Why do some Igbos have a need to call some people osu?


Ozodi Osuji

    Yesterday, folks were talking about polygamy; some said that it is part of Igbo tradition. I felt a need to express an opinion on it. Now, suppose that polygamy was part of Igbo tradition does that mean that it must be encouraged? Are people supposed to keep doing what was part of their past tradition or are they supposed to choose the rational ones, encourage them, and discard the irrational ones?

    Igbos used to throw twin babies and babies born with deformities into the bush before Mary Slessor, a Scottish woman (missionary) came to southeastern Nigeria. She dedicated her life working to stop that evil; an evil based on a primitive belief (that only animals have twins).

      There are many behaviors that were engaged in by people that they have discarded because of learning that such practices were not civilized.

    Igbos, along with other Africans, used to capture and sell their people to slavery, to Arabs, Europeans and to themselves. One hopes that they have stopped that evil practice.

      Some Igbos used to have many wives (few Igbos practiced polygamy). They had their individual reasons for polygamy, including having many children to make them seem like big men, ogaranya, gain social prestige; some did it to have many children to help them do their farm work and some did it because they were addicted to sex and having many wives was a way to satisfy their addiction to sex. People do what they do for a variety of reasons.

     Anyone with eyes looking at Nigeria knows that it is grossly overpopulated. Without oil money I have no doubt that many Nigerians would be starving to death; as it is, they make, on the average, a dollar a day; that is not exactly enough money to support more than one wife and many children.

     A rational person would say that one wife and two children is the most that a family should have. But we also know that most human beings are not rational and behave from their feelings rather than their reasons.

     When they behave irrationally, they use tradition and custom to justify it. John Maynard Keynes said that nationalism is the refuge of scoundrels.

     Some people like to have multiple sex partners and many children that they cannot provide for and thus we have poor children.

    Many poor children become criminals and kidnap people for monetary ransom or kill people. The level of corruption and criminality in Nigeria is unbelievable.

     Sociological studies tell us that everywhere in the world about 3-5% of the population tend to have antisocial personality disorder and some of those become criminals. That is not the case in Nigeria; I do not know the number, but my hunch is that many more Nigerians are criminals than is found elsewhere in the world. I also suspect that this is due to poverty and lack of employment opportunities.

     As we speak, many Africans are trying to crash into Europe and are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. All Western Europe can fit into Sudan and Congo, there is no reason Africans should be trying to go eke out miserable living from overcrowded Europe (or try to sneak into the USA and Canada illegally). If Africa is well governed her people will do well in Africa and not need to become economic refugees elsewhere.

      I expressed a feeling that if asked, I would advocate one man one wife and two children per family. I have a right to express my opinion and do not need anyone’s permission to do so.

      Out of nowhere, this mentally retarded Igbo person called me osu (slave). That took me aback. What has osu got to do with the subject at hand?

      (I recall once visiting Canada and this Nkwerre man called me osu; I dressed him down; his people used to be my people’s farm laborers; just because he came to Canada to eke out a miserable living, he felt emboldened to call me osu. Why do Igbos have a need to call people degrading names, why this infantile practice?)

     First, I am not osu; I am from the opara of our people, the first family of the people and a Diala (freeborn).

     Owerri people who are rich (judged by having loads of yams) used to call one of their children Osuji or Njoku. The name Osuji is an honor in my corner of the world.

     What prompted this mentally challenged man to call me osu? He saw the prefix of osu in my name and like a monkey jumped to conclusions. He wanted to shame me. Instead of having his say on the subject at hand, polygamy, he wanted to shame me and prevent me from participating in the discussion.

      By the way, the word osu is used in a variety of ways, some positive some negative; for example, Owerri folks call their war generals osuagha; if you are very outstanding at doing something they are more likely to append the term osu to your line of work, such as osuchukwu meaning a very pious person, osuagwu, a spiritualized person. If you are dense and do not understand Igbo culture, why don’t you just shut up and not make a fool of yourself pretending to be an expert on a subject you know diddlysquat about?

      If he likes polygamy he can always go ahead and marry ten million wives and that is none of my business, but while at it he had better have good income so that he does not produce children he does not care for; children who will turn out poor and criminals making Alaigbo criminals haven where people are afraid of going to.

      It is my business, and society’s business if he produces criminals because those threaten our collective lives.

     He lives at Lagos; like many foolish Igbos he probably calls Yorubas put down names. I would not be surprised that he has so alienated many Yorubas that one of these days they would grab him and throw him into the Lagoon to get rid of such an irritant who lives to insult people rather than respect them.

      The osu phenomenon in Alaigbo was not widespread. I know Owerri area. Each Owerri town would have a few osus, you could count them on your fingers.

    Osu was a practice that Igbos ought to be ashamed of, just as white Americans ought to be ashamed of having ancestors who had slaves.

     It was evil for our people to have had osus and for white Americans to have had slaves. We must make restitutions for our past osu practice, pay them money, just as white Americans ought to make reparations to their former slaves.

     We collectively ought to be ashamed of the evil that our ancestors did and not come to the public square to call folks osu as a means of putting them down.

     I understand that most people are not intelligent; I would estimate the guy who called me osu mentally retarded, with IQ of no more than seventy.

     Only a mentally retarded person calls folks put down names like osu; in such folk’s concrete minds they feel like they are important by putting other folks down; the clowns do not know that what makes human beings important is to love and respect all people.

  Igbos should think before they talk. Most Nigerians see Igbos as arrogant and verbally abusive; folks feel that Igbos look down on them and call them derogatory names.

      All human beings are equal; if you feel better than other people you have a mental disorder, specifically, delusion disorder, grandiose and or persecutory type (which the name calling fool probably have).

     If you call folks put down names they would hate you, so much so that some of them will put obstacles on your path.

      I doubt that other Nigerians would voluntarily vote for an Igbo person to be the President of Nigeria because they feel verbally abused by Igbos.

     A leader respects those he leads, if you do not respect people, they will not democratically elect you to rule them. Who will elect an arrogant Igbo to a high office?

     Igbos who call other people insulting names are neurotics, even psychotic; they feel inferior and compensate with false superiority feeling that requires them to exalt themselves and degrade other people to feel fine.

     I recommend that they see psychiatrists and stop making life difficult for themselves and other people. They ought to accept responsibility for the evil their ancestors did in throwing twin babies away and selling their people into slavery (and blaming only those they sold them to, white folks and not blame themselves!).

      I believe that Africans must make amends for selling their people; the least that they can do is to, at least, feel guilt and shame for the evil they did. They must stop acting like amoral animals like the person that called this diala osu.

Ozodi osuji

April 30, 2022


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As usual, Dr Osuji is available, in the evenings, if you want to talk about any subject he wrote on.

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