The Phenomenon of Inter-Group Relations Between the Annang and Igbo Ethnic Groups from 1959 through 1970




Inter-group relations is indeed very common among the various groups in Nigeria. One way or the other, people of different ethnic background were at one time or the other engaged in some sort of relations. At one time such relation was peaceful, at other times, the people engaged in violent confrontation. But whatsoever shape the relation assume, it is important to uphold the fact that inter-group relations existed and still exist between and among the different ethnic groups in Nigeria. The relations existed before colonialism, it continued during and even after Colonial Rule. Among the different dimension of inter-group relations in Nigeria include but not limited to the following; marriage, trade, war, politics, and exchange of cultural troupes etc.

Although, inter-group relations has an undertone of an affair between immediate neighbors, it is not limited to immediate neighbor only. However, the focus of this topic is on two immediate neighbours, namely: Annang and Igbo ethnic groups. Considering the division of Nigeria into six geo-political zones, the Igbo people occupies the five southeastern states, while the Annang people are a component of Akwa Ibom State which is in south-south region of Nigeria.

Thus, among the five Igbo States – Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo, it is Abia State that are immediate neighbours to the Annang people. In Abia State, the communities that are immediate neighbours to the Annang are Ikwuano, Onicha, Ngwa, Abala, Ndoki etc. It is important, perhaps pertinent to use these Igbo groups that are immediate neighbours to Annang people since Igbo is a large ethnic group with many dialect and a variety of culture. Again, inter-group relation between Annang and Igbo could be seen clearer with these Igbo communities than with the entire Igbo ethnic group.1 However, there exist some challenges in the discussion of this topic and these challenges include the following.

Firstly, some scholars make no difference between some part of Annang and Igbo. This could be based on the level of migration between the two groups. Secondly, the people of Annang are seen as member of the Ibibio group rather than as a different group altogether. 2 In discussing Annang and Igbo relations, using this mindset, one might think that the entire Ibibio is involved, thus giving the research work a different outlook.

Thirdly, Eurocentric scholars with their attitude of describing Africa as war like people have often painted the Annang-Igbo relation as a war-like affair.3 Hence, the tendency of people being misled to think that these two neighbours does not live peaceful at all is high.

Last but not the least, the traditional political system of Igbo and (Ibibio) Annang seems very similar especially as both of them are describe as decentralized societies 4. It becomes very difficult to know if they were the same people that later separated from each other or because of their closeness they have this similarity. Language wise, there are some similarities 5.

Therefore, having noted all these, it is pertinent to note that this work will take an in-depth look into Annang-Igbo relation from 1959 through 1970. The concern of this research work is the relation between these two ethnic groups with the aim of investigating the areas of marriage, trade and commerce, war and diplomacy, culture, language, traditional beliefs system and religion values etc.

Research work, as an academic exercise, is expected to be significant and meaningful. Therefore,

Making an addition to the existing body of knowledge constitutes the objective of this exercise
Enriching the historiography of inter-group relations with special reference to Annang-Igbo relations is also an objective.

To critically examine the extent of their relations and also proffer idea on how to foster friendly neighbouring relations via a better understanding of socio-cultural affinities.

To equally divulge the impact of their relationship.

Getting acquainted with the cultural practices and identifying the flaws in the existing relationship between these ethnic groups equally constitutes additional aim of the researcher.


The study provides additional knowledge to the myriads of literatures on inter-group relations in Nigeria, with special reference to Annang-Igbo relations. This study reveals various socio-political, socio-economic, socio-cultural, traditional and religious belief practices which have been playing tremendous roles in strengthening the relations of the aforementioned ethnic groups.

In addition, this study will immensely guide any student or researcher who intends to carry out a research work on any of the aforementioned groups, as it contains some level of vital and credible information on both groups.

Furthermore, the study will not only act as an instrument of revelation to the Nigerian populace on the existence of inter-group relations between Annang and Igbo ethnic groups, but will also educate them on the groups’ various socio-cultural practices which might differ from those within their scope of knowledge.

In order to achieve stated objectives in research, meticulous approach in terms of methodology becomes necessary. In other words, it is an evidence of scholarship should the researcher utilize a wide range of sources.

In the course of this research work, both private and public libraries were consulted. Also, historical methodology was adopted in this research work where the researcher utilized available sources of information. These include primary sources (oral tradition), and secondary sources (unpublished written sources and published written sources). In addition, available information from newspapers, magazines, and the internent were equally utilized in the course of this research work.

The reason behind the adoption of oral sources was to clarify the areas unexplained by written sources which were unclear and hard to understand. In addition, some of the socio-cultural practices of pre-colonial era which played tremendous roles in enhancing the relationship between Annang ethnic group and that of the Igbo ethnic group are still in use. With the above process, the researcher achieved a critical assessment of sources bearing in mind the limitations of sources. Data gathered from written sources such as books, newspaper, magazines, unpublished projects, as well as the internet were thoroughly verified prior to usage.


A number of constraints were experienced in the course of this research work. The inadequacy of the opinions and views of some indigenes from both ethnic groups under discourse who were interview based on the scope of his study of this research work is the researcher’s regrettable limitation. Again, the inaccessibility to some titled chiefs from both ethnic groups who could have had a firsthand experience, which would have summed up as an eye-witness account under the scope of this research work is also a limitation of this study.

Moreso, inaccessibility to most of the documents that is related to Annang-Igbo relations within 1959 through 1970 which would have aid the researcher in the course of this study is another serious limitation.

However, the inadequacies will not affect the research findings as efforts have been made to forestall the limitations affecting the quality of the research. Nevertheless, these leave room for further research on the subject matter and will strongly welcome and appreciate criticism arising therefore.


As a discipline in academic institutions, the study of history has always involved national, continental and world topics. Apparently, there seems to be a neglect of local histories. As a result, many young historians are deficient in information on immediate local histories. However, this project is considered necessary in view of the fact that certain form of inter-group relations existed between the Annang group Igbo group which undoubtedly have some element of conflict.

Thus, His research work would attempt to divulge the extent of inter-group relations that existed between the Annang ethnic group and that of the Igbo ethnic group within 1959 through 1970.

On this note, therefore, the researcher intends to reveal to the general public the various factors of relations between both aforementioned ethnic groups, as well as the existence of certain conflictual events between both groups. This is necessary because, there cannot be a robust inter-group relations without clashes of interest which might eventually lead to conflict at a certain point. And also, how some of these conflicts still serve as a continuation of inter-course between both aforementioned groups.


Reviewing the works of other scholars in an attempt to undertake a related task has been a common routine among researchers. Thus, without the views of intellectual predecessors and mentors no product is considered academic or intellectual6.

In relation to the context of this study, A. E. Afigbo was of the view that indeed some of the Ibibio Villages – such as Mmonta, Ikot Esop, Ikot Ngwa, Eremakai, Ikot Nja, Nto Etuk, Udom, Ikoti Inyan and Nto Uruan – lived on territory said to belong to the Ndoki (Igbo) village of Azumini to whom they paid annual tributes (Oji ala) each village paying a tortoise, a goat, a case of gin, unspecified number of pots of palm wine and 400 manillas. The last two villages mentioned above divided the tribute they paid between Azumini and Akanu as part of the land they occupied belonged to Akanu7.

Also, while commenting on the socio-cultural aspect of inter-group relations between the Ndoki (Igbo) and Annang group, A. E. Afigbo posit that, since they lived so closed, the two ethnic groups intermarried. The Ndoki in particular were said to have been fond of marrying from amongst the Ibibio whose women they claimed made excellent wives8.

C. Anene observed that the political boundaries created by the Europeans are artificial9. He further maintained that “even though these artificial boundaries separated ethnics, social-cultural factors ors continue to bring them together in form of inter-marriage10. While commenting on the economic and commercial relations in the Niger-Delta, Obaro Ikime made mentioned of an existing robust inter-group relations among the various groups within the Niger-Delta. Although, such relations are not without conflict11.
It has been revealed by A.B Aderibigbe that the Yoruba, Igbo and Benin had influence on one another12. He further contended that “the impact of the Yoruba and Benin is beyond dispute”13. However, the answer to the question as to whether there were areas of cultural conflicts between these people was omitted in this study.

Kenneth Grundy, on one hand, observed that Africans celebrate success with their kits and kins14. However, on the other hand, it could be noted from his study that he was ignorant of what Africans call abomination within their cultural context.

It has been divulged by C. C. Ifemesie that a wider-layer of similarity in symbols and rituals exist among the west African peoples15. He further contended that diversities result from adaptation to peculiar environment16. Therefore, it should be noted that peculiarity of cultures indicates aspects of social-cultural relations.

Commenting on the preservation of cultural items by the Igbo, and the Igala, which are identical to both groups, Ade Obafemi in his study stressed the view that there exist an institution, Attama, among the Igbo villages of Nsukka region and their Igala neighbours17. But the study failed to realized the possibility in the existence of socio-cultural variances between these two groups-owing to the fact that they are of different ethnicity.

In his study, Ikwuoma, C. Anezi uncovers that Orhe/Umuna relations involved inter-marriage18. It should be noted that inter-marriage exist as an integral tool for groups integration. On another note, Gerald C. Nwobu was of the view that the people of Amandugba and their neighbours had other forms of peaceful get-together despite their involvement in inter-village wars which broke out among the people19.

N. Tamuno, pointed out in his study that apart from political and cultural contacts, there were also important commercial links existing among the people of the Niger-Benue confluence20. Also, Theresa Acholonu has revealed in her work that there exist inter-marriage between Nkwerre and their neighbours. This practice is attributed to the early contact between these people. Other consequences of such contact include wars21.
J. Iwu, in his study, stressed the view that dances contribute immensely in enhancing the socio-cultural relations among various groups of people in Oru division. However, it should be noted that cultural conflicts constitute on aspect of inter-group relations22.
A contribution by E. J. Alogoa proposes that there exist close historical relations and cultural contacts between the Efik, Ibibio and other peoples of Cross Rivers23. Commenting on the relationship between Cross River people and other communities, John Okoro, revealed as a form of interrelations the existence of inter-marriage between Ihechiwa and the people of Cross River24. It should be noted that adherence to established customs forms a major basis for contracting inter-marriages. Such inter-marriages are discarded with the development of conflicts.

Commenting on the political setting of Nigeria, Ikenga, R. A. Ozigbo in his study was of the view that the well known two hundred and forty (240) ethnic groups which have been in existence long before Nigeria came into being did not co-exist in total isolation25. According to him, these ethnic nationalities “… had thrown up mutually beneficial commercial and social relationships with their respective neighbours”26.

While studying the people of south eastern Nigeria, C, C. Ifemesia revealed that these exists a connection between the people OF Nembe, and that these groups of people “have… always been in the very closet terms of friendship with one another and have never made war on each other27. However, it should be noted that war is an aspect of inter-group relations.

Still on his study of the people of the fact that there has been in existence long before the nineteenth century a close relationship between the people of Okirika and those of Bonny28. In addition, he also maintained that the people of Okirika likewise Bonny has equally maintained inter marriage contact with their Igbo neighbours29.

While studying the early states of Nigeria prior to the nineteenth century, G. I. C. Eluwa et al made known of the fact that there existed an institution of divine kinship between the Zaghawa and their Tebu neighbours. Furthermore, they equally posited that there also existed a good business link between these two groups.30 However, the study neglected the fact that there could have possibly existed cultural conflicts between these two group courtesy of ethnic differences.

Finally, Basil O. Njoku noted that there existed an economic relations between the Igbo, and their Ijaw/Ibibio neighbours. In his words, “economic transactions existed between the Igbo and Ijaw/Ibibio on the aspect of river rain products and other agricultural products”.