Tag Archives: Fraud

The Real Papa CE: An expose of an Afro-American pretending to be an Igbo Dibia

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rachel-dolezal1

Rachel Dozeal

Recently, the news of Rachel Dozeal has made headlines all around the world. The once distinguished president of the Spokane branch of the NAACP stepped down when it was revealed that she was really of European American descent, and had fabricated her past to make it seem as though she was African American. I personally found the entire episode to be extremely bizarre and surreal, somewhat like something out of a Dave Chappelle show skit or a Boondocks episode. But it motivated me to finally write this long overdue piece about another person that I know who has fabricated their past in order to gain followers: a man who goes by the name Papa CE.

Papa CE

Papa CE

Who is Papa CE?

This individual started a show about African American Hoodoo on Blogtalk Radio a few years ago, and claimed to not only be a descendant of an Igbo trader who migrated to the the Americas in the 1800s to trade, but also an initiated dibia and a king of a village in Igboland (seriously), where he used to live. He also claims to have been born in Louisiana, and at the age of 3, was declared “two headed” seer, which meant he was clairvoyant, and was trained in the art of hoodoo, which is African American folk magic. Furthermore, he claimed that he was in contact with the “7 spirits of Obasi.” But is any of this true? papa ce

What is his real name?

Papa CE is short for Chukwunyere EzeNdubisi. That’s the name that he goes by, but his real name is John Willis. The EzeNdubisi name was taken from the alleged last name of his Igbo ancestor who settled here in the 1800s (which he has not shown any proof of by the way), and he came up with the Chukwunyere name by simply finding an Igbo name with the same meaning as his real one (which means “God is gracious”):   In a private conversation with John Willis, I asked him exactly what his ancestor was over here to trade (with full knowledge that palm oil was the main export out of Igboland at the time). His response was that they were trading “eze ego & other artifacts”, despite the fact that those things would have been practically worthless at the time in the United States. When I pried for more information, he kept on stating that it was secret. The reality is that this ancestor never existed. John Willis learned about Igbo culture via a group called Ekwe Nche, in Chicago, where he lives. It was from this group that he learned the history, politics, culture, and even a bit of the language of Ndi Igbo. When he first met this group, he was a Christian minister, eventually referring to himself as Reverand Ezendubisi. One of the the emails actually reveals his real history: screenshot-groups.google.com 2015-06-16 14-40-16   He even admits that he was once looking for his identity and decided to identify as Igbo in another email: screenshot-groups.google.com 2015-06-16 14-53-47 In the very first episode of his Blogtalk Radio, he claimed that his father’s family came to the US to trade, and in another episode, he made the claim that didn’t come from a slave family and doesn’t have the “slave consciousness.” But if the above emails are to be believed, all of that is shown to be a blatant lie. Besides that, his knowledge of Igbo history and culture also seems pretty suspect:

  • Willis deliberately mispronounces the name Igbo. After pronouncing it correctly earlier in the show, he pronounces it as “E-boo”, in order to try to make it sound like Hebrew. This is a clear sign of a deceit and a person with a nefarious agenda
  • Willis spreads debunked misinformation about Igbo people being descendants of Jews/Hebrews including claims that Igbos say that they are descendants of 3 brothers (Eri, Arodi and Areli) which are 110% fabricated
  • Willis claims that the so called Jewish genes (J1) have been found in Igboland, despite the fact that all the DNA studies done on Igbo people have shown them to be 100% African (Haplogroup E1b1A specifically)
  • Willis claims that his family knew this information this entire time, but the reality is that he picked it all up from Ekwe Nche, which also promoted the debunked Israel hypothesis

Where was he really born?

Due to its reputation as Hoodoo Central, it makes sense for John Willis to claim to be born in New Orleans in order to add to his credibility. However, besides providing no proof of this, he also never seems to mention places like Congo Square, or the influence of the Congo at all on New Orleans or Hoodoo, which are central to its history. This is most likely another fabrication on his part. Did he ever live in Nigeria? For a person who claims to have lived in Nigeria, he seems to not have an even basic understanding of Nigerian geography or history. In his second episode, he makes several errors:

  • Willis does not know the difference between the Benin (Edo) Empire of Nigeria and the Kingdom of Dahomey, which is now part of the neighboring Republic of Benin
  • Willis has NO CLUE that the Oba of Benin (who is regarded as one of the top 3 traditional rulers in all of Nigeria) never owned any part of modern day Benin Republic, and still doesn’t to this day, especially not the entire country
  • Willis makes the claim that Vodun is Yoruba tradition, when its really practiced by the Fon & Ewe of Benin & Togo
  • Willis confuses Haitian Vodun with Dahomian Vodun by using the term Loa, which is a Haitian term, not a Dahomian one

In his third episode, it gets worse. Willis repeats alot of the same misinformation as he did in the second episode in regards to Nigerian history and makes even more basic errors:

  • Willis makes a huge mistake in stating that Benin was the largest kingdom amongst the Yoruba when its common knowledge that it was ruled by the Edo. The two largest Yoruba kingdoms were Oyo and Ife (which is also common knowledge)
  • Blatantly lies and says that the Yoruba word for sacrifice Ebo (pronounced Eh-bow) was named after the Igbo people
  • Says that Africans didn’t expand their territory” or  build empires until European colonization, despite the presence of the Aro Confederacy, Benin Empire, Sokoto Caliphate, Oyo and Ife Empires in Nigeria alone

Its pretty clear that John Willis has never lived in Nigeria, most likely has never stepped foot there. Even if he had, there’s no way in hell that Igbos would allow a non-Igbo person to be king over a village of theirs. And even if such an abomination was to happen, John Willis never provided even an image of his alleged coronation.

Why would he fabricate his past?

John Willis’s target audience was black and white Americans. With all the competition out there now in the psychic/spiritualist arena, he needed a way to distinguish himself. Since most Americans weren’t familiar with Igbo culture or spirituality, Willis pretending to be one would make himself seem more exotic, and protect him from being called out on his lies and misinformation. However, when people like me would raised too many questions in regards to his credibility, we were cut off, while Willis searched for new people to scam. John Willis thinks that Americans (black ones in particular) are idiots, who won’t do their research and will accept anything that he stated.

John Willis was pretty much aspiring to replicate the success of “Miss Cleo”, an African American lady who pretended to be Jamaican “shaman” in order to boost her profile on the Pyschic Readers Network.She achieved fame as their spokesperson in the late 1990s and early 2000s until they were sued by the FCC for fraud and deceptive advertising. The parallels between them are so similar that one could almost call John Willis “Mr. Cleo.” Its almost a gurantee that John Willis aka Mr Cleo aka Papa CE will not come clean and tell his viewers the truth. From talking with him, he’s been lying for so long that he’s actually begun to believe his own lies. Nonetheless, the veil has been lifted and his fabrications are coming crashing down.

In the follow up to this post, I will debunk John Willis’s claims of being an initated Dibia, as well as the so called “7 Spirits of Obasi”

Fraud

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A Re-Emerging Scam: A Review of The Jews of Nigeria Part 3

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ReEmerging

In the last part of this article, I began the process of evaluating the claims made by Jeff Lieberman and the Igbo Jews in “The Jews of Nigeria” film. This segment was originally meant to touch on seven areas, but I have decided to present on just four areas this time, and then conclude with three for the final part. The four areas that will be evaluated will be Linguistics, Christianity & Igbo Tradition, Family & Village Traditions, and Artifacts.

1. LINGUISTICS

One of the Igbo Jewish teachers in the film attempts to use pseudo-linguistics to show a similarity between Igbo and Hebrew. He makes a number of statements that range from comical to downright insulting to the intelligence of viewers.

“I believe that the word Igbo or Ibo is a corruption of Ibri or Ivri” – Eben Cohen

“There are alot of Igbo words that sound quite similar to that of Hebrew. Igbo is getting from the word Ivrim.” – Eben Cohen

Mr. Eben Cohen is so desperate to establish a connection between Igbo and Hebrew that he even shamefully makes the claim that the word Igbo is nothing but a corruption of a Hebrew word. Besides showing his massive inferiority complex, he also neglects the fact that the “gb” in Igbo (pronounced EE-g-bow) is considered one letter, as it is in other West African languages. Furthermore, its very well known that the word Igbo is found in other languages in Nigeria:

“Among the Yoruba – speaking people of the Kwa language to which the Igbo belongs, the expression ‘igbo” was very popular. He points to the Yoruba tradition which says that ‘the indigenous people whom their cultural hero, Oduduwa and his followers met at Ife were the Igbo.’ Furthermore, ‘we find among the Yoruba, place names like Oke-Igbo and Ijebu-Igbo…while ‘igbo” the bird, reflects the forest environment…While the linguistic authority, J.H Greensberg has placed the homeland of the Bantu speaking peoples in south-eastern Nigeria, J.A Ademakinwa, an Ife historian concludes that it was possible the Igbo retained the name of the original population of Eastern Nigeria”

SOURCE: “The Igbo and Their Niger Delta Neighbors” By Nnai J. O. Ijeaku (page 16-17)

Cohen’s silly pseudo-linguistic examples continue:

“Kol in Hebrew means voice, ool in Igbo means voice” – Eben Cohen

Actual Igbo words for voice: Olu or Onu

SOURCE: “Igbo English Dictionary” by Michael J.C Echeruo

“Ketan: Hebrew for little or small, nkenta in Igbo” – Eben Cohen

Actual definition of Nkenta – allotment or share

Igbo words for small: nta, obere, ogbede, mpe mpe

SOURCE: “Igbo English Dictionary” by Michael J.C Echeruo

“If these people are not descendants of Israel, how come their languages rhymes with that of Israel?” – Eben Cohen

Perhaps in Eben’s demented world, Igbo language resembles Hebrew. Of course, this would mean that native Igbo speakers would be able to understand Hebrew, the same way that speakers of pidgin English can understand British English or Haitian Kreyol speakers can generally understand French. Igbos cannot understand Hebrew whatsoever because its totally unrelated to it:

“The Igbo language (also known, less commonly as Ibo) is an African language, spoken in several African countries including Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Congo among others.

It belongs to the ‘Benue-Congo’ family of languages, which is a subgroup of the major ‘Niger-Congo’ family of languages. It is similar to Yoruba and Chinese in the sense that it is a tonal language. Like many African languages, the Igbo language has to its credit a number of dialects, distinguished by accent or orthography but almost universally mutually intelligible.”

SOURCE: “Development of Igbo Language E-Learning System” by Olufemi Moses Oyelami. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE October 2008 ISSN 1302-6488 Volume: 9 Number: 4 Article 2

Eben goes to make a pretty revealing statement later in the film:

“Initially there was no vast knowledge of Hebrew here, even though they have the Hebrew alphabet” – Eben Cohen

Despite the fact Igbos today have a vast knowledge of multiple dialects and even there is even evidence of Igbo scripts that predate the Latin one (Nsibidi & Uli for example), Eben Cohen wants us to believe that their real original language was Hebrew…which there is no vast knowledge of whatsoever in Igboland today. In fact, they would have to learn their true “original” language from foreign sources. Does that make any type of sense?

Court Record written in Nsibidi script

Court Record written in Nsibidi script

“We look forward to the day we will be perfect. By having our conversations fully, hours of conversations all in Hebrew. That is the day we will term ourselves perfect people.” – Eben Cohen

Well obviously being able to have full conversations in Igbo isn’t good enough for people like Eben Cohen. He wants to be able to converse fully in the totally foreign Hebrew language in order for him to be “perfect.” Its no different than a person saying the same thing about being fluent in the English language making them  a better person, and is also more proof of the massive inferiority complex of Eben Cohen and the other Igbo Jews.

2. CHRISTIANITY & IGBO TRADITION

One of the oddest arguments that Lieberman makes in this film is that the introduction of Christianity into Igboland made its people totally forget their traditions and their origins. In the early part of the documentary, Lieberman tries to make the case that Igbo traditions somehow were lost due to colonization:

“In a land confused by outside forces, those traditions began to bear a different name”- Jeff Lieberman

Fortunately for Igbo people, Lieberman is mistaken. The Igbo customs have are known as Omenala or Odinani. Which means “it rests upon the Earth.” Christianity and Odinani have been practiced side by side for almost 100 years, although they have influenced one another. In fact, the idea that colonization would make people totally forget their origins and traditions is quite insulting to Igbo people’s intelligence. Yet another example of Lieberman’s patronizing attitude. This passage, which tells of the impact that Christianity had in the Igbo town of Nsukka is mirrored in many places of Igboland:

“When describing this belief system, I have adopted the present tense, since British colonialism and Christianity did not destroy or completely replace Nsukka religion. If anything, Christianity and traditional religion coexisted, often peacefully and conflict arose only when one religion tried to suppress the other.”

SOURCE: “Igo Mma Ogo: The Adoro Goddess, Her Wives, and Challengers—Influences on the Reconstruction of Alor-Uno, Northern Igboland, 1890-1994” by Nwando Achebe. Journal of Women’s History, Volume 14, Number 4, Winter 2003, pp. 83-105

Lieberman continues with this ironic statement:

“Like much of Africa, Nigeria suffers from a complicated sense of identity, due to the impact of outside forces. Nigeria’s fate came at the hands of the British, who began arriving in the middle of the 1600s. “ – Jeff Lieberman

Its pretty interesting that Lieberman can note that outside forces have complicated the sense of identity of many Nigerians, but doesn’t seem to include himself as contributing to this confusion. With people like him trying to reintroduce the failed Oriental hypothesis, would Judaism now count as an outside force? Furthermore, he incorrectly states that the British began arriving in the 1600s, when it really the Portuguese. Did Lieberman even attempt to fact check before putting out this film?

“The British administration was eventually established, and what followed were schools and churches. The Igbo initially rejected the churches, but attended the schools, thinking that they would eventually outsmart their oppressors. Before they realized that the schools and the churches were the same, more than half the Igbo were already converted.” — Jeff Lieberman

Funny enough, not one of those pictures shown in the film portrayed Igbo people during the colonial era. One can click here to see actual pictures of Igbo people during the colonial era. Secondly, the reason that many were converted was because the schools catered to children, who were far easier to indoctrinate than adults.

Igbo Men over 100 years ago

Continuing:

“Missionaries boosted their efforts in the 1980s, this time lead by the American Pentecostals.” – Jeff Lieberman

Coincidentally, it was soon after, that the Igbo-Jew fable began to re-emerge as well as shown in part 1. Next Lieberman attempts to paint a simple picture of Nigeria’s religious landscape either out of ignorance or deception:

“In this fervently religious nation, where’s there’s not an atheist or agnostic in sight, the country’s 130 million divide roughly equally amongst Muslims and Christians.” – Jeff Lieberman

Why does Jeff Lieberman continually ignore the traditional religions which are still heavily practice to this day? According to the CIA World Factbook, 10% of Nigerians adhere to their traditional religious practice. However, this number only accounts for peoples primary religious affiliation. If one were to add the number of people in Nigeria who still adhere to the traditional practices as their secondary religion, the number would jump up substantially to over 50%. The Nigerian Constitution even recognizes traditional religious rulers and customs. But that doesn’t stop Jeff Lieberman from continuing to spread his propaganda to uninformed audiences:

“While the link between the Igbo & Judaism are obvious to many Igbo, those practicing Judaism are small in number. Rough estimates figure that its less than 3000 that have embraced the faith. While the vast majority of Igbo remain active Christians.” – Jeff Lieberman

“As one of the three largest groups of Nigeria, the Igbo number approximately 25 million, and as the movement towards Judaism continues to grow, it has the potential to create a Jewish community of enormous size.” – Jeff Lieberman

Once again, Lieberman makes more misleading statements that are easily debunked by the facts on the ground . As pointed out in Part 1, the Oriental hypothesis of Igbo origin was discounted nearly 100 years ago. It was obvious to both the Europeans that introduced it as well as the native Igbos that the racist theory was based on little to no evidence.

The miniscule amount of people that practice Judaism in Igboland despite the “obvious links” should be a red flag to anyone who subscribes to this dead theory, as discussed by Rabbi Gorrin at one of the Re-Emerging Film talkback sessions:


Even more concerning should be the fact that there are alot more practitioners of the Igbo traditional religion than there are Igbo practitioners of Judaism. According to the CIA factbook, Nigeria’s Igbo population is roughly 30 million people. If the same percentage of them practiced their traditional religion as their primary religion, as is the national average, that would put the number of traditional practitioners at 3 million, more than 10X the amount of Igbos practicing Judaism in any capacity. Even if only 5% of Igbos practiced the traditional religion as their primary religion, that would still put the number at 1.5 million practitioners, most of whom live in rural areas. This is further buttressed by the number of traditional priests, priestesses and native doctors that still are able to obtain clients. If there was a movement of Igbos away from Christianity, it would be back to their native religion, and not to equally foreign religion of Judaism.

3. FAMILY & VILLAGE TRADITIONS

As Samuel and others begin to tell their stories, alot of holes start to pop up which cast doubt on the Igbo-Jewish idea:

“He (Samuel) studies whatever materials he can lay his hands on, and is amazed by how Jewish traditions mirror that of the Igbo. Samuel’s search has lead him home” – Jeff Lieberman

But how can this be? If Samuel actually studied whatever materials he could lay his hands on, he would have been aware that multiple Igbo historians have debunked the Oriental hypothesis, as demonstrated in part 1. And an analysis on both traditions will show that most of the claims of similarity are either overstated or downright fabricated, as demonstrated in part 2. Continuing:

“My father is an enlightened man. I still say it, that he was the first person to tell me about Judaism. But my mother was deceived by her friends, that I had joined an occultic society…my father tried to convince her that Judaism is a pure religion, but she wouldn’t listen ” – Samuel

Samuel’s father obviously isn’t a Christian. But he doesn’t practice Judaism either. Clearly, the mother also doesn’t, but if Judaism was really their ancestral tradition, why would the mother and her friends confuse it with an occult society? Especially since most of them have no problem no problem with masquerade societies:

When I went to Arochukwu to join the Ekpe traditional men’s society, I wasn’t condemned by members of my family. In fact, many people praised me for keeping the tradition alive, and my experience isn’t unique, and apparently Samuel’s isn’t either, but for a very different reason:

“Samuel’s experience is not uncommon. Those returning to Judaism face opposition from all sides” – Jeff Lieberman

Could this have anything to do with the fact that the traditional religion of the Igbos is still being practiced today? Igbo Christians recognize and respect many of the traditional practices and beliefs. But what the Igbo Jews are practicing is something completely alien to people in Nigeria, hence why there is alot of opposition to it. The experiences of Miriam add further evidence to this point:

“I’ve not really gone into my village so deeply because since I got married, when I did my wedding, when they saw people with kippahs, when they saw when we did our Ketubah marriage, when we break the glass, they were so scared, they were even crying, they said that my husband has initiated me in a cult” – Miriam

This may in fact be one of the most damning statements in the entire video. Lets look at this rationally: Its a fact that the traditional religion and practices are strongest in the village. Even to this day, people go to the village to do their traditional wedding before they do their Christian one. Even I have seen a video of my parents traditional wedding in the village.

If what Miriam had done was actually a traditional wedding, why would people in the village be scared of it? One can see the various traditional rites of Igbo marriage that are still practiced to this day right on Youtube.


Do they resemble the Jewish rites in any way?

“I’m still living in isolation in my family. I’m like an outcast among them.” – Igbo Jewish man

One open secret amongst many Nigerians is that there is usually at least one member of the family that openly practices the traditional religion As long at as that person isn’t engaging in taboo behavior, there is no reason for them to be isolated from their family. The people in my family that openly practice the traditional religion are not only respected, but are also consulted when spiritual issues arise.

4. ARTIFACTS

The lack of physical evidence that the Igbo Jews have casts more doubt on their story. However, the little physical evidence that they do present is not only misleading, its actually fraudulent.

“And even when they came down here, they constructed a monument at Aguleri called Obu-Gad.” – Igbo Jewish man

If Jeff Lieberman had done his homework, he would have found out that the name of the place was actually Obu Uga (or Obuga for short), and has only been called Obu-Gad in recent years, when the people of Aguleri realized that they could use this re-emerging scam to promote their town, even going so far as to create this hoax.

Alleged Hebrew text written by Eri. Somebody forgot to inform the scam artists that cowries are a fairly recent import to West Africa

Alleged Hebrew text written by Eri. Somebody forgot to inform the scam artists that cowries are a fairly recent import to West Africa

“In Aguleri the elders told Jeffreys in 1930 that: ‘…there are trenches (ekpe) that encircle Obuga and those trenches were told by our father were dug by the Igala in the old days as protection against the Igbo. In this trench people took refuge when an attack began. Afterwards the Igala went away …’ (Jeffreys 1930, 689)”

SOURCE: West African Journal of Archaeology, Volumes 12-13, page 56

Revisiting this quote from part 1, it makes you wonder why even the supporters of the Oriental hypothesis like Jeffreys weren’t informed of this so called Obu-Gad, especially since it would have added credence to their theory:

“By the late 1930s, the Oriental hypothesis had been argued out ad nauseam and abandoned, since no amount of research, not even (Herbert Frank) Matthew’s at Arochukwu and Jeffrey’s at Awka could uncover solid historical or anthropological evidence in its support. C.K Meek, the government anthropologist who had coordinate the research into this and related issues in Igboland, closed the debate as far as the government was concerned when he warned that: “no purpose would be served by engaging in speculations about ancient cultural contacts, such as that the prevalence of sun-worship, of forms of mummification, and of dual organization points to some distance connection with Ancient Egypt. As far back as we can see within historic times, the bulk of the Igbo peoples appear to have lived an isolated existence.”

By 1940 then, the Oriental hypothesis was to all intents and purposes dead as a serious explanation of Igbo culture history.”

SOURCE: “The Culture History of the Igbo Speaking Peoples of Nigeria” by Adiele Afigbo, West African Culture Dynamics: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives pages 307 to 309

When Rabbi Gorrin visits Nigeria, the people there have never seen a Torah in their lives:

“Then taking out a Torah scroll and unwrapping it and have them walk inside and see a Torah for the first time…” – Rabbi Howard Gorrin

But these same people had no doubt seen Ofo sticks, Mbari shrines, Ikenga figurines and other traditional artifacts:

“Excavations at Ugwuele, Nsukka and Afikpo show evidences of long habitation as early as 6000 B.C. However by 9th century A.D, it seemed most clearly that Igbo had settled firmly in Igboland”

SOURCE: “Migration and the Economy: Igbo Migrants and the Nigerian Economy 1900 to 1975” By Mathias Chinonyere Mgbeafulu, Page 10

So let’s get this straight. Igbos have artifacts in Igbo Ukwu that go back up to 8000 years. This is before anyone named Abraham, Isaac or Jacob would have existed. But the Igbo Jews want us to believe that they migrated from Israel but didn’t bring a single copy of ANY of the Jewish scriptures with them? Or even an artifact? Well Chukwu Dalu (Thank God) that Igbo ancestors left a multitude of artifacts for us to enjoy:

In summary, the Igbo Jews resort to using pseudo-linguistics in a failed attempt to link Igbo language with Hebrew, totally misrepresent the impact that Christianity has had on the Igbo traditional religion, demonstrate that Judaism is a foreign tradition as evidenced by the reactions of their family and village members, and last but not least, present fraudulent artifacts as evidence. In the fourth and final part, the following claims will be covered: Igbos & The State of Israel, “Expert” Opinions & DNA Testing.

Fraud

SOURCES CITED:

  1. “The Igbo and Their Niger Delta Neighbors” By Nnai J. O. Ijeaku (page 16-17)
  2. “Igbo English Dictionary” by Michael J.C Echeruo
  3. “Development of Igbo Language E-Learning System” by Olufemi Moses Oyelami. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE October 2008 ISSN 1302-6488 Volume: 9 Number: 4 Article 2
  4. “Igo Mma Ogo: The Adoro Goddess, Her Wives, and Challengers—Influences on the Reconstruction of Alor-Uno, Northern Igboland, 1890-1994” by Nwando Achebe. Journal of Women’s History, Volume 14, Number 4, Winter 2003, pp. 83-105
  5. West African Journal of Archaeology, Volumes 12-13, page 56
  6. “The Culture History of the Igbo Speaking Peoples of Nigeria” by Adiele Afigbo, West African Culture Dynamics: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives pages 307 to 309
  7. “Migration and the Economy: Igbo Migrants and the Nigerian Economy 1900 to 1975” By Mathias Chinonyere Mgbeafulu, Page 10

A Re-Emerging Scam: A Review of The Jews of Nigeria Part 1

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This year, a documentary came out, entitled: “Re-Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria”, which claims that Igbo people are one of the “Lost Tribes of Israel.” Its a very interesting and entertaining documentary. However, its one that is very much misnamed. What the documentary should be called is “Re-Emerging: The Failed Oriental Hypothesis.” What the filmmaker, Jeff L. Lieberman forgot to inform the audience of was that the propaganda he is trying to push has been debunked for nearly 100 years. Before we even get to review the film, let’s first go through history so we can figure out how this documentary came to be:

The first person to posit any relationship between Igbos and Jews was Oladuah Equianio. In his autobiography he states:

“Such is the imperfect sketch my memory has furnished me with of the manners and customs of a people among whom I first drew my breath. And here I cannot forbear suggesting what has long struck me very forcibly, namely, the strong analogy which even by this sketch, imperfect as it is, appears to prevail in the manners and customs of my countrymen and those of the Jews, before they  reached the Land of Promise, and particularly the patriarchs while they were yet in that pastoral state which is described in Genesis–an analogy, which alone would induce me to think that the one people had sprung from the other.”

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano Or Gustavus Vassa, The African (Chapter 1)

This statement compares the two groups, but doesn’t actually say which one he believe came from the other. In recent years, evidence has emerged that Equianio (whose legal name was Gustavus Vassa) was actually born and raised in South Carolina, and only wrote about Igboland from the stories he heard others who were born there tell. Furthermore, one can argue that even if he were born in Igboland as he claimed, Vassa admits that not only is his memory very imperfect (having  been removed from his people at such a young age), but that he is now looking at it from a Christian point of view, which would biased him to arguing for a Biblical connection to his people.

Professor Adele Afigbo, one of the prominent Igbo historians writes about other people who speculated on Igbo origins in the Middle Eastern area:

“(George) Basden (1912) pointing to certain constructions found in the Igbo language and what he considered the deep religious feeling of the people, propagated the view that Igbo culture probably evolved under the impact of the Levitical Code.

Impressed by what he considered the superior intelligence of the Aro Igbo and by their religious systems and rituals, (Sir Herbert Richmond ) Palmer contended that they carried Hamitic blood in their veins and that it was under their leadership that the “higher” aspects of Igbo culture had evolved.

Similarly, impressed by Igbo sun-worship and by the feature of dual organization in their social structure, (M.D.W) Jeffreys held that that the Igbo at some stage in the past had come under Egyptian influence,  the carriers of this influence probably being the Nri of Akwa in northern Igboland.

The pseudo-scientific racial theories prominent in the colonial period made their impact on the Igbo in two ways. In the first place, colonialism was a severe humiliation for the Igbo. It also gave them Western education, which made them capable of accepting the myths about the cultural similarities between them and the peoples of the Near East. To show that they had not always been as “despicable” as the colonialists found them, they started laying claim to an Eastern origin on the basis of such cultural similarities.

In the same manner, the application of the Oriental hypothesis to Igbo cultural history by colonial officials had a propagandistic side to it. These men refused to concede that the Igbo cultural traits which they traced to the East could indicate that the Igbo came from there. To do so would, in the intellectual climate of the time, have been to assign this despised colonial people a higher place on the world tree of culture than the colonial masters would have found convenient. Instead, the colonial theorists claimed that these traits showed that he Igbo had once been under Egyptian or Jewish cultural dominance. Implicit in this claim was the idea, not hitherto emphasize by anyone, that British colonialism was not a radical departure from the past, but in some sense a continuation of the cultural education of the Igbo which had been started long ago by the Egyptians. In this regard it is revealing that the Oriental hypothesis was imported as an explanation of Igbo history in the 1920s,  when the colonial government was experiencing great difficulty in the administration of the Igbo. It was in this situation that it came to be argued first that Igboland had once been under Egyptian influence, second that the spread of Egyptian culture in Igboland was the work of a small elite, who after interbreeding with the people, became the Nri and Aro of today, and third that if the British really wanted to rule the Igbo “indirectly”, then they had to do so through the Nri and the Aro (Afigbo 1965)

By the late 1930s, the Oriental hypothesis had been argued out ad nauseam and abandoned, since no amount of research, not even (Herbert Frank) Matthew’s at Arochukwu and Jeffrey’s at Awka could uncover solid historical or anthropological evidence in its support. C.K Meek, the government anthropologist who had coordinate the research into this and related issues in Igboland, closed the debate as far as the government was concerned when he warned that: “no purpose would be served by engaging in speculations about ancient cultural contacts, such as that the prevalence of sun-worship, of forms of mummification, and of dual organization points to some distance connection with Ancient Egypt. As far back as we can see within historic times, the bulk of the Igbo peoples appear to have lived an isolated existence.”

By 1940 then, the Oriental hypothesis was to all intents and purposes dead as a serious explanation of Igbo culture history.”

“The Culture History of the Igbo Speaking Peoples of Nigeria” by Adiele Afigbo, West African Culture Dynamics: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives pages 307 to 309

This dead in the water theory was resurrected for a brief period of time during the Nigerian-Biafran War, when the Biafran Republic received support in the form of arms from Israel, among other nations. Apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia also supported Biafra, but nobody uses that as proof as any ancestral connection that Igbos have to any of those white settler regimes.

Over the years, other Igbo historical heavy weights through the years have also weighed in:

“It may well be that the proponents of this oriental hypothesis base their argument on circumstantial evidence. Non-Igbos who believe in this theory drew their conclusion on the strength of some similarities between Igbo sharp practices in trade and moneymaking ventures with that of the Jews. Still other people who buy this theory do so because the Igboman’s resentments in Nigeria resemble those of the Jews. The wide dispersion of the Igbo just like the Jews is also one of the reasons advanced to support this thesis. Today, however, the concept of the oriental or eastern origins is in danger. The idea has been impugned vehemently and is fast losing its credulity. The tradition is considered to be more of a fable than reality. No wonder the theory has been opposed and even rejected by some indigenous writers. Afigbo has written of its proponents as victims of the ‘oriental mirage’ and warned that the oriental extraction should not be taken seriously. Similarly (Professor. Elizabeth) Isichei has dismissed the theory as a ‘mistaken stereotype.’ To (M.A) Onwuejeogwu, the argument is ‘unscientific and only fulfills man’s quests for its origin without coming close to the answer.’ Because of the caliber of these critics, the first Hermetic hypothesis of the Igbo origins as obsolete and untenable. This is because it has neither established convincingly the circumstances surrounding the original home of the Igbo nor trace chronologically how the Igbo came to live whre they are today. But put more succinctly, contemporary studies on Igbo origin are contending that earliest Igbo first emerged in Nigeria and not from the near or far East.”

Migration and the Economy: Igbo Migrants and the Nigerian Economy 1900 to 1975 By Mathias Chinonyere Mgbeafulu, page 8

More:

“Some elders still claim that the Igbo are the original inhabitants of their present place of abode. Some late theories of Hebrew link are yet to be confirmed with authentic ethnographic data.
A Handbook of African Religion and Culture by Professor Udobata R Onunwa, Page xxi

More:

“Some Igbo writers have since then followed him (Dr. George Basden) and written in the same vein  saying that the Igbos are of Jewish origin. Some of the undisputed similarities in some Jewish practice and those of the Igbos are stated in support of their claims. One has to observe however that some of the examples given appear too far-fetched…This account of the origin of the Igbo is immediately knocked out out by archaeological evidence that Igbos have been in their present settlement from well over 3000 B.C.”

Igbo People: Their Origin and Culture Area by Dibia John Umeh (Traditional Priest), Pages 32-33

So by 2012, when this documentary was made, the Oriental hypothesis, that Igbo culture and/or people is derived from Israel or Egypt had been abandoned by the very people that promoted it in the first place (Basden, Jeffreys, Palmer, Matthews, Meek etc) had been dismissed by serious indigenous  and non-indigenous academics (Afigbo, Isichei,  Onwuejeogwu, Mgbeafulu, Onunwa)  and had never been taken seriously by traditional priests (Umeh) in the first place. You will not find arguments for the Oriental hypothesis in any recent academic journal, any recent dissertation or thesis, or any books written by traditional Igbo priests or practitioners. So how in the world did this movie actually get made?

There are two sources for the re-emergence of this failed hypothesis. As the film rightly pointed out, the Pentacostal Christian movement began to spread like wildfire in Nigeria in the 1970s and 80s. Unlike its predecessors, the Pentecostal churches did not put an emphasis on education for either its clergy or its congregation. Compared to the highly educated Anglican and Catholic Priests, Pentecostal ministers could literally be anyone off the street who received a “calling.” Furthermore, the Pentecostal churches did not open up schools at the same rate or at the same caliber as the Anglican and Catholics did, and also appealed to many of the unemployed, hopeless masses.

The mid-1980s also saw Nigeria’s once strong economy start to decline due to a poor decisions from the military leadership, as well as Structural Adjustment Programs by the World Bank. By the 1990s, Nigeria’s economic situation was extremely bleak. Many people looked for ways to escape. In 1993, an Igbo migrant worker in Israel named Chima Onyeulo went to the Interior Ministry to claim Israeli citizenship as a “returning” Jew. Onyeulo claimed that although most Igbos were now Christians, they were once Israelites, and on that basis, he should be allowed the “right of return” afforded to Jewish people. Furthermore, he insisted that Igbo was simply a corruption of the word “Hebrew.” His application was rejected.

African Refugees from the Sudan in Israel

His failure did not deter others from also trying to trying to be recognized as a Jew and escape out of Nigeria. In 1999, after one Igbo man traveled to Israel, he came back and told the rest of his Pentecostal church that they were from Israel , and convinced them embrace Judaism. Members of that church became practicing Messianic Judaism, which is nothing but Christianity that also keeps some of the Old Testament law. Messianic Judaism constitutes the overwhelming majority of self purported Igbo Jews today. That same year, the Association of Jewish Faith in Nigeria was founded.

Is it a coincidence that the Oriental Hypothesis began to re-emerge when Nigeria’s economic and political situation worsened? Does anyone else find it interesting that there is almost no record of any of these Igbo Jewish groups before the 1990s? Why did it take for them to get internet access before learning that they were Jews? Why were no practitioners of Odinani, Igbo traditional priests or Dibias interviewed in the film? Why were the academics in Igboland not interviewed either? How it is that in 2012, Jeff Lieberman has been able to find evidence for this supposed Hebrew lineage that Basden, Jeffreys, Palmer, Meek and Matthews  could not find nearly 100 years ago before people had embraced Christianity as much as they do now? Isn’t it pretty clear what is going on here?

The Igbo Jews are trying to escape Nigeria by any means. They want Israel to airlift them out of Nigeria as they did to the Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel) in the 1991 during Operation Solomon. They have even gone so far as to fabricate physical evidence and create traditions out of thin air that never existed in Igboland. While other Nigerians have used “green card marriages” or fake visas as a way to illegally immigrate out of the nation, these people have decided to pursue the religious route, and imitate foreign Ashkenazi traditions like donning the yarmulke caps, which is a tradition from Poland. They have even gone so far as to wave the flag as Israel as much as possible, despite the fact that the state of Israel as a secular nation and Judaism are not synonymous, and there are many Jews that do not identify with that state. Other commentators on various websites have pointed out the scam as well:

“Fraudsters! If I was an African living in squalor I would also claim to be Jewish to get a free ticket to Israel. The more we indulge these so called ‘Jews’ the more they will continue appearing”

“If Nigeria was a British colony, why couldn’t they find out about Judaism prior to the internet? The same Christian missionaries who converted many Nigerians to Christianity could have given them access to knowledge of Judaism. Were there no Jews in Nigeria during the British era? Wouldn’t the Christians have used the Old Testament which talks about the Jews?”

“The men are all circumcised as babies 8 days old??? I’m sure NOT. This is just a scam to get into Israel.”

“The Igbo people are not from Isreal. They do not have anything in common that one would even guess that they are from Isreal. Igbo people do not have any culture that relates to that of the Isrealis. The Ibos are Roman Catholics. The Igbo people should plan how to better their lives and that of their communities, and stop thinking negatives.”

This comment hit the nail right on the head:

“Well, looking at the situation i Nigeria where there is no social security, no light, no water, no good roads, no affordable health care system coupled with bad governance, one cannot but seek affiliation with another good country that may be willing to accept him. If Nigeria were to be a good country where the welfare of its citizen is well attended to, the Igbos would have denied that they are Jews even if Israel request for them.

This documentary reminds me of another one that came out this year. Anyone remember Kony 2012??

Once the Ugandans got wind of it, they were able to help end Invisible Children’s party and expose them for the fraud they were perpetuating on people. Perhaps Jeff L. Lieberman knows this, and is choosing to avoid showing this film to Nigerian audiences as shown from the screening schedule on the website.

In conclusion, the only thing that has been re-emerging, is a racist scam that perpetuates the notion that African people are only intelligent enough to create their own traditions. This failed hypothesis, which says that Igbos in particular, could not have derived their culture by themselves, and must have been influenced by Jews or some other foreign group is being used as a means of escape from a failing state by some very desperate people. In the second part of the review, we will point out every single false or half-true statement in this documentary, and start the process of finally killing the debunked Oriental hypothesis once and for all. Please spread the word and don’t allow others get caught up in this latest Nigerian scam.