THE OSU CASTE SYSTEM IN IGBO LAND AND ITS CONTEMPORARY IMPLICATIONS
BACKGROUND TO STUDY
Igbo nation like every other nations in the world, has certain traditions, customs, culture, beliefs and worldviews, which constitute their dos and don’ts. Most of these traditions are handed over to them from one generation to the other, from their great fathers. The violation to these beliefs and traditions are seen by most of them as a great abomination (Aru). Thus, they give a strict adherence to the laws even when they are no longer obtainable in a given epoch like in this contemporary era when and where scientific inventions, globalizations, civilization and so on have become the order of the day.
Among these traditions and beliefs is the obnoxious, outrageous and annihilative tradition and belief of the Osu-Caste System which has in different places both in the past and present become a continuous humiliation, infringements and isolation in the places where it is practice.
Before moving further, it is only appropriate that the subject be defined for the better and quicker understanding of the reader. Rev. Dr. G.T. Basden, puts the word Osu to mean “A slave, but one distinct from an ordinary slave who in fact is the property of a god, and when once devoted to a god, he has no prospects of regaining freedom and he restricts his movements to the presents of the shrine to which he was attached.” According to Okafor J.N. “Osu is an ideology of class domination that incorporates the beliefs that a particular class of people is to be disinherited and excluded from association, with others, either because they are themselves victims of ritual offering or they are descended from those who were victims.
Victor C. Uchendu who seems to have concentrated his study of the South Eastern Nigeria on the Igbos of Imo and Rivers States wrote of Osu as a slave, “a slave who has been dedicated to the services of the dedicator’s deity, whose descendants are also Osu, be he dedicator and individual, extended family or a linage. While J.O Nwachukwu opined that “Osu is a sacred and holy being deserved to lead a secluded life like a monk in order to salvage and serve the people under him as a king and savior.”
Also, the 1956 Osu Bill, echoes word for word the 1963 Eastern Nigerian Law on the Osu System: “any social way of living which implies that any person who is deemed to be an Osu or Oru or Ohu is subjected to certain prescribed social disability and social stigma or a deity, and that person and his descendants are therefore regarded as social right which non-Osu are bound to respect.” Therefore, it can be said that the Osu-Caste System is an invented conventional religious preposition established by our forefathers through religious ceremonies with religious apparatus to serve a religious purpose.
Aims and Objectives
The aims and objectives of this study include:
- To examine the historical foundation of Osu-Caste System in Isu Local Government Area of Imo State.
- To examine the socio-economic implications of the Osu-Caste System in Contemporary Isu Local Government.
- To examine the political implications of the Osu-Caste System in Contemporary Isu Local Government.
- To unveil the stigmatization and obnoxious practices that is embedded in the OsuCaste System in Contemporary Isu Local Government.
- To provide future researches with a document on the system in the Local Government.
- It also aimed at correcting the misconception on the issue and to point out that human being are created equal and have a role to play in the society.
- Finally, to expose the traditional views, beliefs and as well religion of the Igbos, both past and present, based on the Osu-Caste System which to an extent, constitute the lion share of the Igbo traditional belief, religion and philosophy. It will also clarify the ambiguous notions and conceptions about the Osu and the cause of the present day subjugation and discrimination against the people who are known as Osu.
Scope of Work
The scope ranges from the historical foundation to the present day. The work however, focus more on the contemporary implications; socio-economically and politically. The work also covers the efforts made both individually and governmentally to abolish the system and extend to which these efforts have been effective.
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