The legend has it that this group of “IBOS” that are being discriminated against called “OSU” (Untouchables, unclean or slaves) by their kith and kin, the freeborn called “DIALAS” (OWNERS OF THE LAND) are Ibos from other communities caught as slaves during wars or bought from slave dealers in Ibo land. This group also includes Ibos running away from prosecution for crimes committed by them. They are then taken to the shrine of the community to be servants to the gods of the people where they are held captive. They will now be under the protection of the gods. The custom of the Ibo heathens then, was that this group of Ibos are dedicates of their gods and are not be killed or harmed since they are under the protection of the gods. And this group (The Osus-Slaves) fed only on the sacrifices brought by the freeborn to their gods.
It was then made a taboo by the freeborn (DIALAS) for anyone of them to have any form of interaction with these servants of their gods. They the freeborn, cannot enter into marriage, eat or socialize with these servants of their gods. Serious consequences like death, barrenness, and poor harvest, as the myth has it awaits any individual or group that breaks this sacred law.
They the “Osus” (The untouchables or slaves) are usually the minority in any community they are found in Ibo land. And as they increase in number, the freeborns felt threatened and decided to move these people to the out-skirts of their community, so as to avoid their mixing up with the freeborns of the land. You may call these a form of segregation. Markets then are sited in the new domain of the slaves “Osus”. This is to distinguish their place from that of the freeborns. They are given all sorts of derogatory names by the freeborns “DIALAS” such as, “NDI AKA IKPA” (LEFT HANDED PEOPLE) “NDI BI NA AHIA” (THOSE THAT LIVE NEAR THE MARKET) “NDI BI NA EZIE” (THOSE THAT LIVE ON THE ROAD).
These discriminating practices persist even to this day and age of Christianity, civilization and education. Education they say broadens the outlook of man and purges him of all prejudices and superstition but not the Ibos. The more educated they are, the more prejudiced and hooked on this age long evil belief and practice.
The white Americans and south Africans were also in this situation where they were blinded by their prejudices against the black man, a slave to them then, they saw the black man not as a human like them but as a beast of burden. Their intellectuals had a re-think after superior arguments prevailed and laws were made to force a change in that place. But with the Ibo the case is different; it is not a matter of law but of the heart. This obnoxious and ungodly practice has a strong support base among the Ibo intellectual elite both at home and in Diaspora, these base include captains of industries, high ranking government officials, religious leaders, knights, deacons and Christian mothers, they are all uncomfortable at the mention of this topic, it is taboo to even speak about it in public. It is better left as we found it, they say of this evil practice. They speak in hush tones about it, castigating it in churches and other gathering. But in private defends the practice, not ready to interact with the so called “OSU” (the untouchable) not to talk of entering into marriage with them, such hypocrisy.
This evil practice has cost enough havoc among villages, communities and families in Ibo land. An example is a community in Owerri called “Ifekala” where a village inhabited by the freeborns refused to fetch or drink water from the communal water facility because it was situated in the adjoining village inhabited by the “OSUS” (the untouchables) as they are called. A lot of innocent young lives have been shattered by this evil practice of the IBOS, young loves destroyed, and minds corrupted by this system of hatred, past on from generation to generation. The total embrace of Christianity many hoped will eliminate this evil and shameful practice has failed woefully in that regard. Maybe we should do a re-examination on the way and manner we practice Christianity in Ibo land. The Jesus Christ we all claim to be following was known for love and kindness during His time on earth. He never discriminated against any, He made it clear to us that no creation of God is unclean and that we are all one in Christ Jesus. Maybe we should start practicalizing Christianity as Jesus did, rather than this vanity and hypocrisy as we have it today.
This evil practice is not a thing that will be eliminated by law as in America and South Africa but only through a genuine change of heart amongst the Ibos. Victims of these evil are multiplying by the day so is the hatred that goes with it. We must not keep quiet about this evil, we must talk about it and expose the evil that it is. Very soon we bring to your reading pleasure the life account of love, families and villages ruined by this wicked practice indigenous only to the Ibos of Nigeria in West Africa.