NIGERIA: Clergy Unite Against Osu Caste System In S’ East

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--The Director, Institute of Theology, Paul University, Awka, Anambra State, Rt. Rev. Prof. Anthony Nkwoka, has said that God would judge the Igbo for retaining the Osu caste system.

His outburst came just as Church leaders and traditional rulers of different communities in Igboland had been called upon to take concrete action to end the Osu caste system in Igbo land.

Also, governments of the five states of the South-East and youths were urged to take a bold step in eliminating the system which has been identified as ‘wicked, idolatrous and barbaric’.

The call was part of the resolutions reached at the end of the Conference of Coalition Force on Osu Caste abrogation held, on Wednesday,at De Geogold Hotel Awka, where participants which included Bishops, High Court Judges, traditional rulers, lawyers, various Christian bodies and civil society organisations condemned, in strong words, the continued practice of caste in Igboland.

Bishop Nkwoka, who gave the keynote address at the conference, noted that the Osu caste was abolished some 62 years ago, precisely on May 10, 1956, by the then Eastern Region of Nigeria Government and revalidated in the Eastern Nigerian Law No. 26 of 1960.

He wondered why none of the five states in Igboland has revalidated the law.

Noting that church buildings and cathedrals were all over Igboland just as the Igbo nation has its fair share of top ecclesiastics, seasoned politicians and professionals, the Bishop said, “Perhaps syncretism and post-modernism have suffocated our Christianity.

“All Christians were baptised into Christ and so there is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, male and female, for you are all one person in Christ Jesus…In our human relations, nobody has the right or audacity to assign his/her sibling to another parentage; it will be deemed an abomination.

“The Bible makes it clear that God will judge and punish those who violate His laws and regulations. For a Christian to assign another Christian to an idol as Osu, is a hypocrisy of the first order.

“Is it not absurd, barbaric, retrogressive, hypocritical, shameful, unbelievable and unacceptable that after 160 years of Christianity in Igboland and after over 60 years our parents and grandparents abolished Osu caste, it still continues amongst us?

“As St. Paul challenged the Corinthian Christians in 1Corinthians 11:13, ‘Judge for yourselves; is it right’ for Osu caste to continue in Igboland in this 21st Century?”

Speaking on why the meeting was called, the Bishop Emeritus, Isuikwuato/Umunneochi Anglican Diocese, Rt. Rev. Samuel Chukuka, and the moderator, the Emeritus Bishop of Ihiala, Rt. Rev. Raphael Okafor, both urged the people to join them to create impacts and motivate people and communities to rise and stamp out the shameful and wicked tradition in Igboland.

Also speaking at the conference, Hon. Justice Cecelia N. Uzoewulu, condemned the practice and urged the group to take the crusade to the villages, communities, churches and schools.

Her words, “The first and second speakers have said that there is legislation, but I don’t think the Osu caste system can be eradicated by legislation, since that legislation has anybody gone to court to challenge, that I came to do this and they say no because he or she is an Osu, have you ever heard of any?

“So for me the best way to treat the issue is in the villages, the town unions; the village community. If the village community head can arrange for us to come and talk to the members of the community on Osu caste system, that way the message will go down.

“You have to go to the Churches and the chiefs, because the chiefs are making something out of it, most of them and some clergymen are just paying lip service because they say it open but in the inside they think like any other that is against Osu.

“We can also go to the schools to talk about it but more importantly is the villages because the villages are the core of Osu caste system practice.”

In his own contribution, a legal practitioner and Commissioner in the National Human Rights Commission, Chief Dr. DOC Ezeigwe, berated those practicing and encouraging the practice of Osu caste describing it as ‘wickedness and hypocrisy’.

He said, “Why is it that when he brings money you collect, when he builds industries you go and work there and make money, you sit and take lectures from them and enjoy every good thing that come from them but when it comes to marriage of traditional ruler’s throne you remember he or she is Osu, it sheer hypocrisy.”

Others who spoke included the Anglican Bishop of Mbamiri, Rt. Rev. Henry Okeke; Bishop of Isuikwuato-Umunneochi Diocese, Rt. Rev. Manasseo Okeke and representative of Igwe Robert Eze, the monarch of Ukpo in Dunukofia local government, Ichie Bonny Nwabuike.