Dr Tony Nwaezeigwe
Odogwu of Ibusa Clan & Combatant Political Historian
Fellow@Exile, Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka
The Holy Bible in Galatians Chapter 3 verse 28 is explicit on the equality of all classes of men before God, yet explicit on the existence of differences in social status in a plethora of verses. Under contemporary definition however, slavery is more defined in attitudinal terms than ancestry. When a man of noble birth ok himself to be subjected to servile mentality through political servility, ideological bankruptcy, saboteur syndrome and corrupted mindset then he is no more and no less an institutionalized slave.
Similarly, a liberated slave who carries his freedom honorably and effectively distinguishes himself as the standard bearer of his people’s progress is more exalted than the man who claims to be a freeborn yet acts as an incubus to the positive development of his society. Much of the intellectual and early economic and political development of the Nigerian nation was anchored by those who are considered as ex-slaves or descendents of freedmen. This underscores Ecclesiastes Chapter 10 verse 7: “I have seen slaves riding on horses and princes walking like slaves on the land.” Many indigenous Nigerians consciously or unconsciously belong to the category of princes walking as slaves on the land.
Yet there are some people who were freed of their slavery or Osu caste yet they continue to showcase their slave mentality either through unconscious display of their servile carriage or exhibition of pig-headed obstinacy under the guise of unrestricted freedom. While the first instance will come by way of a historical analogy, the second will come by way of the episode of the Osu Christian convert called Okoli in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart.”
A certain slave was included in a wedding entourage to another town; and before their departure he soberly pleaded with other members of the entourage not to reveal his slave status before their hosts. They accepted his plea but with the rider: provided he should not behave like a slave before their hosts. On their way they were beaten by heavy rain and consequently soaked. On getting to their destination the slave quickly rushed to the smokescreen in the nearby fire and hung his cloths. Immediately their hosts exclaimed: “Hey! Why are you hanging your cloth on the smokescreen like a slave?” He turned to members of his entourage who quickly asked him: “Did we say so?”
“The two outcastes shaved off their hair, and soon they were among the strongest adherents of the new faith”; wrote Achebe in his “Things Fall Apart.” He continued: “And what was more, nearly all the Osu in Mbanta followed their example. It was in fact one of them who in his zeal brought the church into serious conflict with the clan a year later by killing the sacred python, the emanation of the god of water.” This was the case at the twilight of the age of Igbo innocence and has remained so in different guises till the present day.
At the start of the Nigerian civil war, Col Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu gathered around him as inner caucus some prominent Nnewi indigenes, most of whom were of Osu descent. A mild protest ensued among some Nnewi indigenes which led some of the Osu to vow to sabotage every effort of the Biafran struggles instead of directing their anger against those Nnewi men who protested against them. Thus even though they remained as the members of the Nnewi inner caucus of the Biafran struggles, they worked against the Biafran cause by leaking vital classified information on the war to the Federal Government.
Today one could notice this type of Osu hyper-saboteurs: with some masquerading as members of the Obidient Movement, while some out rightly express their opposition to the Obidient Movement in physical and spiritual terms; a position that demands eternal vigilance on the part of patriotic Obidients. This group which operates under the subtle protection of criminal anti-Obidient leaders and who represent dubious Fulani interests in Igboland and by extension savors anything anti-Igbo in cultural and political terms, is the fundamental reason the Igbo cannot effectively unite as one people for a common political objective.
Just check out any Igbo man that boldly opposes the Obidient Movement or shamelessly attack those dedicatedly working towards the wholesome achievement of the fundamental objective of the movement, there must be a pint of Osu blood in them. And this is where one Barrister Oluchukwu Nnamuah from Anambra State of all States belongs.
To Mr. Oluchukwu Nnamuah, because those who referred to him as Osu in his hometown are strong members of the Obidient Movement, he will shamelessly work against the collective interests of the Igbo just in the same manner some Nnewi Osu elements resolved to sabotage the collective Biafran struggles because a few Nnewi elements branded them as Osu. If Osu caste system is said to have been proscribed or abrogated yet such people of Osu ancestry as Barrister Oluchukwu Nnamuah still act one, where then lies the essence of the abrogation, even though it was not in the first instance ritually driven? Is it not a case of washing a pig with clean water and expecting it not to go back to the muddy water?
There is no gainsaying the fact Barrister Oluchukwu Nnamuah is a replica of the proverbial slave who hung his cloths on the smokescreen. His corrupted and parochial mentality that runs against the positive current of his society’s customs and tradition is no more and no less reminiscent of the over-zealous Osu Christian convert who killed and ate the sacred python (Eke-Idemili) to prove his strong faith as reported in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart.”
One is not saying that the Igbo as a group should not share political and ideological differences or belong to different political parties, but there must be a meeting point defined by one common group interest, just as the Fulani do today. Similarly, there should also be a common dividing line between the point where our personal interests end and the point where our collective interests begin. Ndigbo should therefore call the likes of Oluchukwu Nnamuah to order and accordingly re-package from their piggish mentality to the sublime status of patriotic Igbo citizens.