This research examines the phenomenon of inter-group relations amongst the Bende and Annang communities in Nigeria. Historically Nigeria ethnic groups had achieved a high level of integration prior to the colonial conquest. Long distance trade, migratory movements and socio –economic inter-group relations had help made ethnic and cultural integration an integral part in the evolution of Nigeria. In this paper, an attempt was made to scrutinize some popular but defective assertions relating to inter- group relations and ethnicity .throughout the world, human beings have devised very different method for adopting to their environment and solving their problem over the periods of time, these methods become a way of life passed on from generation to the next as a design for living each succeeding generation may modify and add to the design but the basic patterns show remarkable stability. This research is in the field of the Bende people and Annang people relations in pre-colonial Africa.
BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Bende is one of the cultural areas in Abia State. When talking about Bende, it means a people in Abia State Abia state was carved out of the former Imo state in 1991.
The name “Abia” is an abbreviation of four of the states densely populated regions Aba, Bende, Isiukwuato, and Afikpo of which Afikpo later was carved out to form the present day Ebonyi state.
The present day Bende L. G. A was formally called old Bende which administrative and geo-political area stretched at that time, from Arochukwu to umuahia and included such town as Uturu, Ihechiowa, Ohafia, Abiriba, Nkporo, Abam, Umuhu, Bende, Igbere, Item, Alayi, Ozu-item Isiukwuato, Uzuakoli, Nkpa, Umuahia, and Ikwuano with a population of 3million people citizens from the old bende L. G. A are simply referred to as “ Bende” people because of their dialect. The Bende town is still the administrative seat Bende in the present day Abia state Local Government areas Structure1.
Bende today has many towns namely Nkpa, Usoakoli, Ozuitem, Isuochi, Isiegbu, Ogboko, Agbuoa, Imienyi, Obuofia, Ugwueke, Eziukwu, Igbere with the total population of about 128.227 based on 2006 population census. Bende is predominantly farmers and local traders. Bende is blessed with so many natural resources like salt, Gold, phosphate, laterite, gravel and lime stone. It is also one of the three agricultural backbones of Abia state. The people cultivate yam, cassava, cocoyam and harvest large palm oil plantation for commercial and personal consumption which was formerly the heavy earner for the people in the L. G. A before the oil boom. The Bende people are known for their bravery and self-reliance. They showed a lot of these traits in the wars of survival during the Nigerian Biafran war. Chief Emenike Kalu said that those victories over enemies were copiously celebrated with our trademark and famous Bende war dance which is very unique and very popular, the war dance is a constant staple in our cultural diet. Through their bravery, the Bende were able to survive during the era when might was power2.
The Bende people are richly endowed this is evident in the people mode of dressing, dancing, arts and crafts as well as festivals and the widely known lgbo traditional hospitality. The traditional apparel for the worn over a “George” wrapper tied around the waist and flowing down to the ankles. This dress is complemented with a cap and a walking stick for support and defence for the women the traditional wear is a blouse over an “Abada” or “George “around the waist. This outfit goes with a head gear, earrings and necklace
MUSIC AND DANCE
In Bende they are different types of music abound to suit various occasion. There is music for different festivals. Much of the traditional music is a combination of the vocal and instrumental artistry, which produces a tuneful melody.
Musical instruments such as the gong, leather, drums, traditional flute (oja), earthen –pot drums and a host of percussion instruments abound. Some famous traditional music and dances are the Udunkulu masquerade in Item, Okonko, masquerade in Igbere, Ekpe dance in Arochukwu and the Egwu ukwu (waist dance) of Isiala Ngwa.
FESTIVALS, ARTS AND CRAFTS
Each community in Abia state has different festivals celebrated in honor of its gods and goddesses or to mark an important events. The beginning of the planting season as well as the harvest season is celebrated annually. The new yam festival, celebrated as thanksgiving to God (Chukwu) by everyone is4 pervasive in Igbo land. Works of art produced in the state include carved doors, stools, walking sticks, traditional flutes, mortars, gongs and pestles. One work of art particularly worthy of note is the traditional “Akwete cloth of Ukwa East”. An outline of the Igbo cultural heritage will be incomplete without a word of the Igbo traditional hospitality of visitors. This is reflected in the presentation of kolanuts are consummated with the offering of prayers and Thanksgiving or request to the supreme God and other deities for the protection of the visitor.
The Bende people are predominantly Christians of different denominations here are also a good number of Muslims, with adherents of the people in the state are animistics who believe in a being called “ Chukwu” the traditional worshippers believes in the ability of desires to exercise strong influence on the destiny of man.
WHO ARE THE ANNANG
The Annang is a cultural and ethnic group that lives in south eastern Nigeria. At present, the Annangs have eight local government areas out of the present thirty – one Local Government Areas in Akwa lbom State of Nigeria namely: Abak, Essien Udim, Etim Ekpo ,lka ,lkot Ekpene, Obot Akara, Oruk Anam and ukanafun in Akwa lbom State of Nigeria. They were formerly located in the former Abak and lkot Ekpene Divisions of the Annang province, in the former eastern Region of Nigeria. The proper name for the Ika of Akwa lbom is Ika Annang3.
The Annang people are located in south eastern Nigeria and southwestern Cameroon which was a part of the present -day Akwa lbom state and cross River.
However during the then Nigerian Regional era, the then eastern Region of Nigeria5 allowed southwestern Cameroon to be partitioned out of Nigeria into Cameroon through the 1961 plebiscite. In this action the Annang, Efik and Ibibio people were divided between Nigeria and Cameroon.
Annang society is patriarchal individual (system run by males, rather than females) locate their place in the social world from ldip, literally translated “womb”. Thus a brother/sister from the same ldip means that they can trace their origin to the same mother or father. Since polygamy is practiced, in the same parent from Ufok(literally a house or compound). Several ufoks made up Ekpuks or extended family and served Ekpuks (extended families)makeup “ldung” (meaning village)and several villages make up the “abie” or clan. Leadership at the family, lineage, village or clan level remains the prerogative of the men and lineage ties. extends to women even after marriage. Governance is done by elderly males who act the legislative arm called Afe Isong, directed by the obong or Abong Ichong (village chief and clan chief) who is the head and the chief executive but without the authority beyond what the Afe Ichong gives. A chief can be appointed by the Afe or can be an inherited office.
The Annang people speak a language called Annang .they pride themselves in the ability of eloquent speech and refers to a good speaker as “Akwo Annang” the Annang carve masks with grotesque features, known as ldiok, which are considered dangerous we may only be viewed by members of the Ekpo. Other masks embody the beautiful spirit or Mfon.6
The strength of any individual, family (or group for that matter) is typically based upon a consensus of the village or clan through this complex social system. In all this, Annang women are not completely subordinate to men instead Annang women are partners and leaders in many aspects of Annang tradition, including serving as female chief priests “Abia ldiong” in the ldiong cult or as healers in the healing cults. the first born female known as Adiaha is important and commands respect in the family and lineage. Some traditions hold that a woman’s first birth should take place in her mother compound.
Women organization such as “abi-de” and “nyaama” and “lsong lban” play important roles in giving the women voice and status in society. There are no traditional or cultural barriers that prevent women from attaining high offices and positions. Indeed, traditionally Annang women have great deal of economic independence from men. The society was semi-matriarchal before colonialism. children bore the names of their mothers and such common names as Essien, Essiet, Ukpong and umo were female names and became androgynized when the missionaries saw matriarchy as anti-Christian.
Annangs value the ability to speak well and oratory ability using proverbs is highly desirable, especially among the leaders. The American anthropologist, Peter farb, stated that the name “Annang” among this group means “they who speak well”4.
ANNANG FATTENING ROOM
The fattening room is traditionally where virgin adolescent girls are fattened up in preparation for marriage. A fattening room girl is known as mbopo. This was an occasion for a major village celebration and as part of her preparation for marriage the7 girl was also instructed on how to be a wife. She would spend her time in the room naked so that her fattening could be observed, and would sleep on a bamboo bed which was thought to fatten her up. It was also meant to make it more possible for a her to conceive easily. This use for fertility purposes was also used at time for infertile wives and as a prerequisite for entrance into secret societies5.
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Most people have argued that there have not been a strong existing relationship between the Annang and the Bende people, as a result of this, it has led to conflict between both ethnic groups. In the course of this research, the researcher found out that there has been an existing relationship between the Annang and Bende people in terms of marriage, trade, agriculture, religion, culture amongst others. This study has been able to point out the location of Bende-Annang ethnic group and from this, it can be seen that due to their closeness, their existed a strong and cordial relationship (See Figure 1).
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This research work is limited intentionally to the geographical area called Bende and Annang particularly to those towns in the Bende area of Abia state comprising Uturu, Bende, lgbere, Item, Alayi, Ozu-item, Isiukwuato, Uzoakoli, Nkpa, Umuahia and lkwuano and Annang area of Akwa lbom state comprising Abak, Essien Udim, Etim Ekpo, lka, lkot Ekpene, Obot Akara, Oruk Anam and Ukanafun, and how this relationship has affected their lives with its successes and challenges.8
SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
History provides us with tools whereby the present could be understood from the past and the future planned well to avoid continuous failure. This historical work is a research conducted among the Bende people of Igbo extraction and Annang people. This is a study in intergroup relationships in Nigeria.
Firstly, it is significant as it tries to highlight the positive and negative aspects of Bende/Annang relations in pre-colonial times.
Secondly, the study is significant especially as it exposes and throws more light on the nature of Bende/Annang relations in pre-colonial times. Thirdly, theoretically, the study will add to the body of existing documents on good neighbourliness with general implications for the rest of the country.
Finally, this research will provoke some consciousness on this topic. It will serve as a guiding tool and good policy paper for the government of Nigeria on how to achieve peace and unity among states or neighbors.
In keeping to the nature of this study, the methods used here are narrative, descriptive and historical methods. There is much reliance and dependence on narrative sources and this is justified by the need to achieve and maintain originality as opposed to adulterated information.
Primary sources consist of oral traditions and archival records found in the national archives. Oral interviews with elders representing different interests and other young but literate or knowledgeable men and women in the towns were conducted. While the secondary sources comprise published and unpublished books or simple works on aspects of the history of the Bende/Annang people in particular and, neighboring Igbo communities in general. Such published works include books, journals and monographs written by indigenous Nigerian and foreign authors. The use of these materials is essential for testing the validity of evidence in filling the gaps and correcting some erroneous impressions created by writers and commentators on the land and people of Bende/Annang.
PURPOSE OF STUDY
Firstly this research seeks to examine the relationship that existed between the Bende the Annang in pre-colonial times.
Secondly, it intends to find out the factors that influenced the relationship between the people of Bende/Annang in pre-colonial times.
Thirdly, it seeks to determine if the Bende/Annang relations in pre-colonial times was one riddled with antagonism, war, anarchy and hatred or was it one of mutual co-operation and good neighbourliness.
Finally, this research aims to analyze issues as they relate to Bende/Annang relations in pre-colonial times and to see if their relations can serve as a model for modern day relationships among communities in Nigeria towards building a peaceful and a great Nigeria.