Anglican bishops seek end to Osu caste system
By Sunny A. David, Awka
Some Anglican Priests have called for an end to the `Osu’ caste system, which classifies some people as inferior to others in Igbo land, South East of the country.
The Clerics made the call at a stakeholders meeting of government and tradition leaders in Awka on Wednesday.
They expressed worries that the practice was still prevalent in communities in the region in spite of the advent of Christianity in Igbo land over 160 years ago.
Rt. Rev. Tony Nkwoka, Emeritus Bishop of Niger West said that Christianity did not just come as an alternative to religion but an agent of civilisation.
Bishop Nkwoka, who is also the Director, Institute of Theology, Paul University, Awka said Osu Caste system was abolished 62 years ago, precisely on May 19, 1962 by the then Eastern Region Government and revalidated in the Eastern Nigerian Law No. 26 of 1960.
He expressed regret that none of the extant five states of the South East region had revalidated the law and called on various houses of assembly in the region to make the law relevant and domiciled in their states.
“Why is Osu Caste continuing in Igbo land after over 160 years ago Christianity has battled idolatry from which Osu Caste originated?
“Christianity did not just come as an alternative religion but a civilising force of human development, progress and peace.
“Is it an oversight, neglect or repudiation that none of the five Igbo states government of Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Abia and Ebonyi has revalidated this law?
“We can say without fear of contradiction that all our Igbo legislators are Christians even if only nominally,” Bishop Nkwoka said.
Rt. Rev. Manassas Okere, the Bishop of Isiukwuator said the problem and solution was within the people.
“We must stand out for this battle as the whites fought to free our people from slavery, we can motivate people and mobilise them for positive actions.
“It is an open secret that many Igbo communities have either renounced or abandoned the particular idols that their forefathers worshiped.
“There are many towns today where no one can boldly come out and declare “I am a heathen or idol worshiper,’’ he said.
Other speakers at the event were Rt. Rev. Ralph Okafor, Emeritus Bishop of Ihiala Diocese; Rt. Rev. Manassas and Rt. Rev. Henry Okeke, Bishop of Niger West.
The convener of the coalition, Rt. Rev. Samuel Chukuka, Emeritus Bishop of Isiukwuator said that he had carried out public awareness campaigns including erecting of billboards but they were destroyed by agents of governments.
Bishop Chukuka expressed regret that in spite of invitations and several reminders, no governor of the South East states, their representatives or other politicians were present.
He also observed that traditional rulers of communities where this ‘obnoxious’ practice was going on were not at the crucial event which bordered on equality for all in their domains.
“We wrote letters to all ecclesiastic, seasoned politicians and professionals such as governors, primate, cardinal, general overseers, senators, professors, chief judges and other professionals.
“I personally visited the traditional rulers in Anambra to invite them to the function, but none came except the traditional ruler of Ukpo community who was out of the country and sent a representative.
“I produced bill boards for the abrogation this obnoxious and wicked Osu Caste system which were destroyed by government agents,” he said.