By Emeka Esogbue
(Pen Master)
This particular picture may mean nothing to you but it means all to Anioma historians with interest in the finding of actual native name of today's Ibusa, an Igbo-speaking community lying in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State.
First, it conveys the true and original image of the first Catholic Mission established in the community in 1898 by Rev Fr. Carlos Zappa and shows it in its original state unlike what is known of it it today, succeeding the renovations that it had to go through in its history of existence.
Second, it ends all doubts about the original native name of the community before its Anglicization by the British to "Ibusa" which happened precisely in 1900. From 1914, "Ibusa" was documented for the people, making it a gazetted and officially accepted name of the community and people. The picture speaks against recent coinage of "Ibuzo", a historical adaptation though but made popular by internet users.
The Anglicization is from "Ibouzo" to "Ibusa" after all. Amazingly, the archived name also took recognition of absence of 'r' in the lettering of the people. Natively, the Ibusa people lettering does not admit 'r' and the colonial spelling of "Ibouzo" regarded it as such as seen in "uzo" instead of today's "uzor".
All historical documents of the community as this very one, particularly published in French in 1900s bear "Ibo-uzo" as the recorded traditional name of the settlement before the Anglicization. The 'Ibo' in the name is also as a result of the British Anglicization of "Igbo" word.
By implication, wherever the word, "Igbo" appeared, the British replaced it with "Ibo". Consequently, the British replaced the "Igbo" in "Igbo-uzo" to "Ibo" to make the name sound "Ibo-uzo". The Igbuzo native name of the community is what is Ibouzo to the Europeans. The native pronunciation by the people is "Igbuuzoh", a major and unexpected departure from the linguistic expectation of the general Igbo, causing the name to be more unique on its own.
The etymology of the name shows that in 1900, "Ibusa" appeared for the first time in the documents officially submitted to the British Parliament for debate in Britain over the fate of the community that warred with the Royal Niger Company of the British in the first phase of the Ekumeku Movement. However, the native name has always been "Igbuzo".
Earlier than 1907, Friedrich Gentz also called Friedrich Von Gentz had also reported the death of an "Igbouzo" Chief in one of his book, published in French language thus, adding to the recorded retention of the original name of the community.
Perhaps, for enlightenment, Prof Austin Uwandulu, the Proprietor of Academy for Governance, Abuja who is also an indigene of the community, analytically recalled that as far back as 1963, when the Ibusa Union (now Ibusa Community Development Union) had its annual conference, Mr Augustine Nzekwu presented a report on the appropriate name of the community.
A committee was set up to address the actual name of the community with regard to how the people should know themselves and to be referred to among the three scattered names of "Ibusa", "Igbuzo" and "Ibuzo" with the Jos Branch of the Union tasked with the responsibility.
"On "Ibuzor", we noted that the argument in its favour is predicated on our stand in our court case with Ogwashi-Uku. After considering all issues including the position of Ogboli we concluded that the name "Ibuzor" was unsustainable. On "Ibusa", we noted that this was an official nomenclature imposed on us by officialdom and that it has been embedded in many documents", the erudite scholar wrote.
"Therefore we have to adopt it as our official nomenclature. On "Igbuzo", we noted that it reflects how we address ourselves and indeed how our neighbours, Asaba, Okpanam and even Ogwashi-Uku with whom we were in court, also address us. The term Igbuzo, not only conveys what our forefathers bequeathed to us, it also conveys the correct pronunciation of who we are. In this context Igbuzo does not admit of any prefix or suffix".
"In summary, while we adopt "Ibusa" as official name, traditionally and unofficially we are "Igbuzo" pronounced in its pure sense".
This colonial picture also attached to this piece, taken in the 1900s, carries the tag, "Ibouzo" as the actual traditional name of the community, that which even the Europeans who arrived the community met the people call themselves. Remarkably, the picture is over 200 years old.
Emeka Esogbue is the winner of 2021 "Enuani Writer of the year" and recipient of "2014 Patriot Award for Extensive Research and Literatures on the Anioma People".
Photo: Courtesy of Uchechi Ogbona.
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