This blogger remembers quite vividly too, a traditional ruler (king) who wanted to outlaw the OSU practice. He summoned his Igwe - in- council (cabinet) for a parley wherein he intimated them of his intentions. According to the story, this Chief informed his council that he plans to outlaw the practice of OSU in his domain. After he finished speaking, one of the elders in the council raised his hand for recognition to speak or contribute to the deliberation. He was granted the floor to speak and all he did was ask the Chief if he would, as a show of goodwill allow his daughter to be married away to an OSU. The Chief was livid with anger and demanded to know where from the speaker got his audacity to speak on the subject as it appertains to his princess. And this was the last bus stop for the proposed legislation in the Igwe-n-council.
The irony for victims of OSU practice is that no amount of wealth they may acquire is ever enough to wash them off this stigma. Also their rise in the society of their ancestry is always stunted forcing most of them to take a long hard refuge in a foreign soil where they sometimes live out the rest of their lives agonizing of this fate; which though not self-inflicted but a result of generational apron string, are yoked down irrevocably to the tabooed status of being an OSU. It is such a very painful experience to undergo and no one should wish that - being an OSU on his worst enemy, indeed!
This blogger also knows one prominent well to do family who were living happily until one of the daughters decided to marry. She fell in love with this young medical doctor practicing in New York City – they moved in together and within nine months had a baby. Then the traditional marriage rites started in earnest wherein the man sent words to his family still in Nigeria to proceed with formalizing their relationship. Wherein it was discovered that the bride came from an OSU family and this was no brainier; so the child notwithstanding, the marriage or jactitation or semblance thereto has to be terminated forthwith because the father of the groom was a politician who would not want any taint whatsoever, of an OSU, as a daughter in-law. The girl moved to the west coast with her daughter and presently lives in southern California as a single mother. The groom has since re-married but the girl has not been that lucky as all the men who came around always jumps the ship as soon as the story of her ancestry reached their ears.
In an article written by one Mr. Leo Igwe and published on April 24th, 2008 in http://www.politicalcortex.com/ titled “CONFRONTING THE OSU PROBLEM IN NIGERIA”, OSU caste was succinctly stated as affecting millions of people in Igbo land; who live with this OSU stigma which haunts, hurts and hamper their lives, self-esteem and development till death. According to this writer, the OSU status is permanent, irremediable and irreversible. Further that some Christian churches have preached against the Osu practice but these sermons have fallen on deaf ears and have not in any way positive impacted on this despicable practice. It is so ingrained in the Igbo society that even some of these churches have acquiesced with the practitioners of this OSU and are now practicing it in some fashion; wherein some free-born are indulged their habit of avoiding sitting near with or holding hands with those alleged to be OSU during church services. And during thanksgiving ceremony for instance, according to some reports, sometimes the harvests or offering of the OSU are kept separate from that of the freeborn.
Continuing, the author stated that OSU is of a permanent social disability wherein the OSUS are perceived and regarded as unclean and capable of defiling the free-born. As a consequence of this their very low ebb in the society, the Diala (free-born) relate with OSU as a master relates with a slave or as a healthy person interacts with a leper in order to avoid any social defilement and contamination by an OSU through untoward and/or unsanctioned interaction. An OSU is not allowed to marry or be married from the community of free born and such OSU can only marry a fellow OSU from their own society of OSUS or elsewhere, where they are not identified as such or outside the Igbo tribe. However their offspring remains OSU ad infinitum. OSU brings a generational curse or stigma along with it; and nothing ever washes it away since it is a genetic or hereditary infection which is passed unto offspring after offspring.
OSU are still hated, despised and discriminated against through out practicing areas in Igbo land. It cannot easily be wished away and no amount of money or material acquisition can otherwise dilute the stigma to an acceptability level. Some unforeseen necessary consequences of this social ostracizing in Igbo land is that many development projects have been abandoned because the community will not accept donations from OSU who sometimes are the wealthiest in the society; many marriages have also been dissolved after it was discovered that a party thereto is an OSU because it is an abomination to have an OSU as an in-law and where pregnancy has resulted, many of such pregnancies have also been terminated just to avoid the transmutation of this social virus down the family tree.
What exactly is the solution to this nefarious social quarantine of a group of citizens simply because of the ancestry of their birth defies every logical fix. There has been several legislative attempts to just legislate it away; but such ingrained-social practice has defied such effort at reformation. It has thrived for so long that to certain degree, it now forms part of the societal bedrock. Even the government championing the reformation is populated with citizens who half-heartedly push it because they silently wish it does not go away. More so, they will not do what it takes to make these untouchables acceptable by allowing their own sons and daughters to show good leadership by example through marriage to these sub-human citizens aka OSU . All the monies in the world cannot also wash this social leprosy away and such an unfortunate pedigreed “person” is bogged down in the quagmire of a caste system which he or she accidentally and by virtue of birth found him/herself in.
There is no known clear pathway forward towards absorbing or at least tolerating these lowly-births within the Igbo society. Various opinions exists as to the way forward, which Mr. Leo Igwe described as “three schools of thought representing three different dispositions on the issue”. These schools he further categorized into “the denialist, the apathetic and the realist”. According to Mr. Igwe, the denialist claims that the OSU caste system has been abolished and that it is no longer practiced in Igboland. Coincidentally majority of this school of thought members come from the OSU constituency itself and these are people who would rather wish the practice quietly goes away; and currently live in a state of euphoric hysteria where the practice no longer existed. But to successfully champion the believe of this school of thought, in view of the prevalent practices in Igbo land regarding OSU caste, one has to suspend disbelieve itself. Unfortunately this is not the true position as even the law, purportedly abolishing the OSU caste system, has been merely a paper tiger which has no plausible way of meaningful enforcement. The intent of the legislation has not been met as it has not primarily stopped people from discriminating against OSU. The “denialists” therefore are not helping the matter at all as they are delusional as to the actuality of existence of OSU caste and hence their position is deceptive and misleading and would not in any way help in eradicating this obnoxious custom.
Further the “apathetic” tells us to ignore the practice and pretend as if it does not exist. They acknowledge its existence but would rather it is not given much weight if any - they adopted this indifferent attitude because they find the practice very embarrassing to be occupying the front pages of discussion in Igbo land. According to this group of postulators, if the OSU system is ignored by all and for so long, it may die off without the need to make it remain very radioactive with its continuous discussion among the populace. For them, the OSU practice should be ignored so that it would fizzle out on its own. But they forgot that there has not been any case in history where oppressive traditions just fizzled out that way. In most cases they are consciously and conscientiously fought, rooted out and defeated. Was it apartheid in South Africa, slavery and racism in United States of America, independence for colonized countries of the world, military dictatorships etc such vicious practices were confronted head-on before they would yield way for a more harmonious society. Should that be the case with the OSU caste system and whether it will work is debatable. The apathetic disposition is cowardly and would not in anyway help in combating this vicious OSU caste system of man’s inhumanity to man which practice has transcended several generations cutting across multiple traditional tenets in Igbo land.
Then enters the the “realist” who acknowledges the existence of OSU practice in Igbo land but admits its complexity; they posit that it would require a lot of hard-work, time, education, reorientation, social, political, and cultural will-power to finally put an end to the practice.