Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Osu Caste System of Ndigbo is obnoxious: By Kaanayo Nwachukwu

The Osu caste system of Ndigbo is obnoxious, plain wrong, abusive and discriminatory. It is as despicable as it is evil. And it is worse than racism. To think this barbaric system is the brainchild of a people who constantly complain of marginalization in Nigeria is very mind-boggling.

This barbaric system is archaic and treats fellow humans as inferior beings, as well as keeps them in a state of permanent and irreversible disability in the community.

The Osu (or the slaves or the strangers or the outcasts or the untouchables) are forbidden from dancing, drinking, holding hands, associating or having sexual relations with non Osu (or the so-called freeborn or the masters). They are never allowed to break kola nuts at meetings or pour the libation or pray to God at any community gathering, as their prayers are believed to be harbingers of calamity and misfortune.

Abuses and discrimination meted out against the Osu in Igboland include but are not limited to: parents poisoning and disinheriting their children; heaping harvest offering separately in churches, refusal of membership in social clubs or organizations, violent disruption of marriage ceremonies, denial of chieftaincy titles, deprivation of land and property; expulsion of wives, ostracism, organized attacks and etcetera.

Although in 1956, the government of the then Eastern Nigeria passed a law abolishing this harmful, dehumanizing and discriminating tradition, 50 years after the enactment of this legislation, nobody has been prosecuted or convicted for breaking or circumventing it. All that the legislation has achieved, at best, is sort of drive the practice underground.

Old habits die hard, they say, but if encouraged, the new generation of Ndigbo, methinks, can bring this ancient practice to an end. Please, let's work together to make this antiquated practice history in our land, for nobody is born a slave. We are all born free. Have your say!

Kaanayo Nwachukwu  
is a Speaker, Commentator, and Writer. He is the author of the highly acclaimed memoir, "A Dream of Canada: An Incredible Story of Struggle and Overcoming."

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