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The Osu Caste System in Igbo Land

Cornelius Nkoroh is a Theologian and a Philosopher. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Theology from the Pontifical Urban University, Rome.

What is the Osu caste System

The Osu caste system is an ancient practice in Igboland that discourages social interaction and marriage with a group of persons called Osu. One becomes an Osu when dedicated to a deity in Igboland. They are considered as inferior beings and are usually separated from the free born. The problem with this practice is that many people are osu today because their ancestors were osu.How can one continue to suffer for an offense he or she did not commit?


Who are the Igbos?

The Igbos are the occupants of the south-eastern Nigeria. They speak igbo as a language. Igboland is divided into two unequal sections by the River Niger. The Igbo people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. Culturally, the Igbos are endowed with beautiful and rich cultures. Before colonization, the Igbos practiced African Traditional religion but with colonization and its aftermath, the igbos are mainly christians though there are traces of mix up of christianity and African traditional religion. This is because despite the fact that the Igbos are the largest ethnic group to be converted to christianity, almost every igbo believes in the portency of the Traditional religion. The norms set out by the traditional religion are followed strictly by many christians. A practical example is the osu caste system which was established by the traditional Religion.

Origin of the Osu Caste System

The Osu Caste System is an age long practice in Igboland. Nobody can say precisely when it started but one thing is certain. It started when the Igbos practiced Traditional religion. There were things seen as abomination and when one treads near any of these, the person becomes an outcast together with his generations unborn. In such cases, such an outcast has nothing again to do with the community. He becomes a property of the particular deity he has offended and was meant to be sacrificed to that deity.

Problems arising from the osu-caste practice.

The major problem arising from the osu-caste system and practice is segregation. On September 4th, two lovers committed suicide in Ihiala, a town in the outskirts of Onitsha, Anambra State because they were not permitted to marry because one of them is an Osu.

One who finds himself or herself born into an Osu family can not be a King. He may have all the money in the world but he will not be recognized in the society. He is an outcast and is treated as that.

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Igbo leaders gathered on December 28, 2018 and agreed that this tradition has been abolished, yet the practice is still on.It is true that the church has taken roots here, and has for long abolished the osu caste system, it is still alive and fresh in the minds of the people. On this note, a new approach need to be taken to arrive at a good result.


Solutions to the problems arising from the caste system

The primary solution to the problems Identified is Education. There is a need to re-educate the people. People need to know that no harm will befall them when they interact with an Osu. They need to know that humans are equal in the sight of God. The government and other agencies should help the church to see that this culture is abolished. The church leaders should show a clear example by marrying from this group. When this is done, people will live peacefully with others and will entertain no fear.


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