THE ETHNIC NATIONALISM IN NIGERIA. (A CASE STUDY OF THE MBOHO MKPARAWA IBIBIO, FROM 1987 - 2011.
Ethnic nationalism, also called ethnicism is a form nationalism wherein the “Nation” is defined in terms of ethnicity1. The central theme of ethnic nationalists is that “nation” is defined by a shared heritage, which usually includes a common language, a common faith, and a common ethnic ancestry2. It also includes ideas of a culture shared between members of the group, and with their ancestor. Still, ethnic nationalism places membership of the nation on descent or hereditary, often articulated in terms of common blood or kinship – rather on political membership.
The Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio ,as an example of ethnic nationalism, is a non-profit organization. It believes that its members are entitled to dignity, fairness, justice, respect, responsibility and accountability. It is a non-political and non-partisan, active, virile and prolific association of a forward-looking, God fearing, creative, dedicated and self-sacrificing Ibibio people, that draws its inspiration from the 1928 declaration of the legendary Ibibio Union of old, which catered for the entire mainland part of the old Calabar Province, inhabited by the Ibibio, Annang, Oron and other sub-group3.
As one of the foremost socio-cultural organization in Nigeria, the Mboho has chapters in all the States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. It also has chapters in major the Cities of Great Britain, USA, and Canada. The paper aims at examining Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, an ethnic organization, to ascertain its contributions to the development of Ibibioland and judging from its activities. This study tends to espouse the idea that a dialectical relationship exists between man and society and it is against this background that the researcher wishes to discuss Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, as a substantive historical establishment to be studied.
1.1 Objective of the Study
This research work is aimed at holistically examining Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, from 1970-2011, in order to highlight its impact on socio-cultural, economic and political sectors of the Ibibio ethnic group in Akwa Ibom State in particular and Nigeria at large. It is also aimed at bringing to the notice of the public and the academic world the humble evolution of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, as an association of seven patriotic sons of the Ibibio ethnic group to a mega and enviable contemporary organization. Furthermore, this study aims at leaving a written record or material that will help future researchers on the subject matter. It is also the objective of this study to give the Ibibio people a sense of belonging by exhuming the enviable contributions of the Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio to the development of Akwa Ibom State and the Akwa Ibomites4.
In addition, the study aims at publishing the outcome of this research and contributing it to both private and public libraries in the State.
Finally, it seems to let the selfless services of the Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio serve as a mirror with the hope of motivating other ethnic nationalities to step on the path of honesty and selfless services to humanity and to further encourage the organization to continue with its selfless service and reward hard work, especially among young Akwa Ibom scholars.
1.2 Significance of the Study
There is as yet little or no comprehensive research on the activities of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio and its contribution to the development of Akwa Ibom State. Since this is the case, the research study is significant because it seeks to bring to light the immense part which Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio plays in the advancement and growth of Ibibio nation in particular and Akwa Ibom State as a whole.
It seeks to boost the morale of scholars, and the youth, who are leaders of tomorrow to choose a path of honesty, integrity, and excellence, by joining the organization and contributing their quota to the emancipation of the human race. This significant of the study can be drawn from the fact that ethnic nationalism is not a platform to showcase interethnic rivalries and disparities, but a platform to extinct ethnicity and create unity, brotherliness, love, peace in Nigeria in particular and the world at large.
This work seeks to contribute to knowledge and to serve as the latest literature and hence provoke further research into this area. This is in accordance with the idea of Toynbee, who noted that for a person to make meaningful contributions to the development of knowledge, his study must have provoked some criticisms and further research4.
1.3 Scope of the Study
Due to the wide scope of ethnic nationalism in Nigeria. The scope is narrowed to Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, as a case study, from 1987 -2011.
1.4 Limitation of the Study
The project was not completed without certain constraints, these include a lack of comprehensive documentation of the activities of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio. Written materials found were brief, not up to date and fragmentary. The use of oral sources was not without hitches. This was experienced when some of my informants could not keep to time schedule, while others travelled out and I had to wait impatiently for their return.
Moreover, owing to tight schedules of most informants, especially the Secretary-General of the organization, the President and the Principal of Mboho Unity School in Idu Uruan, it became difficult to keep to appointments. This resulted in repeated visits to certain areas, especially the Secretariat of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio at Sir Udo Udomma Avenue in Uyo and Mboho Unity School, situated at Idu Uruan. These repeated visits exposed the researcher to more financial problems.
In spite of all these challenges, the interdisciplinary approach to historical writing was adopted. This resulted from the fact that different sources of historical reconstruction are all related and moreover, the information the researcher collected, some reliable and dependable, helped immensely in the synthesis of this history. Therefore, the weakness of a particular area was complemented by the other.
On the whole, there is no claim to perfection of any nature, as far as this study is concerned. It should rather be seen as an attempt to interpret historical phenomenon within the limits of available resources. Therefore, constructive criticisms are welcome.
1.5 Research Methodology
The methodological approach employed in this work is to enable the researcher look at the entire activities of the organization to ascertain how these have influenced the society. This shall be substantiated by undertaking a comprehensive and holistic survey of the organization, because this creates the basis for us to effectively discuss the project. In writing this long essay, materials were collected from oral sources, oral history and written documents. Great wisdom and knowledge are however, contained in oral tradition and if carefully harnessed, can provide materials for the reconstruction of history of extinct communities or individuals.
Mention has also been made of oral history. These are eye witness accounts given by people about the events in which they participated or observed. In theory, the information in oral tradition goes back through a chain of transmission to an eye witness or a participant. This illustrates the fact that for us in Africa, both oral tradition and oral history constitute essentially one unified mode of historical Conciseness5. Eye-witness accounts pose special problems for historians6. The eye-witness is describing a situation from his own vantage point. What this suggests is that he may not be able to give the total picture of events that he is talking about7. Consequently, it becomes important when one is dealing with eye-witness accounts, to collect as many variants as possible. Secondly, eye-witness accounts are idea of what happened before and after the event described8.
Thirdly, the eye-witness himself, if he happened to have been a foreigner in the area that he is writing about (this is also true of travelers account) may not be able to relate what he sad to the total culture of the people involved. Despite these limitations, however, eye-witness accounts have a very significant role to play in historical reconstruction. Because of this, they really become a window into how man perceived things happening around him. By and large, only those people who exhibited good knowledge of the organization and the topic of the research were interviewed. The written materials were collected from private, public and university libraries.
1.6 Literature Review
It is not scholarly to write about Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio without first discussing Ibibio-land especially its geographical and historical survey land before the formation of the Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio. This is to have an holistic view of Ibibio ethnic nationalism.
Be it as it may, there are quite a number of works on Ibibio people. The book “Sociology of the Ibibio: A study of social organization and change” written by Ekong Ekong, deals with the origin and migration of the Ibibio people to their present settlement and the subsequent emergence of the Ibibio State Union. Nothing is written about the main topic of this research work.
“Ibibio Pioneers in Modern Nigerian History” by Monday Noah dwells on the origin and migration of the Ibibio people and the roles the pioneer Ibibio Sons and daughters played in the subsequent creation of Akwa Ibom State. The creation, activities and achievements of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio are not documented.
P.A Essoh and Abiodun Oluwabamide’s book, entitled “Highlights of Nigerian. Cultural Heritage” emphasizes on the cultural heritage of Nigeria. It argues that Nigeria, in which Ibibio land situates, was pure and virgin until it was defiled by the European incursion.
“Akwa Ibom State at Twenty Towards a Greater Akwa Ibom State” edited by Ukpong, E. documents the humble beginning of the state from where it was to where it is today.
“Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio; challenges and prospects” written by Sylvester Akpan is the only text that documents, fragmentarily, the activities of Mboho.
It is pathetic to discover that no chronological and comprehensive writing has been done on Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio. It is with these issues in mind, that it is perhaps necessary that “Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio: A study in Ethnic Nationalism, 1970-2011” is undertaken, to provide a reference material to both members of mboho and the general public. This research depends majorly on oral tradition for the collection of data.
1.7 Definition of Concept
(i) Mboho: Mboho literally means an association or gathering.
(ii) Mkparawa: Means the young males. But in this context, it means the youth, both males and females.
(iii) Ibibio: The Ibibio are a people of South-Eastern Nigeria. They are related to the Annang and the Efik.
(iv) Ethnic: Connected with or belonging to a nation, race or people that shares a cultural tradition9.
(v) Nationalism: The desire by a group of people who share the same race, culture, language, to form an independent country10. It is also a feeling of love for and pride in your country11.
(vi) Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio is the gathering or an organization of youths from Ibibio extraction and other distinguished Akwa Ibomites from other ethnic groups like Annang, Oro, and Eki
(v) Ethnic nationalism is a form of nationalism where in the “nation” is defined in terms of ethnicity or race12. The central theme of ethnic nationalists is that “nations” are defined by a shared heritage, which usually includes a common language, a common faith, and a common ethnic ancestry”13.
1.8 Ibibio land: A Geographical And Historical Survey
The Ibibio people are found predominantly in Akwa Ibom State and is made up of the related Annang, the Ibibio and the Eket and Oron groups and these other groups usually understand the Ibibio language14. Ibibio land is located in South-Eastern Nigeria15. It is geographically located between latitude 4025’ and 5030’ North and longitude 7030’ and 8030’ East16. The people share a common boundary with the Aro and Ngwa Igbo of Abia State to the north-west and the Ekois to the direct north17. To the West and south-west, they share a common boundary with the Ijaw while to the East; they share a common mountainous boundary with the Western Cameroons18. To the South, the area is bounded by the Bight of Bonny19.
Physically, Ibibio land is remarkably flat or gently undulating, with almost no point rising to 300 feet above sea level20. The area is amply drained by the Qua Iboe and the Cross Rivers and their several tributaries and rivulets. Vegetationally, the area lies almost entirely in the thick rain forest belt21. The coastal portion has an annual rainfall of about 140 inches, with the rains being heaviest between May and July Fully the dry season starts towards the end of November with the North East trade winds bringing the harmattan down south and lasting till sometime in April22.
The soil in most Ibibio area is mainly loose friable sand which requires heavy fertilization and proper management to support more than a single crop per year23. The Ibibio country, however, supports a vast growth of wild oil palm in the high rain forest zone and mangrove in the coastal swamps.
Historically, prior to the emergency of Nigeria as a nation, the Ibibio people were self-governed. The Ibibio people became a part of the former Eastern Region of Nigeria under British colonial rule. During the Nigerian Civil war, the eastern region was split into three States24. Southeastern State of Nigeria was where the Ibibio-land was located, one of the original twelve States of Nigeria after Nigeria’s independence25. It is pertinent to State here that the Efik, Annang, Oron, Eket and their brothers and sisters of the Ogoja District, were also in the southeastern State26.
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 nineteen century on, oral traditions have them in the region much earlier than this.
“Ibib-ibio” means short or brief27. According to Ekong E. E. in his book entitled “Sociology of the Ibibio: A study of Social Organization and Change”, Ibibio-land is divided into six major subgroups, including their geographical locations28. These sub-groups are:
(1) Eastern or proper Ibibio, comprising of Uyo, Etinan, parts of Eket, Nsit Ibom, Nsit Ubium, Nsit Atai, Ibiono Ibom, and Ikot Abasi;
(2) Western Ibibio or Annang: Abak and Ikot Ekpene Divisions;
(3) Northern Ibibio or Eniong: Part of Itu, Calabar and Ikot Ekpene Divisions plus parts of Bende in Abia State;
(4) Southern Ibibio: Oron and Parts of Eket Division;
(5) Delta Ibibio or Andoni-Ibeno: Parts of Eket and Ikot Abasi Divisions; and
(6) Rivering Ibibio of Efik: Calabar and parts of Itu Divisions29.
Several attempts have been made to trace the origin of the Ibibio. As the Ibibio had no written records, it has been very difficult to obtain reliable historical source from where its origin could be traced. The frustration of using the oral tradition approach to trace the origin of the Ibibio people led Talbot to declare that “the Ibibio would seem to be a people of hoar antiquity and so long have they dwelt in this region that no legend of an earlier home can be traced to them”30.
Nevertheless, using the linguistic approach, the Ibibio language has been classified under the Sudanic-Niger-Congo group with its roots traced to some of the Bantu dialects31. However, no firm agreement exists on this issue as Westermann has maintained that the Ibibio and Efik languages are “Pseudo-class language”, as they do not fit either the Sudanic or the Bantu classification32.
Talbot, Robert Keown Edet Akpan Udo, K. O. Dike, and Henry Nau (to mention a few) have written academic materials on the origin of Ibibio. For instance, Robert Keown remarked that the Ibibio are probably the stock native from whom most of small ethnic group in the Qua Iboe and Calabar have sprung33. Edet Akpan Udo also maintained that the Ibibio people must have arrived in where they now live between 600 to 800 A. D. and that these people might have come from the central Benue valley34.
Henry Nau, a pioneer Lutheran Missionary, who worked among the Ibibio also maintained that the Ibibio origin could be traced to Usak Edet in Cameroon35. After the bulk of the people had arrived in the area now called Nigeria, the earliest point of settlement was Ibom in Arochukwu36. It is probably that at one time, the whole of the Aro district on the right bank of the Cross River was Ibibio country37. The Ibibio must have resided in Ibom for quite some time but indications are that some groups started migrating within present day Ibibio land not long after the bulk of them had arrived Ibom.
The last group of Ibibio people left Ibom as a result of clashes with the Igbo people which resulted in a war often called the Ibibio war38. Driven by land hunger, the Igbo came into collision with the Ibibio people. War ensued and to avert defeat, the Igbo sought the assistance of Akpa mercenaries39. Led by two war captains, Osim and Okuma, the intervention of these people on the side of the Igbo tipped the scale of war against the Ibibio. Talbot has estimated that the Ibibio war might have occurred between 1300 and 1400 A.D. We can, therefore, assume that present-day Ibibio land was fully settled by the fifteenth century40.
Due to the historical link between the Annang, Oro, Eket, Efik and Ibibio of Akwa Ibom State, the Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio admits members from other ethnic group in the State and other parts of Nigeria, especially in Cross River, and Abia States. This is due to historical affinity between the Ibibio ethnic groups and other tribes bordering the Ibibio nation.
1.9 Ibibioland before the Formation of the Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio
Prior to 1987, when Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio was created this unique ethnic group continued to agitate for self actualization, autonomy and emancipation from the strangled-hold of the majority tribes. For instance, during colonial period in Nigeria, the Ibibio State Union, formed by the Ibibio in 1928, asked for recognition by the British as a sovereign nation.
Before the formation of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, from 1970-1987, Ibibio land comprised of Annang, Ekid, and Oro, all these groups were referred to as Ibibio and Ibibio-land meant the area that is today known as Akwa Ibom State. Ibibio-land was still is a promising one with both human and natural resources that facilitated its growth and development.
By this period, the Ibibio Welfare Union which later metamorphosed into Ibibio State Union, had agitated for a separate state and before its proscription in 1966, was on path of realizing that noble dream. All the ethnic groups in the state were under this (Ibibio State Union) umbrella and as one, fought for the total emancipation and autonomy of the Ibibio people41. Fortunately, an 23rd September 1987, General Ibrahim Babangida (retired) ended his State of the Nation address and announced the creation of two additional states, Akwa Ibom, being one of the two States. In that same year, the Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio came to be and since then has been growing at an amazing rate.
The Ibibio ethnic group has always peacefully struggled for what they believe would benefit them, even when former Governor Attah and some members of the Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio agitated for resource control, it was peaceful and eventually they won. So before the formation of the organization, there was no ethnic disparity in the State as it is today.
1Dominus Essien and Udoh Readings in Akwa Ibom History (Calabar: Wusen Press Ltd., 1993), Pp. 8-10
2Okwudiba Onoli, Ethnicity and Development in Nigeria (England: Ashgate Publishing Ltd. 1995), Pp. 119-120.
3Sylvester Akpan, Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, challenges and prospects (Uyo: Universal Communication Ltd., 2003) P. 15
5Okon Uya, African History: some problems in Methodology and Perspective (Calabar: Cats Publichers, 2009), Pp. 22-23.
8Ibid., Pp. 23-24
9Sylvester Akpan, Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, challenges and prospects, P. 16.
10Dominus Essien and Udoh Readings in Akwa Ibom History, P. 8.
13Okwudiba Onoli, Ethnicity and Development in Nigeria, P. 121.
14Ekong Ekong, Sociology of the Ibibio: A study of Social Organization and change (Calabar: Scholars Press (Nig) Ltd; 1983, Pp. 1-2.
20Monday Noah, “Early History of the people” in Sunday Petters et al (eds), Akwa Ibom State: the land of promise, A compendium (Lagos: Gabumo Publishing Co. Ltd., 1994), Pp. 25-26
23Obio-Offiong Udo Ekong, A first step of the study of Ibibio History (Aba: Aman Press, 1958), Pp. 9&31.
25Ekong Ekong, Sociology of the Ibibio: A study of Social Organization and change, Pp. 2-3.
30Ibid., P. 3.
32Monday Noah, “Early History of the people” in Sunday Petters et al (eds), Akwa Ibom State: the land of promise, A compendium, P. 25
36Ekong Ekong, Sociology of the Ibibio: A study of Social Organization and change, P. 4.
38Monday Noah, “Early History of the people” in Sunday Petters et al (eds), Akwa Ibom State: the land of promise, A compendium, P. 25.
39Ibid., P. 26