ESIT EKET AND THE TRADITIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN THE EARLIEST TIME TO THE PRE-COLONIAL ERA
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
Esit Eket is located at the extreme south of Akwa Ibom state and it extends across the South Eastern shore of the Atlantic Ocean. It is located at the Atlantic West line with boundaries with Ibeno, Eket, Nsit Ubium and Mbo local Government area. Prior to this historical political exercise, the geographical area now called Esit Eket was part of the Uquo Ibeno Local government area. Esit Eket local government area is made up of two clans namely; Eket Offiong and Eket Afaha which are held together by common traditions, customs and ancestral relationship.
EKET AFAHA CLAN EKET OFFIONG CLAN
AFAHA EKPENE ABA EKPE
AFAHA UTONG EDIDA EDOIR
EDI EDOR ATAI
EKPENE OBO ETEBI IDUNG ASAN IKPA MBAK UYO NTAK INYANG ODOR NKIT ONIOK EDOR UQUO URUA OKOK UWWO ISO EDOHO
The local government area has about 23 recognised villages and the local government headquarters is at Uquo. The socio-cultural and traditional life of the Esit Eket people is well displayed in dance, songs plays and mythologies, oracles, cult and festivals. The picturesque of these are dances presented in Ekpe masquerade, traditional dances, storytelling and plays. The Esit Eket people hold these activities in high regard. There are also many other plays which are used for leisure, some are associated with worship of deities, some with battle or warfare and others are pure cultic. Among these are the Ekpe, Ekong,Obon Ebre, to mention a few. The principal deities in the area include the Arara, Akuki, Yokho, Nsoabasi, Iim Itit and Isemin Odion. The messenger of the deities is popularly called the Nsong Edoho. It should be noted that even though the worship of deity is minimal owing to the spread of Christianity, some people still regard the deity as the prevailing and guiding spirit in the community. The predominant language spoke is the Ekid language. The Esit Eket people are mainly of the Christian Faith although some forms of African traditional religion are practised by a negligible minority. Some of the orthodox Christian churches that operate in the area include the Qua Iboe, Roman Catholic, The Apostolic and the Lutheran churches.
Esit Eket local government is within the Tropical zone and there is therefore influence by two principal climatic conditions, the dry and rainy seasons. The dominant vegetation of the area is the Mangrove swamp forest. In the hinterland, the green foliage of trees and shrubs is inter-spread with the erect and numerous trunks of oil and raffia palms as well as coconut trees. There are two distinct ecological zones which are the Marshy land of the ocean washed areas of Ntak Iyang, Odoro Nkit, Uquo and Edo,etc and the flat areas of Etebi and Uquo. The Esit Eket people are mainly farmers, fishermen and a considerable number are involved in trading with neighbours. They are actively involved in the oil industry downstream operation. They are equally very innovative and have a growing arts and craft industry. Esit Eket people are very hard working and are believed to have integrity when dealing with outsiders. There is also a good network of roads. There are also a good number of schools which provide quality education for the indigenes. Other vocational institutes are also located in the area.
1.2 LITERATURE REVIEW
It is pertinent to note that Traditional Institutions to represent the indigenous instruments by which the various Nigerian peoples organised themselves and managed their affairs long before the imposition of British colonial rule. Traditional rulers on the other hand, are the divinely ordained individuals chosen by their respective peoples to administer the affairs of their respective domains in accordance with their customs and traditions.1The traditional Institutions in Esit Eket were effective. It should be noted that the Esit Eket society is generally divided into age sets (Nka).2To the point of fact, the age grade set acts as an institution that ensures orderliness in the society. In times of war they provide the army to defend their settlements. They also take part in communal work, like building and maintenance of access roads, public places and policing of the town. The age sets formed the essential link in the chain of governance of their village without them the government will be paralyzed.
The women organisation played a predominant role in the traditional life of the people. They exercised enormous political, social as well as economic influence. One of the Women institution known as the Iban Isong made up of daughters of the land were in the fore front in matters concerning the political and social rights of women.3 No man of whatever standing in the society dare cross paths with Iban Isong. If a man uses obscene language, the aggrieved lady could report the matter to the head of the women group in that village and the man disciplined accordingly. The same applies to a man identified as adulterous or one who is found to be recalcitrant or is found to be in the habit of letting loose his goat or cattle to destroy women’s farm crops.
Some institutions were based on gender. One of such institutions was the Atat Institution. Atat was a cultural society, practised by the men. It should be noted that the awe attached to this was almost as great as that of the Ekpo Nyoho. Atat was a cult for the younger people and it involved a lot of acrobatic performances, with the young men displaying their agility at jumping, vigorous dancing and contorting of the body. The Atat masquerade used raffia, beautifully woven to cover the face and the body. He usually carried broom or stick, and not a machete. Another peculiar institution was the Idiong Society. Idiong was the society of senior citizens in the society and members paid high entrance fees. The society was divided into two distinct sections: Diviners and Practitioners of Traditional medicine. The Idiong priest who were diviners were consulted about many things, particularly personal and social problems or calamities, while the practitioners of traditional medicine dispensed medication to the sick and to those suffering from psychic ailments it was quite involved in the political and social life of the people in the community, as it gave advice regarding present and future events affecting the community.
The purpose of education in the traditional African society was to set a foot a man with functional skills that would help him live peacefully among others and contribute his quota to the overall development of himself and his community.4Ozigi (1981) corroborated Fafanwa when he says, “there is the traditional form of education which has existed in our own societies as in other societies for centuries.5 This is applicable to indigenous education in Esit Eket as it has been in practice for centuries. It has taught our children formally or informally, how to behave as members of a group (family, clan, peer, and community), the cultural values, rooms and beliefs of societies (as traditions, history, legends, folklore, dance, music and also how to produce certain things needed for the survival of the society (food, clothes, tools, housing, crafts). The contents of pre-colonial African Indigenous education took care of the totality of the approved life as conceived by each society. It also induced the expectations of the deities and ancestors about the way of life.
According to Fafunwa (1974) as supported by Omelewa (1981) the elders in the traditional African societies engaged in participatory learning.6This was also the same in Esit Eket. Hence, the skills, Knowledge attitudes and values that individuals learnt were to a greater extent, common to everybody. The advantage of this system includes the fact that the education was deeply rooted in the culture of each society and as well as to enable the individuals not to be alienated by the process of the same education.
To Ocitti (1994) Indigenous education was organised along individual life long perspective from cradle to grave.7This was particular to the Esit Eket people as they believed that learning stops at death. Also the absence of indigenous education as it was not subjected to division as occurs in modern schools.
According to Chief J.B Adiakpan, the traditional education of Eket people was simply what today is called socialisation.8 By socialisation is meant the process of preparing children or youths to live in a society. The education that was given was carried out in the families (extended families) in the different play groups and societies, at work places at religious festivals and in some cases, through some system of apprenticeship.
The Esit Eket people consider their culture to be very unique. Culture is viewed as the beliefs, values, behaviour and material objects that constitute peoples way of life. Also Walter Rodney in his book ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ conceptualizes culture as a total way of life. It embraces what people ate and what they wore; the way they treated death and greeted the new born. Obviously unique features came into existence in virtually every locality with regards to all social details.9The purpose of Marriage was to accentuate establishment of family life which is universal and very important, and takes care of completely universal human requirements. Indeed marriage is the only way of controlling and satisfying the most fundamental need of the human being.10
1.3 STATEMENT OF RESEARCH PROBLEM
It should be noted that various scholars have engaged in numerous researches in regards to the history of Esit Eket. In the same vein, articles and literatures have also been written but no particular attention has been paid to the Traditional Institutions in Esit Eket. This means that there is a gap and the aim of this research work is to attempt to narrow the existing gap.
1.4 METHODOLOGY OF STUDY
This research work is analytical and holistic in nature. It included various investigation as well as collection of relevant information about the subject matter. Also, the research involved the collection of data from both primary and secondary sources. In regards to primary sources, the researcher conducted oral interviews with the people of Esit Eket as well as individual from neighbouring local government areas. Most of the people who were interviewed were above the age of 45 and the language used during interviews was the Ekid language and English language as the case demanded. The research also involved the use of secondary sources such as relevant text books and journals from resource centres. It is pertinent to also note that the Functional approach (narrative) and the causal approach (analytical) were adopted and applied in the course of this research work.
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The scope of this work focuses primarily on Esit Eket local government area. It pays particular attention to the Traditional Institutions in Esit Eket from the earliest time to the pre-colonial era.
1.6 LIMITATION OF STUDY
In the course of this research, the researcher encountered numerous obstacles militating against the success of the work. To start with, the written sources about the subject matter were insufficient and scarce and the oral accounts given were inconsistent and contradictory. Some informants were equally reluctant in sharing their experience. Dating some events was also a problem. However, the problems were carefully resolved.
1.7 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
This research would reawaken the spirit of oneness as well as boost the knowledge of Esit Eket people. It would also to a large extent intimate the Esit Eket people with their History.
1.8 AIM AND OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The aim of this research work is to provide adequate information about the history of Esit Eket.
It also attempts to trace the origin migration and settlement of Esit Eket people.
It analysis the religious life of the Esit Eket people
It examines the socio-economic and political institutions of the Esit Eket people.
It also examines critically and holistically the Indigenous system of Education in Esit Eket.
1.9 ORGANISATION OF CHAPTERS
The research work is comprised of five chapters. They are different yet still centred on the same theme. Chapter one focuses on the general introduction of the work. In chapter one, a detailed analysis was given on the background of study, literature review, statement of research problem, methodology of study, scope of study, limitation of study, aims and objective of study, significance of study and endnotes. Chapter two looks at the origin migration and settlement of the Esit Eket people, traditional government and the law enforcement agents and secret societies, the Pre-colonial economy of Esit Eket and endnotes. Chapter three focuses on marriage kinship and alliance, plays and pastimes, social status and rank, Eket women Association and Indigenous Education in Esit Eket and end notes. Chapter four is centred on the traditional religion of the Esit Eket people, the religious practices, the belief about man death and burial, and endnotes.Chapter five is the summary and conclusion of the work and endnotes.
1Oral interview with Chief Assam Udoh, 77, at his residence in Etebi on 16 June 2017.
4OzigiAsocho, Education in Northern Nigeria (Zaria: Tamza publishing house1981), p.81
6M. Omolewa, Adult Education Practices in Nigeria (Ibadan: Evans Publishers 1981), p.14
7J. Ocitti, African Indigenous Education (Nairobi: East African Literature Bureau 1973), p.87
8Adiakpan B, The Eket Speaking People (Lagos: Okjohn Nigeria Limited, 2000), p.24
9Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (London: Boyle L’overture, 1986), p.29
10Paul Bohannan, Africa and Africans (New York, The National History Press, 1964), p.159.