The Igbos, indigenous to the southeastern part of Nigeria are an ethnic group well-known for their enterprising, independent and adventurous nature. Natively referred to as Ndi Igbo, the tribe is popular for its variety of food, dance, music, musical instruments, festival and culture. With Igbo being their principal native language, the society boasts about 45 million speakers and over 20 dialects. Igbo people are creative and talented as shown in both traditional and modern music. Enjoy, as we share interesting facts about the Igbo people.
1. We are Igbos not Ibos
I’m sure most of you have heard that the alternative form of “Igbo” is “Ibo”, but that’s incorrect. In the Igbo alphabet, “gb” is a labiovelar voiced plosive. The voiced labial–velar plosive is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. It is a [ɡ] and [b] pronounced simultaneously.
The colonial masters lacked the phonological and phonetic representation for the sound “gb, so they opted to use “b” in the place of “gb”.”Igbo” is both the ethnicity and the language, not “Ibo”.
The Igbo people have peculiar greetings, in a gathering, they say “Igbo kwenu!” They tell you “Dalụ” or “Jisie ịke” if you’re working and “Ndewo” is used as a general greeting.
2. The Igbo unique calendar
The Igbo people have a unique calendar and unlike the Gregorian calendar which has seven days in a week, the Igbo calendar has four days in a week, seven weeks in a month, 28 days in a month, 13 months in a year, 91 weeks in a year, and 364 days in a year.
The four market days are: Eke, Orie, Afọr and Nkwọ. The Igbo man works on the farm for only three days and rests completely from farming on the fourth day.
People are named after the day they’re born. A man born on Eke day is named; Nweke or Okeke, while the woman is named Mgbeke. A man born on Orie day is named Nworie or Okorie, while the woman is named Mgborie.
A man born on Afọr day is named Nwafor or Okafor, while the woman is named Mgbafor. A man born on Nkwọ day is named Nwankwo or Okonkwo, while the woman is named Mgbankwo.
Each town has a market day it honours and it is also their holy day. On such a holy day, events such as burial are prohibited.
3. Olaudah Equiano was Igbo
Olaudah Equiano was the first black Abolitionist and a renowned writer. In 1775, he was abducted in his hometown Essakka now known to be the new Isseke in Anambra State. He died in London on the 31st day of March 1797, aged 52.
4. Osu Caste System
The Osu Caste System is an ancient practice in Igboland that discourages social interaction and marriage with a group of people, referred to as Osu (outcasts).
This is because they dedicate these Osu people to the Alusis (deities) and are thus seen as inferior to the Nwadiala (free-borns). An Osu cannot get married to a freeborn, it is an abomination for that to happen.
The Osus live in a deserted area far away from the freeborns, they are also prohibited from interacting and communicating with the freeborns.
The caste system is so barbaric and the Igbo people have been agitating aggressively for its abolishment. Sadly, it is still practised in some parts of Igboland. However, some towns have abolished it.
5. Igbo is the third largest group in Bioko, Equatorial Guinea
What’s that look on your face? I’m sure you are shocked by this revelation, but I’ll explain further. Most of their descendants moved from Arochukwu, Abia state.
They still speak the Igbo language today. They emigrated to Bioko during the Spanish exploitation in the 19th century and settled there forever. Ndigbo call the country “Panya”.
6. Igbo Apprenticeship System (Ịgba boy/Ịmụ ahịa)
This is an informal system, whereby a business owner takes a boy with him for ịmụ ahịa (to learn marketing). The business owner known as the ‘oga’ takes the apprentice known as the ‘boy’ to teach him his line of business. The business owner takes the boy with the knowledge of the boy’s parents and the presence of some elders.
The man promises to take care of the boy, while the boy’s parents admonish him to be of good behaviour. The apprenticeship is usually unpaid, but the oga takes care of the boy’s shelter, feeding and clothing.
The duration of the apprenticeship is normally six-eight years, and the oga settles the boy with a huge amount of money to start up his own business upon graduation. The Igbo apprenticeship system is one of the reasons for the successful commercialisation of Igboland.
This system alone has made a lot of young Igbo men millionaires and successful businessmen. A lot of young men go through the process of Imụ ahịa before they finally become financially independent.
Though there are a lot of benefits, there are also some glitches encountered in this system. Sometimes , dubious masters accuse their apprentices of theft towards the end of their training to avoid settling them. Some other greedy apprentices steal a lot from their masters, make trouble with them and therefore do not finish their training. However, the Ịgbo apprenticeship system has passed the first phase of editorial work at Harvard. It’s such great news.
7. The Igbo man is industrious
There is a saying that anywhere you go in the world and you do not see an Igbo man; you should quickly take to your heels. This goes a long way to explain how hardworking and resilient they are. Igbos are scattered everywhere in the universe, achieving feats in different careers and building empires.
There’s this tinge of pride and self-confidence the Igbo people wield because they can always make and remake money legally out of anything. They are naturally endowed with a hustling and domineering spirit that they take over any place they go to. The Igbo people are never intimidated, because of their hard work and they churn out billionaires every year.
No doubt, they say the Igbo man is like a cockroach, no matter how you try to flush him down the drain, he always devises a means to find his way out. The average Igbo man is business-oriented; he’s always thinking of a problem to solve through his business, and he is innovative and smart.
Some of the best African writers are Igbos. We have the likes of Chinua Achebe, Flora Nwapa, and Chimamanda Adichie, just to mention a few.
8. The Igbo landing story
In an act of mass resistance against slavery, a group of Igbo slaves revolted, took control of their slave ship, grounded it on an island and rather than submit to slavery, proceeded to march into the water and drown.
“The water spirit brought us, the water spirit will take us home (Mmụọ mmiri du anyị bịa, mmụọ mmiri ga edu anyị laa)”. They sang in unison before drowning.
Igbo Landing is a historic site at Dunbar, Greek, on St. Simons Island, Glynn County Georgia. This story goes a long way to pinpoint the resilient spirit of the Igbo people who chose death over slavery.
They’re our ancestors and very brave, the Igbo man would do anything to gain his freedom, even if it meant choosing death and in this case, death by drowning.
9. Igbo people of Jamaica
Igbo people were taken to Jamaica as slaves, and there’s some Igbo language in the Jamaican Patois language. The “Red Eboe” was used to refer to the Igbo slaves in Jamaica, because of their light skin.
During this period, the culture and language of the Igbos were diffused into Jamaican culture. Some of these words are; Unu = You people, soso(Jamaican) = only (Sọsọ – Igbo).
10. Onitsha main market is the West
African commercial power
Onitsha main market is situated in Anambra state. The market is one of the biggest and largest markets in West Africa based on geographical size and volume of goods.
The market is also the busiest in Nigeria and West Africa at large. The market offers a variety of goods and you can find arguably every product you need there.
11. Igbo people are highly religious
Traditional Igbo religion includes a belief in a creator god (Chukwu or Chineke), an earth goddess (Ala), and numerous other deities and spirits as well as a belief in ancestors who protect their living descendants.
The revelation of the will of the deities is sought by divination and oracles. The Igbo people have a strong respect for their ancestors.
The pouring of libation is an invitation to the ancestors; they believe their ancestors are always with them and therefore should have a couple of drinks with them.
12. Igboukwu arts the oldest the oldest bronze artefacts in West Africa
The archaeology of Igbo-Ukwu revealed bronze artefacts dated to the 9th century A.D. which were initially discovered by Isiah Anozie in 1939 while digging a well in his compound in Igbo-Ukwu, an Igbo town in Anambra State, Nigeria.
As a result of these finds, three archaeological sites were excavated in 1959 and 1964 by Thurstan Shaw which revealed more than 700 high-quality artefacts of copper, bronze and iron, as well as about 165000 glass, carnelian and stone beads, pottery, textiles and ivory.
They are the oldest bronze artefacts known in West Africa and were manufactured centuries before the emergence of other known bronze-producing centres such as those of Ife and Benin.
13. Kolanut (ỌJỊ) is highly important in Igboland
The Igbo people believe that kola nut is life and that whoever brings kola brings life. It symbolises peace, love and acceptance.
Kolanut is presented on every occasion and it is an abomination for an occasion to proceed without the presentation of the kolanut. The kolanut is also blessed in a conventional way through prayers, while the crowd chants the response Isee!
The kola nut is also presented to visitors as a symbol of acceptance, it shows the visitor is welcome, but in a situation where the host doesn’t have a kola nut, he apologises and finds a replacement immediately. Kolanut is the highest fruit and of great importance in Igbo land.
14. The Igbo alphabet is made up of 36 letters
The modern Igbo alphabet (Igbo: Mkpụrụ Edemede Igbo), is the alphabet of the Igbo Language. It is one of the three national languages of Nigeria.
The modern Igbo alphabet is made up of 36 letters, which includes only a 23-letter set of the ISO basic Latin alphabet minus C Q X is not part of Abidịị Igbo. It uses the dot above on the letter Ṅ, and the dot below on Ị, Ọ and Ụ.
15. The Igbo tribe is the smartest in Africa
The Igbo tribe could be described as one of the most intelligent tribes in Africa. With a population of about 40 million people worldwide, Igbo people’s achievements in academic performance in top American and European universities have been described as exceptional. The majority of Nigerian award-winning scientists and professors are of the Igbo tribe.
Also, it has been studied that Igbo people have been successful in entrepreneurship as the majority of top entrepreneurs in Nigeria and some other African countries like South Africa, Kenya and Ghana are from this tribe.
A fraction of this work is from the writings of Amogu Helen Kelechi and other sources.