Ethnic Ibibio cultural dancers from Akwa Ibom state, Nigeria getting ready to perform their traditional dance. Circa 1974.
The Ibibio people are Kwa speaking people Benue-Congo group of Niger-Congo language, occupying the palm belt in the southeast Nigeria`s Akwa Ibom state and are regarded as the most ancient of all the ethnic groups in Nigeria.They are related to the Anaang and the Efik peoples. During colonial period in Nigeria, the Ibibio Union asked for recognition by the British as a sovereign nation (Noah, 1988). The Annang, Efik, Ekid, Oron and Ibeno share personal names, culture, and traditions with the Ibibio, and speak closely related varieties of Ibibio-Efik. Prior to present-day Nigeria they were regarded as Ibibio tribes speaking dialects of Ibibio.
Dr. Monday Noah in his work "Ibibio Pioneers in Modern Nigerian History" writes: “The Ibibio occupy mostly the mainland parts of the Cross River State and constitute the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria. The major Ibibio sub-groups include the Oron, Eket, Ibuno, and Annang and there are also some Ibibio communities in most of the fishing settlements along the estuary of the Cross River. The Efik people of Calabar are descendants of Ibibio people.” However, Annang, Efik and other related people see themselves as different people as described by Dr Monday Noah and other historians.
"Ibio-ibio" means short or brief and doesn't have anything to do with height of the Ibibios...! The name was given due the Ibibios brief way of doing things.
The nearest neighbours of the Ibibio are the Ibo (Igbo) to the northwest, Ijaw to the southwest and Efik to the southeast, with the Qua, Efut and Ekoi further away in the northeast. Among these perhaps the Efik are their greatest adversaries. The Ibibio come into conflict with Efik as they do business and interact with the latter in Metropolitan Calabar, the seat of government and administration in the Cross River State.
Geography and Location of Ibibio Land
The Ibibio people are found predominately in Akwa Ibom state and is made up of the related Anaang community, the Ibibio community and the Eket and Oron Communities, although other groups usually understand the Ibibio language. Because of the larger population of the Ibibio people, they hold political control over Akwa-Ibom State, but government is shared with the Anaangs, Eket and Oron. The political system follows the traditional method of consensus. Even though elections are held, practically, the political leaders are pre-discussed in a manner that is benefiting to all.
The Ibibio people are located in Southeastern Nigeria also known as Coastal Southeastern Nigeria. Prior to the existence of Nigeria as a Nation, the Ibibio people were self-governed. The Ibibio people became a part of the Eastern Nigeria of Nigeria under British colonial rule. During the Nigerian Civil War, the Eastern region was split into three states. Southeastern State of Nigeria was where the Ibibios were located, one of the original twelve states of Nigeria) after Nigerian independence. The Efik, Anaang, Oron, Eket and their brothers and sisters of the Ogoja District, were also in the Southeastern State. The state (Southeastern State) was later renamed Cross Rivers State. Again in the year 1987, by a Military Decree No.24 promulgated that same year, Akwa Ibom State was carved out of the then Cross Rivers State as a separate State on her own on the 23rd September, 1987.Cross Rivers State remains as one of neighboring States.
Southwestern Cameroon was a part of present Cross River State and Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria. During the then Eastern Region of Nigeria it got partitioned into Cameroon in a 1961 plebiscite. This resulted in the Ibibio, Efik, and Annang being divided between Nigeria and Cameroon. However, the leadership of the Northern Region of Nigeria was able to keep "Northwestern section" during the plebiscite that is now today's Nigerian Adamawa and Taraba states.
The Ibibio tribe is the 4th largest ethnic set in Nigeria, and barely outnumbered by the Igbo their neighbor. Apart from the Igbos, the other two ethnic groups that outnumbers Ibibio are the Hausa and Yoruba. About five million people in Nigeria speak Ibibio as their mother tongue and inhabit much of the South- eastern part of the country. Among the four million speakers are small groups speaking small 'languages" identified as Ito, Itu Mbon Uso, Iwere, Nkari and Ukwa (cf. Essien 1987:34).
BY: Kweku Darko Ankrah