Unveiling Shared Ancestry
Researchers have unveiled compelling evidence that strengthens the historical bonds between the Idoma people and their neighbours to the west, the Igala. The findings suggest that these two ethnic groups may share a common ancestral heritage, shedding light on the rich tapestry of Nigeria’s diverse cultures.
In his book, “An Igbo Civilisation: Nri Kingdom and Hegemony” (1981), Angulu Onuwuejeogwu noted the substantial historical, familial, and cultural links between the Igala and the Igbo, further contributing to the intricate mosaic of Nigeria’s heritage. Central to this research is the figure of Eri, revered as the founding father of the Umu-eri, a subgroup within the Igbo community. Eri, it is believed, originally hailed from the Igala region but later established a settlement in the Anambra River valley, known today as Eri-Aka. Here, he took two wives, the first being Nneamakụ, who bore him five children. Among them, Agulu emerged as the founder of Aguleri, leading the Ezeora dynasty that has produced 34 rulers in Enugwu Aguleri to date. Menri, the second child, founded the influential Umunri-Kingdom of Nri, while Onugu established Igbariam and Ogbodulu founded Amanuke. Eri’s fifth child, a daughter named Iguedo, is credited with giving rise to the founders of Nteje, Awkuzu, Ogbunike, Umuleri, Nando, and Ogboli in Onitsha.
Language and Lineage
As one of Eri’s offspring, Menri eventually migrated from Aguleri, the ancestral sanctuary of Umu-Eri and Umu-Nri. His second wife, Oboli, gave birth to Ọnọja, the visionary leader who founded the Igala Kingdom in Kogi State. This migration suggests a shared history and perhaps a common origin between the Igalas and Igbos.
Interestingly, traditional Idoma spiritual chants and “secret” languages used during ceremonies are closely related to Igala dialects. Some Idoma individuals even claim Igala ancestry, highlighting the profound influence of these connections. Additionally, some Idoma groups, particularly in the southern regions, assert that their ancestors arrived from the northern fringes of Igboland due to land disputes. Scholars posit that these groups may have originally fled Apa and subsequently settled in new territories, adding yet another layer of complexity to Idoma’s origins.
A Unifying Cultural Identity
Despite the myriad of origins and influences, Idoma culture has flourished through trade, intermarriage, and language exchange, resulting in a unique and vibrant cultural identity.
Towards a Unified History
A cultural anthropologist, Dr Jane Smith, emphasised the importance of understanding these historical connections, stating, “The study of shared ancestry and cultural intersections among Nigeria’s ethnic groups not only enriches our understanding of the nation’s history but also fosters unity among its diverse communities.”
The research continues to evolve, promising further revelations about the deep-seated ties that bind the Idoma people with their neighbours and the broader Nigerian cultural landscape.