Otu V Versus Ani: As the Supreme Court makes a final decision on the Efik Stool

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As the apex court in Nigeria’s body-politic will in few days deliver a final judgement on a suit instituted by Mr Anthony Ani seeking a judicial review on who is the rightful heir to the most important natural stool in whole of south southern Nigeria.

It is the prayers of the Efiks world over that the Supreme Court of Nigeria will deliver her judgement without fear or favour, that she will reaffirm the extant judgements of the lower courts the most recent being that of the Court of Appeal and that Amasi Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V will be established on the throne forever.

The reasons are obvious, walk with me through this detour: The incumbent Obong of Calabar has been selected by the kingmakers and accepted by the people of Efik Eburutu Kingdom, three (3) times so far.

The first time was upon the demise of the former Obong of Calabar, Edidem (Prof) Nta Elijah Henshaw in February 2008. The kingmakers met and on March 31st 2008, Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu scored 11 votes out of the 13 votes cast by the Kingmakers and he was duly proclaimed the 79th Monarch of the Efik Eburutu Kingdom as Obong of Calabar.

Anthony Ani was one of the 3 contestants in that exercise and he scored 1 vote. Dissatisfied by the outcome of the exercise, Ani went to court and after 4 years the High court, rather curiously, found in his favour and ordered that the Obong step down and the selection process be repeated.

The Kingmakers and Etuboms Council complied fully with the High courts orders by formally inviting the various contestants to another selection exercise.

This time every kingmaker voted for Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu. Anthony Ani scored zero votes and Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu was duly proclaimed the Obong of Calabar for a second (2nd) time.

The result of the second selection in compliance with the court order was duly deposited at the Highcourt at the end of a solemn walk by all the Principalities of the Efik Kingdom.

Subsequently, owing to some pronouncements in the judgement which the Kingmakers were uncomfortable with, the Palace went to the Court of Appeal to seek redress.

In 2013, the Court of Appeal, delivered its judgement and not only did they assent to the prayers of the Palace but they ordered that the Obong should step down and another selection process be conducted, owing to the fact that the process was tainted by the participation of Anthony Ani who was not eligible to have contested in the first place. He was found illegible on the grounds that he got the Etubomship by transfer from the rightful substantive Etubom who was still alive and because he was not capped by the Obong-in-Council as prescribed by the provisions of the Efik Eburutu Constitution, recorded historical practice and numerous antecedents.

For the third (3rd) time, the Obong had to step down and another selection exercise was conducted in full compliance with the orders of the Court of Appeal.

This time, once again, for the third time, the verdict was unanimous and the Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V was proclaimed the Obong of Calabar to the delight and jubilation of Efik people all over the world.

The Obong of Calabar is a Natural Ruler and Treaty king which institution existed for many centuries before the creation of Nigeria. He is not appointed by State or Federal Government and neither is the institution created or sustained by government.

The Efik people are law abiding, hence their full compliance with court orders, but they hold their culture and tradition in highest regard.

That is why on a yearly basis, since 2010, the entire Efik nation gathers to pay tribute and bring gifts to their king, the Obong of Calabar now known as “Utomo Obong” which is celebrated every third week in December.

In the lead up to the Supreme Court judgement on 13th January 2023, anxiety among the Efiks is high even as Efiks trust that justice will once again be done and Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V will finally be re-ascertained the rightful Obong of Calabar.