The Osu or Ohu Caste system has remained a contentious discourse in the Igbo Society. It has remained indelibly, a part of us as Igbos that has over the years defied practically every attempt to stamp out such discriminatory tag on people from our society. No wonder it came as a heavy relief as more and more stake holders in Igbo land are rallying round the drive to out rightly banish the old and primitive profiling from our society.
Recently, the people of Ozalla reached yet another land mark in that quest to salvage the Igbo land from this harmful and degrading culture when they unanimously abolished the Osu Caste System from their community.
While reemphasizing the massive steps the church have been taking and the mile stone it attained with yet another success story in Ozalla, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, His Lordship, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga while joining in holy matrimony the first sample marriage between a supposed ohu (slave) and Amadi (free born) in the community, admonished the faithful to do away with these practices. . His Lordship charged the people to work harder towards doing away with many more harmful ancient practices that are obtainable in various communities. He reaffirmed how God through his Son Jesus Christ has perfected the redemption of man which underscores every other dysfunctional degrading tag man has placed on his fellow man. His Lordship also assured that the church will further do more in seeing to a complete end of the age long caste system in the state and beyond.
Speaking at the interdenominational service to celebrate the abolition of Ohu/Amadi segregation in Ozalla community in Nkanu West Local Government Area, the Traditional Ruler of Umuanee Ozalla, His Royal Highness, Igwe Crescent Okafor, noted that the abolition of ‘Ohu na Amadi’ is the assignment that God accomplished for the people with the committee, to fulfill his word which says; “if those who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray….” (2Chro. 7:14). He said that on 31st March 2018, they declared the custom that sustained ‘Ohu and Amadu” syndrome as annihilated in Ozalla. This he said will enable them open their heart to Christ to take charge.
He declared that no Nigerian citizen shall be subjected to any disability or discrimination by reason of the circumstances of his birth as enshrined in the 1999 constitution. He further affirmed that the whole people of Ozalla belong to the first group; because there is no one in whose vein there is acid and lime. According to him, “it is blood and water that Christ shed on the cross of Calvary for our redemption”.
Speaking further on the paradigm shift the community has taken in pulling all necessary strings towards the abolition of the caste system, the President General of Ozalla Development Union and Chairman of Ozalla Unity Committee, Afam Ani stressed the massive steps the community took in seeing to the successful abolition of the harmful segregation of people in the name of slave/freeborn structure. He further revealed the intention of the union to submit a draft gazette for this Abolition to be properly gazzeted.
According to Wikipedia, the origin of the osu caste system can be traced back to the era when the Igbo city-states were managed by the laws of the earth known as Odinani, the deity known as Ala provided rules that must be obeyed by the people,so that the nation would be blessed to prosper in the territory given to them by Chukwu the Supreme God, offenders of great abominations were cast away so as to avoid the anger of the earth Deity and to prevent the spread of abomination among the citizens of the state. These outcasts were identified as Osu, they were either sold to slavery to other men or were delivered to be enslaved to certain deities who were believed to ask for human sacrifice during festivals in order to clean the land from abomination thus leading to the purchase of a slave by the people. Another view on the history of the osu caste system centers on ostracizing. This occurs when a person or group of persons who refuses the orders of a king or the decision of a community are banished from the community thus resulting to the victim and its generation being called osus.
The osus are treated as inferior persons to the class of the Ndiala people. The osus are made to live in shrines or marketplaces and are not allowed to have any relationship with the real born. In Chinua Achebe’s No Longer At Ease, he said osus are given separate seats in churches.
The osus who are also seen as unclean are not allowed to break kola or make prayers on behalf of the real born because it is believed that they will bring calamity upon the society. This form of maltreatment and punishments have made the osus to flee to other countries for survival