Whenever ethnicity is mentioned in Akwa Ibom State, what easily comes to mind is the tripod – Ibibio, Annang and Oro. It took a long struggle before Ekid (people of Eket and Esit Eket Local Government Areas) and Obolo (people of Eastern Obolo and Ibeno Local Government Areas) could be accepted by the Big Three in the 1990s as separate ethnic groups from the Ibibio.
But unknown to most people of the state, there exists three other indigenous ethnic groups in the state – Efik, Igbo and Ogoni, the Small Three, whose kith and kin are more in neighbouring Cross River, Abia and Rivers States.
The Efik, who speak almost the same language with the Ibibio and Annang, is the most populous of the three, what with three Efik-speaking clans (mainly descendants of Efik settlers who speak Efik as a first or only indigenous language) in Akwa Ibom State. These clans include two in Itu Local Government Area (LGA) and a substantial, if not majority, part of one in Okobo LGA. Interestingly, Itu is in the Ibibio heartland while Okobo is one of the five LGAs of Oro Nation.
The Igbo and the Ogoni are ensconced in a village each in Ukanafun and Oruk Anam, two neighbouring LGAs dominated by the Annang.
*Geography of Akwa Ibom’s Own Igbo*
Ohaobu Ndoki, as Akwa Ibom’s indigenous Igbo call their village, is located in Southern Ukanafun Clan and precisely in Ward II. The village is about seven kilometres from the local government headquarters, Ikot Akpa Nkuk.
She is bounded on the east by Ikot Inyang Udo, on the south by Edem Idim, still in the same ward, on the north by Ikpe Annang village of Etim Ekpo LGA and on the west by the Blue River which separates Ohaobu people from their kith and kin in Ukwa West LGA of Abia State and Oyigbo LGA in Rivers State.
Going around the village, which is quite large and rustic, she is no different from a typical Akwa Ibom village in terms of environment. The only thing that sets her apart is the Igbo spoken by almost everyone. This makes it difficult to believe that one is in Akwa Ibom.
Though the Akwa Ibom State Government recognizes Ikot Inyang Udo II (Ohaobu) as one village, the people, on their own, divide themselves into four villages – Akpala, Okpikro, Umuchuta and Ohaobu.
Numbering over 2,000, Ohaobu people belong to the Ndoki, an Igbo sub-ethnic group. The Ndoki and their Asa cousins dominate Ukwa West and Ukwa East, the only two oil-producing LGAs in Abia State, and Oyigbo, an oil-producing LGA in Rivers State which boasts of the famed Afam Power Station located in Okoloma.
“We are the Ndoki of Akwa Ibom State,” explains Pastor Magnus Kamanu, the Secretary of Ohaobu Village Council. “Ndoki are balkanized into three states. The river demarcates us from other states.”
The people’s occupations are mainly farming and fishing. In the past, the Blue River, which harbour is in Ohaobu, was a beehive of activities including smuggling (from Cameroon to Aba) and oil bunkering done largely by non-indigenous criminals and some local accomplices. Apparently, that necessitated the establishment by the Federal Government of a customs’ post not far from Ohaobu.
The people are mainly Christians of the Anglican faith. Christ Army Church and Assemblies of God Church also have many adherents in the village.
*How Ohaobu Became Part of Akwa Ibom*
Ohaobu used to be part of old Imo State (from which Abia State was created in 1991). In 1987, the village was made part of old Cross River State (from which Akwa Ibom State was created shortly after) by the Federal Government.
The river was used as a natural boundary, based on the recommendation of the Boundary Adjustment Committee chaired by Late Alhaji Kaloma Ali, a lawyer and politician who subsequently served as Minister for Solid Minerals’ Development during the regime of his close associate, Late General Sani Abacha.
*Ohaobu or Ikot Inyang Udo II: Much Ado About a Name*
There is a long-running dispute about the name of the village. The Akwa Ibom State Government in its Gazette (2000), which this writer sighted, recognizes the village as Ikot Inyang Udo II. This is the name Ohaobu’s Annang neighbours in Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo LGAs call the village. But the Ohaobu people vehemently reject this name.
It is obviously a measure of how the people are fervent about the Ohaobu name that the Eze-elect of the village, Chief Lucky Nwosu, rejected his certificate of recognition as the Village Head from the State Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in November, last year, simply because Ikot Inyang Udo II, not Ohaobu, was written on the certificate.
“Let them give me the certificate in the name of Ohaobu,” Nwosu pleads.
From the foregoing, it is crystal clear that Akwa Ibom State has her own indigenous Igbo population and not just Igbo residents (mainly businessmen) from Abia, Anambra, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Rivers States.
And so, whenever ethnic groups in the state are listed, the list should not end in five – Ibibio, Annang, Oro, Ekid and Obolo (Ijaw). Three more should be added – Igbo, Ogoni and Efik. Clearly, the trio is indigenous to Akwa Ibom State, a fact of life that cannot be wished away.
Indeed, Akwa Ibom is a multi-ethnic state.
By Inemesit Ina