It was an important milestone in the history of Owerre- Ezukala, a community located in Orumba South Local of Government Area when they came together to do away with one of the most discriminatory practices in Igbo culture and tradition that survived the onslaught of Christianity, civilization, colonialism and westernization of African ways of life, the Osu Caste System.
Correspondent, David Okpokwasili was at the ceremony and reports that Osu Caste System is a modern term that describes the discouragement of social interaction between free-borns called “Ụmụ nwa afọr” with a group of people called “Osu” or “Ụmụ alụsị”- a people who were 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.
Therefore, the community decided to abolish the system.
This abolition 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”.
Led by the leaders of all the villages that make up the community, the people gathered at the Ishishi, Okpoghota, the most sacred square in the community where the eight stones that represent the eight villages are kept, removed their shoes and proclaimed the new dispensation of love and social interaction while embracing themselves to mark the watershed moment.
Delivering a homily in an interdenominational service 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, rather, has restricted people’s right 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.
Also in his message, the Anglican Bishop of Aguata Diocese, Right Reverend Samuel Ezeofor represented by the Bishop emeritus of Isukwuato/Umunneochi Diocese, Right Reverend Samuel Chukwuka, said that since the Holy Bible posited that no creation of God should be called unclean, no human being should be addressed as Osu or Oru.
Explaining the need to abolish the practice, the President General of the community, Sir Anayo Emejuo, said the Osu Caste system and other discriminatory practices in the community were dehumanizing as they institute unnecessary segregation, stigmatization, denial of rights and discord between people who should have been regarded as blood relations, stating that all the traditional and community stakeholders of the community were consulted and they gave their blessings before the ceremony.
The traditional ruler of the Community, Igwe Ogbonnaya said the abolition of the Osu Caste system will bring progress to the community as no one will any longer be discriminated because of circumstances of their birth and will open up opportunities for every member of the community to become part of the developmental process.
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 commended the community for the decision and said the right to live, associate and interact are inalienable rights that should not be restricted.
A former Chairman of Orumba South Local Government Area, Barrister Ray Onyegu who delivered a paper during the event and the Special Assistant to the Governor on Community Liaison, Chief Oge Nduche said the move will guarantee a new hope and freedom in the community.
The Heads of the eight villages in the community were later presented with certificates to document the event.