All you Need To Know About The Osu Caste System in Igboland including the negative impact, consequences and repercussions.
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This article will answer the following questions below
👉What is Osu caste system? Osun meaning in Nigeria
👉Who is an Osu
👉Osu caste system is synonymous with which town in Igbo land?
👉What are the major impact of Osu system in Igbo land
👉Osun in Abia State, IMO state, Anambra state, ebonyi state and Enugu state
👉List of Osu villages in Anambra State
👉Osu in Igbo land is synonymous with what in ikwerre land
👉List of Osu villages in Imo State
👉Consequences of marrying an Osu
👉Ume caste system in Igboland
👉Ohu in igbo land…
Is there a caste system in Nigeria? Yes…. There is… It is called the Ume Osun caste system practiced by the igbos, a tribe in Southern Eastern part of Nigeria….
Learn more about this osu caste (outcast) system and you may start advocating for govt legislation to abolish it.
Another opportunity to educate people on some Igbo culture but this particular one I’m against it as Igbo….as I promise I will talk about OSU outcast in Igbo
The Osu caste system is an ancient practice in Igboland that discourages social interaction and marriage with a group of persons called Osu (Igbo: outcast). Osus are dedicated to the deities (Arusi) of Igboland; they are considered as inferior beings and are usually separated from the Nwadiala or diala (Igbo : real born).
Traditionally, there are two classes of people in Igboland
– the Nwadiala and
— the Osu.
The Nwadiala literally meaning ‘sons of the soil’. They are the masters while the Osu are the people dedicated to the gods; so they are regarded as slaves, strangers, outcasts and untouchables.
THE ORIGIN OF OUTCAST (OSU)
History has it that an osu was a respected monk devoted to the service and worship of a deity. The origin of the osu caste system can be traced back to the era when deities were believed to ask for human sacrifice during festivals in order to clean the land from abomination thus leading to the purchase of a slave by the people. The osu caste system also has its origin traced to the Nri Kingdom . It is believed that the Nris possessed a hereditary power and thus do go about cleansing various kingdoms of abomination; any community that refuses to be cleansed are called osus.
Chinua Achebe in his book, “NO LONGER AT EASE”, aptly describes Osu thus: “Our fathers in their darkness and ignorance called an innocent man Osu, a thing given to the idols, and thereafter he became an outcast, and his children, and his children’s children forever”.
Another view on the history of the osu caste system centres on ostracization . This occurs when a person or group of persons who refuses the orders of a king or the decision of a community are banished from the community thus resulting to the victim and its generation being called osus.
THE DISCRIMINATION AND CRITICISM OF OSU
The Osus are treated as inferior human beings and kept in a state of permanent and irreversible disability; they are subjected to various forms of abuse and discrimination. The Osu are made to live separately from the freeborn; they reside very close to shrines and market places. In Chinua Achebe’s NO LONGER AT EASE , he said osus are given separate seats in churches. The osus who are also seen as unclean are not allowed to break kola. This form of maltreatment and punishments have made the osus to flee to other countries, many development projects abandoned, marriages dissolved and pregnancies terminated. The Osu are not allowed to dance, drink, hold hands, associate or have sexual relationship with the Nwadiala. They are not even allowed to pour libation or pray to God on behalf of a freeborn at any community gathering. It is believed that such prayers will bring calamity and misfortune.
READ ALSO: Harmful traditional practices in igbo land
On 20 March 1956, Igbo legislators in the Eastern House of Assembly, Enugu abrogated the then common practice of referring people to as osus. The fines imposed have discouraged the public expression of the word osu.
Since the introduction of modernization in Igbo land, the osu caste system has been criticized by people who feel it is against human rights to freedom from discrimination. According to human rights groups, some of the atrocities meted out against the Osu in Igboland include: parents administering poison to their children, disinheritance, ostracism, organized attacks, heaping harvest offering separately in churches, denial of membership in social clubs, violent disruption of marriage ceremonies, denial of chieftaincy titles, deprivation of property and expulsion of wives.
The Osu caste discrimination is very pronounced in the area of marriage. An Osu cannot marry a freeborn. The belief is that any freeborn that marries an Osu defiles the family. So freeborn families are always up in arms against any of their members who wants to marry an Osu.
They go to any length to scuttle the plan. Because of the Osu factor, marriages in Igboland are preceded by investigations– elders on both side travel to native villages to find out the social status of the other party. And if it is found that one of them is an Osun, the plan would be automatically abandoned. Many marriage plans have been aborted, while married couples have been forced to divorce because of the Osu factor. Chinua Achebe also notes this in his book. When Okonkwo learns that his son wants to marry Clara, an Osu, Okonkwo says: “Osu is like a leprosy in the minds of my people. I beg of you my son not to bring the mark of shame and leprosy into your family. If you do, your children and your children’s children will curse you and your memory – you will bring sorrow on your head and on the heads of your children.”
Sometime last two year, a young educated Igbo man, a successful business entrepreneur based in Atlanta (USA) had been engaged to be married to an Igbo lady, who was a medical doctor. The Igbo lady was already pregnant for the man. During the customary family introduction, it was discovered that the lady was an “Osu” and immediately the wedding arrangements were terminated. The lady gave birth to a baby boy and now lives in Houston (USA) as a single parent. The Igbo man has refused any form of contact with the lady and his child with all the education, western culture, civilization and exposure to Christian teachings.
And not too long ago, I met a lady in a friend’s house in Portharcourt . I was told that she was engaged to a young man from Imo State. Months later, I learnt that the marriage plan had been cancelled because the lady was said to be an Osu.
There have been several instances like that where young men and women of Igbo extraction have suffered emotional trauma as a result of this cultural malaise. And strangely, some people believe that the humiliating Osu caste system is a part of the Igbo culture nobody should tamper with. The Osu case system in Igboland seems to have changed the meaning of life for the group of people branded Osu.
In fact, so many crimes against humanity have been committed against individuals and groups in Igboland in the name of Osu. The Osu caste system has caused communal strifes and wars between the Osu and the Nwadiala in Igboland. According to the United Nations definition, discrimination includes any conduct based on a distinction made on grounds of natural or social categories, which have no relation either to individual capacities or merits or to the concrete behavior of the individual person. Based on the above, I suggest that something drastic has to be done to eradicate this obnoxious system.
Written by Chibuzor Ofolebe