Every human society gets to a point in the history of their life when they take stock of their journey as a people and reconsider the practices they have engaged in overtime, deciding which to drop for better communal living.
Tuesday, 28th December 2021, marks that all important milestone in the history of Owerre- Ezukala, a community located in Orumba South Local of Government Area of Anambra State, haven agreed to do away with one of the most popular discriminatory practices in Igbo culture and tradition that survived the onslaught of Christianity, civilization, colonialism and westernization of African ways of life.
Osu Caste System is a practice that discourages social interaction between freeborns known as “Ụmụ nwa afọr” and a group of people called “Osu” or “Ụmụ alụsị”- a people who are dedicated to deities and are considered to be inferior beings.
An Osu cannot be given in marriage to a freeborn, cannot take chieftaincy titles or leadership positions in the community or even to the extent of visiting and staying beyond sunset in the house of a freeborn.
Owerre-Ezukala is one of such communities where the practice is still in practice until this event.
Therefore, the decision of the leaders of the community led by the traditional ruler, Igwe Thomas Ogbonnaya, the President General of the Community, Sir Anayo Emejuo and the entire general assembly of the community agreed to put an end and abolish the practice.
This action gives full rights of participation to every social activity in the community including the right to intermarry between the freeborn and other hitherto considered as “Osu”.
Gathered at the Ishishi, Okpoghota, the highest decision making square, the Centre where the nine stones that represent the nine villages in the community are placed, the people of the community removed their shoes to proclaim a new dispensation of love and social interaction and embraced themselves to mark the watershed moment.
The event was witnessed by the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu represented by the Director of Monitoring Department of the Commission, Barrister Okay Agu who is also an indigene of the community and other civil society organizations.
Earlier in a homily at a holy mass to mark the event, the Catholic Bishop of Ekwulobia, Most Reverend Peter Okpalaeke represented by the Chancellor of the Diocese, Reverend Father Law Nwankwo said although it is understandable that the progenitors of Igbo culture might not have established the Osu Caste System with a bad intention, the system has rather restricted people’s will to pursue their dreams and freely interact with their society and like the killing of twins was once abolished, it was high time and necessary that the Osu Caste System is also abolished.
Explaining the need to abolish the practice, the President General of the community, Sir Anayo, said the practice is dehumanizing as it institutes unnecessary segregation, stigmatization, discrimination, denial of rights and discord between people who should have been regarded as blood relations.
“All the traditional and community stakeholders of the community were consulted and they gave their blessings towards abolishing the Osu Caste system in Owerre-Ezukala,” he said.
For the traditional ruler of the Community, Igwe Ogbonnaya, the abolition of the Osu Caste system will bring progress to the community as no one will now be discriminated because of circumstances of birth and will open up opportunities for every member of the community to become part of the developmental process.