The Ibibio people are found predominantly in Akwa Ibom state and is made up of the related Anaang community, the Ibibio community, the Eket and Oron Communities. The Ibibio are a people of Nigeria. They are related to the Anaang and 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.
The Ibibio people are found predominantly 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 Ibibio 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. 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 was able to 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 and doesn’t have anything to do with “ulok” and while it is called “ufok” by some other Ibibio groups. The name “Ikot” often replaces “the house of… or the people of “, referring to their origin or ancestors. Another meaning for Ikot in Ibibioland is bush.
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 the majority of 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 disparity in wealth to be perpetuated in Ibibio society.
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.
Ibibio religion was of two dimensions, which 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 Ibibios were introduced to Christianity through the work of early missionaries in the nineteenth century. Samuel Bill started his work at Ibeno. 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. 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 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.
The masks and accoutrements of the Ekpo society make up the greatest works of art in Ibibio society. Drumming and music are also important elements in Ekpe ceremonies. The wooden sculpture from this area is also very detailed, and artists are just as likely to capture beauty as they are the hideous forms of evil spirits.
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; and Riverine Ibibio, or Efik.