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© Holyns Hogan, 2024

Generally called MMỌÑ in Efik, natural waters usually come in distinctly related forms, nature and volumes, which in turn determine what they are specifically or respectively called by the Efik.

Forenote that the motif of this inspired post is to educate global learners with useful insights about how the Efik people of Nigeria call, see or regard different water bodies. Of course, it is already known that the Efik are historically oriental and predominantly riverine or coastal nations of Atai and Efiom Ekpo descendants, spread under 7 Iboku and 5 Eniọñ-led ancestral clans of the Eburutu stock. In effect, Efik is an ethnic nation/Kingdom with [now] twelve ancestral clans, ruled by her 78th Ọbọñ of Calabar, His Eminence, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V (2008 till date), dated from the reign of Efik founding WARRIOR King -in now Nigeria-Edidem Ibom Enọ/Enọ Ibom in circa 12th pro 13th century A.D.




This is Efik generic name for all types or sources of drinking water. Note that the English’s phrase- “potable water” derived as a direct translation of the Efik’s MMỌÑ ABAÑ (water pot water), seen equally as the original mother cum inspiration for the later invention of the modern refrigerators/water chillers/water dispensers” (cited as Holyns Hogan, in Ugwezze, Nsude, Hogan et al, in NUC CCMAS contributions on Traditional African Communication media Education, published by NUC 2023 on NUC website).


This is Efik name for spring water, translated directly to inner rock water.


This is Efik name for RAIN believed to have etymologically derived its name from the DIM[E] sound that often naturally associate with its heavy falling amidst thundering (OBUMA) and lightening (IKAÑ OBUMA), empirically ascertained through observational [scientific] studies. Note that UDEP EDIM (Rainfall- in generic/figurative sense), which differs from EDIM EDEP (Rain has fallen)- is a natural part of UKWỌ EDIM (Rainy Season) and UTIT UKWỌ EDIM (End of Rainy Season). Also note that EDIM EDEBE and EDIM EBIERE refer to both ancient and modern ways of saying the rain has stoped. This differs from EDIM EKEÑE (Rain has subsided/abated) and ÑKEÑE EDIM (Tiny Rain). Certainly, the link between Edim and Inyañ (Sea) had long been established by the saying- UDIỌÑ EDIM EWETDE ODUK INYAÑ, ITUNKE USUÑ (Rainflood water doesn’t enter the sea by error/ missing its way).


This is Efik word for stream, divided into EKPRI IDIM (Small Stream); EKA/AKAMBA IDIM for Big Stream that bears small streams; EDIK IDIM (Creek- Stream/tributary); MBUOTI IDIM (Head Stream/Main Water Source for the Stream/fountain). This is asserted by the full Efik saying- IYAK OKPON [AKAN EKPRI IDIM], ỌNYỌÑ AKAMBA/EKA IDIM. Also, “Idim itiehe nte Inyañ edori ebọp”.


This is the Efik’s SPECIFIC word for RIVER, divided into EKPRI (Small) and AKAMBA AKPA (Big River). The word AKPA, as contextualized here, derived etymologically/historically from AKPA – the Efik word for a large or limitless bowel-like, spherical or elongated/naturally widened expanse of land/bearer of nature’s wonders e g. AKPA UTA[TA]N (Desert, Arid or Dune region), AKPA MMỌÑ INYAÑ (Sea water), AKPA IMỌ (figurative- for too numerous to count/uncountable).


Is the Efik’s SPECIFIC word for SEA or OCEAN, figuratively nicknamed UTUÑỌ MMỌÑ (Deep[est] water) or AKWA AKPA (Great or Mighty River). The justification for why Inyañ is otherwise rightly contextualized as AKWA AKPA is simply in the fact that the sea or ocean is lexically a large body of water constituting the principal part of the hydrosphere (water bodies, including the river), hence deserving of the name GREAT or MIGHTY RIVER (AKWA AKPA) in Efik. Remember that the RIVER (AKPA) is lexically defined as a large natural system of water that is larger than a Creek (EDIK) [but smaller than the Sea or Ocean] (WordWeb Dictionary, 2008). This is asserted by the Efik’s Nnabọ song – “Akpa okpon oforo Inyañ, Nnabọ isọñ Efik o! Ibọk ke edi ” (directly translated to when the River grows it changes to the Sea. Efik war masquerade is Juju).

Accordingly, it can be further rightly argued that Efik ancestors wisely and figuratively used AKWA AKPA in the context of Efik-Calabar River as a figurative reference to its final natural opening/emptying into the Open Sea/Atlantic ocean. Note that USUK AKPA (Down or southward River) IS NOT A DIRECT OPPOSITE OF AKWA OR ATA AKPA (where ATA, the Efik homonym for real, main, genuine) signifies not only the referred Calabar River’s status as the first main large water body that the Efik saw bordering their present location as major source of their ancient religion/spiritism, livelihood, security and transportation etc., when Efik ancestors first arrived now Calabar from Creek Town in the 1300s, after departure from URUAN.

Certainly, Efik ancestors used ATA AKPA (not its corruption-ATAKPA- adopted as nickname by a part of the Duke Town people of Iboku Utan Clan) to mean the MAIN RIVER THAT THEY FIRST SAW, ENGAGED OR SETTLED AT ITS COASTAL AREAS WHEN THEY/PART OF THE IBOKU’S ARRIVED OLD CALABAR FROM CREEK TOWN OR IBOKU ESIT EDIK. Thus ATA as contextualized doesn’t RIGHTLY translate to REAL river as some people misconceive because it can be learnedly argued that since there never was any fake or unreal river, there never was any need for the adjective- “real” or “genuine” as “ATA”-translation in the first instance. This clearly proves or justifies why MAIN was rather preferred or used by Efik ancestors in context, outside ATA being equally used to infer that the Efik were the very first settlers in Old Calabar (Hogan, 2024).


This is Efik name for stagnant water or lake.


Idim enehede okpon akabade Akpa; Akpa enehede Okpon akabade Akwa Akpa/Inyañ; Inyañ enehede okpon Akabade Utuñọ Mmọñ. This is partly asserted by Efik folk song- “Ñkọdọ Ñwan ndi nte ediman eyen o! Aman ama akabade ada eyen! Nte nsin ukot Idim akabade Inyañ, Inyañ akabade Utuñọ mmọñ” (I married a woman to bear me a child. She took the child after birth. Attempt to put my leg…, the stream turned to the Sea and the sea to the Ocean).

Finally, note aside that while it is fearsome for many people to openly discuss issues related to Ndem or Ndemism, it can be argued without prejudice or recourse to existing historical, cultural or political issues between Efik and Uruan nation as Efik ancient host in “Ibibio country”, that the ATA in ATA ỌKPỌ (ATAKPỌ) NDEM URUAN is THE same thing or meaning with how it is used in Efik.

The prove is simple. Firstly, it is a known fact that Efik sojourn in ancient Uruan produced of social-cognitive reciprocal learning effects in history, particularly through integration by intermarriage or co-habitational acculturation processes that equally lead to language intelligibility/similitude impacts on both sides. Secondly, if true, as some Historians say, that Efik ancestors actually met, related with, and/or “acquired the Efuts as servers in Uruan”, and Uruan appears historically fixed between being naturally akin to the Efut and the Ibibios, it follows logically that it is never a surprise to see ATAKPỌ as a combination of Efik and Ibibio words.

Precisely, ATAKPỌ is a corruption of marriage between ATA (Main/Real/genuine) and ỌKPỌ (referring in Ibibio languange to the terrestrial or extraterestrial being or thing that is considered as original by nature. Eg. is as seen in Ọkpọ Obot- terrestrial part of the universe, the lithosphere and the atmosphere , excluding the hydrosphere/existence in figurative sense). There is equally the use of Ọkpọ to mean main or real in context, as seen in the expression Nyom ỌKPỌ ỌKPỌ ESIE (I want the real or main thing, and the synonym is ATA ENYE or ỌKPỌ EDI EMI/ORO, used mostly in figurative terms).

Therefore, ATAKPỌ naturally, historically, etymologically and linguistically translates in context, to the original, main or real deity approved as supreme in Uruan spiritism, cosmology, mythology and history. This is further proven by the fact that the refusal to openly or secretly accept/confess ATAKPỌ (against the collection of Ndem Efik borne in the Efik’s ancient deistic or totemic basin called USAN ABASI, as it was previously the case of Efik ancestors’ refusal to worship the Aro-Igbo Long Juju/Ekpenyong Ibritam Inokon), formed part of the major reasons they left Uruan.

Further note that more proofs are in the fact that since humans in most historical cases named their gods or totems as seen in the Efik-Enwang’s case where Anantigha and Anansa were respectively named to immortalized their planters male and female kin, it follows logically that one is never far from the truth that ATA is used in ATAKPỌ URUAN in the same way that the Efik used ATA in ATA NDEM EFIK IBOKU.

Perhaps, the only poetic twist here is the worry about who actually owns the word ATA or AKPA in reality. Better still, accept it as nature’s inexplicable language wonder or coincidence.


OtuEkong Prince Holyns HOGAN– SACCE, Fiys-writes from Lagos, Nigeria. He is the Chancellor at Callybom Academy, Niger Delta Youth Ambassador, Erudite Scholar at Cambridge and Lambert UK. All rights of copy@ Holyns Hogan, 2024.