Annang people of Akwa Ibom State
The Annang or Anaang is a cultural and semi-Bantu speaking ethnic group that lives in the Coastal Southeast Nigeria (also known as Southeastern Nigeria or former Southeastern State of Nigeria). The Annang people are the second largest ethnic group in Akwa Ibom State of Southeast Nigeria (Akwa Ibom State Local Government Areas), occupying eight out of the thirty one Local Government Areas in Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria viz: Ikot Ekpene, Obot Akara, Essien Udim, Abak, Etim Ekpo, Oruk Anam, Ika and Ukanafun. Persons of Annang ethnic group call themselves "Owo" or (agwo Annang). The Annangs are known for the efficacy of their traditional spiritual powers (charms), prowess in trading, and their renown art. This extends to mural paintings, raffia, masks, cement sculptures, markets, ceremonies and exceptional food.
Annang Maidien Carrying Basket of Yam (Iso Edia) at The Annang New Yam/Cultural Festival
They were formerly located in the former Abak and Ikot Ekpene Divisions of the Annang Province, in the former Eastern Region of Nigeria. They have a common boundary with the Sudanic Igbo. They had to fight many wars against the Ngwa Igbo in order to preserve their territorial integrity and their farmlands (Udo 1983). Being always confronted with inter-tribal wars, the Annang people then not having access to sophisticated weapons always resorted to the reliance on spiritual powers to conquer their enemies. Reliance on spiritual beings for aid has become a way of life among the people. In their worldview, humans must always resorts to ‘higher’ spiritual beings for assistance.
Annang people dancing at a festival
Geography and Location
The Annang territory lies between latitude 4.25 and 7 north and longitude 7.15 and 9.30 east (Enang 1979). The landscape is generally flat and low-lying with no point rising to 300 feet above sea level. There are two main seasons: the wet and rainy season which starts from April to October and the dry season from November to March. The typical rainfall pattern is bi-modal with a two week spell or break in August commonly referred to as “August Break”.
The harsh harmattan wind occurs between December and January. The area is generally humid. Vegetationally, the area lies within the rich forest zone which aids the growth of palm-wines trees, palm trees and huge lofty tropical vegetation (Ekong 1983). The huge lofty tropical trees are believed to be a soothing and natural habitat for witches. Curiously bent trees and rivers are often seen as coven for witches and other spiritual beings.
Usaka Annang in Obot Akara
Map of Annang people of Nigeria
They speak Annang language which belongs to Niger-Congo ethnolinguistic group. It is spoken by over 1.3 million Nigerians. It has various dialects such as Abak, Ikot Ekpene, Ika, Ukanafun, Etim Ekpo, Obot Akara etc.
|POPULATION FIGURES FOR ANNANGLAND (2006CENSUS)|
Below is how agwo (human being) is categorized in Annang:
Agwodeen = male person (man);
Agwo nwaan= female person (woman);
Nsek Ajen= baby or infant;
Ntok Ajen= children;
Ikpo Agwo= Elders;
Imo Agwo= Rich, wealthy person;
Ugwuene= Poor person;
Utu= wretched person;
Afoon agwo= ordinary person;
Eti agwo= good person;
Idiok agwo= bad person;
Agwo Ilien= Real person;
Agwodeen Itiaba=Complete/perfect man
Agwoodeen itiaba refers to the man who has attained the plenitude of his manhood.
Itiaba is the Annang name for seven. And the number seven is a symbol of completeness or perfection in Annang thought and tradition.
Annang people of Akwa Ibom State,Nigeria
It is the Annang belief that the universe had its orgin from a divine supreme being who was self-begotten, Awasi-Ibom. He created Anyong (the sky) and Isong (the earth) and Inyang-Ibom (ocean). Both Anyong(sky) and Isong (earth) existed in the heavens while water was below. Tradition has it that Anyong (sky) and Isong (earth) were joined together.
Ati Annang people in Abuja
Awasi-Ibom sent one of his creatures whose name is not mentioned to separate Anyong from Isong. This creature had a human form but as a giant: about seven times the size of a normal human being that we know of today. The giant came with a tool and separated Anyong from Isong. And since that time, Anyong (sky) and Isong (earth) have been at constant enmity. Whenever Anyong (sky) covers Isong (earth) we have day and whenever Isong (earth) covers Anyong (sky) we have night. Awasi-Ibom ordered Anyong and its children (the heavenly bodies: sun, moon, stars, etc) to move upward while earth was ordered to more
downward. While moving downward, earth (Isong) fell into massive water, the ocean (Akpa Ibom, the Annang name for the Atlantic Ocean). A section of it was submerged in the water and the portion that floated became the dry land. The giant went to bathe in the water after he had completed his work. He got drowned and died in the water. The particles of the decayed body of the giant, tradition holds, gave birth to the living animals and plants in both land and water. His teeth which were washed ashore germinated into many plants, shrubs and grasses. His bones became the rocks; his breath became the air and the wind. The insects which stuck to the decaying head (after having been washed ashore) grew up to become the land animals.
A certain animal “Ukpong-ajen” (wall gecko), which literally means “ soul of the child”, was seen licking the dust of the remains ( head) of the dead giant. Awasi-Ibom instructed Awasi-Isong to make a pot from a mixture of sand and water and put Ukpon-ajen (wall gecko) in there for eight days. Awasi-Ibom then sent “akuwe” (chameleon) to spy and monitor if AwasiIsong had carried out the orders, without allowing anyone to see him. Akuwe (chameleon), unseen by Awasi-Isong, inspected the work of Awasi-Isong and reported to Awasi-Ibom that the job had been done. On the eight day, Awasi-Ibom came and spat into the pot, and in the company of Awasi-Isong, broke the pot open. Suddenly, two hitherto unknown beings (male and female) emerged from the pot. Awasi-Isong asked the male being with a thunderous voice “ade anyie?” (who are you?), to which he answered with a small voice “nde agwo” ( I am a human being). Awasi-Ibom thundered” Agwo, du uwem” (human being keep on living!).
Oral tradition: The Annangs have a rich oral tradition. It is believed that the group have their origins in Egypt and settled in Ghana before arriving in the present area. The name Annang in Twi in Ghana means fourth son. It is believed that Annangs started their migration from Egypt around 7500 BC. The Abiakpo came to the northern range of Annang from Eka Abiakpo. They were quickly followed by the Ukana clan, the Utu, Ekpu, Ebom and Nyama (The British would lumped these together and gave the name Otoro), and other Annang clans.
Annang people from Obot Akara
Oral tradition has it that the Annang and the entire people of akwa Ibom and Cross River States of Nigeria (Akwa Cross people) have occupied their land in the coastal Southeastern Nigeria thousands of years before the birth of Christ.
Annang people of Akwa Ibom State,Nigeria
The same oral tradition has it that their ancestors were Israelites (Jews) of the Northern Kingdom who left Israel to Egypt before the Babylonian captivity and that the ancestors of the Annangs and other people of Akwa Ibom and Cross River States (the Efik, the Ibibio, etc.) of Nigeria were the products of marriages of the people of Israel and Egyptians who migrated from Egypt to their coastal southeastern land in Nigeria via Ethiopia and Sudan.
The group is related to the Efiks and the Ibibios. It is believed that they all originated in ancient Egypt and through various wars and conquests were pushed south into the Sahara Desert. They moved across the desert and some settled in the upper West African region about 7500 BC. Remnants of their language according to Waddell can be found among the Egyptians. (Waddell, 1893) Another evidence of their Egyptian origin is found in the burial customs and veneration of the dead. Migration brought the groups to live among the Twi of Ghana where the name Annang means fourth son. From Ghana, the group moved eastward into present day Cameroon. It was in the Cameroon highlands that the group broke off but later arrived at same territory in the Coastal Southeastern Nigeria . It is believed that upon their arrival at the virgin coastal southeastern Nigeria the groups took an oath of solidarity to be together and bonded to fight whatever was seen as a common enemy. Lineages were recognized and the groups organized themselves into clans based on old family origins known as Iman, a similar structure extends into the land of their northern neighbors, the Igbo. (Ette, 2008)
Annang women in USA
Written source: Very little was written in the European papers about the Annang people before the middle of the nineteenth century. Early European traders who arrived in the cross river territories referred to groups who lived outside of the coastal areas as residents of Egbo-Sharry Country.(Derived from the derogatory name of Ekpo Iseri used by the Efiks for those who were poor but proud. (Ette, 2007). Rumors of cannibalism and fear tactics were used as tools by the Efiks to keep the European traders away from trading directly with groups outside the coast. This tactic worked, for it prevented the traders from going outside of the Calabar middle men until the Christian missionaries arrived in the middle of the nineteenth century Ette, 2001). The first written mention of the Annangs is in Wilhelm Koelle's account of liberated slaves in Sierra Leone(Koelle, 1854). He mentioned a liberated slave named Ebengo who hailed from Nkwot in Abak. Ebengo was captured and sold to the Portuguese but was subsequently freed by a British warship and later settled in Waterloo, Sierra Leone. The British soldiers listed the languages spoken by the slaves in that captured ship as "Annang" (Koelle, 1854). The second mention is in the description of what is known as the Ikot Udo Obong Wars. The British described the killings of the Annangs by King Jaja of Opobo as a punishment for the Annangs defying his orders and trading in palm oil directly with the British merchants instead of going through him as a middle man. In the war that ensued, the British intervened and with the help of the Annangs, they captured (King Jaja) and exiled him to the West Indies. The British established a military post at Ikot Ekpene in 1904 and then in Abak.
Following British colonialism and with changes and ban in ancient hunting practices, the Annang witnessed attacks by wild animals. As the men went to fight in World War II these attacks intensified. The British authorities called the attacks murder and blamed it on "the barbarism of the Africans". The indigenes were accused of belonging to a secret society called Ekpeowo (The Human Leopards Society). It has been argued that killings borne out of insurgency against the British elsewhere in Africa led to the branding of leopard attacks as murders by the British authorities among the Annang. Between 1945 and 1948 about 196 people were killed in Ikot Okoro community in the present day Oruk Anam LGA. It is pertinent to note that the Ikot Okoro Police station was set up because of this reason. The British convicted 96 people and executed 77 innocent people (Pratten, 2007). The Annang religion called Idiong was banned and the priests arrested. Articles and worship materials were publicly burnt and those who did not join Christianity automatically became suspects (Ette, 2007).
The Annangs have a history and reputation for their fearlessness and the ability of villages and clans to bind together to fight a common enemy. This is perhaps why they were able to thrive living so close to the Aro Confederacy's center, Arochukwu with its famed Ibini Ukpabi oracle. A particular interesting war group was the famous Oko- warriors. This war group was highly functional in the 1950s. The American anthropologist (messenger 1951:41) called them the "warrior Cult". These warriors were considered invulnerable to penetration of knives, spears and arrows. In various instances sharp machetes were tested on the body parts of members.
The Annangs suffered genocide in the Nigerian Civil War. The war lasted for three years (1967–1970) and the Annang lost a significant number of its people. The effect of the war and the resulting neglect of the Annang is now a serious political issue and a source of unrest in the area. The Annangs have been overlooked in the current state structure in the Nigerian system through which the country's oil wealth is shared. Repeated demands for the creation of a state for the Annang area have been ignored by the Nigerian authorities, while other areas that do not produce oil have been made states and therefore set up as a unit to receive the oil money. Like other minority groups in the volatile Niger Delta in Nigeria, history and culture are taking a back seat to issues of politics and justice but the Annangs continue to fight for their rights.
Chief Dr Godswill Akpabio, Annang native and Governor of Akwa Ibom State,Nigeria
Annang territory is not industrialized; the people are basically subsistence farmers, traders, craft men or civil servants. The economy is not strong enough to sustain the people. Sometimes young people are often given out to more comfortable people for menial works in the cities.
Annang Tribe Maidens Carrying Basket of Yam (Iso Edia) at The Annang New Yam/Cultural Festival
The farm activities are a prestigious pursuit for both men and women. After the farm plots have been cleared by men for women, planting and care of crops devolve exclusively upon the shoulders of women. The only exception here is yam-care, which is a privileged responsibility of men. While the Abak zone is notable for its oil palm products, raffia goods are a profitable source of income for a good number of people in the Ikot Ekpene zone, the Raffia city. Much of these goods are mostly exhibited at the Obo market, the most central market for the whole of Annang.
The traditional religion of the people is based on the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being called Abasi Ibom (Abasi Enyong) whom they believe lives beyond the clouds, and myriads of divinities and spiritual beings (Abasi Isong) that assist Abasi Ibom to deal with human problems of moral, social, economic, political and psychological nature (Udo E.A. 1983/Esen 1988). “Ibom” means the whole limitless universe. Here accordingly, he is the lord of the whole boundless universe and everything within it. Due to his boundlessness, there is no temple nor shrine for him, since that cannot accommodate him (Enang, 1979:5). Awasi-Ibom is ubiquitous, and, and because of this, no particular temple, place or shrine can accommodate him. He, therefore, needs no temple nor shrine since he can neither be localized nor spatialized. He transcends space and time continuum. The temple is, therefore, non-existent in the Annang religion. As the Awasi-Ibom is unlimited, so are his powers.However, Abasi Ibom is a withdrawn God, the so-called ‘deus-otiosus’ and hence assistance from other divinities and ancestral beings. Awasi Ibom or Abot is the creator, the creator of the divinities, humans, animals, plants and other existents in the world. Awasi Ibom comes first in the hierarchy of existence.
Annang initiated "Ekpo" man with Ekpo masqueraders
According to their order of importance, ‘Awasi Anyong’ (god of the sky) and ‘Awasi Isong’ (god of the earth) are nearer to Awasi Ibom than other deities. When libations are poured at public functions in Annang land, invocations are made to ‘Awasi Anyong’ and ‘Awasi Isong’. Awasi Anyong takes charge of the affairs of the ethereal region while Awasi Isong is concerned with the happenings on earth.
The exact number of these divinities is unknown. Messenger gives an estimated number of these divinities as being over thirty (Messenger 1959). Enang (1979) leaves the number at twenty three noting that their exact number cannot be know as individuals and villages or clans can and do easily welcome and accept any ‘new god’ from anywhere if the community believes the ‘god’ is powerful. This is to be expected in a polytheistic
religion of this nature. Of all the divinities, one most dreaded among the people- "Ekpo ka Owo"- whose duty is to check and punish infidelity in the marriage institution.
At the head of all the deities are “Eka Awasi (mother goddess) and “Eka nnem” (mother of the deities). These two are believed to exert control over lesser deities.
Tabular arrangement to show the names of the deities, their abodes and functions.
Name Approximation English Equivalent Abode Function
Awasi Anyong Sky god The Sky In charge of the ethereal region
Awasi Isong Earth god The earth In charge of the earth
Eka Awasi Earth goddess The earth Responsible for female fertility
Eka nnem Head of divinity The earth Protection of other deities
Nnem usung god of the road Road corners Protection of the roads
Ekpenyong god of the wood The wood Protecting the woods
Ikpa isong god of the village Village squares Protection of the villages
Nnem utin god of the sun The sun Responsible for sun light
Nnem idung god of the home Compound entrance Protection of the home
Mmiam deities of truth Compound entrance Responsible for truth and justice
Idio inwang goddess of farm The farm Responsible for good harvest
Nnem iman god of the clan Clan headquarters Protection of the clan
Nnem akai god of the forest The forest Protection of the forest
Abot god of fertility Road corners Responsible for reproduction
Nnem mmong goddess of water Seas,rivers,streams,spring In charge of water bodies
Mbama god of first harvest Village square Responsible for first harvest
Esien emana reincarnation deity The forest In charge of reincarnation
Nnem erim god of the rain The atmosphere In charge of rain
(cf. Enang, Salvation in a Nigerian Background, 1979).
The gods have different function put at their charge. Those with religious obligations are in charge of the religious activities of the clan, village, or home. Their ministers are the religious practitioners who make offerings on behalf of the people. They transmit the prayers and intentions of the people to the gods. Some of the gods fulfil social roles by fostering reproduction, health, long life and protection of the families. In the economic sphere, it is believed that the various ‘nnem’ help in successful growth of crops on the field and good harvest. Those with political portfolio help in the proper functioning of the village, clan or town. They aid the villages at war and support the chiefs in their political roles.
Although, people, for convenience in sacrifice, locate the divinities at special abodes, their homes are porous through and through, so that the divinities could be said to be everywhere. They are personal as well as non-personal. Therefore, despite their invisibility, they are most frequently approached in personal and social needs.
Annang tribe man
There is a strong belief in patrilineage ancestors (the living-dead) in life after death and in reincarnation. The dead are believed to continue in some kind of existence in the underworld invisible to the humans. The Ancestors (Mme Ette-Ette) acts as the spiritual custodians of the family and must be placated periodically to ensure their protection. The ancestors share both in the good and bad in the life of the social units (Ennang, 1979:26). Invisibly operating, too, is a force called “odudu”, which the Annangs believe to pervade nature. It is not identifiable, has no permanent abode and can, therefore, be conveyed in everything and sent to any place to do either good or harm. It is impersonal, non-physical, and is diffused as the melannesian force, called “mana” (Codrington, 1891:118). Workers of evil magic are believed to possess the ability to use “odudu” in bringing about the destruction or death of man, while good magic workers are believed to invoke “odudu” for the benefit of those who approach them. As soon as “odudu” finds itself invoked into application, it assumes the dimension of a personal force.
Annang tribe woman
The belief in witchcraft is very prominent in the traditional religion of the Annang people. Witches and sorcerers have powers that come from their aberrant personalities; they perform antisocial magic. In their
work, witches employ the assistance of animals or humanoids as servants or messengers. Although in
most Annang communities, some witches are believed to be males, most are believed to be females. They
meet around fires to promote their interests and eat the revived body of someone they have destroyed by
supernatural powers. This phenomenon, which is of course by far not only found only in Annangland, can
in the African context be related to the African life and worldview according to which the totality of reality
consists of the interaction of forces and powers.
When there are crises in life or misfortune befall an Annang person, for instance, if a member of the family takes ill suddenly, or dies, if a woman suffers miscarriage, if an accident occurred, theft, the person immediately begins to wonder what might be responsible for the mishap. At once the person begins to think of the gods, the spirits, witches, enemies, dead ancestors who might have been responsible for the particular misfortune. The religious ‘expert’: priests, diviners, soothsayers, rainmakers, witch-doctors, mediums, sorcerers and medicine men and women are very important figures in the lives of the people because they are expected to give explanations in all areas of human life: spiritual, social, economic, political etc. The spirits are to be placated to ensure peace. Witches are believed to be everywhere and the religious leaders must be engaged to eradicate them. The spiritualists and religious experts are believed to have the antidote to ensure a hitch-free human existence.
The Annang people were first introduced into Christianity by the English Methodist Missionaries in 1919 (Enang 1979). Gradually many other Christian missions followed. Today there are very many varieties
of Christian denominations in the area that taking a census of them will not only be difficulty but almost
impossible as new forms of churches keep coming up everywhere. The area is often referred to as having the
Churches as the main industry.
Beautiful Annang tribe woman, Pat Akpabio,Nigerian top gospel artist
Annang Taboos (Ibed)
.Taboos were associated with rituals and were thus held in absolute sacredness and sanctity. Contraventions brought undesirable material consequences to the offender and the community. Rituals were often performed to expiate and propitiate the evil committed. Some days were set aside and held to be sacred. For example, No woman was expected to fetch from the community stream on Ared market day (Usen Urua Ared). No one was expected to offend his grandchild or grandchildren (Ajejen or Nto Ajejen), his or her grandparents (Etebom and/or Ekam), his inlaws (Ukod). A woman is prohibited from having sexual intercourse with another man other than her husband. Contravention of this injunction attracts the dead of the husband, who is believed to be killed by the wife through the evil minstrels of eros called Ekpo Nka Agwo. This is not a general rule, as this rule operates contrariwise in some Annang communities. Be it as it may, this law appears to be an unjust law as the punishment for the offence does not devolve on the offender, but on another
person. This contradicts the Annang belief in retribution and the belief that “the ashes follow its thrower” (Aduok ntong ke nton akene)
The following are some of Iman Annangs and their food taboos. Eka Abiakpo clans do not eat turtle. The Afaha people forbade its members from eating the (Nserise) squirrel. They identified with the quickness and intelligence of the animal. Other examples of clan groups and their food taboo are: Ukana python (Asabo); (Ibom); Ekpenyong (albino Python); Ikpe Uruk- Ikot (snake); Utu, Ebom, Midim (birds); Nto Osung (African black bird). Other Annang clans chose vegetables as their food taboo. Thus Ika has sweet yam (anem) as taboo, and Nto Edino has the river reed (Nyama). The food taboo was so important to the Annang that it was used as a distinguishing characteristic to locate the origin of an individual and to separate one Iman from another. Children learnt as part of the socialization process that a particular Iman are people living in a particular geographical area with a given food taboo. Ekanem (2002) reported that those from Midim preferred to starve rather than violate their food taboo during the Nigerian civil war that lasted from 1967 to 1970.
Annang tribe people,Akwa Ibom State
The Annang society is structured around a patrilineal (patriarchal) system of descent with significant
matrifocal element. Individuals locate their place in the social world from the Idip, literally translated as, womb. Thus a brother/sister from the same Idip means that they can trace their origin to the same mother or father. The household consists of a man as the head of the family, his wife (wives) and children all owing allegiance to the household head. Since polygamy is practised in the society, all household that acknowledge a common unbroken agnate line of descent constitute a lineage known as Ekpuk (singular: Ufok), which (literally a house or compound). Groups of Ekpuk which can trace their origin to some extent to common ancestors form "Idung," a village. Villages are governed by village heads and council. Groups of villages form "Abie,"a clan (Essien 2010).
Annang tribal elders
Leadership at the family, lineage, village, or clan level remains the prerogative of the men, and lineage ties extends to women even after marriage. There are many societies and associations (Urim) for men and women which are very important in traditional village life. Individuals are measured by both the number and types of memberships in Urim and by the achievements of one or more Urims. Governance is done by elderly males who act as the legislative arm called Afe Isong, directed by the Obong or Abong Ichong (Village Chief and Clan Chief) who is the head and the chief executive but without the authority beyond what the Afe Ichong gives. A chief can be appointed by the Afe or can be an inherited office. The strength of any individual, family (or group for that matter) is typically based upon a consensus of the village or clan through this complex social system. In all this, Annang women are not completely subordinate to men.
Instead Annang women are partners and leaders in many aspects of Annang tradition, including serving as female chief priests "Abia Idiong" in the Idiong cult or as healers in the healing cults. The first-born female known as Adiaha is important and commands respect in the family and lineage. Some traditions hold that a woman's first birth should take place in her mothers compound. Women organizations such as "abi-de" and "Nyaama", and "Isong Iban" play important roles in giving the women voice and status in society. There are no traditional or cultural barriers that prevent women from attaining high offices or positions. Indeed, traditionally Annang women have a great deal of economic independence from men. The society was semi-matriachal before colonialism. Children bore the names of their mothers and such common names as Essien, Essiet, Ukpong and Umo were female names and became androgenized when the missionaries saw matriacrchy as anti-Christian .(Ette,2009). Annangs value the ability to speak well and oratory ability using proverbs is highly desirable, especially among the leaders. The American anthropologist, Peter Farb, stated that the name "Annang" among this group means 'they who speak well' An individual who has the gift of eloquent speech is often complimented as Akwo Annang meaning the singer of Annang.
Socially, among the Annang people, the family, communal spirit and social ties are very strong. This communal attitude established among the Annang a typical sort of friendliness and trust to which this proverb refers: ‘The Annang even exchange drinking gourds in a dark room’. This trust is strengthened by the fear of the gods and the ancestral spirits who would not hesitate to punish those who seek the downfall of any of his or her fellow tribal woman or man. The family is the first natural society. Some families are polygamous and some are monogamous.
In Annang society ranks are not hereditary. This means that a person’s position is not determined by ascription. Upward and downward mobility exist due to the flexible social stratification that exists among the
people. Social groups are not arranged in a fixed order of superiority and inferiority. Marriage is a very
important institution for the people. In the traditional society, everyone is expected to marry and have
children. But social services are not put in place to help the families cope with the social issues that arise daily
Right of Inheritance and Succession
The right of inheritance of property at the death of a man devolves on his sons. Among others, the eldest son (Akpan) benefits more than other sons. He inherits, by traditional belief, the father’s buildings or houses, and he is heir apparent to the throne if his father were a royal head. In terms of his portions of land, these are usually divided among the male children, beginning from the eldest to the youngest. Women or female children do not enjoy this right in the Annang society
It involves the ways of doing things in the society. These were the customs and traditions obtainable in the land. They were believed to have originated from distant past and transmitted to the present through the ancestors. Due to their origin from the ancestors, they were observed with some sense of sacredness and were mostly followed with rituals. Eru-unam-mkpo guided performance of events in the society, such as birth and naming, death and burial, marriages, festivals, etc.
Annang tribe women`s group
Laws were specific rules and regulations in the Annang society. They also entailed prohibitions, alongside rules and regulations. Some of these specific rules were: Land tenure, whereby lands were expected to be kept fallow for seven years before they were ripe for farming; Village pathways had to be swept weekly, etc. Moreover, the village council would place intermittent injunctions restraining villagers from harvesting the palm fruits. This rule (ugwuok ajop) was so made to permit the village council to harvest the palm fruits, sell
them and use the money for village projects. After the village council would have completed its duty, the villagers were permitted again to harvest their fruits. The day this injunction was lifted, called ugwuoko ajop, villagers were permitted to harvest from any palm oil tree, be it their own or not. After this day, title of ownership of the palm oil trees went back to their original owners.
Utom (Duties and Obligations)
There were duties to the community, duty to one’s family, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, wives, husband, father, mother, elders, strangers, friends and in-laws. Communal work, such as, sweeping of the village pathways, building of the village hall, etc, also fell within the purview of utom.
Annang tribe Maidens carrying basket of yam
Iro (Manners and Etiquette)
It entailed manners and etiquette which went beyond the self to how one comported himself or herself becomingly in public. A youth was always not expected to be first greeted by an elderly person, but rather, he or she was expected to greet the elder first. A youth was expected to extend two hands while having handshake with an elderly person. A youth was not expected to request handshake from an elderly person by being the first to extend his or her arms. A youth was not expected to give response to any advice given by an elderly person, for the Annang say “ese ekokop item, agwo isi iboroke” (meaning, “Advice is listened to, but not responded to”). Moreover, a youth was not expected to drink the drakes of palm wine in the presence if his elders. Litigants in disputes were expected to avoid unguarded remarks, as contraventions could incur special fines. Even though some unusual behaviours which contravened standards of good manners did not attract penalties, they were duly condemnable and frowned at. Examples are, whenever a
recipient did not thank the donor; when a girl climbed the tree; when a child insolently responded to the parents’ rebuke, etc.
Annang tribe man
In traditional African societies there is a right to associate freely with one’s own kins within an extended family, a right to associate with people outside the extended family, a right also to inter-tribal association in marriage. This right is limited in certain communities in Igbo land. There is the practice of a caste system, the “Osu”caste system. The Osu are believed to attend to certain idols and thus were seen and treated as holy sect, and due to their closeness and consequent “sacredness”, they are not related with normally. These groups of people are treated as inferior to other human beings, and as such there is no deliberate
intermarriage with them.
Members of Annang tribe Ekpo secret cult
In traditional Annang society, only male initiates have the right to belong to the “Ekpo” masquerade cult. Those who have not been initiated, some males and all women are not altogether free to move about in the society during the “Ekpo” masquerade festival. At the climax of this festival, called “Ndok Ekpo”, women are not free at all to be seen outside their homes. This is usually the last week of the tenth month of the year, October. This restricts their freedom of movement.
Dispute Settlement, Punishment, Justice and Court System in Annang
Whenever, his or rights were infringed, or whenever he or she had a case, the Annang person most often sought justice by resorting to the lineage or village council depending on the where the other litigant came from. If the parties came from the same lineage, the lineage (lineage) council would be the court of jurisdiction; if the parties to the case came from different lineages, the village council would assume jurisdiction over the case. Furthermore, cases involving litigants from different villages were entertained by the clan court, which was empanelled with the village heads and ordained traditional priests called “Akuku” (the plural version of Akuku) .
The court hierarchy rose from the lower to the higher. This started from the family council, to the lineage council, to the village, and to the clan council. Cases were always referred to the higher courts if they were not decided at the lower courts, or as appeals by the litigants if he or she was dissatisfied with the decision by the lower courts. When criminality was hard to determine, resorts were made to the traditional truth
determinants, which were: Oath (Mmiam); Divination (Iyong); and Ordeal (Ukang).
Mmiam was the god of justice. Recourse to mmiam decided the case and settled the disputes, since there was strong sense of belief in its efficacy, and there was no appeal available. A period of time was always given for the effect of mmiam after it had been sworn to. The oath taker was expected to suffer some affliction, mostly death, during this period. If he or she died or suffered the required affliction, he or she was deemed to have been guilty, and his or her affliction would have to be expiated per rituals. If neither affliction nor death visited him or her, he or she would be publicly declared innocent before the entire community.
Iyong was the process and method of inquiring the will of the gods by the diviner (awia iyong). The awia iyong possessed expert powers to invoke the spirits or the gods. He would shake the rattle (ekpuud), make incantations, and cast some objects (mostly bones, pebbles, nuts, teeth or fangs of some powerful animals like cat, snake, dog, centipede, i.e., mbamba ) on the ground. Sometimes, he would gaze into some water in a bottle or in a white basin. It was believed that the gods or ancestral spirits communicated the truth through him.
The operative techniques and process of Iyong was closely associated and similar to nkukud (oracle) and use-mkpo (foretelling). While iyong as a means of justice dealt with the present, it, however, delved into distant past and also looked in to the future.
Ukang was primarily instituted to detect and punish offenders. It, however, operated within the realm of the magical and the mysterious. It was supernatural with physical and material effects. John Bosco Ekanem and Joseph Udondata (2011) outlined the different types of ukang in their work . These are:
1. Ukang Ujo Aran (Ordeal of the boiling oil);
2. Ukang Ntuen-Ibok (Ordeal of the Alligator Pepper);
3. Ukang Akook Ukod (Ordeal of the Bamboo);
4. Ukang Ikpa Unam (Ordeal of the Leather);
5. Ukang Akpe Ajop (Ordeal of Oil Palm-Fruit Fibre);
6. Ukang Ndaam (Ordeal of the Raffia)
Annang Tribe Maidens Carrying Basket of Yam (Iso Edia) at The Annang New Yam/Cultural Festival
Ukang: The Rituals of Crime Detection and Control in
Annang Social Justice System
Anthonia M. Essien, Ph.D
Department of Religious and Cultural Studies,
Faculty of Arts, University of Uyo,
Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.
The greatest instrument of crime control in the traditional Annang society is Ukang (trial by ordeal). Ukang is a traditional and religious ritual used in uncovering, revealing and discovering hidden secrets and exposing criminals such as thieves, murderers, sorcerers, adulterers and other criminals. Ukang is widely used in detecting crimes and it is believed that miscarriage of justice rarely occurred. In recent times Ukang has been used as a means of detecting crimes among the Annang people. However, Iheriohamma (1997) is of the opinion that it could be manipulated in certain circumstances to favour or disfavour the clients. It is against this background that this article tries to examine critically the use of Ukang as an instrument of crime detection in the traditional administration of justice in Annang society.
There are many types of Ukang among the Annang ethnic group. Ukang ufiop aran (ordeal of hot boiling oil), Ukang nsen unen (ordeal of egg), Ukang ikpa unam (ordeal of animal skin), Ukang uyet enyin (eye-washing ordeal), Ukang ntuen ibok (ordeal of the alligator pepper), Ukang Okok (bamboo ordeal), Ukang akpe eyop (ordeal of palm fruit fibers) and Ukang ndam(ordeal of raffia). Ukang is a direct appeal to the spiritual beings to show by miracle where the right lay. Ukang has religious sanction.
Ukang is an important instrument of crime control among the Annang people to keep to one order. This has been one form of social justice and crime control in the area from time immemorial. The basic principle here is that if a person is guilty, evil will befall him according to the words used in administering the Ukang. There is no doubt among the people of Annang that the traditional institution of Ukang has been an effective instrument of crime control, restoring trust, fidelity, establishing the truth or falsehood of what people say especially on disputed issues and doubtful circumstances (Ekong 2009).
Annang man from Abak
Ukang is one form of traditional instrument of crime control in Annang land administered through the use of metaphysical or mystical powers to discover hidden secrets. Ukang is feared much in Annang locality and this fear has contributed immensely to crime control. Based on this statement, J. S. Mbiti supported the above explanation when he observed that:
"The gods are the most reliable beings and also the powers
that are capable of vindicating the just and expose as well as
punish the wicked. As custodians of morality, justice and
sincerity, the ancestors, divinities and other spiritual beings
are invited to witness any social agreement between men
and fellow man. The belief is that God or some other higher
beings greater than man will punish the person who swears
falsely or break the stipulations of the oath, agreement or
statement (Mbiti 1969)."
Ukang plays significant role in the control of crime in Annang land. However, this observation was in line with Antia’s standpoint which noted that:
"All those who committed the most serious crimes of
adultery, rape, elopement, stealing, abortion, the
profanation of the most sacred traditions, (the
eating of new yams before the official celebration of the
New Year festival) and murder were given adequate
penalties. Unfortunately, all these crimes no matter how
carefully manipulated, must be revealed and there was
no time limit for their due penalties (Antia 2008)."
In addition, Ukang, prevents wicked acts among the people because no matter how secret a particular crime is, it must be discovered and the defaulter or culprit would be brought to “book” or punished according to the laws of the land.
Annang traditional dancers from Akwa Ibom State
Furthermore, the fear of Ukang is the driving force in the maintenance of a high level of morality by doing what is right, good and moral and avoiding what is evil, wrong and bad. People fear being exposed through the instrumentality of Ukang. Ukang, therefore, is potent in social control. Ukang is an effective traditional instrument used by the people to discover the truth of a matter, discover hidden secrets and to cast away doubt with reference to the validity and reliability of a statement or accusation in any circumstances. However, according to Ekong (2009) because of the awe it creates in the minds of the people, many people in Annang land have shunned or avoided embarking on any criminal activity. It would appear that Ukang is
usually used as the last resort when other avenues of crime detection have failed to achieve the desired result (Udo 1983).
According to Essien (2005), there are some other methods of problem solving which adherents of Annang indigenous religions would accept. But popular among these is the practice of Ukang. It is an institution which seeks to uncover hidden secrets and detect defaulters in the community. The Ukang specialists can“perform” some ordeals to unveil secrets or fish out culprits in a community or resolve difficult controversies in a community. Consequently, there are many types of ordeals in Annang land which explains how the Annang people attempt handling social problems through esoteric knowledge. The Ukang ordeals are very mysterious, often full of dreadful processes that cannot be scientifically proven. Essien therefore concludes
that Ukang and many other ordeal methods in Annang society have their root in the people’s religious worldview. Although still practiced to this day, their origin is lost in history; hence, many people, educated and uneducated, rural or urban dwellers, still patronize the ukang specialists during moments of confounding experiences.
Ekpo masquerade of Annang people
The Institution of Ukang among the Annang People
All African societies including Annang society agree on the basic notions of right and wrong as part of their traditional ethics. In these societies, there exist laws that regulate behavior, ensure compliance and obedience to authorities, reward and punishment of people who commit one crime or the other. But there are variations on what constitutes crime in any given human society and as such crime could be said to be relative to a particular society. Since crime is an integral part of human society, every society aspires to bring crime under control and as a result so many methods have been devised by both traditional and modern societies to checkmate crime. However, one way of controlling crime in Annang traditional society is the use of Ukang.
Ukang is an instrument of crime detection and control which unveils secret crimes publicly, thus, compelling criminals to accept their guilt or what they had earlier denied. Commenting on Ukang, Udo (1983) points out that:
"The Ibibio believed that a man could not tell lies and get
away with crimes. According to them, an ordeal was a
direct appeal to the Supreme God (Abasi Ibom), gods and
ancestors to show by miracle, where the right lay."
What Udo said about the Ibibio concerning Ukang is similar to the situation in Annang land. However, among Annang people, Ukang is concerned with deciding a person’s guilt or innocence in a matter in which the truth is hidden. The people consult Ukang to find the truth about disputed issues where the truth cannot be easily ascertain.
In the practice of the institution of Ukang in Annang land, if a person or a group of persons accused of an unjust or wicked act or crime denied the charge, and there was some doubt about the validity of the accusation, the accused would still be summoned to appear before Annang traditional court or council in the village. The accused person or group of persons would be asked to prove his or their innocence by undergoing an ordeal of Ukang. The performance of Ukang in Annang land usually creates periods of panic, anxiety and suspense for both the accused and the curious, suspecting and desperate community. Thus, the anxiety is greater for both the community and the accused. However, the result of the Ukang takes immediate effect before the very eyes of the community who are watching curiously to know the decision of the Ukang. Among the Annang people Ukang is administered on an accused person or persons when other instruments of crime detection have failed and Ukang becomes the last resort. Anyone found guilty through Ukang is made to face public scorn, ridicule, disgrace and stigmatization in addition to facing the official punishment prescribed by the Ukang administrator or priest (Ukong 2006).
Ikot Ekpene plaza,Akwa Ibom local Government Area,Nigeria
The Different Methods of Administering Ukang among the Annang People
On the administration of Ukang which consists of various types depending on the one preferred by the community, the Ukang administrator says a special prayer, invoking the powers of the gods of justice, truth and morality in Annang land. Among the things he says in the prayer and invocation is that the gods and spirits thus invoked should prove before the waiting and anxious community the innocence or guilt of the accused about to be tried. The Ukang administrator then ends the prayer and invocation by pouring the traditional libation and proceeding to the administration of the desired type of Ukang. The several types of Ukang that exist as an instrument traditionally employed to control crime in Annang society are as follows:
Ukang ufiop Aran (Ordeal of hot boiling Oil)
The accused person is brought out to stand before the curious and anxious community (Richard 1994). According to F.M. Mbon, the accused is asked to repeat this prayer:
"If I am guilty of this thing I am being accused of; if I have
told a lie to this noble community; let this boiling oil
burn my hand. But if I am not guilty, and if I have told the
truth, may nothing happen to my hand (Mbon 1994)"
After the prayer, the accused dips his right hand into the pot of boiling oil. If he had told the truth and was not guilty, truly nothing would happen to his hand. But if he had lied to the community, every inch of the part of his hand that touched the boiling oil is burnt and he will carry the scar for the rest of his life as a sign of being guilty of a crime. Meanwhile, within few weeks, the person thus “caught” and exposed by the Ukang becomes pale, and parts of his body (usually the legs, stomach and face) become swollen. Invariably, the person dies shortly thereafter. It therefore means that in Annang society, Ukang has a religious sanction and is still effective as a means of securing justice as well as a deterrent against criminal tendencies and false accusation even in this contemporary period where science is believed to be the answer to most human problem. Before any Ukang was given to an accused person, his parents, and immediate relations had to be invited. The Ukang ufiop aran can work in another way. The Ukang administrator places hot oil in a big pot and asked the accused to put his hands into it while it is still boiling. If after three days blisters were seen on his hands, the accused was declared guilty, but if not, he was innocent. The people believe that the gods and ancestors would intervene and cause the presence or absence of the blisters. In consequence, according to Udo (1983) the decision was final and no human being could rescind it.
Ukang Ntuenibok (Ordeal of Alligator Pepper)
In this ordeal, the Ukang administrator uses the seeds of the alligator pepper (also known as “grains of paradise”, (Afromomum meleguete) and ritually “command” them to get into the eyes of the guilty in a gathering of suspects. Since the pepper causes excruciating pain when it comes in contact with the human eyes, if the procedure of ukang is successful and one of the suspects begins to scream in agony, then he/she is held as the culprit (Anyanwu 2004).
Ukang Okok (Bamboo Ordeal)
This procedure according to A.M. Essien involves the use of a bamboo cut from special palm tree (elaesis guineesis) called ifiaku. This bamboo is ritually treated with a cock is tied at one of its ends and carried by seven strong, young men. After chanting some incantations, the men carrying the bamboo start running uncontrollably, spiritually directed and empowered through the ritual incantation till they arrive at the house of the culprit of the act the community is attempting to uncover. This ordeal is also employed to discover witches, wizards, sorcerers in the community.
Ukang Akpe-Ayop (Ordeal of the Palm Fruit Fibers)
In this ukang the suspects must all have some bunches of the fibers of palm fruit in their hands while kneeling down before the Ukang administrator. After the invocation and incantation, it is believed that the bundle of fibers would stick to the neck of the culprit, thereby squeezing and choking the culprit, and until he or she admits the guilt, he may be choked to death by mysterious forces, which possessed the fibers. It is only at that point of admission of the guilt that the fibers would drop off from his or her neck (Okon 2010).
Ukang Ndam (Ordeal of Raffia Palm)
According to this ordeal, some strands of raffia are placed in a basin of water and the suspects are asked to stir the water in turn. The strands of raffia mysteriously coil around the hands of the culprit. The innocent people will stir the water without any effect.
Ukang Nsen Unen (Egg ordeal)
In the Annang traditional society, the suspect would be asked to break an egg which has been magically treated by the ukang administrator. In this practice, if the egg broke, the accused was guilt, but if the egg failed to break then he or she is declared innocent of the crime accused of. The people have used this traditional instrument to reduce the incidence of crime of all sorts because of the awe it creates and the fear of being publicly disgraced (Umana 2010).
Ukang Ikpa Unam (animal skin ordeal)
In this ordeal the accused person is directed to sit on a leather mat which had been prepared by the ordeal administrator. As the accused sits on the leather mat, the ukang administrator makes incantations: if the accused is guilty, the mat stick to his or her buttocks, but if innocent, let the mat not stick to the buttocks. Here again, what happens is regarded as a direct answer from the unseen and no one could reverse the judgment which became final (Udoma 2010).
Ukang Uyet Enyin (Ordeal of washing the eyes)
The items used in this ordeal include: clean water in a white basin, three traditional leaves known as ofuo leaves, and three arrows. The Ukang administrator makes a circle with his right foot on the ground, places the basin with its contents in the circle and asked the accused to squat by the plate and face the sun. He or she is ordered to close the eyes tightly. The ukang administrator, standing behind, conjured and rubbed the person’s eyes with the contents of the basin seven times. If the accused was innocent, it was believed he or she will be able to open his eyes at the end of the seventh round but not, the person is declared guilty of the crime. The result of this Ukang is believed to be from the gods and the ancestors whom the people believe have the final decision in the matter (Akpan 2010).
Analysis of Ukang as a Means of Crime Control in the Annang Social Justice System
The socio-religious relevance of Ukang as an instrument of crime control in Annang land is an integral part of the people’s culture and reflects the value of social justice. Ukang as part of traditional instrument of crime control is an aspect of the custom and belief of the people which regulates the conduct and morals of Annang people. It provides the norms and standards of behaviour for the people and checks criminal activities on the part of the people and the rulers as they guaranteed the existence and enforcement of the traditional law, morality and ethics. The fear and belief in Ukang has helped the people to maintain high moral standard and strengthened cordial relationship between God (Supreme Being, Abasi Ibom) and man as well as between humans. Therefore, with the practice of Ukang, people in Annang are deterred from committing crimes in the community because of the fear of supernatural punishment. Ukang provides checks and balances which regulates and put the Annang community on a steady economic, political, social, cultural and religious balance responsible for stability and meaningful government (Umanah 2010). The mere mentioning of the word Ukang automatically called the people to order and direct their actions. Ukang as a traditional instrument of crime control is an effective means of securing social justice and serves as a deterrent against social injustice, criminal tendencies and false accusations that are prevalent in contemporary period. The use of Ukang serves as a social and religious sanction and therefore recognizes the belief in ancestral spirits and many other divinities in Annang traditional religion which help in detecting criminals, restoring honesty, morality and justice as opposed to injustice and immorality. The application of Ukang according to Mbon (1994) helps the Annang people to enforce and maintain order, peace and ensure conformity to social norms of the people.
The use of Ukang as an instrument of crime control works faster, cheaper and easier in crime detection, control, punishment and management of crimes due to the fact that it does not follow the bureaucratic processes associated with modern legal systems, law enforcement and crime prevention. Ukang emphasizes the effectiveness of traditional religion of Annang as a reliable instrument of crime control and recognizes traditional means of social justice (Essien 2005).
The use of Ukang in crime control in Annang reduced the increasing number of miscarriage of justice through the use of modern methods of crime control. As a result, Ukang tends to shape and reshape traditional concepts of human character because the character of a man is supreme in human relations (Monday 2010). This is because it is essentially the character of a man that God and the divinities who witnessed the administration of Ukang, as impartial judges look at. Here, wickedness and social injustice, immorality and dishonesty are vehemently condemned and in their place justice, honesty, integrity and fairness are emphasized. Ukang helps to restructure man’s conscience. The people strongly believed that moral values are not invented by human beings, but are the offspring of religion. Thus, according to Ntuen (1993) people are expected to use their conscience to believe in a morally good way in order to avoid the wrath of God, divinities and the ancestors.
As impartial judge, God’s judgment is sure and inescapable. Some of the divinities who are in charge of Ukang represent the wrath of the gods and for this reason man avoid acts capable of bringing punishment from the supernatural beings. This belief drastically reduced crime in Annang community to a minimal level (Ekong 2010).
This study has focused on the use of Ukang in crime control in Annang society. It is important to note that crime is a social problem that is difficult to stop as far as human beings exists. Hardly, does any society exist without any form of moral order and restraints. Due to the prevalent rate of crime and other social ills such as witchcrafts, stealing, murder, dishonesty, falsehood and other secret crimes, and the inability for the modern system of law enforcement to combat crime, the people develop their traditional religious instruments to combat crime and address social issues even if imperfectly. One of these traditional instruments is the Ukang institution.
Consequently, Essien (2005) in confirmation of the place of religion in social control points out that religion is a powerful social institution that purports to establish a set relationship between the supra-human world and human beings. It deals with explanations about life and living, coping with existential problems and adapting to environmental circumstances. There are hardly aspects of human life which are immune from religious influence directly or indirectly. The pervasiveness of religion, its deep rootedness in human consciousness and its formidable presence, vitality and expansiveness in human activities make it an immense resource.
The Ukang described and examined in this study is still very effective as a traditional instrument of crime control in Annang as well as serving as a deterrent against criminal tendencies and false accusations. There is no doubt from the findings of the study that the institution of Ukang has been an effective means of crime control due to the fear of supernatural sanctions, social stigmatization, public disgrace, punishment from the gods and ancestors if found guilty. It has created a morally sound community within the Annang land in its ability to help combat crime, maintain good human relationships, fairness, and fidelity in establishing the
truth or falsehood in doubtful and disputed matters.
The problem of crime in Annang has exerted great impact on individuals and society financially, socially, legally, economically, morally and psychologically. There is evidence of the problem and impacts of crime in Annang as we can infer from this article. This article has pointed out that there is a significant role played by Ukang as it relates to positive effects in crime control Annang society. It is worthy to state that Ukang has faced some challenges and resistance under the influence of Christianity, western education and modernity. Christianity has had a lot of influence on the use of Ukang as an instrument of crime control in Annang.
Although adherents of Christianity often undermined the authority, verdict and power of Ukang and describe it as pagan, savage, primitive, fetish and heathen, the people still practice it as their socio-religious instrument in curbing crime. Offiong (1982) was right in his observations that some Christians in Annang society do disregard anything that has to do with Ukang.
Annang tribe women in Baltimore
Western education and modernity became a veritable social factor disrupting many aspects of traditional institutions in Annang charged with the sole responsibility of controlling crime through Ukang. It also condemned traditional method of crime control embedded in Ukang and recommended that modern legal/judicial institution such as the court; police etc. should be used in crime control. The existence of police and courts has weakened the power vested in Ukang but the people still use it as a quick measure in uncovering secrete criminal acts.
Also, western education and modernity undermined the belief in ancestors, divinities and spirits which most effectively control the people’s tendency to commit crimes for the fear of supernatural sanctions and punishments. Furthermore, compared to their impact in pre-modern Annang, much of the society’s sacred traditional institutions and philosophy have change as a result of the encounter with Western cultural and Christian values. Yet, a lot in these traditional institutions and philosophy have continued to influence the life style and world views of contemporary Annang people. Therefore, in the quest for socio-cultural and economic development, viable conducive society, the Annang people could take advantage of, and exploit
the positive values still contained in her traditional institutions and philosophy, particularly Ukang (Walter 2005).
Finally, Ukang as an instrument of crime control in Annang society can be freed from subjectivity by demystifying it and making the processes of administration transparent and understood by all. If it is properly harnessed and revitalized, it can be incorporated into the modern methods of crime control could enhance the people’s sense of moral responsibility.
Annang ruler who dared to win
A book of 336 pages, He Dared by Offonmbuk C. Akpabio, tells the very compelling story of Okuku Udo Akpabio, the great colonial ruler of the Annang people of Nigeria in what is now known as Akwa Ibom State. It is fitting that the state is currently governed by a great grandson of the selfsame Okuku Udo Akpabio in the shape and size of the resourceful Governor Godswill Akpabio.
Ukuku Udo Akpabio:Annang ruler who dared to win
He Dared is the life history of a man who can be likened to a force of nature, a leader who touched so many lives in all kinds of profound ways. He knew no boundaries as he welded together his subjects into a formidable organization of determined men and women who believed implicitly in his headship. Okuku Udo Akpabio reigned in the late 19th century and all through the colonial era as the patriarch of the Great Akpabio family, arguably the largest and most influential family stock in South-South Nigeria. This remarkable man married 29 wives. Incidentally many of the wives were personally chosen for the great man by Udo Akpabio’s first wife Nne Eyen Mboho. “Through these twenty-nine wives, Udo Akpabio begat a large family whose offspring would later form nearly the entirety of Ukana Ikot Ntuen village in now Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State,” writes Offonmbuk C. Akpabio.
The dim circumstances of his early life could not deter Okuku Udo Akpabio from the ambitious life of turning around the fortunes of his people for the good. He attained the highest traditional stool of the Annang people. He served as a veritable bridge between the British and the indigenous people. He adroitly steered the affairs of his beloved people by striking a delicate balance between age-long traditions and Westernisation. He led his people with great poise into modernity.
In the words of Offonmbuk C Akpabio, “Okuku Udo Akpabio was also known to have handled very highly combustible cultural issues with great wisdom and tact. Through his leadership, the course of history in the community was re-written, putting an end to the killing of twins and their mothers, burying alive of slaves for whatever reasons, and other practices of human sacrifice. He used his oratorical skills effectively in public discourse and ceremonies, lacing his speeches with proverbs, innuendoes, hyperboles, ironies, metaphors, paradoxes, personifications, etc., applied selectively and opportunistically to bring his point home. He was a master at this and celebrated by his friends and associates who fondly called him ‘Udo Akpabio Ayie Ntand Isong’, meaning ‘Udo Akapbio the Owner of the Soil of the Earth’.”
Princess Pat Akpabio,Annang native and top Nigerian gospel artist
He did not have the benefit of Western education but ensured that his children had the best education available then. Named Essien, connoting “Essien Ubong” which translates to ”he quickly made his compound of glory”, Okuku Udo Akpabio excelled as a businessman. It was not his forte to join in the slave trade of the time being dominated by the Aro Igbos of the Ajalli, Arondizuogu, and Bende kingdoms.
Around 1903, the white colonialists arrived and thereafter Okuku Udo Akpabio was elected by the people of Ukan Ikot Ntuen as their representative at the British Administration Office at Ikot Ekpene, thus becoming a “Chief by Government Warrant”. Furthermore, then the “Administration elected Udo Akpabio as the first president of the court, Obong Esop, in Ikot Ekpene – a position he held until his retirement from the administration.” He was the president of the Native Court. It was in 1918 that Okuku Udo Akpabio was initiated into the esteemed Abie Owo Society. Okuku Udo Akpabio was the first paramount ruler of the district.
He Dared by Offonmbuk C Akpabio is recommended reading for all who wish to know how great African kingdoms grew into prominence. This is a priceless book for all libraries. It is a compendium of enduring and endearing facts. The past has been brought forward into the present tense with a panache that brings great charm to bear on a past world. Offonmbuk C Akpabio has done a world of good to our history through her book He Dared.(http://thenationonlineng.net/new/arts/life-midweek-magazine/annang-ruler-who-dared-to-win/)