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Monday, 28 May 2012

CALABAR: ONE CITY, ONE PEOPLE


by Godwin Eigbe

Museum Garden Calabar
There is a city blessed with an amazing mix of beautiful and receptive people, intriguing landscapes, clean and green environment, dynamic and embracing culture, warm and welcoming smiles freely given by neat and smartly dressed people and of course a wide range of sumptuous and delicious cuisines. These and many more attributes encapsulates the city which is synonymous with hospitality. Hospitality that you can feel, see and touch! A home for all, the bonding ground for all Nigerians and the New Port for African Merchants and leisure travellers.

It is a city where your tribe and tongue does not count. A city that wakes up early and go to sleep late without disturbing the peace and tranquility that are its trade marks. A city of light, colours, carnivals and unending fun. The home of Africa’s biggest street party.

Business or Leisure, welcome Home. The people and the city bid you to Come And Live And Be At Rest.

With an estimated population of over 1.2 Million residents, Calabar is truly the Tourism Hotspot of Nigeria. The ancient city which is watered by the Cross River and the Great Qua Rivers has a long history and a fascinating heritage. Nearly after a century of contact with European sailors, Calabar gained recognition as an International Sea Port in the 16th century. From 17th to 19th century, Calabar became a major slave trade port. Although Calabar seating in the Bight of Biafra does not have the impressive forts found in Ghana and Senegal because the estuary was a safe haven for slave traders and the people on its shoreline were cooperative and acted as trading agents to the slave merchants creating a buffer from inland attacks, the region accounted for approximately 30 percent of Africans carted away to the new world (America) as slaves from Africa, representing the largest exit of slaves from a single point in Africa.
Millennium Park Calabar

The ancient city of Calabar was the first to utilize money as means of mercantile in West Africa. This ancient money in Efik was called ‘Okpoho’. This money was later known as the manilas. With the abolition of slave trade in South Eastern Nigeria from 1820 - 1850, Calabar’s main export became palm oil.

Calabar is truly a city of firsts and the ancient city is credited with developing one of the first African alphabets and scripts for communication called the Nsibidi. It is a set of traditional ideographic symbols developed by the Ekpe Society a traditional association responsible for protecting and defending the kingdom against all foreign influence.  Nsibidi is still in use today by the Ekpe Society.

On the chronicle of the city’s firsts, is the fact that Calabar was the seat of the Government of the Oil River Protectorate and then the Southern Protectorate, the building that is today known as the Old Residency Museum was ordered by Consul Hewett in 1882 from Britain and it arrived Calabar in 1884 where it was assembled. It became the residence of the Consuls and High Commissioners that administered the Protectorate.

As an international trade route and colonial administrative headquarter, Calabar housed the earliest of military barracks in the country. It was the first kingdom to embrace Christianity and the first Presbyterian Church (Church of Scotland Mission) was built in 1846. The first Roman Catholic Mass in Nigeria was said at 19 Bocco Street, Calabar in 1903. The city also has the oldest secondary school in Eastern Nigeria, Hope Waddell Training Institution established in 1895. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe the First President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was a student of this school.

The first monorail in Nigeria was built in Calabar and the first modern road network was also constructed in the city. In the health sector, the first public hospital St. Margaret Hospital was in this city. In this hospital also is the first Medical Records Office in Nigeria. Calabar also houses the oldest post office and one of the first two Botanical Gardens in Nigeria.

Old Residency Museum Calabar which served as administrative centre for the Oil River protectorate and later the Southern Nigeria Protectorate
Calabar has also produced prominent figures in the nation’s history. They include King Eyamba V of Duke Town and King Eyo Honesty II of Creek Town who jointly wrote to the King of England to send missionaries to Calabar to educate their people and King Archibong III who was the first King in Southern Nigeria to be crowned with the regalia sent by Queen Victoria of Great Britain in 1878. Other prominent figures include Professor Eyo Ita, the first Nigerian professor and first Premier of the former Eastern Region of Nigeria. He was also a member of the Nigerian team that negotiated Nigeria’s independence in Britain. Louis Edet is Nigeria’s first inspector General of Police, Margaret Ekpo, first woman Special Member of Nigeria’s Eastern House of Chiefs and later Eastern House of Assembly and Hogan ‘Kid’ Bassey first Nigerian World Boxing Champion. Etubom Oyo Orok Oyo, premier football administrator and first Nigerian to be elected into FIFA executive committee (1980-1988) and the first African to be made Honorary Vice President of Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) for life since 1988. Incidentally the first football match in Nigeria was played in Calabar.

The mantle of traditional political authority which rests on the Obong, is hinged on a political tripod whose legs are Duke Town, Old Town and Creek Town. Each leg of this tripod was at one time ruled by a separate Obong. However through a gentleman’s agreement, the three towns agreed to merge the crowns for one titular head that is today referred to as the Obong of Calabar. The title rotates among them. Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu IV is the present Obong of Calabar.

The development of post colonial Calabar is closely tied to the development of the country Nigeria. On May 27 1967, South Eastern State was created from the existing Eastern Region and in 1976 the name was changed to Cross River State after the river that flows across the State and Calabar remained the Capital City. In September 1987, Akwa Ibom was carved out from the State by the General Ibrahim Babangida administration. The major towns in Cross River State are Calabar (its Capital) Akamkpa, Ikom, Obubra, Odukpani, Ogoja, Ugep, Obudu, Obanliku, Akpabuyo and Yala.

Obudu Mountain Resort Gate
Calabar has a Sea Port, an International Airport and a good internal road network. There are many attractions and a warmness of spirit that creates an insatiable desire to return in every tourist who steps on the shores. All around the city are several sculptures, relics and artifacts that tell of the people’s strength, industry, craftsmanship and rich culture. Communication is easy in Calabar as English Language is well spoken by all old or young. Calabar is a peaceful haven, a true paradise adorned with several good hotels offering services of international standard.
When you are in Calabar, the city gets into you and you feel and become part of it… Calabar is truly one city, one people… a paradise indeed! 

1 comment:

  1. Can you please tell me the background of the Giant Hand Sculpture in front of the museum.

    Is it just a Art piece or is it some memorial/monument?

    I also seek your permission to use your picture of the Giant Hands in my Giant Hands Around The World collection. I also intend to placemark it in Google Earth via Google Earth Community Forums


    ReplyDelete