WHERE are the historical roots of the Ijebu and the Igbo? For a Nigerian researcher, Dr. Fatai Ayisa Olasupo, these roots are firmly located in the Middle East, precisely Israel.
Olasupo who is a senior lecturer at the Department of Local Government Studies, Faculty of Administration, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife in Osun State, wrote a book on the claims of certain African tribes to the Jewish race.
The book entitled Black African Jews has been translated into six international languages. He told The Guardian that he was inspired to undertake an extensive research on Awujale of Ijebu Ode and the Igbo speaking people who, at different times, claimed to have migrated from Israel.
‘‘In 2006, Awujale was marking his 70th birthday and he granted an interview to The News Magazine, in which he said that the Ijebu are Jews, and that it is not only the Ijebu who are Jews, but that we have some Ijebu-Ibo that are Jews. We have Itsekiri people who are Jews. There are some people in Benue too who are Jews; even, among the Kanuri.
‘‘Since then (2006), I have started gathering data on what he said, and I have quoted him verbatim on some occasions. Most of the data I gathered were Internet-based.
‘‘In 2012, to be precise, I decided to write the story about the fact that the Ijebu are Jews and very importantly also that, Queen Sheba has her burial site in Oke-Eri in Ijebu. So, I decided to write a paper on it. The first paper I wrote was entitled: “The role of Arabia and Western Civilisation in the Extinction of African Traditional Religion: South Africa, Senegal and Nigeria as a case study.” I got it published in a Canadian journal: OIDA International Journal of Sustainable Development.
“Another material about Bilikisu Sungbo that I got which I scanned is also in the journal. I got it from The Nation. You can see the title: ‘Black African Jews, the Nigerian Question and the lost Ten Tribes of
Israel: A comparison of Igbo and Yoruba claims to Jewish and Judaic Traditions.’
‘‘You will recall that during the Civil War, the Igbo were claiming that they were Jews. There are enough materials about this on the net. In all the claims people have been making, I now have a prominent person and foremost traditional ruler in the person of the Awujale of Ijebuland claiming that they are from the Jews. And the entire Yoruba nation believes we are from Mecca through Egypt, down. But Awujale is insisting that the Ijebu are from the Jews. I got everything documented along with my other findings.
“After about a year, I just got a mail from a Jewish lady or woman called Elena Djima. It was entitled: ‘Publishing a book for the international audience and beyond’. She was seeking permission from me to allow them publish the material in a form of a book. Initially, I did not give it recognition, but later I gave it a second thought. Then I decided to respond.
“I didn’t solicit Elena’s permission in the first place. She just promised that if the book is published, the Jews, anywhere they may be in the world, would read it. She said the best selling bookshops all over the world would get this book. To quote her, she said, ‘This is an outstanding book, and all world leaders would read about it.’ And in fact, it is true. The book is entitled: Black African Jews written by me. If you google it, it will take you to the net and you will see the number of countries that have adopted it. It has been translated into French, Denmark, German, Swedish and virtually all the European countries, apart from English Language. Since August last year, it has been there.
‘‘A British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) report on the net also has ‘Awujale linked with Sheba?’ Part of my argument is that if the burial site was not that of Ooni not that of Alaafin, then whose is it? If a paramount ruler in Ijebu could say that, of what benefit would it be for anyone to deny his culture or lie about it? When Alaafin gave me the ‘History of Yoruba’ written by Samuel Johnson, I saw that there was, at a certain time, a female Alaafin. There was also a female Ooni in history.
“Regarding the Oke-Eri issue, there was a rampart that covers about 160 kilometres in Ijebu area, very close to Ibadan here and it extended to Benin. It must be a prominent king that must have built that kind of rampart or rather, protective wall at that time. A history from my research also showed that this woman, Queen Sheba, came to Oke-Eri. That she was very light in complexion, and that when she came, she arrived with a retinue of about 200 people. This is talking of about five centuries ago. This retinue of people or slaves that followed her to that place must have inter-married. You know the period of King Solomon, more than five thousand years ago.
“I just compared the claims of the Igbo to being Jews to that of Yoruba. Even in Egypt, there are a sizeable number of Jews there. In Israel, there are Arabs there. In Iran which is an Islamic Republic, there are Jews there. When there was holy war in Mecca that led to the massive movement of people from that area, it is not possible that only Arabs would be the ones to be moving away. The holy war was mainly targeted at the Jews, who also must be moving away with the Arabs at the same time. If Yoruba are claiming that Lamurudu came from Mecca, some of the Jews also would have moved with them to the West African side. So, if the Ijebu, as represented by such a prominent personality like the Awujale, are saying that they have a descent from the Jews, who will discountenance that? And nobody among the Ijebu has ever controverted what the Awujale said, unlike the Igbo who have contradicted one another on their own claim.”
According to Olasupo, “Awujale was categorical that some Igbo found among the Itsekiri and other regions left from Ijebu. And you know that the Awujale said this when the late Ooni was alive, so also other paramount monarchs, yet nobody doubted or controverted him. There has also been sufficient evidence to prove this. An Australian came to Oke Eri to conduct the interview; BBC also conducted the interview with people around there. And to crown it all, there is no any country in the world today that has laid claim to where Queen Sheba was buried, apart from the claim by Awujale of Ijebuland. So, if any other country has another burial site of Sheba, it should bring it for the world to see. It is true that she was born in Ethiopia, but in Ethiopia, they did not know where she was buried.”
When The Guardian asked him about what the benefits of his books and findings could be to the Ijebu and Nigeria as a whole, Olasupo said: “It is going to bring enormous economic benefits in the area of
tourism. This Queen has her story narrated in the Quoran, in the Bible. So, Oke Eri is going to be a kind of Mecca or Jerusalem. It could become a United Nations Heritage site like the Osun of Osogbo.
The Christians would be going there; the Muslims would be going there; the Jews would be going there because she combined all the three religions. Once the UN approves it as an heritage site, the whole world will be coming there for tourism.”