My Problem with the late Professor Chinua Achebe’s definition of “Osu” in his literary works; Things Fall Apart And No Longer At Ease (3)

0
394
(Cambridge, MA - November 17, 2008) Novelist Chinua Achebe reads some of his poetry Monday Afternoon for a packed Tsai Auditorium as the guest speaker for this year's Distinguished African Studies Lecture. Staff Photo Nick Welles/Harvard News Office

Respect was accorded to them as the agents and property of Oracles though most were forced into the spiritual carrier.  In fact, the names, Osuji, Osuagwu, Nwosu etc; did not confer extraordinary negation; it was declaration of piety. when the Mazi visits the shrines with his offering as part of his regular religious rites in his traditional religion in ancient Igbo Land, the Osu partake in the arrangement of the animals (Goat, cattle, ram, Sheep, and White Cocks) offered for propitiation in the shrine and happily saved his own minute share which “He” domesticate into large livestock in a small land assigned to him by the Chief priest. Gradually, the Osu prosper with the livestock, as they chose a life of complete surrender to the deities and seclude themselves from the social world (as ascetics) . They lived within the vicinity of the shrines of major deities and for all practical purposes exclude themselves from routine engagement with the rest of the community, just like the Roman Catholic Monk lives a communal life in a monastery, abbey, or priory under a monastic rule of life. But according to Enyi Oha ndi Igbo blog report 2012, Osu was part of the complex priestly system to the Igbo ritual world, because, then, the Igbo world was  a highly spiritual system in which all the four elements in nature were created and symbolized :Ala (earth) Ogwuwgu/Ime muru Ochie/Idemili (water) Agwu (wind) Anyanwu ((fire) Sun).

Achebe’s definition of Osu as a “taboo” was contrary to the original purpose of their development and practices in Igbo tradition, rather he misunderstood that different shrines of ancient Igbo communities had their various distinctive aims for their services based on the nature of their culture and tradition. Some communities prefer a voluntary assistant to the shrines’ priest, others needed a sacrificial Lamb to the deities  to save the community from calamity (just like Jesus Christ sacrificed himself to save the world), while few communities  forcefully  dedicated  to the deity an “Innocent person” as a Monk for the live shrine’s service. The discrimination of Osu started at the height of the slave raid in Igbo world in the 19th century. By then, the Nze na Ozo title holders manufactured scary hoaxes and propaganda against them to demote their statute and constrict them from economic growth by preventing them from engaging into trade of livestock with the Diala out of greed. It is quite unfortunate that my honorable professor Achebe was ignorant of this event as it’s evidence in his Osu’s definition.   His definition was a duplication of an established hoaxed propagated by Nze na Ozo during the colonial Era when their discrimination was at its peak.  From the beginning, traditionally, there was nothing like hereditary of as some confused irrationalists propagated within the society to gain political power and recognition of social status. Aside from the fact that it contradicted the Igbo view of the individual and the world, it also totally negated the very principle of the ritual purity of those traditionally dedicated to the Alter of the Mmuo (deity), according to the recent research of Silva Enyi Oha ndi Igbo blog. Osu in Igbo tradition did not mean slave, and traditionally, it had no negative connotation!  In African traditional religion, places for worship or ritual or religious activities as regarded as sacred, including the shrine priests and their assistance. In Bori cult tradition of Hausa Land, the Priestesses and the helpers (equivalent to Osu of Igbo Tradition) were revered highly as sacred Properties of the Bori deities to extend of mandating a “sacred” royal priestess to carry their corpse when they die. In fact, some scholars like John O. Hunwick in his book, Religion and National Integration in Africa: Islam, Christianity, and Politics in the Sudan and Nigeria (Series in Islam and society in Africa) (1992), that it is believed that thought (philosophy) is an antecedent to Yoruba religion. Values such as respect, peaceful co-existence, Sacredness, loyalty and freedom of speech are both upheld and highly valued in Yoruba culture. Societies which are considered secret societies often strictly guard and encourage the observance of moral values. Today, the academic and nonacademic communities are becoming more interested in Yoruba culture. More research is being carried out on Yoruba cultural thought as more books are being written on the subject.

“From the beginning, traditionally, there was nothing like hereditary of Osu as some confused irrationalists propagated within the society to gain political power and recognition of social status. Aside from the fact that it contradicted the Igbo view of the individual and the world, it also totally negated the very principle of the ritual purity of those traditionally dedicated to the Alter of the Mmuo (deity). Osu in Igbo tradition did not mean slave, and traditionally, it had no negative connotation! …… If all the Ethnic Tribes in Nigeria had value for their Shrine’s priests and Assistance (including Monks) in their ancient civilization, then how come the discrimination of Osu in Igbo Tradition since its concept of discrimination negated the very principle of the ritual purity of those traditionally dedicated to the Alter of the Mmuo? The discrimination of Osu was a conspiracy designed by the Nze na Ozo and the priests of Shrines during the slave trade era to edge them out from economic dominance and conscript them from interacting with the then Igbo social world.  And the concept of Osu’s heredity was a hoax and propaganda fabricated by the same agents of conspiracy to gain political power and permit their voluntary subordinates to gain social statute as “freeborn.” The earlier we, Dialas, understand the Slogan “ Ala adighi mma bu uru ndi Nze”, the better for us.

If all the Ethnic Tribes in Nigeria had sacred value for their Shrine’s priests and Assistance (including Monks) in their ancient civilization, then how come the discrimination of Osu in Igbo Tradition since its concept of discrimination negated the very principle of the ritual purity of those traditionally dedicated to the Alter of the Mmuo? The discrimination of Osu was a conspiracy designed by the Nze na Ozo and the priests of Shrines during the slave trade era to edge them out from economic dominance and conscript them from interacting with the then Igbo social world.

And the concept of Osu’s heredity was a hoax and propaganda fabricated by the same agents of conspiracy to gain political power and permit their voluntary subordinates to gain social statute as “freeborn.” The earlier we, Dialas, understand the Slogan “ Ala adighi mma bu uru ndi Nze”, the better for us.

To be contd

Professor Nwaocha OgechukwuFRSA ( uk), FRSAS (uk)

Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri

+234(0)7052779808


 

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here