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« Singing the NYSC Blues | Main | Life in Nigeria’s 37th State »

April 22, 2005

The Father of all Nigerian Ethnic Groups

by Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa It is very interesting that most of the Ethnic groups claim association to the Nile Valley, somewhere in Sudan, Egypt etc. but no association to one another in Nigeria. On their way from or to Egypt through what we now know as Nigeria, these Ethnic groups never met? Usually, they were each King or Queen, first lady. Who were their subjects? It may remind you of most of our parents who always took first in their classes when they were students. Who came second?

Africans are great sojourners, and they left their genetic traits all over the world. Please see YORUBA WORLD EXPLORATION AND THE LOSS OF DYNASTIES. If Africans were in Australia before the time of Christ, in America before Columbus and spread all over great distances, we should wonder why they never knew or had anything to do with one another until the British created NIGERIA!

Apart from the article mentioned above, I also relied on an article by Sola Omole on the Ijaw, another by the Ijaw Nation. Of course, I also depend on different histories of the Ethnic groups. However, I must admit that many are just like blind men describing an elephant we call Nigeria. Each was about its group but not how it relates to Nigeria, the giant of Africa.

Nigerians talk about relatives in Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal etc. The distance between Maiduguri and Lagos is not as long as that between Nigeria and Australia, yet Nigerians deny each other at home. Ghana, Mali, Songhay Empires were not formed based on Ethnic groups because some of the Empires were bigger than Nigeria. Ibadan, here at home, was built as a cosmopolitan City made up of variety of people.

The people were around the same place from the beginning of time, and traded with one another before the British came. The Europeans heard about ancient civilization trading in gold, they named one place Gold Coast. They heard about Ivory and named another place Ivory Coast. They heard about Ile-Ife Arts and Sculpture - they thought they found lost civilization of Atlantis. They marveled at Benin Bronze; they heard stories of handsome skilful men and women with mystical power; and drugs that can cure many diseases. They discover aspirin, antibiotics and ancient form of writings on the body and tablets. At the same time, they dreaded the diseases of mosquitoes and tsetse flies, sparing us of earlier domination.

Greek historian Diodorus of Sicily, 1st Century B.C, credited the Ethiopians (name for Blacks) as the first of all men created by gods, as founders of civilization and religion in Egypt imported to Greece.

Nigeria is just a “geographical expression” and 1914 are always in the papers and books written by many Nigerians. Awolowo is always credited with the former. It does not mean that he did not believe in one Nigeria, otherwise he would not have campaigned from the South to the North for the Prime Minister of Nigeria. Actually, Ahmadu Bello could have preferred that he stayed put in the South. We now have scholars from the North who actively support one Nigeria, while some in the South are going the other way. In Nigeria, we call that progress!

Sometimes, I wonder what difference it would have made if the Europeans divided Africa in slices north and south or in slices east and west. Most of the Ethnic groups have relatives across Africa east and west, and the same north and south. Could it have been a better Country that way? The so called main Ethnic groups with their relatives across West Africa could have formed one Country. I am sure nobody thinks that could have solved African problem.

Nkrumah, a man before his time, wanted a united African Country. Tafawa Balewa dismissed it as taking independence from the British only to surrender it to Nkrumah. Only Zik cried out loud when Ghanaians were thrown out of Nigeria in early eighties. Lately, the South Africans rejected free African movement for fear of Nigerians dominating their Country, as we did in Ghana in the sixties. When the East African were kicking out the Europeans, they were asked who would replace the educated labor force. Nigerians, they answered. They were warned – Nigerians were worse exploiters than the British! Some Nigerians, thinking about our politicians, may agree.

The difference between Hutu and Tutsi has to do with one being town boy and another country boy. The Somalis are from the same family with the same language, it is still not a peaceful Africa. After the war in Nigeria, the Ethnic groups have fragmented further, even more so in the south. There was an article I red, “My People are killing My People”, about the fight between close relatives – Ijaw, Itsekiri and the Urhobo youths. Or between Aguleri and Umuleri, or Ife and Modakeke or Fulani and Jakun, Tiv or Yelwa and Shendam. I have not added those between Sunni and Shiite, Moslems and Christians over foreign religions. Africans, calling one another unbeliever of foreign indoctrination.

There are autochthonous Africans in Nigeria, no doubt. I also believe these Africans especially in the rain forest are more or less the same in everything. Those in the northern part of Africa or our Country are so close that our origins can not be different. Since one of the oldest human is dated around Lake Chad, how much distance is that to the sea that man could not have sojourned to?

No Ethnic groups deny each other more than the Igbo and the Yoruba. I am totally dismayed when I listen to young men and women who were not born during the political days of Bello, Awo and Zik trade insult as if they were there. Who passed personal prejudice to them? Check out their internet chart sites, it is full of hatred. When I pointed this out to some of my friends, they ignored it since most people stuck to their favorite sites. Some of the comments about our brothers from the North or vice versa are just as caustic. It boils down to ignorance. It is almost a conspiracy – they fear you may know one another as the children of the same father!

The Yoruba, a combination of OYO and OBA from Ife, has been known as YOBA well before the time of Christ in the Nile Valley and later, as far as Papua Guinea. They refused to be converted to later religions like Christianity and Moslem. The same is true about Oba Koso, King of Shango in Kush from the holy City of Ile-Ife - This was written in Coptic text, published in Paris in 1666.

Oduduwa has been thrown into question even within Yoruba and their close relatives in Ijebu and Benin. Fortunately, this ancient icon before Christ is not only known among the Yoruba as Adamu but among our own Ijaw and in Diaspora, during ancient time.

Each Ethnic group in Nigeria has translations for Yoruba and Oduduwa. Does that mean that these Ethnics groups have been in contact with one another as brothers and not willing to admit it? Since migrations happened in waves, those who came first might have recognized those who followed.

I can not fault Chukwu Eke interpretation of history. Indeed we may agree in more areas than disagree. The Igbo of the Southwest may be the same Igbo of the Southeast. I will also add the Northern part of the Country. These people were not known as Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Edo, Urhobo, Ijaw or Efik. They existed as one people moving freely in Nigeria and in neighboring Countries.

The Igbo also claimed affinity with the Nile Valley. They knew the Yoruba well as they claim they were the original inhabitants of the present western part. But Oba Mafimisebi, the Olugbo of Ugbo claimed they were the original inhabitants. After pestering the Yoruba, the Igbo fell in love with Moremi who gave out the secrete that dislodged them. According to Chukwu, the Yoruba called them Igbo (bush people) and in retaliation, Igbo called them Yoruba (Oyo oru Oba) that is “Oyo, slaves of Oba”. He also has a translation for Oduduwa, “Nkaa bu onye odudu wa or Nkka bu Odu wa”, that is their leader. Here, we part.

Phillip Emeagwali also gave a convincing relationship between Yoruba and Igbo. The Igbo had no king but the Yoruba relatives had Obi. He also pointed to a lost Yoruba dialect, Olukwumu spoken in Anioma, Idumu-ogu,Ubulubu, Ugboba and Ukwuzu. This dialect is still spoken in Brazil and Cuba. Onitsha could have come from Orisha. Orisha is still worshiped in Diaspora. I remember how mad some Igbo were that a man of his status would even dabble into such things. I am not surprise, I am a mere mortal and my friends laugh at me when I bring it up too. But it is not new, I heard it among my friends in the fifties - boasting as the real Ibo vs. the YorubaIbo.

I think once people realize that we are not selling out one group for another, education may overcome prejudices. There are only one related autochthonous people in the rain forest, differentiated by sojourners coming in waves from outside.

It took me a while to accept the link between linguistic and people because one can find any word and link it up. Is Ijebu-Igbo a Yoruba town, or Igbo people? Is alligator called oba by Igbo the name of a king? Even Obi has its own Igbo meaning: court house. But how does court house become a king? The similarity in meaning among us only points to common ancestor speaking the same language at certain point in time.

All I am stating is that there is a convincing link between the people of Nigeria. Herodotus 490-425 B.C described the scarification mark on the forehead of the blacks he saw in Egypt. We also know that it took a combined army of the Arabs to drive out the Africans, “sharp shooters of the eye”, out of ancient Iraq in those days. These Africans were not known as Igala, Kanuri, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Ijaw or Efik. Anyone interested can pursue this further. Research is easier now than in my own days as a student.

The Hausa claimed that the Yoruba were one of the illegitimate children of Bawo from a different mother. They founded or ruled additional kingdoms of Zamfara, Kebbi, Nupe, Gwari, Yauri, Yoruba and Kororofa after they left Egypt. They claimed that Yoruba was the name they gave the people of the Southwest.

However, the Yoruba in name and religion were known in the Nile Valley and between the Arabs as unbeliever of their religion before the Hausa met them again in Nigeria. I would say they recognize their cousins again during another wave of migration. What can not be denied though is the relationship of both the Hausa and Yoruba to the Sudanese in terms of facial marks.

An article by Ibrahim Waziri on - The Unhappy Marriage of a Quadruple - described the mixture of people in the North with other so called Ethnic groups in Nigeria. Even though he is from the Saifawa dynasty that opposed the Jihaad of Usman Danfodio, like most Northerners, he has Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri, Yoruba etc in him.

Some Ijebu claimed that they were neither Yoruba nor part of Oduduwa dynasty. The Oba of Benin recently brought out a novel claim about Oduduwa as a lost Prince of the last Ogiso. Indeed, the Edo claimed they are the father of most southern Ethnic group. But the Ogiso and the Oba met the autochthonous people, Oru, Efa and Ijaw in Benin.

Professor Obayemi researched eight Ile-Ife, and we know at least two Oyo including the present location. The Yoruba, coming from or to Ife, passed through Borgu, Nupe in the North and the Nile Valley. These were the Cities that were documented; there must be others in between them unmentioned.

The Ijaw went through the same route through Borgu, Beni, Nupe, Ile- Ife, present Benin before spreading to the delta region.

Do all these parts of an elephant belong to the same animal?

If all these groups are the same, they should speak the same language or may be in different dialects and have the same ancestors. I think they all do.

ARCHEOLOGY: The best tools we have are the discovery made in Nigeria in spite of wet acidic soil that is not good for preservation. A relative comparison of discoveries inside and outside of Nigeria can be convincing evidence of our ancient civilization:

Iwo Eleru – 10,000 B.C Between Akure and present Ile-Ife
Nubia culture - 10,000 B.C
Indian culture - 6,000 B.C
Dafuna Canoe near Yobe dated 8,000 years old compared to oldest
Egyptian boat 5,000 yrs old
China culture - 3,000 – 2,200 B.C
Malenician and South Pacific Hawaii – 2,000 B.C
Olmec Mexico- 1,100 B.C
Igbo Ukwu - 10 AD In the heart of Igbo land

I have left out many Yoruba, Igbo and Benin Arts paraded around the world exhibiting African craft before our Asian and European neighbors caught on to our civilization.

The history of the Ijaw by the Ijaw is not that different from that written by Sola Omole. It links all the Ehtnics groups in the south one way or another. This is important because it collaborate our history beyond Nigeria with our relatives in Africa.

Ile-Ife is a common factor in the history of southern Ethnic groups. Other places, as indicated, are Borgu, Bassa, Nupe and Beni/Benin. The first wave came to Nigeria through the same Borgu, Nupe, Ile-Ife and Benin. The Ijaw spread to the delta region from present Benin.

Oduduwa/Adimu/Adumu/Adum. He created a dynasty before the time of Christ in more than one Ile-Ife. One of his descendants was Ujo, a Prince of Ijaw who ruled over the delta, even on his way back to Ife as he got lost. The Ijaw are familiar with Ogiso in Benin as some left Benin when the Ogiso arrived from the same part through Ife. They also know the last Prince of Ogiso Kaladiran/ Ekalederhan who fled before (or after?) Oranmiyan arrived from the Ife. The Benin are very proud of the Oba era but our history began well before that period.

Even the Ijaw met Autochthonous African in Nigeria and were able to rule over them or moved on. They were ORU who met Nigerians before they become Igbo, Hausa, Ibibio, Ijaw, Yoruba, Igala, Tapa etc. The Kumoni who may or may not be the ORU also came. So were the Bantu, Efa, and others.

In Yoruba land the OOYELAGBO/UGBO/IGBO AND ORU became the son of the soil.

In Igbo land the UGBO/IGBO and ORU and EFA and BANTU became the son of the soil.

In Benin land the OOYELAGBO/UGBO/IGBO and ORU and EFA became son of the soil.

In Hausa land the ORU and HAUSA and OOYELAGBO/UGBO/IGBO became the son of the soil.

The Itsekiri are a mixture of OOYELAGBO/UGBO/IGBO and ORU and EFA.

The Urhobo are a mixture of ORU and EFA and OYELABO/UGBO/IGBO

All Nigerians are a mixture of autochthonous people, ORU and other so called Ethnic groups in different mixture giving rise to different languages/dialects adapting to different environmental stimuli.

How dare?

I blew your cover, man! Aborigines of Australia are your cousins, black Americans are your brothers, West Indians are your men. How are you related to them?
However, the ones you live in the same Country with are unknown and unrelated to you.

I was once a professional student in Toronto in the seventies when Stokely Carmichael, American Civil Right activist, came to University of Toronto or York University.. One of the student said he was not an African. So Stokely asked him where he came from. He said Trinidad. (Stokely was born in Trinidad). The student said all the Africans died in the sea before reaching the shore. Stokely said he must be a seaman. As we were laughing, Stokely did not find it funny that such ignorant statement came from a student. He told the student that Trinidad was not a Country but a sugarcane plantation. We laughed louder.

Many of the Nigerian Ethnic groups in general and in the southern part in particular are familiar with the ORU people that many of us have ignored for centuries. In many of our villages they retain that name. Some of them have been relegated to the position of slave or ERU or OSU whenever they can be dominated. The same people created dynasties all over Africa and ruled over the autochthonous Africans they met in other places.

Oduduwa was born in Ife by marriage between OOYELAGBO and ORU. He sojourned north and south of Africa creating dynasties until he was overthrown and came back home. He was known in the Nile Valley as Adum, in Nigeria as Adimu/Adumu and among the Ooyelagbo as Oduduwa. The Yoruba are a good example of how we mix in Nigeria.

If this is the case, why can’t we live in peace in any part of Nigeria? Or in Africa?

Animal Behaviorist and Psychologists teach us that you can only have so many mice in a pen. Two will get along fine, especially a male and a female. As the number increases, discomfort and problem start. I will try to examine this in the future. Some of us are claimers of two states, one leg in each state. One leg (h)as an indigene, another leg (h)as a citizen. If you mix that up with land, son of the soil, off/on/in/out shore resources, wahala starts.

Most of us realize that resources can not keep us together and must not separate us. It is not the resources you have that matters, it is how much it commands in the market. Think! If I buy fresh fish for 50.00 naira, package it, and sell it as sardine to you for 150.00 naira. Add 50.00 naira for taxes, shipping and delivery. Replace fresh fish with raw gold, you get the same result. That is 200.00 naira. My brother, you are left poorer than when you started. As poor as Ghana, the Gold Coast.

Take another hint. How much was oil before the cartel and how much is cocoa now?
In order to conserve energy, many countries imposed heavy tax on oil, like tax on cigarettes. These Governments make more on taxes than they make on the bare products. Not in Nigeria, please!

I hope I have created enough doubt in the minds of none believers of Autochthonous people of Nigeria. Ironically, those with ulterior motives will never be moved. More research is needed to bring these people in us to light.

Posted by Administrator at April 22, 2005 08:39 PM


i really love to have ur magazine because have being hearing a lot about it.

Posted by: femson at June 24, 2005 12:39 PM

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