No fewer than twenty-four traditional rulers in Oguta Local Government of Imo state, southeast Nigeria, have endorsed abolishing the Osu caste system, to free affected people from stigmatisation.
Concise News understands that the age-long system is also known in some Igbo tradition as Osu, Diala or Ohu, depicting slavery to either a human being or deity.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the decision was taken because the royal fathers believe that the caste system had caused major deprivations, dehumanisation, stigmatisation and lack of marriage among units on a particular class of people in the society considered to be slaves.
The resolution was taken and endorsed in a joint meeting organised by a Civil Society Group, Initiative for The Eradication of Traditional and Cultural Stigmatisation in Our Society (IFETACSIOS) on Monday.
Chairman of the Council of Traditional Rulers in Oguta LGA, Eze Franklin Okafor, who led the royal fathers, described caste system as “Man Inhumanity to Man”.
Okafor said that in Igbo land, those considered to fall among the class of Ume, Ohu, Osu and Diala caste system did not enjoy common relationship with others.
The Chairman said the system has led to a major deprivation, dehumanisation and stigmatisation on the affected people.
His words: “This system is evil and devilish; our people cannot intermarry with others, while a major deprivation is meted on the affected people due to fetish tradition.
“We have resolved today that we will partner with IFETACSIOS group to carry the crusade against caste system to the entire Igbo land and ensure that it is abolished,” he said.
On his part, Prof. Dele Odigbo, who is also a traditional ruler in the area, noted that many of the affected persons had committed suicide, while others went on exile due to the fetish tradition.
The Professor said the Ume, Osu, Ohu and Diala caste system was against the constitution of the country and a violation of human right of association.
Odigbo observed that those considered to fall in the class were deprived of certain privileges in the society, adding that the resolution would not liberate the people from bondage and make them have a sense of belonging in the society.
Concise News understands that the system was predominantly practised in the Igbo land, where affected people were deprived of certain privileges in their various communities.
They were also restricted from intermarriage with other people, while they were not allowed to participate in certain traditional privileges.
Speaking on the development, President of the IFETACSIOS, Stella Ogechukwu, said the emergence of the caste system in Igbo land was the greatest evil and injustice meted on the affected persons.
Ogechukwu said IFETACSIOS had launched the campaign in various states in the South-East to drive their point home.
She said the abolition of the system would save many innocent persons from dehumanisation, stigmatisation and inequality which they had suffered in the past.
Her words: “Our royal fathers are the major key players in this struggle and that is why we are partnering with all of them to see how we can end this evil system and to set our people free from bondage.
“The IFETACSIOS group is advocating the abrogation of Osu, Ohu, Ume and Diala caste system in Igbo land which have done more harm than good,’’ she said.
She noted noted that if the system was abolished, human dignity would be restored in Igbo land. (NAN)