By Magnus Effiong
The Oron people of Akwa Ibom, who are residing in Cross River State, have resuscitated their age-long ‘mbok’ cultural festival which, reports say, last took place in Calabar in 1978.
PillarToday reports that the resuscitated Akpakip Oro Annual Traditional Wrestling Festival was held at the Bayside community of Calabar South, Tuesday, with a mammoth crowd of youths, women, political class, business men/women as well as young children in attendance.
Passers-by, who spoke with our reporter, described the event as one of the biggest gatherings of people in Bayside community in recent time.
In an interview, one of the organisers of the ‘mbok’ festival, Mr Daniel Okon Effiong, said the event sought to achieve two outstanding purposes.
“Firstly, it seeks to enhance our unity as Akpakip Oro people. We felt that reviving the ‘mbok’ festival will enhance our unity and give us a sense of belonging especially in a place that is not naturally our own.
“Secondly, the festival seeks to sustain our culture. Anyone who forsakes his culture is heading for destruction. Our culture is our way of life so we shall do everything within our capacity to sustain it because it is our identity.”
Also speaking, Obol Ekpenyong Efiom Iyamba, one of the traditional heads of the area, described the festival as unprecedented revival of a long forgotten culture
Going memory lane, Chief Iyamba said: “Oron people were known for their prowess in ‘mbok’ festival since about 1875. In early 1970, they had one Asuquo Obom Ekomo who was a champion of many years, and who was finally defeated by one Ekpenyong Obio Oko in 1976.
“The ‘mbok’ ceased to take place since 1978 and has remained so before this revival. To encourage the gesture and ingenuity of the Akpakip Oro people in resuscitating this festival, we will donate a trophy to them on January 2, 2023, when the Njoro Ekpe festival shall be held in this same venue.’
To Chief (Hon) Effiong Ekarika, a candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Cross River State House of Assembly, “nothing unites people like sports and culture.”
“In subsequent mbok event, different ranges of prizes will be introduced and God willing, when we come on board, we shall encourage the State government to co-opt the ‘mbok’ festival into the tourism/carnival calender of government,” he stated.
Also speaking, the immediate past Councillor who represented Ward 2 in Calabar South legislature, Hon Michael Ani, said “the revival of mhok festival is to promote the tourism drive of government.
“I encourage different tribes residing in Cross River to uphold their culture. Culture promotes unity. We will continue to support this gesture as the Orons seek to make it an annual event.”
A clergy man, Pastor Emah Emah, himself an Oron man, was not left out in the celebration as he commended the determination of his people to bringing back the long forgotten festival.
“I identify fully with my people as they celebrate. You know Christianity doesn’t condemn our culture. Your culture is your identity, it is what you stand for. Christianity helps us to know ourselves better.
“God is the one who instituted various cultures. Our different cultures make the world a unique place to dwell. Let me say this, God is interested in cultural practices of a people but it could be evil only if a cultural practice goes against what the scripture teaches,” he stated.