17th century Migration
The Ibibios with the Efiks migrated down the Cross River during the first half of
the 17th century and founded Creek Town, Duke Town, and other settlements including
Calabar, Calabar developed into a major trading centre from the 17th to the 19th
century, exporting palm oil in return for European goods.
The people of Calabar became the first group in southeastern parts of Nigeria
to have contact with European traders and missionaries. Evidenced in production
of the first Nigerian Professor, Professor Eyo Ita, who was the pioneer champion
of youth movement in Nigeria for independence. He later became the first Premier
of the former Eastern Region of Nigeria, and a member of the Nigerian team that
negotiated Nigerian independence in Britain.
Trade Route & Missionary Contact
What is now Akwa Ibom became a trade route supporting other trading centres, mainly
Calabar. This can be observed from the existence of various European trading warehouses.
Most importantly it was a major trade route particular during the era of slave trade
(1503 - 1842) and a cradle of European Christian Missionary contact with people
in hinterlands (1846 - 1900) at the beginning of the 20th century, seen in the early
missionary presence of the Qua Iboe Mission established by Rev. Samuel Bill in 1912
at Ibeno and Etinan, followed by other missions like the Church of Scotland Mission,
and the Roman Catholic Missions.
Oil Rivers Protectorate to Southern Nigeria
After the chiefs of Duke Town accepted British protection in 1884, the town, which
was called Old Calabar until 1904, served as capital of the Oil Rivers Protectorate
(1885–93), the Niger Coast Protectorate (1893–1900), and Southern Nigeria (1900–06).
Southern Nigeria's administration was under Queen Victoria. The Queen was soon
succeeded by her son King Edward VII in 1903 until the British administrative
headquarters were moved to Lagos. In 1916 Lord Frederick Lugard promoted indirect rule and uniffied Souhern and Northern Protectorates into one country, Nigeria.
Calabar remained an important port (shipping ivory, timber, and beeswax, as well as palm
produce) until it was eclipsed by Port Harcourt, terminus (1916) of the railroad,
90 miles (145 km) west.
The completion of roads from Calabar to Arochukwu, Ikom, and Mamfe (in Cameroon)
and the Calabar–Itu–Ikot Expene highway (which provides easy access to the rest
of Nigeria) has contributed to Calabar's importance as a port.
Calabar has long been an educational centre. Its first church school, established
by the Reverend Hope Waddell of the Free Church of Scotland in 1846, helped influence
the Ekpe secret society to pass a law (1850) prohibiting human sacrifice.
Commodity trade continued to flourish even with Luggard's successsor, Hugh Clifford
(1919-25), who was concerned with introduction of practical benefits of Western
experience. Clifford emphasized economic development, encouraging enterprises by
immigrant southerners in the north while restricting European participation to capitalintensive
What is now Cross River state was part of the former Eastern region until 1967,
when it became South-Eastern state and renamed Cross River state in 1976.
In 1967, the struggle for state creation by the Ibibio State Union yielded
fruit in the creation of states in Nigeria by the General Yakubu Gowon administration.
The South Eastern State of which the present day Akwa Ibom formed a part was one
of those states.
During the General Murtala Muhammed administration, seven additional
states were created in 1976. The South Eastern State was then re-named Cross River
State. The change in name, however, did not assuage the agitation of the people.
The struggle continued.
After the collapse of the 2nd Republic in 1983, a memorandum
demanding the creation of Akwa Ibom State was submitted to the General Buhari Military
administration by Paramount Rulers from six local government areas of the "Mainland"
part of the former Cross River State. Still, nothing happened. When the Political
Bureau set up in 1986 by the Federal Military Government called for memoranda from
the public on how Nigeria could be governed, the people once again, seized the opportunity
to resubmit their memorandum for the creation of Akwa Ibom State.
On September 23, 1987 with the promulgation of Degree 24 of that year by the then
military President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic
of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, the southwestern third of
Cross River state was created as a new state called Akwa Ibom State. Thus, Akwa
Ibom was created by combining the Uyo, Ikot Ekpene, Eket and Abak divisions of old
Calabar province. Consequently, General Babangida appointed Tunde Ogbeha as the
fitst Governor of the sate. Tunde Ogbehia ruled the state from 23 Sept., 1987
to 30 July, 1988.
The creation of Akwa Ibom State marked the climax of a long and sustained struggle
for a separate State by the people from this part of the former Cross River State
described then as "Mainland".
By all accounts and considerations, the creation of Akwa Ibom State has been a dream
come true and the yearnings of people fulfilled. Its people have continued to cherish
the euphoria which greeted that first proclamation. And since then, they have risen
to the challenges attendant upon their new political identity, embarking vigorously
on capital projects to ensure a prosperous state and a 'Land of Promise' which will
serve as a model in Nigeria.