As the intermingling continued, and the ha Ibri clans continued to assimilate the cultural practices and the words of their neighbors, they began to loose theirs. They entered the forests as ha Ibri. With time they became Ibo. It is possible that it is their neighbors that helped them to change ‘ha Ibri’ to ‘Ibo’. I say this because I have observed one thing about the Igbos. Many of the things that the Igbos believe about themselves presently, especially those ones that are not part of their cultural heritage, are what foreigners told them. For examples; the Europeans who came to buy slaves observed human sacrifices in some of the forest kingdoms in West Africa . The kings of those kingdoms on dying were buried with live slaves. When the Europeans started to write about the Igbos they simply wrote that the Igbos sacrificed humans too, as their neighbors, even though such did not happen because the Igbos did not even have the kings in the first place. Another good example is the issue of killing twins. A people that live to the south of the Igbos used to kill their twins. They indulged in this practice till a Scottish woman, Mary Slessor, educated them that it was wrong to kill twins. The people have honored her memory by erecting a statue of her in their land. And are about to release a film about her exploits among them. It is possible that some Ibos that live near to the neighboring people, and others that interacted with them might have assimilated the practice. It is also very possible that they never did. Nobody has said that he has seen the remains, such as the skeletons of infant twins in any part of Igbo territory. Nobody, not even Igbo renegades who seek to be relevant by distorting and fighting Igbo history, culture and traditions have shown a shred of evidence that killing of twins was a general and an accepted practice among the Igbos. What most Igbos can swear to is that they heard that Igbos killed twins. Nobody has been able to give strong evidence that it was an Igbo practice. Caliben Ike Okonkwo, a specialist surgeon; the Chairman of the Governing Council of the Igbo-Israel Union; one of the most important Igbo cultural organizations, had a grandmother who was a twin. The grandmother and her twin died in their nineties. They were not killed. And Caliben says that there is no story that there were attempts to kill them. Interestingly they were born during the period that killing of twins is speculated to be at its zenith among the Igbos. Yet today the Igbos, as the people that have been known as ha Ibri, and Ibo, are now known, believe without any reservation that the Igbos were killing twins. Very likely the Igbos heard from the colonialists that the Igbos killed twins, and accepted, and internalized the story, because they had gradually degenerated to believing that whatever the colonialists said was sacred.
So the by then ‘Ibos’ continued to assimilate some of the cultural practices and the stories of their neighbors. Inevitably they began to grow weaker because what they were copying were strange to them, and were mostly evil practices. The borrowed customs also began to bring divisions between them. Disaster was not long in common. Some of them; interestingly from a clan on one of their borders brought the Europeans into their territory to buy slaves. Perhaps they thought that they could just make a little money, and control the trade. But they were mistaken. The slave trade got out of hand. The following are just some of the things it resulted in for them.
According to F.K Buah17: ‘Another evil result of the slave trade was that it encouraged divisions among the various kingdoms in Africa , and brought about permanent mistrust and hatred among different peoples. Peoples were constantly at war with one another in order to gain more slaves. Cities, towns and villages were destroyed, and progress was halted. The arts and culture were also neglected. Life became so uncertain that no man thought it worth his while to try to improve his lot. Lastly, it must be added that for many years the trade in slaves made the Africans feel that they were inferior to the Europeans.
Nothing can be truer than the above. Sub Saharan Africa is in ruins. The standard of living of most of its people is unbelievably low. The people seem to be incapable of governing themselves. Many sub-Saharan Africans, especially Nigerians, even ‘well educated’ ones spend their lives aping Europeans by bleaching their skins, and trying to speak like Americans.
On the Igbos and the slave trade; Celestine A. Obi, an Igbo Catholic clergyman, Vincent A. Nwosu, Casmir Eke, K. B. C. Onwubiko and F.E. Okon, had while quoting Roland Oliver and Anthony Atmore in Africa Since 1800 (London 1978) and Thomas Hodgkin in Nigerian Perspectives (London 1965), written thus:
‘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. Many of these slaves died en route due to the merciless torture, starvation and exposure to the asperities of the weather. A large number of them however survived in the new world’.18
And G.T. Basden wrote thus: ‘In earlier days great numbers of these people were transported to America , the West Indies , and to other places, and traces of their language and custom are said still to survive amongst the Negroes in those countries. Many Sierra Leoneans are descendants of Ibo stock.’19
INTRODUCTION TO THE CHRONICLES OF IGBO-ISRAEL
The connections between the Afro-Americans and the Jews
Written by Remy Chukwukaodinaka Ilona
With contributions from Anthony Edwards
Nigerian edition; edited by Uchenna Onwumelu Umeokolo
ISBN: 978 978 088 976 0