Playing Games With Ibibio traditional stool
The highest traditional title in the Ibibio race, Okuibom Ibibio, has entered into another round of dispute. This time around the quarrel has pitched the state government against some of the paramount rulers from the area who have warned that Governor Godswill Akpabio should dissociate himself from the process of selecting and crowning the custodian of Ifim Ibom Ibibio, the ancestral stool of Ibibio people.
Last week, eight of the paramount rulers rose from a meeting frowning over the governor’s stand in the traditional matters. The monarchs, who were from Uyo, Etinan, Uruan, Itu, Nsit Atai, Nsit Ibom, Ini and Ibiono Ibom averred that there has never been a time when they have selected a person for a position in the government house. For them, there are rules and regulations guiding the process of selecting an Okuibom anytime the position is vacant. The process is different from what is obtainable in the Akwa Ibom State Traditional Rulers Council.
Newsworld learnt that the traditional rulers were piqued by the warm reception the governor accorded the paramount ruler of Onna local government area, Akpabio Udo Ukpa, a few days before their meeting. Governor Akpabio was said to have offered Ukpa state government support towards becoming the crowned Okuibom III billed to take place on January 13, 2012.
Udo Ntukobom, the paramount ruler of Ikot Abasi local government area, is said to have led the visit to government house, Uyo. It was alleged that Ntukobom had assured the governor that every plan has been perfected and dissenting views bought over for the ceremony on January 13 next year. Akpabio, therefore, pledged government support for the coronation of Ukpa as Okuibom, with the reason that there is only one leader at a time and for the fact that the Ibibio race cuts across the three senatorial districts of the state.
But the eight, Ime Udousoro Inyang, Ime Dickson Umoette, Edem Silas Akpan, E.B. Ekanem, Edet Akpan Inyang, A.U. Ntuen, Manasseh Akpan and Udo Effiong Akpan respective paramount rulers of Ibiono Ibom, Etinan, Uyo, Uruan, Itu, Nsit Atai, Nsit Ibom and Ini, have remained obstinate. They insisted that Ukpa is an impostor as he had been expelled from the membership of Ifim Ibom Ibibio since July 6 this year for gross misconduct and insubordination to the leadership of the exalted office. According to the royal fathers, Ukpa cannot become the Okuibom. The reason was that Ukpa went on air declaring himself as Okuibom III, three days after the burial of late Robert James Obot, who was assassinated in his home. The royal fathers said it was against the authority of the Ibibio race. They also said it is improper to have another person bear the past title of a deceased monarch, “History cannot repeat itself, and so Ibibio people cannot have another Okuibom III”.
For them, the Onna ruler is stirring the hornet nest and launching another insurrection after his struggle to become Okuibom III failed, as the late Obot was selected and crowned instead. The paramount rulers supposedly claimed that ascension to the throne is rotational explaining that the first person to occupy the throne was from Onna, where Ukpa comes from, the second person from Ibesikpo-Asutan and the third from Nsit Ubium.
“We hereby declare and strongly warn against government interference and advise the state governor, Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio, to steer clear of Ibibio traditional matters, especially as it concerns Ifim Ibom Ibibio stool,” they stressed.
Buttressing their position, the Ibibio kings said, at no time had government interfered in the selection of Itai Afe Annang and Ahta Oro, exalted thrones of Annang and Oron people respectively because the traditional system and the monarchs have a way of selecting their leaders. In the light of this, they boldly advised government to stay aloof while they choose the Okuibom, who is the president of Ifim Ibom Ibibio.
However, the state government appears to be watching the development with keen interest as it has remained silent on the matter claiming that there was no need for comment since the monarchs have warned it to steer clear of the developments.
The tussle for the exalted stool has suffered protracted disagreement among the monarchs even as the state government waded into the matter with those against Ukpa forming a strong force to discredit the monarch and ensuring he does not ascend the throne.
This magazine gathered that the throne garnered high reverence right from the time of Thompson Udo Uyota Akpabio of Onna, the first Okuibom through the era of his successor Okon Ekpo Ekpo of Ibesikpo Asutan. But trouble began when Ukpa showed interest in the throne and was dropped for the late Robert Obot.