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Social-Cultural Study Of Osu Caste System In Mbieri; Mbaitoli, Imo State




The word “Osu” is pronounced with heavy lips and spirit facial expression suggesting dirtiness, which is a pointer to the fact that it could be acquired through social fussion with one who has gotten the “Virus” already; In other words, it is believed to be contagious. However, the Origin of “Osu” is not clearly known. But it could be dated back to some sixty thousand years ago toward the end of the paleolithic period that is the late stone age as against about A.D. 15.6 when the trans-Atlantic – slave trade was in progress. But it is a common belief that crimes were the causation agent to the development of “Osu”. In our contemporary society, the issue upsets many people. Many have been denied nuptial partners. Many traditional titles many have failed elections. Many homes have been bisected and many too have taken their lives in forced to die as a result of the condemnation which emanates from “Osu”.




The Osu caste system is a socio-cultural phenomenon that has been prevalent in Nigeria for centuries. The term “Osu” refers to a group of people who were considered to be outcasts or “untouchables” in the society. They were discriminated against and were not allowed to associate with the “freeborn” members of the community. This caste system was practiced among the Igbo people in particular, but also existed in other parts of Nigeria.

The Osu caste system was based on the idea of purity and contamination, where certain individuals were believed to be tainted due to their ancestry, occupation or circumstances of birth. It was believed that these people had committed some offense against the gods or ancestors, and as a result, they were punished with this caste status.

In the ancient period, the Osu were easily identified by various marks on their bodies, such as tribal marks or distinct hairstyles, which served as a visual reminder of their caste status. They were also excluded from participating in important cultural and religious activities, such as marriages, funerals, and other social events.

This project is basically on the Osu caste system. It tries to examine the numerous myths posited to buttress its existence. The issue of ‘Osu” had been prevalent in the olden days and still lingers till date such that those associated with the Osu caste are highly dreaded and are not considered as marriageable or entitled to any traditional appointment or coronation.

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There are several myths attached to “Osu” that they are regarded and associated with gods, no one dares touch them nor would anyone spill Osu’s blood .Osu system is a social stigma and as such, a cob-web tied to any person, who is a descendant of such group described above. Despite the fact that Osu caste is a social ill, it is sad to note that most villages in Mbieri, Mbaitoli L.G.A in Imo state have not realized its dangers. As people discriminate against others, it spurs resentment and threatens to instill insecurity among the populace

This caste system had a significant impact on the socio-cultural development of the affected communities. It created a deep division within the society, where the Osu were looked down upon and ostracized. This led to a culture of discrimination, fear, and inequality, where the Osu were subjected to various forms of physical and emotional abuse.


The consolidation of Christianity which strictly opposes social stratification, coupled with western civilization and problem associated with Osu caste system, seem to have diminished; although there are still some noticeable discriminations against socio-psychological problems viz Osu Caste System.

1) The fact that the Osu belong to no common ancestral lineage, and have no symbols of a common real and known ancestor namely “Indichie” and “Ofo’ and as such, they are believed to have no morality and no after life.

2) Since Osu was renounced as a sacrificed person, and sacrifice as we know, involves a transposition of an object, animal or person, from the secular to the sacred state. This transposition works a psychological change of attitude in the person who offers, contributes, provides for or performs the actual sacrificial ceremony. In the case of an Osu, this change of an attitude determines and affects his future relationship with those who sacrificed him.

3) It should also be noted that the inherent discrimination against this stratum purports a very serious social injustice. This unfortunate social system has continued to prevail all through to the present society. So many people embraced and accepted it as part of the custom of our people. Agitations for its abrogation are frowned at many quarters. As a social engineer, therefore, it is my view to investigate this conceptual framework and its resultant negative effects in Mbieri town.

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This research work is significant in so many ways:

1) It will serve as a reference material to future researchers, especially in the area under discussion.

2) It will expose the leadership of Mbieri to the evils of this lingering evil practice, and motivate them to halt it.

3) The work is expected to awaken the spirit of some researchers who may wish to investigate the Igbo caste system and other aspects of the system elsewhere.


This research work is aimed at giving an expository view-point of Osu caste system as a method of social stratification in Mbieri town.

1) It hopes to highlight the history of Mbieri and within that context, to unravel the Osu caste system among the people of Mbieri.

2) The study also aims at demonstrating how the Osu caste system operates among the people of Mbieri.

3) It discusses the various ways the practice has impacted on the town and people of Mbieri.


This study covers the social history of Mbieri Mbaitoli Local Government Area of Imo State. Mbieri has an estimated population of 125,000 people, the component villages of Mbieri are: – Achi, Amankuta, Amaulu, Awo, Ebom, Eziome, Obazu, Obokwe, Ohohia, Ubakuru, Umuagwu, Umuahii, Umuneke, Umudagu, Umuduru, Umunjam, Umuobom, Umuomumu and Umuonyeali.

The segment of population of Mbieri that formed the subjects of our research include the educated and illiterates, the old and the young, animists (that is the traditionalist) and Christians alike; titled elders and non-titled elders and people servants.

This work is divided into Five Chapters. Chapter one deals with the general introduction. Chapter two deals with the review of related literature. Chapter three deals with the study of the people of Mbieri. Chapter Four deals with socio-cultural implications of the Osu caste system and Chapter Five gives a summary and conclusion of my research work.


At this course of carrying out the research work,the writer encountered some varying factors which posse as a limiting factor not limited to;


This research work is aimed to promote a solution to the following questions.

1)What are the negative effects of Osu caste practice in the people of Mbieri.

2) In what ways had this practice detained the growth and development of Mbieri community and its people?

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3) What are the implications of Osu caste system on the Igbo nation as a whole

4) How can the practice Osu caste system curbed in Mbieri and the Igbo land at large?

5) What measures has been put in place by the government and various shareholders to eradicate the practice


Ho: Osu caste system in Mbieri do not hinder the socio cultural growth and development of Mbieri people.

Hi: Osu caste system has hindered the socio cultural growth and development of Mbieri people.

Ho: Osu caste system does not promote to the marginalization of some Mbieri inhabitant

Hi: Osu caste system promotes the marginalization of some Mbieri inhabitants.


OSU: Because of many oral interpretation of the construct, the ‘Osu’ has various definitions. The ‘Osu’ by definition, is a people sacrificed to the gods in Igbo community. It has also been defined as cult slave ‘ a living sacrifice an untouchable outcast ‘owner’s cult a slave of the deity, and a sacred and holy being.

DIALA: This is the opposite of an “Osu”, that is by definition is a people not been sacrificed to the gods in Igbo land community in other words, ‘Diala’ is a free born and not a slave of the deity.

MARRIAGE: This is a social union or legal contract between individuals that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships usually intimate and sexual, depending on the culture or sub-cultural in which it is found. There are various kind of marriage such as Christian, Islamic as well as African traditional, religion and juristic marriage and each has is it’s modus operandi in operation or it’s attainment. According to Hinnells J.R.(1997:301), Christian marriage, is as something that has always been characterized by practices of monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, bigamy, exogamy, and endogamy.

DEITIES: Deities are derived out of objects of creation such as geophysical landmarks like seas, rivers, lakes, streams, curves wills and mountains, spirits such as warrior-kings and legendary spiritual leaders. Those geophysical landmarks are regarded as the homes of the gods and the ancestral spirits (lsiechi,1976:59). And the gods are perceived as the bridge between the people and their life.

Pages:  47

Category: Project

Format:  Word & PDF               

Chapters: 1-5                                          

Source: Imsuinfo

Material contains Table of Content, Abstract and References.


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