From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Nigerians have been called upon to discard ancient practices that bear some forms of discrimination against one another based on characteristics such as ethnicity and religion.
An author and a retired diplomat, Alphonsus Alang, made the call in his book “The Scars of Our Generation: Perspectives on Racism”, which was presented to the public in Abuja.
Among such unwholsome practices, Alang, who made particular reference to the Osu Caste system in Igbo land, lamented that “the development brought with it disrespect for human rights, dignity of human persons and abuse of these rights, especially those so stigmatized as belonging to Osu Caste.
The introduction of this obnoxious system, according to the author, “was brought about by the division of individuals into two groups- the Diala (Nwadiala) and the Osu. The Diala are called the son’s of the soil. They are the freedom. They are also the Masters. They have and exercise their full rights as human beings. On the contrary, the Osu are the slaves, the strangers and the outcasts. They are accorded inferior and sub-human status in Igbo society. The Osu are perceived and regarded as unclean and capable of defiling others they come in contact with, especially the freedom. Hence, they are called the untouchables.
He lamented that although attempts had been made to eradicate the practice, “the Osu prejudice is very much alive among Igbo communities in South East Nigeria. The Osu are still hated, despised and discriminated against. The discrimination has caused divisions, divorces and deaths in families and communities across Igboland.”
“The maltreatment meted out to Osu has forced many of them to migrate to cities or to other countries or communities outside Igboland. Many development projects have been abandoned, marriages have been dissolved and pregnancies terminated because of this ugly stigmatization among brothers and sisters of the same race. So many crimes against humanity have been committed against individuals and groups in the of the Osu Caste system.
“Both the states and federal governments have continued to maintain silence in the face of this evil system. Osu discrimination is evil, primitive, inhuman and barbaric, which goes to show that this is the Igbo version of racism and segregation. The Osu system is one practice Igbo communities must do away with in order to experience true modernity, enlightenment and civilization in the 21 St century.”
The book reviewer and a former Attorney General of Imo state, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, SAN, said the author mirrored the depressing problems bequeathed to one’s generation as well as the ongoing problems frightening our generation.
“The clause ‘Our Generation’ cannot really be equated merely to today. It implies the day a person picks up the book to read. Thus, if it is in 2121 ( one hundred years from this year), the reader must contextualise our generation as at then not as when Alphonsus George Alang, an authority on racism, has in mind. Racism is part of human race and cannot easily wither away.”
The 90-page book is arranged into eight chapters, with a postscript and two appendices.
In chapter one, the author traces the origin of slavery, while in chapter two, he gave brilliant analysis on the magnatism of the African/European relationship 400 years before the colonial rule.
Apart from giving insightful information on slavery, the book outline the contradiction of the different values extended to the whites and the opposite of same meted to the blacks.