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The River

Author: nick on 24-08-2013, 17:00, views: 11 822


Century Portuguese CaravelThe lower portion of the big Imo River, known variously as Rio de pew de Sintra by the Portuguese (Talbot, 1926, 1: 182), River Loitomba or Compotora by the Dutch, Nkontoro and Otunkong by the Obolo (Eneyo, 1991: 32; Ejituwu, 1991:7 5, 138, 141) and Opobo or Jaja's River by the European traders, but now referred to as Ikot Abasi River, provides a natural harbour for all types of water-craft in its 10 kilometre-long and opens directly to the Atlantic ocean estuary. Its deep navigable channel allows easy high-tide access to canoes, launches and engine boats into the hinterland creeks.


The early memories in the area are of Potoki (Portuguese) caravels, anchored offshore, beyond the river sandbar, which sent boat crews to procure slaves from the big markets and coastal baracoons (bamboo enclosures for slaves), and to exchange metal bars, manilla, clothes, tobacco and rum for ivory, timber, and agricultural products.


They often conducted slave raids on the nearby settlements in order to complete their cargo. Eket oral traditions tell how African children were lured aboard ship with food delicacies and fanciful presents, and, when a good crowd of them had been gathered, the ship suddenly lifted anchor and sailed off, amid the kids' wailings (Nkereuwem, 1994).


A boom of canon gunfire announced the arrival of a slave supercargo, causing a great excitement on shore, and a flotilla of local canoes streamed to it, bringing fresh vegetables, fruits and other objects of trade for exchange. Fast topsail schooners and brigs, Dutch, French and English, continued the slave trade until it was declared illegal at the beginning of the 19th Century.


Category: Ikot Abasi


Opobo Island

Author: nick on 24-08-2013, 16:00, views: 7 534


View of the river estuaryView of the river estuaryOpobo (Town/Island), the heart of King Jaja's short-lived but powerful commercial empire, was established after his flight from Bonny in 1869 at the site of small fishing-port islands, situated at the river estuary.


After securing his position through brotherhood pacts and intermarriages with the neighbouring Andoni, Ogoni, Ibibio (Kwa) and Igbo people, Jack Jaja Pepple, now King Jaja, took the title of Amachachi (Amanyanabo) i.e., Founder and Owner of the Town and proceeded to establish his will and name on the river. Commanding the approach routes to the richest hinterland markets and relying on the network of markets, trade colonies, agents and local middlemen, and on its close relationship with the Miller Brothers of Glasgow, the small city-state grew under Jaja's leadership into the most important Delta port after Bonny. Its swift flotilla of fifty war canoes, full of armed warriors and fitted with breach-loading Gattling guns, was a formidable force on the rivers. Long after Jaja's demise, the 15,000 Opobo Island inhabitants remained almost exclusively engaged in trade and owned houses at all important trading centres and canoe-landing beaches along the Imo and Qua Iboe River tributaries, returning to Opobo 3 to 4 times a year, mostly during the annual end-of-year festivities (Webber, 1927).


The small Opobo Island, known as Kilibiama to the Bonny, Okoloba to the Andoni and as Idoro to the neighbouring Ibibio settlement of Ikot Abasi, is seen across the river from Uta Ewa beach, lying serene and desolate on the water. Its narrow streets, twisting among traditional clay-sticks-and-zinc compounds, colonial storey houses and spectacular sky-rising buildings, shrines and canoe-sheds, competing for every free inch of soil, attract visitors from far and near.


Category: Ikot Abasi


Down Below

Author: nick on 24-08-2013, 15:00, views: 3 715


Mangrove trees in a channel of Okoroinyong Creek. The white bird, ata, feeding on the exposed in the low tide muddy bank.Mangrove trees in a channel of Okoroinyong Creek. The white bird, ata, feeding on the exposed in the low tide muddy bank.Below Opobo island lies Queenstown, the Edim Nta of the Ibibio, Ogbologbo of the Obolo, the Kwenlama of the Opobo, populated and named in 1887 after Queen Victoria by Chief Uranta and his people, who left Opobo at the height of Jaja's dispute with Consul Johnston, accepted Christianity and placed themselves under British protection (Jaja, 1977: 53).


Here, the river flows grandiosely into a wide and calm estuary, the water mass opening out to an endless sea horizon, controlled by powerful water mechanisms and weather elements. Heavy storms, high waves and jagged lightening flashes churn the water during the rainy season, while gently ebbing waves and brilliant sun-drenched and cloud-patterned sky caress the seascape in good weather. Dreaded by the Obolo fishermen as a giant sea serpent, which has one end in the ocean and the other in the sky, the violent sea tornado, seen on the ominously calm horizon of water as a brilliant spot of light with a long dark line crossing between sea and sky, is a spectacular and fearful experience, hardly survived by any small fishing craft, which it has overtaken.1 In good weather and at ebb tide, the river sandbar can be clearly seen, gently breaking the ocean waves and providing a perfect spot for recreation.


Small lush-green islands, sheltering tiny fishing communities and isolated sand beaches, dot the sides of the river, while bamboo stick fences map out the borders of the fishing grounds in the estuary. Open dug-out canoes, fishing and farming boats, large and covered cargo boats, transport goods from Port Harcourt, Lagos, Oron or Fernando Po. Sailboats, with or without engine, cast fishing nets and traps in the river.


They harvest the fishing grounds and cross the estuary to land at the Opobo Island beach, at Ikot Abasi, or at one of the tiny fishing ports along the river.


The Imo River estuary, including the creek-crossed and swampy land mass below Opobo Island has been historically referred to by the local inhabitants as Down Below.


Category: Ikot Abasi


Eastern Obolo

Author: nick on 24-08-2013, 14:00, views: 6 110


St. John's Anglican Church at Okoroinyong, built in 1918St. John's Anglican Church at Okoroinyong, built in 1918Na dey tings wey you give us, Papa

Na im wey we dey manage am so.

(Church chorus)


The history of the Eastern Obolo (Andoni), whose little settlements are scattered among the mangrove swamps along the coast - from the left bank of the Imo River to the Qua Iboe River estuary and beyond - is full of myth, voyage and mystery.1 Their traditions contain elements of Bonny, Opobo and Ibibio culture. Living off the water and subsisting on seafood and its exchange with agricultural produce inland, they developed a good understanding of the interdependence of the elements in their ecosystem- the (male) soul of the great mangrove trees, which is linked to the (female) soul of the ever shifting water, to produce and hold, against the devastating elements, their offspring - the mud. On the harmony among these three, depended the survival of all aquatic life and the human existence (Talbot, 1926: 1).


The Obolo dug-out canoes and house boats, equipped with all necessities for on-board living and fitted, nowadays, with out-board engines, dominate the coastal fishing waters of the Bight. Small camps, okorombom, huddled on the sandy lagoon or estuary beaches, serve temporary shelter and fishing camps, while they follow the fish schools for months on end. Smaller boats, paddled by women and children, traverse the inner creeks and channels, engaged in shell-fish gathering and clam-breeding to supplement the men's catch during the off-season. Women also cure and smoke the fish, on made by them cane frames and take it to the market. The trade with dry fish and sea food in the Opobo and Bonny-controlled markets in the region sustained Eastern Obolo prosperity in the 18th and 19th Century. Obolo tradition maintains, that Obolo boats controlled the trade to the inland Moco (Ibibio) and Ngwa (Igbo) country upriver for the past three centuries,2 also engaging coastal piracy. During the 18th century wars with the Ogoni and Bonny for dominion of the hinterland trade routes, the Obolo blocked the markets and stopped all trade on the rivers. Both Jaja, who took a solemn oath of brotherhood at the Yok Obolo shrine to be allowed to pass and settle at the Okoloba (Opobo) Island, and his European partners who came to the river to trade, acknowledged their decisive presence.


Category: Ikot Abasi


The Ibibio Hinterland

Author: nick on 24-08-2013, 14:00, views: 6 277


The Qua Iboe Church at Ikot Usop, displaying the characteristic Qua Iboe Mission architectureThe Qua Iboe Church at Ikot Usop, displaying the characteristic Qua Iboe Mission architectureBeyond the coastal sand barrier and mangrove swamp lie the fertile farmlands of the Ibibio, where the primordial tropical forest has been cleared to give space to hundreds of small farm plots under rotational agriculture. Open horizons of undulating land stretch before the eyes, punctuated by groups of palm trees, straight and tall, towering over fallow bush and planted fields. Clumps of wine palms and bamboo line up the swampy banks of numerous streams and rivers. Mixed crops of young and tiered farm growth - fluted pumpkin, spreading along the ground; corn stalks, raising leaves above; and yam tendrils, climbing the higher shrub stalks, thoughtfully left for that purpose during the bush clearing, infuse fresh green colour in the brown-and-black, burnt-bush landscape.1


Small villages spread out in compound clusters near streams and rivers, the sources of water and traditional routes of communication and transport. Groups of low wattle-and-daub houses huddle under the overhanging canopies of big trees. A line of coconut trees, plantain and palm groves, and garden plots, fenced with bamboo sticks, indicate their presence. Wide, cleanly swept, shaded alleys connect the individual compounds and are blocked at night by stout protective barriers of rough wooden styles and fallen palm tree stalks. At dusk, women and children, who have left home in the early morning hours, file back from the farm or market, with basins and baskets of farm produce or bundles of firewood balanced on their heads. Soon after, water having been fetched from the nearby stream, the smoke and smell of numerous fireplaces indicate that preparation of the evening meal is in progress.


Bicycles, single or in groups, carrying stock of market wares, stacks of dry fish, tins of vegetables oil or calabash containers of palmwine, pass along the road by dainty Qua Iboe Churches, which pierce the sky with the high steeples of their peculiar architecture, or by the more sombre Catholic and Apostolic Church buildings, bordered by well-kept compounds and spacious school grounds.


Category: Ikot Abasi


Old Essene Market

Author: nick on 24-08-2013, 13:00, views: 4 684


There are many markets in the Division, the principal ones are all on

the waterside and are owned by Opobo traders. The biggest is at

Essene, with many others on the various creeks and watersides

(Brooks, 1917)


Urua Esen, the site of the famous Essene market, offers the tranquillity of a pastoral landscape - cultivated farmlands, punctuated by few concrete ruins of old buildings, newly planted pumpkin leaves and corn plants, among which glitter the glass of square-faced gin bottles.' A line of tall coconut trees marks the waterside, where canoes from Brass, Bonny, Okrika, Ogoni and Andoni, and from the up-river Anaang and Igbo creeks used to land, laden with trade goods or slaves, yams and palm oil. Founded by Essen Umo Essen Akama of Essene and named after him, long before the founding of Opobo Town, Urua Essen (called Ahia Essen or Essen's market, by the Bonny traders) became the end port of the Aro trade route overland and a major hinterland outpost of the Delta trading states by water (Umo Essen, 1980). It attracted middlemen, long-distance traders and small-scale Ibibio producers from the Qua Iboe and upper Cross River basins. The control over it promoted violent disputes and armed fights, one of which is said to have caused the Bonny War of 1869 and led to the Opobo emigration to the nearby island (Cheesman, 1932).


Jaja of Opobo established his undisputed authority over his Essene market, and called it after himself Da Jaja. He developed it by settling its hinterland with his people, (dependants), engaged in both palm oil production and trade, and placed his Opobo boys (traders) in charge of the waterside beach. He jealously protected the area from outside encroachment, European or African, and maintained the status quo through friendly relationships and frequent visits with the nearby Ibibio chiefs (including his friend, Chief Itak Eto, the village head of Ukan). Ritual oath-swearing against direct trading with the Europeans and swift and terrorising punitive expeditions by armed contingents enforced his will.


The remains of two trading hulks, sunk at the mouth of the Essene creek and the abandoned nearby African Association trading factory, witness to the international interest in the market's produce catchment trade and the effectiveness of its internal trade mechanism. Even after Jaja's removal and numerous armed Consular visits Essene market retained its indigenous middleman's position, warding off European encroachment in the manilla-based exchange of palm oil, palm kernel and piassava for cloth, gin, tobacco, snuff and gun-powder.


Category: Ikot Abasi


Essene Town

Author: nick on 24-08-2013, 12:00, views: 11 747


Sketch map of Essene Town square, showing the sacred shrinesSketch map of Essene Town square, showing the sacred shrinesThe mother town of all the Ikpa is Nnung Assang, known as Essene.

(Cheesman, 1932)


Originally named Nnung Assang, Essene received its name from the nearby Essene creek, which was known to the Opobo people as Esseneobio river.1 Its full name, Nnung Assang Ntan Aran Akama Ohio Offiong, traces the relationship of its founder Akama to one of the ancient centres of Ibibio dispersal. It is the most numerous settlement in the area, referred to as a town (obio) with 10 wards in the early colonial records,2 and by 1963 encompassing a population of 6,298 people, over 53 % of the entire Ikpa Nnung Assang clan.3 Until recently, on the strength of its primogeniture of origin, spiritual shrines and ceremonial importance, and a strong warrior leadership, it retained the cohesion of a cultural centre of all Ikpa Nnung Assang settlements of the present Ikpa Nnung Assang, Edem Aya and part of Ikpa Ibekwe clans, including Akpabom in Eastern Obolo. Its farmlands extended as far as Ikot Esenam (in Oruk Anam), Ikot Ekara, Ikot Etefia, Ikot Osudu and Ikot Usop.4


Essene Town Square with the sacred trees, the efe and market shedsEssene Town Square with the sacred trees, the efe and market shedsMany of the compounds (ekpuk) and each ward (owok), retain their meeting halls (efe ukot/efe obong), located in the ward's square or the chief's compound, where elders sit in the evenings to discuss, over a drink of palmwine, the local news and affairs.


The site of the first Nnung Assang Essene settlement is at the ancient Ata Essien Eka Obom, where the head of the Ekpo Nyoho society keeps custody of the shrine and final resting place (Ise/Ufok Akama) of the founder. Near-by are the Akai Ekpo (the Ekpo society grove), the ancient founder's residence, Ikpeti, and the Ibritam site, where a concealed pit-trap opened under the victim and he never came out again.5


Category: Ikot Abasi


Other Places of Interest

Author: nick on 24-08-2013, 11:00, views: 7 293


The Ibibio District Council Hall at Ikot Akan, where visiting officials and Ibibio Union delegates addressed the Chiefs of the neighbouring Ikpa and Ukpum villages. The telephone antenna for Ikot Abasi town is seen in the backgroundThe Ibibio District Council Hall at Ikot Akan, where visiting officials and Ibibio Union delegates addressed the Chiefs of the neighbouring Ikpa and Ukpum villages. The telephone antenna for Ikot Abasi town is seen in the backgroundPlaces of interest abound all around Ikot Abasi - from the ancient Mkpat Aya shrine on the confluence of the Edem Aya stream and the Essene creek, where iron pots, containing eggs and manilla and associated with the mermaid worship, used to be found1, to the first settlement of the Edem Aya clan founder, Akpan Akama, at Ikot Oboroenyin and his burial place at Ukan Akama2. The stone shrine and the old Obio Okpa site of the first settlement and cultural centre of the Ibekwe people at Ikot Essien, founded by their ancestor, Ebio, is now on ALSCON land. There are the Obot Afia (sacred white land), Udi Idiong (the Idiong burial grounds), the Uyie Nkan Ekpo (the chiefs' installation site) and the town hall of Okon, where the first co-operative society in Ikot Abasi was established.3 There are the modern rural infrastructures in Edem Aya, the Ekperenyin rural centre with a court house, a modern post office, health centre, community hall and a secondary school. The model village community at Atan Ikpe, supplied with electricity and a mini-water project, boasts of a women's Garri Processing Factory and Cassava Demonstration Farm, established in 1992 under the auspices of the Better Life for Rural Women Programme.


At Ikot Akan, an early 1800 settlement (Usen, 1966), the colonial government station was upgraded in 1930's to a Native Administration Council (Ibibio Clan Council) Headquarters, famous for awarding educational scholarships to bright indigenous children.


Category: Ikot Abasi

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