Fanfare! as Etubom Eyo-Ndem joins Obong of Calabar’s Traditional Council
• Canvasses Constitutional Recognition For Traditional Rulers
The Efik Kingdom is made up of 12 tribes or principalities spanning five local government areas of Cross River State, with satellite towns and villages in Akwa Ibom State and Cameroon. Within each of these principalities, are the Royal Houses, which own numerous towns, villages and settlements. An Etubom, who after selection, screening and induction, sits in council with the Obong of Calabar, heads a Royal House.
The Etuboms are the kingmakers in Efik kingdom. Incidentally, they are also the heir apparents to the throne, incase of the demise of an Obong. This office is highly revered by the Efik. In each family, there is only one Etubom and another Etubom can only emerge when the existing Etubom is dead or surrenders his position willingly to the next in command.
Ntiero Edem Efiom Ekpo Royal House is one of the Houses described above and traces its origin to a Patriarch, Edem Efiom Ekpo, who is recorded in history as the son of the king who rebelled against the practice of twin-infanticide. He rescued his sister and her twin sons and effectively set up the first Efik settlement that abolished the killing of twins over a hundred years before the arrival of Mary Slessor. The famous Jean Barbot wrote about Edem Efiom Ekpo circa 1690 AD. This Patriarch was the first ruler of the present day Calabar and was called Duke Aphrom (Duke the first) by the visiting Portuguese and English supercargo traders of the time. His first son, Edem, ruled as Duke the second and is recorded to have died around 1786.
His second son was Ntiero Efiom Edem Efiom Ekpo who is the progenitor of the House named after him. The Europeans who visited the Calabar coast called him Antera Duke and he is the author of the world famous diary spanning 1785 to 1788, which provides the richest and earliest source of an authentic self-written record of life among the noblemen of Calabar over 400 years ago. Ntiero and two of his brothers, Ukwo Efiom and Essien Efiom and their descendants carry the royal bloodline in the Ntiero Edem Efiom Ekpo Royal House. Their other two brothers, Okpoto and Efiom-Iwat (given the famous Cumber bell in 1799) carry the bloodline in the Edem Efiom Ekpo Royal House.
Not withstanding the fact that Ntiero Edem Efiom Ekpo House has far flung interests, it is concentrated mainly in Calabar where it is one of the two Efiom Ekpo lineages that came together and constituted Duke Town (Atakpa) over 400 years ago. This fact is still upheld today to the extent that the House receives its share of all communal rights, rents and tributes accruing.
More importantly, a matriarch from this Royal House exclusively enacts one of the key rituals during the arcane coronation process for a new Obong of Calabar. The progenitor of this house was a nobleman who clearly valued education and wrote a diary, in English, as far back as 1785. His descendants have maintained this trait and over the years, some of the prominent members of the Ntiero Edem Efiom Ekpo house included late Justice Efiom Eyo Ita, a High Court Judge; late Etubom Eyo Bassey Eyo-Ndem, a professor of Social Anthropology; late Madam Abo Eyo-Ndem (a councilor and self taught). Today, the House has numerous accomplished men and women, including Justice Eyo Effiom Ita (serving Judge of the High court), Chief Eyo Ndem Eyo Ita (Chief Executive Officer of Green Valley Hotel, The Dome and Cement Manufacturing Guru), Chief Efiom Etim Okon (former two time representative of Akpabuyo in the State House of Assembly).
It was this royal house that the family members formerly put forward Etubom-elect Abasi Eyo-Ndem IV to be inducted as an Etubom after due consultations with the powers and principalities through pouring of libation at ancient relics sites at Ndon, (Efak Eyo-Ndem).
So it was a big ceremony in the Efik Kingdom when the Chairman of Edem Efiom Ekpo Royal House, (Duke Town Families Council), Etubom Ntiero Effiwat formally presented one of their own, Etubom-elect, Abasi Eyo-Ndem IV to the Chairman, Etuboms Traditional Council, Etubom Bassey OKor Bassey, who in turn presented the celebrant for an induction into the Etubom’s Traditional Council by the Obong of Calabar, His Eminence, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V, often referred to as natural ruler, treaty king and grand patriarch of Efik Kingdom. The induction was done amidst pomp and pageantry. This was immediately followed by the taking of the oath of allegiance and presentation of staff of office.
The Obong welcomed him into the council as he commended him for his continuous support to the palace and the Efik kingdom and admonished him of his continuous loyalty and support.
It was a colourful ceremony on a fairly sunny Saturday that featured several traditional plays like Ekpe, Obon, Ekombi, Ekong Ikong Ukom, Ebonko and others. Men and women adorned in traditional attires formed mass of heads that witnessed the induction at the Obong’s Palace at 12 Effanga Mkpa Street, Calabar.
After all the traditional rites and formal induction that sent the drummers into frenzy as the masquerades danced amidst traditional shouts of joy, the new Etubom in town and the excited crowed wriggled some traditional dance steps at the epoch making ceremony that is often referred to by the late Efik son, Dr. Ambrose Akpanika as “the maggot dance.”
After the induction, Mbong Ekpes (Ekpe titleholders), friends and family members, traditional masquerades like Ekpe, Ekpe Obon, Iban Obon and others escorted him to other rites and displays.
Etubom Eyo-Ndem who was very brief in his remark, expressed deep appreciation to the Obong and others for his induction. He is well known and an ardent lover of his Efik culture and tradition and has studied some aspects like Ekpe and Nsibidi quite deeply.
Accompanied by his wife, Uche and children, Etubom Eyo-Ndem believes that “people’s culture gives them identity,” insisting that “culture and traditions must evolve organically or die.”
With this induction, Etubom Eyo-Ndem IV who is an architect by profession can ascend to the throne of the Obong of Calabar when such vacancy exists and is zoned to his area. He was born to Etubom Eyo Abasi Eyo-Ndem and Mrs. Asari Eyo Ndem. His father was a Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Jos; one-time acting Vice Chancellor University of Cross River State (now University of Uyo) and a member of the Etuboms’ Council of the Palace of Calabar, among many other accomplishments.
Etubom Eyo-Ndem IV started his primary education in the University Staff School, Nsukka, before the civil war interrupted his education and he had to proceed to Northmead Primary School in Lusaka, Zambia. He passed into the prestigious Kabulonga Boys High School in Zambia but came back to Nigeria and was enrolled at Baptist High School, Jos, where he graduated in 1979/80 and gained admission to study Architecture at the University of Jos.
His time in Jos was eventful as he disliked injustice and that pitched him against the school authority but he still managed to bring accolades to the University by participating and winning first prize, out of 67 countries, in an international Architecture competition organized by UNESCO. That feat earned him a place in TSUKUBA Japan, International University EXPO 1985. He returned and earned his MSc Architecture from University of Jos in 1987.
The young architect started his professional career in Lagos, after completing his national service, with Sheltarch Associates, owned by Alhaji Ibrahim Bunu, who eventually became the Minister of Federal Capital Territory by 1999. Within three years of work, he had risen to become coordinator of the company.
He never lived or schooled in Calabar, so it was a surprise that he has immersed himself as an adult in the study of Efik language, rituals, traditions and culture. He is an Ekpe Iboku titleholder, Obong Mbakara in the ancient Asibong Ekondo lodge and one of the principal drivers of the annual Nyoro Ekpe festival for the past 18 years, with Nsibidi (Ekpe signs) at his fingertips.
Commenting on the traditional institution in Nigeria, Etubom Eyo-Ndem stated that the “traditional Institution is the tier of government that has the most intimate and natural connection to the citizens of the country. It is, however, the most neglected institution by Government. Whereas the Colonial powers tried to cooperate meaningfully with the institution, post- independence governments have largely paid lip service and see the traditional rulers as rivals who must be emasculated, rather than seeing them as partners who should be modernised, incorporated into governance structures and given serious responsibilities. The current dissonance we are experiencing as a country is as a result of this attitude.”
As a way forward, he said in the first place, “I would canvass for proper recognition and seamless incorporation of the Traditional Institution in the Constitution” and secondly, “giving proper roles and responsibilities that utilize the Traditional Institution in its area of greatest strength and relevance to the citizenry.
“Supporting and strengthening the Traditional Institution to enable it discharge its duties as prescribed.”
Etubom Eyo-Ndem IV however said, “even in its emasculated and neglected state, the Traditional Institution remains very relevant in the lives of the majority of our people. Imagine the benefits that would accrue to us if it was modernised, supported and energised. These are the custodians of our culture …the link between the past and the present who can give society a sense of direction in the face of the chaos of globalization. We ignore this institution at our own peril.”
On his love for languages including Efik, the king maker said, “all local languages are the vehicle with which we can best express our innermost thoughts, feelings and aspirations. They allow us communicate very deeply with those who understand the language…as nothing is lost in translation. Just as governments worldwide realise that our cultural heritage must be preserved so must we in Nigeria embark on a sustainable programme of preserving our languages. It could be as simple as insisting that the local language of any community is taught compulsorily in their primary schools along with the lingua franca of the country. It will have a multiplier effect that will rise to the level of even software apps being created,” among others.
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