Introduction

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Ikot Abasi was formerly administered as part of the Opobo District established in 1892. The district initially comprised Opobo and Ikot Abasi. But by the second decade of the 20th century, it had been extended to include Andoni and Ogoni areas. Consequently, Opobo District was divided by the Imo River into two halves - the Opobo and the Ogoni to the west, the Ibibio of Ikot Abasi to the east while the Andoni occupied the fringes along the seaboard (Lovering, 1915).

 

This category examines and analyses the advent of colonial rule; the establishment of colonial administration; the political, social and economic development; and the infrastructure provided in Ikot Abasi in the period 1900 to 1960. All these developments are dealt with in four broad periods: the Advent of Colonial Rule, dating roughly from 1850 to 1899; the Establishment and Consolidation of Colonial Administration, 1900 to 1929; the Native Authority (NA) Era, 1931 to 1950; and the period of Collapse and Rejuvenation 1950 to 1960.

Category: Colonial Experiences

 

Colonial Advent

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Let it be admitted at the outset, that European brains, capital and energy have not been, and never will be expended in developing the resources of Africa from motives of pure philanthropy; that Europe is in Africa for the mutual benefit of her own industrial classes.
(Lord F. D. Lugard, The Dual Mandate, 1926: 617)
 

The period 1850-1899 witnessed the advent of British colonial rule in Ikot Abasi. From 1850 to 1884 the British colonial agents - traders and consuls - introduced a foreign court and a foreign legal system in Ikot Abasi and imposed informal British colonial hegemony on the area through the presence of gunboats along the coast (Ina, 1989). After the declaration of the Niger District Protectorate in 1885, which was defined as the territories on the lines of the coast between the British Protectorate of Lagos and the right or west bank of the Rio del Rey, as well as the territories of both banks of the Niger from its confluence with the River Benue at Lokoja to the sea, as well as the corridor on both banks .of the Benue, from the confluence up to and including Ibi (London Gazette, June 5, 1985), Britain became more interested in the whole of the Oil Rivers area. Under the Oil Rivers Protectorate (1891-1892) and the Niger Coast Protectorate (1893-1899), a systematic subjugation and administration of the area was undertaken.

 

Category: Colonial Experiences

 

The Establishment of Colonial Administration

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Amalgamated Protectorates (Source: Nigerian Historical Atlas)Amalgamated Protectorates (Source: Nigerian Historical Atlas)Administrative Boundaries

 

On December 31, 1899, owing to its flagrant mismanagement of the affairs of its assumed territories, the Niger Company lost its charter. And on January 1, 1900, its more southerly territories were combined with the territories of the Niger Coast Protectorate to form the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria with headquarters at Calabar. The new Protectorate was divided into four administrative divisions: Western, Central, Eastern and Cross River (Afigbo, 1980).

 

In 1906, the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria was amalgamated with the Colony and Protectorate of Lagos to form the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria with headquarters at Lagos. The new protectorate was divided into the Colony, Western, Central and Eastern Provinces. Later in 1914, the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria was amalgamated with the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria to form one country, Nigeria (Nicolson, 1969: 180).

 

Map of Boundary Adjustments of Opobo Division/lkot Abasi LGA, 1932-1989Map of Boundary Adjustments of Opobo Division/lkot Abasi LGA, 1932-1989In all these changes and developments, Opobo remained consistently in Calabar Province. Within the district itself, Andoni was conquered and merged with it in 1904 (Ejituwu, 1991: 168-170) and so was Ogoni land in 1913-1914 (Cheesman, 1931). These boundaries were further enlarged with addition of some of the Ngwa Igbo and were constantly corrected in the 1930's and 1940's through the adjustment of tribal boundaries of the eastern Ikpa to the east and the Anaang groups to the north1. The headquarters of the district had been transferred from Norah Beach to Egwanga in Ikot Abasi in 1902.

 

Category: Colonial Experiences

 

The Native Administration Era 1931-1950

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The period 1931-1950 is described in this study as the Native Administration Era. This is because all the developments that took place in Ikot Abasi or Opobo division during the period, be they political, social or economic, were tied up with the policy of Native Administration.

 

The system of Native Administration resulted from the reforms of the local government system in South-eastern Nigeria, introduced by Sir Donald Cameron, Governor of Nigeria from 1931 to 1935 (Nicolson, 1969: 24), after the collapse of the Warrant Chief system in the Women's War of 1929.

 

The Native Administration had three arms, namely, Native Authority, Native Court and Native Treasury (Ejituwu, 1991: 201), a division, which attempted to separate the legislative and executive from the judicial organs of government. Thus, while the Native Court exercised the judicial power and the Native Authority welded legislative and executive power, the Native Treasury ensured that money was available for the running of the system (Ibid.).

 

Native Authority

 

In Ikot Abasi or Ibibio area of Opobo District clan councils, village group councils and town councils comprising traditional rulers and educated elite were recognised as the Native Authorities (Kirk-Greene, 1965: 212). The Andoni Native Authority was the Oru, a council which consisted of the Otoko or heads of the extended families (Cheesman, 1931). In Ogoni the gazetted Native Authorities were four clan councils, composed of the traditional heads of the component villages and a number of educated young men (Cheesman, 1934). The Opobo Native Authority was more aristocratic. It comprised the Amanyanabo (the king) as permanent president and the heads of 66 main and branch Houses (Hunt, 1937).

 

Category: Colonial Experiences

 

The Local Government System

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In the political sphere some great strides were made. The local government councils established in the area in 1953 on the basis of the Macpherson Constitution of 1951 were vigorous, progressive and sensible bodies. Much of the credit appeared to be due to the Divisional branch of Ibibio State Union, which, drawing inspirations from Dr. Udoma, its National President, was exceedingly active (Udo-Inyang, 1985: 16) in the local and Ibibio national affairs.

 

As the President of Ibibio State Union (1946-69), an elected member of the Eastern House of Assembly in 1951 and leader of the National Independence Party, Dr. Udo Udoma mobilised the minorities of Eastern Nigeria in Calabar, Ogoja, and Rivers (COR) state (Ibid.). Although no state was created for the minorities before the close of our period, the demand for state creation in Eastern Nigeria led to the establishment of the Minorities Commission in 1957 to examine the fears of the minorities in the region and allay them (Macintosh, 1966: 214-218).

 

Mary Kingsley on British Hypocrisy in Africa
 
The Government says it is taking up the white man's burden; it is introducing civilisation; it is giving the Pax Britannica to wildly disturbed savage districts. No one dare say this is a lie because these are great words. The merchant party is barefaced honest - saying we are in Africa to make Africa pay us - but in order that it should pay, it must be justly, firmly and well governed.
(Letter to John Holt, August 3,1899, in Ofonagoro, 1979: 14)

 

Category: Colonial Experiences

 

The advent of Christianity

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Christian missions penetrated Ikot Abasi area after Jaja's extradition with the encouragement of the British colonial administration.

 

 
The Missions 
In Opobo Division the Qua Iboe missions were known for their preaching of the Bible, the Methodists and Roman Catholics - for good education and community services, the African Spiritual churches - for their faith healing and preaching in vernacular.
The orthodox churches attempted to create a literate Christian elite for the needs of their expanding missions and introduced games, sports and patron saints' feasts in their schools.
The first inter-school football match was played at Ete in 1927 with the rival team trekking 14 miles to meet the challenge.
(Ann. Rep.. 1927)
Nearly every village has a mission: the Qua Iboe Mission extending to the North and east and the Methodists - to the west south, according to their agreement; the NDP has a weak hold at Egwanga and Opobo, while the Roman Catholic Church, the late comer, attempts to cover the whole area. (Cheesman, 1932)
In some towns there were two or three different missions competing against each other and enticing away converts to each other's churches. By the 1910 agreement, a line demarcation was made between the Qua Iboe Mission and the Methodist Mission, passing E. W. of Ikot Akan.
(Ann. Reps., 1922, 1944)

 

Christian missions penetrated Ikot Abasi area after Jaja's extradition with the encouragement of the British colonial administrationChristian missions penetrated Ikot Abasi area after Jaja's extradition with the encouragement of the British colonial administrationBy 1900 the Anglican Mission had been well established in Opobo Town and Primary Schools were set up for the education of the youths (Ejituwu, 1991: 190). From Opobo, Christianity spread to Eastern and Western Obolo (Ibid.). In 1907 the Niger Delta Pastorate built Saint George's Church at Egwanga and later established its presence in a few other southern towns. The Church at Egwanga was devoted more to the training of clerks and factory employers than the winning of souls for Christ (Lovering, 1915).

 

Other Christian missions, which created some impact in the district were the Methodist, Qua Iboe and the Roman Catholic Missions. The Methodists were particularly active in Egwanga, Ibekwe, and Ete where they established 'good schools'. The Qua Iboe Mission occupied the northern part of the district. The Roman Catholic Mission established in Essene in 1918 fanned out and established churches and schools throughout the district (Centenary Celebration, 1993).

 

Category: Colonial Experiences

 

Economic Development

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Company trading agents on the Opobo River (NAI). Between 1900 and 1903, the European population on the river increased from 24 to 34 malesCompany trading agents on the Opobo River (NAI). Between 1900 and 1903, the European population on the river increased from 24 to 34 malesBy 1915, a number of European trading firms had established factories in Egwanga. They included Maclver, African Traders and Company, G. L. Gaiser and Company, African Cold Storage and African Association, Egwanga. Along Essene Creek, Whydah and Dayspring established their factories (Lovering, 1915: 14). Factories were also established in other places including Ibagwa. The result was that by 1929, there were a total of 35 European factories in Opobo District (Cheesman, 1931: 53).

 

Fast progress was also made in the area of transport and communication. To ease the problem of communication by water a land mail service was established in 1901 by Opobo runners, who carried messages within short periods to far and near. Besides, a launch was stationed permanently at Egwanga for use by the District Officer. There were also two gigs in the station for the Customs Departments and one for the Medical Officer, for use in his tours to different parts of the district (Cheesman, 1931: 5).

 

Category: Colonial Experiences

 

The Decline of Opobo

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Esen onyong, ikpa
When the stranger leaves, we die.
(Ibibio saying)

 

In the 1940's a number of problems and crises had developed. The destabilising developments included the Second World War, the Leopard Society murders and the unpopular Richards Constitution. During the Second World War, Opobo District witnessed inflation and general rise in the prices of local food stuffs. This bore badly on the poor with no land and the wage earning classes (James, 1943). There was also scarcity of salt which led to the rationing of the commodity to the public (Hartley, 1941). In 1945, murders by the Leopard society (Ekpe Ikpa Ukod), believed to have started in 1941, were uncovered in Opobo and Abak Districts, and, to some extent, in Uyo District. By 1946, a total of 159 deaths had been perpetrated by the society (Mayne, 1947).

 

In almost all cases, after a murder, marks were made on the ground near the corpse to represent the pads of a leopard (Smith, 1945). But the investigation conducted, revealed that the crime was committed by people who had some scores to settle with others, usually after a revelation by Idiong diviners (Ibid.).

A number of measures were adopted to end the murders. These included the tour of the affected areas by the colonial authorities and officials of the Ibibio State Union, the search for and killing of real leopards, which were also causing some deaths, effective policing of the Leopard Society areas, and the proscription of Idiong society. These measures, backed up by the support of some elders and people in the affected areas, such as Chief Ntuen Ibok of Essene (Ina, 1989) and Dr. E. Udo Udoma (Udo-Inyang 1985) led to the stoppage of the Leopard Society murders in Opobo and other affected areas in 1948 (Mayne, 1948).

 

Category: Colonial Experiences