Obot Etim remains in East Itam Ward V (more popularly called Ward 7) though she is one of the 11 villages of Itu Clan. The immediate past Councillor for the ward, Peace Okokon Archibong, is from there, making her one of the two Councillors (both female) from Itu Clan (until December 2020) and the first ever from Obot Etim.
Obot Etim is the smallest village in the ward which also comprises six East Itam Northern villages – Ntiat, Mbak Atai, Mkpeti, Ikot Ayan, Enen Atai and Afaha. Primary School, Mbak Atai, is the ward centre. Mbak Atai is also the Itu LGA Headquarters.
The Political Leader of Itu Clan, Mr. Okon Okon, sees Obot Etim’s continued stay in Ward 7 as an anomaly which must be corrected. Okon, a Special Assistant to the Governor on Project Monitoring and former Chairman of Itu Local Government Transition Committee, reveals that he is working towards the inclusion of Obot Etim in Itu LGA’s only new ward which is exclusively for Itu Clan.
Peace, who lost a second term bid to represent the ward to an Mbak indigene in the PDP primary in August 2020, counters that “we are comfortable in Ward 7 and there is nothing we have done in common with Itu as a clan.”
The Village Head of Ntiat, Obong Bassey Otu Ekanem, sees nothing wrong in Obot Etim’s presence in the ward. According to him, the people of Obot Etim, which is geographically in Ward 7, are settlers on Ntiat land from Atakpa and Obio Oko in Calabar South LGA of Cross River State.
Obot Etim, a small fishing village sandwiched between Ntiat on the east and Use Ikot Oku, in Ibiono Ibom LGA, on the west, is located on a hill above the T-Junction Market road. She is physically separated from the rest of Itu Clan by Ntiat, the largest village in Itu LGA, which was previously the Local Government Headquarters.
“Where Obot Etim is located is Ntiat land,” insists Ekanem as he takes this writer on an hour-long tour of his vast village. “Obot Etim people are aware. They got that land from Nung Okponyen in Ntiat and that is my family. They came separately from the people of Itu Clan. Their own business was trading in oil. But they fish also like Itu people. They are all Efik-speaking.”
To buttress his claim, Ekanem dramatically stops and summons one carpenter from a shop along the T-Junction Market road. He puts the question. The carpenter, who says he is from Obot Etim, admits that they are tenants on Ntiat land.
The Chairman of Obot Etim Village Council, Elder Eyo Okon, too, does not dispute the Ntiat monarch’s claim: “This land, we are living, Obot Etim, belongs to Ntiat. We don’t have problem with Ntiat. There is unity.”
Prof. Effanga James Usua, the legendary former Commissioner for Education in the old Cross River State, who is now the Village Head of Enen Atai, reveals that Obot Etim people once clamoured to join Itam Clan: “There was a time the people of Obot Etim said they wanted to be in Itam Clan. But we said no, you are Efik. Obot Etim was founded by Nkokom Etim, an Efik man. They were just traders and they got land from Ntiat and settled. Ntiat owns the land but the Efik established the settlement.”
Though founded by the Efik, Obot Etim, where no car has ever entered because of her very narrow road, is today dominated by Ibibio settlers from neighbouring villages in Itam Clan and Ibiono Ibom LGA and even from as far as Uruan LGA. An Uruan man, Chief Effiong Usanga, even served as the Village Head of Obot Etim in the past.
Eyo elucidates the village’s ethnic mix: “The founders of Itu and Obot Etim are Efik. But we are mixed, Efik and Ibibio. Majority are Ibibio. Personally, I am Ibibio. I am from Mkpeti. But my mother was from here.”
Peace is also Ibibio. The daughter of a retired Ibiono Ibom teacher who settled at Obot Etim, the ex-Councillor, who is in her late 30s, is married to an Efik man from the village. “This area is a settlement,” Peace explains as she shows this writer around. “Other villages in the ward carry us along. They don’t see us as Efik people because majority of the people in Obot Etim are Ibibio people including myself. Itam people have come to overwhelm the Efik people.”
Usua, whose village is not far from Obot Etim, also accentuates the ethnic reality in Obot Etim today: “Majority of the people living in Obot Etim are Ibibio people. So, how will they join Obot Itu people when the people of Obot Itu are running to Calabar? The Efik in Itu are called Efik in Diaspora. They associate with Calabar.”
Nonetheless, Obot Etim’s original settlers, the five founding Efik families, still exist with family heads. One of the families produced the immediate past Village Head, Late Chief Effiong Uken Etim, who was the maternal uncle of Dr. Ekaette Ebong Okon, the Chairman of the State Secondary Education Board. Obot Etim has not had a Village Head since Etim’s demise a few years ago. There are also scores of Efik settlers from Eniong Abatim Clan (Ekaette Ebong Okon’s paternal home) in Odukpani LGA of Cross River State.
Obot Etim is a tiny rocky area with two small creeks but no land to farm. Her farmers cross the wider Eniong Creek to farm on rented land in Edem Inyang Itu. To avoid harassment, they settle the two claimants to the land, Itu and Obodio village in Eki, an Efik clan, in Odukpani.
Culled from Chapter Five (Itu: Inside Akwa Ibom’s Tourism Capital) of the book, ACROSS AKWA IBOM’S TOURISM, OIL AND GAS FIELDS: A TRAVELOGUE By Inemesit Ina