From Felix Ikem, Nsukka
Perturbed by the attendant social discrimination, nine autonomous communities in Nsukka Local Government Area (LGA) of Enugu State have abolished the ohu caste system in their respective communities.
It was gathered that they achieved this after years of hassling, brainstorming, and spiritual appeasement. The communities are Nguru, Isiakpu, Echara, Umuakashi, Iheagu, Ezema n’Edem, Umuoyo, Owerre and Ihe, which had their traditional rulers, elders’ councils and town unions, among others, present at the accession.
Having addressed everything that needed to be addressed, the high point of the occasion was the proclamation of the end of ohu caste system in the town by elders of the communities and their respective traditional rulers.
In a groundbreaking, solemn ceremony with all appropriate rituals, recently, at St. John’s Catholic Church, Ihe, in Nsukka, to mark the end to the ancient practice, many clerics, traditional rulers, politicians and technocrats bared their minds on how the practice has encouraged discrimination and impacted negatively on their people.
The ceremony was a celebration of the end of the age-long battle to eradicate the evil practice, as described by many concerned indigenes of the affected communities.
In his opening speech, the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Godfrey Igwubuike Onah, explained that the ohu (slave) and amu (free born) practice was an evil wind that blows no one good.
According to the professor: “Jesus Christ has died for all of us on the cross of Calvary, and so there should be no form of discrimination by anybody. The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a total liberation for all mankind. Nobody should call anybody ohu, outcast or slave. Christ has liberated us from the bondage of sin, which is the greatest slavery anybody can be in.”
The bishop, who was represented by the cathedral administrator, Eugene Odo, enjoined all the communities in the zone to emulate Nsukka town and abolish all forms of slavery in the area.
In his remarks, the Anglican bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Aloysius Agbo, explained that Christians should not call any human being slave or outcast, pointing out that any Christian living such life was not worthy to be addressed as a Christian.
The bishop, who was also represented by Ven. Godwin Eze, agreed with others that all human beings have been rescued from the shackles of slavery through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In a chat with Daily Sun, the president of Nsukka Town Union, Chief John Onyeke, explained that the discrimination became worrisome, and needed to be urgently abolished.
He said: “Henceforth, with this new development, nobody should be discriminated against anymore. The right processes of integration have been followed and that’s why we are here to solemnize and celebrate. All these are in line with Nsukka custom, culture and tradition.”
Also speaking at the event, the chairman, Committee on Total Eradication of Discrimination between Ohu and Amu in Nsukka Town, Ishiwu Peter Odo, further narrated that “on August 28, 2020, Nsukka town union, in partnership with concerned patriots, convened a general assembly/expanded stakeholders’ meeting of Nsukka people. After elaborate deliberations, it was unanimously agreed that the discriminatory practices between ohu and amu should be totally eradicated and eliminated.
“On the issue of reparation, it was impliedly carried out by not making the people affected in the cleansing process. This stage took quite a lot of human and financial resources. The entire people of Nsukka town, with the support of concerned patriots and the supporting NGO (IFETACSIOS), funded this stage.”
Odo stressed that: “It may also be necessary to state that, after the appeasements, we were informed that the deities warned that anybody who continues the practice will run the risk of being visited with unpleasant consequences. Indeed, the gods are no more to be blamed.”
In a chat with our reporter, the traditional ruler of Ihe community, HRH, Igwe George Asadu, stressed that the day would go down in history as one of the most memorable days in the town. He expressed delight and thanked God that the campaign that was started a long time ago finally came to fruition.
Asked what were the forms of discrimination against the former ohu, Igwe Asadu explained that: “Before now, they were not allowed to get married to the so-called freeborn. They were also not allowed to ascend the stool of the eldest man. Even some traditional titles were not given to them, just as they were barred from becoming members of Igwe’s cabinet.
“But today, all those things have changed. A good number of them are in my cabinet. In fact, as I am talking to you now, my son is married to one of them, because all those things have passed away. There is no more ohu or amu in our town. Everybody is now one and the same.”
One of the opinion leaders in the town, Mr. David Eze, while expressing his joy, told the reporter: “Today is a red letter day in our town. For some months now, we have been rallying round to see that this injustice is taken off from our town. Everybody, from great to the least person in our town, has agreed to abolish this evil practice.”
On how this has affected the town negatively, Eze said that there was no meaningful development in any community or town that still engaged in the evil practice. According to him, the most annoying was that the so-called ohu were even in better positions, politically and economically.
“They occupy the high positions in society. So, can you see the foolishness of this discrimination. If the United States of America can give you her citizenship after some years of staying in their country, why the discrimination here? If Barack Obama from Kenya could become the president of the U.S., why this discrimination in our own place?
“The origin of this evil was more than 400 years ago. Some people who were threatened by their fellow humans would run to a deity for protection. When they were given such protection, they and their generations would become ohu or slaves to both the deity and their fellow humans. That was why they were regarded as slaves, until today. It is none of their fault because all these things happened many ago, according to the trend of events in those days,” he explained.
Asked if he could give his children in marriage to any former ohu, Eze said: “Why not? I was a victim of such discrimination when I wanted to marry. Both parents refused me marrying a woman I loved because she was from the alleged ohu family. But we thank God for today. As far as we are concerned, there is nothing like ohu or amu anymore in our town. If any person is seen referring to another as ohu in this town, such a person will be banished from our town.”
Eze, however, enjoined all the indigenes of the town to embrace the development, stressing that the town would be better for it.
Notable people in the town, including the director, Okunerere Adoration Ministry, Prof. Martins Obayi, the state’s commissioner for local government, Barr. Peter Okonkwo, among others, graced the ceremony.