Thursday, 30 March 2017 21:53

On Igbo identity disorder

Written by 


Ozodi Thomas Osuji

This morning I read at Facebook a girl from Agbor, Nkechi Bianze, saying that her tribe is Ika and not Igbo. She fumed from both sides of her mouth saying how angry she is at any Igbo who calls her an Igbo; indeed, she asked why Igbos have the audacity to call those who do not see themselves as Igbos as Igbos. On the issue of her having what seems an Igbo name, Nkechi, she presented an interesting logic that goes like this: you (I am assuming that she is referring to those not  from England) have an English sounding name, you speak English so does that make you an Englishman, she asks?

(This particular logic is interesting; it assumes knowledge of who is an English person; is English a function of biological heritage or language or culture? There are black people born in England who are called English. By the same token, what makes one an American? People from all over the world come to the USA, which is about the size of West Africa, and call themselves Americans. I was born at Lagos, Nigeria and am an American. What makes me an American? Since the USA was begun by the English is it possession of English DNA that makes one an American? Is it the ability to speak the English language? Is it enculturation to American culture?  What is American culture? Nkechi, apparently, did not take courses in logic so we shall overlook her illogical and incoherent statements on who is English.)

I thought about what the girl said and it reminded me of what an Ikwerre permanent fixture at Nigerian Internet fora called Emeka Okala says; the man claims that he and his Ikwerre people are not Igbos.

(By Emeka's logic, since folks from Egbema, Omoku, Ahoada and so on do not speak Ikwerre language they are not Ikwerre; Ikwerre is composed of those who live at the water front of Igwe Ocha and Diobu.)

I have heard folks from Agbor speak and honestly do not understand what they are saying. I am then supposing that either they are not Igbo or I am not Igbo.

I do not understand what Ngwa (Aba) people say when I hear them speak; does that mean that they are not Igbos or I am not Igbo?

I do not understand Bende/Umuahia people; does that make them not Igbo or makes me not Igbo?

I do not understand Onitsha people when they speak; does that make them not Igbo or me not an Igbo?

I do not understand even Mbaise people (who are close to Owerri; from Enyiogugu to Emeke-Ukwu is less than ten miles) when they speak so does that make them not Igbo or me not Igbo?

I do not understand Enugu, Abakaliki, Ikwerre, Nkwerre and all kinds of people who call themselves Igbos; does that make them not Igbo or me not an Igbo?

The only people whose language I understand are Owerri people. Therefore, Owerri people are either not Igbo or are the only Igbos!

Since those who live in what is called Alaigbo often do not understand folks only ten miles away from them are these people all Igbos?

Who exactly is an Igbo? This is a question that I would like somebody to answer for me. If nobody answers it for me I am going to proceed on the assumption that there are no people called Igbos and that the term Igbo is made up, a misnomer!


People from all over the world come to the USA, become naturalized and call themselves Americans. Igbos live in an area of no more than Southern California (from Santa Barbara to San Diego). These people who could all be squeezed into Los Angeles take pleasure in telling the world that they are not Igbos.

Only a few years ago, Onitsha people did not consider themselves as Igbos; they gave us the false narrative that they came from Benin and yet tell us that their ancestor was called Chima, an Igbo name. Bini people do not have such Igbo names. Indeed, they looked down on other Igbos and called them OnyeIgbo and fancied themselves superior to other Igbos (what is it with Igbos fascination with seeming superior to other people, inferiority complex or delusion disorder, grandiose type?)

It seems that Igbos are the most  confused breed of human beings that walk on the surface of planet earth; they talk and do illogical things, such as a person with an obvious Igbo name, such as Chima, Emeka, Nkechi etc. telling the world that he is not an Igbo.

(My name is Ozodobi, an Igbo name but you could forgive me if I told you that I am not an Igbo!)

Apparently, each Igbo village would like to see itself as different from other Igbo villages and declare itself a tribe, if not a nation-state!

That would mean that in the geographical space of South Eastern Nigeria, a place no more than 150 miles from West to East and North to South would probably have more than thousand tribes and nation states in it!

Let us have this debate as to who exactly is an Igbo. It is about time we stopped humoring every south-eastern person who gets up one morning and claims to not be Igbo and find out who really is an Igbo.


There is an open secret known to all Non-Igbo Nigerians. It is that Igbos love money more than they love themselves. Give or promise money to a particular Igbo town and tell them to declare that they are not Igbo and they would do so. As long as there is monetary gain in it for them Igbos would say and do anything.

Igbos are the most easily divided and manipulated tribe in Nigeria! Ikwerri who have Igbo names and speak Igbo were promised oil money by the rulers of the Nigerian state and told to deny that they are Igbos. Adult Ikwerre folks who are not aware that they are being manipulated by Nigerians come to the Nigerian village square and tell us that they are not Igbos; yet they speak better Igbo than I do!  (I had a friend at the University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, called Kelechi Wami; he is Ikwerre; he helped teach me the little Igbo that I understand!

Ikwerre, like Nkechi above, tell us that speaking Igbo or having Igbo names does not make them Igbo.  How about DNA Test? Are they amenable to science? Ikwerre's DNA is probably more Igbo than Owerri's! And the same probably goes for Agbor.

(My grandmother, Mather, Mgbere, called her God "Obasi dinelu"...which is Efik term for God; I am supposing that that makes her not an Igbo despite living in Owerri.  I do not speak Igbo well, although I do understand it if you speak it around me. I am supposing that that makes me non-Igbo.)

I am sick and tired of Igbos identity disorder (there is a personality disorder characterized by identity disorder, it is called borderline personality disorder; google and read up on it).

Let us once and for all times ascertain who exactly is an Igbo? We should begin by doing DNA test on all Igbos and see if those Igbos who claim to be non-Igbos do not match the Igbo DNA indicators, and see if they match the other people they identify with.


What irritates me about many Igbos is their seeming lack of analytical reasoning, their tendency to say something because it satisfies their immediate emotional desires. If they put on their thinking and analytic hat and do a little research they would find that the reason why there are thousands of dialects in Igbo language is because Igbos lived in the equatorial forest. When a group of Igbos left their original group and moved a few miles away they were, more or less, cut off from their original group and developed a twist to their original language.

Thus, in the Owerri area there are probably as many Owerri dialects as there are towns in Owerri. I know about the following Owerri towns, each of them with a slightly different dialect: Egbu, Emii, Emekeukwu, Ihiagwa, Nnekede, Naze, Obube, Imeriewe, Umuowa, Mbutu Okahia, Ihita, Nnorie, Umuohiagu, Obiangwu, Lagwo, Ngo, Okpala,  Umuneke, Umuoweri, Ntu etc. This is just within a small geographical area, perhaps, no more than forty square miles!

From Owerri to Aba is less than forty miles; from Owerri to Port Harcourt is less than fifty miles; from Owerri to Onitha is less than sixty miles; from Owerri to Orlu or Okigwe is less than thirty miles.

Now go a little further and you find that Igbos from non-Owerri area have what seems completely different dialects.

It does not take rocket science to understand the cause of these different dialects: people moved away from others and developed different dialects; their means of transportation was their feet so they could not go far in a day so they lost touch with other Igbos.

They did not have written language so they could not all read and write in the same Igbo language and each developed its version of Igbo language.

Consider my village. It is called Umuorisha.  We, the educated folks in it, have done some tracing of our journey. We discovered that there are many Umuorishas in Alaigbo. Apparently, what happened in the past was that a group from whatever their original village was would move out and go elsewhere and call themselves by their village's name, Umuorisha. If they are in the Anambra or Ika Igbo area they called Orisa or Olisa hence Umuorisa or Umuolisa; but we are talking about the same people.

Talking about Orisha/Orisa/Olisa there is a Yoruba god called Orisa. It is the same god in Igbo (the Yoruba god called Sango is called Amadioha in Igbo).

In effect, we are the children of that Orisha god.

Igbos and Yorubas are so close that anyone who says that they are a different people is a fool. Igbos, Yorubas, Idomas, Edos etc. are the same people. Just dig a little deeper and you see that we are talking about the same people.

I can safely assert that all the peoples of Southern Nigeria: Igbo Yoruba, Edo, Urhobo, Idoma, Efik, Ijaw, Tivi etc. are the same people. They, at one time, had a core and began separating from that core area and later from each other and their language diverged; the separation is probably within a couple thousand years ago.

Now, if we are all the same and speak the same Niger-Congo-Kwa language why all these emotional efforts to make us seem different from each other?

I am Igbo; I feel totally at home with Yoruba, Edo, Idoma and other southern Nigerians. This is not an accident; it is because we are related. People ought to start stressing what unites them instead of accentuating what differentiates them.

Regarding the Ikwerre and Ika brouhaha, I bet you that if DNA testing were done on them we would find out that they are the same people as Owerri people.

Our Olisa god shows that not too long ago we and Yorubas where the same people. The fact, that some Igbos call their god Obasi, the same name Efik people call their god, means that we are related to them (you can try to explain it through cultural diffusion but that would not cut it).

I am really sick and tired of small minded folks with scant education and cultural knowledge always telling us what divides us instead of what unites us.

My Umuorisha people at one time probably lived at Agbor, Asaba, Ngwa (Aba) and in Yoruba land. My great grandmother came from Umuowa, Owerri; her folks claim heritage to folks of Umuowa in Orlu area.

My (Owerri area) Umuamadioha Kindred claim to have come from Arochukwu!

All Igbos, from Igwe Ocha (which an Englishman, Lugard, in 1912 named for his homosexual colonial secretary by the name of Harcourt hence Port Harcourt) to Agbor, from Arochukwu to Nsukka are the same.


For what it is worth, in old England (aka Albion, the Emerald, Misty Island) folks from a few miles from each other used to have different dialects of the English language; it was the advent of mass education and written language in the nineteenth century that used the London area English as the written version of the language that, more or less, gave all English folks the same dialect (they still have cockney...I have an English friend from the Island of Wright, which he pronounces  "Ordiwat" and if he is speaking English to his brother I cannot understand a word that  they are saying!).

The same goes for America. When Englishmen were settling the USA written language and education was not common; illiterate Englishmen came to the USA and settled at different parts of the North East and South. If you go to the different Eastern states you find different dialects. In fact, white folks from the Appalachians still speak cockney, like they did in England four hundred years ago, and none of us understand them!

The point is that education and written common language gives a people a similar dialect.

When Radio (came into being in 1921) and Television (came into being in 1941) became the main means of communication in America it took hold in California.  Hollywood's movie actors spoke California accent of the English language and it soon became the accepted American dialect. Thus, it came to pass that the brand of English that is considered American English is California English.

If you live in California and visit New York City or Boston or Kentucky, Arkansas etc. and hear them speak their brand of English you would be surprised at how different it is from California's English, the English you hear on America's Radio and Television.


The logical conclusion from the above narration is that if education and written centralized Igbo continues in Alaigbo, within two hundred years all Igbos would be speaking the same Igbo dialect. This conclusion is drawn from historical trends.

It is now time that confused Ikwerres and Ikas are told to shut their uneducated mouths up and accept their identity as Igbos. They have been humored long enough.

As for me, I simply call myself African; I have no need to separate myself into this or that ethnic or tribal group.

Thank you, Mr. Ako.

Ozodiobi Osuji

March 30, 2017

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Read 440 times
Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176