By Victor Nwachukwu
The Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Diocese, His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, has charged custodians of the traditional institution in the South-east to lend their full support to the clamour for the abolition of the Osu caste system in the area.
Obinna gave the charge on Monday in a keynote address he delivered at a conference organised by a non-governmental organization,known as the Initiative for the Eradication of Traditional and Cultural Stigmatisation in Our Society (IFETACSIOS) in Owerri.
He spoke on the topic, “From Igbo divide and misery to Igbo oneness and joy – reclaiming and restoring full human dignity and equality among Igbos.”
He said that the caste systems, known by different nomenclature, such as “Ohu”, “Ume” and “Diala,” had done greater harm than good to the traditional institution.
The cleric said that only honest and dogged efforts by traditional rulers would challenge the inequalities and stigmatisation associated with the caste system.
He urged them to reclaim what he described as their “God-given dignity” and restore the freedom of the Igbo man through equity against the “unhealthy comparison and dehumanisation.”
“I used to be in the bondage of Osu, Ohu, Ume and Diala but I have been freed through conscious efforts.
“The caste system is primitive and inhuman and must be abrogated.
“I commend the organisation for this forum and call on the state Houses of Assembly in the south-east never to relent in their efforts to enact laws that would aid the abolition of Osu caste system,” Obinna said.
Earlier in an address of welcome, the group’s President, Ogechukwu Maduagwu, urged delegates at the conference to imbibe the culture of brotherliness and togetherness.
Speaking on the theme: “One Igbo nation, breaking osu, ohu, ume and diala socio-cultural barriers”, Maduagwu urged traditional and religious leaders to unite in the fight against the phenomenon in the overall interest of Ndigbo.
He said: “We cannot be complaining of marginalisation at the national level if we continue to marginalise our own Igbo brothers and he who goes to equity must go with clean hands.
“We must be able to abolish obnoxious traditions that come with stigmatisation in order to promote mutual coexistence on the basis of equity, freedom and justice,” she said.
Also speaking, the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, described the Osu caste system as outdated.
Nwodo, who was represented by the Imo President of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Mr Ezechi Chukwu, contended that “culture is made for the people and not the people for culture.”
He therefore advised delegates to rise above cultural barriers and embrace modern doctrines and practices as panacea to the multi-dimensional problems facing the Igbo man.
Other guests at the event included the Royal Father of the Day and Deputy Chairman of Imo Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze J.C Okwara, and Chairman, Enugu Council of Traditional Rulers, Igwe Lawrence Agubuzo.
The rest were the Chairman of Oguta Local Government Traditional Rulers, Prof. Amuzienwa Odigbo, and the General Overseer, Praise Centre Ministries, Bishop Strafford Nwaogu, among others.