For a long time, there have been many claims that the Igbo tribe of Nigeria migrated from ancient Israel and now, it seems they are not the only Nigerian tribe with this ancestry. The historical roots of the Ijebu people of Nigeria can apparently be traced to Israel as well, according to a lecturer, Dr. Fatai Ayisa Olasupo, from the Department of Local Government Studies in Nigeria’s Obafemi Awolowo University. He has written a book to present his research and corroborate his claims that people from the Ijebu tribe, Kanuri, Itsekiri and parts of Benue are all migrants from Israel.
Last year, the Israeli government granted about 9000 Ethiopians with Jewish ancestry citizenship, following its principle of the “law of return”. This law gives Jewish descendants the right to migrate to Israel from wherever they are, but also requires them to convert to Judaism, which is the national religion. Since then, the “Igbos are Jews” notion has gained some traction and many more avid followers. This idea has been recurrent since the 18th century when a freed slave named Olaudah Equaino made the assertion that his people, the Igbos, migrated from Israel.
However, these claims by Dr. Fatai Ayisa Olasupo, that some other Nigerian tribes are also from Israel come across like a modern day fable. The Ijebu people, who are a part of the Yoruba tribe in West Africa, claim their ancestry is from the Middle East and some believe its Mecca, specifically. Even though this story is from Yoruba folklore, one can chalk it up to the influence of the spread of Islam from Mecca through the trans-Saharan trade route. These new “revelations” by the scholar seem like a struggle for attention from the Yorubas as he has admitted he gathered most of his information online.
What should be researched on, rather, investigated, is the sudden urge to link most sub-Saharan African tribes to Jewish ancestry. Countries like Ivory Coast, Gabon, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe all have Jewish communities. The people in these communities are Jewish either through their ancestry, like they claim, or by being told by a preacher like in the case of William Saunders Crowdy, founder of the Church of God and Saints of Christ and a former slave himself.
Still, what is most ridiculous is the fact that the Jewish state itself does not recognise most of these tribes. The only link some of them have is the semblance of tradition and culture, which seems absurd since many other world cultures share similarities but are not related in any way. However, this issue brings up questions surrounding self-esteem, self-hate, not being confident in your own skin and therefore craving to be someone else, look like someone else or be part of a different community.
A lot of these problems have have to do with Africa’s colonial history, where a non-black person has managed to infer that he’s superior to black people. Or perhaps being Jewish could make you get recognised by Israel and make the nation a safe haven for Africans in search of greener pastures. This urge to belong to “God’s chosen people” may come from the belief that this will give Africans some sort of exclusivity that other tribes don’t have but, this need to have any other ancestry can make Africans neglect improving their present home. We need to face the truth or risk finding that our present homes are rotting away, while we pine for that which was never ours.