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Kolanut Theory: Ooni’s Version Of Yoruba, Igbo Shared History Sparks Controversy

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The Ooni of Ife has again reignited a longstanding debate and set off a social media storm by asserting historical linkages between the Yoruba and Igbo ethnic groups.

The revered monarch, known for his efforts to promote cultural unity, expressed concern over the discord often observed between these two ancient races.

The Ooni’s latest remarks on the subject were published by Premium Times in an exclusive interview on Saturday.

The Ooni stressed the deep roots shared by the Yoruba and Igbo peoples, saying, “They (Yoruba and Igbo) are very ancient races. It’s been proven that these two races are the oldest in the world.

“But when I try to establish the link between Yorubas and the Igbos, a lot of people take it as a controversial thing. But let’s break it down. “It’s true. We are the same.”

Highlighting his personal connection to the matter, the Ooni explained, “In my palace, to date, I still have a house of Igbo (pronounced as Igbo in ‘Igbo people’). Where the Ooni lives is called Ile-Igbo. Igbo, to the Yorubas and Ife, is a new dawn; it’s Igbo.

“And when you sleep, they say, O digbo’ore, O digbo’ore. ‘Igbo’ means Ile-Igbo. That means you will begin afresh. Well, the Igbos probably might not know. I don’t know. They have their meaning.”

The monarch delved into cultural symbols, particularly the kola nut, which he portrayed as a unifying element between the two groups.

He said, “Sometimes, the Igbos say they are from the Jewish side. I wonder. No. The Jews came from you (Igbo). Because you cannot plant kola nuts in Israel, it will not grow. Why are you so particular about Kola nuts?

“We are the only ones that grow kola nuts, we Yorubas. It does not grow anywhere else. It grows only in Yoruba land. So, where did Igbo get it when they were celebrating it? How? They cannot do without it.

“They even say the only language kola nut understands is Igbo. So, where were they getting it from? If there was no linkage with their brothers in Yoruba land. So, we can even use that common connecting factor, the kola nut. Let’s start to research kola nuts.

“The Western people have tried to take kola nut seeds to plant it. It would grow to a level, it would die. It would grow to a level, it would die. It can never grow anywhere other than Yoruba land and has a spiritual undertone.

“So, to know our history better, let us pick things about nature that connect us. I just mentioned one.” Let us research kola nuts. Why is it that the Igbos are so particular about it? They fight wars in Igbo land because of kola nut. They will tell you to bring this specific kola nut. Bring this, get that.

“The only thing that grows in their place is the garden egg. They can grow that one very well. But that kola nut, they should come and tell me where it’s been grown in Igbo land. No, they buy it from Yoruba land.”

The Ooni’s remarks stirred mixed reactions, with some applauding his efforts to foster understanding and highlight shared heritage, while others criticised the oversimplification of complex historical narratives.

Critics pointed out the potential pitfalls of reducing cultural identities to singular symbols like the kola nut, urging a more nuanced exploration of historical and socio-cultural complexities.

Rich Clemz, a commenter on the Premium Times Facebook page, who claimed to have schooled at Nsukka, countered the Ooni’s claims, stating, “Kolanut grows in all Igbo land… It’s called Ukwu orjí.”

This sentiment was echoed by several others who pointed out personal experiences with kola nut trees in Igbo communities, challenging the Ooni’s assertion that kola nuts are exclusive to Yoruba land.

“We have kola nut trees scattered everywhere in Igbo land. . “The Ooni should be properly guided.”,” asserted Okoye Gregory Izuchukwu, highlighting the widespread presence of the tree in Igbo culture. Similar sentiments were shared by others who emphasized the cultural significance of kola nuts among the Igbo people.

On the other hand, some defended the monarch’s intentions of promoting unity. “His Highness may not be right about the common ancestry but he always seeks to unite the two tribes,” remarked Richard Okebaram, a supporter.

Critics accused the Ooni of oversimplifying complex historical narratives and urged a more nuanced understanding of cultural identities. “I think Ooni needs to travel,” commented Nwafor King. “There are kola nuts all over Igbo Land.”

However, not all reactions were critical. Richard Okebaram expressed support for the Ooni’s efforts to promote unity despite potential inaccuracies in his claims about common ancestry. “His Highness may not be right about the common ancestry but he always seeks to unite the two tribes,” he remarked.

The debate also extended to broader implications for national unity and development. Onifade Temitope Busayo lamented the tendency to create misunderstandings between tribes instead of focusing on national development.

“People will just be looking for what and how to create misunderstanding between two tribes… because how does this bring development to our dear country?” Busayo questioned

Nevertheless, the Ooni remained steadfast in his advocacy for cultural unity and historical awareness. “We need to teach history,” he asserted passionately. “Many things connect us more than what divides us.”

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