FEATURE ARTICLE

Wednesday, February 20, 2019
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CAN OSU CASTE SYSTEM BE ABOLISHED IN IGBO LAND?

or the umpteenth time efforts to abolish the OSU caste system in Igbo land, Nigeria was recorded last December as events marking the abolition of the system took place at the Nri Place in Anambra State.

Earlier, the traditional rulers in the South East had endorsed the abolition of the obnoxious practice on December 28 with a decree that" it would be 'spiritually suicidal' for anyone to continue with the obnoxious Osu practice after it had been abolished".The decree equally pronounced more stringent spiritual implications will be pronounced from Ikpo Eze-Nri against such devaluation of mankind, after an extensive spiritual abrogation exercise.

The December effort is one card out of the pack of efforts of notable individuals and organisations to end the obnoxious practice and this has left well- meaning Nigerians wondering if the recent effort will definitely put to an end the caste system to an end. It will be recalled that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in his historic address to the defunct Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly on March 20, 1956, described the Osu Caste System as” devilish and uncharitable to brand any human being with a label of inferiority due to the accidents of history”. Zik further noted that the objects and reasons for the abolition of the Osu Caste System are humanitarian and altruistic.

In the words of the Great Zik of Africa, “no one should join in the encouragement of a system of society where one stratum can superciliously claim to be descended from the best brain and would, therefore, consign others to a scrap heap of their own invention and ostracise them socially”. Similar efforts were made by late Dr. Sam Mbakwe who banned the Osu Caste System in the old Imo State.Also, late Commodore Emeka Omeruah in the old Anambra State used bulldozer to demolish the Efuru Idoha shrine in Igbo Etiti Local Government Area of Enugu State.

Osu caste takes the form of slavery and slave trade whereby a person(s) is/are bought as a slave(s) and dedicated to a god. The people are, subsequently, viewed as the representatives of the god. This practice is, of course, humiliating and negated both legal and biblical perspectives on individual freedom .Where it is practiced, an Osu is not allowed by the traditional law to marry a free-born. He or she is neither permitted by the traditional law to keep other forms of relationships or affiliations with those regarded as free-born. The caste had undergone several adjustments during the era of colonialism, had been affected by the decree enforced by the white man to abolish slave trade.

A school of thought is of the opinion that the church should be enlisted in this campaign through the church enforcing all laws against Osu Caste System by preaching to their members and punishing disobedient ones publicly. The church can go a step further by giving out their consenting daughters in marriage to the erstwhile Osu son.

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