Africa

Igbos are Africans not jews

About two hours ago I ran into your lecture (transcript of a lecture given by Adeyinka Makinde) titled: Igbos: A lost Tribe of Israel?  The following are the thoughts that came to my mind in response to what I read.

     First, I am impressed by your lecture and subsequent write up. The writing is excellent. You showed evidence of knowing your subject and of doing appropriate research before you expostulated on it. I learned a lot from reading your material. Thank you.

    My feeling is that there were probably some Jews who visited most parts of Africa, Alaigbo included. As you pointed out, Arabs made contact with West Africans during the Arab Muslim expansion beginning in the seventh century. We know as a matter of historical fact that Arab scholars visited the University of Timbuktu. Given what we know about the Jews, it is conceivable to speculate that Jews were part of the Arab contingent that visited the African empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai etc.

       We know that the Portuguese came to the West Coast of Africa in the 1460s. It is conceivable that some of those Portuguese were Jews.

       Jews were involved in the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French and English slave trading and all things being equal were at the West Coast of Africa during the years of Trans Atlantic slave trading (1500-1900). Given their adventurous nature, it is conceivable that some Jews might have migrated to interior West Africa and, somehow, gotten lost there and that some of their cultural practices and words got mixed up with African languages, such as the words you enumerated, I mean the words that seem the same in Igbo and Jew.  And the same can be said for other groups: perhaps, some Arabs probably visited interior West Africa and their language, words, became part of African languages.

       Consider that the Arab word for God is Allah and that the Igbo word for a subsidiary God, your term, is Allah…as in my village’s subsidiary god, Allah Umuohiagu (with Chukwu as the Supreme God, of course). We have many words that probably derived from other groups. Consider the term for human beings in Igbo, Manu. It could be derived from the English word man. Then again the Hindus called human beings Manu (as in the laws of Manu).

       My point is that it is probably the case that some Jews settled or got lost in Alaigbo and their traditions and words somehow became part of the Igbo lay of the land (as is the case elsewhere…for example, the circumcision of boy children at age eight days is not unique to Igbos and Jews, other groups did so, too).

      What I am trying to say is that if your thesis is that some Jews migrated into interior Africa, Alaigbo included, and that their culture diffused into Igbo culture, I accept your thesis.

        On the other hand, I reject the thesis that Igbos are a lost tribe of Israel. Why do I do so?  My antenna is up and I sense a set up, a view that could have dangerous ramifications for the Igbos.

        If you can incontrovertibly establish that Igbos are Jews it follows that they do not belong in Alaigbo; they are aliens in West Africa!

       What does that mean in real terms? Let us see; you insinuated that Arabs have antiparty to the state of Israel because they have a sneaking perception that those who returned from the Jewish Diaspora may not really be Jews but Europeans who came to colonize a portion of Arab Middle Eastern lands.  If Jews in Israel were not originally part of ancient Israel then they do not belong in the Middle East and Arabs could kill them with good conscience.

        By the same token, if Igbos are not from West Africa but are stragglers from the Middle East it follows that their Nigerian neighbors could claim that they are foreigners who do not belong in the country and justify killing them (driving them to the Atlantic Ocean, as Arabs want to drive Jews to the Mediterranean Sea).  I can just see Muslim Nigerians setting out to drive the Igbos out of Nigeria because Igbos are Jews who came all the way from the Middle East to steal a portion of African lands, are an outpost of Western-Christian civilization out to colonize Africans.

      Mr. Makinde, do you see where I am going with this, or as we say over here, do you catch my drift?

       I know that shallow minded Igbos, such as the chap who forwarded your article to a forum that I belong to, would feel proud been associated with what seems to their minds prestigious Jews. However, what these Neanderthals do not appreciate is the consequences of such association. They are, in effect, saying that they do not belong in Alaigbo and ought to be driven out!

      As it is, already, Igbos are hated by their neighbors and if you add this extra burden to their cross they would become marked men.

       All my life I have struggled to save the Igbos from themselves.  I have harped on what I call their negative tendencies with the hope that they would reduce them to reduce hatred from their neighbors. I certainly would not like to begin another struggle of trying to prove that Igbos are an African people, not a Semitic (that is, Caucasian) people!

       You observed that Igbo language is part of the Kwa language group.  You got that right. That situates Igbos right in the center of West Africa and they are a West African people. We are Africans and not Jews.

        I agree with you that Igbos have certain traits that seem similar to those of Jews. You highlighted some of those traits, such as their industry. As you pointed out, in the 1920s, when my father was born, there were no Igbo University graduates whereas there were already Yoruba lawyers and doctors. Today the case is different. I do not know any family in my area that folks do not take going to university as part of the completion of their formal education. My father was the first of his family to attend elementary school. All his children are university graduates. All his brothers’ children are university graduates (some outstanding professors and researchers at the best research institutions of the world).  This pattern of amazing accomplishment is replicated all over Alaigbo. Yes, Igbos are industrious and that reminds one of the Jewish traits of industry.  But we do not have to be Jews to account for this double sworded trait of ours. The Japanese exhibit similar go-getting behaviors and no one is calling them Jews!

 

        You talked about the various pogroms visited on Igbos (1945, 1954 and 1966) and tried to connect it to similar persecution of Jews. You have a point there. In one of my essays I explained it differently.

        As you noted, the Jews feel special and tend to be arrogant (as are Igbos). It is this sense of specialness and tendency to look down on other people, inter alia, that generated other people’s hatred of Jews (and Igbos).  You noted Jewish industry and accomplishment and, in an unstated form, insinuated their tendency to place money above other things (the world’s richest man, Bill Gates is, after all, a Jew). As you noted, Igbos tend to make money their god and easily sell their mothers for money! Some of them evaluate the individual’s importance or lack of it to the extent that he has money. Unbeknown to these ignorant folk is the fact that often those who have made seminal contribution to knowledge are seldom rich folk! As the good book said, the chances of a rich man going to heaven are like a camel going through a needle’s eye! Intelligent people admire knowledgeable persons whereas ignoramuses worship mere money bags, even if they stole them.

       I have tried to understand the origin of human arrogance. The only explanation that came to my mind is that it is pathological in origin. I think that Igbos and Jews have a pathological sense of superiority.  In reality all human beings are the same, equal and one. It seems to me that one must be sick to see ones self as superior to other people. In so far that Jews and Igbos see themselves as special and superior to other people, I believe that they have psychological issues.

        I believe that Jews are generally persecuted by non-Jews because of their sense of specialness, their uncalled for arrogance. Do you realize that until recently Jews prevented their people from marrying non-Jews? They saw Gentiles as beneath them (they see themselves as the elect of the gods, the special children of God). By the same token, Igbos used to believe, and some deluded ones still do, that marrying a Hausa is like marrying cattle! I recall when one of my cousins, a girl, fell in love with a Hausa man, and the family prevented that relationship from blossoming. She insisted on the relationship and the family had their nightly meeting, and the result was that she was kidnapped and surreptitiously sent home from Kano. To the family, it was a sacrilege to descend low to marry a Hausa person. (I am glad that this misguided arrogance is changing, though not fast enough for my like).

       

      I have heard so much lose talk about Igbos being Jews. Okay, let us put this annoying chatter to rest by performing DNA testing on Igbos and Jews to see if there is any correlation between them. Let us do it, now, not tomorrow and lay this bugaboo to rest, a bugaboo that appeal to unintelligent Igbos who would like to feel superior by fancying themselves part and parcel of what seems to them a superior Jewish group. (If one obtains a sense of superiority by associating with other groups, those considered superior, one feels inferior. In North America, inferior feeling Negroes fancy that if they are related to whites and or could pass as whites that that make them superior! That is to say that they accepted as apriori (in Kantian categories) their inferiority and white superiority, and then think that becoming white like would make them superior. This is superiority by proximity to white folk. No, a black person is the equal of whites and does not have to be proximate to whites to be so. Igbos do not have to be related to Jews to be important; they are the equals of all human beings and do not need to be close to Jews to prove it.

       (If you are interested in the psychology of oppressed people see Gordon Allport, The Nature of Prejudice; Gardiner and Oversay, The Mark of Oppression; Karon, The Negro Personality; Thomas Pettigrew, A Profile of the Negro American; Omanine, Prospero and Caliban, the Psychology of Colonized People; Albert Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized; Gunnar Myrdal, The American Dilemma, and, of course, our beloved Franz Fanon, Black Skin White Mask, the Wretched of the Earth, and other books.)

 

         Clearly, Mr. Makinde, you are well meaning and have good intentions towards the Igbos, but I must beg to disagree with the thrust of your paper. (Why not Jews having Igbo origin, if I may ask, why not reverse the causal relationship. Why do black men always want to be associated with white folks when white folk do not want anything to do with them?  You talked about the Hemming children’s effort to show that they are related to the great racist, Thomas Jefferson. I think that it is a shame that they did so. When I visited Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello, and was shown where he and his family members were buried I immediately asked where his six hundred plus slaves were buried. The tour guide, a white woman, apparently, felt irritated and shocked that I dared ask such seeming irrelevant question; perhaps, to her slaves were inconsequential. I insisted on having an answer and she said, pointing to the wooded areas, any where in there (the 5000 acres surrounding the mansion).

       That is correct, my dear erudite Mr. Makinde, Africans were nothing to the man who wrote the declaration of America’s independence (which said that all men are created equal by their maker…apparently, to Mr. Jefferson, black men are not men).

       I do not have any use for black folk who seek acceptance by white folk. As James Brown said: I am black and proud. Real pride is not obtained by associating ourselves with whites or Jews; we do not need external others as a condition for our worth. 

        I should express my gratitude to you for detesting the employment of starvation as a war policy by the Nigerian nation during the civil war. I have tried to understand why Nigerians did such a dreadful thing to their fellow Africans. The only explanation that I could come up is that Africans have no regard for their fellow Africans. In many essays, I argued that the over 1000 years (900-1900 AD) of selling themselves into slaves, to Arabs, then to Europeans, have made Africans develop lack of love and respect for their fellow Africans.

       The Nigerians who implemented the policy of starving Igbos to death probably did not think twice about doing so! You see, as Africans they probably felt that they are shit, feces really, and see other Africans as shit hence treat them as such.

       Black Americans, ex-slaves, even feel “shitter.” In their various ghetto denizens they kill each other like they are flies. A black man will fear and respect a white man but for the simplest of reasons kill another black man. The bloody cowards refuse to attack those who enslaved them, and currently relegate them to second class social status, but, instead, attack and kill their fellow victims, black folk.

       Simply stated, the black man sees his fellow black men as nothing important and killing those matters not much to him. See, in Sudan, black men who call themselves Arabs, ride around on horses, I am talking about the so-called Arab Janjaweed militia, and kill those blacks who are not identified with Arabs.

       I believe that the black man hates himself and is sick and would take a few more hundred years before he learns to respect himself hence other black folk.

        In the meantime, I expect Africans to keep on killing other Africans as if they have no value, be it in Sudan or Rwanda or Nigeria. In fact I expect Hausas to keep on killing Igbos; see, some Scandinavian artist made fun of the self proclaimed seal of the prophets, and some Hausas descended on Igbos and started killing them, taking their anger out at their fellow Africans; why not go to Scandinavia and attack white folk and get their cowardly black asses whipped by white folk?

        I thank you for appreciating that it was not right for Nigerians to try starving Igbos to death. The Turks did the same to Armenians and that is probably why your Armenian friend identified with Igbos more than the possibility that Igbos are Armenians.

       I am a realist and do not ask any one to pity me. In that light I assume that my behavior has consequences for me. Nothing happens to me without my contributing to it. I assume that Igbos contributed to, and are still contributing to, the unfolding drama that is Nigeria’s jungle politics.

     Let me conclude by reiterating that Igbos are Africans and not Jews.  It is conceivable that in the distant past, some Jews visited Alaigbo and left aspects of their culture behind but that does not make Igbos a Jewish people.

 

       Please pardon the somewhat rambling and chaotic nature of my presentation; it was an extempore response to your obviously careful and excellent write up. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Ozodi Thomas Osuji, PhD

ozodiosuji@gmail.com

 

 

After thought: Thanks for noting the British colonialists contempt for Igbos; you see, Igbos tend to fancy themselves advanced Vis a Vis a Vis other Nigerians but unbeknown to them the British thought them primitive savages. I spent a summer at various archives in London and read memoranda written by colonial administrators to the colonial secretary; they invariably believed that Igbos were the most primitive of the Nigerian tribes! On the other hand, they had enormous respect for Hausas and Fulanis. This is, as you said, because Hausas evolved to Feudal level of political organization whereas Igbos were still at what political scientists call stateless, read, primitive state of political organization. The British had some respect for Yoruba’s and Edos, for having kingship structure as opposed to what seemed to them Igbo chaos. Frederick Lugard borrowed from Hausas their political organization to institute the Indirect Rule system in Africa. Since he saw Igbos as savages, he tried to civilize them by imposing warrant chiefs on them, as a means of getting them to have authority figures that they could obey. I say this because my fellow Igbos do not appreciate how much contempt the English man had for them and, for some reasons, think that they are the darlings of the Europeans! If another war comes to Nigeria, the white man probably would support Hausas over Igbos, considering his disrespect for Igbos. Along this line, the British thought that Azikiwe was a dunce and knew nothing about government (and made fun of his writing in malapropisms); they saw Awolowo as possessing superior political powers compared to Zik!  Igbos do not know this fact. It is always good to see how other people see one instead of making unwarranted assumptions about how one is perceived by other folk.

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