Society and Culture

A Genetic Migration Story of a Nigerian Igbo ‘Igbo Enwe Eze’

It is difficult to categorize Igbos in one way. The complexity of the Igbo is something that cannot be quantified – from the origin theories to the Igbo worldview that supports the ideology of ‘live and let live’, chi, reincarnation and so forth. The Igbo philosophy has stood the test of time. My parents have passed down to my siblings and I the importance of our culture and I will pass it down to my children.

I use the words ‘Igbo philosophy’ in a collective sense; the cohesion of ndi Igbo, which has allowed us to maintain throughout the ages — whether during trans-Atlantic slavery, in which a sizable number of Igbos were taken to such places in the Americas as Brazil and the Caribbean to such places as Haiti and Cuba, where the Igbo influence (in addition to the influence of other ethnic groups in Nigeria) is still preserved today. When Igbo Kwenu is chanted amongst a room of Igbos it signifies something very special. It signifies Igbo unity.

“One of the most common expressions in Igbo oration is the hortatory ejaculative Kwenu! It is heard repeatedly in formal orations every kind.  At the beginning of a speech, it is most often used as a ritualized greeting, frequently accompanied by gestures, flounces and wags of a fan or whisk.  But Kwenu can also serve as a call to order, or a request by the speaker for acknowledgement. In the middle of a speech, it may be used to re-awaken flagging attention, or as marker denoting a change in the subject matter or direction of the oration.  Most importantly, though, Kwenu is an exhortation to unity and consensus.  Through it, a speaker invokes a spirit of solidarity between himself and the audience, and among the members of the audience with one another.” (Source)

Similar to the call-and-response tradition that has traveled from Africa to the Americas.

“Call and response is a form of “spontaneous verbal and non-verbal interaction between speaker and listener in which all of the statements (‘calls’) are punctuated by expressions (‘responses’) from the listener,’ as stated by Smitherman.[1] In African cultures, call and response is a pervasive pattern of democratic participation—in public gatherings, in the discussion of civic affairs, in religious rituals, as well as in vocal and instrumental musical expression (see call and response in music). It is this tradition that African bondsmen and women have transmitted over the years in various forms of expression—in religious observance; public gatherings; even in children’s rhymes; and, most notably, in music in its multiple forms: gospel, blues, rhythm and blues, jazz and jazz extensions, hip-hop and go-go. Call and response patterns between two musicians are common in Indian Classical Music, particularly in the style of Jugalbandi. Call and response is likewise widely present in parts of the Americas touched by the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It is extensively used in Cuban music, both in the secular rumba[1] and in the African religious ceremonies (Santeria).[2]“  (Source)

“What we have here is comparable to the ejaculative outbursts which one hears during the services of Evangelical or Pentecostal Christians.  A speaker before a Pentecostal assembly may use shouts of “Praise the Lord!” or “Amen!” or “Alleluia!” at the beginning of a presentation or a sermon, both to rouse an audience and to bind it in spirit to himself and to his topic.” (Source)

“‘Amen?’ a speaker intones, inflecting the word in a way that makes it sound like a question.” (Source)

“‘Amen!’ answers the congregation, closing the loop of agreement.” (Source)

“Such patterns are common in Igbo oration.  Furthermore, a speaker who senses that his audience is lukewarm or skeptical towards his assertions may use an inflected form of Kwenu to elicit agreement. In this form of usage, the word becomes a challenge or a dare to the audience to affirm the speaker, and its meaning is equivalent to “Obugh otua?” (Is that not so?) or “Obugh n’ezi”? (Is that not true?).  If the audience replies with “Ezi okwu!” (True talk!), or “Obu ihie mere emeh!” (That is something that actually happened!), the speaker has received his validation and the assurance to continue. (In situations, where a speaker is desperate to extract agreement from a reluctant audience, he may resort to a guttural equivalent of Kwenu, Eeh-kwah-nu, for which the common response is Eh! Eeh-kwah-nu is usually grunted with great emphasis).” (Source)


The adage Igbo enwe eze translates to “Igbo have no king.”

It has been deemed controversial “due to the different schools of thoughts that are for and against its applicability within the context of today’s Igbo socio-political meaning. This is because while some people accept that the adage represents the core life-style of the Igbo as a people without central leadership; others reject that notion based on the logic that a people cannot live without a leader and that the Igbo could not have been an exception to this norm. However, what seems to be generally acceptable to all of these schools of thoughts is the adage is a reference to the character traits of the Igbo. The most significant fallout from the concept of ‘Igbo enwe eze’ is the spirit of individualistic independence and self-reliance, which are perhaps the most noticeable character traits of the Igbo people.” (Source)

Earlier, I mentioned the Igbo philosophy. This brings me to Igbo spiritual science or laws of nature, Odinani/Omenala.

“The Igbo traditional religion is a philosophy that has stood the test of time. To understand the basis for Igbo philosophy, we must understand first the Igbo concept of the Cosmos, a logical concept that makes few pretensions about the great unknown. This concept has survived the introduction of Middle Eastern religious beliefs and modern science. The Igbo belief is therefore both metaphysical and scientific as well as sacred and socioenvironmental.”

“A very tolerant but conservative philosophy, its capacity for ecumenism is enormous. While not yielding an inch to mythical and unproven concepts of life on earth, the Igbo philosophy maintains an elastic but credible concept of the Cosmos and its constituents that is rooted in science rather than the traditional myths of some imported beliefs.”

“To the ancient Igbo, the Cosmos is an endless space of visible and invisible beings. This Cosmo is divided into four complex constituents, [Onwuejeogwu, 1975: The Igbo Culture Area in “Igbo Language and Culture,” F. Chidozie Ogbalu & E Nolue Emenanjo -ed.]:

  • Okike (Creation)
  • Alusi (Supernatural Forces or Deities)
  • Mmuo (Spirit)
  • Uwa (World)”


There are many stories that I’ve been told throughout my life and many things that I have witnessed that make me completely appreciative of my culture and aware of the great importance of legacy. I write this blog in the spirit of my ancestors and those living now so that they will never be forgotten.

A cousin’s name is Ahamefule, which means “may my name never be lost.” This is generally the father’s hope that his child will carry on the family legacy in a proper manner so that the deeds of the family will be remembered for future generations.

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