|Àlà na ḿbà ṇ́dị́ Ìgbò|
|Nickname(s): Biafra, The East|
|- Settled||~5000 BC|
|- Founding of Nri||~900 AD|
|- British Colony||1902|
|- In Nigeria||1914|
|• Type||Autonomous communities|
|• Total||16,000 sq mi (40,000 km2)|
|Highest elevation||3,300 ft (1,000 m)|
|Lowest elevation||0 ft (0 m)|
|Population (2006 estimate)|
|• Total||~ 30 million|
|• Density||1,000/sq mi (400/km2)|
|• Religion||Christianity, Odinani|
|Time zone||WAT (UTC+1)|
Igboland, or Southeastern Nigeria (Standard Igbo: Àlà Ị̀gbò) is a non-governmental cultural region and a linguistic area in Nigeria that is defined by the Igbo culture and language. It is primarily situated in the Niger Delta region of West Africa, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean to its south on the Bight of Bonny. It has lands on both sides of the lower Niger River although the larger chunk of the region is situated on the east of the river. The region is surrounded by a host of large rivers. Igboland's culture has been shaped by its rainforest climate. As it constitutes a large part of the south eastern part of Nigeria, it is often referred to as the 'The East' locally. The majority of the Igbo-speaking population in Igboland identify as ethnic Igbo.
The earliest found settlements in Igboland date back to 4500 BC in the central area where the majority of the Igbo-speaking population is believed to have migrated from. The northern Igbo Kingdom of Nri, which rose around the tenth century, is credited with the foundation of much of Igboland's culture, customs, and religious practices and is also the oldest existing monarchy in present-day Nigeria. In southern Igboland several groups developed of which the most notable was the Aro confederacy. Igboland was part of the Southern Nigeria colony of the British Empire and was amalgamated into modern day Nigeria in 1914 which gained its independence in 1960. Shortly afterwards Igboland was involved in its biggest war during Biafra's movement for secession which eventually ended in 1970 when Igboland rejoined Nigeria.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Pre-history (6000 BC - 3000 BC)
- 1.2 Ancient history (3000 BC - AD 300)
- 1.3 Igbo-Ukwu and early settlements (300-900)
- 1.4 Nri and other migrations (900-c.1560)
- 1.5 Igala wars and European contact (1450-1700s)
- 1.6 Arochukwu and the slave trade (1750-1850)
- 1.7 Colonial era (1850-1960)
- 1.8 Nigerian independence (1960s)
- 1.9 Biafra and the Nigerian–Biafran War (1967-1970)
- 2 Geography and biodiversity
- 3 References
- 4 Bibliography
- 5 External links
Pre-history (6000 BC - 3000 BC)
Early settlement of Igboland dates back to 6000 BC based on early pottery work found in the Okigwe-Nsukka axis. There is however evidence of Palaeolithic man settling in Southern Nigeria from at least 10,000 years ago. Much of the pottery excavated by a team led by Thurstan Shaw with the University of Nigeria at Nsukka in 1978 uncovered a rock quarry which served as a mine for tool and pottery making for a 'stone civilisation' located nearby at Ibagwa. Anthropologists at the University of Benin discovered fossils and use of monoliths dating back to 6,000 BC at Ugwelle-Uturu in the Okigwe area. Further evidence of ancient settlements were uncovered at a hypothesised Nsukka metal cultural area from 3000 BC and later settlements attributed to Ngwa culture at AD 8-18.
Ancient history (3000 BC - AD 300)
The Nsukka-Okigwe axis forms as a basis for a proposed Proto-Igbo cultural heartland antecedent to contemporary Igbo culture. It is unclear what cultural links there are between these pre-historic artefacts and today, later human settlement in region may have links with other discoveries made in the wider area particularly with the culture associated with the terracotta discoveries based at Nok spanning a wide area about North-central Nigeria.
Much of the Igbo population is believed to have migrated from a smaller area in this region moving on to birth several independent Igbo-speaking tribes, village-groups, kingdoms and states. The movements were generally broken into two trends in migration characterised by a more northerly spread group towards the banks of the Niger and the upper quadrant of the Cross River; the other, following a southerly trail had mostly risen from the Isu populations based nearer the axis from which the majority of Southern Igbo communities were populated. Mbaise are notably the best examples of an Igbo group claiming autochthony and rejecting many migratory histories about their origins, many of these groups either way are evidently culturally northern or southern Igbo based on the proximity of their traditions to those of their neighbours, and many times familial and political ties.
Igbo-Ukwu and early settlements (300-900)
Isiah Anozie was digging in his compound in order to install a cistern in 1939 when he stumbled unto the first finds of the Igbo Ukwu metal and precious artefacts that led to the discovery of a larger network of linked metal works from the ninth century. The works were based in Igbo Ukwu and further finds were found by archaeology teams led by Thurstan Shaw in 1959-60 and in 1964 in the compound of Jonah Anozie.
Initially, throughout the 1960s and 1970s it was thought that the Igbo Ukwu bronze and copper items were of an external origin or were influenced by outside technology due to their technical sophistication. The opposite was revealed to be true since local copper deposits had been exploited by the ninth century and anthropological evidence such as the Ichi-like scarifications on the human figures, show local origin. The works have been attributed to an isolated bronze industry which had developed without outside influence over a period of time to reach such sophistication.
Igbo trade routes of the early second millennium reached the cities of Mecca, Medina and Jeddah through a network of trade routes journeyed by middle men. There was evidence of beads that originated in India in the ninth century Igbo Ukwu burial sites in which thousands of glass beads were uncovered from the ruined remains of a nobleman's garments. The burial site was associated with the Nri Kingdom which began around the same century according to indigenous history.
Nri and other migrations (900-c.1560)
The northern Igbo Kingdom of Nri, rising around the tenth century based on Umunri traditions, is credited with the foundation of much of Igboland's culture, customs, and religious practices and is also the oldest existing monarchy in present-day Nigeria. It was around the mid-tenth century that the divine figure Eri is said to have migrated, according to Umunri lore, to the Anambra (Igbo: Omambara) river basin specifically at its meeting with Niger known as Ezu na Omambara near present day Onitsha. The exact origins of Eri are unknown and much of Nri traditions present him as a divine leader and civiliser sent from heaven to begin civilisation. In contrast, Eri's origins generally suggest a north easterly origin which has sparked up debate pertaining to a possible Igala origin for Eri.
Towards the western end of Igbo land across the Niger in the sixteenth century rose a migration of a man known as Eze Chima who fled Benin with his accomplices after a dispute with the Oba of Benin who consequently exiled him in the 1560s. As they left Benin City heading eastwards, Eze Chima and his followers settled a number of lands and established monarchies in areas that grew into major village groups and towns after the sicxteenth century. Collectively, the indigenous populations of these places are known as Umuezechima which translates as 'the children or descendants of king Chima'.
Igala wars and European contact (1450-1700s)
Igboland was historically known as the Ibo(e), Ebo(e), and Heebo Country by early European explorers. Igboland was conquered by the British Empire after several decades of resistance on all fronts; some of the most famous of the resistance include the Ekumeku Movement, the Anglo-Aro War, and the Aba Women's Riots which was contributed to by women of different ethnic backgrounds in eastern Nigeria.
The extreme northern parts of Igboland in the eighteenth subject to much raiding by elements of the Igala people of Idah under Onoja Oboni a descendant of one of the Idah royal families. The conflicts drew down further into areas in central Northern Igboland, particularly Nsugbe near where early European settlers with Joseph Hawkins noted events from parts of the conflicts between the 'Ebo Country' and 'Galla' in A History of a Voyage to the Coast of Africa published in 1797. Umunri traditions state that Onoja Oboni, however, is of royal Nri stock and founded Idah as he trailed northwards, the Igala do not claim origins from Onoja Oboni or the Igbo.
Arochukwu and the slave trade (1750-1850)
A number of polities rose either directly or indirectly as a result of Nri; the most powerful kingdom of these was the Aro Confederacy which rose in the Cross River region in the seventeenth century and declined after British colonisation in the early twentieth century. The Aro state centred on Arochukwu followed Nri's steady decline, basing much of its economic activities on the rising trade in slaves to Europeans via coastal African middle men.
The present site of Arochukwu was originally settled by the Ibibio people under the Obong Okon Ita kingdom prior to the conquest of what became Obinkita in the seventeenth century by two main Igbo groups; the Eze Agwu clan and the Oke Nnachi assisted by the Ibom Isi (or Akpa) mercenaries under the leadership of the Nnubi dynasty. Led by Agwu Nnobia, the descendant of Nna Uru from the Igbo interior, the Eze Agwu clan were centred at their capital Amanagwu and were resisted by Obong Okon Ita which led to the start of the Aro-Ibibio Wars. The war initially became a stalemate. Both sides arranged a marriage between the king of Obong Okon Ita and a woman from Amanagwu; the marriage eventually failed to bring peace but eventually played a decisive role in the war. Oke Nnachi was led by Nnachi Ipia who was a dibia or priest among the Edda people and was called by Agwu Nnobia to help in the war against the Ibibio. These groups were followed by a third non-Igbo Ekoi-cultured group, Akpa or Ibom Oburutu who were lead by Akuma Nnaubi, the first Eze Aro, the title of the king of the Aro.
In southern Igboland several groups developed mostly independent of Nri influence; most of these groups followed a migration out of Isu communities in present day Imo State, although some communities, such as the Mbaise cluster of village groups, claim to be autochthonous.
Colonial era (1850-1960)
Following the British parliaments abolition of the slave trade in 1830, the British royal navy had opened up trade with coastal towns Bonny and Opobo and further inland on the Niger with Asaba in the 1870s and palm oil industry, the biggest export, grew large and important to the British traders that traded here. British arrival and trade led to increased encounters between the Igbo and other polities and ethnic groups around the Niger River and led to a deepening sense of a distinct Igbo ethnic identity. Missionaries had already started arriving in the 1850s and the Igbo at first weary of the religion, started to embrace Christianity and Western education as traditional society broke down. Christianity had played a great part in the introduction of European ideology into Igbo society and culture often time through erasure of cultural practice; adherents to the various denominations were often barred in partaking in ancient rites and traditions, and joining fraternities and secret societies were forbidden as the church grew stronger. 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. British rule brought about changes in culture such as the introduction of Warrant Chiefs as Eze (traditional rulers) where there were no such monarchies.
Nigerian independence (1960s)
Biafra and the Nigerian–Biafran War (1967-1970)
Following a coup in 1966 which saw mostly Igbo soldiers assassinating politicians from the Western and Northern regions of Nigeria, Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi ceased control of Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, and came into power as military head of state of Nigeria. In revolt and retaliation against the government General Aguiyi-Ironsi was ambushed and assassinated by Northern members of the military on 29 July 1966 in a revolt against that had strong ethnic overtones. Ironsi's assassination stood out more because of the method of his killers; Ironsi had his legs tied to the back of a Landrover and was driven around town while still attached. The Eastern Region formed the core of the secessionist Republic of Biafra. A regional council of the peoples of Eastern Nigeria deciding that the Eastern Region should secede as the Republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967. Nigerian General Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu on this day made a declaration of independence of Biafra from Nigeria and became the Head of state of the new republic. The Nigerian-Biafran War, lasted from 6 July 1967 until 15 January 1970, after which the federal government re-absorbed Biafra into Nigeria. The Republic of Biafra was defeated after three years of war by the federal government of Nigeria from 1967 to 1970 with military support from the United Kingdom (strategy and ammunition), Soviet Union (ammunition), the United Arab Republic (air force), as well as with support from other states around the world. The effects of Nigerian war strategies on Biafran civilians (most of whom were ethnic Igbo) remains a controversial topic. The movement for the sovereignty of Biafra has continued with a minority, most making up the MASSOB organisation.
Geography and biodiversity
Historically, Igboland has taken up a large part of southeastern Nigeria, mostly on the eastern side of the Niger River. It extends westward across the Niger to the regions of Aniocha, Ndokwa, Ukwuani, and Ika in present day Delta State and also minute parts of Edo State in Nigeria. Its eastern side is terminated by the Cross River, although micro-communities exist over on the other side of the river; its northernmost point enters the Savannah climate around Nsukka.
Bonny Island and Opobo are often included in the Igbo speaking region since the language of trade of the island and town is Igbo and since many inhabitants are ethnic Igbo. Through these ports, the Igbo speaking region reaches the Atlantic Ocean to its south, although both towns are geographically separated form the rest of Igboland by smaller Ijaw and Andoni speaking communities.
In Nigeria today, Igboland is roughly made up of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, and major parts of Delta and Rivers states. Small parts of Akwa Ibom, Benue, Cross River, Edo, and Kogi State make up the rest of Igboland. More than 30 million people inhabit Igboland and with a population density ranging from 1000 people per sq. mile in high density areas and 350 per sq. mile in low density areas it could be the densest area in Africa after the Nile Valley. Altogether Igboland has an area of some 15,800 to 16,000 square miles.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Igbo.|
- Igboland’s Culture and Language, Igboguide.org