The origins of the Igbo people have been a most controversial subject right from the cradle. While some argue that Igbos are Jews who migrated away from Israel a long time ago, there are those who argue that Igbos are in fact, an autochthonous people. Their argument is that Igbos are the children of the earth, Ani, having sprung right from there. This class argues that all civilization, which has been proven to emanate from Africa, started with the people of the forest areas around the Niger, the Igbo. The word Igbo also means ‘Forest’, indicating that these people actually are forest people. One of such people is Okonkwo, the high priest of Igbo, the unknown God whom he claims created all things. According to him, Igbo lives in the deep recesses of the forests, called Offia-Adu, or the ‘Forest of Adu’. This forest, according to the high priest, is the missing ‘Garden of Eden’, where man was created. As he put it, the forest, and the entire Igboland are full of oracles dedicated to deities whom he stated were the original dwellers of Offia Adu when the world was created. They were with Adunnayi, the supreme God, when he created mankind: “Adu-nna ayi is who Jews mispronounce His name when they say ‘Adonai’. He is Igbo, and the sacred worship of Igbo has been copied by several different peoples all over the world to establish religions. The one true worship is that of Igbo. The Igbo people are the original children of the Most High, not the cult called Judaism, he argues. Okonkwo Ozurumba is an Eze Ani and Ozo, a title which means a highpriest and knight of Igbo Order, which he says is not even a title, ‘because it is the gods that chooses one, you don’t just desire to become a priest and become it. You can desire to become an ozo and the title will be given to you. I was chosen by the gods’, he stated. He also explained that Igbo means ‘forest’, and that it was God’s name which the forest bears, which the Igbo people, who lived with God started bearing as their name.
Ozor Okonkwo, Eze Ani and high priest of Igbo, the Forest God would have passed for an ordinary young man in the streets, had it not been for his traditional attire, which stands him out in the crowd. He is dressed in an ishi agu top, an okpu agu- Igbo traditional shirt and cap, as well as a walking stick, apart from carrying a dark brown bag made entirely from real crocodile skin, with menacing teeth. He would not disclose his identity, or the reason for his outstanding outfit to the curious reporter. However, he agreed to speak ‘when the time is ripe’, after disclosing that he is the high priest of Igbo, which he said is the supreme God. ‘Igbo created the whole universe, and Igbo people are the real people of God, not those Jews who claim what they are not,’ he retorts.
The Garden of Eden
Then one day, he invites Daily Newswatch to his hometown, all the way away in Agbaja-Umumba-Ndiuno, Enugu State. It was a thick forest, housing hundreds of shrines, which in times past used to be temples. These shrines are dedicated to several different deities, associates of Adu, the God. On the lengthy way leading to Adu’s own shrine, the priest, who was accompanied by a very old man, later identified as Mbadugha Eme gave the reporter the story of the forest, which he described as Offia Adu, or the forest of Adu. “This is the place of creation, and because it looks too ordinary, people find it hard to identify. They expect to see a different kind of place. But it was right here in this forest that man was made to come into being. This is the Forest of Eden”. “There is the shrine of Nwangele, and then, the one you look at here is Nono, the wife of Adu, who is the queen. She is the first ‘nono’, and that is the right pronunciation for the word ‘loolo’, which queens bear”, and so, he kept on, pointing out the several different gods and goddesses which he explained, have been abandoned by the Igbo people who are supposed to serve them. She is the queen whose Mother Image has been replicated for hundreds of thousands of years, from Greece to Egypt. Over 50 deities have shrines in the forest. “Igbo people are suffering today, and are always in servitude because they abandoned their father and God, Igbo. They threw away their Ikenga, and they must suffer for that. My only annoyance is that the people of Igbo do not know who they actually are. Igbo is the son of Adu. So whether you see Igbo as a place, or a people, the basic thing about Igbo is that He is the son of Adu, and Adu is the universal deity. He is the God that came and planted himself as seed yam on earth, the Creator. That is what Adu is. It is from this Adu that humanity and all things came into existence. A lot of stories have been told on how humanity came to be, but I want you to know that they are all the story of Adu and Igbo that people are telling because of their personal interests and the gains they want by telling the story to suit them. But all the stories you have been hearing from Christianity, to Hinduism, to Judaism, to Islam, are all the stories of Igbo”.
There was a circular mound raised around an area, with an entrance which is without a gate. Within here, there is a collection of several stones raised as an altar. The stone altar reminds one of the stones which the Israelites used as a memoriam to god after their passage through River Jordan. The highpriest explained that the stones actually are a memoriam, nothing more. Although this is supposed to be the Holy of Holies, there is no image of any deity. All around the area, there are large and small trees, and in several places are earthen pots submerged into the ground. Each contain water. Close to the stones, is the holy presence of Adu, where Okonkwo performs a solemn ceremony of food offering.
Worshipping at the ‘Holy of Holies’
He pulls out the horn of a deer, (mpi-atu) and uses it to touch all the sacred areas in the grove, and all the stones. Then he does a sign of the cross, which is a little different from what we know. “You must have noticed that I perform ceremonies similar to what Christians do in church. All the modes of worship of Christianity and other religions are just offshoots of the worship of Adu, who is Chukwu Abiama. After doing the so-called sign of the cross-the forehead, two shoulders, heart area, didn’t you see me touching my knees and feet? That is to tell you that this is the original. It has been like this before the advent of the early missionaries in Igboland. You saw what I used-it’s not a cross, but the mpi atu. What that mpi atu means is that whenever I am performing any holy ritual, I use the mpi atu to purify the environment by touching ever corner of the shrine, then I purify myself by doing what you saw.”
He offers nine yams to the deity, from which a piece is cut, and roasted. A cock too is offered, and its throat is slashed, while the blood is spilled to the ground. Kola nuts are also presented at the altar, and palm wine too. “The yams are offered because yam is God. God offered himself in the form of yam to man. Then the kolanut is the food of the holy communion between humans and God. We eat kola and palmwine to renew our relationship with him all the time. It was a routine ceremony of paying obeisance to the deities and the ancestors, and communing with them. Contrary to what we have been taught, God dwells in the earth, not in the sky. That is why, when an Igbo man is doing ofo, if he doesn’t want to talk much, he says, ‘Aja Ana’. Aja Ana represents everything, because whatever you do, you do it on the earth”, he stated.
When Daily Newswatch enquired why the priest stuck to the ancient methods of worship instead of modifying to suit the times, he stated that God cannot be modified, neither are his ways: “You mean I should adopt the Christian method of igo ofo (prayers), when I have come to restore what was suppressed? Let me ask you; is God, Chukwu Abiama modern? Modern things mean things invented by man. How could you leave what God has made to be for what God has created himself? To go modern is impossible, it’s defying the orders of Chukwu Abiama to follow man for personal gains. So, the process is thus-the white chalk, called nzu represents peace, the brightness of the day. When you are using nzu for ofo, you are letting the Gods know that you have come to them in peace. Someone who is not a man of peace that touches nzu has invoked trouble upon himself. So evil people do not use nzu during igo ofo. on the other hand, the reddish one is called odo. It is also for peace. It is meant to cool whatever is hot. So whatever we do in culture, we always ensure everybody is at peace with his God. No priest will use anything that is negative to offer ofo prayers. If you use it, you have dug your own grave yourself. The issue of the kolanuts is, you finish offering the nzu and odo, then you pray with the kola. Then you break and offer a lobe or two to the deity, indicating that you are eating together, that you are having a continuous communion with God.”
Adonai, Charles Darwin and creation of man
Ozo Okonkwo however, was skeptical about telling the history of the creation, according to the adherents of Igbo. He however gave a brief, revealing that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was almost right, in the sense that God made man from monkeys and Himself. He stated: Even though I may not say much now, I will explain some things to you. The Almighty God Himself is Adu. It is this same Adu that the Jews adopted His name as Adonai. He is the same whom the Muslims adopted as Allah. When Adu planted Himself as seed yam, a lot of things were happening. The yam is God but people do not know. The theory of evolution according to Charles Darwin is the story of Adu and Igbo.
In ancient times, right here in the forest of the gods, where the seat of Adu is placed, during those days, there were several species of monkeys who lived here. Whatever feast the community people hold, these monkeys, chimpanzees and gorillas will participate. It is these monkeys who metamorphosed into humans. You must have seen the whitish skin I used when praying at the oracle. It is the skin of the monkey specie. Before I was able to establish myself as the high priest of Igbo in Adu, I had to wear the old body of man, which is the body of a monkey. I used that skin to purify myself, and that was when my old personality returned, giving me the eligibility to take up the position of the high priestship of Adu.
It is a mystery. When you ask questions in culture and other religions, it is Adu and Igbo you are talking about. The gorillas were in fact the people who can be said to be the Adam living in the Garden of Eden, although the story in the Bible is quite different. But this forest is the forest of creation, where God made man. The Christian Bible stated that God said ‘let us make man in our own image’. It was the almighty Chukwu Abiama who came and planted Himself as Adu. He talking to Adu and the gorillas. You can see how the gorilla looks. Man has the physique of gorilla. People have been telling this story without understanding. So, ‘let us create man in our own image’, it was Chukwu Abiama, Adu and the gorilla who got together to do this. So Chukwu Abiama has His image is in Adu, and Adu has His image in gorilla. That is why they said, ‘let us create man in our own image, and in creating man, that man became ‘madu’- ‘maa-du’, meaning, ‘there is divinity’, that divinity in man. It is the same word that the English mispronounces as ‘man’. Man is an Igbo word which they have shortened and robbed of its true meaning. It is a Divine Word.”