Obong of Calabar power tussle gets messier as Etuboms’ Council tackles Gov. Otu

The fight over who becomes the Obong of Calabar has taken a new dimension as some members of the Etuboms Traditional Council (ETC) in the Palace of Obong of Calabar accused Gov. Bassey Otu-led government of supporting illegality.

The development came following a press release by the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Cross River State Government, Emmanuel Ogbeche, on November 7, recognising Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V as the Obong of Calabar.


According to the release, the governor, having undertaken a judicial review of the State High Court and Supreme Court rulings as well as the constitution of the Obong’s Palace and interlaced with royal fathers, resolves as follows:

“That the issue of waiver for qualification of a candidate to contest the Obong Stool is untenable;

“That His Eminence, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi V remains the validly selected and elected Obong of Calabar and the Patriarch of the Efik Kingdom,” among others.

It would be recalled that the 15th anniversary thanksgiving service of Otu V had been in circulation lately.

The event, which would take place at the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, Duke Town Cathedral, Calabar, on December 16, had Gov. Otu as the chief host.

But reacting, the Chairman of ETC from another camp, HRH Etubom Essien Ekpenyong Efiok, cautioned the state government from embarking on alleged illegal action against the Supreme Court judgment.

The reaction was contained in the letter addressed to the governor dated November 9 and personally signed by Efiok.

Copies of the letter were made available to newsmen in Abuja.

It reads: “We are writing to express our concern over your letter dated the 7th day of November, 2023 about the position of the Cross River State government on the traditional stool of the Obong of Calabar.

“We issue our response expressing our informal view that the state government could not take such a position in a matter adjudicated and determined by the highest court of the land (the Supreme Court of Nigeria).

“Otherwise, how else would a government bent on protecting the Efik throne from ‘judicial, social, and political scorn,’ as expressed in its release, inject itself into an affray by political fiat?

“By this action, is the Cross River State government implying that it has more statutory powers to conduct a judicial review of a competent court judgment and overrule the Supreme Court to settle the chieftaincy disputes of the Efiks of Cross River State?

“Can the government prove to the people that its action is not audacious, an act of impunity or autocracy?

“Other than its disdain for the “ Obongship” institution, how else would we view the belittling of this esteemed monarchical establishment when a mere press official of the state government is tasked with dismissing other competing interests in the Obongship of the Efiks and anointing candidates of his choice for this throne without hearing from us?”

They described the state government’s statement as “misleading” and amounted to disobeying the orders of the  Supreme Court.

The ETC stressed that besides, such action was contemptuous of the Supreme Court’s judgment of 13th January, 2023.

“In the light of the above, we cannot accept the state government’s position as contained in the press release of 7th of November, 2023.

“We hope this information will help you make a more informed decision in the interest of equity, fairness, natural justice and peace,” they said.

Also in a press statement, the ETC alleged that the governor was supporting the embattled monarch because they came from the same clan in Adiabo as they bear the same surname, “Otu,” which they further alleged the CPS “mischievously” tried to hide in his letter.

They equally advised the Presbyterian Church where the thanksgiving service would be held to consider its position in the shared history and refrain from falling in contempt of the Supreme Court as well as their traditions.

They informed that based on the apex court judgment and in the interest of equity and natural justice, invitations were sent to all candidates vying for the Obongship, including Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu, who refused to respond.

According to them, we, however, took the unusual step of screening him based on the past documents he had presented to this ETC.

“The ETC has concluded its duties and, per tradition, elected and proclaimed an Obong-elect, which we have communicated to the governor’s office by a formal letter,” they said.

The ETC said Etubom Anthony Ani emerged as the successful candidate.

“By the provisions of the extant Cross Rivers Traditional Rulers Laws and the determination of the Supreme Court, we expect and demand that the government uphold the law in recognising the right individual put forward for the Obongship,” they said.

They urged all the Efiks and residents in the  state to remain calm and law-abiding.

It would be recalled that the Supreme Court had, on January 13, 2023, declared the throne of the Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V, vacant and ordered that a fresh election be conducted for the position.

In a judgement on appeal number: SC.633/2013, delivered by Justice Amina Augie, the apex court upheld the June 4, 2013, judgement of the Appeal Court, Calabar and ordered for a fresh election in accordance with the 2002 Constitution of the Palace, so as to guarantee justice and equity.

The court, however, affirmed the judgement of the Appeal Court which had declared that Otu V was qualified to contest the election for the emergence of a substantive Obong of Calabar.

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