HISTORY: THE BONNY, OPOBO DEITIES

HISTORY: THE BONNY, OPOBO DEITIES

The Ibani in the Eastern Niger Delta like any other culture groups in Nigeria worshipped the under mentioned deities some of which have pockets of followers up to date, despite the fact that Bonny was the gateway through which Christianity penetrated in 1864, and from Bonny into the ancient Niger Delta City States of Nembe and Okrika in 1880; New Calabar, old shipping station in 1874; Bille, Bolo, Ogu, Kalio-Ama, Amadi-Ama and Abulo-Ama in 1883; Brass in 1869; Bakana in 1892; bodo (Ogoni) in 1908; Opobo (Queens Town) in 1890; Chief Sam Oko Epelle Compound in 1891 and Benin River in 2875. The Ibani foremost deities were: Ibani-nyana-simingi which was the principal tutelary deity of the Ibani people inherited from the Indeginous Inyong Okpon Community (now Tombia), Ikuba, (Opu-Ikuba and Kala-Ikuba) the war deity of Bonny was from the Anyangla people of Andoni, Its totem was the Iguana Lizard. Nungbaw (Numbo) was another deity of the Ibani.

The deity of Tolofari, a very powerful deity of the Kalaibiama community, whose totem was a precious stone was said to be the son of Simingi and Otuburu the tutelary deity of Azuogou in Ndoki. The deity was brought to Peterside (Aya-Ama) by Chief Ipoli when he came down to join his wife, Princess Edimini Kamba-sa (Probably Queen Karibasa). There were other deities of lesser importance like Kunbupagha, Arukara, Alakiki and Owu-Ekpe stationed at the Coal Beach creek. The totem of Owu-Ekpe was a he-goat. It is believed to be one of the Opu-adum’s powerful messengers. There were also Amakiri the mother earth deity and Torukiki, Opu-Adum was the god of the seas, oceans, rivers. It was dreaded by the people, because victims of this deity were not given proper burial nor were they buried at the normal burial grounds. Moreover, no one inherits the victims belongings, except, the priests of the deity. The deities Tololo, Okolobiebo, Adumta and Ikpali were said to be the wives of Opu-adum, Oje-kurutu was Adumta’s son; Birikukanana, Ogboloyi Doku (Ogbolodo) and Opu-Panga and Fulosi were Opu-Adum’s daughters. Kondo, Ofombele and Owe-awo wew his (Adum’s) servants. Adum was said to have had many servants in the spiritual realm and he delegated many to torment men in the physical realm every hour of the day. Many of the water spirits served him. The King of Obubu (probably Ebubu) at the Nun River was Opu-Adum’s closest friend, hence the very close relationship between the Ibani and Nembe ethnic nationalities up to date. Nembe deities Finimaso and Amatemeso gods were also adapted by the Ibani.

It was believed that Tolofari, Atubur and Kungupagha and Arukara deities had moved to Mbambie with the exit of the Opubo and the Anne Pepple Group of Houses to Opobo. Simingi had moved some of its children to the Ekukiri creek with a faction of the Inyongokpon community now known as Tombia in the Kalabari area between 1863 and 1890. In some Bonny villages the under-listed gods were worshiped. Bonny Island (Okolo-ama): Kala-Ikuba, Numgbo etc, Orupiri. Opu-Ikuba, Peterside (Aya-ama), Fibiribi, Oloma Okoba, Iwo-ama. Adum, Finima. Simingi and Adum gods, Aganya, Aburuka, Ayambuo. Otuburu, Kalaibiama. Tolofari, Fibriri, Alamina, Ayaminima, Okpoma, Obioso, Ndakworo-ama, Finimasoo, Minima, Ekerema, Epelema, Akanja, Eloma (Iloma), Simingi and Amafina and Abalamabie Okpohotumbi.

Though the present two Ibani kingdoms of Bonny and Opobo had been Christianized in the nineteen century; some of the population today still worship the deities. Priests and metaphysicians attest to these deities existence though their influence is less noticeable because of the overwhelming Christian population of Bonny and Opobo Kingdoms. Some deities are transcendental, these invisible beings can still have powerful impact on the lives of those that worship and believe in them. Of all these deities of the ancestors of Ibani people, Simingi, Ikuba, Tolofari and Otuburu were of national prominence.

The priests even performed legislative, executive and judicial functions in the states and or communities and even were made co-signatories to some international treaties made with European countries. Some were signatories to local treaties made with sister Delta states, while some appended their hand with the kings and outstanding Chiefs in the state at the early stage of the oversea trade. In fact, priest of deities played important roles in the cultural, economic and social lives of the people then, to the extent that priests were consulted before Ibani people went to war with any other state. Sometimes, to arrive at a decision over serious disputes within communities and families, the priests were consulted. Priests of deities has the last say in communities affairs on matters of life and death. There was the general belief that priests were the physical representatives of the ancestors and the deities, hence there was total obedience by the people to the words and instructions of the priests.

Priests of deities were appointed by the deity itself, and were supposed and presumed to be men of unblemished character, transparent, honest, meek and slow to anger and must be willing to serve the deity and the people. Priests were very wealthy during the oversea trade in Ibani kingdoms of Bonny and Opobo as they competed with the Kings and influential Chiefs in the trade.

However, since the activities these priests were not in consonant with the ideals and objectives of the missionaries and European traders, it was not therefore a coincidence that King Dappa Pepple was deported in 1854 and finally found himself and his family in England defending his fundamental rights. It was also not by accident that Chief Priest Awanta of Ibani-nyana-simingi was captured and deported in 1847, to an unknown destination on trumped up charge of murder and buccaneering. Neither was it surprising that on 21st April, 1867 Ikuba the Bonny national war deity was denounced and the totem Iguana lizards, on Easter day were killed in their hundreds and eaten for the first time as food by the Ibani people. Some of the killed animals blood were sprinkled into all the water wells in Bonny at the orders of King George Pepple a Christian educated in England. That was the end of real worship of deities as a national policy in Ibani kingdoms. Finally, on the 6th of August, 1889 the house of skulls was brought down. The missionaries evangelized, educated and introduced agricultural techniques to the converts.

~ JONES M. JAJA (2015). DRUMLORE OF OPOBO KINGDOM, A HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION.

2 thoughts on “HISTORY: THE BONNY, OPOBO DEITIES

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