By Akpan Akata
Calabar, the ancient capital city of Cross River State with three principal landlord kingdoms, literally stood still at the weekend as Ikot Ansa, a Qua community, celebrated the rites of passage of the late Madam Agnes Ene Eyo, the mother-in-law of our contributing editor, Akanimo Sampson.
The landlord kingdoms are: Qua, Efut and Efik. The Qua Kingdom has Ndidem as their Grand Patriarch, the Efut, Muri munene as theirs, while patriarch of the Efik Kingdom is Obong. Interestingly, Calabar is a large metropolis with several towns like Akim, Ikot Ansa, Ikot Ishie, Kasuk, Duke Town, Henshaw Town, Cobham Town, Ikot Omin, Obutong.
The late Madam Agnes was born in Osomba, an Ejagham community in Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River on May 7, 1929 to the family of the late Chief Eteyanjane and the late Madam Mitakichageh of Ayummbe Otuh family.
Mma Ibok, as she was fondly called for very obvious circumstances could not complete her primary education due to circumstances beyond her control. She was however, married to the late Chief Joseph Ene Eyo, who earlier joined his ancestors in 2011 at the age of 92.
Ene Eyo was a dreaded traditional war commander of the Ikot Ansa people who nicknamed him Iyip Iyak (the blood of fish that easily stains any intruder). He was also an inner sanctum initiate of the Ekpe (Leopard) Society. Ekpe is generally regarded as a secret society.
Truth is, the society is still flourishing among the Efik, Efut, and the Qua peoples of the Cross River State, those of Oron, and Uruan of Akwa Ibom State as well as the Arochukwu people, some parts of Abia State, and in the diaspora, such as in Cuba and Brazil.
It is a general belief among the three native tribes of Calabar that the members of the Ekpe society invented the Nsibidi. Without the doubt, Ekpe is a mysterious spirit that is supposed to live in the jungle and to preside at the ceremonies of the society. Members of the Ekpe society are said to act as messengers of the ancestors (ikan). The economics of the society is based on paying tribute to the village ancestors.
However, Madam Agnes was a prosperous farmer, a predominant occupation of the Osomba people. Her achievements earned her a place of honour in the Ejagham community as her children and extended family never had to beg for food.
She was born into a Catholic family, and an active member of the Catholic Women Organisation (CWO) at the Immaculate Conception Parish Ikot Ansa, Calabar Archdiocese. When a Catholic priest in the parish by name Rev. Father Joseph in 1992 later converted the Ikot Ansa traditional warlord to the faith, he baptised him and made him his namesake. The priest also led him into wedding in the church also the same year.
Those who knew her better say Mma Ibok was an epitome of peace, humility, love, sincerity and integrity worthy of emulation. Rev. Fr. Cyril Etta Koko Etta, the first Catholic priest from Ikot Ansa and a son of the large Ene Eyo family equally alluded to all that while conducting the funeral mass.
The priest who is fondly called Etta Koko in the fondly, who will be marking his 20 years of priesthood this coming December, pointed out that Madam Agnes associated easily with both the old and the young in the community, adding that she believed in unity and promoted it in the family.
‘’Mama was a lover of children, a giver, an adviser, and a disciplinarian’’, the eldest daughter, Madam Silvia Ekpe said. The departed senior citizen is survived by four children, six step children, many grand, great grand children, and a brother, Chief Etim Okon, MBE
Her only surviving son, Clement Ene Eyo, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State said, ‘’I can’t thank my mother enough for being so caring for me. Her advice and guidance have been sustaining me. She admonished not to be carried away by my status in society as a police officer. In your dealings with people, learn to be simple, friendly and kind. Let the world know that I inculcated these values into you. Thank you. That was what she kept telling me whenever we met.
I think if all mothers are like that the whole world will know peace. She was not greedy, not self-centered, not jealous of anybody’s possession, not seeking for things of this world by all means. She practiced and believed that God’s time is the best. You are mother of mothers, the best mother in the world.
Mrs. Dorathy Akanimo in her comment said, ‘’I lack words to say at this time. We are deeply torched by the sea of heads from Osomba, the Living Faith Church in Nibo, Anambra State, Assemblies of God Church in Oyigbo, Rivers State, police officers from Rivers and Cross River commands, friends and our good in-laws.
‘’As a family, we are very grateful for all those who have made this rites of passage a grand one for our mother. The traditional establishment and the CWO of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Ikot Ansa were unique in their support.