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The Origin and Meaning of the Word “Igbo”: A Response to Ozodi Osuji’s Dilemma

Editor’s Note: While Igbodefender believes that the word Igbo was coined by Eri Ben Gad, the founder of the Igbo race, based on Prince Charles Offokaja’s book, History Of the Igbo World  we publish below a commentary on the subject by renowned Igbo cultural expert, Patrick Iroegbu PHD. Please read and tell us if you agree with what he had to say. Igbo Kwenu!

This brief submission is a response intended to address Dr. Ozodi Osuji’s article published in this column captioned: “What is the origin and meaning of the word Igbo”? I developed some curiosity as quickly as I finished reading the article. I kept asking myself, should an Igbo like Dr. Osuji be asking this type of question in the present Nigerian dispensation? He was right! I further reasoned and tried to ask, of what benefit will the question grant to the readers by going to dig into the ancient world to relate how the Igbo formed and expanded as a word and as a name of a people? So, I felt the urge to reply. Below is what I have come up with as a response to the dilemma I consider the author found himself and his idea of the Igbo as a word and meaning. This does not claim to be exhaustive as to what it entails to be Igbo as a historic and people-word. There is more to the word, “Igbo”, than to the writing to convey it. To re-phrase the question therefore, I need to ask, what meaning can there be when the word “Igbo” is framed and referred to in the ancient and modern world, particularly in the Nigerian complex cultures and histories? And to answer this in a classic manner, I dare say, “we are not the Jews of Africa; rather we are the Igbo of Nigeria and of the world!” We the ‘Igbo’ as a ‘word’ are making the ‘world’ as a ‘word’ and a place of meaning and reality.