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Ibibio People

Total population: Over 5 million

Regions with significant populations
Nigeria: 4,482,000
Ghana: 46,000
Cameroon: 39,000
Equatorial Guinea: 2,700
Trinidad and Tobago: 371 (1813)
(Afro-Trinidadian and Tobagonian)
Languages: Ibibio, English
Religion: Christianity, traditional,
Related ethnic groups: Efik, Anaang, Ejagham, Oron, Igbo, Ijaw

The Ibibio are a people of South-eastern Nigeria. They are related to the
Anaang, the and Efik peoples. During colonial period in Nigeria, the Ibibio
Union asked for recognition by the British as a sovereign nation. The Annang,
Efik, Ekid, Oron and Ibeno share personal names, culture, and traditions with
the Ibibio, and speak closely related varieties of Ibibio-Efik.

Ibibio tribes and ethnic groups

The Ibibio are divided into six subcultural groups:
 Eastern Ibibio, or Ibibio Proper
 Western Ibibio, or Annang
 Northern Ibibio, or Enyong
 Southern Ibibio, or Eket
 Delta Ibibio, or Andomi-Ibeno
 Riverine Ibibio, or Efik

 The Ibibio people are found predominantly in Akwa Ibom state and are
made up of the related:
o Anaang community
o Ibibio community
o Eket community
o Oron Community
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.

Location of Ibibioland
 The Ibibio people are in South-eastern Nigeria also known as Coastal
South-eastern 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. South-eastern State of Nigeria was where the Ibibio were
located, one of the original twelve states of Nigeria) after Nigerian
 The Efik, Anaang, Oron, Eket and their brothers and sisters of the Ogoja
District, were also in the South-eastern State. The state (South-eastern
State) was later renamed Cross Rivers State.
 On 23 September 1987, by Military Decree No.24, Akwa Ibom State was
carved out of the then Cross Rivers State as a separate state. Cross
Rivers State remains as one of neighbouring 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 could keep
"Northwestern section" during the plebiscite that is now today's
Nigerian Adamawa and Taraba states.

 The Ibibio have lived in the Cross River area of modern-day Nigeria for
several hundred years, and while written information about them only
exists in colonial records from the late nineteenth century on, oral
traditions have them in the region much earlier than this.
 "Ibio-ibio" means short or brief.

 The main economic staple in the region is the palm tree, the oil of which
is extracted and sold to external markets.
 Among the Ibibio, those of the highest rank in the Ekpo society, Amama,
often control most the community wealth.
 The Amama often appropriate hundreds of acres of palm tree for their
own use and ensure with the profits they earn that their sons achieve
comparable rank, effectively limiting access to economic gain for most
members of the community.
 The Ekpo society requires that its initiates sponsor feasts for the town,
which fosters the appearance of the redistribution of wealth by
providing the poor with food and drink. In effect, this allows the
inequality in wealth to be continued in Ibibio society.

Political system
 Traditionally Ibibio society consists of communities that are made up of
Large Families with blood affinity each 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' (Traditional Council or Traditional Shrine
or Traditional Court').
 The decisions or orders of the Traditional Council or the Obong Ikpaisong
were enforced by members of the Ekpo or Obon society who act as
messengers of the spirits and the military and police of the Community.
 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
children, youth, adults and very brave elderly women.

Pre-Colonial Era
 Ibibio religion was of two dimensions, which centred 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 centred 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.
 One 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
 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.
o For the Obong-Ikpaisong, the word 'Obong' means 'King'
o For the Village Head, the word means 'Chief'.
o For the Head of the Families (Obong Ekpuk), the word means
'Head' In reference to God, the word means 'Lord'.
o For the Head of the various societies - e.g. 'Obong Obon', the word
means 'Head or Leader'.

Colonial and Post-Colonial Era

 The Ibibios were introduced to Christianity through the work of early
missionaries in the nineteenth century. Samuel Bill started his work at
Ibeno where he established the Qua Iboe Church which later spread
places in the middle belt of Nigeria.
 The Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic church, and Presbyterian
Church rode into the Ibibio hinterland. Today Ibibio people are
predominantly Christian area.
 The Ibibio practiced the killing of twins before it was abolished during
the colonial era, with 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. This belief is also a
taboo in the Igboland area of Nigeria.

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