ABONNEMA: FROM A MEAGER TOWN TO A MEGA CITY
- …As Amanyanabo Resolves 30-Year Oruwari Chieftaincy
…Dumo Emerges Acting Head of Oruwari-Briggs House
Abonnema, known as Nyemoni (which means “covet your own” in Kalabari language) and founded in 1882, is a kingdom within the Kalabari ethnic nationality. It is bounded on the East by Krakrama, on the North by Degema, on the South by Obonoma and on the West by the Sombreiro River. In Abonnema, there are four paramount chieftaincy houses: Owukori (Manuel), Oruwari (Briggs), Otaji (Georgewill), and Iju (Jack).
Its territory was discovered by an expedition of eleven chieftaincy houses from the Kalabari city-state (Elem Kalabari). Chief Ekine Manuel, who occupies the Da Owukori (Manuel) stool, Chief Young Briggs who sat on the Oruwari (Briggs) stool, Chief Akpana Georgewill who sat on the Otaji stool, Chief Kaladokubo Standfast Jack who sat on the Iju (Jack) stool, Chief Opu-Benibo Granville, Chief Orubibi Douglas, Chief Ngbula Blackduke (Oweredaba), Chief Ajumogobia Bestman, Chief Young-Jack, Chief Kala-Akpana Don-Pedro and Chief Aribimeari Membere, are the founding fathers of Abonnema. Again, Abonnema Kingdom is evolving exponentially, spanning into Obonoma Community, and with the recent sand-filling of about fifty-two hectares of land reclamation, approved by the Rivers State Government, Abonnema, the ancient nerve centre of seaport activities, will be emerging as a mega city soon.
Today, there are principally three kingdoms within the Kalabari Ethnic Nationality and several communities. These ancient settlements (Bakana, Abonnema and Buguma) had, over the years, evolved from being meager towns to Kingdoms.
These houses in Abonnema are headed by head chiefs, and the entire Abonnema Kingdom is headed by the head chief of the Owukori (Manuel) House, which was chosen based on the age of the chieftaincy stool it owns, being established in 1820. The incumbent chief on the Owukori (Manuel) stool is therefore the Amanyanabo of Abonnema. Chieftaincy installations are carried out within the memorial halls of each of the head chiefs, in whose house the proposed chief is being installed. However, for Chieftaincy or Amakobiri (meetings) within the memorial halls of either of the head chiefs, it is the duty of the Amanyanabo of Abonnema to preside over such meetings or activities requiring the attendance of the various head chiefs.
The head chief from the Manuel (Owukori) House has always served as the Amanyanabo of Abonnema. If, by reason of his absence due to travel, illness, or death, he is unable to reign, the head of Oruwari (Briggs) War Canoe House automatically assumes leadership as a regent.
Unfortunately, for a period of about thirty years, long before the reign of the incumbent Amanyanabo, His Majesty, King Barr. Disrael Gbobo Bob-Manuel, Owukori IX, the occupants of the stool of the Amanyanabo of Abonnema have been denied this assignment due to in-fractures within the Oruwari House and lingering disputes between the Owukori (Manuel) House and a faction of the Oruwari (Briggs) House.
This jinx within the Oruwari House and the dispute between it and the Owukori (Manuel) House have been recently resolved by the incumbent monarch, with the installation of Chief Dumo Owukori Lulu-Briggs as Iniikeiroari VI, precisely, on April 9, 2021.
Amazingly, within the Oruwari House, some chiefs installed within these thirty years have never sat together with the Abonnema Council of Chiefs as a result of the imbroglio within the Oruwari House and Owukori (Manuel) House, which many viewed as a major setback to the Abonnema Council of Chiefs. Nipping all of these in the bud, His Majesty, the monarch of Abonnema Kingdom, has magnanimously granted what he refers to as amnesty to the chiefs who were denied association with the Abonnema Council of Chiefs or those who refused to present their chieftaincy to the same Council, urging them to do so, within a period of thirty (30) days.
The historic installation of Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs as Iniikeiroari VI, which is unprecedented, being a great grandson of Young Briggs, and first in the lineage of the Young Briggs House to directly succeed his father, Iniikeiroari V (High Chief Dr. O. B. Lulu-Briggs) is no mean feat, considering the various sub houses within the Young Briggs Household. However, with his ascension to the Young Briggs Stool and the ability of His Majesty to create harmony and peaceful co-existence among the various units within the Oruwari House, we are therefore initiating an x-ray into the Oruwari House from the Kalabari Old Shipping to the pivotal role in the establishment of Abonnema in 1882 and contemporary Abonnema Kingdom.
Kalabari, prior to the great dispersal, had seven wards, namely: Endeme, Kroame, Igodome, Amabiame, Bukome, Ituruame and Akialame
By virtue of constant interactions with internal and external social, economic and political forces, Kalabari has metamorphosed from several forms. This is evident with the various nomenclature of the people at various times, such as Kengema, Owame, New calabar, Opu-Kalabari and Elem Kalabari
At about 1782, Dueinala, a contemporary of Amachree 1, had become very prosperous within the ancestry of the Akialame ward. Dueinala, whose trade name was “Black Jimmy”, with “Manilla” as his trademark, acquired enormous wealth to the chagrin of King Amachree I, who decided to put him under check. Consequently, Dueinala and many of his house members fled Elem Kalabari and took refuge in other settlements. After Dueinala died, Asukein, the new leader of Akialame, lacked the economic resources to rebuild the house and was succeeded by Ikata, a renowned merchant, who tried unsuccessfully to bring the remnants of the lineage together. It was Oruwari Biriki, (corrupted to Oruwari -Briggs), Ikata’s successor, who rebuilt the Dueinala’s House in his name.
Akialame’s Biegbolo daughter, Ojie Biriki, married Beye Amakiri of Ifoko and had Inoma, Oruwari’s father.
Oruwari was the son of Iniibatangamuari (mother) and Inoma (father) both of Dueinala House. Iniibatangamuari had sought refuge at Minama’s community shrine during her pregnancy, where she gave birth to Oruwariyibo (child born in a shrine). Young Oruwari grew up in Minama, became aware of his Dueinala’s ancestry in Elem Kalabari, came to Elem Kalabari, adopted the grandfather’s trademark of Black Jimmy, became very prosperous, and established the Oruwari Chieftaincy Stool in 1836. By this time, members of Oruwari-Briggs War Canoe House of Elem Kalabari dominated the exploitation of the Obaku Port in the producing center of Ibaa. Oruwari, who acquired great wealth but without a biological child, adopted forty-three children after an oracular confirmation that he would never have biological children. His first adopted son or Isiowu, was Opuda Iniikeiroari Young-Briggs. By 1863, the human and merchant capital acquisition of Iniikeiroari Young-Briggs had qualified him for a chieftaincy stool. Still, Oruwari disagreed since the former and his descendants would inherit the possessions of the latter. On his ascension to the Oruwari Stool as Oruwari II in 1867, Young-Briggs created the Bestman Ajumogobia and Membere Chieftaincy Stools.
Meanwhile, by 1863, the rivalry in Elem Kalabari between Awo-Barboy House led by Igbanibo Will-Braid and Amachree House in the politics of monarchical succession at the death of King Karibo Amachree III and attendant alliances had escalated. The unacceptability of Princewill (Kariboye Abbi) as Amanyanabo, even after formal enthronement in 1863, influenced the relocation of Will-Braid and Young-Briggs from Elem Kalabari to new settlements. The socio-political instability resulting from the activities of these opposition alliances (Amachree and Bob Manuel versus Awo-Barboy and Oruwari Briggs) eventually emasculated the state and also pushed Princewill Amachree to seek the support and protection of the British Consul.
Similarly, affiliated villages of the state also moved out of the estuary,” marking the collapse of the Kalabari Empire (Wariboko, 2014: 153). The impact of opposition, civil war (1879-1882) and separatism led to the irreparable undermining of the internal cohesion and stability of Elem Kalabari, the state’s deformation and transfer of sovereignty through the Treaty of Protection between Britain and Kalabari represented by its leaders, King Princewill Amachree IV, Chiefs Young-Briggs, George Amachree, Bob Manuel, John Bull, and Omekwe Horsefall Manuel” (Wariboko, 2014: 161; Okorosaye-Orubite, 2016: 2).
The civil war provided the communities conquered by Amachree I the long-awaited opportunity to regain freedom. In fact, “so loose was the political administration of the Empire that it would be more appropriate to refer to it as a ‘Union’ in which the provinces practiced ‘self-rule.’ Consequently, when the crisis split the canoe houses in ‘the capital of Elem Kalabari, Ifoko supported the Barboy, Abalama supported the Amakiri, while Tombia (New Town) was split between them” (Jones, 1963: 151; Okorosaye-Orubite, 2016: 14).
The relocation of Igbanibo Will Braid, to escape an alleged assassination plot, revealed to him by Chief Dodo West India through the drum, from Elem Kalabari to the strategic “Iwofe entrance to the New Calabar River markets on 10 July 1879”, and blockade of the “markets that were recently secured from Bonny and Okrika”, was a revolt that announced the Kalabari Civil War. This war defied internal and external mediations, even by the British admiralty and consular intervention that produced the “perpetual treaty of peace between Will Braid and the King and Chiefs of New Calabar, November 19, 1879”, but ended in 1882 after series of consular reprisals (Jones, 1963: 239-41; Okorosaye-Orubite, 2016: 10). The relocation of populations from Elem Kalabari and the founding of Bakana and Abonnema began the fall of the empire and its transition to a republic or confederacy. The mode of grouping and settlements following the dispersion from Elem Kalabari ignored any biological and filial relationships. Hence “Bob Manuel, who has little, if any blood relationship with Briggs and Jack, settled with the latter in preference to settling with Abbi (his father’s first cousin) and Wokoma (his sister’s son) in Buguma
It was Young-Briggs who brought the chieftaincy stools and ancestral screens, Duein Fubara of Akiala, Dueinala, Luku, Ikata, Ojuye-Briki, Beye-Amakiri, Beye-Gbolo, Oruwari from Elem Kalabari, and created the Alabraba, Dueinala and Cyclops Ideria Chieftaincy Stools in Abonnema.
The four house heads operated as paramount chiefs with the incumbent on the oldest stool, Owukori (Manuel), as Amanyanabo of Abonnema. However, in 1886, due to contestations over the Amayanabo of Abonnema Stool between Owukori (Manuel) and Oruwari (Briggs) Houses, King Kariboye Abbi, Amachree IV, visited Abonnema for the settlement of the dispute and King Abbi had to intervene and settle the dispute”. King Abbi awarded the ownership of Abonnema to Owukori (Manuel) on two considerations: firstly, that Manuel being the grandson of King Amachree I and, secondly, that Owukori stool which was created in 1820 was senior to that of Oruwari, being occupied by Young-Briggs.
Young-Briggs, upon his settlement in Abonnema, radiated influence. He was a pioneer member of the Kalabari Native Court and Council, inaugurated on May 13, 1893 at Degema by the vice consul. He was among those who received Comey from the British. He died in 1905. He was succeeded by Chief Ada Frank Briggs (Oruwari III), who created the Young-Briggs Stool in recognition of his immeasurable accomplishments.
Apparently, prior to the installation of Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, the Oruwari (Briggs) House was internally polarized into the R. R. Briggs, G. N. Alabraba, and O. B. Lulu-Briggs blocs by the politics of succession to the paramount stool of Oruwari, while Abonnema was divided between the Owukori (Manuel) and Oruwari (Briggs) over the ownership and/or headship of Abonnema, However, all of these issues are being resolved by the incumbent monarch, thereby paving way for wholesome peace in Abonnema.
Among these power blocs in Oruwari (Briggs) House, only G. N. Alabraba and his group of chiefs were attending the Abonnema Ama Kobiri, while members of the R. R. Briggs and O. B. Lulu-Briggs were only committed to the Kalabari Se Kobiri at Buguma until 2006 when the High Chief Dr. O. B. Lulu-Briggs’ bloc accepted the advice of King T. J. T. Princewill, Amachree XI, Amayanabo of Kalabari, to reconcile with the Abonnema Ama Kobiri.
All through this crisis, the Chiefs from both High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs and Chief R. R. Briggs had nothing in common with the Abonnema Council of Chiefs. This situation preceded the reign of the incumbent Amanyanabo, His Majesty, King Barr. D. G. Bob Manuel, who as a result of the development, was being denied the privilege to access the Oruwari (Briggs) Memorial Hall. Also, the Chief G. N. Alabraba bloc was deprived from accessing the Oruwari (Briggs) Memorial Hall, until the recent installation of Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs.
Thus, the installation of Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs by His Majesty, the Amanyanabo of Abonnema, at the Oruwar (Briggs) Memorial Hall, on April 9, 2021, following the granting of access to other sub house heads within the Oruwari House, is an achievement beyond rhetoric. Interestingly, with the demise of Chief G. N. Alabraba and High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs, Chief Dumo seems to be the unifying bloc within the Oruwari (Briggs), with Chief Ferdinand Alabraba now playing the role of a father for the progress of the Oruwari (Briggs) House.
It is therefore not surprising that Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, roughly four weeks after his installation as Iniikeiroari VI, was installed as acting head of Oruwari (Briggs) War Canoe House.
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