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Older and Wiser!

Older and Wiser!

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July 2016: IGBO NAMES  My Grandchildren (Alphabetical Order)

  1. Amanze (male): A-man-ze = Home of nobles
  1. Amarachi (female): A-ma-ra-chi = God’s mercy;  Variants (male): Eberechukwu/Eberechi (chi is god, chi-ukwu is God)
  1. Chidiebere (male): Chī-dī-ē-bē-rē = God is merciful;  Variants of this name include Chidiogor (God is kind) — mostly for females.
  1. Chimaroke (male): Chi-ma-ro-ke = God should know what’s due to me; Variants (male): Chi-ji-o-ke = God apportions the gifts
  1. Ikenna (male): Ī-kē-nnā = The power/strength of the father; Variants of this name include Ikechukwu (God’s power)
  1. Jideobi (male): Jī-dē-o-bī = Hold the family — literally the Pillar of the family; Variants (male): Idejiunor (Idejiunor = Pillar that holds the family)
  1. Kanayo (male): K’-a-na-yo = Let’s keep praying
  1. Melayo (male): Me-la-yo = Take a deep breath (i.e., Take it easy!); Variant of E-me-la-yo = When you take it easy…
  1. Ngozi (female/unisex): N-go-zī = Blessing
  1. Nkemjika (female/unisex): N’-kem-ji-ka = Mine is better
  1. Nkiruka (female): N’ki-ru-ka = Better things ahead
  1. Nosike (male): No-si-ke = Stand your ground; (Is a variant of Anosike = “If you stand your ground”)
  1. Osita (male): Short for O-sī-tā-dī-mmā (May it go well from today):
  1. Udoka (male): Ű-do-kā = Peace is paramount




May, 2016:  IGBO NAMES


My father was not born into Christianity. His father’s name was “Ogbuji,” a formal and high chieftaincy title taken by the most successful farmer in the clan. My father adopted his primary name, Thomas, through conversion to the Catholic faith. The new convert is predictably zealous and my father was no different.

When the time came to name his own children Papa chose to give them all European names. His first son was Justin; following Justin were my two sisters, Roseline and Louisa; then came I, and I was named Linus; then came Marcellus, and finally Cletus. Note that all his sons were given the names of Catholic Popes; Linus was the direct successor to Peter the Apostle. My father and his peers belonged to the generation of Nigerians that was indoctrinated by European missionaries; they were taught that a child must bear the name of a “saint” listed in the Church canon.

I belong to the generation that began to turn away from that colonial mindset. All my children and their children were given Igbo names. Our aim in so doing was to affirm that the cosmology of our people was no less valid than the quaint beliefs of the English, Irish, French, Dutch, or what have you. Every Igbo name carries a meaning or message. The name given to a baby is always reflexive of the circumstances of its birth.

  1. Our eldest son is Uchenna (Uche for short, pronounced “Ou-chay”). My wife wanted a daughter for our first child; I wanted a son. It came out a boy, in accord with “the wishes of the father.” Uche mean will and Nna means father (and by extension, God): hence Uche-Nna.

           Synonyms:            Uchechi, Uchechukwu, Ikenna, Ikechi, Ikechukwu, Obinna

  1. Our second son is Chimezie (Chime for short, pronounced “Chee-may”). He was named after Louisa, my closest sibling, who died while I was in college abroad. “Chimezie” is an invocation to one’s chi, or god, for welfare or blessings.

           Synonyms:            Chigozie, Chidozie, Nnadozie

  1. Our third son is Ejike. My wife and I had had a peripatetic life as students (on three continents), with children born on the go; we decided three children were enough. But since all were boys and my wife never got the daughter she craved, we named this one Ejike (“Eh-jie-ke”). It may be translated loosely as “It’s not in your power.”  (In other words, you want what you want but you take what you get!)

            Synonyms:            Emenike, Ikeazota





Topic for April, 2016:  BROTHERS/SISTERS

During the Nigerian civil war the Biafran fighters were sometimes entertained by a theatrical entertainment group. A favorite of mine among their repertoire was a skit about relatives. One man was trying to explain to another the actual relationship between him and his “brother” who was visiting from his hometown.

Mr. A: “His mother’s uncle’s wife is my sister’s mom.”

Mr. B: “Whew! I think I get the picture.


Well, if that Rube-Goldberg explanation of relationship gets you scratching your head you can understand why most African languages dispense with cousins and nephews and uncles, and just call everybody “brother” or “sister.” Apart from the fact that, if you succeed in life, everyone wants to claim kinship with you, there is the practical fact that African languages were largely unwritten until recent times, and hence the need to keep things (especially the vocabulary) simple.

There’s also the fact that, as we’ve seen under the blog post on concubinage, all children of a married woman are decreed by custom to be the children of her husband and therefore brothers and sisters regardless of whose genes (or “blood”) they actually bear. The custom is so strong that I was once assessed a fine of a bottle fine Scottish whiskey at a gathering in my home town where I mentioned my “half-brother.” Though they all knew that that brother was dear to me, the prefix of “half” was considered inappropriate, as it seemed to imply “counterfeit.”

So I envy my children and grandchildren, born and/or raised in the USA, who prattle on about their “second cousin thrice removed,” and I wonder at what remove they cease to be cousins! When do they become what Americans jokingly call “kissing cousins”? And I keep reminding myself that my grand uncle is the uncle of my father and not the father of my uncle! For me anything beyond “brother” and “sister” (well, maybe I should say anything beyond “first cousin”) is a stretch.


Post Script (04/10/2016)

Upon reflection, I realize it is not quite correct to say Igbos lack a concept of half-sibling. We  have that concept, and it sometimes seems to go further than the corresponding concept in English! Today a friend of mine called and, hearing his voice, I hailed him “Nwa nnam!”  It means “child of my father” and is the affectionate term by which we address each other. The other half of that term is “Nwa nnem” or “child of my mother.” (BTW the “m” at the end just turns the noun into the possessive case (so nwa nnam is ” child of MY father); likewise “nwa nnem.”) But, and here’s the complication, “Nwanna” is both male and female (so that nwa nnam is the male or female child of my father.)

However, those deep distinctions are not often employed, except when intended as a term of endearment.  The practice of polygamy and concubinage made us wary of the negative distinction implied by “half brother” and “half sister.”


Topic for February-March, 2016:  OGBANJE (The Bad-Spirit Child)

Of all the things that happen to humans, none seem more mysterious to uneducated people than birth and death. Where does a baby come from? Seemingly from out of nowhere a fetus germinates in a woman and grows to be born as a fully developed human being. Similarly, at the other end of life a person sickens and dies or comes to an accidental end. One moment his life force is present, the next moment it is gone forever; where did it go? Birth brings mostly undiluted joy while death brings unmitigated sorrow.

When people die in infancy, the rather quick succession of birth and death intensifies the wonder about coming into life and departing from life; and when any family suffers repeated cycles of such comings and goings it is easy for the bereaved family, especially if they are ignorant, to assume there are mischievous supernatural forces at work. Down the eons of human history, nearly all societies have had cultures that were heavily influenced by religious beliefs; that is, by the supposed existence of a spirit world which influences the things that happen in this physical world of ours, especially at the gateways of birth and death.

In Africa before the advent of Western medicine, infant mortality was high because there were many causes for short life expectancy, most of them nutritional and environmental, others genetic. While parents could attempt to improve nutrition and the environment, there was nothing they could do about factors about which they knew absolutely nothing, such as genetics. One genetic defect now known to be endemic among blacks everywhere is sickle-cell anemia, an endemic and hereditary blood disorder which occurs in children of African/black origin in West Africa or in diaspora.

Its presentations include debilitating and often lethal afflictions, and a life of chronic-acute pains and crises. In the olden days it was nearly always a death sentence for a child born with the condition. Therefore, it was probably one major player in the syndrome called Ogbanjé by Igbos (and Abiku by Yorubas). Abiku or Ogbanje was a rationalization by terrified, ignorant people. In either culture it was a subject of mystic horror and hush-hush speculation about the wicked spirits of children who die before the age of puberty, sometimes to be reborn to the same parents in quick succession—only to die again.

Because it is hereditary (based on the gene combination of the father and the mother), sickle-cell anemia tends to recur between the same couple. If both parents are passive carriers of the sickle-cell trait then there are finite probabilities of each child they bear being (1) a sufferer of the disease, (2) a passive carrier, or (3) altogether free of the disease. It is this tendency to recur in each pregnancy between the two parents that induced the whispered syndrome of horror over ogbanje. It was said by Igbos of old that an ogbanje spirit became incarnated in a child with the malicious intent to torment the parents, coming and going in a succession aimed to cause recurrent grief.

Because pre-pubescent children are not thought to possess the wile to commit sins and crimes, a pesky child that irritated an adult might be accused of ogbanje—in jest or in earnest. It was as much as to say that the child was possessed by a troublesome spirit. But being called names was the least of the troubles that an unusual, sickly, or rambunctious child faced in the days of my childhood. All parents were in dread of ogbanje and sought, through the ministrations of native “doctors,” to find out whether their child was an ogbanje and, if so, perform rituals to break the ogbanje’s cycle of birth and death. Knowledge about the state and causes of human health and afflictions was pathetic and so it was deemed safer for a couple to assume that their new child was indeed ogbanje and go ahead with the cycle-breaking ritual for every child they bore.

It was believed that each ogbanje had its tiny icon or fetish object which the spirit buried, at the time of its conception, in some part of its body or at some subterranean spot near the home of the couple to whom it was being born. So the first line of attack was to examine the body of a child and extract its fetish. Unlike circumcision (ime nka) which was performed on a child within days of birth, ogbanje
exorcism was performed when the child was old enough to participate in the ceremony. That delay had a second motive. The longer a baby survives into childhood the more it bonds with the family into which it was born; hence the more strongly it has resisted the dark forces that relentlessly try to draw it back to the spirit world. In other words, the older a child becomes, the higher the chances of success in the ritual to break its link with sinister, other-worldly influences.

It was a simple ritual. While everybody watched the proceedings, the clever doctor would create a commotion to draw attention away as he/she made a quick little incision on the child’s skin and at the same time released a pebble or so into a waiting cup; the clatter of that pebble announced that the fetish had been drawn out. Mine was extracted from under the corner of my left eye. I never saw what fetish the doctor drew from my eye, but since I stopped giving my Mama trouble after that, I assume that he actually excised my ogbanje. (The down side is that my left eye turned out to be the most trouble-prone organ of my entire body, beset with lifelong myopia and astigmatism, and now a bad case of retinopathy; but that’s a small price to pay for my chance to live to adulthood!☺)

The ritual over, the parents heaved a huge sigh of relief, paid the doctor, and hugged their child. That beloved child was now theirs to cherish for a long time. Everybody rejoiced and a feast was given. The poor child got a meaty bit of the celebratory chicken this time. (Ordinarily, we children got the feet or head of the chicken to eat —while adults ate the real meat, the juicy thigh and breast and gizzard being reserved for adult males only!)

Some cases were tougher: The fetish was not inside the child; it was hidden elsewhere. The poor child was pestered to reveal where it had hidden its fetish before it was born. Some children rose to the spirit of the game and led the crowd of adults on a weird hunt around the house, under this tree and that brush, out to the brook, back into the house and out again, in seeming confusion until it pointed at a spot under a tree. But the result was the same. The doctors always found the fetish, dug it out, and dropped it noisily into a cup when nobody was watching closely.

It might all sound bizarre, but the native doctors realized that the essence of the “cure” was to give the parents psychological relief from their gnawing fear of ogbanje. Wikipedia says there are about one billion blacks in the world, out of whom only about a third of a million are born with the sickle-cell trait in recent years. That means an incidence rate of only 0.03 percent. So the chance of a black child having the ogbanje affliction is really 1 in 3,000. Though the consequences are deadly enough to scare the bejezus out of parents, the odds of incidence are really so low that any kind of abracadabra might work to allay a parent’s concern, hence the psychological (placebo) effect of the ogbanje rites.




Topic for December 2015: CONCUBINAGE (See Caution under ANNOUNCEMENTS)

This is about a quaint, but in its day very strong, tradition of Igbos intended to infuse some fairness and order in the marital family. It is a delicate topic. Like Westerners who always deny and condemn any suggestion that their own ancestors engaged in such practices as will be described here, some of us Igbos may be in denial over these things. But they are true, nevertheless.

The names that Igbo parents give their children names carry meanings, each name specifying some factors peculiar to the child or the circumstances of his/her birth. Sometimes you need to study the name carefully, break it down to its syllables and savor them in detail for the meaning to come into focus. Among the most charming names I came across during my sojourn among my people during the 1980s is Ikonne. Mr Ikonne was a Commissioner in the Imo State government during our second Republic.

Iko-nne is a special term of endearment meaning literally, “Momma’s lover.” Just as a man would call his dear son Enyinna (‘Friend of the father’) or Ogbonna (“Father’s colleague”) a woman might show a special affection for a son, perhaps a precious only son, by naming him Ikonne. The connotation is really “mother’s own darling.” That is because in ancient times, an Igbo wife’s most dearly beloved person was her iko: her concubine, not her husband. Indeed, Igbos have a saying that underscores that practice of concubinage: “When a child is asked to name someone he/she knows, the child is likely to name the mother’s iko.” In other words, a child got to know its mother’s iko perhaps more closely than other grown males.

The reason for that association needs explaining. Like most societies before the “Age of Reason,” Igbos were polygamous: a man married as many wives as he could support and defend. That was a universal practice in nearly all societies everywhere, and one might excuse it on the grounds of a man’s need for children (if his wife turned out childless) or a male child (in case his wife bore him only daughters); or just for the sake of ‘variety.’ That begs the question: What of the needs of his wife or wives; how were they accommodated?

That, of course, has been a universal problem. The opposite arrangement for women would be polyandry (the taking of multiple husbands); but it is not at all practical because a woman married into a man’s homestead and also was economically dependent on the man. Hence, she was totally subordinate to the man and dependent on him for stature and support. In our modern societies that problem is better accommodated because women, especially city-dwelling women, have sufficient independence and mobility to conduct their affairs independent of their husbands. In Igbo societies of old a married woman was allowed to take a concubine who came to visit her as often as possible both for intimacy and to run a man’s errands for her. Indeed, if a woman bugged her husband to climb a palm tree for her (to cut down the fruit) he might, if he was in a cantankerous mood, ask her why her iko could not do it.

Dwelling arrangements in typical Igbo homesteads of olden times eased the discreet comings and goings of the concubine. The centerpiece of the household of a man of substance was his Obi (which served as a forum or main lounge for adult males he received in audience). Walls arcing from the obi enclosed his intimate domain, consisting of the huts of his various wives, usually arrayed in order of their marriage or ascendancy; the huts were really houses that included a frontal cooking and eating area as well as inner rooms for sleeping, privacy, etc. The man’s obi was for lounging, not sleeping in; it was understood that he would rotate his sleeping quarters between his wives. Arrayed along the arcing wall were his wives’ huts, all of which looked out onto the enclosed courtyard as some family commons. Each such hut had a frontal entrance facing the courtyard, as well as a rear egress for privacy.

The iko typically came in at the rear by pre-arrangement. A responsible husband knew not to barge in on his wives (or he might get surprised!); he usually knocked at the front door for permission to enter. I had it on authority of some of my village-dwelling classmates in high school that if a man intruded on an intimate moment between his wife and her concubine, he did not make a scene but withdrew discreetly from embarrassing confrontation.

Now, the key point, the main reason why that custom was tolerated, indeed proliferated, was that a woman had no choice in the husband she married (it was always an arranged marriage) but she had the only say concerning the iko that she chose; he was the man she liked or loved.

The only issue that might inject controversy in such an arrangement was the matter of which child was fathered by the man and which by the concubine. Fortunately, Igbos took care of that problem with an elegant, little maxim: ‘Onye new aku new nwa’: literary, whichever man paid the bride price on the wife ‘owned’ all children arising by issue in that marriage. In other words, all children born to your wife were yours, be they white skinned or yellow or black. That maxim really spoke to a highly liberal lack of jealousy and possessiveness, the two sentiments that often induced parricide! The man could not really protest because he too was ‘doing his thing.’ But if the wife chose an objectionable concubine (such as a fellow from a family feuding with yours) she was quietly dissuaded.

So, who needed divorce when you had polygamy and concubinage?



Days of Toil

Days of Toil


My current post, for December 2015 (See IGBO FORUM/Igbo Customs), like the last one (for November ), addresses a rather controversial topic. The topics are controversial because they are delicate. The current topic explores the concept of approved extra-marital sexual practices among Igbo families of old –a topic most Igbos would rather not countenance today.

But, whether popular or not, they are part of our heritage and skipping them would be like trying to sanitize US history by omitting any mention of slavery!


Topic for November: Old Igbo Social Castes  (See Caution under ANNOUNCEMENTS)

Happily, the ancient practice at the core of this essay has largely faded with our emergence into the milieu of Westernized societies. It was a pernicious custom that stressed out and often ruined people whose standing in society arose from accidental situations that they and their ancestors could not help.

Unlike societies (such as India) that still struggle with notorious caste syndromes, the Nigerian governments and society took bold steps within my own lifetime to suppress the labeling of people into castes. So, remember that here we are talking about customs predating Nigeria’s independence. And remember, also, the caveat that launched my blog: I am no authority on Igbo customs, only a curious student. So, if you have any valid insight to contribute, it will be received with gratitude.

Here we are talking about traditional practice of local bondage among Igbos. It excludes the more controversial practice of commercial enslavement which, largely associated with itinerant Aro people (people with ancestry traceable to Arochukwu, with its notorious cult of the Long Juju) who traded captured natives to Portuguese and Arab slavers who, in turn, cruelly exported them far beyond the seas. However, before we condemn Aros summarily for complicity in the abominable slave trade, we should note that those were cruel days. When I was a child and liked to play around and climb trees far from home my Papa sometimes remonstrated with me by recounting some grim fates that might befall a child who was abducted ‘in the old days’ of his own father, my grandfather: burying alive or decapitation as ritual sacrifice to accompany a dead man of substance in the afterlife, bondage to a strange deity at a foreign shrine, permanent indenture to a willing buyer, etc. The sad fact was that human life was cheap everywhere in those times.

Free or Bonded?
Among Igbos of old, you were either free-born, “nwa āfor” (literally, ‘child of your family’s belly’) or you were a bonded slave: bonded to an individual, the community, or a deity. Apart from being born into one of those categories, you could also insinuate yourself into an undesirable caste by your own action. For instance, marrying an Osu made you one automatically. And if you ran to a sanctuary (which was a shrine always) to save your life you became ‘untouchable’ right away: You were safe from pursuing humans, but you had also become bonded to that deity. Or if you committed an abominable act (such as the murder of a pregnant woman) you had made yourself into an űmé—a vile perpetrator, who could be readmitted into fit human society only after grave propitiation rites.

The connotation of Osu (indeed, the English word for it during my childhood) was an ‘untouchable’: quite similar to the Hindu concept of the word.

Some of us will remember the ultimate act of abomination that galvanized the Ogoni people against Ken Saro-Wiwa in his losing tussle with the Nigerian federal government. His activists were chasing four Ogoni chiefs who dissented from Ken’s methods. The chiefs ran into the shrine of a deity for refuge, thereby taking the final gamble of a traditional people. But Ken’s men violated that sanctuary anyway and murdered those chiefs. The point here is not against Ken Saro-Wiwa, but to point out that the act/gamble of those chiefs was the last, desperate attempt by fugitives to escape lynching. In traditional Igbo society (as among the Ogonis, who might be deemed peripheral neighbors of Igbos) if you ran to the succor of the gods no human would kill you without having to answer to the god in question. But the cost to that fugitive was that he or she would never again be a free person because he or she had willfully surrendered to bondage to the gods. That status is what Igbos called an Osu: a person consecrated to the service of a deity.

One of Chinua Achebe’s stories (in Girls at War) was about an Osu family which found respite from rustic ostracism by converting to Christianity—only to become bigoted themselves by disdaining to accept what they called ‘idol food’ from animist villagers whom they called ‘heathens’. (Igbos would liken such chutzpah to the tale of Nwanza the bird which got sated and drunk at a feast and, alas, got up and challenged his Chi to a wrestling match!)

The connotation of ‘umeh’ was ‘abominable transgressor,’ or one who committed what Muslims term ‘haraam’ in Arabic. It is a vile deed for which even special propitiation rites might not cleanse the transgressor. The full expression, as I understood it as a child, was “Umeh mērē ji na ēdē: ‘The vile one who has offended the gods of harvest and prosperity.’ Like the Osu, the Umeh was not redeemable and could only associate intimately (e.g. marry) within his/her own caste.

Unfortunately, the inheritability of the status of Osu or Umeh was a little like the Christian doctrine of Original Sin, which damned people permanently for acts (if any) committed by their distant forbears. I used to think our ancestors were uncommonly ‘primitive’ to evolve such a system in which some splendid persons I knew personally were consigned to an ignoble status because of what acts might have been committed by or inflicted on their ancestors. But I no longer wallow in self pity about that: Such custom was universal. Permanent serfdom was the rule and not the exception in all societies: European, Oriental, etc. And even today the British (who leaned hard on their colonies to abolish the caste systems) still live in societies that remain steeped in hereditary peerage and rigid social stratification. It reminds me of a joke I heard in England.

A grand duke swept out of his estate resplendent in his courtly robes, heralded by trumpeters and attended with huge pomp and pageantry by his court. At his gate he saw a beggar who refused to jump up and kowtow. The duke stopped his train and engaged the feisty, homeless beggar:

Duke: “Who might ye be, Sire, that you show no respect to your betters?”
Beggar: “And who might ye be, Sire, to be asking?”
Duke: “Why, Sire, I’m the duke that owns this domain: Lord and master of all I survey.”
Beggar: “And pray, Sire, how did ye come by it?”
Duke: “Why, my ancestors fought for it and prevailed.”
Beggar: “Well, Sire: come down from your high horse and we’ll fight for it all over again!”

As Thomas Paine indicated in his writings, hereditary social positions are an affront to human dignity, equality, and intelligence.

The third (and least pernicious) category of bondage that I knew was that of the indentured servant or Ohu (pronounced Oh-hoo).

If your family came to mine and borrowed something dear (often money), a child of your family might be sent into mine as an ohu: a form of security for that loan. Often the loan was not repaid (there were no lotteries to win!) and so the child stayed indentured for life. Up until I grew up and went to live abroad, our family had one such. He was a handsome old man of impeccable manners and great kindness; and we all knew what family he came from in our village. Apparently he was indentured to my grandfather, Ogbuji. By the way, ‘Ogbuji’ is an Igbo title: literally ‘killer of yams.’ It was a title taken by the most successful farmer in the realm. (For a discussion of such titles, see: http://nigeriamasterweb.com/Masterweb/breakingnews-211214-peter-obis-papal-knighthood.)

Because Osu and Úmēh were/are such loaded words, it is crucial to point out that those appellations also served as proper names or name prefixes for people. Any connection of such names to the caste system is not clear. For instance, one proper Igbo name is Osuéké. Ēkē is The Creator; hence Osuéké is an exact equivalent of the Muslim name Abdallah or Abdullah (Slave of Allah’) that signifies full subservience to Allah; another is Osuji, perhaps one consecrated to or favored by the god of harvest.

Úmēh also served as a personification of death: literally, Mr. Death—as in the name/plea: “Úmēzurìké” (Death, Give us a break!), and Úmēzuoké (Death is everywhere). Ancient Greeks had the same thing in Thanatos (‘Mr. Death’).



Surfing the net today (11/11/2015) I came across a deeper article on the topic of Osu, and it is supplemented with a lot of comments from readers. Check it out at:



Topic for October 2015: OFFOR & OGU

In Igbo cosmology, affairs among people, especially serious disputes between them, are regulated by the deities, who alone are truly able to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. And, in contrast to the Judeo-Christian God that will wait till you die and then roast you in a fire for ever and ever, Igbo deities do their protecting and punishing in the here and now—both to cleanse and reform you, and as an object lesson to all.

For justice the Igbos invoke two deities: Ogu and Offor. The former, Ogu (pronounced ‘Oh-goo’), is a divine instrument to protect the innocent, in other words a shield of defense against false accusation. The latter, Offor, is the instrument of offence or retribution against a perpetrator. Since ogu is a shield, it is neutral, conceptually passive; offor, on the other hand is aggressive and has graduated strength: If you come after me and I’m innocent my offor will always prevail against your ogu and your own offor.

(Note: offor and offo are used here as exactly the same word; it is really spelt ọfọ in Igbo.)

So when an Igbo person says “Ejim ogu,” or “Ejim offor,” he or she is making a potent appeal to the deities to be mindful of who is guilty and who is innocent in a particular dispute. Names like Offodile and Offodike literally warn the adversary that “My offor is potent: Don’t mess with me.”)

Igbos invoke offor more often than ogu, but that’s just a convenience because one implies the other: You can’t hold offor if you don’t have ogu (i.e. if your hands are not clean). Hence the saying: “Oji offor ga ana” (one who holds offor —i.e. whose hands are clean— proceeds safely).

Offor and ogu are not just about religious belief, their concept transcends dogma. In real life if your hands are clean, your conscience is clear and you proceed confidently. That’s human nature