• Chuka Momah

Origin & History

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Origin and History of the Igbo People

Origin of the Igbo People

A lot of views have been proffered as to the true origin of the Igbos, but none of the theories have been proven beyond reasonable doubt

For this reason, material presented here does not suggest a complete understanding of how the Igbos originated. Rather, the different views will be summarized here so that the reader can draw his or her own conclusions

Through written documents, oral tradition and by archeological evidence, the following theories have been offered:

Theory No. 1: Igbos had three origins and settled in their homes in two different periods According to this theory, the first branch of the Igbo were the Jewish stock who wandered through Sudan and eventually settled at their current home some time before 9th century A.D. Those Jewish Igbos have the same tradition and custom with the Jews of the Eastern World. They are the Nris, the Aros, the Igbo Ukwus, the Otuochas, and so on. The communities known as Umu-Nri regard themselves as the descendants of a hero called Eri. It has been claimed that he is a descendant from the lineage of Jacob of the bible. [1]

The second origin is the Benin or Oduduwa origin. These Igbos were believed to be a part of the descendants of Oduduwa (father of the Yourubas), and originated from Benin Kingdom only to settle at River line area or the Ika Igbo countryland in the 17th century A.D. (the Anioma Igbos) [1]

The third Igbo origin is the Benue River Region origin. These Igbos migrated from there into Igbo belt in late 17th century A.D. to avoid the Fulani slave trade. Majority of these Igala Igbos settled in the Northern part of the Igbo Territory [1]

Theory No. 2: A core Igbo area (Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe) existed from the very beginning and did not migrate from anywhere An analysis of the available sources (fragmentary oral traditions and correlation of cultural traits) have given some the belief that there exists a core area of Igboland, and that waves of immigrant communities from the north and west planted themselves on the border of this core area as early as 9th century A.D. This core area - Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe - forms a belt, and the people in this area have no tradition of coming from anywhere else. Migration from this area tended to be in all directions, and in this way the Igbo culture gradually became homogenized. In addition to this pattern of migration from this core area, other people also entered the Igbo territory in about the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries. [2]

Theory No. 3: Benue/Nok Culture Origin There is evidence that the ancestors of the Igbo people and most of their neighbors were the proto-Benue group, which came from the African Great Lakes and Mountains of the Moon of East and Central Africa, before settling at the old Sahara grasslands. Due to the Sahara grasslands becoming a desert, some of the Benue people were forced to migrate farther south to the north of the Niger-Benue confluence, where they developed the Nok culture. Elements of the Benue people migrated south of this confluence and later became the Igala, Idoma, Yoruba, Igbo, and possibly the Tiv peoples. The Benue people's first areas of settlement in Igboland was the North Central uplands (Nsukka-Awka-Orlu) around 5000 BCE. Elements from the Orlu area migrated south, east, and northeast, while elements from the Awka area migrated westwards across the Niger River and became the Igbo subgroup now known as the Anioma. [3]

Recent History and the Formation of the Igbo Identity

Before British colonialism, the Igbo were a politically fragmented group. There were variations in culture such as in art styles, attire and religious practices. Various subgroups were organized by clan, lineage, village affiliation, and dialect. There were not many centralized chiefdoms, hereditary aristocracy, or kingship customs except in kingdoms such as those of the Nri, Agbor and Onitsha. [2]

The arrival of the British in the 1870s and increased encounters between the Igbo and other ethnicities near the Niger River led to a deepening sense of a distinct Igbo ethnic identity. The Igbo proved remarkably decisive and enthusiastic in their embrace of Christianity and Western education. Due to the incompatibility of the Igbo decentralized style of government and the centralized system required for British indirect rule, British colonial rule was marked with open conflicts and much tension. Under British colonial rule, the diversity within each of Nigeria's major ethnic groups slowly decreased and distinctions between the Igbo and other large ethnic groups, such as the Hausa and the Yoruba, became sharper. [2]

By the mid-20th century, the Igbo people developed a strong sense of ethnic identity. Certain conflicts with other Nigerian ethnicities led to the Igbo-dominant Eastern Nigeria seceding from Nigeria to create the independent state of Biafra. The Nigerian-Biafran war (6 July 6th 1967 - January 15th 1970) broke out shortly after. With their defeat, the Republic of Biafra was reabsorbed into Nigeria

The Igbos have coexisted peacefully with the rest of the country since then. [2]


1. Origin of the Igbos.,

2. Igbo People. Wikipedia,

3. Origin of the Igbo People. Wikipedia,

233 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All