Igboland (Standard Igbo: Àlà Ị̀gbò), also known as Southeastern
Nigeria, is the indigenous homeland of the Igbo people.:307 It
is a non-governmental cultural and common linguistic region in
southern Nigeria. Geographically, it is divided by the lower Niger
River into two unequal sections – an eastern (which is the larger of
the two) and a western section.:307 It is characterised by the
Igbo culture and the equally diverse Igbo
Igboland is divided into several southern Nigerian
states. Culturally, it is divided into several subgroupings, including
the Anioma, Ngwa, Abiriba, Edda Egbebu, Ezaa, Ibeku, Ohuhu, Omuma and
William Balfour Baikie
William Balfour Baikie remarked that "in Igbo[land] each
person hails, as a sailor would say, from the particular district
where he was born, but when away from home all are Igbos. And yet
considerable differences exist between different parts of this
extensive country, and the dialects spoken also vary greatly.":307
1 Territorial boundaries
2 Ancient trade routes
3.1 Pre-history (6000–3000 BC)
3.2 Ancient history (3000 BC–AD 300)
3.3 Igbo-Ukwu and early settlements (300–900)
3.4 Nri and other migrations (900–c. 1560)
3.5 Igala wars and European contact (1450–18th century)
3.6 Arochukwu and the slave trade (1750–1850)
3.7 Colonial era (1850–1960)
3.8 Nigerian independence (1960s)
Biafra and the Nigerian–Biafran War (1967–1970)
4 Geography and biodiversity
7 External links
Igboland is surrounded on all sides by a host of large rivers, and
other southern and central
Nigeria indigenous tribes namely Bini,
Urhobo-Isoko, Ijaw, Ogoni, Igala, Tiv, Yako, Idoma and Ibibio. In
the words of William B. Baikie, "Igbo homeland, extends east and west,
from the Old Kalabar river to the banks of the Kwora, Niger River, and
possesses also some territory at Aboh, an Igbo clan, to the west-ward
of the latter stream. On the north it borders on Igara, Igala and
A'kpoto, and it is separated from the sea only by petty tribes, all of
which trace their origin to this great race".:307
It is primarily situated in the Lowland forest region of Nigeria, with
parts in the Niger-Delta, where the Niger river fans out into the
Atlantic Ocean in a vast network of creeks and mangrove swamps on the
Bight of Bonny.
The earliest found settlements in
Igboland date back to 4500 BC in the
central area, from where the majority of the Igbo-speaking population
is believed to have migrated. The northern Igbo Kingdom of Nri, which
rose around the 10th century AD, is credited with the foundation of
much of Igboland's culture, customs, and religious practices. It is
the oldest existing monarchy in present-day Nigeria. In southern
Igboland several groups developed, of which the most notable was the
Igboland was part of the Southern Nigeria
Protectorate of the
British Empire and was amalgamated into modern-day
Nigeria in 1914; the nation gained independence in 1960. Shortly
Igboland was involved in its biggest war during Biafra's
movement for secession, which eventually ended in 1970 when this area
Ancient trade routes
Igboland's culture has been shaped primarily by its rainforest
climate, its ancient trade, migration, and social history within its
various clans and peoples, and with its ancient trading neighbours,
allies and lately with Europeans. Mr W. B. Baikie said, "I seized
the moment, and, by our interpreter, told Tshukuma, that we had come
to make his acquaintance and his friendship, and to ascertain if the
people were willing to trade with us", whilst signing a trade
agreement with Igbo chief, Mr Tshukuma (Chukwuma) Obi from
who were one of the leading Igbo clans, engaged in early active
trading with Europe.:45 Similarly, "after our salutations, I spoke
of friendship, of trade, and of education, and particularly enlarged
upon the evils of war, and the benefits of peace, all of which was
well received", remarked William B. Balkie when signing a trade
agreement with Igbo chief, Ezebogo in Asaba on August 30, 1885.:296
Due to the native common linguistic standard and interrelated cultures
in Igboland, pre-dating the arrival of Europeans, the lower Niger
River, which divides
Igboland into unequal eastern and western parts,
has from ancient times continued to provide easy means of
communication, trading and unity amongst Igbos on both sides of the
Niger River,:300 as well as promoted ancient trade and migration of
people into Igboland, and between
Igboland and rest of the world.
Some of the notable ancient trade and export routes in Igboland
included the famous lower Niger and Njaba-
navigational routes via Asaba-Onitsha-Aboh,:315 and
Aboh ferry services
Pre-history (6000–3000 BC)
Early settlement of
Igboland dates back to 6000 BC based on early
pottery work found in the Okigwe, Oka Igwe, and known today as Awka.
Some local Villagers retains the Original name, like Umuzuoka, The
Blacksmiths Ezioka, Okigwe, Imoka, etc.Oka ,igwe-
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
1978 uncovered a rock quarry which was a mine for tool and pottery
making for a 'stone civilisation' nearby at Ibagwa. Anthropologists at
the University of Benin discovered fossils and use of monoliths dating
back to 6000 BC at Ugwelle-Uturu in the
Okigwe area. Further evidence
of ancient settlements were uncovered at a hypothesised
cultural area from 3000 BC and later settlements attributed to Ngwa
culture at AD 8-18.
Ancient history (3000 BC–AD 300)
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 the 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, starting several independent
Igbo-speaking tribes, village-groups, kingdoms and states. The
movements were generally broken into two trends in migration: 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)
See also: Archaeology of Igbo-Ukwu
Igbo-Ukwu was the site of an early indigenous bronze industry that was
rediscovered in the 20th century. Many of the items recovered were
ritual objects like this 9th century bronze vessel.
Isiah Anozie was digging in his compound 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 9th 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 9th 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 time to reach such sophistication.
Igbo trade routes of the early second millennium reached the cities of
Jeddah through a network of trade routes journeyed
by middlemen. There was evidence of beads that originated in India
in the 9th century Igbo Ukwu burial sites: 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 10th century based
on Umunri traditions, is credited with the foundation of much of
Igboland's culture, customs, and religious practices. It is the oldest
existing monarchy in present-day Nigeria. It was around the mid-10th
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 Ezu river known as Ezu na Omambara in
present-day Aguleri. 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.
Due to historic trade and migration of old, other people also entered
Igboland in about the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries and mixed
with the natives. Towards the western end of Igboland, across the
Niger River, rose 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 in a number of lands and
established monarchies with the natives in those areas. Those grew
into major village groups and towns after the 16th century.
Collectively, these places are known as Umuezechima which translates
as 'the children or descendants of king Chima'.
Igala wars and European contact (1450–18th century)
Igboland was historically known as the Ibo(e), Ebo(e), and Heebo
Country by early European explorers.
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
The extreme northern parts of
Igboland in the eighteenth were 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 17th century and declined after
British colonisation in the early 20th 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 by
coastal African middlemen.
The present site of Arochukwu was originally settled by the Ibibio
people under the Obong Okon Ita kingdom before the conquest of what
Obinkita in the 17th 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
Inobia, a descendant of Nna Uru from Abiriba, the
Eze Agwu clan was
centered 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 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 Inobia 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 led by
Akuma Nnaubi, the first
Eze Aro, the title of the king of the Aro.
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
Mbaise cluster of village groups, claim to be autochthonous.
Colonial era (1850–1960)
Enugu, the capital city of the old Eastern Region of Nigeria.
Following the British parliament's abolition of the slave trade in
1830, the British royal navy had opened up trade with coastal towns
Opobo and further inland on the Niger with Asaba in the
1870s. The palm oil industry, the biggest export, grew large and
important to the British who 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 started arriving in
the 1850s. The Igbo, at first wary 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 denominations were
often barred in partaking in ancient rites and traditions, and joining
fraternities and secret societies were forbidden as the church grew
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
rulers) where there were no such monarchies.
Nigerian independence (1960s)
Following the independence of
Nigeria from the
United Kingdom in 1960,
Igboland was included in its Eastern Region.
Biafra and the Nigerian–Biafran War (1967–1970)
Flag of the Republic of
Biafra (1967–1970), sometimes regarded as
the ethnic flag of the Igbo.
Main article: Nigerian Civil War
Following a coup in 1966 which saw mostly Igbo soldiers assassinating
politicians from the western and northern regions of Nigeria, Johnson
Aguiyi-Ironsi seized control of Lagos, the capital, 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 Land Rover 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 decided the region should secede as the
Biafra on May 30, 1967.
Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu on this day made a declaration
of independence of
Nigeria and became the head of state of
the new republic. The
Nigerian Civil War
Nigerian Civil War (or the "Nigerian-Biafran
War") lasted from 6 July 1967 until 15 January 1970, after which
Biafra once again became part of Nigeria. The Republic of
Biafra was defeated after three years of war by the federal government
Nigeria from 1967 to 1970 with military support from the United
Kingdom (strategy and ammunition),
Soviet Union (ammunition), the
United Arab Republic
United Arab Republic (air force), as well as with support from other
states around the world. The effects of Nigerian war strategies such
as starvation 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
Geography and biodiversity
Igboland in southeastern Nigeria
Bight of Biafra
Bight of Benin
Igboland has taken up a large part of southeastern
Nigeria, mostly on the eastern side of the Niger River. The Igbos
claim their territory extends westward across the Niger to the regions
of Aniocha, Ndokwa, Ukwuani, and Ika in present-day Delta State. 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, traditionally Ijaw entities, are often
included in the Igbo speaking region since many inhabitants are ethnic
Igbo and they speak Igbo as a language of trade. Through these ports,
the Igbo speaking region could reach the
Atlantic Ocean to its south,
although both towns are geographically separated from the rest of
Igboland by Ijaw and Andoni speaking communities.
Nkanu West, Enugu
Igboland is roughly made up of Abia, Anambra,
Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, and minor parts of Delta and Rivers states.
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 kilometre (350 to 1,000/sq mi) it could be the most
densely populated area in
Africa after the Nile Valley.
Igboland has an area of some 40,900 to 41,400 km2
(15,800 to 16,000 sq mi).
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