BY ROTIMI AGBANA
July 14, 2018 was a day of wild jubilation for indigenes of Irete autonomous community, Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State, when the amiable king of Irete, His Royal Highness, Eze E.C. Ekwelibe (Agubiam 1, of Irete Community) declared the Ohu, Ume, Diala and ‘Osu’ Caste Systems abolished.
Eighteen villages had since joined forces to advocate for the abolishment of the the Osu caste system; many thanks to CY Amako (Irete 1), Lolo Uche Amako, Chief Chris Anukam (Omeudo Irete) Phillian Chima Duru, Smart Monye, Duru Sunny George, who pretty much coordinated event logistics, and the indefatigable Rev. Dr. AJV Obinna, who has become a field marshal in the anti-osu movement.
His Royal Highness, Eze E.C. Ekwelibe (Agubiam 1, of Irete Community) had an unforgettable encounter with an ‘Osu’ elder in 2009, which left in him a piercingly hunting and remorseful impression. That impression would later elicit the anti-osu revolution that culminated into the historic abolition of this obnoxious practice on July 14, 2018.
Recounting his experience to Vanguard, he said “The encounter was at a village gathering. After drinking palm wine, the eldest man in the village at the time, who was regarded as ‘Osu’ wanted to pour out the remnant of that wine on the ground for libation, as the custom requires, but I intervened and stopped him, simply because he was regarded as ‘Osu’.
He then politely asked me, “Ethel, why are you stopping me”? And I arrogantly retorted, “Why do you want to do this? Do you not realize that Sunday is here?”
“By age and by right, Sunday was much younger and shouldn’t be doing the libation. But because the eldest man was regarded as ‘Osu’, I stopped him and made Sunday pour the libation. Rather than protest it, the elderly ‘Osu’ man simply said, “Well, let it be to you people, and you’re Christians”.
Now, the humility with which he surrendered and gave up the function to Sunday shook me to my bones. His words, “Let it be to you people, and you’re Christians”, began to hurt and hunt my conscience endlessly. It never stopped. So when I became the king on December 28, 2013, I made up my mind to deal with this problem. Today, the rest is history. The journey that got us here has been succinctly captured in a tell-all book titled The Osu Caste System: The Myths, Realities & Its Abolition.”
To demonstrate their seriousness, a chieftaincy title that until July 14, 2018 could not have been given to a so-called ‘Osu’ person, was conferred on an illustrious Irete son and medical practitioner, Isaac Ugorji, who was once regarded as ‘Osu’. Isaac, who flew in from the United States of America to witness history in his home town, was almost in tears.
Another Abuja based politician and highly revered elder in Irete, C.Y. Amako a.k.a Irete 1, openly announced that he has two beautiful daughters ready to graduate from the University and that he will never ask questions about their suitors, regarding caste identities as ‘Osu’ no longer exists in his vocabulary. He boasted that his daughters were in full agreement!
Popular Nollywood actor, Joseph Okechukwu, who had been at the forefront of the campaign to summarily abolish the Caste Systems in all Igbo Speaking areas of Nigeria and beyond, was live at the epochal event.
According to the Nollywood star, “It was arguably the best day of my life, I couldn’t hold my joy. I had been following the development and praying that nothing would stop July 14th from coming to pass, and nothing did, it happened. The journey to the freedom of the Igbo nation in Nigeria begins.
Few months ago it was Ozalla in Nkanu West Local Government Area, Enugu State, today it’s Irete in Owerri West, Imo State. We want it abolished everywhere in our land. In Nigeria, Igbos are like people in a giant prison. And this nonsense is the reason for our imprisonment. God told me that and I made a video about it. We’re breaking loose!”
The obviously elated Nollywood star hinted that a bigger event billed for December is in the offing. He promised that the December event to abolish the Osu Caste System in Igbo land will be much bigger and all encompassing, and will see prominent Igbo sons and daughters, home and abroad grace the occasion.
African-Americans or foreign nationals who identify as Igbo by ancestry will also be invited to the big event in which forgiveness for slavery and casting shall be sort from God by elders of the Igbo nation in Nigeria.