This type of caption suggests that there is a battle in hand that needs to be fought, urgently too. This is really the reason for this write up, to sensitize us that there is a battle we must fight now. In fighting the battle, it is either we win it or lose it for good. But the battle is better won than lost because of the obvious implication of losing it. I am convinced that losing it is like throwing the whole of us into eternal damnation.
Years back when we were growing up, we had the opportunity of listening to many good musicians play meaningful music that would not only hit your skull without you feeling any pains, but the kind of philosophical music that could make you want to pick up your guntlet and immediately begin a battle against injustice, corruption and man’s humiliation of man. One of such musicians was Robert Nesta Marley (Bob Marley). The other was our own very brother, Sonny Okossuns (the Ozzidi King).
When apartheid was ravaging South African zone under the likes of lan Smith and Pieter Botha, Bob Marley and Sonny Okossuns rose up to the challenge of sensitizing the world, particularly the black world, of the evils of apartheid. Sonny Okossuns in one of his songs reminded us that in the fight against apartheid, “Freedom is now or never” and insisted that “we better win it, or lose it for good”.
Bob Marley insisted that “Until the philosophy which holds one race superior, and another inferior, is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, the dream of lasting peace will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained”.
Thank God that by their music, those two-some and a few others awakened the spirit of good over evil in the minds of all right thinking people of the word. Apartheid was gradually dismantled and it crumbled.South Africa,Angola,Namibia,SowetoandZimbabwebecame independent and gained their freedom from the oppressive apartheid regimes holding them in bondage for years. Today, those countries, as well as the African continent, are better off.
However, while Sonny Okossuns threw long range musical missiles fromNigeriatoSouth Africa, quite oblivious of the fact that similar apartheid was going on in the whole of Igbo land, this time not by the Whiteman against the Blackman but by the Blackman against the Blackman. I am talking of the “Osu” and “Diala” caste system. My real worry is not how long this obnoxious practice has existed or survived in Igbo land. My real problem is how it has continued to thrive in Igbo land despite our level of Christianity.
Today, there are Churches in Igbo land which have had the centenary celebration of their existence as churches. This means that they have existed as churches for at least one hundred years. Is it not hypocritical then that in such churches, you will still find “Christians” who discriminate against others on the ground of circumstances of their birth? Is it not an aberration, a challenge, a minus and mockery of Christianity to find, within the church, people who hold themselves superior and others, inferior?
No doubt, a custom or culture which kills the legitimate aspirations of people, a custom which makes one not marry a person of his or her choice, a custom which excludes citizens of a nation from occupying positions they are qualified for, is obviously obnoxious, primitive, barbaric and repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.
As a matter of fact, such custom questions the very root of our Christianity, which is love. The scriptures enjoin us to love our neighbours as ourselves, and went on to tell us that this is one of the commandments on which all the Law and the Prophets hang. (Mt. 22:37-40). It also says that there is no way we can ever say that we love God when we have not loved our brothers, and fellow human beings with whom we interact on daily basis.
I am so sure that we of Igbo extraction have not loved our neighbours as ourselves. We have not done unto others as we would want them to do unto us. We need, therefore, to summon our people to a day of fasting and prayers with a view to asking for and obtaining God’s forgiveness for failing Him.
Actually, we need to remember that we are all children of one God. When He created human beings, the Bible said He created them male and female (Gen. 1:27). Does that make sense to us? Does it not show that we are descendants of one man and one woman?
Again, when that vision came to Peter urging him to “Rise, kill and Eat” and Peter tried to say he had not eaten anything unclean, was it not revealed to him that he should not call what God has created unclean? (Acts 10:9-15). No wonder Peter was able and bold to defend God’s grace to the Jews and Gentiles as well (Acts 11:1-18).
Brethren, if the scriptures made it clear that under God, there are no Jews or Gentiles, we, as Christians, ought not insist that there are Jews and Gentiles. We need to show good examples and remove from our bodies all those clothes that remind us of or tend to take us back to our heathen background.
The Church, unfortunately, has been most docile and insincere in condemning the “Osu/Diala” Castes dichotomy. They are caught up in the wicked conspiracy by man against man. They speak with their mouths and look the other way, so that they will not see whether what they are saying is being carried out or not.
The traditional rulers who should speak out in their communities prefer to keep sealed lips, rather than speak and offend their “gods”. Some value their custom more than the words of God (Mt. 15:3). Some value their thrones more than their souls. Many of them have forgotten that it was the king ofNinevehthat saved the Ninevites from the impending wrath of God (Jonah 3). He first repented. Then, he called out his people to a fast and the whole city sought the face of God at the same time. The Bible said that God restrained his hands from destroying them (Jonah 3:10).
The legislature has failed us in this regard. Apart from the 1958 Abolition of Osu Caste System Law, the subsequent legislative houses of the Igbo States have not bothered to put processes in motion to ensure enforceability of that law. This time, therefore, calls for personal circumcision of our hearts to do what is right. What is right in this circumstance is to please God by loving our fellow human beings as ourselves.
However, I want to thank God for what has happened of recent. I read from the back page of Christian Voice Newspaper Vo1. 12 No. 14 of Sunday April 15-21 April, 2012 of how a Traditional Ruler, Eze Dennis Nwaba, led the Town Union, the Church and all the people in his domain in a ceremony where the “Osu” Caste System was abolished. Everyone was pronounced free and apologies were rendered to victims of this unchristian practice. Another Traditional Ruler, HRH Eze Prof Odigbo was present at that epoch-making and landmark event, which took place in a church compound, and lent his full support to it.
What else can one say to these traditional rulers but pray that God blesses them. They have shown very good examples, which other traditional rulers ought to emulate. This is why I say, “Freedom is now or never, we better win it or lose it for good”. I say this because, it seems to me that other traditional rulers and even the churches had been looking for who would bell the cat. Now that the two traditional rulers have belled the cat and led an onslaught against this evil, I think other traditional rulers can come up and lead their people away from God’s wrath like the King of Nineveh did.
By the way, Rev. Canon Chimezie Onyenuma of the Anglican Church led other men of God at that occasion to say intercessory prayers. I call on other priests and men of God to be as bold as Rev. Canon Onyenuma and his colleagues in the fight against this evil that has taken our people captive for years. Every one wants to make heavens because they fear the horrors of hell. It will, therefore, be most anguishing for one to lose his soul to Satan because of insistence on this practice.
For avoidance of doubt, “Osu” Caste System owes its origin to idolatry. We, as Christians, know how much God hates idolatry (Exo.20:3-6). Therefore, while advocating for a fight-to-finish against the practice of “Osu” Caste System, I call our people to jettison every belief and practice that has one thing or the other to do with idol worship.
The other day, I was in a meeting with one big time farmer. He told us how thieves were harvesting his yams about ten years ago and what he did to stop them. As he told us the story, he kept asking God to forgive him. He said he went to a carpenter and asked him to build four small coffins for him. Of course, he told the carpenter why he wanted the small coffins. Then, he went to the tailor and gathered some red pieces of clothes which he took home and tied on the coffins. He then took the coffins and placed them on the four corners of his farmland. From that day, no one entered the farmland again.
As the above story was being told, a trader in the market told of how they chased away those who normally urinated close to their store. He said they filled a bottle with ordinary water, tied a piece of red cloth on it and hung it on the entrance to their stores. According to him, from that day, no one ever came to that place to urinate.
gain, in a recent ceremony, a bishop was asked to pray to declare the ceremony open. He did, in a very powerful way, so much that it was thought that everything about that occasion and the people in attendance had so ably been handed over to God. Just as he sat down, the master of ceremony invited the traditional rulers present to come out and pour libations. Libations to who? Was that supposed to be a complimentary prayer to the one already said by the Bishop or was it to some other gods who were sharing seats with God at that occasion? Since when did God start sharing His glory with other persons? Brethren, time to liberate ourselves from the clutches of and marriage with idols, and satanic manipulations aimed at provoking God’s wrath is now. It is now or never! We better win it, or we lose it for good and bear the disastrous consequence!
The three stories above show how much our minds are still held captive by the belief in idols. We are so afraid of them and would not in anyway want to incur their wrath, even when we know that they are man-made materials.
What should embarrass us as Christians is that those who were either afraid of the wooden caskets or bottle are Christians. Or is it the red piece of clothe that they were afraid of? Which ever, what is being said now is that Christians should not fear idols or idol related matters because He that is in them is greater than those powerless contraptions they respect and fear. We surely must not have another god before our God!
If you remember, some people came out in those days when twins were either thrown into the evil forests or killed, and their mothers banished, or when slave trade thrived, or when children who developed upper teeth first were killed, and resolved that “freedom is now or never”. They fought and all those practices were abolished permanently. The same way they were abolished, the “Osu” Caste System can be abolished. It is possible, absolutely possible!
As our people say, “Everything that has a beginning must have an end”. The end has come for the “Osu” Caste System. The ball has been kicked off. It is now rolling. We must kick it from all angles if we want succeed. Anyone who is afraid that the gods will be angry, should leave the gods to fight for themselves, if they have hands to fight for themselves. Gideon destroyed his father’s altar to Baal and the Asherah pole beside it. The people left it to fight for itself. It could not do so (Judges 6:25-32). The prophets of Baal called upon it to take their sacrifice but it could not do so (1Ki. 18:16-46). So let us leave the gods to fight for themselves if they are able.
Like I said before, we owe a lot of thanks to those who have started this noble fight. All I am urging others to do is to join in the fight. Together we shall succeed. May God see us through it and take all the glory in Jesus name. Amen!