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Chapter X


When we come to consider the Okum tribe two points stand out, the internal unity of the villages and their degree of physical and social isolation from each other. The Okum tribe has a population of 10000 in an area approximately 130 square miles. It therefore has the lowest population density (77 per square mile) of the three tribes which we are considering. This low density is emphasized by the fact that the population is grouped into a comparatively small number of rather widely separated villages.

There are in all in Okum twelve Mbembe speaking villages; administratively two non-Mbembe villages [1] which claim affinities with the Yako, are included in the Okum "clan" but with these, because they are non-Mbembe, we shall not be concerned. The Okum tribe may be divided into two sub-tribes, Okum proper with eight villages and Eyfapum with four villages. [2] The villages of the Okum sub-tribe are the smaller, (see Appendix C), but even here four of the eight villages have populations of over 400, and in Eyfapum three of the four villages have populations of over 1000. The villages are widely scattered and not only is movement between them difficult because in many cases they are so far apart, but the forested nature of the country often makes journeys difficult and, in the past, must have added to their danger. Moreover since few of the villages are on the same river it is not possible to ravel by canoe, as it is in Osopong. In fact when messages had to be taken to every village of the tribe two or three days were allowed for the journey. (see map 2.)

The Patrilineal System

So far as the basic structure of the village is concerned it is necessary to add little to what has already been said in the first part of this work. Each patriclan is normally confined within one village and is divided into lineages and minimal lineages as described. A point, however, of some theoretical interest is that the patrilineal groups retain their significance even in those villages in which land and palm trees are so plentiful that they are regarded almost as free goods.

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In Okum generally it is only in certain areas close to the villages that rights are claimed over palm trees growing in fallow land for palms are abundant. Only in the village of Apiapum which is sited on the densely populated banks of the Cross River, is there a strong feeling that the "owner" has the right to control the use of oil palms growing on all his land, however distant it may be. Land itself is likewise so abundant that it is only in areas close to the largest villages that claims to particular areas are firmly maintained. In many areas of Okum there is so much land that has not been worked in living memory that a man may easily clear and claim a new farm for himself. This is despite the fact that today a large part of Okum territory had been declared a Forest Reserve in which the unauthorized clearing of land is forbidden. This ready availability of land means that land in the smaller villages does not form a jealously guarded possession of the patrilineal groups, although formally the rules of land inheritance are the same as those already discussed.

The patrilineal groups, therefore, must owe their corporate existence to something other than their interest in land, if the inheritance of rights to the land cleared by the father is not highly valued; and they may owe their unity to their co-residence. This would seem to account for the fact that the adult men of a minimal patrilineage co-operate together, for as the closest of neighbours it is easy for them to continue the pattern of co-operation which they learnt in working together as boys on their father's farms. Since much co-operation is particularly necessary when high forest is to be cleared it may be this that explains why it is usually as a patrilineal group that men move into unclaimed forest. This would resolve the apparent paradox that men of a patrilineage tend to make their farms together even although they may not be farming where they remember their fathers to have farmed, and may not intend to keep control of the land for any length of time. It may also be that co-residence explains much of the solidarity of the wider patrilineal groups under these conditions. Where land is freely available the patriclan owes its sense of unity to the fact that as a co-resident group its members have common interests in uniting for ritual protection and for the defence of its political interests vis-a-vis others in the village. There can be little tendency for the members to be united by their interest in some particular area of bush. The point, although somewhat outside our main theme, is of interest because it seems to show that double unilineal descent in this area could not have arisen simply from conditions of growing land scarcity which, leading to an increasing emphasis on the patrilineal inheritance of land, might have altered the structure of an originally matrilineal society. This, a plausible argument, seems untenable since patriclans are important even where there is no interest in land to hold the groups together.

Age-Sets and Associations

Of age-sets and associations little need b said. Associations follow the basic pattern that has been outlined. Throughout the Okum tribe the Okwa association was, as in Adun and Osopong, responsible for exercising control over the marriage of women, and exacted tribute

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from their extra-village husbands on the occasions of the installation of the village Ovat and of the head of the Okwa. In the Okum sub-tribe the Okwa association is said to have directly fined thieves, those of tree crops, aspects of control which in Efyapum were delegated to other associations. In the Okum sub-tribe too it seems, as we shall see, that in the rare case of an incorrigible rogue whose matrilineal kin refused to be responsible for him, it was the Okwa association which together with the Village Ovat had the right to order him to hang himself; in the case of the Efyapum it was a different office holder who had this responsibility.

In every village of the Okum tribe Eberambit was the main head-hunting and warriors' association. This association, with Okwa and Ocheika and an association called Ikpungkera[3] were closely associated with the rites of the Avat, especially Village Avat.

Perhaps the most interesting point about Okum associations is that those which control village labour and the discipline of young men are still active. They no longer exercise their former powers to beat these non-members against whom members might lay complaint for laziness. Nevertheless, in the absence in this area of migrant Ibo labourers, these associations still play an active role in organizing labour for public works, for individuals who want farmwork done, and for those who want roughed-out canoes dragged to the rivers. In the Eyfapum sub-tribe the association responsible for these tasks is now Ekpe. In the Okum sub-tribe the Ekpe association shares the responsibility with Okwa.

Age-sets are not of great political significance. It is not incumbent on each set to introduce a new dance and so there is no official village ceremony which, in effect, acknowledges the coming of age of the young men. Moreover there is no formal pattern of alliance between alternate age-sets; indeed in so far as age-sets are grouped together it is simply on a pragmatic basis. When a set of adolescent youths is thought old enough to help guard the village from fire and theft they are assigned to that day of the week on which the current guard is weakest, because of death or illness; and the age-sets assigned to one day tend to become known for the name for that day. But although the sets may share a common nickname this system of alliance has little significance on other contexts.

Although there is neither a system of dual wards nor one of dual age-set groups, such a division into two opposed sections nevertheless exists. It stems from the matrilineal system for in the Okum tribe all matrilineal groups belong to one of two clans, Orurugi and Iyami.

The Matrilineal System

In Okum the matrilineage is, in its composition and the rights and obligations of its members, like the matrilineage among the Adun and

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Osopong. It is the group within which movable property is inherited and the group which may be said to "own" its members. In both cases the matrilineal group of greater depth than the lineage, the Ochi, which must be called here the matrilineal sub-clan, is an important unit. The Ochi sector within the village has a responsibility, second only to that of the matrilineage, to contribute to the funerals or members and to contribute to fines incurred by members. It was this matrilineal sub-clan sector which was the group with the primary right and obligation of claiming blood compensation in the case of homicide. In each village the oldest man within the sub-clan sector is considered its head and messages affecting the whole group are sent to him from other villages.

In each Ochi one man is recognized as its priest. In the vent of the death of a member the priest is informed and may, if the funeral is that of an important individual, attend in person, although more commonly the head of the matrilineal sub-clan sector in the deceased's village will take the priest's role. In the case of each death, however, the remains of the camwood used to rub the body are taken to the priest's home, wherever the priest may be living, and scattered over his "Afrata" shrine; and when the Edut rite is performed (see p.65) the priest himself comes, bringing a stone from the Afrata shrine to represent the dead.

In this tribe, perhaps because of the distance and difficulties of travel involved, there is no regular annual pre-harvest Akuwa rite held for every sub-clan. If sickness is ascribed by a diviner to the anger of the matrilineal dead then the priest of the Ochi wherever he is living will be asked to make a sacrifice for the sick person and his Ekamanei, but such rites are not often performed. As we shall see, there is in fact a general tendency for matrilineal rites to be performed on a village basis. If we compare the matrilineal organization of Okum with that of Osopong, the picture presented is therefore somewhat paradoxical. On the one hand the Ochi in Okum does not unite people in different villages to the same extent as in osopong. On the other hand unlike Osopong where the Ochi is the highest level matrilineal group, in Okum all the groups at this level are linked together into two matriclans which cover the entire tribe.

The existence of these two matriclans is obviously important because of its implications for tribal society in Okum. As was the case with the Osopong wards and age-set groups matriclan unity is linked with the existence of inter-group rivalry. Between the clans rivalry is not today openly enjoined as it is between Igwe and Ogop in Osopong. Nevertheless rivalry between the clans is none the less real, even today, and especially so in the sub-tribe of Efyapum, where these matriclans have particular significance. How strong the rivalry is I realized when I found that village elders in their early conversations with me tried to deny the very existence of these matriclans and became angry with those they thought had told me about them. As a corollary of this hostility there is, of course, friendliness between members of the same matriclan; and this friendliness is today

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of political significance since it form the basis for co-operation between members of otherwise opposed groups, whether the groups are in the same or in different villages. This is so because nowadays members of the two matriclans are divided fairly evenly among the different villages, although traditionally each matriclan was particularly associated with one or other of the two pairs of villages into which the settlements of Efyapum are divided.

Because it is in the context of tribe and sub-tribe that the matriclans are significant we must, however, leave the consideration of them for the moment. At this point we may consider the organization of the village as a unit, and this consideration will lead us to look again at the lower levels of the matrilineal organization.

Factors affecting village solidarity

We have surveyed the main institutions making up the Okum villages. If we now look at the village as a whole it is its unity that contrasts most strikingly with the Osopong village. This unity is symbolized by the fact that, unlike the latter, the much larger Okum village has only a single Ewaamei. or village dancing place. The patriclans within the villages each have their own men's meeting house but they do not, like the Osopong wards, have their individual Ewaamei. Instead there is one for the whole village where all village rites and ceremonies are held and where all the associations perform. This is not coincidental since in Okum the associations are always recruited and always operate strictly on a village-wide basis. That these associations can still today so easily muster the adults of the village for work is a further indication of village unity.

In the sub-tribe of Efyapum it is the matrilineal organization which particularly demonstrates the unity of the village. In each Efyapum village a senior matriclan priest is recognized. In one village this official comes from the Orurugi matriclan and in the others he comes from Iyami. these priests are also priests of Okpobam and the three case are regarded as full Avat, and are installed with the ceremony and regalia of Avat. [4] In addition tow of the villages recognize a leading matriclan priest from the opposite matriclan. [5]

Each such priest performed rites which must certainly have been primarily for members of his clan within his village although ideally they involved people from different villages. We have seen that Akwa rites were not hell annually within each Ochi as they are

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in the tribes of Osopong and Adun. Such annual rites were not, however lacking, for it is said that formerly an Akwa rite was held each year by these matriclan priests in every Efyapum village. To these rites there are said to have gone representatives of what may be regarded as major matrilineal sub-clans. It is said that each Ochi was linked with others into clusters, each cluster or major sub-clan being united by the belief that it was descended ultimately from the Ochi of one of the leading matriclan priests. No doubt some such rites did actually take place in former times. They are no longer held, it is true, and with their passing the organization of major sub-clans has disappeared, but that the rites did take place is made reasonably probable by the fact that the vestiges of a similar pattern of rites still exist in Adun (See page 171). Even although one or two representatives from each attached Ochi attend from other villages it can scarcely be doubted however that in practice these rites were normally attended very largely by members of the matriclan of the same village as the priest. Moreover not more than two rites would have been held in each place. In other words the Akuwa rite, although it was primarily an inter-village affair in Osopong and Adun was, in Okum, almost certainly a rite which led to comparatively little inter-village movement.

Besides these rites the most senior matriclan priest in each Efyapum village also performed the rites at the funeral of all villagers, no matter what their matrilineal affiliation. In the first place it is this priest who, in Efyapum, performs the "grave measuring" rite. This by itself would not, of course, indicate any particular unity in the Okum village since this rite is performed also in all villages in both Osopong and Adun. This senior priest, however, performs other rites also, no matter to which of the matriclans the dead belonged. None of the burial preparations may begin at all until the matrilineal kin of the dead have gone to this priest to announce the death and have obtained permission from him to announce it generally. The body may then be prepared for the burial, but none of the essential gift exchanges between kin my begin until this village matrilineal priest has himself come to the house of the dead and presented to the body a small strip of cloth, most of which he reserves for the next funeral. Among the Osopong, as we saw, similar ceremonies are performed by the head of each small Ochi for his own members only but among the Efyapum all is done on a village basis. This is true also of the Okum sub-tribe where it is the village Ovat who performs these funeral rites for the whole village.

It seems very probable that it was because of the physical difficulties involved in travelling between the Okum villages that the Akwa rites tended to be, and funeral rites certainly are, performed on a village rather than an inter-village basis. Whatever the reasons, however, the fact remains that in Okum inter-village matrilineal rites are rare when compared with those in either Osopong or Adun. Moreover compared with Osopong the patrilineal organization on

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Okum shows a very great emphasis on village isolation. Where, in a few cases, ties are known to exist between patriclans in different villages, due to nineteenth century population movements, no practical recognition is given due to the fact in terms of patrilineal rites or ceremonies. Thus the situation is quite different from that among the Osopong where at certain times each year there is a constant movement between villages as people travel to attend descent group rituals.

The most striking indication, however, of the isolation of Okum villages is that almost all of them have their own "senior" Avat. That is they have Avat ritually capable of giving sanctuary to homicides and making cleansing sacrifices for them and the place polluted by blood, able also to cleanse head-hunters and formerly able to order an offender's death if his matrilineal kin disowned him, and able to give sanctuary to aggrieved women. Finally each village has an Ovat able to make new Okpobam shrines, thus creating new "Ovatships" within the village. As we have seen this right is common in Osopong and therefore not very significant; in Adun as we shall see it is extremely restricted and, therefore, of crucial importance. In this respect Okum falls between the two other tribes; the right to make such shrines is semi-restricted; normally the shrine could only be obtained from one Ovat. The ritual capacity to make new shrines is, therefore, of considerable significance and it is important for the consideration of the position of villages that each has an Ovat capable of making new Okpobam cult objects.

In the Okum sub-tribe the village Ovat possessed all these roles, although it must be noted that his right to make new Okpobam shrines is not absolutely exclusive. In other respects, however, he did enjoy a unique ritual position within his village and needed the permission of no outside Ovat to exercise his power, even in very rare cases of "executions". Accurate information on these is obviously now difficult to obtain but I was given an apparently well substantiated case of an execution which took place in the fairly early years of this century. An old man is said to have ambushed and shot dead a youth who had previously knocked him down and laughed at him. According to the account the village Ovat and Okwa together asked the old man's matrilineal kin for compensation and, when it wad refused, ordered the culprit to hang himself. No senior Ovat from any other place was involved in the matter.

In Efyapum the situation with regard to senior Avat is somewhat more complex, but three of the four villages possess their own Avat who can perform between them all the roles which have been discussed. In each of these three villages it is the matriclan Ovat of the village who is responsible for giving sanctuary to homicides, a fact the significance of which will be discussed later.

That each village has its own sanctuary priest is not thought to have made the settlement of inter-village homicide cases more difficult. Unfortunately I was not able to get information about any actual instances of such killings - in general the isolation of the villages

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keeps the occasions for inter-village brawls to a minimum - but it is asserted that although the killer would have taken refuge with the sanctuary priest of his own village this priest would nevertheless act to arrange for compensation to be paid to the victim's matrilineal kin, some of whom would, in all probability, be living within the same village.

Okum villages are, therefore, large, socially isolated settlements which are to a great extent politically independent of each other. What interconnections they have are dependent in a special sense on their Avat and it is at the position of these office holders that we must now look.

The Position of the Avat

It must be made clear at the outset that. politically, the Avat in Okum are in general more significant than they are in Osopong.

That his is so is best judged by the fact that it seems to have been more difficult to create new "ovatships" in Okum than it was in Osopong. That some difficulty existed has already been mentioned for we have seen that in Okum the ritual ability to create new Okpobam shrines is limited. Obstacles put in the way of such a creation are however even greater than might appear at first sight for, although it seems possible in Osopong for those with the power to create new shrines without causing trouble, in Okum even the few who have right to make new Okpobam shrines cannot do so unless they have general approval for their action.

As an illustration of this fact the case may be cited of an event which took place in the village of Ochon about fifteen years ago. In Ochon the dominant patriclan is called Ofonafu; and until these incidents took place Ofonafu had as a dependent patriclan a group called Okurobe. This groups is said originally to have formed an independent village, but, having taken refuge in Ochon for safety, Okurobe acknowledged the superior position of Ofonafu. When the men of Okurobe killed an animal on their Efonakpa (see p.33) they sent a leg to the Ovat of Ofonafu, who was the village Ovat.

According to the story, however, a hunter of Okurobe, taking meat to the Village Ovat was derided by the men of Ofanafu, and the people of Okurobe decided, therefore, that they would acquire their own Ovat. They made an arrangement to pay £10 to the Ovat of a third patriclan within the village, a clan called Ofonigana, so that they would make them on Okpobam. The people of Afonafu became very angry when they heard this and threatened violence, so the Ovat of Ofonigana called the Ovat of Ofonafu and it was agree that the money given for the new Okpobam should be divided between them. Each Ovat then arranged to give part of his share of the money to the head of Okwa for his group and to the most influential members of his own clan. The young men of Ofonafu, however, who had received no share of the money, remained hostile and on the day that the head of Okurobe was to be installed as Ovat with the new Okpobam they assembled in the village meeting place armed with sticks and machetes. It was only because the Village Ovat whose agreement to the proceedings had been obtained,

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stood up and forbade all violence, threatening them with supernatural and secular sanctions, that the installation ceremonies of the new Ovat were able to be performed.

In Efyapum a similar attempt aroused even stronger opposition from those in authority, and eventually it failed. In this case there had been a dispute over succession to the office of Apiapum Village Ovat. A strong party within the village favoured an unsuccessful candidate

who came from a client patriclan without its own Okpobam shrine and the members of this clan were so angry at the failure of their candidate that they persuaded an Ovat with the power to make Okpobam, a priest who had been a supporter o their candidate, to make them their own Okpobam shrine. The members of this patriclan then behaved towards their senior man, whom they installed, as if he were an Ovat. In contradistinction to the other examples we have quoted, however, this behaviour on their part did not influence the rest of the village and the other Avat did not recognize the new one. When this new "Ovat" died the patriclan decided to settle their dispute with the rest of the village and so the Okpobam which had been made was carried by the priest who had made it, and placed with the sacred objects belonging to the Ovat of their host patriclan. In other words no one doubted the ritual validity of the cult objects made for the seceding patriclan but, in Apiapum, the political significance of the rest of the Avat is such that creation of the office of Ovat must be acceptable to the rest of the Avat within the village if the new Ovat is to have the roles normally associated with his office.

A further indication of the political importance of Avat in Efyapum is that it is difficult to get accounts of the way in which most of the patriclan Avat acquired Okpobam. There are tradition of how each of the matriclan Avat got their sacred emblems, for, as we shall see, these traditions are used to explain the relationships of the villages with each other, but it is not easy to get accounts of patriclans within the villages acquiring new Okpobam shrines. The question, with its implied suggestion that a particular group must once have been without their own Ovat, usually arouses a resentment and antagonism. This attitude is probably a reflection both of the structural position within them of a patriclan with its own Ovat. Usually the blunt assertion is made that all those clans with Avat have "always" had them and persistent questioning of friendly informants has led me to the conclusion that, for the reasons given, most traditions about the subject have been suppressed in previous generations and were not remembered by the people.

Even stronger evidence that great political value is placed on the Okpobam cult is to be found in the fact that in Efyapum there is never more than one Ovat in the village able to make new Okpobam shrines. This man has the power to make new Okpobam medicines for a whole village if it should move its site and, in theory, the right to make an Okpobam shrine for a patriclan if it should want one, but in practice the priest will seldom do this without the permission of the other Avat in the village. In the Apiapum case quoted the priest broke the rule,

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but we have seen that the opposition of the other Avat prevented the newly created "Ovatship" from being continued. Obviously to have only one priest able to make a new Okpobam shrine makes it much easier to control the proliferation of the office of Ovat.

Village Avat.

The position of the Village Ovat is very strong. This is particularly marked in his relationship with Okwa, despite the fact that Okwa here, as we have seen, is a very powerful association. Everywhere it has its familiar roles in relation to women; moreover it was particularly common for the head of Okwa to act as the external representative of his village at inter-village meetings because the distances between the villages are considerable and it is held to be undesirable for the Village Ovat to be long absent from his village. In the sub-tribe of Okum, Okwa has also the right to select and watch over the conduct of the Avat and acts, therefore, as the intermediary between the Avat and the people. Nevertheless the Village Avat throughout the tribe of Okum are in a more powerful position vis-a-vis Okwa than are their Osopong counterparts. This is shown by the fact that wine is presented to the Ovat only. The strength of the Avat may be accounted for generally by two main factors, their more authoritative ritual position on the one hand, and on the other their role as the symbols of village unity in a tribe in which village loyalty is much stronger than in Osopong.

The position of the Village Avat of Efyapum is made even stronger with regard to Okwa, by the fact that in this sub-tribe they were accountable not to Okwa but normally to the matriclan Avat.[6] It is true that these matriclan Avat are so ritually powerful that in some respects their authority detracted from that of the Village Avat, for in Efyapum it is the matriclan Avat who give sanctuary and perform the sacrifices for homicide. Nevertheless the significance of Okwa is strongly influenced by the fact that here it does not have the ultimate right to select and depose the Village Ovat's selection but they do not have the right to handle his Okpobam objects. This belongs in each village to the senior priest and not to the head of Okwa that the Village Ovat is responsible; it is these matriclan priests who are, therefore, the intermediaries between the Avat and their people.

Moreover throughout the whole Okum tribe the position of the Village Avat vis-a-vis Okwa is strengthened not merely by the fact that these

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Avat symbolize village unity but by the fact the they play a particularly vital part in inter-village relations. In a situation in which villages are socially and politically somewhat isolated political relationships between villages are expressed primarily in the rituals of the installation and burial of their Avat. Not merely do representatives of different villages formally attend the rites of the Avat, but the villages are actually dependent on each other for the proper performance of these vital rituals. This is because important roles in the rites are commonly assigned to officials from other villages.

The pattern of these rituals provides one of the main keys to the Okum political system which is based on a pattern of interlocking ties between particular villages. We must therefore describe these ties and these rituals in some detail.

Inter-village Ties in the Sub-Tribe of Okum [7]

Without attempting to establish any absolute time-scale for the founding of the main villages of this sub-tribe it is possible to suggest a relative chronology for their movements. These must have taken place mainly in the nineteenth century but may possibly have begun in the eighteenth.

In the first stage, of the villages known today there seem to have been only two in the are, Onyen and Odongit [8]. Onyen had great prestige throughout the whole tribe of Okum and beyond, in Osopong and Ofunbonga, because it is believed to be the one really indigenous village. Its status is validated by a myth that it formerly lived in a hole in the ground not too far from its present site. This myth is widely accepted and all recognize that the story implied that Onyen alone has always been in the area.

According to the myth it was the people of Odongit who invited the people of Onyen to come out of their hole, promising them either a site for their village o permission to live actually in Odongit. It is said that because the people at that time spoke different languages Onyen people decided to live on their own, but they settled near

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Odongit, and brought with them from their hole an awka called E-bira-dut, which name still attaches to the site although, as we shall see, the people have now moved. When the people of Odongit came from is not generally agreed, although several sources suggested that they originally lived on the other side of the Cross River, but it is not suggested in these accounts that they moved under North-eastern Ibo pressure - it is said that they came as hunters and, indeed, if this movement really did take place it probably ante-dated Ibo expansion.

At a much later stage, after the founding of Apiapum and Iyamiyong in Efyapum, Issabang and Ohana appear on the Okum scene. These villages, long standing allies and Mbembe speakers (although thought even today to have a different dialect from the rest of Okum) are said to have been driven from their homes further south by the Ekukuri villages (See p.81). Today Issabang and Ohana still maintain their friendly support for each other but now they live about nine miles apart, for Ohana as invited to settle close to Iyamiyong, which at this period was in need of support against attacks by the Adun tribe, and Issabang was invited by Odongit to settle on land in its sphere of influence, on the banks of the Ukpon river (see map 2). In the third stage Odongit divided and a number of its people went to settle much nearer the Ukpon river at a site opposite Issabang. It is said that the people went to be near the river and because the land there was good, but the choice of the exact site was probably prompted by a desire to keep a check on the expansion of Issabang, and it is fact that in this century there has been repeated friction between the two settlements.

Finally in this century Onyen also divided. Its old site was abandoned and the majority settled lower down the Ukpon river from Issabang. the other section, which seems to have had a history of disputes with the rest of the village, mover farther down still and settled on the banks of the Cross River outside what is now officially regarded as Okum territory.

To a great extent the traditions about the historical links between these villages are backed by the existence of ritual ties between them. For example representatives of the two villages of Onyen and Onyen Oranga still meet annually for a rite at their old site called Ebiradut, after the awka they brought with them from their hole in he ground. It is, however, the inter-village links formed on the basis of the Okpobam cult which most concern us.

Odongit and Ochon are linked by the fact that when Ochon was founded the Village Ovat of Odongit made a new Okpobam shrine for a man from his patriclan who became the first Ovat of the new village. Odongit and Issabang are also linked for, as seems so often to have happened in similar circumstances, the Ovat of the inviting village, Odingit, made an Okpobam shrine for the new village of Issabang, planting medicines at the foot of an eroko tree just outside the village, and preparing and placing for safe keeping among its roots a stone to be used in the installation rites of Issabang's Village Ovat. Iyamoyong and Ohana are similarly linked. The Village Ovat of Onyen did not make a new Okpobam for Onyen Oranga because the latter were led by an Ovat who already had an Okpobam of his own and was

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capable of making a new shrine for himself. Nevertheless because of the previously close existing ties between the villages the assumption is that a close connection exists between their Okpobam cults. In all cases where such ties exist as these exist it is normally expected that representatives of the linked villages shall attend the rites of each others' village Avat.

It is particularly noticeable that the Odongit-Ochon and Ohana-Issabang pairs are linked to each other since in many contexts they are today opposed. Nevertheless representatives of Odongit attend the installation and burial rites of the Issabang village Ovat although they play no active role in them. The ritual tie, however, is still acknowledged and when Issabang decided to fell the eroko tree at their Okpobam shrine, because they wanted to use it as the central roof beam in the new church they were erecting, they called the Village Ovat of Odongit to the shrine to make a special sacrifice and new medicines for them so that they should suffer no misfortunes.

There is no clear tradition as to the exact relationship between the Okpobam cults on Onyen and Ochon. It is, however, believed that the two are so closely related that it is possible for the Village Ovat of one village to handle the cult objects of the other, a fact which is of very great political significance . The Village Ovat of Onyen attends but does not play any active part in the rites of the Village Ovat of Ochon, but the Ochon Ovat plays a most important role in the installation and burial rites of the Onyen Ovat.

When the Onyen Ovat dies the senior Ejukwa (the head of Okwa) in Onyen, goes to tell the Ochon Ovat that the Onyen Ovat "has a headache" (Echo Efyange). Then Ochon's senior Ejukwa goes to view the body and returns to confirm the news. The Ochon Ovat then goes to Onyen taking a ceremonial spear which is carried for him by his Ejukwa, and is stuck as a sign of his presence, in the ground at the dead man;s threshold. The Ochon Ovat calls to all the people present asking for silence as he is visiting a "sick" man, and for the duration of his visit to show their respect for this peace priest, no one in Onyen may quarrel or make any loud noise, on pain of a fine. The dead Ovat is later carried to the E-vat-kwuna (lit. the grove of the Avat) a place outside the village where there is an Okpobam shrine, and is there buried in the presence of the Ochon Ovat, who afterwards presents a goat to the assembled witnesses.

When a new Ovat is chosen the Ejukwa of Onyen again goes to inform the Ochon Ovat who attends the installation rite, once more having his ceremonial spear carried by his Ejukwa. For the actual rite of "crowning", the new Ovat goes to the Evatkwuna. Wine is given to the Ovat of Ochon who prays at the shrine. Then he takes up the E-vat-ta-" the stone of the Avat" which is used in the installation rite - and asks those assembles if he shall 'crown' the Ovat. When they agree he strikes the new Ovat with the stone and places the cap of office on his head. The Ovat of Onyen is afterwards secluded for seven weeks and when he "comes out" a feast is held attended by the

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Ejukwa of Ochon who presents those assembled with a goat given by the Ovat of Ochon [9].

Before the separation of Ochon and Odongit the structure of the Okum sub-tribe was probably relatively simple in that there were just two pairs of villages Onyen and Odongit, and Issabang and Ohana. The two pairs were articulated through the ritual links of Odongit and Issabang, and Ohana was tied in at the other end to Iyamiyong, and so to the Efyapum sub-tribe.

The end of the nineteenth century saw a certain growth in complexity as first Odongit and then Onyen divided, but still the pattern of inter-linked pairs remains viz.

Onyen and Onyen Oranga,

Onyen and Ochon,

Ochon and Odongit,

Odongit and Issabang,

Issabang and Ohana,

Ohana and Iyamiyong.

That the sub-tribe as a whole has some unity is shown by the very existence of the word "Okum" which in the traditional system was applied to it alone and not to the whole "tribe" which, like the "Osopong" tribe, in fact had no name. This consciousness of sub-tribal unity is also shown in the belief that they speak a dialect which distinguishes them from Efyapum. Nevertheless there is practically no formal sub-tribal organization.

Inter-Village Relations in the Sub-Tribe of Efyapum.

By comparison with the sub-tribe of Okum, Efyapum seems much more united despite the fact that, as we shall see, hostility between its different groups is also much more pronounced.

In Efyapum it is believed that the first village was Okumorutet founded some say by people from the Okum sub-tribe [10]. A myth peculiar to this village records that, some time after its foundation, it was involved in continuous fighting with men of a village to the south who were most skilful spearmen. Okumorutet is said to have been saved from them by a man who came from near Odongit and brought the first gun the people had seen. With the aid if guns the people of Okumorutet are said to have driven away the enemy village. Some time later men from Okumorutet founded the village of Iyamitet.

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These traditions are significant since they stress the relationship between Efyapum and Okum and because they also emphasize the common origin of Iyamitet and Okumorutet. This latter point is of particular interest since in many contexts Efyapum may be seen to be divided into two opposed pairs of villages, Okumorutet and Apiapum on the one hand, and on the other Iyamitet and Iyamiyong. Their relationship we must study in more detail.

Apiapum was founded by people from Okumorutet. This must have been soon after the time that, in Osopong, the Ogada people burnt Ofatura (see p.107) for it is agreed by all that the founders of Apiapum was vitally important to the whole of Efyapum for the settlement was by tradition deliberately planned in order to give these inland villages an outlet to the traders on the Cross River. Moreover its founding had unlooked for consequences also for it is led to such enmity with what may be called the "proto-Adun" villages that the people of Efyapum were thereafter involved in endemic warfare with the Adun.

The founding of Apiapum also led directly to the founding of Iyamiyong. The paths between Apiapum and Okumorutet and Iyamitet are said to have become very dangerous due to Adun hostility. The Village Ovat of Iyamitet therefore sent an age-set of young men and their wives to found Iyamiyong, in order that they might be in a position to give protection to travellers. The tradition that Iyamitet took the initiative in this matter seems reasonable in view of the fact that Okumorutet at this period is said to have become a very small settlement indeed, as the majority of its population had moved to the river leaving the village almost deserted. Only Imayitet therefore could have furnished people for a new village at this time and, since they must have provided the bulk of the travellers to the river they would have had the greatest interest in establishing a settlement. This action, indeed indicates the importance which Imayitet early attached to maintaining its trading links through Apiapum. This suggestion is also supported by the fact that so many people from Imayitet settled at Apiapum that one of the wards of the village is called after them, Iyamoyoyongo.

Once again, as in the case of the Okum sub-tribe, the ritual links between the villages to some extent fit in with these historical traditions. By tradition Okumorutet was the first village of the whole Okum tribe to acquire the Okpobam cult and it is said that it was acquired from Ejagham people to the south [11]. It is noteworthy that the man who, it is claimed, first acquired the cult is said to have been the senior matriclan priest of Okumorutet. He was the head priest of

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the Orurugi matriclan and the name of his Okpobam is Orurugi. He is said to have been at first the only Ovat in Okumorutet but later he made on Okpobam shrine for the head of the senior patriclan in Okumorutet. This Okpobam he called "Ohuroduk" but it is said to be the "same" Okpobam; and it is the myth that validates the right which the Orurugi Ovat has to handle this Okpobam and, therefore, to install and, in theory, depose the Village Ovat of Okumorutet [12].

When the village of Iyamitet was founded the matriclan Ovat of Okumorutet, it is said, made an Okpobam shrine for the matriclan priest of Iyamitet. This man was also head priest of the Iyami matriclan, and he called the Okpobam "Iyami Okoyira". This matriclan priest then, in is turn, made an Okpobam shrine for the head of the senior patriclan in his village, although in this case no new name was given to the Okpobam. The situation in Apiapum is slightly more complex. In this case it is said that the Village Ovat was given the Okpobam "Ohuroduk" by the Orurugi Ovat of Okumorutet; at the same time the matriclan, Ovat of Apiapum comes from the Iyami matriclan and received his Okpobam from the Iyami priest of Iyamitet. These facts suggest the involved history of this village.

The connections between the two pairs of opposed villages Okumorutet and Apiapum, and Iyamitet and Iyamiyong are ignored for many ceremonial and ritual purposes, they seem to be cited only when it is wished to stress Efyapum's unity. Within each pair, however, these traditions provide the basis for special relations between the Avat of the villages concerned and one such link binds the two pairs together.

Because of the ritual ties believed to exist between Iyamitet and Iyamiyong, the Iyamiyong village matriclan priest is installed by the village matriclan Ovat of Iyamitet who is, of course, a member of the same matriclan. It is said that if the people of Iyamiyong were to kill a leopard they would send it to the village Ovat of Iyamitet. Likewise in the vent of homicide being committed by man of Iyamiyong he must seek sanctuary with the matriclan Ovat of Iyamitet. This man must also install the senior (i.e. Iyami) matriclan priest of Apiapum. The ties between Okumorutet and Apiapum are even more emphasized. They are symbolically expressed in the statement that if a leopard were to be killed by the people of Okumorutet they would send it to the Village Ovat of Apiapum. It is even more significant, however, that the Avat of the two villages are very closely concerned in each others installation and burial rites. The Okumorutet matriclan Ovat who belongs, as we have seen, to the Orurugi matriclan, is installed

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by the senior Orurugi matriclan priest of Apiapum. When the Apiapum Village Ovat dies the Efuninga, the ritual caretaker, is chosen, as we shall see, from a particular patriclan in Okumorutet. Finally, and of greatest significance, the matriclan Ovat of Okumorutet has a voice in the selection of the Village Ovat of Apiapum. This right of the Okumorutet matriclan Ovat is no mere formality. I have myself seen this office-holder setting out in full ceremonial dress to go to protest at Apiapum because the people there had, without his permission, reinstated a deposed Village Ovat (See plate 6). the outcome of this protest was that the Apiapum killed a cow and made a feast to reconcile Okumorutet's offended matriclan Ovat.

We must now turn to consider the extent to which Efyapum was organized as a group at the sub-tribal level. First of all, however, we must note the influence on the structure of Efyapum of the competitive relationships which exist between Okumorutet and Apiapum on the one hand and Iyamitet and Iyamiyong on the other. This competition is institutionalized to the extent that these villages see themselves as members of two definitely opposed parties, and the rivalry between them comes out repeatedly even today in a number of ways. For example, Iyamitet and Iyamiyong have accepted the Roman Catholic Mission, whereas Okumorutet and Apiapum have the Church of Scotland Mission.

Rivalry between these villages is matched by rivalry between the matriclan Orurugi and Iyami. This division is clearly not explained by the traditions already described. They cannot account for its existence in the sub-tribe of Okum nor for the odd fact that Adun too was probably once divided between two matriclans. This kind of division was therefore widespread and doubtless was everywhere significant for inter-village relations. Efyapum differs only in the intensity of its rivalry, for it is very strong, particularly in Apiapum. For example a Village Ovat there, deposed about twelve years ago, tried to maintain his power by playing one matriclan against the other. This man was a member of Iyami, but his first step to his office had been to claim membership of Orurugi. This claim he made because there is a vague belief (it cannot be put higher than that) that thought that as an Orurugi member he would stand a slightly better chance of selection. He brought out, therefore, the fact that his mother had originally been a member of Orurugi who had later been handed over to an Iyami sub-clan to settle a blood debt. He had in consequence some claim to Orurugi membership and hew went to the Orurugi Ovat of Okumorutet who performed a rite linking him formally to this matriclan.

The candidate was successful to the extent of getting himself installed, but soon an into difficulties because his original Orurugi supporters felt he was not giving them their due reward. The Ovat's reaction was to try to please the other side by claiming that he was really an Iyami man after all - but this was in vain and he was in fact soon disposed. His manoeuvres however are sufficient indication of the way in which matriclan rivalry enters into internal village politics.

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The rivalries between these pairs of villages and these matriclans are almost certainly connected. Although there can be no proof it seems reasonable to suggest that both had the same politico-economic basis. The people from Okumorutet who founded Apiapum would almost certainly have tried to keep some trading advantages over Iyamitet-Iyamiyong which the latter would have resented. Given close links between settlements and matriclans any such friction must have influenced inter-matriclan relations. This is the more likely in that settlers from the "Iyami" villages living in the Iyamoyo yongo was in Apiapum can be represented politically by the senior Iyami matriclan priest who must reside in this ward. It would be surprising if Iyamitet-Iyamiyong leaders had not at times tried to manipulate Apiapum affairs through their influence with this official, who is so closely associated with their own senior matriclan priests. The very fact that in Apiapum it is an Iyami priest who is the matriclan Ovat for the village may well be explicable only in some such terms. It might have been expected that Apiapum, founded from Okumorutet, would have been expected that Apiapum, founded from Okumorutet, would have had an Orurugi priest to hold this office. The only obvious explanation of the actual position is surely that it represents some kind of concession given to the Iyami "lobby", understandable since Apiapum depended on the periodic support of Iyamitet-Iyamiyong against the Adun. Thus the fact that is an Iyami priest who is Apiapum's matriclan Ovat may well be evidence both of the inter-settlement, inter-matriclan rivalry of the sub-tribe. The extension of the names "Iyami" and "Orurugi" to the matriclans in the sub-tribe of Okum my reflect the fact that these villages too had an interest in the politics of Apiapum since it was also their main trading outlet.

That Efyapum did develop a sense of unity is obvious even from what has been said so far about the traditions of its founding. Despite the distinct probability that the villages contain, and may even have been founded by, elements from different areas the "official" story, we have seen, is that all the villages stem from Okumorutet. It is, however, particularly in the ritual and ceremonial procedure connected with the Avat that the unity of the sub-clan is most clearly indicated.

In the first place, this unity is shown at the rites of each Village Ovat. Although it is always representatives of the paired villages who play the largest parts in each other' rites, nevertheless the senior Ejukwa of each Efyapum village should attend the burial and installation rites of every Village Ovat in Efyapum. The clearest expression, however, of the concept of the unity of Efyapum versus the rest, is to be seen in regulations affecting the Village Avat of Apiapum and Iyamitet, and the Orurugi Ovat of Okumorutet. These Avat of Apiapum and Iyamitet, and the regalia of red cloth or, today, a red shirt and a circlet of leopard's claws, which distinguish the from all the other Avat in Efyapum. These articles are worn on formal occasions only, especially at their own installation ceremonies and when they visit other villages of Efyapum in an official capacity. The significant point, however, is that they may never wear these articles when visiting a village outside Efyapum even if it is a village in the Okum sub-tribe. As for the Orurugi Ovat

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of Okumorutet, after his appointment he should never, even in a private capacity, visit any village outside Efyapum. There seems to be no suggestion that there are any supernatural motives for these restrictions, although the people are ready to admit such motives for certain other rules that bound these Avat. It is, in fact, denied that an Ovat who disobeyed would bring misfortune either on his people or on himself. It is simply stated that Okwa would have the right to fine him for his disobedience; and the rule seem to have as its main function the symbolizing of Efyapum's unity.

The Tribal Organization.

Just as sub-tribal unity is expressed mainly in the rites of the Avat, so also, in so far as there is "tribal" unity, this is similar expressed. There are few other ways in which a sense of unity is shown. There is the fact that each Ochi in the Okum sub-tribe as well as in Efyapum, is thought of as belonging either to Iyami of Orurugi and it is claimed that occasionally representatives from the Okum sub-tribe used to attend the Akwa rites performed by the relevant matriclan priest in Efyapum. It is also alleged that on certain occasions in the nineteenth century very practical expression was given to the sense of tribal unity for war parties from the sub-tribe of Okum were sent to support the Efyapum villages of Apiapum and Iyamiyong in their struggles with the Adun. Nevertheless no formal organization developed out of such alliances, although as we shall see, such an organization had developed in Adun. Indeed although the sense of tribal unity seems obviously to have developed out of former alliances it is still expressed mainly in the rituals of the Avat.

In the first place because of the location of their villages the Village Avat of Iyamiyong and Apiapum seem to have been recognized throughout the tribe of Okum as the leaders of the war association, Eberambit. Consequently every village of the tribe is formally involved in their funeral rites. The news of the "illness" of these Avat, was, and is, carried to each village by a party of Eberambit members of the village concerned . It is usual for the party to be joined by Eberambit members of the villages through which they pass, and at each village the party is entitled to a goat. Today the goat is given to the visitors who carry it of with them but, traditionally, they seized it by force as a symbol of their power. After two or three days, the time varying somewhat according to the amount of hospitality given, the party returns to the village of the dead Ovat. The goats which have been accumulated are killed in his compound and a feast is made for all those attending the funeral. Thus out of the general recognition of the leading role of Apiapum ad Iyamiyong in inter-tribal warfare, has grown a practice which, at the death of their leading Avat, symbolizes tribal unity.

One of the most interesting features of this custom is that it also symbolizes the unique position of the village of Onyen for, although it is not the village nearest to Apiapum and Iyamiyong, the message of the Ovat's illness is taken formally to Onyen first of all. This is done,

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in open acknowledgement of Onyen's position as the first founded of all the villages of the tribe.

Tribal unity is, however, even more emphasized in the gathering that marks the burial and the installation of the Village Ovat of Onyen. We have already seen the part played in these rites by the Village Ovat of Ochon, but it is as noteworthy that in these rites every village in the tribe is, or should be, represented. In the first place the senior Ujukwa of each village comes to the Onyen and goes to the Evatkwana to witness the burial; and afterwards the goat presented by the Ochon Ovat (See p.134) is divided as follows:

To Ochon (& Odongit) the loins

C Ohana the upper right hind leg

C Apiapum the lower C C C

C Iyamiyong the upper left hind leg C Iyamitet the lower C C C

C Okumorutet the upper right fore-leg C Issabang the lower C C C

C Ogambang the upper left C C

C Onyen Oranga the lower C C C

C the Akpan Ovat of Onyen the ribs

C the pourer of wine of Onyen the head

The Efuninga (caretaker of Onyen) is the divider of the meat.

This division is particularly interesting. In the first place it expresses a sense of formal and permanent relationship between the villages which has no parallel in Osopong. Secondly it seems to show a deliberate attempt to assert "tribal" unity, for the pattern of the division avoids grouping together all the Efyapum villages. Iyamitet and Iyamiyong share one leg, but Okumorutet shares with Issabang and Apiapum shares with Ohana.

Again, when the new Onyen Ovat is installed the head of Okwa from each village should once more be present. Most significantly, they all go to the Evatkwuna to see the Ovat "crowned" and they are, therefore, among those who are asked whether they will accept or reject the new Ovat. It would be reading too much into this fact to think that this symbolizes any accountability of the Ovat to those outside his own village, but it does express the very close interest of other villages in his office. After this part of the rite and when the new stone used to strike the Ovat has been taken to a shrine in the new Ovat's house, a goat presented by him is sacrificed there. It is then formally divided out among all the villages representatives in the same manner as before. Finally all the heads of Okwa should attend again at the 'coming out' ceremony of the new Ovat. The representatives from each village are given a separate share of wine and fufu and once again goats are presented one by the Ejukwa of Ochon and another by the Ejukwa of Onyen and are divided out among the village representatives in the way already described.

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Divine Kingship in Apiapum.

Although it is in the rituals of the Onyen Ovat that the clearest expression is given to tribal unity in some ways it is nevertheless those associated with the Apiapum Village Ovat (called Ovat Ohuroduk after his Okpobam's name) which seem the more interesting. This is because it appears that this office was developing towards "divine kingship" of a sort.

If one is to stick strictly to Frazer's use of the term and call only those office holders "divine kings" who are thought to be incarnate gods who control natural forces, then no Ovat qualifies in any sense for the title. Nevertheless many writers, although not usually British social anthropologists have seen "traces" of divine kingship among many peoples whose leaders could not strictly qualify for this office. It is therefore of some interest that in one of the more recent books on the subject a list of such supposed "traces" is given which includes many features found connected with the Avat[13]. It mentions specifically the special robes and regalia given at the installation, the period of seclusion and the rubbing of the body and the new "king". Curiously it also mentions the staff and two bladed objects such as may be seen (in plate 6) being carries by the Orurugi Ovat of Okumorutet; and it also comments on the frequency with which part of a lion or leopard is associated with the regalia, and we have already noted the use made by the Avat of the circlet of leopard's claws.

Other such "traces" found in association with the Avat are the rule against offering them violence and the rule that the death of an Ovat may not be mentioned, on pain of a fine , until it is officially announced. In addition there are two other characteristics which are referred to and are said by the Mbembe to have been formerly associated with certain of the Avat; the custom of burying others with an Ovat and the custom, which is said to have occurred in a few cases, of killing an Ovat who became seriously ill.

Whether these features - found so widely among the Mbembe and neighbouring tribes - originally came from a society with true diving kingship in the Frazerian sense is a question which I am not competent to debate. That they indicate that the Avat were formerly regarded as divine kings seems, however, highly unlikely. All the evidence that I have accumulated suggests that the Avat were growing more not less, powerful and ritually significant with the years and the traits which Irstam regards as evidence that the Ovat, at his installation, acquires a new but not a divine status. Moreover many of the features mentioned have their parallels in other ceremonies, those for instance that mark the burial of other influential men, or the change in status from girl to marred woman. Not all of the characteristics mentioned, therefore, are found associated with the Avat only. Nevertheless the killing of the Avat cannot be easily dismissed for it is a feature too closely associated with classic cases of divine kingship.

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Even the killing of the sick, however, was not a threat which, among the Mbembe, menaced only the Avat. It is said, both by the Mbembe and Yako that it is not unknown for elderly men to be killed. This is done only if, on one hand the man is enfeebled and so a nuisance to his patrilineal kin with whom he is living and, on the other, if he is feared by his matrilineage as an Ijong sorcerer. If these two conditions exist then, I have been told by those who claim to have been witnesses, the matrilineal kin arrive and announce euphemistically that they have come to "bathe" the sick man. Occasionally they then smother him, but is is said that more commonly he is made to sit down with his legs straight out, and they force his head downwards until, I presume, the neck is dislocated.

All enfeebled men are, therefore, potentially threatened with being killed. Among the Osopong, Okum and Adun, however, there were just two Avat who were under more serious threats. In their case their patrilineal and matrilineal kin did not have jointly to connive at their deaths. On the contrary it is said that they might be killed whatever the wishes of their kinsfolk, by Ocheika, the association responsible for so much of the ritual of the Avat.

In the case of the Adun Ovat, who was the Ovat Kwudedin, (literally the first or Great Ovat, whose office we shall consider in detail in the next chapter), this killing is not greatly emphasized. It is accepted that it occurred but it is seen as an action in much the same category as the killing of elderly sorcerers, and the usual method for killing these is said to have been employed. Very much greater stress is, however, laid on the killing of the Apiapum Ovat Ohuroduk. The killing is enthusiastically emphasized whenever the significance of this office is under discussion. Moreover, in keeping with this emphasis, a unique method is said to have been adopted to kill the Ovat. I t is said that a pole was placed across this throat and that the Ocheika members sat on each end until the Ovat died. Even in recent years holders of this office who have been taken ill have sought refuge, until they have recovered, with matrilineal kin outside the village of Apiapum. Others have abdicated prompted, it is said, by the fear of being killed.

The Ovat Kwudedin of Adun and the Village Ovat of Apiapum are distinguished also in that each at his installation was, or is, annointed with human brains which are mixed in with the more usual camwood. Again, however, with respect to this practice there are differences in detail between the two rites which have considerable significance. In Adun the brains were those of a victim of head-hunting killed specially for the purposes. In Apiapum, however, the brains are those of the Ovat's predecessor.

This difference is important since the Apiapum practice obviously stresses the continuity of the office. It also permits considerable elaboration in the burial ritual. After death important ceremonies are undertaken in which dead Ovat's skull is severed from the body and the brains removed. Later, the skull is taken and buried separately in a special grove at Okumorutet from where, as we saw, the original Ovat Ohuroduk of Apiapum came, thus again the continuity of

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the office is stressed. The stress these rites place on continuity between the current Ovat Ohuroduk and the first founder, is not backed by any dogma that the Ovat Ohuroduk is possessed by the spirit of the original Ovat. Such an idea would, in fact, seem incompatible with Mbembe cosmological beliefs which find no place for possession by any kind of personalized spirit. Nevertheless the stress on continuity is so great that, in a manner quite foreign to the Mbembe, the elders of Apiapum remember a list of nineteen Avat Ohuroduk right back to the founder. This is in sharp contrast to the attitudes to the office of either the Ekinrin of Osopong or the Adun Kwudedin or the villages Ovat of Onyen. It is of course in even greater contrast to the attitude towards the offices of any of these less influential Avat. Of the nineteen Apiapum Avat four abdicated and six were "dethroned" and if others were in fact killed their period in the office may have been short. Nevertheless although the extent of time involved may not be as great as it appears at first sight the list is impressive.

The details of this line of Apiapum Village Avat are important as a "mythical charter" and we shall return to them, but first we may examine the way in which the ceremonial connected with the Village Ovat of Apiapum, the Ovat Ohuoduk , involves many different, potentially hostile groups. This is of particular interest since although the importance of the Ohoroduk Ovat is only a pale reflection of that of Nyikang, the Reth of the Shilluk, it is nevertheless the case that the rituals of these two officials have precisely the same function; for their proper performance they necessitate the collective participation of competing groups [14].

We have already seen that Apiapum grew rapidly from nothing during the nineteenth century, receiving its population from rival villages. Like any new town moreover, it must have faced particular problems because it lacked a traditionally established hierarchy of authority. Because of its history Apiapum is not thought to be divided primarily into patriclans but into five wards based on the different settlements from which its inhabitants came. One ward is Iyamoyoyongo, with a population mainly from Iyamiyong and Iyamitet. There are also three small wards named after formerly independent villages whose inhabitants settled in Apiapum primarily because of the wars with Adun. Finally there is the ward Okumoruk, called after Okumorutet and regarded as the senior ward because it was first founded. Ovat Ohuroduk is the head of this ward as well as head of the whole village.

The seniority of Okumoruk ward is acknowledged by all, but within the ward itself no one patriclan is recognized as being senior. Instead there are two rival patriclans each headed by an Ovat with a special title, one called Ovat Akpama and the other Ovat Akawn. these two Avat share between them the roles which in other cases we have seen to belong usually to the "senior" Ovat and the head of Okwa. Ovat Akawn performs all sacrifices necessary for head-hunters and is the "eater of heads" for the village. Apparently he is the priest also of

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Eberambit, the warrior's association. He is, moreover, the one Avat in Apiapum with the ritual authority to make new Okpobam awka and is said to have been responsible for making the necessary Okpobam tree shrines for Apiapum at each new site it has occupied since its foundation. Ovat Akpama , on the other hand, is the official with the ritual power to handle the Okpobam of the Ovat Ohuroduk . It follows, therefore, that it is he who receives any complaints against this Ovat since it is only he who can ultimately depose him. If the Ovat Ohuruduk should be deposed, or if he should abdicate it is Ovat Akpama who performs the necessary desacrilizing rite.

Neither of these Avat, however, is the sanctuary priest of the village. This role is performed by the matriclan Ovat of the village, who it will be remembered, comes from the Iyami matriclan. He lives in the Iyamoyoyongo ward. It is said that it is the official who would have had the power to order executions, and was responsible for burying the rare suicides. We have already seen that he is the "Grave Measurer" for the village, that is he performs a rite vital for every inhabitant.

All these officials have a part in the selection of the Ovat Ohuroduk for he is chosen, not, as in most other cases, by the Okwa association, but by an 'electoral college'. This consists of Ovat Akawn, Ovat Akpama, the Iyami matriclan Ovat, and the head of the Okwa for the Okumoruk ward (who is the head of Okwa for the village). In addition it includes the matriclan Ovat, the Orurug Ovat of the village of Okumorutet. As might be expected the authority of all these officials is symbolized in the rituals connected with Ovat Ohuroduk.

Although in recent years there has been some departure from the traditional pattern of the ritual, mainly because recent Avat Ohuroduk have abdicated and not died in office, the following is firmly believed to be the proper course of events after the death of the Ovat.

First the members of Ocheika wash the body and drag it along the ground to the sacred bush where it is to be buried. The Ovat Akawn leads this group and seven times on the way to the bush makes a sacrifice at which he prays to the dead Ovat:

"Ovat, ire'reik achei kokei, ireik kakevei!"

"Ovat, vomit the earth which you have eaten, do not spoil the earth!"

In this prayer the Ovat Akawn is in effect, asking the dead Ovat Ohuroduk to relinquish his office voluntarily and peacefully and not to bring disaster on his people through his reluctance to let his power go.

At the E-vat-kwuna, the sacred bush where the Ovat is to be buried, the body is handed over to men known as the A-vat-kpa-nong, "the-people-of-the-bush-of-the-Avat". These men are,allegedly, descendants of the occasional lone refugee or outlaw who, in pre-administration times, had to flee from his home for some reason and to save his head crept into the village at night and flung himself on the mercy of its leaders. Such people were known in my villages, but in Apiapum they became the special clients of the Village Ovat.

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The Ovat Akawn selects certain of the Avatkpanong to bury the body of the Ovat. Those chosen must bury the body in an upright position and then separate the head in a special manner and cleanse the flesh from the skull and remove the brains. These are then dried. The skull and brains are cared for by the head of the Avatkpanong, who is known as the Ovat Aho. This man is not a true Ovat. In his case the title may be interpreted as "the leader in charge of the head".

In the meantime the Ovat Akawn is responsible for making a sacrifice for the members of the Eberambit shrine of which he is the priest. Afterwards the members set out to inform the villages of the Okum tribe of the Village Ovat's death. On their return it is the Ovat Akawn who formally announces the death of the Ovat Ohuroduk.

While all this is going on the Ovat Akpama has his part to play also. As the one with authority to touch the sacred objects of the dead Ovat it is he who first becomes for a time the "Efuninga", the ritual "caretaker" who makes an necessary sacrifices at the shrine. Because he therefore receives any tribute of wine and meat that would normally have gone to the Village Ovat it is Ovat Akpama who is responsible for welcoming and offering hospitality to representatives of other villages who come to the funeral.

Later the Ovat Aho, the leader of the "refugees" or "clients" carries the skull, not of the Village Ovat who has just died, but of the preceding Ovat to the village of Okumorutet, and is accompanied by Ovat Akawn, Ovat Akpama and the head of Okwa for the Okumoruk ward in Apiapum. The Ejukwa, the head of Okwa for the senior patriclan in Okumorutet then buries the skull in the sacred bush and afterwards a man from this patriclan is chosen to act as "caretaker" for Ovat Ohurokuk in Apiapum. Avat Aho keeps the skull of the late Ovat in his house throughout the "reign" of the next Ovat Ohuroduk who may not enter this place.

When the new Ovat is appointed and has produced all the necessary fees he is installed, and once more we see the interplay of the various officials. The actual "crowning" is carried out by the Orurugi Ovat of Okumorutet who comes to Apiapum and performs the ceremony. Significantly this takes place neither at the Ovat's house nor in a grove outside the village but in the compound of the Ovat of the Iyami matriclan. At this rite the head of Ocheika is also involved since he is called upon ritually to protect the new Ovat from any harm that might otherwise befall him through the tribute meat he is given. Unprotected and Ovat could be endangered through presents of meat from a stolen animal whose true owner had protected it with "medicine" against thieves; a considerable risk.

After the installation rite the new Ovat is secluded in the compound of the Iyami matriclan Ovat where he is rubbed with camwood mixed with the brains of his predecessor. After one week in this compound the new Ovat moves on to the compound of Ovat Akawn where the process is repeated for another week. When the new Ovat Ohurudok moves from one compound to another and when he finally comes out

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of seclusion all the Avat of Apiapum dance ceremonially round the village.

Some time after this the new Ovat goes formally to Okumorutet. he goes, accompanied by Ovat Akawn and Ovat Akpama and the senior Ejukwa, and on his arrival he makes a sacrifice at the spot where his predecessor's heads are buried. All then go to the compound of the Orurugi matriclan Ovat of Okumorutet who makes a sacrifice for the new Ovat. In this the Orurugi Ovat pours an oblation of wine over his Okpobam shrine and where the wine has moistened the ground at the base of the shrine he takes the earth and daubs the chest of the new Ovat.

These rites, therefore, clearly involve all the heads of the main "pressure groups" in Apiapum. Indeed it seems almost as if the main role of the Ovat Ohuroduk is to act as a focus of a series of symbolic statements about political relationships, for although he had traditionally great prestige and some power his official role is somewhat ill defined.

This is not to deny that the personal prerogatives of the Ovat Ohuroduk were in some ways unusually great, they were in fact very marked. It is said, for instance, that a creditor might never demand from him the repayment of a debt but could only beg him to pay what he owed. Moreover the general rule that an Ovat during his installation period may have sexual relationships only with a woman born in the same village, has been subtly changed so that it is said that, at his installation, the Apiapum Village Ovat has a right to demand as his wife any girl who takes his fancy. Adultery with the wife of an Ovat was everywhere a serious offence, but it is said that Apiapum Village Ovat could order the members of the Eberambit warriors' association to cut off the adulterers' head and the adulterers' skull is then said to have been displayed set in the floor of the house of the village Ovat.

This special relationship of the village Ovat with Eberambit is of particular interest because it is usually held that one of the important distinguishing features of African leaders with true 'chiefly' power is that they have some kind of control over the use of force [15]. The Apiapum Ovat seems, alone among the Mbembe Avat, to have had such power for not merely did he have the right to call on Eberambit against adulterers but it is said that because of the very dangerous situation of Apiapum and its liability to attack, the Village Ovat had his own special bodyguard (which has now disappeared) of Eberambit warriors. In addition a special relationship had developed between the Apiapum village Ovat and refugees the Avatkpanong. Such people were known elsewhere among the Mbembe but nowhere else did there develop such close ties between them and an Ovat. Among the Adun for example they were taken to the Kwudedin who then normally arranged for them to settle with whoever had first found them or sent them back to their own home area. Nowhere except in Apiapum did they become the special clients of the Ovat.

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The obligations of these "clients" to the Ovat Ohuroduk were, in formal terms, largely of a ritual nature for their main duty was to remove the head of the dead Ovat. Nevertheless it seems highly probable that the fact that this group looked to the Ovat as being in a special sense their protector had some practical significance also. Any support which either these "clients" or the Eberambit bodyguard gave to the Ovat Ohuroduk must have had great value for him since often he had no local group of patrilineal kin to support him and the relationship may in part be explained by this fact.

That the Village Ovat of Apiapum should lack the support of his own kinsmen is due to the fact that he is not selected, even ideally, from any one kin group. Instead the assertion is made that he may come from any patrilineal group whose Ovat "holds" the Ohuroduk Okpobam or one which although of a different name is believed by origin to be "the same". It is not even thought necessary for the Ovat to come from a group in Apiapum, and in fact out of the twelve Avat who held office in pre-government times only five were Apiapum men.

That men from outside Apiapum should have been chosen may possibly be due, in part, to the same influence that at times led the Osopong selectors to choose a man from Onyen as their Ekinrin, the desire to choose someone neutral in local politics. If this were the only factor involved, however, it seems probable that the people of Apiapum like those in Osopong would not have bothered to have remembered details about the different holders of the office. On the contrary, however, not merely do the Apiapum people remember a long list of names of office holders but the elders remember which village each came from and the matriclan membership of each.

Although there is no strict alternation between Orurugi and Iyami it is certainly significant that equal members of the village Avat are believed to have come from the two matriclans. This is particularly noticeable since some informants quoted a rule that the Ovat should be chosen from Orurugi only, a rule that is understandable because of the close links between Orurugi and Ohuroduk. Even more striking, however, than the way in which the Village Avat have been divided between two matriclans is the way in which they have been chosen from different villages. Prior to this century apart from the five Avat from Apiapum itself four came from Okumorutet, and one from Iyamitet. That even one should have come from this last village is significant in view of the rivalry between the two sets of villages. Even more significant, however, is the fact, that two came from the Okum sub-tribe, one from Ohana and one from Ochon. In this century eight Avat have held this office; of these five have come from Apiapum, one from Ogada (at a time when Apiapum was living with people from Ogada) and two have come from Onyen.

This wide distribution of the villages from which the Ohoroduk Ovat has been chosen is politically most significant since it is taken to "prove" the unity of the Okpobam cult of the Okum tribe. In the absence of firm traditions about the Okpobam connections between the two sub-tribes this proof is crucial and furnishes to the people the best possible evidence of the ritual unity of the tribe.

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We may now turn to consider how far the Ovat Ohuroduk was a "divine" leader. We have already discussed those features which mark off this office as being particularly sacred. These, it must be emphasized, would seem to have grown up in Apiapum itself. There is nothing comparable in Okumorutet to the use of the dead Ovat's brains so reminiscent of the Yoruba practice of eating the dead Oba's heart. In Okumorutet both the Ohoroduk Ovat and the Orurugi Ovat are buried in a normal manner. Nor, indeed is this pattern of the use of the dead Ovat's brains found anywhere else in Okum and Osopong or Adun; as we saw, in Adun the brains used, being those of a stranger, had a quite different significance.

It is impossible to be certain that there were no exact parallels to this practice in the "cultural region" but at any rate today there seem to be no nearby cases on which the Apiapum practice could have been modelled. On the other hand if such a practice could have arisen simply because it had many political advantages then it is certainly the case that there was much in Apiapum to stimulate a purely local development of this kind. We have seen that in Apiapum competition for power between equal groups led to the unique situation in which the Village Ovat did not have to be selected from any particular descent group or groups. Moreover for various reasons including the growing strength of tribal feeling, the Ovat might be selected from any one of a number of villages. In such a situation if there were to be any sense of continuity in the office then clearly some very strong emphasis was needed in the installation rites to show that the new man really was the true successor to the dead Ovat. In other words some kind of "apostolic succession" had to be established. Since there were in the area such cases of that of Adun to provide a precedent for the use of the human brains the use of the brains of the dead Ovat may have been merely the next obvious step.

The emphasis on the killing of the Ovat Ohuroduk is also probably to be explained in terms of the peculiar situation in Apiapum and in Okum generally. My Apiapum informants never suggested that the Ovat was killed because ill-health might bring misfortune in any way to the land or the people. Indeed throughout the Mbembe except among the Okpodon, the suggestion of any possibility of such a consequence following from the illness of an Ovat was thought to be quite ridiculous. The one reason that the leaders of Apiapum put forward was that everyone enjoyed the funeral so much! After a lot of questioning I had to decide that this view, even if naive, was sincerely held.

In the absence of any ritual explanation for regicide, even by the people themselves, we have every reason for seeking a structural explanation for the supposed killing of Ovat Ohuroduk and the repeated pattern of the deposition and abdication of the office-holders. Evans-Pritchard, has argued that these patterns occur among the Shilluk because they are divided up into different parties and although each supports the idea of kingship each is eventually dissatisfied with any candidate put up by an opposed group and after a while seeks to oust him and replace him with a Reth of its own choosing [16]. On a smaller

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scale such motives may also, I believe, have caused the chequered history of the Avat Ohuroduk of Apiapum.

There is possibly, however, a second factor which further encourages this tendency to short reigns. We have seen that the most important role of the Ovat Ohuroduk was apparently to provide a focus for unity, to make co-operation necessary between hostile groups. This was markedly the case. It is true that he had of course, certain more common ritual responsibilities for the whole village; he was in the usual sense head of all cults, and had special duties in regard to war cults since it is emphasized that it was the duty of Ovat Ohuroduk to send for "war doctors" from distant parts to come to strengthen the warriors in their fights with the Adun. Nevertheless it was undoubtedly his role as a unifying figure-head which was the more significant.

When, however, we examine the occasions on which the Ovat Ohuroduk did act as a figure-head we find that, once installed, the occasions for his doing so were rare. In practice it seems to have been only the ceremonies of his installation and death which performed this function. In the absence of any emphasis on his performing unifying ritual once he had been installed it may indeed be argued that the death of the office-holder, or at least his abdication or deposition after a fairly short period, must have been highly desirable on political grounds. the belief of the people themselves that Ovat Ohuroduk was killed because the villagers liked the subsequent rites and ceremonies may in fact not be naive at all - it may rather express a shrewd understanding of the workings of their political system!

This discussion of the part played by the Avat in inter-village relations among the Okum has been somewhat lengthy; yet it has been necessary to study the situation in detail of we are to see the real contrast between the political situations in Okum and Osopong and the roles of their Avat.

The contrast is striking for in Okum the fixed points of the system are the villages; much of the ritual and ceremonial of the Avat is really concerned with symbolizing inter-village relationships and much of the strength of the Avat's position lies in this very fact. In Osopong, on the other hand, although the villages are not unimportant the history of the people in recent generations and the manifold ties between the inhabitants of different villages make the Avat of much less significance than they are in Okum. It follows that little use is made of the rites of the Avat to symbolize inter-village relationships and this is an important factor in making the position of the Osopong Avat relatively weak.

Most marked is the contrast between the Ekinrin and the Ovat Ohuroduk. Both in a sense are significant because they help diversified groups to live together peacefully. In the case of the Ekinrin, however, the groups involved seem not to have been strongly competing. Although it was felt desirable to disengage the Ekinrin from too close a connection with one village, and although it was found advisable from time to time to choose a complete outsider for the office, the Ekinrin was not made the centre of any elaborate ritual. The Ovat,

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Ohuroduk however had a much more difficult role to play since the groups with which he dealt were very strong and self-conscious, determined to compete for power with their rivals. Moreover the relationships between these units were not traditionally ordered. Evans-Pritchard has postulated that divine kingship might be regarded as typical of societies with strong lineages, where the relationships between the lineages are not firmly structures. The Okum people do not have a pronounced lineage system in Evans-Pritchard's sense but they do have strongly corporate groups whose positions relative to each other are not firmly ordered, and the society may be seen to be comparable with those Evans-Pritchard has in mind. He argues that it is in societies of this type that political organization tends to take a ritual or symbolic form. He goes on to suggest that "in polities with a higher degree of organization" this symbolic form gives way in part to a more centralized administration [17]. To see how much truth there is in this assertion we may now consider the case of the Adun tribe where there are important triennial rituals of Awtawa which are considered vital for the well-being of the whole group and whose proper performance necessitates the co-operation of the main political units in the tribe. Thus the burden of providing the main unifying rituals does not fall on the ceremonies of installation and burial of the Avat. Instead the Avat play much more significant administrative roles than do their Okum counterparts. This is connected with the fact that the Adun political system is much the more highly centralized.

[1] Ekukuri Awai and Ekukuri Edondon.

[2] When this sub-tribe is referred to in administrative reports it is called Apiapum. This, however, is also the name given to the largest of its villages to which many references will be made. To avoid confusion I spell the sub-tribe in a way which conforms more closely to the local pronunciation.

[3] An association of the same name as that found among the Yako (Forde 1949 P.9.)

[4] The existence of these matriclan Avat may indicate Agoi influence on the Efyapum since the Agoi, who are neighbours of the Efyapum have matriclan priests as their equivalent of the Mbembe Avat.

[5]My material at this point is unfortunately deficient regarding villages of the Okum sub-tribe. They do not have matriclan Avat, I think but I am not positive, that they do not recognize leading matriclan priests in each village.

[6] The Village Ovat of Apiapum is an exception to this rule (See below). Even, he, however, is not accountable to Okwa.

[7] Of the village of this sub-tribe on small settlement, Akama (pop 74) moved right outside the area in the nineteenth century and now lives close to the non-Mbembe village of Okuni. For this reason it is not significant for study of the general relations between villages of this sub-tribe. One other village Ogambang (pop.118) has also had to be omitted because unfortunately my material is deficient in this case. This analysis is therefore restricted to a study of the other six villages: Onyen, Onyen Oranga, Ochon, Issabang, Ohana and Odongit.

[8] Odongit was at this time known apparently as Ochon. It became called Odongit only in the last century when the bulk of its people moved to a new site and carried the name of Ochon with them. To avoid confusion the name Odongit is used throughout to refer to the first village.

[9] There is a significant tendency in Okum for Avat to be ritually interdependent in this way. For example in Onyen there are two subordinate patriclans whose Avat "crown" each other.

[10] This belief is particularly striking since the people of Adun and the Yako village of Nko, respectively the enemies and the friends of Efyapum, both maintain that Okumorutet was founded by Agoi peoples from the south. There are certainly strong cultural links betwee Efyapum and Agoi.

[11] While there is of course, no possibility of proving this story it is perhaps supported by the fact that the Ejagham people have an unexplained prestige as ritual experts and new cults are repeatedly disseminated for their region. This was first noticed by Malcolm Rual and it is the case that many other cults among the Mbembe are believed to have originated from this area.

[12] The suggestion was made earlier (see p.71) that the concept of a peace cult "parish" is linked to the association of this cult with patriclan groups. It may be significant, therefore, that despite this seniority of the Okpobam "Orurugi" it is the Okpobam "Ohuroduk" which it is claimed "owns" Okum and it is in terms of this ownership that warfare within the tribe is sacrilegious.

[13] Irstam.ibid p.56.

[14] Evans-Pritchard (1962) p.78.

[15] See e.g. Mair 1962 pp.112-15.

[16] Evans-Pritchard, ibid, p.83.

[17] Ibid p.84.

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