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Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want - Culture - Nairaland

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Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Blue3k(m): 3:00pm On Sep 14
By Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
Nigeria

In a tragedy reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, a couple in Nigeria killed themselves earlier this month after their parents had forbidden them from marrying because one of them was a descendant of slaves.

"They're saying we can't get married... all because of an ancient belief," the note they left behind said.


The lovers, who were in their early thirties, hailed from Okija in south-eastern Anambra state, where slavery was officially abolished in the early 1900s, as in the rest of the country, by the UK, Nigeria's colonial ruler at the time.

But descendants of freed slaves among the Igbo ethnic group still inherit the status of their ancestors and they are forbidden by local culture from marrying those Igbos seen as "freeborn".

"God created everyone equally so why would human beings discriminate just because of the ignorance of our forefathers," the couple said.



Many Igbo couples come across such unexpected discrimination.

Three years ago Favour, 35, who prefers not to use her surname, was preparing for her wedding to a man she had dated for five years, when his Igbo family discovered that she was the descendant of a slave.

"They told their son that they didn't want anything to do with me," said Favour, who is also Igbo.

At first, her fiancé was defiant, but the pressure from his parents and siblings soon wore him down and he ended their romance.

"I felt bad. I was so hurt. I was so pained," she said.

Prosperous but 'inferior'

Marriage is not the only barrier slave descendants face.

They are also banned from traditional leadership positions and elite groups, and often prevented from running for political office and representing their communities in parliament.

However, they are not hindered from education or economic advancement.


The ostracism often pushed them to more quickly embrace the Christianity and formal education brought by missionaries, at a time when other locals were still suspicious of the foreigners.

Some slave descendants are today among the most prosperous in their communities, but no matter how much they achieve, they are still treated as inferior.

In 2017, 44-year-old Oge Maduagwu founded the Initiative for the Eradication of Traditional and Cultural Stigmatisation in our Society (Ifetacsios).

For the past three years, she has been travelling across the five states of south-eastern Nigeria, advocating equal rights for descendants of slaves.

"The kind of suffering that the black people are going through in America, the slave descendants here are also going through the same," she said.

Ms Maduagwu is not a slave descendant, but she observed the inequality while growing up in Imo state and was moved to tackle it after watching the devastation of her close friend who was prevented from marrying a slave descendant.

During her trips, Ms Maduagwu meets separately traditional persons of influence and slave descendants, then mediates dialogue sessions between the two groups.

"Men sat down to make these rules," she said. "We can also sit down and remake the rules."

Descendants of slaves among the Igbo fall into two main categories - the ohu and the osu.

The ohu's ancestors were owned by humans, while the osu's were owned by gods - people dedicated to community shrines.

"Osu is worse than slavery," said Ugo Nwokeji, a professor of African studies at the University of California, Berkeley, who thinks the osu were wrongly classified as slaves by the missionaries.


"Slaves could transcend slavery and became slave masters themselves but the osu for generations unborn could never transcend that."

Discrimination against the osu does tend to be worse.

While the ohu are marginalised as outsiders - with no known places of origin or ageless ties to the lands where their ancestors were brought as slaves - breaking taboos about relations with the osu is accompanied, not just by fear of social stigma, but of punishment by the gods who supposedly own them.


Favour's fiancé was told by his father that his life would be cut short if he married her, an osu.

"They instilled fear in him," she said. "He asked me if I wanted him to die."

'Grassroots engagement'

Such fears have made it difficult to enforce laws against discrimination which exist in the Nigerian constitution, plus a 1956 law by Igbo lawmakers specifically banning discrimination against ohu or osu.

"Legal proscriptions are not enough to abolish certain primordial customs," said Anthony Obinna, an Catholic archbishop in Imo state, who advocates for an end to the discrimination. "You need more grassroots engagement.


In her advocacy, Ms Maduagwu educates people on the various ways in which traditional guidelines on relating with the osu have been breached, "without the gods wreaking any havoc".

"Today, we are tenants in their houses, we are on their payroll, we go to borrow money from them," she said.

Such association with the osu would have been unthinkable in the past.

No official data exists on the number of slave descendants in south-eastern Nigeria.

People tend to hide their status, although this is impossible in smaller communities where everyone's lineage is known. Some communities have only ohu or osu, while some have both.

In recent years, increasing agitation from ohu and osu has led to conflict and unrest in many communities.

Some slave descendants have started parallel societies with their own leadership and elite groups.

About 13 years ago, the osu in Imo state formed a group called Nneji, which means "from the same womb".

Among the benefits that Nneji offers its thousands of members is arranging marriages between their adult children in different parts of the world, saving them the potential heartbreak of relationships with "freeborn".

"People come to you when they want a favour from you," said Ogadinma, a septuagenarian from a wealthy osu family, whose husband is a patron of the Nneji.

"But those same people, when your children want to marry their children, they complain that the person is osu."


Archbishop Obinna, who has been criticised for officiating at the weddings of what he describes as "mixed couples", said: "I have had to safeguard some of the couples from the violence of their parents and relatives."

Ogadinma, who also asked me not to use her surname to protect her family, faced discrimination when she ran for political office about 10 years ago.

Petitions poured in from people who said that she was "unsuitable" to contest - and the national leader of her party, who was Yoruba, found it difficult to support her, convinced that she stood no chance.


"He told me plainly: 'There is something Igbo people say that you are, which will not allow your people to vote for you.'"

Discrimination based on slave caste is not common among the Yoruba or Hausa, Nigeria's two other major ethnic groups. But it has been reported among some ethnic groups in other West African countries, such as Mali and Senegal.

Ms Maduagwu's Ifetacsios group now has four staff and about a dozen volunteers. The work has been slow and hard, but a handful of traditional rulers have embarked on the process of abolishing the inequality in their communities.

She says she was initially shocked by the attacks on social media from people opposed to her activism.

"I had to join a lot of Igbo groups to spread the message and a lot of them insulted me and told me that their tradition will remain."

Nollywood factor

Such attitudes even among the educated and enlightened are perpetuated by African literature such as late Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, Ogadinma believes.

"He was a person dedicated to a god, a thing set apart - a taboo for ever, and his children after him," Achebe, who was Igbo, wrote of the osu in his 1958 classic.

"He could neither marry nor be married by the freeborn… An osu could not attend an assembly of the freeborn, and they, in turn, could not shelter under his roof... When he died he was buried by his kind in the Evil Forest."

Ogadinma worries that Nigerian students around the world who read the novel as part of their curriculum subconsciously adopt traditional beliefs about the osu.

"If every generation of Nigerian children is reading about this osu, don't you think it will affect their thinking?" she said.

Nollywood also plays a part, according to Aloysius Agbo, an Anglican bishop in Enugu state, who advocates for an end to the discrimination.

Nigerian films have their dedicated TV channels, including the wildly popular Africa Magic.

"Beliefs that we already accepted as superstitious are now coming back as real truths because of what we watch on Africa Magic," said Bishop Agbo. "They do it as showcasing our culture but they are not conscious of the impact on society."

But with the recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests around the world, Ms Maduagwu hopes that more Igbo people will be inspired to change their attitudes.

"If more people will reflect that the agonising journey of the black Americans began here, the BLM protests will affect our work positively," Ms Maduagwu said.

"Africans need to look inwardly to see what is happening in their homeland."


Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-54088880

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by nosiebaba(m): 3:05pm On Sep 14
we will shout black lives matter yet we dont see any value within ourselves.

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by ghettowriter(m): 3:06pm On Sep 14
Stop the hate #OsuLivesMatter.


If you discriminate a person base on his/her ethnicity, race, religion, clan or family ties not in cognisant with the persons parsonality, then you are not a good person and also a part of the world's problems.

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Blue3k(m): 3:36pm On Sep 14
What a backwards cultural practice. Its sad the couple decided to kill themselves instead of just marrying and living their lives. People should lesrn to be stromg in their convictions so they dont bow to negative peer pressure.

Ogadinma, who also asked me not to use her surname to protect her family, faced discrimination when she ran for political office about 10 years ago.

Petitions poured in from people who said that she was "unsuitable" to contest - and the national leader of her party, who was Yoruba, found it difficult to support her, convinced that she stood no chance.

That's tough, hopefully people learn to judhe by content of character in the future. The party should stuck by her and made anti discrimination on their platforms. Oh well who knows what they saw in their internal polls about the topic.

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by muykem: 4:01pm On Sep 14
Majority of Igbo especially those ones here in nairaland are actually OSU.

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Bkayyy: 4:03pm On Sep 14
Seriously, we need to do something about this.
I don't see a reasonable or moral justification to segregate my childhood friend all because of ancient madness.
I've started implementing changes by convincing my age grade, we are just waiting for our turn to take over the helm of affairs in our community to stop this nonsense.
Please ụmụ nwanne m, instead of arguing with some old ignorant people , follow this my pattern and we will get a good result without curses.

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Blue3k(m): 4:03pm On Sep 14
muykem:
Majority of Igbo especially those ones here in nairaland are actually OSU.

Nothing wrong with that.

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by AlabiJ: 4:05pm On Sep 14
Seriously, ibo people need to stop this nonsense and archaic practise immediately. If they can be treating their own fellow ibos like this, then what hope is there for a complete non-ibo stranger in their midst?

Those ibos being discriminated against had better leave such backward society and go elsewhere, else they will hardly progress. Could this senseless discrimination be the reason why their society is still the most homogeneous and seen as the most hostile towards strangers in Southern Nigeria? One hardly hears of strangers progressing in iboland the way ibos are allowed to in other societies.

All you Ibo people still practicing this nonsense should stop it. It's not fair!!! angry angry Tufiakwa.

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Nigeriabiafra80: 4:09pm On Sep 14
At least now you know why igbos detest slavery
Unlike our southern counterparts

8 Likes 1 Share

Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by goodnessme1(f): 4:11pm On Sep 14
Foolish Amotekun terrorists will come here to show their foolishness.

Boko haram people will come here to talk nonesense.




Not that they are better.

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by AlabiJ: 4:12pm On Sep 14
nosiebaba:
we will shout black lives matter yet we dont see any value within ourselves.

Ibos can't relate with what black Americans are going through with respect to police brutality because they share Donald Trump's racist ideology (they are Donald Trump's biggest sympathisers outside America's redneck belt). Now one can understand why that is so. It's because many of them grew up being taught to look down on their fellow ibos as Osu sub-humans. Smh.

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by juman(m): 4:15pm On Sep 14
AlabiJ:


Ibos can't relate with what black Americans are going through with respect to police brutality because they share Donald Trump's racist ideology (they are Donald Trumps biggest sympathisers outside America's redneck belt). Now one can understand why that is so. It's because many of them grew up being taught to look down on their fellow ibos as Osu sub-humans. Smh.

Hmmmmmm

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Bkayyy: 4:15pm On Sep 14
Nigeriabiafra80:
At least now you know why igbos detest slavery
Unlike our southern counterparts
True talk.
Our ancestors knew the stigma associated with slavery, that is why they rather die than allow themselves to be white slaves. E.g the Igbo landing in Virginia where they all commited suicide.
An Igbo man will rather die than allow himself to be enslaved because they believe that once you are enslaved, your soul and generation become enslaved. The same spirit is what you see in IPOB members, they see Nigeria as a slave camp so they rather die than be part of it

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by juman(m): 4:16pm On Sep 14
One wonder how their biafra would look like.

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Bkayyy: 4:20pm On Sep 14
goodnessme1:
Foolish Amotekun terrorists will come here to show their foolishness.


Boko haram people will come here to talk nonesense.





Not that they are better.
Everybody likes to quench the smoke in another person's house while their village is on fire.
It's like the new thread in Nigeria is attacking Igbo customs and traditions while a young man is about to be hanged for ordinary religion and women can't be allowed to dress the way they like in North by Hisbah all because of religion.
Whereas in South West, the supposed female yoruba monarch that to them symbolizes their equality in gender is not allowed to be with a man talkless of marrying and giving birth.
Everybody in Nigeria is now a Nelson Mandela on Igbo Culture

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Whiteangel1234: 4:25pm On Sep 14
Stop the attack on Igbo Culture and Tradition it make us who we are the most special and Unique Black Race in the world

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by hollah123: 4:28pm On Sep 14
igbochief001
slap44
kriss25
officialgarri
punisha
cynthialove

n all other ipob miscreants won't see what is happening in their region now in this present age but they will b running around like castrated kangaroo when it's another region

So much for people who claim to b d most United tribe in d world.
Na Dem get
OSU
ohu
first class indigenes
Wawa
second class indigenes
n all other bullshit but they keep shouting their imaginary yoruba Christian n Muslim bullshit

37 Likes 4 Shares

Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Nigeriabiafra80: 4:31pm On Sep 14
Bkayyy:

True talk.
Our ancestors knew the stigma associated with slavery, that is why they rather die than allow themselves to be white slaves. E.g the Igbo landing in Virginia where they all commited suicide.
An Igbo man will rather die than allow himself to be enslaved because they believe that once you are enslaved, your soul and generation become enslaved. The same spirit is what you see in IPOB members, they see Nigeria as a slave camp so they rather die than be part of it
My brother
That’s why I don’t allow
Strangers write my biography

4 Likes

Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by goodnessme1(f): 4:31pm On Sep 14
Bkayyy:

Everybody likes to quench the smoke in another person's house while their village is on fire.
It's like the new thread in Nigeria is attacking Igbo customs and traditions while a young man is about to be hanged for ordinary religion and women can't be allowed to dress the way they like in North by Hisbah all because of religion.
Whereas in South West, the supposed female yoruba monarch that to them symbolizes their equality in gender is not allowed to be with a man talkless of marrying and giving birth.
Everybody in Nigeria is now a Nelson Mandela on Igbo Culture
That is just it.
They are not discussing it because the care and love Igbos,but because they want to exhibit there internal hatred for Igbos.


You will never see them discuss about skull mining and incest ravaging Yoruba land.

Nor talk about brothers killing themselves in the name of boko haram.

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Karlovich: 4:32pm On Sep 14
Barbarian ipigs and discrimination. This is the same attitude that made them lose the war

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Osagyefo98: 4:35pm On Sep 14
If you are an OSU, you remain an OSU and generation unborn can't save you from that.

Forming an association of osus is nothing but inferiority complex.

Traditions remains tradition and can not change because few people feels that one or two things doesn't go their way.

The whole article is nothing but trash and nonsense. The wisdom of our forefathers surpasses that of all these generations.


The gods are wise and their ways unknown to men and for them to stipulate such rules, so shall it.


If you don't like Igbo tradition relocate to yorubaland and change your name to Olaotu or relocate to hausaland and change your name to Kawaii but if you insist on staying in Igboland them you must respect and abide by her traditions...


The tradition makes ndigbo special.

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Bkayyy: 4:37pm On Sep 14
There is Igbo adage that goes this way "When they carry someone else's corpse it will be as if they are carrying log of wood "

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Blue3k(m): 4:41pm On Sep 14
Make threads on topics you care to discuss stop crying like a wounded animal. The BBC article didnt dehumanize anyone. It's actually Igbos themselves working to change the culture. Maybe you should read the article instead displaying your persecution complex.

Bkayyy:
When are going to talk about the dehumanization of women in the North ( women are properties in the North)?
When are we going to talk about the forced hijab and barqa dressing on women in the North?
When are we going to talk about allowing women to inherit land and including them in communal laws in the North?
When are we going to talk about the harassment of women wearing normal clothes by hisbah in the North?
When are we going to talk about segregating women in tiny room in the mosque?
When are we going to also talk about the segregation of Hausa bakwai and Hausa Banza (which is like the osu caste)?
When are we going to talk about not allowing an hausa man to be emir in his own land in Northern Nigeria?
When are we going to talk about forcefully prosecuting a Northerner in Sharia courts?
When are we going to talk about not allowing female yoruba monarchs to marry and give birth like queen Elizabeth?
When are we going to talk about the use of bobaku by yoruba Obas?
When are we going to talk about the use of human parts as traditional items in the West?
When are we going to talk about not allowing women own ancestral lands in the West ( not acquired lands)?
When are we going to talk about denying women their right to be emirs in the North?
When are we going to talk about denying women their rights to be Ooni of Ife and Alaafin of oyo?
When are we going to talk about not allowing women to be the Oba of Bini?
But here we are where everybody thinks the Igbo culture should be changed to accommodate western views while theirs should not be touched.
I only support changing customs that abuse human rights. But trying to demonize a tribe based on some side of their culture which seems weird to you is what I am against.
All African and the world's customs have bad sides, we should all work to mend those sides.

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Bkayyy: 4:45pm On Sep 14
Blue3k:
Make thread on topics you care to discuss stop crying like a wounded animal. The BBC article didnt dehumanize anyone. It's actually ignos themselves working to change the culture. Maybe you should read the article instead displaying your persecution complex.



Are you sure you do understand what you read?

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Blue3k(m): 4:47pm On Sep 14
Bkayyy:

Are you sure you do understand what you read?

I understand better than you hence why I dont see this an an attack on Igbos. When are you going to make threads on numerous social ills you detest?

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Bkayyy: 4:51pm On Sep 14
Blue3k:


I understand better than you hence why I dont see this an an attack on Igbos. When are you going to make threads on numerous social ills you detest?
Your comment on my post shows your true intention of creating this thread.

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by Blue3k(m): 4:57pm On Sep 14
Bkayyy:

Your comment on my post shows your true intention of creating this thread.

Lol dumb comments show you lack reading comprehension skills. You think the article demonizes igbos when it shows various Igbos that are against it. I noticed you avoided the my question because it's obvious you dont actually care about those topics.

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Re: Ohu, Osu: Nigeria's Slave Descendants Prevented From Marrying Who They Want by goodnessme1(f): 5:00pm On Sep 14
Bkayyy:
Your comment on my post shows your true intention of creating this thread.
You don't know them.

Is not that they care and love Igbos but them what to exhibit their hatred.

9 Likes

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