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General News of Saturday, 5 August 2023


Obong of Calabar: Rifts rages on

Obong of Calabar Obong of Calabar

The Efik in Cross-River State takes pride in their monarchy, Obongship, the Obong of Calabar. The people display their adoration for the Obong by ascribing and describing him as Treaty King, Defender of the Christian Faith and other adorable names.

According to records, ascendancy to the Obongship is seamless as laid-down rules and traditions guide the selection and election processes.

Howbeit, like in most kingship the world over, there are instances where some princes vaulted by ambition would scheme to outsmart one another to take over the exalted crown, and that is what the Obong stool has faced in the past 15 years.

There have been squabbles, claims and counterclaims, litigations, and intrigues by two prominent Efik sons, Edidem Ekpo Abasi Otu V, who is on the throne, and Etubom Anthony Ani, former Minister of Finance. The battle between the two started soon after the demise and burial rites of the former Obong, Professor Nta Elijah in 2008.

Edidem Ekpo Otu was selected and crowned the Obong. Etubom Ani rejected the process, declaring that it was the turn of the Ikoneto Royal House to produce the successor.

He and his supporters approached a Cross River High Court in Calabar and after a protracted legal tussle, the court in 2012 dissolved the selection of Ekpo Abasi Otu and ordered a fresh selection exercise to be conducted.

In the process, Abasi Otu emerged from Obong once again. This prompted Ani to head to Appeal Court, and in 2018, the Appeal Court quashed the process that brought Otu and ordered another selection.

Etuboms Traditional Rulers Council excluded Ani in the new selection process, saying he was not “qualified” to contest. Ani headed to the Supreme Court, which, earlier this year ordered another selection process, now the third time. Still, the Etuboms sidetracked Ani, maintaining that, “he was not a capped Etubom in the Obong Council during the time of the selection in 2008”

However, smarting from the Supreme Court ruling, Ani declared himself the Obong -Elect.

According to Obong Council, “We have seen a video in which Chief Anthony Ani is seen surrounded by a motely crew purporting to have made him the Obong of Calàbar in his domestic residence, thus demonstrating their delusion or ignorance of the sacredness of such an affair. All the 24 royal houses recognized Abasi Otu, and not Ani who is desperate to be Obong, a throne he is not even qualified to contest.

“In that judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed the earlier judgment of the Court of Appeal in 2023, which found Chief Ani as traditionally unfit and ineligible to vote or be voted for in matters concerning the stool of the Obong of Calàbar. The purported smuggling of his name into the contest as an aspirant to the revered Efik throne was vehemently frowned at and adjudged as contamination of the process.”

The Etuboms Traditional Council added that when the Supreme Court ordered a reelection exercise, it specifically stated that the first respondent, Edidem Ekpo Abasi Otu V, was “automatically qualified” to participate in the said process Adhering to its age-long traditional process in compliance with its constitution, the council said that it carried out a re-selection exercise on the 18th of January 2023 and re-proclaimed His Eminence, Edidem Ekpo Otu V as the Obong of Calàbar for the fourth and final time.

However, buttressing his claim when the six royal houses of Ikoneto paid him a solidarity visit after the Supreme Court ruling, which called for process for the election of Obong to take place afresh, Ani maintained he was the Obong -elect.

“I was elected Obong of Calabar 15 years ago but we were betrayed by the ambition of one person who took the crown away to Adiabo and that made us to go to court.

The Supreme Court in its wisdom nullified what was done and we were asked to return to the drawing board and carry out the process”.

He said in the re-election, following the directives of the Supreme Court, only the Etuboms, who took part in the 2002 process were eligible to partake in the reelection of the new Obong.

He noted that “during that process, out of the eligible Etuboms, four voted for me and three for Etiyin Abasi and that is why the process for my crowning is going on with the visit of the Ikoneto Royal House”.

He said the ancestors and even the witches have recognised him as Obong of Calabar and nothing will stop it as it was the turn of Ikone Royal House to produce an Obong and nobody will take it away Ani said he was physically and spiritually prepared to be Obong of Calabar and would soon begin the building of a befitting palace for the Obong which will accommodate all the traditional shrines and abodes for the ancestors of Efik people Speaking in the same direction, Etubom Nya Asuquo, former Nigerian Ambassador to Uganda and Essien Ekpenyong Efiok, Chairman of the Etuboms Traditional Rulers Council, who are backing Ani, stated that the rightful occupant to the throne of Obong in the light of the Supreme Court ruling should be the former Finance minister.

“The Supreme Court ruling is quite clear that we should return to the drawing board and conduct the selection process on a clean slate, which means that all this time there has been no Obong because what they did is null and void. We had to go back and the Etuboms voted Chief Ani, therefore, he is the one to occupy the throne of Obong, “Etubom Eyoma told Saturday Vanguard. Etubom Efiok, who corroborated Asuquo’s claim, said he (Efiok) was the Chairman of the Etuboms Traditional Council in 2008 and has been in the position from the time of Elijah Henshaw and when the Supreme Court gave the ruling in January, he invited Edidem Abasi Otu to participate in another selection process.

He explained that Otu did not show up and the Etuboms went ahead to select Etubom Ani “and that selection stands”.

Cross River State Government has kept silent in the past 15 years, refusing to be drawn into the traditional tussle. In January, this year, soon after the Supreme Court ruling, Mr Donald Duke, former governor of the state and an Efik son, called on Senator Ben Ayade, the immediate past governor of the state, to intervene in the matter, but Ayade kept mute.

The new governor, Senator Bassey Otu, also an Efik son, recently appointed the son of Etubom Ani into his cabinet but has not made any pronouncement on the protracted tussle