THE OSU PHENOMENON: MATTERS ARISING
It may not be physical fight per se but mental and psychological approach, even legal where obtainable. The mind is the battle field and bombardment with positive ideas and more love for mankind is a way. Unfortunately the phenomenon of love is completely misplaced in our system. Nevertheless, what we have today is what a proceeding generation suffered for, hence the need for a 'debut d'action' for the emancipation of the Osu Caste in Ibo Culture. I feel that designates will be afraid to identify in order to avoid further stigmatization. Time will tell.
Furthermore, the Osu group of old had their left or right ears chopped off as a branding technique just the way some other racial or religious groups chop off limbs to identify a rogue or criminal. What about nations that scar their faces as brands running from Sudan to Nigeria and beyond? Physical Scarification has been discontinued for the Osu Caste, so it is difficult to tell who is and who is not, except in the villages where they are known. It is better today and I believe that the future generation will obliterate it, completely just as the members of the Jehovah Witnesses have done. Even the word `Caste' is not in their dictionary or rather bible.
On a second thought, I discovered in course of this research that `Osu' Caste is an erroneous step in human civilization and development, just like the slave trade. An encounter with a Catholic Priest' revealed in his sermon that he is an `Osu' but a reverend father as known to Catholics. The Priest whose brother got married to a woman in a distant diocese from his told people that he was not their inlaw and had nothing.
He went further to explain that he has been dedicated to God as a priest, with no wife, no inlaw, no child hence an osu, called Osuchukwu – When he dies, he claims, his body and all his possession will belong to the church and priesthood. Logically he is very right because he possessed all the characteristics of an Osu- dedication and induction to a spiritfold with all rights and bonding of both osu and slave servant. Everybody, Christian or otherwise who has been dedicated to any spirit, even at baptism is Osu.
All the osu names like St. Christopher, St. Michael, Elizabeth etc taken at Baptism symbolize dedication to a spirit. 'Dedication to God through the saints and holy men etc at baptism with holy spirit is a process in Pneumatology of Osu initiation according to this Reverend Priest. It is equally logical to see local dedication to God through local deities as a process. Local gods represent their ancestors, and men of their religious valor just as saints do, before the arrival of the bible and it was the process of osu initiation.
The difference is just in name and type of religion. The Ibos never worshipped he devil but God all along, through local deities. Everybody is just one caste but it depends on the type. In latin the word is `duco, ducere, duxi, ductum – to lead. It is `duo, dukene' in Ibo, induce in English – all to lead or be led; Another Do, dare, dedi, datum, to give like `Idaba/ndaba' in Ibo, to fall into something, and dedication in English. Once you are led into or you give yourself to a spirit, you are automatically an Osu. So who is not? Make your role call.
Professor Sam Uzochukwu, former Head of African language and Literature Department University of Lagos, said 'that the Osu is not just a particular god or goddess but specialized ones, ranging from small to exotic shrines.' Incidentally the Osu is loved by its patron deity, with reward like Beauty, intelligence and prosperity.
Although not all Osu are imbued with these rewards, nevertheless they progress. Joseph in the Bible was disliked, Ishmael was disliked, Esau was disliked for marital intransigence, so is Osu culturally disliked, but God is always with them. Consider what Nigerian Newswatch Magazine of September 18, 1989 said; 'The Osu is like a defiled minority but then loved by the gods. In the ancient time osu was highly revered and everybody avoided quarreling with one or face the wrath of the guardian deity. He was privileged but now vilified due to the Ibo man's repulsion for all forms of inherited or endowed privilege'.
'Traditional norms in Ibo uphold that whatever position a man holds in the society must be one he has won by virtue of his achievements'. There was a time it was a taboo for a non Jew to marry a Jew. Remember that `Jacob married from padam Haran where his mother came from but Esau was despised for intransigence. Besides, Moses – a Levite married an African woman (Number 1:12), a midianite or a descendant of Ketura, Abraham's secondary wife (1 Chronicles 1:32) otherwise an Ishmaelite group. Moses father inlaw, an Arab Chief called Jethro who was not worshipping the true God according to'Insight on the scriptures.'
Another mystic writer Osahon Onaiwu declared in one of his thesis that 'Jethro was a renowned Magician and master of witchcraft.' Remember that when Moses was leaving with Jethro's daughter Zipporah back to Egypt, Jethro gave him a lot of good wishes which he used against the Pharaoh of Egypt Ex.2:15-22, 3:1; 4:18. Only God knows some of these good wishes. You can ascertain what Moses also learned from his 40years sojourn in Ethiopia – Africa.
These citations are to demonstrate that potency lies in African arts and culture and the permissiveness of marriage between very incongruent people separated by race and culture. Today more whites marry blacks and vice versa, something unthinkable in 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. So the future is still pregnant for the osu system who are unjustly, vilified for no fault of theirs.
In course of this research, it was discovered that all the bible versions of the scripture listed the word `caste' in their various verses except one which is the New World Translation Edition. 'This Bible hardly believes in the use of segregative, obnoxious or derogatory terms.'