WRITTEN BY NZEH UCHE
Somewhere in Africa,
Patience and her siblings; a brother, and two sisters were part of the children raised in affluence in their locality. Her both parents were medical practitioners. Her father, a medical doctor, her mother a nurse—who dedicated most of their lives saving lives.
Patience admired their zeal for helping others, which made her fall in love with medicine. Her graduation from the university with the best grades was one her parents’ joy couldn’t contain. They bought her a car—which seemed like the perfect gift for her excellence.
She immediately joined the medical team in her father’s Hospital. Their family was a perfect one, or so it seemed—her brother was in his finals, studying Marine Engineering. Her two younger sisters were also in tertiary education, with courses of their choices.
Their family was one to be envied. But, there was a big problem!. Patience’s family were OSU!
Osu or Ohu means Outcast or Caste as it would be translated into English.
Osus are people in a community that comes from a lineage of outcasts. Rumours have it that in a long gone era, they were sacrifices to idols. Some others say they were once slaves to the non-outcasts, the land owners—the free-borns.
Evolution in time wiped such stance, but some free-borns never ceased identifying the Osus by their old names. The stigma still lingered. It was conveyed in hushed voices, passed from fathers to sons, and mothers to daughters. The discrimination was hidden and invisible but was well imprinted in the hearts of the free-borns.
Once, segregation was the main frontier of the Osu Caste system. But because of its fading in time, its frontier gradually singled to marriage. The free-borns and the outcast had mixed over the years, but the free-borns rejected the outcasts pertaining marriage commitments because they felt the Osus were stained or cursed of some sort.
It didn’t matter the number of lives Patience’s parents had saved in their community, the social amenities her family provided the people or the fact that her father was the titled chief who renovated the town hall where the Chiefs had their meetings on Thursdays, the discussion of marriage was never entertained.
In Patience’s town, Whenever suitors came to introduce themselves concerning the female child of the Osus, the mischievous free-born Chiefs, out of wickedness would without hesitation, go behind and tell them to take to their heels. They would inflict the wife-seekers with wrong counsels, describing unimaginable omen that follows anyone who takes an Osu as a wife. What they gained in such act was what the Osu families never understood.
This went on for years. The only way the Osus people got married was if they married themselves, married someone outside the country, or married an infidel of the Caste system. The culture created dungeons, and they all were trapped inside one.
Patience was fed up; she was still unmarried at age thirty-five. It was as if she was trailed by the meaning of her name. She had had five suitors already who later called off their engagement after doing some findings of her origin.
Okon came for introduction when she was aged twenty-two after they dated for two years.
Usman showed glimpses of interest when she was aged twenty-four, after their date of seven months.
Lanre, when she was aged twenty-seven, after courting for two years, assuring and reassuring Patience that no matter what, he would marry her.
Okeke came when she was aged thirty with his Godly beliefs, but his people refused to follow him for the marriage rites.
Ogbeche did when she clocked thirty-four years. He was after her money, but the Chiefs still convinced him that long life with little was far better than short life with plenty, which he then broke at the last minute.
Commitment upon commitment ending in disappointments, each disappointment made Patience cry out her eyes. The repeat of the same experience was even more heartbreaking; different men, same reason at a different age.
Patience knew even the best of beauties had their time. Beauty fades, especially for an unhappy woman. Time was no more on her side. She was also scared for the future of her younger sisters—if they would suffer the same fate as hers.
Even as a single, Patience was a wife; she had read twenty books on marriage, she acted decently, spoke politely, she had a good job to support any husband, and a very beautiful body to cap it all.
She was the type who could be called ideal for a dedicated man, but the pendulum of Osu-lineage swung in bitterness, disappointment, and hate—forcing her expectations of a husband to a nightmare. Patience was hostage to belief, and circumstances were calling the shots in her life.
She cursed her forefathers for being slaves or whatever the caste system represented. Their weakness was costing her marital bliss.
Patience’s good looks, gorgeous body, and awesome personality drew suitors, but the Osu-stamp pushed them away.
As a Christian, Patience was fed up with the diabolical attributes associated with the Caste system. They made no sense to her. If only the community Chiefs felt the same way, who knew how it would have turned out?
Many of the Osu families were moneyed, but wealth had no speaking power in the matter. The Chiefs and the community had ruined their lives out of envy—since wickedness sustained the nasty culture.
Families investigated before accepting their children to marry from a particular name or household. And any of the free-born youth who refused to recognise the Caste system maybe because of pregnancy or otherwise, wouldn’t have anyone to follow him to marry the outcast.
In the light to completely rid the Osu Caste system, Reverend Father Joseph, their Parish Priest always preached that every Christian was Osu before Christ made them acceptable. He added that it wasn’t enough to eat, drink, and worship together, that, they should book a place in their hearts to allow inter-marriage.
Father Joseph never hesitated to let the people know that their potent believe in the power of idols, and witchcraft was fuelling the belief of its by-product; Osu caste system.
In addition, he said, they should love their neighbours as themselves and turn over a new leaf, so that in time to come, those that inquire about the caste system would be seen as the outcast, who rake over old coals.
But it was obvious the Roughnecks amongst the chiefs, counted the counsel of the Priest for so little.
Discrimination at times could be furnace to a person’s heart and melt it away. It could also stir up a sleeping volcano to erupt. So, Patience devised a plan. One she felt would make the people amend their ways.
On a particular Thursday, Patience took a piece of paper and wrote a letter, addressing it to the community and upcoming free-born Chiefs. She put the letter and other requirements for her journey in her handbag and left for the town hall, where the chiefs met.
Patience noticed her father’s car parked amongst the chiefs’ cars in front of their meeting room. She barged in and shut the single door behind her. The speaker, who was airing his view to the other Chiefs, was interrupted and the others were awed by Patience’s audacity.
Her skin became pale, as if in fear, as she stared into each and all of their eyes—one after the other.
The Chiefs wondered what warranted such attitude, even more wonderment for Patience’s father, as they all watched speechlessly.
She brought out the letter from her bag and walked, placing it on a center table, and returned to her formal position—guarding the door.
The men were bent out of shape by her insult. Their faces changed in disgust, but Patience quickly riveted their expressions to fear as she brought out a loaded pistol from her handbag. The men became scattered and disorganised; they never saw it coming. She ordered them to move down the end of the room and divide themselves into groups of Osus and free-borns.
She had intended to kill all the free-born Chiefs—that was why she addressed her letter to the incoming Chiefs. But she wanted them to hear her out before they met with their ancestors.
She waved the gun at the men who were now consumed in fear—even her father. He had never seen his daughter’s eyes so reddish. She quieted every of his attempt of a gestured plea with an intensive stare of disappointment.
Tears rolled down Patience’s cheeks as she spoke. She directed her speech to her father and other Osu titled chiefs. Patience rained bitter words on these men. She asked them why they had been quiet since their youth, settled like wine on its dregs.
She scolded them for their inability to stand for what was right and true, by making the world know of the invisible stigmata the free-born claimed was embedded in the gene of an Osu. None uttered a word.
Patience then faced the self-acclaimed pure Chiefs. With her tears still flowing down, she told them how they had ruined her life, including countless lives who are Osu, depriving them marital happiness. She even yelled at some point. Patience asked why they enjoyed deterring suitors by slapping them with ancient irrelevance. Yet, there was no response.
She then took a moment to look at her victims before she killed them. She saw an unusual mix of hate and mockery on the faces of the free-born Chiefs and saw a mix of letdown and disappointment on the faces of the Osu Chiefs. It was obvious her speech had dug them out. It was evident they would not understand her or any Osu female involved—not even if she had three mouths and four arms holding pistols gesticulating her anger.
These men didn’t pity her—not like she wanted one, but at least they would have been remorseful of any kind. They didn’t. The tales from their ancestors had blinded their minds so they couldn’t see the light of the truth.
Patience contemplated. If she killed them—the free-borns, it would dent the Osu families generally. If she killed them all, including the Osus, it would stain her family’s reputation.
It was obvious she barely thought things through before coming—she just let her emotions lead her. Maybe she did, but her expectations were cut short. That was definitely not the time to regret. She had taken a bold step to question her fears face to face by coming to confront the Chiefs.
Her actions would forever serve as fresh wounds on their skins. So, she needed the courage to follow it through to the end.
Patience needed to switch to plan B, but there was none. She became confused and tried remembering what gave her guts to such embarking. The scared Chiefs watched her. They sensed she was having a second thought, but couldn’t tell what exactly it was.
Then, Patience had a release within her. That feeling of staring down at the corpses of those who wanted you extinct and yet, you remain unsatisfied by their demise. The surroundings became cooler, and every of her hair strand stood like soldiers awaiting orders. Her mind screamed at her. It did, really loud.
Patience gradually swallowed her tears, hardened her heart, for a thicker skin was needed to finish what she had started.
A new sense of clarity gripped her being. Circumstances had convicted her even before she thought of confronting her fears. Her conscience whispered words she almost didn’t hear at first. Then the words became clearer. Her heart bulged. She was worn out; she was distressed and had reached her limit. Her heart bulged even more. Her hands practically shook—the pistol became heavy.
Patience searched her heart one last time, trying to find those specific reasons she needed: Her sisters, the other Osu families, their futures. Then, she raised the gun to her head and pulled the trigger.
Tragedy! No one would wish for their enemies.
Patience’s father rushed towards his daughter’s falling body—it landed on the cemented floor before he reached. Her blood spilled. She made her escape; life vanished in a twinkling of an eye. Truly, a bold sacrifice for a course.
The gunshot pulled a community crowd towards the town hall. The people heard the incident. A particular free-born Chief quickly picked up Patience’s letter as he read through.
One can never be too forceful in talking about the horrors of the OSU caste system in marriage.
This is a war; a war not of arms but of hearts and minds against history and ancient beliefs. The terrors of the night—the hypocrisy, found its way at dawn. I know that those who still hold onto the caste system do it out of fear.
It may not be fair to call those who hold what they fear as hypocrites, but for how long would you fear lies? The truth is visible to allay any form of fears. I know the anguish of the Osu or Ohu in the land: I think of the silent cries in the dead of the night. I feel hearts exploding with unspeakable grief because of no suitable soul mate. The dream of a better tomorrow had carried the Osu bachelorettes over the many bitter feelings they felt seeing other women of their ages walk past with their own husbands. These must stop
Don’t chew over, just feed off your beliefs, put aside your clouded perceptions, and try to be better men.
And to the Osu people;
All battles can be won no matter the size of your enemy. But! We can start by trying first. We do not give up. We were pressured from every side in the time of old, but not crushed.
We have fought individually and lost. These are now unified battles that must be fought and won with love. What will kill the Osu caste system is not hearsays, and it can’t be hypocrisy.
We must condemn the caste system to every person’s conscience by an open display of the truth. We would come out in the view of the world and accuse those discriminating against us, to dilute their opinions.
The free-borns will hiss like slithering snakes, for the Osus will come in their numbers; with fire on their tongues to burn the remains of the anachronistic and hurtful beliefs.
The name OSU is blind, deaf, and dumb to the people it assumes as its own and as such, should be taken to the realm of a folk tale, and let it wander alone for eternity.
Let no man or woman hold Christianity responsible for the level, the social ill has affected intended marriages.
Christianity doesn’t know apart groups or concur to behaviours that are based on very deep cultural convictions. No, it doesn’t. On the contrary, it teaches unionism and love.
Finally, the town unions and churches must do a forceful universal declaration of a pan community abolition of Osu caste system to allow it go forever.
Your Loving Patience.”
The free-born Chief finished the letter, folded it, and put it into his pocket as the ambulance and the town people came around. Till date, no one knows if the content of the letter was read to the hearing of the community. If it wasn’t, then Patience sacrifice was totally in vain.
image credit betterhelp.com