REAL REASONS WHY ETUBOM EKPO ABASI OKON OTU IS NO MORE THE OBONG OF CALABAR
Peter Edem Effiom
There has been an increasing demand for facts in the matter concerning the traditional ruler-ship of the Efiks, one of the major tribes in Nigeria.
For fifteen years since his usurpation as Obong, Etubom Ekpo Abasi Okon Otu has been on a litmus test to ascertain the authenticity of his occupation of the revered throne of the Efik kingdom.
The throne has been a subject of a several court cases, resulting to various judgments by different courts in the country.
While many have risen in defense of the ‘dethroned’ Obong of Calabar, it becomes pertinent to set the records straight, I believe the media needs to be more careful and be willing to research thoroughly before rushing on the air or into print, hence they may be playing the cards of the few who took advantage of the ignorant many, thorough research was carried out to respond to succinct questions regarding the tussle, to lay the facts as it is in the grand scheme of things.
History does not lie
Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu is from the Isukise line and the Etubom of Ikot Mbo Otu in Adiabo.
In 1968 during the civil war, he moved from Adiabo and lived in HRH Etubom Dr. Anthony Ani’s maternal grandfather’s house in qua town Calabar.
Etubom Dr. Tony Ani was a young partner in KPMG then and HRH Etubom Dr. Anthony Ani was responsible for paying of the school fees of everyone in the compound.
While Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu was in his final year in WAPI (West African People Institute) his parents couldn’t afford to pay his fees and it was Etubom Dr. Tony Ani who awarded him scholarship and was also responsible for his upkeep and maintenance until after the civil war.
He Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu was the first ever beneficiary of Etubom Ani’s various Scholarship awards.Record has it that Etubom Dr. Tony Ani appointed Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu as his emissary, coordinator for Western Calabar and custodian of his campaign funds.
The Constitution of the Etuboms’ Traditional Rulers’ Council, 2002 edition contains two separate categories of Etuboms. Category “A” is for the Etuboms who are of “AGNATE” descendants who have the right to ascend to the throne of Efik people and Category “B”, is for the Etuboms of “COGNATE” descendants who cannot aspire to become kings in Efik land.
The late Edidem Otu Ekpenyong Efa of Adiabo had left behind the genealogical Chart of the Adiabo lineage showing clearly that MBO OTU, the mother of Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu, a female descendant, who married Ntoe Inok of Ikot Ansa and bore two children for the man. The descendant of these Children of Ntoe are still alive to testify to this truth.
There is no record in the whole world to prove that a man had ever given birth to a child. Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu knows that he is not qualified to be the Obong of Calabar due to the fact that his mother was an Adiabo woman.
Following the death of Ntoe Inok, Mbo Otu met a fisherman from Okobo called ISUKISE which relationship brought about the birth of Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu.
Throughout his Primary/Secondary school days in West African People’s Institute (WAPI), Ekpo Okon was bearing “Isukise” as his surname. How Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu became Isukise’s other names only Ekpo Okon can explain. He Ekpo Okon once published his profile in the press and addressed himself as ‘Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu, nee “Isukise”.’
We know that nee-hood is associated with ladies who became married later, hence the need of the change of name.
That he published the change of the addition of “Isukise” to his name can only be explained by him alone but with this unfoldment, it is a great indication that he is a man of complicity and dubious character.
Forged and Deceptive Genealogy
Ascendency to Efik throne is done patrilineally so that only eligible candidates on agnate lines can aspire to be Obong of Calabar.
Some families elect Etuboms on matrilineal basis but these should never aspire to be the Obong of Calabar.
It was therefore curious and deceptive when on 15th March 2008 a meeting of Okpokoro Otu Mesembe (Adiabo Traditional Council) was held at the residence of Etubom Lawrence Asido.
Present at the meeting were Etubom Lawrence Asido (Chairman), Etubom Otu Effah Otu, Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu, Etubom Ekpo Nsa Asuquo, Chief Asido Etim Okon Effah, Chief Ekpo Okokon Ekpo and Mr. Maurice E Effah. At the meeting, Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu who became Etubom matrilineally, indicated interest of contesting for the Obongship.
Etubom Asido objected to his ambition since he descends from the feminine line of the genealogical tree of Otu Mesembe Ukpong Atai Iboku. Etubom Otu Effah Otu suggested that if all present agreed to an oath of secrecy, he would make Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu to come from male descendant by changing Mbo Otu Mesembe to become a male son of Otu Mesembe.
The significant but deceptive change of genealogy was agreed and Mbo Otu Mesembe was changed from female to male and Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu‘s genealogy was altered under oath of secrecy.
Etubom Asido warned that nobody knew when petitions from other Efik clans would come especially Mbiabo who would have been robbed twice for the throne.
However, others felt there would be no petitions and no Efik clan would know what Adiabo was doing in their own house arrangements except somebody from among them would tell outsiders about that plot.
All members unanimously promised to seal their lips.
The researcher later had seen and made extracts of the minutes of the meeting of Okpokoro Otu Mesembe particularly the meetings of 27th February and 15th March 2008.
From Umpire to Aspirant
The juncture where Etubom Ekpo Abasi Otu switched from being an umpire to an aspirant in the race, deviated from the constitution of the Etuboms’ Traditional Rulers’ Council, which clearly states that a candidate who is aspiring to become an Obong must be a person of “UNQUESTIONABLE INTEGRITY” which he Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu has proven otherwise.
“The exclusivity of the stool to Ikoneto was raised by Etubom Tony Ani and the acting Chairman Etubom Otu Effah was referred to the letter of the Council written on 13th March.
He assured him that the two candidates were screened as reserves.
It was on this basis that Etubom Ani participated in the screening process.
Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu presented the forged genealogy prepared by Otu Effah Otu to the screening Committee for Obongship presided over by the same Otu Effah Otu”.
“After the screening, all the Etuboms were asked to leave, remaining only Etubom Otu Effah Otu and the secretary.
They then compiled a report that was never tabled before the full council for discussion or ratification.
The concocted report was submitted to the Etuboms’ Traditional Council on Friday 27th March 2008.
“Etubom Tony Ani had earlier written to the Etuboms Traditional Rulers Council for introduction and proclamation as the Obong of Calabar but the palace refused to reply to his letter.
The concocted screening report which did not include Etubom Tony Ani’s name but that of Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu was submitted to the Etuboms’ Traditional Council on Friday 27th March 2008 and on 1st of April 2008, Etubom Tony Ani sought redress in a court of competent jurisdiction.
It should be stressed that Etubom Ani at no time sued the Obong of Calabar but only sued the Etubom’s council and westhern Calabar traditional ruler’s council in respect of the selection process which was flawed from the beginning.
In his judgment at THE HIGH COURT of CROSS RIVER STATE delivered on 30/1/2012, the trial Judge, O.A. Ogar, J. clearly stated as a fact to the world as also confirmed at the supreme court judgment NO.633/2013 of 13th JANUARY 2023 the following: as in this case, a member of a supervising or nominating body in a selection process turns round to himself be a nominee for the position.
And so it was, when the 4th Defendant (Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu) as Chairman of the Western Calabar Traditional Rulers Council indicated interest in the Obongship of Calabar.
His Vice- Chairman quickly jettisoned the screening exercise already conducted, only to prepare a sham report, which he forwarded to the Etuboms Conclave of the Palace of the Obong of Calabar.
And as it is, the Conclave quickly conducted an equally sham election purporting to declare the 4th Defendant the winner.
The Supreme Court Judgment
“It is for this reason that I wholeheartedly agree with the Court of Appeal that the selection and proclamation of the first Respondent as the Obong-lect, on 31/3/2008 must be set aside.
But it is my view that the justice of this case demands that the Western Calabar Traditional Council, which was mandated to select an Etubom from amongst themselves, ‘who shall be the new Obong’ should go back to the drawing board, and start the process on a clean slate.
This is because the way and manner in which the first Respondent was selected and proclaimed the Obong of Calabar, polluted the selection process, or should l say muddied the waters, so that there is no clear view of when and where to say this far and no more in the process of selecting the next Obong.
In the circumstances, the best way to go is for the Western Council to conduct another process to select an Etubom, who shall be the new Obong of Calabar.
”SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT NO. 633/2013 of 13TH JANUARY 2023
HRH ETUBOM Dr. ANTHONY ASUQUO ANI & HRH ETUBOM EKPO OKON ABASI OTU
His removal by the court
Following the Supreme Court’s decision of 13th January 2023 nullifying the selection and proclamation of Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu as Obong of Calabar.
All his actions as Obong of Calabar between 1st of April 2008 and 13th January 2023 were swept into the dustbin of history and all appointment made by him were null and void and of no effect.
It therefore follows that all Etuboms of Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu’s council was illegal and could not participate in the selection of the Obong of Calabar.
His fourth selection and nomination which took place on the 18th of January 2023 was said to be done in his house at Adiabo Contrary to the provisions of the 2002 constitution of Etuboms council by his illegal Etuboms council of which 11 out of the 14 members were capped by him and without the consent of the chairman and the secretary of Etuboms council and contrary to the provision of the 2002 constitution.
This was indeed a sham selection by Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu and his cohorts.
The PUNCH Newspaper of 30th June, 2023 by its journalist Manny Ita captures this perfectly in his article ‘Obongship of Calabar and sanctity of Supreme Court judgments’; ‘The courts at every level from state to supreme have set aside the obongship of Etubom Abasi Otu and as such reversed actions to proper selection of a king, which requires that candidates be put forward from the houses of western Calabar but specifically from Ikoneto in accordance with laws of natural justice and equity.
The lead judgment delivered by Justice Mohammed Garba and confirmed by Justice Uzo Ndukwe-Anyawu and Onyekachi Otisi upheld the earlier judgment of the lower court that due process was not followed and the selection of the incumbent was null and void.
The Calabar High Court presided over by Justice Obgojor Ogar had in a judgment suit number HC/102/2008 on January 2012 brought by one of the contestants of the Obong stool, Etubom Ani, declared the process that brought the Obong to the throne as null and void and restrained the appointed king from participating in any selection for that purpose.
Justice Ogar restrained the Obong from parading himself as the Obong of Calabar until proper election has been done and also restrained the Etubom traditional council, from excluding Etubom Ani and Mbiabo Ikoneto from any election or selection of an obong, a judgment that for the most part was flagrantly disobeyed as the practice seems to be with court judgments on the stool in contention.
In his judgment that lasted for about an hour, Justice Garba said, “for the breach of principles and natural justice and the first respondent’s, Anthony Ani’s, right to fair hearing, the selection process conducted by the appellant which terminated in the selection and proclamation of the respondent, Otu, by the Etuboms Council is null and void.”
This decision was reached by the apex court, consequent upon its finding, that Etubom Abasi Otu was selected and proclaimed in an illegal manner, not in consonance with the principles of equity, fairness and natural justice.
Consequently, to all intents and purposes the throne of the Obong of Calabar has been declared vacant.’
Instead, Etubom Ekpo Abasi Otu resorted to the Police and the DSS to intimidate the legitimate Etuboms from gaining access into the Palace and till today still continues to put on the paraphernalia of Efik kingship attire including “NTINYA”.
Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu’s illegal council (Deposed) continues to stage-manage solidarity visitation to the Palace to aid his struggle for Obongship in defiance of the judgment of the Supreme Court.