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Abolishing The Social Caste System


AMONG Indians and Nigerians, the social caste system prevails. The first social class is regarded as the free-born while the lower class is treated as the untouchables and outcasts. In the Nigerian context, especially in the South-Eastern states, the second social tier is known as Osu.

This group hails from forefathers who for one reason or another were sacrificed to the idols during our primitive past, some hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately, what happened in our ancient history intrudes into our modern society causing unfair discrimination and generating unjust dichotomy between the citizenry.

A member of the Osu class cannot break a kolanut in any gathering, according to tradition. If he ever tries to do so, the persons there will disband and abandon the occasion. Customary titles are not as a customary rule granted to members of the Osu group whatever their great achievements or contributions to society. Similarly, he or she is not usually invited to the high table at social ceremonies. Obviously, a free-born must not marry from an Osu family. If a free-born defies customary rites and marries an Ous, he or she subsequently joins the Ous community.

When the Eastern Regional Government headed by the renowned Zik of Africa abolished the Osu system in 1957, one expected that the caste system would be stopped. But it continues to exist thereby keeping a section of the population down and literally denying them of their fundamental human rights. The Nigerian Constitution provides for the equality of all citizens irrespective of place of birth, clan or parentage. The National Assembly and all the state legislatures should without delay pass relevant laws abolishing the social caste system. Such laws must be effectively implemented.

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