An exclusive excerpt from The Nigerian Mafia- Mumbai by Onyeka Nwelue (Published by Abibiman Publishing U.K., 2023)
You know, there is something in India that also happens in Nigeria: I am an Igbo person, and we have our own caste system. I remember a guy who said he was Dalit, and he was a police officer at Andheri police station. I went there to bail out a Nigerian they had arrested. Some Brahmin guy had locked up this Nigerian man, claiming the guy scammed him. When I walked in there, the police officer who was on duty, I was told, was a Dalit. He was so disciplined. He looked into the case himself and released our guy. We did not need to offer anyone any bribe. I tried to get his phone number, but he was not interested. He shook my hand and asked me to leave the police station.
He said there was no substantial proof that our man scammed anyone. He said that Brahmins think it is okay to use their power on anyone the way they want and that Hindu Brahmins believe anyone from Africa is a Dalit.
The way the caste system works in Hindu society is different from the way it works in Igbo society.
Igbo is a race.
Igbo is a tribe.
Igbo is a language.
Igbo is a religion.
I will try to explain how this caste system works in Igbo land. The Igbo class system appears complex to many. There are different castes. The Igbo society was divided into different castes:
Diala/Dibia: They are the landowners and diviners, or the priestly caste. They are mostly farmers, palm wine tappers and hunters. They are superior to other castes.
Nze na Ozo: This is the intellectual and warrior caste. They are direct descendants of kings and kingmakers. It is from this caste that Ndi Eze are chosen. They are the most powerful society of spiritual men.
Osu: The Osu people are the caste of the rich, the wealthy and the travellers. Generally, the Osu caste comprises merchants. Many of the Osu people in Igbo land prefer living in foreign lands.
Ume: This caste has more Igbo people. Many of them cannot trace their genealogy.
Ohu: The Ohu caste means the slave caste. Ohu means servant, so the great bulk of the Igbo population is in this caste, especially poor people with large families.
Most of the Ohu people are peasants, artisans or manual labourers. So, this is where they end up becoming wealthy, rising, as it were, from grass to grace.
You can tell the caste of anyone by their surnames and titles.
Like my surname: Mba. It means a gathering, and this is an Nze surname.
I learnt this from someone who had come from my village to Lagos. To visit us. He tried to explain everything to me.
Coming to India made me understand that we shared a lot in common with Indians even though neither we nor Indians have come to terms with this. I am sure that if you go deeper into the similarities between our social systems, you will see more of what I am trying to point out to you.
Excerpted with permission from author and publisher of The Nigerian Mafia: Mumbai by Oneyka Nwelue (Published by Abibiman Publishing U.K., 2023)
About the Book
Nollywood actor, Uche Mbadiegwu leaves his Surulere neighborhood in Lagos, to Bandra in Mumbai to join Bollywood, so he could make it big, hoping to play exceptional roles.
Like a flash, Periwinkle appears in his life and changes everything. Tired of living in a pigsty, Efemena want to live a life of independence, but there is more to being a Nigerian in Mumbai – a constant escape from the Indian police and narcotics agents.
This novel is a tale of violence, drugs, human trafficking, murder and sex.
About the Author
Onyeka Nwelue is a Nigerian filmmaker, publisher, talk-show host, bookseller, author and an Academic Visitor and founder of the James Currey Society, at the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford.