Ezekiel Umo Ette, Ph.D.
To understand the issue of ethnicity and ethnic conflict in Nigeria, one must have a simple knowledge of Nigeria’s history. As already noted, the Annangs live in the southeast section of Nigeria in what is now called Akwa Ibom with the Igbos to the west and the Ibibios in the east. Prior to British colonization, the group had between fifteen to twenty clans, with each clan headed by a leader known as Akuku (Messenger, 1957). Each clan had a food taboo and all members of the clan strictly adhered to such taboo. Thus it is possible even today to recognize and trace the migration patterns of the Annangs based on the food taboo of each clan since individual members maintained such taboos despite separation from the group of origin. The British colonial policy forced the unification of several clans and significantly weakened the office of the Akuku (Messenger, 1957).
Nigeria became independent from Great Britain in 1960. Following independence, the country saw a brief period of civil rule until 1966, when the military overthrew the parliamentary system of government led by the late Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa. In the confusion that followed the coup, General Aguyi Ironsi abolished the federal structure and introduced a unitary system for governing the country. The police force was centralized, the constitution suspended and all ethnic associations were also banned. General Ironsi was later killed in what was seen as a retaliation and revolt of the northern officers in the military (General Ironsi was an Igbo from the East). Gowon, a northerner, became the new military ruler (Forsyth, 1969). Though he divided the former four regions into twelve states as a way of minimizing the effect of ethnicity and regionalism, the country continued to be governed as a unitary state and all decisions affecting the units were made at the center. and pose the question whether a consensus can be achieved between those who maintain that the Annangs were used for a political purpose and those who see in the formation of the organization a genuine interest in the participants to address issues of injustice inherent in the colonial enterprise in southeast Nigeria.