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Varsity don writes Owelle … Demands harmonizations of social classes in Imo

A professor of religious studies at the Imo state University Owerri Nwacha Ogechukwu has pleaded with the state Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha to take immediate and appropriate steps to abolish the Osu/Umeh Caste System in the state.
In a letter captioned “The Fate of Osu and Umeh Castes in the Rescue Mission administration of Imo State,” made available to Christian Voice, the erudite scholar sad that to enhance the peaceful and indiscriminate co-existence of Imo indigenes, there is need to harmonize the different social classes in the state.
He commended Governor Okorocha for the cultural development of Imo State and the gender free appointments in his administration.
The Don who recalled the various initiatives made by previous administrations towards the abolition of Osu and Umeh Caste system in Imo State and other South Eastern States, also pointed out the reasons why such spirited efforts could not achieve their desired goals.  Below is the full text of the letter:
The Professor proffered some useful suggestions to be applied for the successful abolition of Osu/Umeh Caste Systems in Imo State.
I have reviewed the activities of Governor Okorocha of Imo state Government and discovered his “zeal” to develop Imo state through the rescue mission projects, especially the free education program that has benefitted everybody regardless of their social class, economic status, and Caste. My governor, Good Work!
I also respect the cultural development of Imo State and the effort of the present governor to ensure that cultural value is maintained through various pathways of the rescue mission project to reach the grass root of Imo State. However, I write to draw his attention to harmonize our different social classes in our pluralistic Imo Society and enhance the co-existence of Imo indigenes so that we will live in peace without discrimination. Your Excellency, your relevant political appointees in your administration without gender difference speaks volumes about your good administration.
The challenge towards abolition of Osu and Umeh Caste system in the communities of Imo State and other South Eastern states is based on wrong application of secular programs designed for its abolition by past administration, the direction where the factors of abolition is coming from and the understanding of the belief attitude of proponents who remained fanatical against the Castes. For instance, Dr. NnamdiAzikiwe made effort in developing initiatives towards OSU’s abolition. In his Public and historic address to the defunct Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly of 1956, he described the Osu Caste System as  “devilish and uncharitable to brand any human being with a label of inferiority due to the accidents of history”. The Owelle of Onitsha further explained that the objects and reasons for the abolition of the Osu Caste System are humanitarian and altruistic, and advised the discouragement of a system of society where one stratum can superciliously claim to be descended from the best brain and would, therefore, consign others to a scrap heap of their own invention and ostracize them socially. After Zik’s initiative, the late Dr. Sam Mbakwe of Imo state banned the Osu Caste System in the old Imo State and further inspired the late Commodore Emeka Omeruah, in the old Anambra State, who used bulldozer to demolish the EfuruIdoha shrine in Igbo Etiti Local Government Area of Enugu State in his diplomatic battle against Osu caste system. Despite these initiatives, the discrimination against Osu and Umeh still remained in the tablet of the dogmatic heart of Igbo man. Hence, Osu and Umeh caste system is a dogma of Igbo traditional religion and does not require political, social, secular and even Christian religion to abolish it completely. These strategies can play a diplomatic role to influence Igbo tradition and amend some of its practices that usually cause conflict.
Presently, Imo state has three agencies for sustaining Igbo oriented cultural practices in namely, the annual Ahia-Ajoku Lectures, the Development of Mbari Cultural Center, and the establishment of the Council of Traditional Rulers. I believe these agencies can play strong role towards OSU’s abolition. The annual Ahia-ajoku Lecture  serves as a public sensitization program for remodeling the African traditions, regrettably, all the lectures delivered by academic scholars, including the commonwealth Medalist – Professor Chinua Achebe- did  not develop strategy for the abolition of Osu, Umeh, and Ohu Caste system in Imo State in particular. The Council of NdiEze has been my problem because I understand them as a channel through which the traditional rulers learn Local politics going by what is happening in most autonomous communities on Ezeship.
In 1989, the commissioner for social Development, youth and Sport, Mrs Victoria Mbachu, initiated a project which called for war against Osu Caste system in Imo State but met strong opposition from the stakeholders who displayed attacking reactions that would have made her to lose her political position. In fact, NnamdiMbaeri wrote from Minna in the Concorde Newspaper of 16thJanuray, 1990, that he wished to advise the commissioner for withdraw her initiative before anything goes bad. She should realize that the observation of the Osu Caste system is an inherent part of Igbo culture and war against it automatically amounts to the abrogation of the people’s culture. Mbaeri also explained that the dogma was widely observed by all the Igbo Parts of the country through varying degrees. He maintained that it was the tradition of the Igbo race from time immemorial, and as a foreign and political initiative, her programs contradicted the concept of Igbo culture. Waging a war against Osu Caste implies organizing a physical fight between the Osu and the Free born in which the former will be applying every strategy to conscript the latter into their folk. The war against the Osu system amounted to a displacement of priority.
From the look of thing towards the abolition of Osu in Imo State, I strongly believe that Imo state has been hitting different Hammers on a wrong nail by (1) misunderstanding Osu caste system as a cultural practice instead of understanding it as a religious Dogma of Igbo Traditional Religion and (2) by applying self-celebrated political programs on cultural practice instead of restructuring Igbo Tradition in Imo rural Communities.
“Change” as APC political Agenda is constant and Igbo traditions in Imo State can be changed and restructured without destroying it. This implies that Osu caste system can be abolished without uprooting the Igbo culture as most fanatical advocates of the caste system suggest. Such change implies the transformation of our Igbo traditional practices and culture into a modern and Post-modern culture that will fulfill the dreams and aspiration of Imo citizens. After all, human beings created culture, and the same human beings can change or abolish the culture if we respond to the change.
Change of religious dogma requires involvement of the religion’s regulatory and advisory council or decision making body like the Vatican Council for Catholic and that of the Governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses which comprise of “the faithful and discreet slave class!” The decision making body of Igbo Traditions are the traditional Rulers as stated in the Imo state Gazzette. Other stakeholders are the fanatical NzenaOzo title Holders and the spiritually minded priest of various shrines of most surviving deities of Igbo traditional Religion.
We may encounter challenges with the traditional Rulers in Imo State who became the “Igwe” through inheritance if the State Government develops any program for the abolition of Osu caste system, because some traditional Rulers are still ruling their subjects with the minds of NzenaOzo prior to their conferment. They are still wearing the fanatical suite of Ozo’s orientation which should be undressed by fire by force to restructure Igbo tradition since “restructuring “ has remained integral policy of change by the Federal government. Ndi Imo, this is the time to restructure Igbo Traditions in Imo State.
I have discovered that more than half of the traditional rulers always remain silent when any program is designed for Osu’s abolition, but I am surprised to learn that they responded to the recent UNFDP sensitization program developed to end Female Genital mutilation in Imo State for their communities. I strongly believe that any traditional ruler who jettison any program designed for Osu’s abolition from Imo State Government this time around may have forgotten that the political strength of a lion as the King of the Jungle in dethroning some arrogant and stubborn traditional rulers, relocating  the almighty Eke Onunwa Market to its strategic site and the strength of your political victory against opposition from other  parties who engineered various attacks against the market’s relocation is enough to introduce them and other traditionalists to the present college of politics to learn the vocational training of  the Governor’s political might both in Imo state and in in Diaspora.
The fate of Osu, Umeh, and Ohu in our present Igbo society prompted me to remind the governor of Imo state for his intervention within this political time because concerned nationalists have developed various legislative policies to empower the assumed castes and to stabilize the social structure of Imo Society but failed. The eastern Regional House of Assembly in 1956 made provision for Osu’s abolition and passed a bill to that effect to protect both the Osu  and Umeh because Igbo cultural life does not mean that we should live with past lives in isolation of our present modern lives. As an enviable culture, Igbo culture should be used to foster social, political, and economic progress of Imo State because it is the only way our identity can be maintained.
Osu caste system can be abolished in Imo State if the right action is initiated and if the prejudices and biases associated with it are overcome. Education and enlightenment with western tradition played integral role in human capital development of Imo Man. Your encouraging words and your free education project are the best humanistic sacrifice made to prepare Imolites to overcome sense of prejudice and biases since Imo sate is scoring 96.43% literacy rate followed by Lagos (96.30%) and Ekiti State, according to World Bank Statistics at the Northern Nigerian Economic and Investment summit in 2011. The problem of Osu’s abolition lies on Overcoming the “sense of prejudice and social biases”. Since the lion has conquered the political forces of Imo state at the state Level, the same Political King of Jungle has the power to chain the forces of tradition and culture that are controlled by local politics!
Going by this analysis, I suggest using the under listed diplomatic strategies for Osu and Umeh’s abolition in Imo state:
1.    Granting equal right to the assumed Castes by appointing them as traditional Rulers in the Major autonomous communities of Umuaka in Njaba Local Government Area, Mbaise, Mbano, Owerri Municipal , Nwangele LGA,  and Orlu LGA where the discrimination is intensified by local forces since the traditional position serves as government agency for the administration of autonomous communities. The proponents for the opposition can go to hell since the law against the violation of human right is there to protect them and since some communities will finally accept “a wrong candidate” from the Government by fire by force.
2.     Organizing conference for the Traditional rulers in all the autonomous communities on “modern challenges facing igbo traditions in imo autonomous communities; restructing and implemtation”. This is to empower the traditional rulers to accommodate force of globalization and modernity for the amendment of Igbo traditional practices that violate human right, prevent co-habitation and socialization, contradict the culture of globalization and development, and the tradition that violates government laws and contradict its principles.
3.    Compel the Imo state house of Assembly to Pass a Bill – IMO RESTRUCTURED BILL FOR PRESERVATIONAND AMENDEMENT OF IGBO TRADITIONAL PRACTICES AND ALLIED MATTERS or IMO RESTRUCTURING BILL FOR ABOLITION OF SOCIAL AND CULTURAL DISCRIMINATION. These Bills will be supported with a law for criminal charges against the caste discrimination.
4.    Since the Imo state government has decide to create office of GLO in the autonomous communities to maintain law and order through direct correspondence to the grassroots, the government should set up a Committee for Monitoring and Restructuring Igbo Traditions (CMRIT) in every autonomous community. This CMRIT taskforce  will ensure compliance of cultural practices of government policy and law, to be headed by three man committee that will be made up of
a.    The Chairman (OSU or UMEH)
b.     Secretary (NzenaOzo titleholder)
c.     PRO (Christian Clergy )
Your Excellency, since the nzenaOzo title holders have vehemently remained fanatical with their “Raw Tradition”, I will happily sit in my “Obuma” with my Spanish wine and “Nkwobi” , and watch them oppose government policy and law on abolition of Osu caste system in this your regime.

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