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IBIBIO STATE UNION: The mischievous Enyong element of 1920

-Anietie Udobit,Abuja


The history of the formation and growth of the Ibibio State Union is an outstanding illustration of the doctrine of continuity in change and change in continuity.

In the old Calabar province, for the purpose of carrying into effect the new policy of using Efik, a dialect of the Ibibio language as a medium of instruction in primary schools, the United Free Church of Scotland Mission issued an open invitation to teachers in schools in Calabar to produce in Efik for use by children in primary schools suitable reading materials by way of literature to be later complicated into books, it was postulated that the type of reading materials requisite should be in form of short stories of educational value preferably local history or tradition, prizes were offered for the competition.

Mr E.N. Amaku, a teacher of some good standing with the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland Mission and one of the teachers who participated in the competition, resident in the city of Calabar, an Enyong man whose real home was in Enyong District in the Ibibio mainland territory of Calabar province.

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In his bound manuscripts which took the form of a booklet submitted to the mission authority for adoption.

Mr Amaku in a purported attempt at the writing of what he termed the history of Efik people indulged in pouring scorn on the Ibibio people whom he had described as knaves who were heavily endowed with dynamism, wisdom, industry and cunning but were unworthy of trust!  He was said to have compared and contrasted an Ibibio person-an imaginary figure no doubt, with an Igbo person as a domestic slave in the household of an Efik noble man to the disadvantage and discredit of the former.

The contents of the book on submission to the mission authority leaked to some prominent Ibibio persons. It became the common topic of conversation in public bars and clubs and soon aroused considerable uproar and excitement. On examination, it was found that the booklet lacked factual basis but was more like a fable, it turned out to be a propaganda stunt of an abusive kind, which was highly offensive. It was felt that the sensational historical narrative was carefully contrived to expose each and every Ibibio person to hatred, contempt and ridicule in the community.

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Although unorganized in those days, Ibibio people were highly respected. It was therefore incomprehensible that Mr Amaku should have chosen them for his vile pen, except for the deliberate action of exposing them to contemptuous disrespect as a means of ventilating a long nursed vengeance.

A notable feature of the unfortunate episode was the unanimity with which the Ibibio people and their kinsmen had resolved to act short of violence. The response of the generality of the people to the advice of their leaders was unprecedented. The people were resolutely determined to pursue whatever decisions were arrived at with the expedition so as to re-establish their tarnished image and reputation. Nothing short of the redemption of their reputation was considered adequate.

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Such were the circumstances which gave birth to the Ibibio Union as the association of all Ibibio people regarded as rightly so, as a bulwark and a fortress against any incision of Ibibio people’s fundamental rights and freedom. It can be assumed that the dispute between Ibibio people and Mr E.N. Amaku was most opportune and acted as a catalyst to bring about the realization of a people’s dream which was the unity of the Ibibio people.

-Culled from the History of Ibibio

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