George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
December 27, 2019, will forever remain memorable in the minds of the people of Abba clan, consisting of four communities in Nwangele council area of Imo State. It has been clearly etched in the annals of the area as when they unanimously resolved and finally abolished the obnoxious and discriminatory tradition of Osu/Ohu or Ume caste system.
Flowing from the landmark declaration, for the first time in the community, both the freeborn (Diala) and those who had been labelled as Osu or the like came under the same roof to wine and dine.
Following the repudiation of the caste system in the Abba clan, it is now slanderous and a punishable offence for any indigene of Abba to call a fellow kinsman/woman an Osu/Ohu or Ume or to still continue the ancient practice covertly by segregating or avoiding those who had been previously tagged as Osu/Ohu at communal meetings or events.
As if to show the importance attached to the proclamation by the Abba people, it took the Catholic archbishop metropolitan and head of the ecclesiastical province of Owerri, Anthony Obinna, to perform the ritual of the cleansing. He expressed happiness over the resolve of the people of Abba to put to an end the age-long Osu caste practice.
The archbishop recalled that he had been one of the strongest advocates of the abrogation of the caste system in Igboland for 65 years.
He lauded the people for their courage and determination to abolish an ancient practice that he said had nothing positive to offer than pulling the people apart and causing disaffection among them, with some being regarded as freeborn and while others were seen as second class citizens in the same community. He therefore, urged other communities still holding unto the disdainful practice to emulate the Abba people of Nwangele.
Archbishop Obinn said: “Today in the four communities of Abba; we are rejecting bad customs and behaviours. We are rejecting bad talks, insults intimidation, unnecessary envy, looking down on fellow citizens and the worship of idols and all things associated with the Osu/Ohu and Ume caste system in Abba clan. This is the resolve and the promise we make today in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Also, Chairman of Abba Autonomous Communities Development Union (AACDU), Nnanyereugo Paul Ozigbo, said that it was the collective will and resolve of the four communities that made up Abba clan to abolish the system from their land.
He thanked all indigenes of Abba home and in the Diaspora, traditional title holders, (Ndi Nze na Ozo and Ndi Oji Ofo) for making the ceremony successful.
Traditional ruler of Ekitiafor, Ekiti II, Eze Boniface Ononenyi Uzoma, apologised to all those who had by omission or commission been segregated against or considered as Osu in the past, which denied them the freeborn status in their community.
He warned that, by the final renunciation ceremony, anybody or group that segregated against the other person or group of persons will have themselves to blame because of such people would not evade the wrath of the community.
Daily Sun gathered that the highpoint of the ceremony was the administration of mixture of salt and water, which signified the purification, on the chiefs, elders and traditional rulers from the four communities as the final rites of renunciation by the archbishop.