Love and Stigma: The Outcast System
From the Love Story
The Persisting Aspects
An Insight by the Author
The Traditional Igbo Society in Nigeria is made up essentially of two classes of people: “Diala” (the freeborn) and “Osu” (the Outcast). As Diala, myself, I was brought up to see the Osu as lower class humans who were not worthy of mixing with. Our tradition and culture made it an abomination to have any intimate relationship with them. It was inculcated in me to distance myself from them and not to marry from their stock. They could not hold some traditional titles and were never appointed Traditional Rulers in communities. To date and to the best of my knowledge, no freeborn has deliberately married an outcast. I held to these principles until something stirred my senses in my teenage years. Reflecting on the present world, I see these people as being denied their fundamental human rights. In fact, their condition is a form of modern slavery!
By the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights … and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Also, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. …” Mutual respect is therefore vital to achieving this. Where a group of people are set aside and so brazenly discriminated against is therefore unacceptable. Such is the case being practised in a part of Nigeria, in some other African countries and in India, where humans are classed as Freeborn or Outcasts, with the outcasts considered as lower class and discriminated against.
Looking at the processes by which people became outcasts in my own area, it is very clear that they have nothing to do with human genetics or anything that is inborn in man. They were completely artificial and man-made, driven by ignorance and superstition, hence there is fear factor associated with it also. What we know today makes us believe that those superstitions and fears are baseless and of no consequence. In this day and age, we therefore cannot afford to watch and do nothing.
As a teenager, I observed blood donation by an outcast in my School in 1965. The thoughts as to who will use the blood he was donating bordered me a lot. I took quite some time, in fact years, to reflect on that. Putting my knowledge of Science, Religion and Sociology into use, I was able to convince myself that the Outcast System is baseless as it was instituted in ignorance and is being perpetuated in ignorance too. This is one of the reasons why I have always said it that ignorance is a far greater problem to the society than poverty. After fifty years of the reflections, I had the confidence to put pen and paper together to let other people know what I know that gave me that conviction about the Outcast System.
As previous efforts to stop the Outcast System did not succeed, this logical write up, using undisputable facts, is aimed at letting the reader know what the Outcast System is and what it is not. I have presented extensively the various arguments as to why it continues to exist and why it should cease to exist. As an illustration, I told the pitiable story of what would happen if a freeborn tries to marry an outcast. As such, after reading this book, people will surely make up their minds to abandon the Outcast System: a decision not influenced by coercion or by decrees!
To complement this book, movie producers are encouraged to come forward to produce a movie based on it. Also, a documentary based on it will go a long way to give more extensive and in-depth discussion of the subject. These visual aspects will enhance getting an overview of the project. Translation into Igbo and other languages is desired.
The herculean task before me is to get the book to the youths who are the ones to implement the abolition of the system. Most of them, in the areas where this System is prevalent, cannot afford the book from the shelves. My plea, therefore, is for support from organisations and good spirited persons to sponsor distribution of copies of this book for free or at highly subsidised price to children and youths, especially in those areas, through their Schools, Worship Centres, Town Unions and Youth Centres. To assist in this regard, I have initiated The Outcast System Elimination Project which will be coordinated by the Friends-In-Need Foundation, an NGO earlier set up to fight restiveness, laziness, ignorance and disease especially among our youths but with extension to the society in general. Please support us!
Sir (Chief) Adolphus Ekejiuba, KSJI.
Ekejiuba paints a clear, compelling picture of the severity of Outcast discrimination and of the cultural taboos that reinforce it. He does admirable work, spreading ideas of equality to his intended audience and helping to edify the rest of the world about problems facing his homeland. An argument for equality laudable for its engrossing insights into culture, history, and discrimination.
– Kirkus Indie Review
Sir Ekejiuba’s book is devoted to a detailed discussion of this ugly and inhuman practice of outcast system in Igbo land. The result is that matters about the outcast system are seen much more clearly in new ways often overlooked or not given their full weight. Some books elegantly record history, some books make history, this book does both. Ekejiuba successfully mixed passion with erudition. The method by which he gathered his information and exquisitely presented it in his book is very impressive. The temptation which one has once one starts to read Ekejiuba’s book is not to drop it. I highly recommend it for everybody’s education.
– Chris Nwachukwu Okeke, Ph. D., C.O.H.
- Professor of International, Jurisprudence and Comparative Law, Golden Gate University, San Francisco, California USA.
- Pro Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council, Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, Nigeria.
I enjoyed every bit of the book, from the first page to the last and I learned. I admire the author’s effort. The intention/objective of the book is quite noble.
– Dr. C.A. Okereke, Ph. D., Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.
As I dug deeper into the spirit and narrative embedded in the text, I did not stop until I read through it all. Thank you Chief Ekejiuba for this noble service.
– Most Rev. Dr. Anthony J.V. Obinna
- Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, Nigeria
Stand Up For Human Rights. Let’s Stop The Outcast System!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sir Adolphus Ekejiuba is a retired geologist who worked with the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria. He is an avid world traveler and philanthropist, contributing significantly to his community development and well-being of the less privileged. He is the founder of the Friends-In-Need Foundation, a philanthropic organization aimed to reach out to Nigerian youth to curtail restiveness, laziness, ignorance and contracting diseases thereby becoming useful to themselves and the society.