Today, we will conclude this part of our survey work on the life of the Ibibio ethnic group which will bring to us how this people run their leadership system or political roles, the languages they speak between themselves and the religions they observe. Note that most of these things we have been discussing from the first part of this survey has changed due to the inception of modernization and developments, leading to the abolishment of some of these things.
In a traditional Ibibio society, their set up consists of communities that are made up of large families with blood affinity collectively ruled by their Constitutional and Religious Head known as the Ikpaisong. The Obong Ikpaisong ruled with the Mbong Ekpuk (Head of the Families) which together with the Heads of the Cults and Societies constitute the ‘Afe or Asan or Esop Ikpaisong’ which is known as the traditional council, the traditional shrine or traditional court. The decisions or orders of
The Traditional Council are charged with taking decisions and making necessary orders and they were enforced by members of the Ekpo or Obon society who act as messengers of the spirits, the military and police of the Community. This division of labour in the leadership hierarchy was efficient in the sense that it effectively eschewed any form of anarchy or tyrannical government for the people.
Ekpo members are always masked when performing their policing duties, and although their identities are almost always known, fear of retribution from the ancestors prevents most people from accusing those members who overstep their social boundaries, effectively committing police brutality. Membership is open to all Ibibio males, but one must have access to wealth to move into the politically influential grades. The Obon society with its strong enticing traditional musical prowess, with popular acceptability, openly executes its mandates with musical procession and popular participation by members which comprises of children, youth, adults and very brave elderly women.
In the earliest times, Ibibio religion was of two dimensions. The first dimension centered on the pouring of libation, worship, consultation, communication and invocation of the God of Heaven (Abasi Enyong) and God of the Earth (Abasi Isong) by the Constitutional and Religious King/Head of a particular Ibibio Community who was known from the ancient times as the Obong-Ikpaisong — the word ‘Obong Ikpaisong’ directly interpreted means King of the Principalities of the Earth’ or ‘King of the Earth and the Principalities or Traditional Ruler.
The second dimension of Ibibio religion centered on the worship, consultation, invocation, sacrifice, appeasement, etc. of the God of the Heaven (Abasi Enyong) and the God of the Earth (Abasi Isong)through various invisible or spiritual entities (Ndem) of the various Ibibio Division such as Etefia Ikono, Awa Itam, etc. The Priests of these spiritual entities (Ndem) were the Temple Chief Priests of the various Ibibio divisions. A particular Ibibio division could consist of many inter-related autonomous communities or kingdoms ruled by an autonomous priest-king called Obong-Ikpaisong, assisted by heads of the various large families (Mbong Ekpuk) which make up the community. These have been the ancient political and religious system of Ibibio people from time immemorial. Tradition, interpreted in Ibibio Language, is ‘Ikpaisong’. Tradition (Ikpaisong) in Ibibio Custom embodies the religious and political system. The word ‘Obong’ in Ibibio language means ‘Ruler, King, Lord, Chief, Head’ and is applied depending on the office concern. In reference to the Obong-Ikpaisong, the word ‘Obong’ means ‘King’ in reference to the village head, the word means ‘chief’. In reference to the head of the families (Obong Ekpuk), the word means ‘head’ In reference to God, the word means ‘lord’. In reference to the head of the various societies – e.g. ‘Obong Obon’, the word means ‘head or leader.’
The most recent account of religion in ibibio society
Nowadays, the Ibibios have been introduced to Christianity through the work of early missionaries in the nineteenth century. One of those religious workers, Samuel Bill was said to have started his work at Ibeno. Gradually, he established the Qua Iboe Church which later spread places in the middle belt of Nigeria. Other churches which includes the Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic church and the Presbyterian Church eventually came into existence in Ibibio land. Later, day churches were also introduced, for e.g. The Apostolic church, independent churches, like Deeper Life Bible Church, came into the area in the second part of the twentieth century. Today Ibibio people are predominantly Christians.
The new faith brought about about the abolishment of killing of twins which they were earlier practicing before it was abolished during the colonial era, with the help of missionary Mary Slessor . It was common practice for twin babies to be taken to their community’s local evil forest and left to die as it was a taboo for twins to be born into their society.
The Ibibio language is a Congo-Benue dialect that is spoken in the states of Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers by about 1.5 million people. It is also closely related to Efik and in fact many consider them as one. The language has also been used on television and radio since the 1970s, it is used for business in Akwa Ibom and is also taught in the primary, secondary schools and the university.
The Ibibios do have a lot of festivals and they are actually categorized. They include general, vocational, agrarian and ancestral festivals. The general ones are, Nsit Ubium biannual aquatic festival known as Mbre Mmong of which there is involvement of rituals to a shrine), Usoro Mboppo which is about celebration of a woman’s completion of the fattening room period, and Usoro Ekoon, the festival of masquerades. The vocational includes activities like Usoro Ita (hunting festival), Usoro Idiong (traditional medicine festival), and Usoro Isong Enyang (water regatta festival). Agrarian festivals include; Usoro Usuuk Udia (new yam), Usoro Ikong (melon), Usoro Idio (clearing farmlands), and Ekoon Ndaara Akpakpa (corn festival). The ancestral festivals are; Usoro Ekong (celebration of heroes), Ndap Ekpo/Ukappa Ison Ekpo (celebration of spirits), Atara Ukwa (for deities), Usoro Eduwad/Obodom Enyong (celebration of spears), Usoro Abasi (feast of the Gods), Ikot Eyo (rites of passage, initiations and coronations).
That brings us to the end of this survey work on the Ibibio people. It must be said that as developmental reforms take place, many other things equally change in the accounts given, which is why current update is always needed. We hope you have learnt enough from this update we doled out and would like to hear from you. Stay tuned for more of our community surveys. Good afternoon.