Ibibio and Anaang

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Chief Ntuen Ibok with his MBE medal, 1954. Source: NM, CalabarIn the struggle to uplift the status and preserve the dignity of the African manhood and heritage. (Motto of the Ibibio State Union)

 

As elsewhere in Opobo Division, prior to the NA reforms, the Ibibio and the Anaang were organised into Native Court Areas, with little regard for clan boundaries, and with the Native Courts performing executive, legislative and judicial functions. By the NA reforms of the 1930's, executive and legislative functions were separated from judicial: a Clan Council, serving as Subordinate Native Authority (SUNA) and a Native Court were established for each clan; the first one performed executive and legislative, and the other, judicial functions. Thus, as in Ogoni, a Clan Council and a Native Court were established in 1934 for each of the Ibibio clans of Ibiaku, Ikpa and Ukpum. Additionally, in 1935, an Ibibio Central Council and a Central Ibibio Native Treasury were established, constituting the Ibibio NA of Opobo Division. The Central Council, comprising 100 members elected by the SUNA's, served as Superior Native Authority. It had a strong Executive Committee similar to the Ogoni's, which met monthly at Ikot Akan (Dewhurst, 1938; Smith, 1940). Similar administrative bodies were established for the Anaang in Opobo Division. The Central Ibibio Council at Ikot Akan became the organisational centre for political and educational upliftment of the Ibibio and Anaang areas in Ikot Abasi.

 

The Ibibio Treasury
 
Ikot Akan Council Hall was the seat of the Central Ibibio Council, which, with the support of the Ibibio Union, became the power in the land, the group council simply complying with its decisions. The Ibibio Treasury, which opened with big celebrations on 30th Nov. 1935, had Chiefs Ntuen Ibok of Essene and Umo Idem Umo Eren Akpata of Ikot Ekpo (persons whom we know will be faithful to all), elected as key-holders to the safe room lock keys. They employed an educated young man to accompany them for the monthly receipts and payments, who carefully scrutinised the vouchers and kept records of each spending. (Gibbons, 1934)
 
In August 1944, Chief Umo Idem was made Ohong hong of the two Ukpum clans.
 
(Ann. Rep. 1944)

 

Chief Ntuen Ibok was the first paramount ruler to be formally coronated according to the Ibibio State Union's Chiefs' Conference recommendations in 1948 and to be given the insignia of office by the Union. L-R: the Union's clerk, Dr. Udo Udoma (President), Chief Ntuen Ibok (Clan Head of Ikpa Nnung Assang), Chief Isong Adiaka from Ikot Umo Akama and Ayara Akpabio of Ikot Osute (now in Oruk Anam LGA). Courtesy: Chief J. EtukudomChief Ntuen Ibok was the first paramount ruler to be formally coronated according to the Ibibio State Union's Chiefs' Conference recommendations in 1948 and to be given the insignia of office by the Union. L-R: the Union's clerk, Dr. Udo Udoma (President), Chief Ntuen Ibok (Clan Head of Ikpa Nnung Assang), Chief Isong Adiaka from Ikot Umo Akama and Ayara Akpabio of Ikot Osute (now in Oruk Anam LGA). Courtesy: Chief J. EtukudomAs elsewhere in the Division, Western education was the primary catalyst of social change, and the content and direction of change were articulated mainly by the educated elite through improvement unions.

 

The most all-embracing and dominant of the unions was unquestionably the Ibibio State Union (ISU). Organised in 1928 by the educated Ibibio (including Anaang, Oron, Eket, and Ibeno), and initially known as the Ibibio Welfare Union, the ISU comprised, in its conception, all the men and women of the six Ibibio districts in Calabar province, viz. Abak, Eket, Ikot Ekpene, Itu, Opobo and Uyo. Thus, it was a pan - Ibibio Union, embracing all the land and people of what is now Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria.

 

Its early leaders were predominantly teachers like Sampson Udo Etuk of Etinan, or clerks and other subordinate staff in the colonial bureaucracy, like J. U. Eka, J. S. B. Ikpe and Usen U. Usen of Uyo. For our purpose, it suffices to discuss the Union briefly in its pan-Ibibio aspects, but, specifically, as it related to events and developments in Opobo Division.

 

Mention must be made of the Ibibio Union, which every Year becomes a greater influence in the Ibibio country... It has attracted the best elements of the Native Administrations in addition to Ibibios of the educated and employed classes to its active membership. Its opinions and advice are increasingly followed by the Clan Councils. It is consulted by the Administration staff on matters affecting the Ibibio generally, as, for instance, the question of reducing the existing tax rates.
 
(Resident's Ann. Report for Calabar Province, 1939)

 

As in Obolo and Opobo towns, some of the educated Ibibio were elected into the Clan Councils, where they advocated reforms and modernisation. However, their influence in effecting social change was exercised mostly through the ISU. This aimed to promote the comprehensive and balanced development of Ibibioland, including the development of unity and self-help, education and manpower, agriculture, commerce, manufacturing, healthcare, infrastructure, urban planning, port and transportation facilities (Abasiattai, 1991: 467-513). All these were partly reflected in the Union's Motto, viz.: Love, Unity, Co-operation, Self-sacrifice, Freedom; and in the symbols on the Union's Badge, viz.: a hoe, an oil palm, a burning candle, two swords, a horn, an open Bible and a shield5 (Noah, 1980: 43-44, 59-62).

 

Encouraged by the Ibibio Union, Ete sent a local youth. Gabriel Ufford. to be trained at Ibadan in co-operative work. He returned and in 1929, the co-operative movement spread out among the traders and salary earners. There were 10 thrift co-operative societies and 3 thrift and loan societies in 1944, and 26 registered co-operative societies by 1953.
 
(Ann. Reps. 1944. 1953)

 

Convinced that education is the key to all aspects of individual or group development, the ISU urged the colonial government in 1930 to establish a Central Ibibio College or Technical School comparable to King's College, Lagos and Government College, Umuahia, that would prepare the youths for liberal and professional education abroad (Abasiattai, 1988: 102-124). When Government responded by establishing the T.T.C. Uyo in 1931, the Union appreciated the College for training teachers for the burgeoning NA and mission schools, but it continued to press Government for a secondary or technical school. When Government failed to respond, the Union established its own secondary school in 1946 at Ikot Ekpene, significantly named Ibibio State College, which subsequently did much useful educational work.

 

Besides, in 1935, the ISU inaugurated the Ibibio Scholarship Funds to train Ibibio persons in universities abroad, and a subsidiary scholarship fund in 1936 to train Ibibio youths at the Government College, Umuahia. In August 1938, the first batch of five students left on the Union's scholarships to Britain and the United States of America for training in the diverse fields of Agriculture, Education, Law and Medicine (Abasiattai, 1988: 113). The best known of them is Sir Udo Udoma, the candidate selected from Opobo Division, who studied Law at Trinity College, University of Dublin, and Oxford University, England. Sir Udo Udoma returned to Nigeria in 1945, the first Nigerian to obtain a doctorate degree in law (Udo-Inyang, 1985: 31). And, significantly, soon after his return, Sir Udoma was elected National President of the Union in February 1947. Up to the early 1950's, the Union sponsored several other Ibibio men and women to train abroad in nursing and other professions with a view to their returning to serve Ibibioland and the nation (Udoma: 1987: 114).

 

To be energetic and industrious in business, prudent and thrifty in finance, inventive and organising in thinking, and to be noble and reliable in character.
 
(Recommendation of the Ibibio Magazine, vol. I. No 1, May 1941)

 

Sir Udo Udoma as a student in Dublin. Source: NM, CalabarAs for agriculture and commerce, the Union's role was mainly advisory and exhortative. Tirelessly, at public meetings, through deputations and its monthly journal, the Ibibio Magazine, the Union urged greater productivity, the adoption of new techniques and equipment like the hand-press, the pioneer oil mill and manuring, the development of palm and other plantations and the formation of co-operative societies. It advocated better prices (paid by the mostly expatriate import-export firms) palm oil and kernel and other African products. Partly to secure such prices, some ISU leaders, led by Prince Peter Eket Inyang Udo of Okon Eket, organised the Ibibio Trading Corporation in 1929, later renamed Ibibio Farmers' Association (IFA), to trade directly with foreign markets and thereby avoid the intermediary expatriate firms.

 

The first shipment of palm oil to America was made in 1933 by Mr. Vollenweider, a Swiss American and representative of the Associate Produce Shippers (USA), who came from the Gold Coast to Opobo on the initiative of the Ibibio Trading Corporation.
 
(Ann. Rep., 1934)

 

Prominent members of the Ikot Abasi branch of the Association - and by implication, the prominent traders in Opobo Division - included Chief Ntuen Ibok of Essene, IFA's Vice President General; Gabriel Ufot and Chief Japhet Akpan Udo, successive Presidents of IFA's Ikot Abasi branch; S. A. Udontia, the Branch's Secretary; Chief Ukpe Adiaha of Ibekwe and Chief Neta Akpan Eyen of Ete (Butler, et at, 1933; Uwemedimo, 1949). The IFA flourished for a time but declined as from the 1950's, owing to dissension among members.

 

As Opobo Division's major agricultural and commercial activity was the oil palm and kernel industry, both the ISU and the IFA and their Ikot Abasi branches were very concerned about the decline and eventual closure of Ikot Abasi port, the major port for export of palm oil and kernels. Both the ISU and the IFA strongly petitioned the Government to dredge the silting Opobo Bar and to re-open the port, but in vain (Umosen et al, 1949; Udoma et at, 1950).

Ibibio Trading Corporation share certificate. Source: NM, CalabarIbibio Trading Corporation share certificate. Source: NM, CalabarITCo. CircularITCo. Circular

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Category: Ikot Abasi in the Socio-Political Development

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