The Association of Bloodmen (in Old Calabar): A Re-Interpretation

In 1846 Church of Scotland missionaries arrived in Old Calabar (Nigeria) and set to work proselytizing. They not only lambasted polygamy and death by ordeal (at the death of an important chief), but were also against the inhuman treatment meted out to slaves. Four years after their arrival, an upheaval of the servile elements occurred. They banded together under the name ‘Nka Iyip’ (Association of Bloodmen) in an attempt to stop the practice of human sacrifice. The idea of freedom originated in the towns of Old Calabar, but the actual organization and formation of Nka Iyip took place in the agricultural settlements of Akpabuyo, to which runaway slaves escaping from immolation fled. As its strength became obvious, those Calabar freeborn who were economically deprived and politically redundant decided to throw in their lot with them. After this, the Nka increasingly took on the garb of a political pressure group, demanding a share in political power and the right to build an Ekpe (secret society) lodge in Akpabuyo. Some elements of the group became more of a mercenary force, using terrorist tactics and taking part in extortion, and from 1852 to 1885, the Nka played a decisive role in one form or another in the politics of the towns, in particular in succession disputes. Ref.

Title: The Association of Bloodmen (in Old Calabar): A Re-Interpretation
Author: Okon, Ekpenyong E.
Year: 1988
Periodical: Africana Marburgensia
Volume: 21
Issue: 2
Pages: 51-62
Language: English
Geographic terms: Nigeria
Great Britain
Abstract: In 1846 Church of Scotland missionaries arrived in Old Calabar (Nigeria) and set to work proselytizing. They not only lambasted polygamy and death by ordeal (at the death of an important chief), but were also against the inhuman treatment meted out to slaves. Four years after their arrival, an upheaval of the servile elements occurred. They banded together under the name ‘Nka Iyip’ (Association of Bloodmen) in an attempt to stop the practice of human sacrifice. The idea of freedom originated in the towns of Old Calabar, but the actual organization and formation of Nka Iyip took place in the agricultural settlements of Akpabuyo, to which runaway slaves escaping from immolation fled. As its strength became obvious, those Calabar freeborn who were economically deprived and politically redundant decided to throw in their lot with them. After this, the Nka increasingly took on the garb of a political pressure group, demanding a share in political power and the right to build an Ekpe (secret society) lodge in Akpabuyo. Some elements of the group became more of a mercenary force, using terrorist tactics and taking part in extortion, and from 1852 to 1885, the Nka played a decisive role in one form or another in the politics of the towns, in particular in succession disputes. Ref.