Many Igbo communities have continued to eliminate the Osu caste system. Irete in Owerri West in a grand ceremony recently abolished the obnoxious system

Magnus Eze, Enugu

There was complete display of emotion at St. Paul’s Pro-Cathedral open arena, 4 Corners Ozalla, in Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu, as the people of the community gathered on Saturday, September 1, to complete the process of abolition of the discriminatory Osu caste system in their land.

Adults could not control themselves as they wept openly in ecstasy; that at last the artificial social barrier dividing brothers and sisters were finally dismantled.

The programme was an interdenominational service organised by the Project for the Abolition of Segregation in Ozalla (PASO) in collaboration with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Enugu State chapter. The event had the trappings of a state function with the calibre of dignitaries in attendance including former Governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo and former Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji; both illustrious sons of Nkanu land.

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It was also a roll call of ‘who is who’ in the clergy in the state with the Archbishop and Bishop of Enugu Anglican Communion, Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma leading the pack. The Methodist Archbishop of Enugu Diocese, Rt. Rev. Christopher Edeh was in attendance while the Bishop of Enugu Catholic Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Callistus Onaga was represented by the Vicar of St. Paul’s Pro-cathedral, Ozalla.

Not even the rains which lasted throughout the event could stop people from turning out en masse to be part of the ceremony. Daily Sun gathered that there was mass return in the community as many indigenes living in different parts of the country and abroad ensured they witnessed the ceremony.

Bishop Edeh somehow set the stage. Describing the day as historic, he pointed out that it will bring prosperity to Nkanu land and the state in general. He disclosed that the abolition will be taken round the communities where such obnoxious practice existed in Nkanu land.

In his homily, Archbishop Chukwuma saw the rains as showers of blessing. He noted that the Igbo hardly forget, but admonished that they must all know that everybody is created by God. So, there should be no basis for segregation again in Igbo land.

He emphasised that Christianity had abolished all the intermediary divinities that gave rise to osu and commended the traditional institutions for doing away with old and archaic traditions. He stressed that the new covenant with God was not in tandem with segregation, pointing out that anyone indulged in it would not make heaven.

“There is no other ethnic group that segregates in Nigeria, except the Igbo, so we must end it. And as the 2019 election is around the corner, where somebody is from, whether Osu or Amadu should not be basis for elective position. Vote for people of character and capacity. You started this in March this year, today is the consummation. I believe from today, Nkanu shall no more be small and the land shall not be oppressed again. Nkanu land must move forward. We must not allow clannishness, let equity and justice reign,” the archbishop stated.

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According to Chukwuma, after the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, it is expected that power would return to Nkanu land. “So, you must be united to get what belongs to you and you must ensure that you go for it,” he charged them.

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In an emotion laden speech, occasionally punctuated by wide applause, President General of Ozalla Development Union (ODU) and Chairman, Ozalla Unity Committee, Afam Ani traced what he called “a tortuous journey to desegregation, unification, oneness and love in Ozalla.”

He stated that the unification of the community “in truth and in spirit” was central in his inaugural speech on December 31, 2015, but however, pointed out that an innocuous telephone call by one of his childhood friends changed the course of history in Ozalla community.

“On February 5, 2017, my friend and primary school classmate, Chief Okwudiri Chianeke called me on phone and said he had something urgent to discuss with me. Without hesitation, I invited him over to my cottage home. On arrival, he told me of a dream he had to champion the abolition of ohu and amadu segregation in our community. I smiled and reminded him of my inaugural speech and my promise to work for the total unification of Ozalla. Instantly, we agreed to form a tag team and pursue this project with tenacity,” he said.

Ani stated that both of them drove straight to the palace of Igwe Crescent Okafor; the Chinawaeze 1 of Umuanee Ozalla; shared their pet project with him and the traditional ruler bought into it after a long discussion. Within a week; Igwe Okafor called a meeting of his other colleagues, where a formal presentation was made to them.

With the nod from the traditional rulers; namely: Igwe Crescent Okafor, Igwe Casmir Igwe (Mmiriukwu 1 of Obeagwu Ozalla) and Igwe Donald Nwochi (Chinyereze 1 of Etiti Ozalla), a roadmap was designed on how to realise the laudable objective.

An enlarged committee was formed involving Ozalla people living in different parts of the country and abroad, which met at least on monthly basis for about a year. Things then moved in quick succession; even though there were bottlenecks here and there before the traditional abolition rites were held five months ago.

The President General said: “On 31 March, 2018, the traditional celebration of the abolition of ohu na amadu was performed at Nkwo Ozalla in Amigbo. History was made in Ozalla on that day when our own town became the very first community in the whole of Nkanu land to abolish the ohu na amadu segregation. It was a feat many considered almost impossible but the Ozalla Unity Committee worked tirelessly for one full year to ensure that the obnoxious and vexatious practice was finally discarded and thrown into the dustbin of history, following the traditional abolition ceremony under the watchful eyes and direction of the Umungwuanu kindred and Ndi Jinze Ozalla.”

With the inter-denominational service concluded; Ani said the reception was to celebrate the very sweet victory of light over darkness, and added that it marked the beginning of a new dawn.

He charged the people that “In unity, love and oneness shall Ozalla develop and prosper.”

Many Igbo communities have continued to eliminate the Osu caste system. Irete in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo state, in a grand ceremony, recently, unanimously abolished the obnoxious system which they said had caused disaffection and ill-feelings amongst them.

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