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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, the 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 archeological evidence, the following theories have been offered:

The Igbos – Quick Facts

The Igbo make up the second-largest group of people in southern Nigeria. They are a socially and culturally diverse population, living in the southeastern part of the country. The Igbo consist of many subgroups, all speaking one language [1], called Igbo.

In Nigeria today, Igboland is roughly made up of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Northern Delta, and Rivers states, and small parts of Akwa Ibom. More than 30 million people inhabit Igboland and with a population density ranging from 140 to 390 inhabitants per square kilometer.

Recent Igbo History and Formation of 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 [2]. There were not many centralized chiefdoms or hereditary aristocracy.

Igbo Proverbs and their Meanings

50 insightful proverbs from the indigenous igbo ethnic group native to the present-day southeastern part of Nigeria.

  1. Hapu ihe e dere na moto banye moto
    Translation: Forget what is written on the vehicle’s body and enter the vehicle.
    Meaning: Taking action is a priority over having details or previous knowledge.
  2. Onye m ga-egbuli m ga rio chineke ka o nyere m aka?
    Translation: Regarding the person that I can defeat easily, do I still need to beg God for assistance?
    Meaning: The battles that can be easily overcome do not require additional effort OR some things can be achieved faster even without external assistance.
  3. Ogbacha oso a gwuo mile
    Translation: After the race, the miles or distance covered is calculated.
    Meaning: Being reflective after a difficult task.
  4. Ogaracha must come back
    Translation: He who wanders away must come back.
    Meaning: You cannot totally shy away from your responsibilities.
  5. Ejii ro ututu amanjo afia
    Translation: You can’t judge that a market would be bad in the morning.
    Meaning: One’s future can’t be determined by a bad start.
  6. Nni bu ndu
    Translation: Food is life.
    Meaning: An empty stomach can lead to early grave.
  7. Ha na-asi na oku gbara Father I na-aju ma o gbakwara ma afuonu ya
    Translation: It being rumored that a Reverend Father got burnt and you are there asking if his beards also got burnt.
    Meaning: Talking about the important and you are there talking something stupid or of less importance OR why ask a silly question when you know the obvious.
  8. Ka ana achu aja, ka ikpe n’ amah ndi mmuo.
    Translation: let’s keep sacrificing, let the gods take the blame.
    Meaning: Do you part to avoid the blame
  9. Egwu adiro atu afo, oburu uzo
    Translation: Fear does not affect the stomach, that’s why it is always in front.
    Meaning-Irrespective of the risk involved, an attempt must be made.
  10. Okro anaghi eto kari onye kuru ya
    Translation: The okro cannot grow taller than the planter.
    Meaning: No matter how elevated you get in life; you can’t surpass the hand that groomed you.
  11. Gini ozo ka a na cho na siga ma obughi anwuru-oku?
    Translation: What else is expected of cigarette if not smoke?
    Meaning: Purpose are always defined / there is a reason for everything.
  12. Mmanu akara di uto; Onye ratu, ibe ya a ratu
    Translation: Bean cake oil is sweet; one who tastes should allow others have a taste.
    Meaning: Be good to the people on your way up the ladder.
  13. O ji ngaji eri chetakwa ndi ji aka
    Translation: He who eats with spoon should remember those who uses hand to eat.
    Meaning: While enjoying yourself, always have the destitute at heart.
  14. I tiela aka na tipa bu aja
    Translation: You have placed you hand on tipper with load of sand.
    Meaning: You are in a big mess/trouble.
  15. Ogologo abughi na nwa m e tola
    Translation: Tallness is not a yardstick to define maturity.
    Meaning: Maturity in Life is not determined by the physical appearance (athletic build) of an individual.
  16. Ara ga gba ndi ara
    Translation: Lunatics shall soon run mad.
    Meaning: Unbelievable/surprising things will happen.
  17. Ukwu na ga wara; anya na ga wara na hu ya
    Translation: A leg moving in a shady motion; an eye also moving in a shady motion will sees it.
    Meaning: You can’t outsmart everyone.
  18. “I no ebe ina awakwu ogodo ndi n’agba mgba wee gbaachaa mgba ma lawa.”
    Translation: You kept tying and adjusting your wrestling wrapper (or gear) till other wrestlers finished wrestling and left.
    Meaning: You took too long contemplating and preparing till it was needless †σ take action.
  19. Ewere otutu cho ewu ojiio tupu abali aru
    Translation: look for a black goat during the day before the night comes.
    Meaning: Make your decision as quick as possible to avoid setbacks.
  20. Uto mmii wu ete bele
    Translation: The sweetness of wine is more when you dance
    Meaning: Wine is best enjoyed while dancing
  21. Ichekiriche nwe eze elu nkwu,nwa mbgada nwe uzo ohia
    Translation: While yellow ant is the king of Palm trees, Antelope is the king of the forest.
    Meaning: Everybody has a weakness/strength.
  22. Alila mara nma mana Okuko erighi ya
    Translation: White ant is beautiful but can’t be eaten by a hen.
    Meaning: All that glitters isn’t gold.
  23. A kwokwala beans akwo?
    Translation: Rhetorical- Have beans been grinded yet?
    Meaning: I have not yet started.
  24. ogologo okwu adiro n’uka ngbede
    Translation: long sermons are not needed in evening services.
    Meaning: Stop beating around the bush and go straight to the point.
  25. Odili nwa ologbo mma olaba tea.
    Translation: When a cat hits a fortune, he starts drinking tea.
    Meaning: When a person makes an unexpected amount of success, they do strange things.
  26. Eze mbe si na e jighi ehi kwa nne ya di na nso, mana a si ya wete na ya enweghi.
    Translation: The tortoise said it is an abomination not to conduct his mother’s funeral with a cow, but if asked to produce one he couldn’t afford it.
    Meaning: Emphasizing the importance of the necessity of an object even though one cannot afford it.
  27. Eze mbe si na nsogbu bu nke ya, ya jiri kworo ya n’azu
    Translation: The tortoise said that trouble is its own; that’s why it carries trouble on its back.
    Meaning: One should try and shoulder one’s own burden
  28. Eze mbe si na olu oha di mma, mana oriri oha na-aka ahu.
    Translation: The tortoise said that many hands at work is enjoyable, but many mouths to feed can be embarrassing.
    Meaning: A warning that it is not easy to feed the multitude.
  29. Eze mbe si na ihe ya ji-achiri ihe egwu ya aga njem bu maka ya ezu ndiegwu
    Translation: The tortoise said that it always travels with its musical instrument in case it meets other musicians.
    Meaning: Stressing a state of maintaining a state of preparedness.
  30. Nwaanyi muta ite ofe mmiri mmiri, di ya amuta ipi utara aka were suru ofe.
    Translation: If a woman decides to make the soup watery, the husband will learn to dent the foofoo before dipping it into the soup.
    Meaning: One should learn to change tactics to suit a situation.
  31. O na-abu a si nwata wuba ahu, o saba afo ya.
    Translation: Tell a child to wash his body, he washes his stomach.
    Meaning: This is a sign of immaturity.
  32. Agwo emeghi nke o jiri buru agwo, umuaka achiri ya hie nku.
    Translation: If a snake fails to show its venom, little kids will use it in tying firewood.
    Meaning: There are times when one defends one’s capability.
  33. Akwukwo juru n’ohia, ma a baa a choba okazi.
    Translation:There are various leaves in the forest, but people go in to look for okazi leaves.
    Meaning: Many are called but few are chosen.
  34. Ekpere niile bere n’Amen.
    Translation: All prayers end in Amen.
    Meaning: The essence of true religion is righteousness.
  35. Onwu egbuchughi ji e jiri chu aja, e mesie o pue ome.
    Translation: If the yam used in sacrifice does not die prematurely, it will eventually germinate.
    Meaning: Things will eventually improve despite the present difficulties.
  36. Aka a na-ana dike bu itube ya (abuba) ugo.
    Translation: Appropriate handshake for the valiant is to cap him with an eagle (feather).
    Meaning: Noble deeds should be appreciated.
  37. Azu na-eloghi ibe ya adighi ebu.
    Translation: A fish that does not swallow other fishes does not grow fat.
    Meaning: There are occasions where one acts without qualms.
  38. Isi kotara ebu ka ebu na-agba.
    Translation: It is the head that disturbs the wasp that the wasp stings.
    Meaning: Used in warning troublemakers about serious consequences.
  39. E tie dike n’ala, a nu uzu ya.
    Translation: Knock a valiant man on the ground and the shouts will be tremendous.
    Meaning: The downfall of a famous man attracts public attention.
  40. O bu mmuo ndi na-efe na-egbu ha.
    Translation: It is the deity that people worship that kills them.
    Meaning: A reference to the efficacy of people’s belief.
  41. O na-abu akota ihe ka ubi, e lee oba.
    Translation: Whilst farming, if one encounters what is bigger than the farm, one sells the barn.
    Meaning: One who incurs what is beyond one’s ability may sell all one has.
  42. E gbuo dike n’ogu uno, e ruo n’ogu agu e lote ya.
    Translation: Kill a warrior during skirmishes at home, you will remember him when fighting enemies.
    Meaning: Don’t destroy your leaders.
  43. Ewu nwuru n’oba ji abughi agu gburu ya.
    Translation: A goat that dies in a barn was not killed by hunger.
    Meaning: He has the means, but his undoing is laziness.
  44. A ma ka mmiri si were baa n’opi ugboguru?
    Translation: Who knows how water entered the stalk of the pumpkin?
    Meaning: Who can explain this puzzle.
  45. A chuo aja ma a hughi udele, a mara na ihe mere be ndimmuo.
    Translation: If the vulture fails to hover at the end of a sacrifice, then you know that something happened in the land of spirits.
    Meaning: The regulars must be around otherwise something is amiss.
  46. Si kele onye nti chiri; enu anughi, ala anu.
    Translation: Salute the deaf; if the heavens don’t hear, the earth will hear.
    Meaning: Let us do the right thing, there are those who will understand.
  47. Nwunye awo si na di atoka uto, ya jiri nuta nke ya kworo ya n’azu.
    Translation: The female toad said that husband is so sweet that when she got married, she carried her husband permanently on the back.
    Meaning: A humorous proverb used in cajoling women into loving their husbands.
  48. Ugo chara acha adighi echu echu
    Translation: A mature eagle feather will ever remain pure.
    Meaning: One well trained will stand the test of time.
  49. Ihere adịghị eme onye ara ka ọ na-eme ụmụ-nna ya
    Translation: A mad person is not as ashamed as his relatives.
    Meaning: People who know values appreciate those most. Relations are concerned most with a person’s behavior.
  50. Otu onye tụọ izu, o gbue ọchụ
    Translation: If one man takes decision, he commits murder.
    Meaning: Knowledge is never complete: two heads are better than one.