The Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Archdiocese, His Grace, Dr Anthony Victor Obinna, has bemoaned the infamous Osu caste system and the havoc it has wreaked in the psyche of the Igbo and their society over the years.
Archbishop Obinna said since 1885 when Catholic missionaries from France, Germany and Ireland came to evangelise in Igboland so much good had been done, but regretted that the Igbo still remained in the bondage of Osu, Ohu, Diala or Amadi and Ume caste system, emphasising that such had undermined the true concept of Christianity, humanity and what Jesus Christ died for.
Archbishop Obinna said this while delivering a public lecture titled: “The Catholic Church: The Confiliation of Christians Vis-à-Vis Son of The Soil, Diala, Osu, Ohu, Ume Divide/Bondage”, during the second Aquaviva conference at the Holy Ghost Cathedral, Enugu.
South East Trust recalls that recently the Osu caste system and the “son-of-the-soil” or “daughter-of-the-soil” phenomenon caused troubles in areas such as Ozalla in Enugu State and Orlu in Imo State to the extent that brothers have risen against themselves, especially in matters of kingship, chieftaincy title, Catholic priesthood, marriage among Catholic Igbo, etc.
In his novel: No Longer At Ease, famous author, Chinua Achebe, explained that Osu is somebody dedicated or sacrificed to an idol or a deity. And because the hero of the novel, Obi Okonkwo, was seen as a traditionalist and diala, he could not marry his girlfriend, Clara, an Osu even after she was carrying his baby, hence he suggested an abortion. as an option.
Archbishop Obinna recalled that he first preached against the diala-osu-ume-ohu caste system and son-of-the-soil allegiance in his hometown in 1975, stressing that until today, “I have continued to push for and advocate the abolition of this obnoxious tradition and practice.”
He said there were three areas of Catholic life calling for urgent and radical conversion to Christ in order to strengthen confiliation among Igbo Catholics and other Christians: Catholic priesthood, marriage among Catholic Igbo, kingship and chieftaincy.
He said, “Sometime in the 60s a community of Catholics came to protest to a bishop against the prospective ordination of a young man who the diala Catholics deemed unfit to become a Catholic priest because they claimed he was Osu.”
Archbishop Obinna said, fortunately, the European bishop dismissed the protest and ordained the priest; stressing that since then “no community has dared to oppose the ordination of a Catholic priest on the basis of the Igbo idolatrous human divide.”
On kingship and chieftaincy, Obinna said for long in Igboland traditional rulership or kingship, as well as chieftaincy honours, were conferred on those considered free-born.