SOCIO-CULTURAL INFLUENCE OF EKPO SOCIETY IN IBIBIO
1.1 Background of the Study
Governance in traditional Ibibio is not a foreign concept. Even before the arrival of the British colonialist, there was noticeable sense of democracy in politics and method of governance as a group of people.1
Colonialism and Christianity came to meet existing religious, moral, economic, political, judicial and social behavior regulated body like Ekpo society that was well organized with strict codes of conduct. As an essential part of Ibibio traditional religion, its influence on the life of the people was conspicuous.2
In the traditional Ibibio society, people were not formally employed to keep order or to enforce the native laws, customs and the decisions of the traditional councils. The discipline of the people was the responsibility of secret societies which also served as social or political institutions. Some of these societies were Ekpo, Ekpe, Ekong and Akata. However, it was the sole responsibility of Ekpo society to act as the Law enforcement authority whereby members and non-members of Ekpo society were subjected to such laws.3
The political administrative structure in Ibibio traditional setting has “Esop Idung (village council)” as council of elders presided over by a Village Head ‘Obong’ now called ‘Ete Idung’.4 Nsung (Vice President), Akama Okuk (treasurer), Ewet-nwed (Secretary), Asanga Utom (messenger) or public relations officer. Elders from different villages constitute the clan council (Esop Ikpa Isong) from there the Clan head is appointed. It is important to note that such village heads must belong to any of the traditional institutions such as Ekpo, Ekpe etc. Therefore both the village councils and Ekpo society were partners in progress in governance.
In contemporary Ibibio society means and methods of law enforcement have changed. Consequently, there is presence of modern law enforcement agencies like Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Ekpo society was an active partner in progress in governance of traditional Ibibio. It is also worthy of note that leaders of the community who took decisions and enforced the execution were also members of Ekpo society.
Today Ibibio is pluralistic because of urbanization, western education and different religious affiliations that give credence to diversity. The presence of other religions in Ibibio land such as Christianity and Islam, and alternative law enforcement agency like Nigeria Police Force has brought about a change in cultural ideas and governmental institutions.
Following this differences and discontinuities in Ibibio, is Ekpo society still necessary as an administrative agency? Why is Ekpo society still commanding fans? Is it still needed for inter-agency collaboration?
Since there are reports of crimes associated with Ekpo society in contemporary Ibibio society, this research seeks to examine the socio-cultural influence of Ekpo society in traditional Ibibio and contemporary Ibibio society.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The objectives of the study include the following:
- To trace the governmental institution in the traditional Ibibio society.
- Evaluate the roles of Ekpo society in traditional Ibibio.
- To find out whether Ekpo society as governmental institution is necessary in contemporary Ibibio.
- To discuss and proffer solutions that will curb the excesses of Ekpo society in contemporary Ibibio.
1.4 Scope and Limitation of Study
This research work is limited to Itak Clan (a clan in Ibibio) in Ikono Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
It is also limited by informants’ suspicion of the researcher, lack of openness in their response to questions and fear of being identified with Ekpo society because of church – membership.
1.5 Significance of the Study
This research work is significant in the following ways:
- It will encourage the sociology of Ibibio.
- It will help in identification of importance of Ekpo society in Ibibio traditional society.
- Helps government to examine the activities of Ekpo society in contemporary Ibibio.
- The research will proffer solution to the menace of Ekpo society in contemporary Ibibio.
- It would also serve as a good reference material for those seeking to study Ibibio as a people.
1.6 Research Methodology
The method of research adopted in the course of this work was the comparative method of research which is the study of diversity. It is employed to examine patterns of similarities and differences across a moderate number of cases.
It is used to identify, analyze and explain similarities and differences across societies, thus eventually unraveling what generates or allows such a variation.5
Information was gathered from textbooks, journals, periodical and oral interviews. Other sources of information were internet and dictionary. These information were all synthesized through the comparative method.
1.7 Organization of the Study
This research project is organized in five chapters. Chapter one is the general introduction, chapter two deals with the review of related literature, chapter three discusses the concept of Ekpo society in Ibibio, chapter four examines the socio-cultural influence of Ekpo society in Ibibio. Finally chapter five gives a summary, conclusion and recommendations.