Critical Review of Some Assertions by Dr Tamunoemi David-West (1)

by Opubo G Benebo

Enthronements in the Last Interim 300 Years in Kalabari Lands:
Critical Review of Some Assertions by Dr Tamunoemi David-West – PART I

In a recent newspaper article entitled, “My position on the Amanyanabo stool and Tonye Princewill’s 40th birthday” by Dr Tamunoemi David West, published in The Sun, Monday, February 02, 2009, the author discussed even if tangentially Kalabari history, traditions and culture as practised in the past 300 years, and indeed this discussion was tangential as the main theme is seemingly about an invitation of him to the 40th birthday party of Tonye Princewill, that he refused to honor. That Dr Tamunoemi David West would take a private matter of an invitation to a party he refused to attend, to be discussed in a national newspaper is rather curious and interesting; the fact that it is curious is also very interesting. Yet a careful critical review hopefully would be very revealing. More to the assertion regarding the Kalabari traditions and culture, Dr Tamunoemi David-West wrote:

QUOTE: I would like to believe that as a responsible and highly educated young man you are aware that there is no “King” or “Amanyanabo” of the Kalabari Kingdom as of today. The law of Nigeria is blind to the existence of your father as “Amanyanabo” because he was not properly installed in accordance with our 300 years old tradition and custom. He is accordingly not recognised by the Federal Government of Nigeria as Amanyanabo (King) of the Kalabari kingdom. UNQUOTE – Dr Tamuno-emi David West

This statement has several fallacies in it: There are issues when the inference regarding the invalidity of the enthronement of Chief Prof Theophilus JT Princewill is analyzed in the context of the premise as given by Dr Tamuno-emi David-West; and then there are also issues with the inference when it is also analyzed within the context of the Kalabari Customs and Traditions of the last interim 300 years: In effect then there are also issues related to the foundation of the inference. As such, in proffering the critical review, there will be two tier analysis of that statement: The first tier of the review will analyze the logic and veracity of the foundation of the inference within the context of the Kalabari Traditions and Culture. The second-tier of the review will analyze the logic and veracity of the inference proper in the context of the foundation on which Dr Tamunoemi David-West has submitted his conclusion. However, because the issues involved are quite extensive critical reviews will be presented in as many parts as necessary. The first tier review will be provided in parts as well and possibly interspersed with parts of the second-tier as well.

In this part, the first-part of the first-tier critical reviews, the issues of the foundation in the context of recent events which should have been known to Dr Tamunoemi David-West are examined. This review, though also not comprehensive either given the scope of the history of the recent events, has the object of establishing based on recent events that there is no such entity as “Kalabari Kingdom” currently or even in the past One hundred and twenty five (125) years: of course, the actual length of time is much longer, but the focus in this part of the review addresses only the state recent past years. Besides, the Kalabari Community has always been a Union both by construction and in spirit.

Now then, to boot, the Kalabari Union [embodied by the Cawthorne Channel Kalabari City State] effectively broke up in 1880 after the Iwo-fe war in which Chief Igbanaibo Will-Braide defeated the Kalabari Union. Sometime about 1867 Chief Igbanibo – who had been sent off from the kalabari City State to Old Karakara-ama for his safety because of the concerns of his parents regarding his repeated challenge and verbal vituperation of Chief Karibo Amakiri, the father of Chief Abbi Princewill Karibo Amakiri – was recalled by the Barboys family, the rightful rulers of Kalabari, to assume the role of the Leadership of the Barboys from which Chief Alanbo had been forced off. Ultimately the Iwo-fe war broke out, and the Kalabari Union under the leadership of Chief Abbi Princewill Karibo Amakiri was defeated after they had spent their arms and ammunitions and had nothing left to fight with. Besides, often the Vice Consul of England publicly declared Chief Abbi, Chief John-Bull and Chief George chronic debtors, and posted their names on some sort of public trading bulletins (circa – GI Jones “Trading Secrets”), so they were not able to buy arms from any other groups, when their arms got spent. Moreover, the opposing group was a martial alliance of the Okirikas, Okolomas (Bonny), Opobo, and Chief Igbanibo and his cousin Chief Iyalla. Chief Igbanibo and his allies had mounted a blockade against the Kalabari Union which the Union could not break and consequently had gone into a state of famine, with some of the Princewill eating mud. Attempts by the Union to inform the English of their predicament were repeatedly intercepted and the messengers killed. However, when the English finally realized the situation they forced peace agreement, and ordered that Chief Igbanibo Will-Braide vacate the Iwo-fe location from where he was mounting the blockade, as it gave him undue advantage. Further, by the terms of the Peace Agreement, he was ordered to so vacate within seven days.

In order to meet this short deadline, he considered only land-masses that were already known to the Barboys. The first of such places was the landmass currently known as Abonnema, but rejected that after some considerations (circa P Amaury Talbot) and finally opted to settle at the landmass currently known as Bakana. This was in 1880. The Okolomas with whom Chief Igbanibo had placed the women and children for protection during the Iwo-fe campaign then came with Chief Igbanibo Will-Braide and built up the town of Bakana for the families before returning home back to Bonny and Finima. Then in 1882, the peoples of Abonnema moved off and formed their own community. Finally in 1884 the peoples of Buguma, fearing another attack, also moved off and settled in the landmass now known as Buguma, which had been discovered previously by Chief Dokubo Horsfall popularly known as Chief Omekwe.

Now sometime about 1934 the peoples of Bakana, Abonnema and Buguma met in the small Kalabari community of Abalama, doing so on the entreat of the peoples of Buguma to discuss forming a martial alliance, possibly against the Okirikas and Okolomas, because of their fear of the martial alliance between the Bakana peoples, the Okolomas, the Opobos and Okirikas that had led to their defeat. After much discussion, it was agreed that the three Kalabari City States, which had been separate and independent of each other would remain so, and that their association would be only of the form of martial alliance. The responsibility of the protection of the protectorate communities, making up the Kalabari Clan, was also consigned in different partitioning to the three City States. Even more explicitly, it was agreed that the Kalabari Union was deemed dissolved effective 1882 – the same year the Abonnema peoples left the Cawthorne Channel Kalabari City State. This then was the state of affairs as of the time of the martial alliance. These are also documented in the 1935/36 [security] Report also available in the British archives. Here then is the fact that there is no such thing as Amanyanabo of Kalabari as per these resolutions and consequentially no Kalabari Kingdom at least going back as far as one hundred and twenty five (125) years. A scholar of the quality of Dr Tamunoemi David West ought to have been informed of this state of affairs, yet Dr Tamunoemi David-West chose to and has repeatedly asserted the title of Amanyanabo of Kalabari in his writings as it were, such was indeed valid.

Further buttressing this unscholarly behav

ior of Dr Tamunoemi David West is that he attended the once well-known secondary school, Kalabari National College, at some point in time in his life, and as every person who attended that secondary school knows, the “badge” or insignia of that school emblazoned Three Stars and Three [equal] Sticks bound together with rope. These were reflections of the Three Kalabari City States, being equal and independent as with the sticks and in a martial alliance as per the bounding by the rope. Clearly Dr Tamunoemi David-West must have known of this explanation of the badge. That these inclusions were crucial to the building of the secondary school should have been known to Dr Tamunoemi David-West because after all, that school was, in fact, primarily financed by Chief Kio Jack, and he would never have financed it under circumstances that subordinated Abonnema to Buguma or in the absence of a martial alliance. So for Dr Tamuno-emi David-West who ought to have been knowledgeable of these facts to overtly and unabashedly assert a nonexistent Kalabari Kingdom is to promote untenable foundation on which to construct an inference.

Another point of information, still substantiating the falsehood of the assertion of a Kalabari Kingdom, focuses on the state of affairs in which the town of Tombia is not recognized as a Kalabari City State, although it had grown to a size recognizable as such. This aspect of the definition of the Kalabari City States provides yet another example that should have been known to Dr Tamunoemi David-West which should have informed him that there is no such valid community as Kalabari Kingdom such as he had used in the article in relation to Chief Prof Theophilus JT Princewill. Substantiation this assertion, comes from a recall of one other resolution of the 1934 Martial Alliance Agreement between the Kalabari City States: There will be an annual gathering of the Kalabaris during which the newly installed Chiefs of the three Kalabari City States would be introduced to all, so that in times of war, there would not obtain the unfortunate situation of “friendly fire”. During one of these meetings, which as it happened was also being chaired by Chief Kio Jack, a proposal was made by the Tombia peoples to have Tombia be recognized as a Kalabari City State. After, the proposal was formally read, Chief Kio Jack stood up and simply over-ruled or denied the recognition, citing one of the terms of the 1670 Formalism of the Kalabari Union as a basis for the refusal; and that was the end of the case till today. The question, Dr Tamunoemi David-West should have asked himself is why it was possible for Chief Kio Jack to make such binding ruling, instead of the Amanyanabo of Kalabari if in fact a Kalabari Kingdom existed. These events and ruling are in the records, and Dr Tamunoemi David West as scholar ought to have been familiar with them.

The Kalabari kingdom now being asserted basely was unilaterally constructed in about 1948 by Chief JT Princewill, when he started to style himself Amanyanabo of Kalabari, as a result of the NCNC declaring him ruler of the Kalabaris – after he joined the NCNC political party [ as the would-be ruling party of the Eastern Nigeria] and promised to support the delivery of the Treaties (signed between the Kalabaris and the English) to them to enable the granting of Nigerian Independence and also promised to collaborate with them ( the Igbos), who are his kins given that his mother was also Igbo, to manage the Kalabaris for the benefit of the Igbos. Unfortunately, that is nonsense as the Kalabaris never offered rulership to him (Chief JT Princewill) and have never accepted that monarchy; besides no Igbos are going to tell the Kalabaris who their King is or should be, plain and simple.

Besides that the Nigerian Government has it written into the legislative records is a result of fraud by Wenike Tienabeso, who engaged in official misconduct – in taking advantage of his then position as SMG, Secretary to the Military Government – by submitting the title of Amanyanabo of Kalabari as the ruler of the Kalabaris without informing the Kalabari peoples or getting any form of conscensus.

The invalidity of this claim started in 1948 by Chief JT Princewill is also in the legal records of the Nigerian Government, in relation to a legal case of the Kalabari community of Ido versus Buguma. In that case Ido successfully proved that there is no such ruler as Amanyanabo of Kalabari of the family of Amakiri as represented by the descendants of Chief Abbi Princewill, who rules over them, the peoples of Ido, or has even ever ruled over them, the peoples of Ido. The Princewills and the Buguma peoples also admitted on the record that they have no jurisdiction over the peoples of Abonnema and the landmass of Abonnema, and that the same true for the peoples of Bakana and the landmass of Bakana. The legal defeat suffered by the Buguma peoples were so annoying to the them, so much so that when Mr Chamberlain Opuoyibo wanted to contest the 2003 Rivers State Gubernatorial election and wanted to declare his intent in Buguma, Dr Doris Fisher ordered a gang of thugs [more properly known as area-boys] to run him ( Mr Opuoyibo) out of town almost getting around to killing the gentleman only because his father was of Ido community. Evidently, the fact, is that this Kalabari Kingdom which Dr Tamunoemi David-West chose to assert is pure fiction and his action is simply a reckless promotion of falsehood.

Summarily therefore, there is no such entity as Kalabari Kingdom; and there has not been such that has ever existed since the death in 1770 of King Kalagbaaa, the master and owner of Amakiri [alias Amachree as per anglicized]. So for Dr Tamunoemi David West to overtly assert a position that is not tenably viable, destroys the logic on which he crafts his opposition to Chief Prof Theophilus JT Princewill, except for ulterior motives that may become clearer such as could be surmised from future submissions of the critical reviews.

Opubo Gbanaye Benebo
A Descendant of Kalabari

(Click here for Part 2)

You may also like


Diekramabo.E.M.Ediyekio February 19, 2018 - 4:22 pm

a people with great history…..long live Kalabari Kingdom.

Diekramabo.E.M. Ediyekio February 19, 2018 - 3:24 pm

it’s a honour and a pride to learn that the great Kalabari has a custom and tradition that had endured for over 300 years! and also produced documents that catalysed the creation of the country Nigeria………therefore, I call on all ilustrus sons and daughters of this great Kingdom to always give a standing ovation to this mighty entity(Kalabari) for we no other Kingdom we can call our own.

Perebokalakebari December 17, 2011 - 7:57 pm

I keep hearing so much rubbish coming from peoples mouths. Are Kalabari the first to have a civil war. Were all sides in that civil war not Kalabaris. If one feels Buguma is too dominant let us discuss it as brothers. These insults will destroy Kalabari. Amakiri was the adopted son of the Amanyabo. He was not a slave or a stranger as he was an Ijaw man. The Kalabari kingdom is not about who is king but about a united Kalabari people. That includes those in Bonny and Okirika we are one people and we should never forget that. If not we are going to let politics destroy this great family to the detriment of Obuama, Buguma, Bakana, Abonnema and Ijaw/ Izon as a whole. United we stand divided we fall. Also some of you should learn the history of Amakiri who came from a prominent Ijaw family, no ruler is perfect, nor are any of you. Stop dividing the Kalabari nation with such pettiness.

Prince Songo Igbanibo September 9, 2010 - 11:53 pm

Everyone can not be right is only the truth which is the independent three kalabari city states that’s right.

AGBORUBERE,VI October 3, 2009 - 10:50 am

This is history,so every person is right in his or her own submission.


Leave a Comment