Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Intellectual Rumble Over Igbo Origin

By Mazi Ebuzeme, Sun News Online

One Dr. Charles Ujah granted an interview on 19th August 2009 to the sun newspaper making claims on Ibo Jewish origin and that the Yoruba was founded by the Ibo with Oduduwa as Oduduwa (meaning last born in Ibo) e.t.c. His claims are based on the bible and probably linguistic and cultural similarities.

In a rejoinder of September 18th , 2009 published by the sun newspaper, one Dr. P.J Eze challenged and dismissed Dr. Ujah’s Claims as false and unintellectual.

He even called it ‘Red Herring’, but I call it Ujah’s postulation for the purpose of this exercise. However I attribute their intellectual face off to the philosophy of a late highlife maestro Rex Jim Lawson.

Hear his lyrics ‘Am Green turtle, me clever turtle, for clever turtle, me no get equal. For wisdom me sabi pass all animal, for clever, me clever pass everyone; for cunning turtle, that same green turtle, for green turtle me no hate anyone’. So this is Dr. Ujah’s red bearing and Dr. Eze’s green turtle. I thank both of them for their thought and efforts in teaching us new things. It is noteworthy to appreciate Dr. Eze’s intellectual set up over what he called a fiction from Dr. Ujah’s postulation on the Igbo race.

The Claim that Oduduwa means Odudunwa is not realistic especially to the Yorubas. It is euphemistic to think so just like the myth surrounding several other origins of nations. The false start in Dr. Eze’s rejoinder is his prognosis without complete diagnosis.

History: In his book” The Origin of Ibos”, Dr. Ujah mentioned historical traces which he equally obtained from different other writers and religious book. The book “sight on the scripture – a watch Tower research publication has some section on the origin of nations and I recommend that to Dr. Eze. There are several other postulants and references of the historical traces of Ibo’s having Jewish or Canaanite antecedents. One of such books is the Sephardic revolution by Yitzak David Israel, a Sephardic Jew.

Archaeology: I suggest that Dr. Eze should take a trip to Aguleri and some other Ibo enclaves and see the artefacts and other interesting discoveries pointing towards the direction of Dr. Ujah’s postulation. On September 25th, 2009, another postulant, Eng. Ayodabo Esuola , another Nigerian researcher claimed that the earliest Jews were Africans in his book “Tourism and Hidden Treasures of Nigeria”. Hope Dr. Eze would read this also before condemnation. In addition, how would Dr. Eze treat the issue of myth e.g. that the Ibo progenitor fell from the sky, the way Oduduwa is believed to have evolved? Corrected or condemned, one cannot erase the myth in people’s psyche which had come from several generations. Some archaeological findings are mentioned in Dr. Ujah’s book.

Ethnography: some of us are yet to see or read about some physical parameters mentioned at the time of creation, where colour, ethnicity, morphology, phylogeny. Some people today believe the theory of the egg before the chicken or that God first made the female who gave birth to the male. It may not be regional or place but all in the mind. Ethnographic descriptions of mankind are regional or geographical, racial and migrational. See references in “Insight on the scriptures, origins of Nations.

Comparative linguistics: This is the area of intellectual interest to this Igbo relevance to Ujah’s postulation and Eze’s correction and condemnation. Dr. Ujah may have made some sweeping statements along the line of claim but those I attribute to some emotional exuberance in his conviction. May I ask, can anyone intentionally go wrong intellectually of the knew what is right? Dr. Ujah may not be wrong after all if he has positive references for his research work. Don’t be surprised that a lot of Nigerians including linguists get excited to discover the similarities of Yoruba and Igbo languages with the Jewish antecedents.

Just recently a book on how Yoruba and Igbo became different languages was launched. The author Bolaji Aremo was formerly of Obafemi Awolowo University. There are other writers who even go beyond Yoruba and Igbo by adding Hausa language similarities despite its extraneous phylum or family. Similarities in lexicostatistics both in basic and non basic vocabularies are available. Relevant statements come alive in unique forms e.g. “ Me nini ka ce” – Hausa and “ma nini ka iche” – Igbo meaning what do you think or what is your opinion. “ci gaba”- Hausa and “si gaba” – Igbo meaning advance, proceed or progress.

Basically we expect the experts like Dr. Eze to assist us in this area too. We want to know the way we are or have been in the area of languages. When non formal linguists come up with some thought provoking research findings, they are easily prejudiced. The formal linguists fail to realize according to Aubrey T De Vera that “prejudice which sees only what it pleases cannot see what is plain”.
Let us consider some of those words used by Dr. Ujah in his interview and the corrections cited by Dr. Eze discredited the word jenisisi in Igbo for Genesis used by Ujah as Hebrew, the Hebrew for the semantics go to the beginning.

The first book of the Septuagint (Pentateuch) is bereshith, according to Eze. Genesis is Greek but one may question whether the word Genesis in Greek or something similar was borrowed as a language universal from Hebrew or the other way round with similar semantics. Eze as an anthropological linguist will have to help us further with the root source.

However jenisisi in Igbo may have been a co-operation by its phonotactic similarity rather than semantics. Nevertheless, there were Grecian Jews even among scripture writers who spoke both Hebrew and Greek hence the possibility of vocabulary transformation from one tongue to another. Ibo land is not where God first made man and since there was no spontaneous generation there, everybody came from somewhere. Remember that the word Ibo as a name, race and language arguably existed in ancient time.

If as true, is it not possible that such an express equally existed? As a name “Ibo” existed because in 219 AD, there were some Babylonian Jews who went to Palestine to study in the academies under a Jewish Rabbi called Juda Ha Nasi. One of such Jews was by name Abba Ben Ibo. Ibo was Abba’s last or family name. For further story one this, see the research Watch Tower magazine of May 15 1998 under the caption “what is the Talmud.” So the name Ibo as a word or person and Igbo as a vernacular is very ancient. Remember also that Ajayi Crowther who coined the Ibo alphabets said in 1864 that Ibos are Igbos.

The Hebrew word “Bereshith” is Eze’s correction agreed, but I recall that Dr. Ujah used the expression “Mbido ni ishi.” In one of his details but then Eze has not read the book to see this. However the word Bereshith has no cognate with the Igbo language but can be pronounced as “Mbido ni ishi” when one stammers.

When speaking with difficulty, repeating sounds and syllables and making frequent pauses it can phonotactically broker. A curious syllogism can be language existed before 219AD as testified by the antecedents of Abba Ben Ibo mentioned earlier. Dr. Eze chronicled the Septuagint to be between 250 to 100BC. So these events were close in time. Do not forget that the new testament of the Bible was written long time after Jesus’ had left the earth. The word Ibo existed even before the compilation of the book.

Another cited by Eze as dissimilar is the Hebrew for eye as “ain” and the Igbo anya/enya. He was emphatic on the palatal nasal [NY] in Ujah’s explanation of Hebrew with anya in Igbo. Many see no wrong in that if the semantics are similar. After all the palatal nasal [NY] is a way of speech developed overtime. In the U.S New York natives- not immigrants pronounce the city as “Nyew Yorq” retaining the nasal palatial in question.

Another contention is the Igbo word isi and the Hebrew for head which is rosh, Arabic Ras. Ujah refers to the Bible for his similarity of the word. As a third party, the Hebrew “Rosh” is just a compounding or blending of two distinct root words in KWA languages of Yoruba and Ibo, or rather a Hebrew word factor that yields the phonemes of the words for head in Yoruba and Ibo. Applying clipping as a language universal “Ro/Sh” to give “Ori” – Yoruba for head “Ishi”, Igbo for head. Integrating them into Ro + Sh – RoSh, (Ori + Ishi -> Orishi sounds like Rosh). Another Hebrew word in this category is Ru’ach – Spirit which is upon clipping yields several vocabularies in Yoruba and Ibo languages. Further details see Bolaji Aremo – Yoruba and Igbo – 2009.

The next word is Hebrew “bara”, to create, which Eze has introduced to our advantage. Yes to create is “ike” in Igbo. In euphemistic etymology, the word blood has been used as creation both in the bible and the Koran. In several languages, blood is akin to life, even the word is used as to create, to mate to copulate especially in animals when paired. Take the Hebrew word bara, add a prefix vowel “o” and you obtain “obara” – blood in Igbo. Apply the clipping mode ba/ra and you get Yoruba word “ba” to mate and Igbo “ra” to mate or copulate.

The “ba” in Yoruba is “gba” in Igbo where “b” comes as “gb” as in the word Ibo and Igbo, Also “gba” is Igbo to copulate among animals. Another Hebrew word for blood is dam – Arabic dam also. When the word is clipped as Da/m or D/m because the letter “a” is an infix vowel , the root letter “m” is same in Igbo as “mme” – blood. It is called etymo-scrabbling. In the book “fundamentals of Islam” by P.J. Stewart, a college fellow at oxford, he posits that vowel elimination or addition leads to variation of words and meanings. Changes in the pattern of vowels are used together with prefixes, infixes and suffixes to indicate variations of meaning thus the Arabic root for example SLM gives “Salam - peace, (Hebrew Shalom, Igbo Challum- yield, Solum- respect or submit), Sallam – he grants peace, Islam-submission Muslim one who submits.

I wish to suggest to Eze as a scientist that 100% is sometimes unattainable even in nature. There is always a fraction and even precision machines are constantly calibrated to maintain a balance. So it is with panthenic totem in Igbo land. It differs as the Igbo dialects differentiate. Dr. Ujah’s efforts are not in vain as Eze may think. There are several other authors that have equally expressed Ujah’s postulation.

He cannot be crucified for his attempts to do what some linguists have refused to do. Just recently Professor Catherine Acholonu came up with evidence about the Jews. Hear her as published in daily sun of October 6 2008 - Jews inherited Ibo traditions. “When you find words with the same meaning, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11 times between Igbo language and another language, it means there are some relationship. In comparative linguistics, most scholars do not explore the benefits of language
universals in their search for roots to similarities in lexicostatistics. Languages do not have to agree in syntax, grammar, phonotactics e.t.c. before they can be seen as similar, otherwise why are they separate languages.

The phonemes and semantics are strong attributes of word similarities. According to Dr. Bolaji Aremo, “orthography may differ due to modus loquendum (mode of speech)”. In Dr. Eze’s environment, he must have heard a child say “tea and biye” in request for tea and bread. The child’s mother understands “biye” to mean bread. Even in one’s family there can be differentiation in words.
Dr. Ujah’s claims are still subject to further investigation and Dr. Eze should please help rather than condemn. Quod erat demonstrandum (QED).

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