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Origin, Migration and Settlement

Author: nick on 14-09-2013, 23:00, views: 8 275


We regard the Ibibio as the first ever made by God, therefore they know more than other races of ancient knowledge concerning the making of the world, the coming of the first man and the secrets of the gods.
(Ijo Chief Amakiri Yellow: in Andreski, 1970: 4)

The population of Ikot Abasi LGA is grouped into five Ibibio clans. The Ibibio are regarded as the oldest group in southern Nigeria and their legends and myths tell only of short people with tails, Nnung Amama Isim - who were probably earlier Khoisan inhabitants of the region, whom the Ibibio probably drove away into Equatorial/Southern Africa. Ibibio language is grouped, together with the related Eastern Obolo language, in the Cross River sub-group of the Benue-Congo group of the Niger-Congo family (Essien, 1995). Historical records point to probable outside contacts among others with Phoenician navigators (around 600BC), Norman sailors (around AD1410) and early Portuguese traders (Jeffreys 1935: 1-4; Talbot, 1926, 1: 185).


By the era of intensive slave trade on the West African coast, the Ibibio, who were a slave supply source, were well-known to Dutch and English traders like Dapper (1668 to 1688), Barbot (1698-1699), Captain Crow (1795-1808) and Captain Adams (1786-1800) as Moko (Mbogo, Mogo, Moco) and Quaws or Kwa (Jeffreys, 1935: 5-9; Talbot, Ibid.; Abasiattai, 1991).


According to Chief Obio Offiong (1954: 25, 30-31), the Ibibio people of Ikot Abasi are segments of the original Ikono group, who broke off during the dispersal from their mainland centre near Uyo/Abak. Some Assang people of the Nsit group, who are also related to the Enyong on the Cross River, trekked southwards to the seaboard and settled in Ikot Abasi area, where they are known as Nnung Assang (the people of Assang). They developed a close relationship with a group of the Ikpa section of the Ikono, named after their skill with the ikpa fish trap. Part of the Ikpa moved away and became the people of Ika, later, a clan in Abak Division. Rev. W. T. Groves of the Primitive Methodist Mission, Ikot Ekpene, who was credited with a considerable knowledge of the people, also suggested that the Anaang people migrated northwards from a place near Opobo (Ntukidem, 1988).


Ikot Abasi village is reportedly related to Ekom in Iman clan of the Ibibio, while the Oniong group in the former Opobo Division (now in Mkpat Enin LGA) are said to have originated from Oniong Atai in the Uyo/Etinan area. The clan totem and deity survey also indicates the relationship of the Ukpum villages to the Ibiaku. New settlements were usually named after the original place of origin or after their founder, for example, Ikot Iden, Ikot Akama, Nnung Assang, Ikot Ebio. They maintained the social and special contiguity in the form of supreme deity worship, shrines, public square, traditional institutions, and natural boundaries. Land availability, conducive environment and technological advancement helped to establish a tradition of successful spatial separation of subsequent generations of small communities from the parent villages in the forest fringes, as the population increased. The multiplication of related Ikpa Nnung Assang wards and settlements in and around Essene illustrates this point. Ikpeti or Eka Obom, the original Nnung Assang settlement of the founding father, Akama, was joined by those of his sons - Edem Aya, Ukan, Owok Essen I and of his grandsons - Owok Essen III, Ikot Osukpong, etc. (Umo Essen, 1980).


The replication of village names such as Ikot Abasi, Okon, Ikot Etefia, Ikot Ubo, Iman and Ete, frequently points to migrations due to population expansion, internal disputes or external and economic pressure like wars, crop failure, law transgression. Thus, the people of Okon, who came from Okon-Eket (Udoiwod,

1996) still enjoy special privileges in their former domain, having at the same time developed new inter-relationship with the nearby people of Nnung Assang (Essene). Other groups in the hinterland, once part of Opobo Division, include the Ngwa Igbo, amicably received and allocated virgin forested land on the left bank of the Imo River (Nwaguru, 1973: 23), the Eastern Obolo, and related to them, Ibeno, who came from Cameroon to settle in the Delta, and later spread out during the 18th century wars, from the Andoni flats along the ocean front east of the Imo River (Alagoa & Kiebel, 1989; Ejituwu, 1991: 45). Their culture is believed to contain some remote Ibibio influence. The Ogoni communities of Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme are also related to the Ibibio in language and culture (Alagoa & Kiebel, 1989: 57). Linguists agree that the Ogoni are likely to have moved from the east, across the Imo River as recently as late 18th or early 19th century and spread westward across Khana to Tai, to Gokana and Eleme in the eastern Delta fringe. The Opobo Ijo ancestors may have occupied parts of the Niger Delta up to 7,000 years ago. Internal migrations, such as the migration from Bonny to Opobo Island in 1869/70, in territories already occupied by the Obolo and Ibibio, are more recent (Alagoa & Kiebel, 1989: 59).


The Opobo, defeated in war at Bonny, and led by Jaja came to settle on the nearby island. The Opobo replaced the Bonny traders already established at all important waterside markets, including Egwanga waterside. So did some European trading agents, some of whom spent upwards of 20 years in the area and no doubt left traces of their sojourn among the local population. The Aro, who had established early trade colonies at Essene, Ikot Eteffia and other major markets along the slave trade route to the Imo River estuary (Northrup, 1970), fled from Arochukwu during the British military expedition in 1902 and dispersed for settlement in different directions, some settling in Ikot Abasi area, only to be displaced again during the Nigerian Civil War.


The common historical and economic experience has assisted the emergence of similar social institutions, cultural and psychological traits and mutually understandable means of communication, which made possible concerted action during important events like the Women's War of

1929 and the 1950's COR State Movement. Ibibio, Igbo and English Language are used as trade and cultural exchange media throughout the area and intermarriages and other forms of inter-group relationship have created strong bonds among the various peoples.

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Category: Early History and Trade Contacts

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