The Catholic Church has endorsed the historic abolition of the Osu Caste System in Igbo land with a thanksgiving service celebrated at the ancient town of Ora-Eri in Aguata Local Government Area, Anambra State.
Recall that on December 28, 2018 Nollywood Actor Joseph Okechukwu led traditional rulers, religious leaders, civil society leaders and concerned Igbo sons and daughters to Agukwu Nri in Anambra state, where what he termed a “Spiritual Abolition” of Osu Caste in Igbo land took place. At the event, Okechukw, on behalf of those referred to as ‘freeborn’ (superior) or Amadi class went on his knees and pleaded for forgiveness from the segregated class (inferior), commonly referred to as Osu/Ohu/Umeh. The segregated class accepted the pleas for forgiveness and shared embraces with their ‘freeborn’ kits, signaling peace.
Recall also that on 14 September 2019, Okpala Eri XIII, Anthony Okafor also carried out a robust traditional abolition of the 500 year old obnoxious and divisive practice. During the ceremony, those referred to as Osu shared warm embraces with their so called freeborn siblings and sent the past tumbling right behind them, where it belongs.
At the historic event, the traditional ruler of Ora-Eri, His Royal Highness, Ezenri Emmanuel Nriagu warned that going forward, should anyone refer to another as ‘Osu’, such a person will be dealt with severely.
To further consolidate on their 2019 Osu Abolition exercise, the Ora-Eri community last week, invited the church to add their voices by making spiritual pronouncements to ban the system in the entire Igb nation. Most Reverend Jonas- Benson Okoye, the Auxiliary Bishop of Awka led about five other priests in the exercise which culminated into a thanksgiving service. An elated Bishop Okoye expressed his gratitude to God and happiness with Ora-Eri community for collaborating with the church in the abolition of Osu caste system in the town. He noted that the thanksgiving church service was aimed at spiritually concluding the traditional abolition exercise of 2019, conducted by the community.
Tracing the historic origin of Osu in Igbo land, Reverend Monsignor Jerome Madueke, who delivered the homily at the church service, recalled that some people, out of sheer wickedness, were dedicated to idols for no justifiable reason. Speaking further he said “It is regrettable that we worship God and idols together because of our lack of faith. Our ancestors should be pardoned because they worshiped idols out of ignorance. Let us therefore appreciate that Jesus came and abolished distinction between free born and slaves. “Unless we allow God to come into our minds, in behaviors and relationship with others, the issue of Osu may still linger. I want to observe that in addition to the formal abolition of Osu system, there is still great work to do and I pray that by the grace of God, we can achieve much more.” .
The traditional ruler of Ora-Eri, HRH Ezenri Emmanuel Nriagu commended the Bishop for celebrating the church service and the parish priest Rev. Fr Nwakelu Andrew for his unalloyed support during the preparation of the abolition ceremony, as well as the indigenous priests and the entire people of the community for their support. He also affirmed that his cabinet was ready to confer any title on any deserving indigene of the town irrespective of his background. Eze Nriagu warned that henceforth anybody in his domain who discriminated against others on the basis of Osu caste system would face the full weight of traditional hammer, describing the Osu system as retrogressive. According to him, the people of Ora-Eri were happy to put behind the system that reduced fellow human beings to second class citizens for centuries. “With the ceremony we have performed in this community, those formerly described as Osu will start taking traditional titles and intermarry with others. “Those who were hitherto referred to as Osu in this community have been bestowed with all rights and privileges enjoyed by the freeborn. They are good people and many of them are intelligent and beautiful and everybody stands to gain by putting behind this obnoxious system.” The Royal Father thanked the Bishop for celebrating the church service and assured that his people would never go back to the dark era, reports Vanguardngr
Chief Anthony Okafor, who presided over the abolition ceremony at the community square last year said he had been campaigning for the abolition for several years, expressing joy that his effort had finally paid off. Okafor said: “When I took the title of Okpara in 1990, I took it upon myself that Osu Caste system must be abolished. It was not easy at the beginning. “In the past four years, I chose to be sampling people’s opinion on the matter and it was during that period that I found out that many people in our community also wanted the system abolished, but did not know how to go about it. “We later renewed the campaign and happy enough, the leadership of Ora -Eri Development Union and our traditional ruler were in support.” In his speech, the President General of Ora-Eri Development Union, Mr. Okey Atueyi said the community had taken a bold decision and commended everybody in the area for their support in putting the discriminatory system behind. “You can see how happy the people are,” he said.
The Parish priest of Ora-Eri, Rev Fr Andrew Nwakelu expressed appreciation to the people of Ora-Eri for participating in the historic church celebration and enjoined them to remain with the new spirit.
Nollywood actor Joseph Okechukwu, who has since become one of the most prominent voices against the obnoxious practice has expressed his gratitude to God and the traditional ruler of Ora-Eri. He says “HRH Ezenri Emmanuel Nriagu should be celebrated by every Igbo man or woman alive. I want to personally thank him and the Bishops and clergymen who attended the event, especially Rev. Andrew and Chief Anthony Okafor, Okey Atueyi, and all who made this exercise a reality. May God continue to bless them. These are the men who want Igbo land to be free, because without these exercises spreading across the length and breath of the Igbo nation, we will never smell freedom from bondage in Nigeria.” Mr. Okechukwu also commended the conveners of the abolition exercise of December 30, 2019 at Ihube Community. In his words, “They are all heros. I am now more optimistic than ever that our freedom is finally at hand”, he concluded.