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Social Structure

Author: nick on 13-09-2013, 22:00, views: 3 211


Administrative Map of Ibibio and Andoni Areas, 1932Administrative Map of Ibibio and Andoni Areas, 1932Ikot Abasi society was hierarchically structured. At the bottom of the hierarchy was idip ete (family). This was fairly homogenous. It comprised the husband or father, his wife or wives and children (Udo, 1983: 117), and sometimes one or two unmarried brothers and very close relatives (Johnson, 1932: 17). The family head was the political boss, administrator and judge. His word was law and this was often promptly obeyed by members of the family (Ibid.).


As the family head's sons grew up and got married, they raised their own families. The related families made up ufok (household). The ufok head was known as the Ibuod ufok. He was often the oldest man in the household. He presided over the esop ufok (household council) and directed its affairs (Oworen,

1989: 38-39).


A number of households formed an extended family known as ekpuk or owok. The ekpuk coincided with a geographical quarter of the village. Each ekpuk had its square where ekpuk meetings were held, and its area of farm land. The ekpuk head, known as Oboong ekpuk, was elected by all the people of the ekpuk with the council of elders. The members of the council were not necessarily the very old men, but men who were looked up to for wisdom, wealth and personality (Cheesman, 1932: 18). The council carried out the administration of the ekpuk and settled disputes involving members of the unit (Johnson, 1932: 18).


Nsobom S. U. Umana, Paramount Ruler of Ikot Abasi pouring libation. Source: LG Council photo archives

As the ekpuk developed and later themselves flung out ekpuk of their own, they assumed the status of Obio or Idung (village). Thus each village in Ikot Abasi was made up of members of ekpuk (lineages). The largest village was Minya with 22 ekpuk by 1932 (Cheesman, 1932: 20).

The head of the village was called the Oboong hong or Oboong Idung. He had no absolute powers but administered the village in council. The council comprised the Mboong Ekpuk, village head, heads of the societies and elders with sound judgement and good common sense. It exercised legislative, executive and judicial functions of government. The village head's authority lay partly in the fact that he was the one to sacrifice to the gods of the village, which implied that his actions had divine sanction (Ibid.).


The village matters were settled by meetings at the village square, small matters by the Oboong hong with its^council of Nkwa Owo (or Elders), and important matters by a general meeting of the village assembly. At such meetings anyone was entitled to proffer his opinions, which were respected proportionately to one's social standing. Consultation between the senior men at the meeting then took place and the decision which was announced by the Oboong hong was later passed by the village crier to the populace (Cheesman, 1932: 20).


Beyond the village, there were groups of villages with people of the same ancestry, which later developed into clans. The original clans and the parent towns at which clan meetings were held were: Ikpa with centre at Nnung Assang; Ukpum with centre at Minya and later Ikot Akan; and Ibiaku with centre at Ikot Akpabang (Ibid.).


Ikot Abasi LGA now has the following five clans:


Clan Clan Head
Ikpa Edemaya Nsobom U. S. Umana - Paramount Ruler
Ikpa Ibekwe Etebom K. W. Akpanowo VII
Ikpa Nnung Assang -
Ukpum Ete Etebom S. H. U. Ekpo
Ukpum Okon Etebom U. J. Ntukobom XII


Each clan is headed by a clan head, who is chosen from one of the clans within the village and he presides over the clan council and directs its affairs. One of the clan heads is generally recognised by the State Government as the traditional head of the area referred to as the Paramount Ruler. This is relatively a new creation, and the choice of a Paramount Ruler is through a democratic process, carried out among the Clan Heads. The post is held for life and only goes to another clan head on the demise of the incumbent. The title is not a hereditary right of any particular clan. The current Paramount ruler of Ikot Abasi Local Government Area is Nsobom U. S. Umana, who is the Clan head of Ikpa Edem Aya. At present, there is no clan head for Ikpa Nnung Assang as shown in the above box.


Chieftaincy Insignia

Ntinya - chieftaincy cap 
okpono ekpe - cane head ring covered with leopard skin, denoting Idiong membership  
Ekpat - bag for carrying sacrificial items 
Esang - carved walking stick, used when travelling

Ayang - elaborately decorated piassava broom-stick staff Isim-enang - a mounted cow-tail whisk (fly-whisk) when receiving visitors

Ikpoto - wide-brimmed hat

Edet-ekpe - leopard tooth necklace

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Category: Tradition and Culture

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