Akwa Ibom is a state in Nigeria. The state was created by the military regime of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babaginda on the 23rd of September 1987.
The creation of the State was a fulfilment of years of lengthened clamour by the occupants of the mainland part of the former Cross River State.
History of Akwa Ibom state
The creation of the State marked good justice to many. This is because the state was left out in earlier state creation exercises despite foremost efforts in the struggle for state creation in Nigeria. This was spearheaded by the Ibibio Union, – a foremost Socio-Cultural organization which was a central platform for the people of this part of Nigeria.
Ibibio Union was formed in 1928 as a cultural association, however, in 1948, it was made over into an institution with the aim of promoting and spearheading the cause of state creation in Nigeria.
However, in 1967 during the Yakubu Gowon administration, and after the 12 state structure was founded, following the creation of states by the administration, the Mainland part of Calabar Province in the then Eastern region of Nigeria was ordinarily part of the then South Eastern State.
Moving on, in 1976, South Eastern State was renamed Cross River State. This change in name was not enough for the people. It made them clamour the more for a state of their own.
In 1983, after the break down of the 2nd Republic, a memorandum was sent to the then General Buhari administration demanding the creation of Akwa Ibom State. This was done by the paramount rulers from the 10 Local Government areas that made up the mainland part of the then Cross River Stat.
This action did not yield the desired result.
Undaunted, the people waited for another opportunity. In 1986, another opportunity came when the Administration of General Ibrahim Babangida set up a political Bureau with the aim of outlining the political direction of the country for the future. The memorandum was re-submitted.
On September 23, 1987, the collective dream of the people was actualized as Akwa Ibom State, with the slogan the “Land of Promise” was finally created. This was after about four decades of resilient agitation.
Akwa Ibom lies between Latitudes 4o 32” and 5o 33” North and Longitudes 7o 35” and 8o 25” East. The State has Rivers state on its east, Cross River State by the west, Abia State on the north and the Gulf of Guinea by the south.
At the moment, Akwa Ibom state encompasses a total land area of 7,249 square kilometres. Disputed territories are not included here. It ranks as the 10th largest state in Nigeria in terms of land area. About 13.4 per cent of the 960km of Nigeria’s Atlantic Ocean coastline runs through the State. Towns in Akwa Ibom include; Eket, Ikot Ekpene, Ikot Abasi, Oron, Abak, Itu, Etinan, Ibeno, etc.
The people of Akwa Ibom State are culturally bounded and alike with a common identity. They are reputed to be the first settlers in the present day South Eastern Nigeria. Ibibio, Annang and Oron are the three major dialects. Other subgroups include Eket, Ibeno, Itu Mbonuso and the Andonis. The language of government and business, however, is the English language.
Akwa Ibom is within the tropical zone. It, therefore, enjoys predominant vegetation of green (trees and shrubs). The state is a major part of the nation’s oil-palm belt. The Atlantic coastline stretches 129km from Oron in the East to Ikot Abasi in the West. Three distinct vegetation zones exist within the state: the saline water swamp forest, the freshwater swamp forest and the rain forest.
Akwa Ibom is reputed to be a uni-cultural State where norms, taboos, customs and traditions are held in high regards and often the same. While the folkways may differ from one ethnic group to another, the cultural norms in operation are fundamentally the same in all groups of the state.
The cultural similarities that bind the people together are in such areas as cuisines, dressing, dances, songs, rituals, folklore, beliefs and myths. Almost all aspects of the state’s culture hold memorable experiences for tourists and good opportunities for investment.
1. Asian Ubo Ikpa
Asian Uboikpa is translated to mean ‘the proud and flamboyant maiden’. This dance is done by maidens between the age of 18 years and 25 years who have passed the ‘Mbopo’ institution. Mbopo is the period in which a girl is enclosed, well fed and trained on various aspects of home management. This is done in preparation for marriage.
This is the common tradition in almost all the remote areas of the State. Performed by maidens at their prime, Asian Uboikpa has its exuberant appeal as it asserts the youthfulness, beauty, and innocence. It also promotes the motto of the Akwa Ibom people on chastity and good moral behaviour.
Oko is the male dance, ferocious in nature. It is therefore likened to a war dance. The climax of this dance starts when the dancers’ start slashing at one another with razor-sharp machetes and firing at themselves with live bullets from Dane guns.
It is usually astonishing and often considered mysterious that not a drop of blood by any of the fighters is shed as the machetes cannot get through the skin of the dancers, neither will the bullets hurt any of the members. It is said that participants are in a secret society.
Nkerebe means looking for a husband. It is another woman dance popular among the Akwa Ibom people. It is performed yearly by young girls at the age of puberty while they plan to perform the Mboppo ceremony.
4. Asian Mbre Iban
Asian Mbre Iban is a dance performed by single ladies to showcase themselves and inform the unmarried men of the community on their eligibility. Akwa Ibom has many more women dances such as Akan, Asamba and Uwok which is performed in the villages now and then.
5. Ndok Ufok Ebe
The Ndok Ufok Ebe means the shame of a bad marriage. It is yet another woman dance to express grievances over maltreatment of women by their husbands. The dance is usually performed with songs informing the community about their plight. The women are topless when performing the dance in market places.
There is also the Ebre society women dance performed yearly during the harvesting of new yam. During this occasion, women dance to the market place and neighbouring villages. The dance is not only meant to entertain but as well as deliberate protest against what is regarded as male chauvinism, which is reflected in the vulgarity of some of the song texts.