sun of October 29, 2005, on page 3, described ‘the people of the Old Eastern Region (predominantly the Igbo people) as part of the Lost ten tribes of Israel, that got lost around 722 B.C.E.’
A very popular musician, and an Igbo man, called Ozoemena Nsugbe took it upon himself to ask questions about the origins of the Igbos. He conducted a tour of Aguleri, Igbo Ukwu, Arochukwu, and Ibuzo clans, and talked to people that would know. His findings continued to point to Israel. He released his findings in the form of a song. These findings and his obvious conviction on them further inspired his second album which he authoritatively entitled Give Power to Nigerian Jews.
Another Igbo man, a Christian pastor called Pastor Okwey undertook a similar mission, and using names that are similar in sounds and spellings, historical narratives and ‘visions’, he arrived at the conclusion that the Igbos are descendants of ancient Israelites.
Another Igbo pastor; Charles Ujah, wrote and published a booklet; entitled The Origin of the Ibos, from Linguistic and Cultural angle. In the monograph he concluded that the Igbos are Jewish.
Still another one; Chidi Nwaehie MacJossy, an Igbo, had also in a largely polemical piece entitled; God’s Covenant with the Igbo race-A Memoriam of the Revelation, which was endorsed by the National Council of Igbo Christian Ministers, regularly pointed out that the Igbos are Jews.
Also Chukwuma Okoye; an Igbo writer, had in his book entitled Tale of a Jewish State in Africa concluded that the Igbos are Jews.
And Matthew O. Orji had in his The History & Culture of The Igbo People which I consider a very good book made allusions that Igbo and Hebrew cultures are similar.
In the same vein, F.C. Ogbalu who started the documentation of Igbo culture in writing in Igbo language did suggest in his Omenala Igbo that Igbo and Hebrew cultures are similar.
In the Daily Sun newspaper of Wednesday, June 1, 2005, on page 15, we find an Igbo ‘Sabbath’ leader, Cohen Amakeze Aaron, the leader of the ‘Community of Y-hweh Worldwide’ declaring: ‘Saturday is the Scriptural day for the Jews….’ His group has a magen David. But he did not clarify his opinion on the Igbos ‘Israelite origins.’ His opinion is presented here because many members of the religious organization that he leads regard themselves as Jews, and because he is an Igbo leader. Like Jews his religious group believes that the Scriptural Laws in the Hebrew Bible must be obeyed. My work on the Sabbatharian movement among the Igbos is progressing.
The situation gets more interesting when non Igbos also start to opinionate and affirm that Igbos are Jews.
Scholarly efforts and comments by non Igbos
One writer, Evangelist Daniel Dele Ekpah, an Igala by tribe, (Igalas are a different ethnic group from the Igbos but they live to the north of Igboland as neighbors) also wrote a booklet which he entitled Igbo-Israel Relationship: the Great Discovery—Biblical Reasons for Their Success Above Their Fellow Men. Evangelist Ekpah also cited Olaudah Equiano's book and went on to say with some conviction, based on his interpretation of the Bible, that the Igbos could be nothing other than Jews. He raised an interesting argument which is very rife in some scholarly circles, namely: that the Igbos and the Jews share spiritual, sociological, territorial and other similarities. This section will not adequately serve me for narrating these similarities in details. I will mention some of them in the more appropriate portions of this monograph.
Another non Igbo of note, Father Hassan Matthew Kukah, the former Secretary of the Catholic (Church) Secretariat of Nigeria and a Kataf from Northern Nigeria also made an instructive commentary on this subject. While delivering a lecture on the state of affairs in Nigeria, he noted: “The Hausas, Tivs, Ikwerres, and so on, would have had nothing to do with this project called Nigeria. The Hausas, Fulanis and others who live within the geopolitical boundaries co-terminus with the Sokoto caliphate say that had the British not forcefully broken down their barricades, they would have been living peacefully in a secular Aljanah. Those in the Middle Belt say that had the British not helped the Caliphate to subordinate them, they would have been living peacefully in a collective cultural Nirvana of sorts. The Igbos say that in the East, they were more than content to live on their own and indeed, had Nigeria with the help of Britain and other countries not conspired to deny them the state of Biafra, they would have been living in an African state of Israel.”
The above commentary by Reverend Father Kukah was published in the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper of Friday, September 6, 2002.
Daniel Dele Ekpah was apparently not satisfied with his assertion in his book referenced above. This Igala-man went on to write a story in a newsletter; Jesus News, still insisting that the Igbos are Israelites.
A popular musician from Benin (traditionally identified as the Bini or Edo people), Joseph Osayomore, was quite intrigued about the characteristics of the Igbos. In his recorded album; entitled Igbo no be beggars, which in formal English means that “Igbos work, that they do not beg”, he sang that Igbos are the Israelites of Nigeria. He made a strong case for Nigeria to appreciate and reward Igbo dexterity, hard work, and contributions to Nigeria. In addition he said that Igbos achieve great feats with no visible government assistance. The Binis are an ethnic group that is different from the Igbos; that live to the west of the Igbos.
Some non Igbo Nigerians have however taken it as a foregone conclusion that the Igbos are Jews, and have asserted it with no logical build up to their conclusions, and when there were little or no reasons to do so, or when the subject wasn't the issue in discussion. Consider the following comment from Mike Awoyinfa, a prominent journalist from the Yoruba ethnic group in the Sun newspaper of September 25, 2004. Mr. Awoyinfa was writing about Igbo traders during a political demonstration in Nigeria. He said about the traders; “These are the “Black Jews” of Africa. These are the children of the “New Jerusalem.”
The respected Newsweek, in its April 16, 2001 edition, on page 48 noted that if Igbo Catholic Cardinal Francis Arinze became the pope, that he would not only be the first black pope, but the first Hebrew pope as well, because the ‘Ibos claim to be descended from the Biblical patriarch Jacob.’
And from the Jewish community we had Israel’s ambassador to Nigeria, at the time I began to write this monograph, Noam Katz, commenting in the Nigerian Sun newspaper of March 28, 2004, that basing on remarkable similarities between Igbo and Israelite traditions, ‘that he was sure that the Igbos are descendants of Jews’.
Two months before Katz’ comment, Orji Kalu, the influential former governor of the Igbo state, Abia, had expressed a similar opinion in the same newspaper.
And from the Jewish community we have Rabbi Capers Funnye, American rabbi writing in the book; In Every Tongue, the Racial & Ethnic Diversity of the Jewish People by Diane and Gary Tobin, and Scott Rubin, with foreword written by American scholar Lewis Gordon, that ‘the connections (Jewish) with Africa is that many of the African peoples who were transported through the Middle passage to the Western Hemisphere were of Hebraic stock, groups like…….the Ibos of West Africa’.
The Igbos were also mentioned in The Colors of Jews, Racial Politics and Radical Diasporism, by Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz as possibly a part of the Jewish Diaspora.
And in The Black Jews of Africa by Edith Bruder, the Igbos Jewish story as related by Igbo scholars, priests and elders was told.
Also in Marc Perelman’s story of Thursday October 2, 2008, entitled ‘The Ibos of Nigeria: Members of the Tribe?, Part of a Trend in Sub-Saharan Africa To Claim Jewish Ancestry’, and published by the Forward Newspaper so many Igbos were interviewed, and they all asserted without hesitation that the Igbos came from Israel.
Remy Ilona’s contributions
And Remy has written and published; A short story from Igbo Israel, ‘The Igbos: Jews In Africa Vol 1 which African-American and Israeli Jew Ehav Eliyahu contributed to, The Igbos: Jews In Africa, With Reflections on the Civil War and Solutions to the most critical Igbo problems; the soon to be published: ‘The Igbos and Israel-40 million more Jews’, the following essays, A Brief Study of the Foundations of Ancient Israel: From the Igbo Experience, which is to be published in America as………………., and by Derusha Publishing LLC, and the present work, Introduction to the Chronicles of Igbo Israel, which African-American Hebrew scholar Anthony Edwards contributed to.
And in the newly published Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora Remy’s contribution on the Jews of Nigeria was mentioned.
And we have also done a video documentary of Igbo elders/priests performing Igbo rituals, and discussing Igbo history and culture. This video can be accessed from www.derushapublishing.com
And from the Igbo academic community
Hereafter is a report about the feelings and position of Professor Ifeanacho Orajiaka; the Vice Chancellor of Anambra State University, Uli. According to the report in the Guardian of Wednesday, December 10, 2008, which was anchored by Uzoma Nzeagwu in Awka, ‘Prof. Ifeanacho Orajiaka on Monday called on his counterparts in all the South-East state universities to revive Igbo culture, especially Igbo Language believed to be less spoken.
Orajiaka, who is worried over the way Igbo culture was being relegated to the background for foreign culture, urged Vice Chancellors of state universities in the geo-political zone to explore avenues of adopting an aggressive method in the teaching of Igbo Language in various institutions.
He disclosed that a Department of Igbo Language and Culture has been established in Anambra State University, hoping that within a short time, it would transform into an Institute of Igbo Language and Culture.
Orajiaka, who spoke to reporters at the university's main auditorium noted: "let us start from somewhere to tackle this problem. Let our people know that it is inferiority complex on their part when their children cannot speak Igbo Language, it is our identity," warning that if you deny your language, you have lost your identity’.
And a little before the very important stance of Professor Orajiaka, the Vice Chancellor of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Professor Bonnie Egboka, and the management team of the university had announced that they would be establishing a Jewish Studies Institute in the university. The relationship between the Igbo people and the Jews was one of the motivating reasons advanced for the venture.
Coupled with the growing Igbo interest in Igbo culture and traditions is growing Jewish interest to know more about the Igbos. Several Jewish scholars have started intensive work on Igbo history and culture. To mention just a few: Edith Bruder of the University of London; the author of The Black Jews of Africa, Daniel Lis of the University of Basel, African-American Hebrew Anthony Edwards, Ehav Eliyahu; Jewish scholar; Gil Kobrin, and Elana Allen; Jewish scholars, and directors of Derusha Publishing LLC, U.S.A, have been co-operating with Remy to deepen Igbo-Jewish Studies.
And the Jewish group Kulanu Inc’ considered the Igbo-Jewish project important enough to support research into the Igbos Jewish ancestry.
The Igbo-Israel Union
The Igbo-Israel Union which has Remy Ilona, Caliben Ike Okonkwo, Gil Kobrin, and Elana Allen as its arrowheads has the task to discover more, harness, polish, and make sure that anything and everything that is worthy that all the above-mentioned groups and individuals discover or introduce is put in the right perspective. And those worthy of implementation, implemented
Each person is entitled to find their own reasons for this phenomenon of Igbos choosing to return to what they were, i.e, to resume being Jewish, and to begin to observe the commandments of God again. But as for me I think that what is happening is a fulfillment of prophesy about the return of those that have been dubbed ‘The Lost Tribes of Israel’. The great prophets of Israel made it abundantly clear that the Dispersed and the Lost of Israel will return. Their statements left no room for ambiguity.
what God gave Abraham is called Judaism.
Millions of Igbo-Jews found themselves outside this culture, due to the Dispersion, Exile, isolation caused by the forests of West Africa, the destruction of the Igbo-Jewish society by the
A Judaeo-Christian development in Igbo-Israel.
Written by Remy Chukwukaodinaka Ilona
Links from www.derushapublishing.com
The Sabbatharians are the Igbo converts to Christianity who resigned from Christianity in the early twentieth century, and formed a new religion that is known among the Igbos as “Sabbath.”
The Sabbatharians are not easy to categorize. The Sabbatharians could be taken for Jews. They could also be seen as Christians. The Sabbath groups observe Saturday, the day that the Lord commanded the Israelites to rest (as is found in the Bible) as a holy day. The groups observe all the biblical feasts and holydays that the Lord ordered the Israelites to observe. For examples; they commemorate Passover, Sukkot, Atonement, etc, on the days that the worldwide Jewish community, with its headquarters in Eretz Yisrael does. They rigidly abhor all the foods that the Lord commanded the Israelites not to eat (as seen in the Bible). The Sabbatharians believed that keeping the Commandments was a true way to please God. In their early years they maintained and stressed that God was distinct and separate from anybody else. Their belief about God could be said to be unitarian in their early years. In that period the doctrine of the Trinity had not become popular and widely known among the Igbos, because Christianity was still new then. ‘Jah Jehovah’ was their preferred designation for the Supreme Being. I cannot recall that they had a position for anybody else in their worship in those their early years. On the Sabbath day which they called ubosi ezumike (day of rest), and other feast days they dress in white flowing robes, and when they get close to the precincts of their missions, as they address their places of worship they remove their foot wears, as they believe that their places of worship are holy ground. An essential aspect of their worship is ibu amuma (prophesying). They have guilds of prophets known as ndi ozi (the message carriers).
For Bibles they used the Tanakh; known by Christians as the Old Testament and by the People of Israel who received it from God as the Hebrew Bible. As the Bible which they use contains the Christian Bible; the New Testament, we can say they also use it. However one thing was discernible. They generally concentrated on the ‘Old Testament’.
Interestingly their main areas of interest in those years were the first five books of the Bible (Torah), and then the Psalms, and the Prophets. As far as I can remember the Sabbatharians were not particularly curious about the New Testament.
There is no evidence that they ever heard about the Talmud. Also they knew next to nothing about other important Jewish texts. Besides what they gleaned from the Bible about Israel; they knew next to nothing about Jewish history; and the modern Jewish religion.
However the Sabbatharians have a place for Jesus in their belief. But they do not equate him to the Almighty God; the Supreme Being. They see and respect him as a messiah.
And in organizational structure the Sabbath is Christian however. A Sabbath is headed by a person; the founder, who is known as onye isi nchu aja. This term could mean high priest. He is assisted by other persons who are known as ndi ozi. As I had observed ndi ozi could be ‘messengers. But the Sabbatharians see them as prophets. In recent years as the English language continues to gain precedence over Igbo language among the Igbos, and Pentecostal culture continues to permeate the Igbo society, the Sabbatharians have started to call the ndi ozi pastors.
A Sabbath could have branches everywhere as Christian churches. But it is remarkable that unlike Christian churches that they do not proselytize. I will try to explain what I think that inhibits them from proselytizing.
The development of ‘Sabbath’ as this movement is called is in my opinion inspired by some Igbos desire to practice Judaism; the religious culture of Israel. Unfortunately most of the founders of the Sabbaths did not write their personal histories so we do not have first hand information about what they thought about the Igbos descent from Israel. But we can say with certainty that they as most Igbos were aware of the knowledge that the Igbos came from Israel. Thus we can say that they developed the desire to practice Judaism because of this knowledge. But something is puzzling here. From what we know about the founders of the movement they did not know much, if anything about Israel’s religion. Most; especially the earliest founders did not have much Western education. So we can rule out the possibility that they read about Judaism. Even today, in the 21st century most Igbos, including the highly educated ones do not know much about the Jews and Judaism. So we can say quite safely that the Sabbatharian founders did not try to establish Judaic movements because they studied Judaism. Then what happened? Most said that they had visions of God calling on them to establish ‘Sabbath’. I will set out what I think that it happened. The Igbos like almost every other African people were enslaved and colonized by Europeans. The Europeans foisted foreign cultures on the colonized peoples. Initially members of the colonized entities thought that the colonization was beneficial. But with time some of their elites began to realize that colonization could not be beneficial in any way. That its short term gains are more than off-set by its long term disadvantages. The elites of colonized peoples thus always seized the first opportunity they have to throw off the yoke of foreign rule. We saw Herbert Macauley, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, etc, struggling against foreign rule. Unfortunately historians concentrate only on those that used political methods to achieve certain objectives. Well, we must not allow ourselves to digress. After years of striving and failing to stifle the various anti-colonial movements the colonial powers packed and left. But they did not go with the institutions, and the ideas that they planted in Africa. Principal among such institutions is Christianity. We will now talk very briefly about how some of the various peoples of Nigeria reacted to Christianity. After a few years in the Western versions of Christianity the various peoples of Nigeria began to try to head back to their own religions. Naturally they tried to rediscover their religions through Christianity. Naturally they had to match through Christianity because it was what they had grown up in. The Yorubas came up with the Aladura churches: The Celestial Church of Christ, the Cherubim and Seraphim, Jesu Oyingbo, etc. And Pentecostal variant, which they effectively Yorubanized. A good look at the ‘White garment’ churches as the former are known in Nigeria, Nigerian Pentecostal Christianity, and Yoruba religious culture will show that the Yorubas succeeded very well in indigenizing Christianity. The Igbo effort to do the same threw up the ‘Sabbath’. As the Igbos are Israelite ethnically what they would head back to must have distinctive Jewish features. In my estimation that’s why the Igbos ‘created’ a Judaeo-Christian movement. And the rapid spread of this movement throughout Igboland, and to wherever Igbos have migrated to is very interesting. A prominent Sabbath leader mentioned in 2005 that Sabbatharians number eight millions. They might have numbered up to the mentioned figure in the latter parts of the 20th century. Now they would number a million, because they lost many members to the Yoruba dominated Pentecostal movement.
Some of the Sabbatharians gained the respect and gratitude of the Igbos because of the feats which some of them were believed to have performed. Employing prayers, fasting, holy oil, etc, they tried to cure cancers, insanity and other difficult ailments. Many persons believe that they actually cured those ailments. Also the Sabbatharians were not known to have participated in Igbo intra-ethnic religious-denominational discrimination. This discrimination took the following form: Some groups that operate in Igboland have rules that bar their members from marrying outside their group. The Sabbatharians did not bar their members from marrying fellow Igbos. The groups that did contributed to a major problem that is bedeviling the Igbo society today: a glut of Igbo spinsters, and a rising trend in Igbo marital instability. Many persons could not find ideal spouses in their groups, and waited for too long. By the time they realized that they should marry any Igbo with clean family histories they were already old-maids. Also persons that had only very little in common were forced to marry because they found themselves in the same groups. Marital instability resulted in a great many of such arrangements. In addition the intra religious-denominational discrimination forced many Igbos into the traps of non Igbo religious con men who were out to build large congregations by promising everything in the world to vulnerable persons. The Igbos that fell into such people’s traps have turned out to be bitter haters of the Igbo people today, because the con men ensure that they turn them against the core ethos of the Igbos. The Sabbatharians could say with pride that they did not ‘teach’ any Igbo to shun fellow Igbos. Today that the Igbo society is fundamentally divided, and reuniting the Igbos is seemingly impossible many Igbos are beginning to appreciate that groups like the Sabbatharians, and the Anglicans did not join in preaching intra-ethnic religious divisions.
As I have mentioned before, prophesying enjoys preeminence in the Sabbatharian movement, as it did in the ancient version of the religion of Israel. But really there is no basis for comparison. The Israelite prophets were social reformers, and champions of true religious worship par excellence.
And while the Israelite prophet was quite national, and even international in outlook, the Sabbatharian prophet is quite provincial. It is difficult to recall a single Sabbatharian prophet who showed extraordinary concern for the Igbos as a people; as a community. We cannot also say that the poor and defenseless among the Igbos have occupied the attention of the Sabbatharian prophet very much. Nor can we say that they foresaw the dangers that the Igbos would be in as a consequence of their religiously and denominationally induced divisions, and preached against such evils. Almost all were concerned just with the welfare of their communities. Had they seen beyond their own communities they would have with their preeminence in the former years stemmed the collapse of the Igbo society.
However in one respect some of the earliest Sabbatharian prophets resemble the Israelite models. A few railed against Igbos who were trying to import a particularly heinous unIgbo practice: ikpa nsi (poisoning people).
Up till this stage I still can’t find where to place the Sabbatharians. In Christianity or in Judaism? This is because I can’t remember any early Sabbatharian who did not concentrate on ‘Jah Jehovah’ only, as his God, or who did not emphasize the importance of the Laws of God, found in the ‘Old Testament’. I have tried to find the reasons why the Sabbatharians inclined towards an indivisible (Unitarian God) in their early years. I think the reason may be that the prevailing dominant influence rubbed off on them then. Many Igbos as at when the Sabbatharian movement began to rise still retained a memory of only Chukwu as the Supreme Being. In Igbo theology Chukwu (God), was seen as a Person. A single Person. Thus it was easy for the Sabbatharians to revert to a belief on only God (Chukwu Abiama) as God. I think that this factor helped the Sabbatharians to focus only on ‘Jah Jehovah.’
Yet in spite of all the above, particularly their tendency to rigid monotheism, I still cannot bring myself to describe the early Sabbatharians as Jews or Judaists or Israelites in religion. There are features of Israel’s religion as shown in the Bible, which is not manifest in their practices: Oneness for example. From what I have seen of Judaism, or Omenana Igbo, a very important essence of the Jewish way, and the Igbo way, is the perception of the Jewish or the Igbo community, respectively as one. The community’s good is the primary concern of Judaism and Omenana. The Sabbatharians believed in communitarianism too, but they worked towards creating new communities, which were to be distinct from the Igbo community. I know several Sabbatharians who were giants in the Sabbatharian world, but I do not know any who stood out as an Igbo stalwart, as I would expect Jews to stand out in the Israelite world. Also until recent times Israel as a people, as a nation, and as a land was not of particular importance to them, as it is to Jews. I would say that they viewed their communities as kinds of ‘new Israels’.
At this stage I feel like asking some questions. And those questions are:
From what we have shown we can say that there was an effort to go to Judaism; some might call it a teshuvah; to return to keeping the Laws. But that due to dearth of information and other resources perhaps, that the Sabbatharians stopped midway with a new religion. My number one question is: Would the Sabbatharians have developed to become Jews/Judaists /Israelites? Two: Would they have grown if they had been given Torahs and other Jewish texts? Three: Would they have progressed if selfless intellectuals had joined them? Four: Would a Jewish rabbi have made the difference? I ask all these questions because I think that the Sabbatharians thought that they were replicating the Israelite worship.
My answer to these questions is a simple yes!
If they had been given Torahs, teachers; and if selfless intellectuals had joined them, they would have learned how Jews lived, and worshipped God, or how Jews are supposed to live and worship God, and they would have adjusted their practices. They would have seen the similarities between the Igbo and Jewish patterns of living, and they would have started fifty years earlier what many of them are just beginning now.
And just as I can’t call them Jews I can’t call them Christians either. I can’t recall their addressing themselves in those years as Christians, perhaps because in those years, the Igbo identity suffixed for every Igbo; unlike in the present era when the Igbo identity is loosing ground due to the erosion of Igbo culture.
Also their belief that obeying the Commandments (the Laws) of God is enough to earn them salvation clearly makes it difficult to classify them as Christians. This is because central in Christianity is the doctrine that it is Faith, not keeping the Law that saves.
I would still say that the Sabbatharians are Christians transiting to the Igbo religion, which among Jews is called Judaism.
I say this because in recent times, due to more availability of information many Sabbaths have introduced quite a lot of Judaic beliefs, practices and rituals into their practices. Many Sabbatharians have started to dress like Jews. Some wear skull caps, and don tallits while praying. Some have started to learn Hebrew. Many are familiar with elementary Hebrew. A Sabbatharian is likely to greet a friend with ‘shalom’; the customary salutation of peace that Jews are known with. Some have started to use the Jewish Siddurim to pray. And many have acquired Hebrew Bibles designed for synagogue study. And in recent years the biggest Sabbath group formulated a document about burying the dead that its members should be using. In every detail their burial practices would match those of Jews if they implement what they drew up. I will say the following even though it is digressional. If the Sabbath group disseminates the afore-mentioned document widely they would be doing the Igbos a major favor. This is because their document is reminiscent of Igbo burial practices which are Israelite; and which most Igbos have virtually forgotten everything about.
Lastly the Sabbatharians are beginning to become voracious readers of books. And many are beginning to plan to invest in schools and education. As everybody knows the Jews are the people of the Book. I would say that there are many indications that the Sabbatharians are transiting to………..