Igbo philosophy: the concept of wealth and getting rich

Dave Partner
3 min readJan 20, 2022

The word for 'suffering' in Igbo language is "afufu’" or 'ita afufu' (to suffer) which transliterates to "eating ants". That is, the person has plunged so low in life that they have to hunt and eat ants to survive.

The word for wealth in Igbo is "aku" which is also the same word for an edible flying termite the Igbos eat, the botanical name for this termite is Macrotermes bellicosus.
During it's season, millions of that termite fill the air at night. They fly towards any source of light. They can be gathered, de-winged, fried and eaten; very delicious.

So, the whole process of getting the termites involves: waiting for them in their season, having to stay awake to catch them, putting up a source of light to attract them, setting a bowl of water under the light to trap them once they fall, de-winging, frying and serving them. Join my crypto classroom: https://t.me/techjobsng

This must have inspired the ancient Igbos to use the same word to describe wealth, the opportunities and the process that must precede it.
Hence, in Igbo language, the phrase "Ikpata aku" translates to "to create wealth" or "to catch Macrotermes bellicosus".
Wealth can also be described in Igbo language as "aku na uba" which translates to "Wealth and expansion or growth".

Therefore, deep within the Igbo language, the ancients embedded in it a message that reminds every future speaker of the language that to get wealth luck, opportunity, strategy, staying up late at night, hardwork, and timing must come first.

That's not all, if a previously broke person suddenly gets rich and their source of wealth is not known, the Igbos have a different phrase for describing such wealth. For a sudden and unexplained wealth, an Igbo man will say "O gbugo ozu" which transliterates to "he has committed murder".
This is a warning to all Igbo speakers that if that wealth is unexplained, it may have cost someone's life. This could be the life of some victim somewhere or the life of the individual trying to get rich.

All wealth made, can also be lost if not handled carefully. Being able to steer away from daily hunting of ants to aquire wealth and grow it is not enough, one must have the presence of mind to guard this wealth such that doesn't get lost. The ancient Igbos know this, so they coined a surname "Aku m efule" which means "may my wealth not get lost".
Not all wealth is good for you, if it doesn't come with peace of mind, it will destroy you, so the Igbos coined the surname "Aku udo", which loosely means "wealth earned in peace of mind".

In conclusion, always remember this lessons from the ancient Igbos:
1. True wealth is the result of a process correctly executed.
2. Wealth must be accompanied by growth and expansion.
3. Sudden wealth can be fatal.
4. Wealth earned can always be lost if not carefully protected.
5. For wealth to be useful, it has to come with peace of mind, not the one that hunts you evey day of your life.

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