CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTIONItam is one of the Ibibio clans in Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, of has 47 villages. According to Oto-Abasi Akpan in his book “History of Itam People”, Itam has an area of approximately 556.1square kilometres and a population of about 101,000 people. It is bounded in the North by Enyong River, in the South and East by Oku and Uruan clans, in the West by Ibiono Ibom and in the East by Ayadehe and Oku Ibok clans1. Itam is made up of three lineage groups of villages, namely; Afaha, Ekit Itam and Ibiaku Villages. Ibiaku Itam has the largest number of villages that is 26 villages, while Ekit Itam has 14 villages and Afaha 7 villages. There are various cultural institutions like, Ekpo, Ekpe, Abon, Ekoong among others in Itam clan. However, this research will only focus on Ekpe and Ekpo institutions in Itam, their functions and comparative analysis between these institutions before summary and conclusion1.For the purposes of clarity, the work is divided into five chapters, chapter one on the introduction, justification and significance of study, research methodology, Literature Review, Scope and Limitation, and the definition of terms. Chapter two focuses on Ethnographic sketch of Itam clan which embraces the geographical location of Itam clan, its traditional origin, migration and Settlement the socio-political organisation of the clan and as well as the economic activities of the people. The chapter three examines the Ekpe and Ekpo institutions in Itam clan, their nature, organisational structure and functions. Chapter four is a comparative analysis of Ekpe and Ekpo institutions in Itam clan and the decline in their authority in Itam clan. Lastly chapter five examines the summary and the conclusion.
1.1 JUSTIFICATION OF STUDYAmong the people of Itam clan, there are many political institutions. Ekpe and Ekpo have remained their socio-political tools from the pre-colonial era to the colonial period, although some factors have influenced the functions of Ekpe and Ekpo in Itam clan. Separately in some works but attention has not been focused on the comparison of these institutions. To fill that gap Ekpe and Ekpo are political institutions in Itam Clan yet they have some the mode of operations, functions and impact. Also the work shows that despite the decline in the authorities and powers of these institutions of traditional government in the colonial period yet they still reflect some influence on the people, their socio cultural roles are still important and desire the attention of the scholar.1.2 SIGNIFICANT OF THE STUDYThis work is significant because it will bring to light the existence of Ekpe and Ekpo institution in Itam clan. The study will bring together the fragmented historical facts about the Ekpe and Ekpo institution existed in oral form, thereby serving as reference materials for other researchers and scholars in this area. It will also help to create awareness in the Itam citizenry and indeed others about changing.1.3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGYThe method adopted for this research is historical analytical approach, this method deals with the collection and analysis of primary sources and secondary sources as viral interviews were handled. Also existing literatures were also consulted analysed and suggested in the source of this research. This primary and secondary source have been used in the processing the analysis.
1.4 LITERATURE REVIEWWe shall review existing literatures in the subject matter in order to reveal the extent of work done what has not been done and the gap this study intends to fill the gap and in other to extend to the frontier of the knowledge .Edet, A. Udo in his book, Who are the Ibibio?, opined that, there are many secret societies in Ibibioland. Ekpe, like other secret societies, is indigenous to the Ibibio it was found in operation among a tribe down the coast towards the Cameroons but was improved and extended in its new field of operation . In old calabar the Efik obtained society from (Ekpe secret society) from their Ekoi neighbours and called it Ekpe (leopard). The European traders and missionaries rather call it Egbo. He maintained that the Efik are the descendants of the Uruan which is part of Ibibio. While in Uruan the Efik were members of the Ekpe secret society and they continued with the societies when the migrated to their present home. The name “Ekpe” is an Ibibio word. He also added that whenever the Ekpe masquerade want to move out of the Efe Asabo (Ekpe lodge), the Efik Head (Obong) of that grade of Ekpe had to Use the Ibibio Language to command it to come out. After that the Obong reverted to the Efik Language. He concluded that Ekpe is an indigenous Ibibio secret society and that the Efik shared the institution when they were in Uruan. Unlike Ekpo, whose membership was open to all adult male (free or slaves) who could keep secrets, Ekpe excluded slaves and their offspring from its membership. Ekpe secret society gave slave masters a forum for discussion on how to control their slaves and their offspring. Moreover, Ekpe rather than Ekpo was therefore the right choice of an instrument of government by the Efik slave masters. As Ekpe, Ekpo shared similar features such as, social, political, religious and economic funtions, for example the marriage custom and many more. Although the British colonial government and Christianity curbed some of the powers of the Ekpo and that of Ekpe, but the institutions still remain till date.4Also, Oto-Abasi Akpan in his book, History of Itam People, posit that, Ekpe was law enforcement agent in Ibibioland unlike Ekpo which was an open society for all adult male of age, irrespective of their social standing, the Ekpe had an element of exclusiveness. Only free born men were eligible for membership. Slaves, children of slave, and women were excluded from membership. Ekpe exercised wide political, social functions and even missionaries and British consul enlisted its support to enact laws, such as the law against human sacrifice. Additionally, Ekpe served as a police force to enforce its laws. It collected debts, stopped fights between individuals or groups, discipline slaves and generally kept the peace. To enforce laws, powerful agents of secret societies were used to execute the laws, these included Obon, Ekpo, Ekong and Ekpe, especially in riverine communities and villages5.Asuquo Anwana in his work titled, Ekpe Imperium in South-Eastern Nigeria, 1600-1900, analysed that Ekpe means leopard. In Ejagham “Ngbe” has the same meaning. The Europeans writers had the erroneous impression that Ekpe and Ekpo are one and the same institutions and maintained that Ekpe in every respect is different from Ekpo. Even though Ekpo like Ekpe also featured as an important organ of traditional governance, it was restricted mostly to Ibibio and Annang6. Apparently in corroboration of this view, Ekpo impersonate Ibibio and Annang ancestry wooden masks described in such a way as to instil fear and terror on non-members and exact obedience from them in the name of the ancestors. Ekpe was not meant to venerate ancestors, Ekpo masquerade paints his hand and legs with charcoal, holds a bow and arrow and machete either in his hand or tied to waist. Ekpe masquerade on the other hand usually dresses in a multi coloured raffia costume suit with a bell tied round the waist among other paraphernalia. The bell was allowed to sound at interval to announce its approaches to the unwary non intiates. The gong, drum and songs are different, Furthermore, membership of one does not imply the membership of other as different processes of initiation are involved7.This author added that, the philosophy behind Ekpe is power, authority and dominion.