The Efik Queen of Nigeria wants to attend a royal meeting online


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Installation type

In a series of letters from African writers, Nigerian journalist and novelist Adavitrician Nuwabani looks back on the role of traditional rulers in the 21st century.

Gray line for a short presentation

Gray line for a short presentation

Expectations for Nigerian-elected politicians are low, and Barbara Etim James is convinced that many solutions to the country’s problems lie in many chiefs, kings and queens.

Two years ago, a 54-year-old woman was elected Queen in the Kingdom of Efic in southern Nigeria.

Despite living in the UK for 20 years and establishing a private equity fund, she states she is not a modernist who wants to transform the long-established African leadership structure to fit the Western model. ..

“Modernization suggests that you are making traditional things more western,” she says.

James wants to keep that in mind.

“I am incorporating my global experience into culture, not modernizing it.”

Ms. James combines the role of head of a private equity firm with the role of Queen, often traveling from her hometown of Calabar to cities such as Lagos and Abuja for work.

“Calabar is my base, but I spend a lot of time outside, but I have some kind of fieldworker on the ground,” she says.

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Barbara Etim James claims she is in a better position than an elected politician to find out what her people need

Members of the traditional council of her community need to physically witness Calabar for monthly meetings, and she has to go home for these wherever she is-technology changes It’s a situation I want to do.

“I’m talking to them about online meetings right now,” she says.

For those who think it’s an insult to invite a respected person to an event by text message or phone, this suggestion may seem ridiculous at first. James says he needs to send the card.

“But when people send money to their accounts online or by phone, they’re very happy,” she says. She uses it to support her claim in discussions about strengthening culture with technology.

Politician’Short term only’

The role of traditional rulers in Nigeria is not defined by the Constitution, and some consider them an archaic system that goes beyond its usefulness.

The cases in which traditional rulers were expelled from their position because of the accusations that they did not show the support or respect of politicians are also largely symbolic of their role and how much true power they have. I am asking questions about whether I have.

They also lack an independent source of funding.

But Ms. James believes that people like her can be more effective than politicians in making a difference.

Through her network of informants, traditional rulers are closer to people than their elected representatives because they have more sense of what is really happening. Insist.

This means that they can have a greater impact than the political class when addressing issues such as security and poverty, especially because of their longer-term involvement, she said. Says.

Details of traditional Nigerian rulers:

“The governor usually calms down in the first year, gets a job in the second year, prepares for reelection in the third year, and spends the fourth year in elections,” she says.

“They have a shorter interest because they come and go, but traditional rulers tend to stay there for the rest of their lives.”

Nonetheless, few traditional rulers have a well-thought-out economic plan to improve the lives of their people, except that some money is allocated by local governments.

This is where the Queen believes her experience outside of her traditional role will be useful.

“We have a strong social group, but they don’t think financially,” she says.

“It’s all social and consumer, but not economical. Celebration, ceremonies, events … but what can you do together? Can you own a farm? You own a company Can you do it?”

She has set up a corporate fund, offers small loans to people who want to start or expand their business, and organizes entrepreneurship and financial training for various cultural groups.

She says she wants people to “think financially,” that is, how to make and spend money.

Inspirational father

The Kingdom of Efic is headed by a king known as Obon.

Based in the coastal town of Calabar, the capital of the Cross River, it oversees a network of 12 groups called Houses, including what is called Henshaw.

In 2019, Ms. James was named Obon Anwan (Queen) of Henshaw Town under the Henshaw House, acknowledging her active role in the Kingdom of Effic over the last decade.

Her mother, who was Obon Anwan, died in 2016, but her status is not genetic.

“It’s possible that every house has a queen, but most of the time it’s not.

“First of all it’s a responsibility, so we really need someone who is capable of helping people. It’s expensive.

“We have a lot of patronage,” said Ms. James, noting that she finances most of her community projects with personal or privately raised funds.

The Queen’s love for people and culture sees her deceased father, Emmanuel Etim James (later a police aide who worked for an international oil company), actively participate in the local community when she was a child. It started.

Father's installation ceremony

James’ father, Emmanuel Etim James, seen here at the Chief Ceremony, was highly respected in the community.

“He was very involved. He brought home everything he was involved in worldwide.

“He built a big house, had the whole community build a house, bought cement for them, and I witnessed it all,” she says.

After completing her computer science studies at the University of Lagos, she moved to London to earn a master’s degree in business systems analysis and then settled in the United Kingdom.

But she never lost her connection to the house.

“I’ve traveled around the world and touched on all sorts of things, so it helps me to cherish what I have.

“It’s unique, special, and needs to be nurtured,” she says.

“Many people grow up, are exposed and move to Lagos and Abuja. They have little interest or value in life in their hometowns or villages. I am very different.”

“Women are strong”

In 2009, after 20 years of marriage, she divorced an Irish man and returned to settle in Calabar. Marriage is not a requirement of Obong-Anwan.

“In Effic culture, women’s status does not come from their husbands,” explains the Queen.

“Women, we are strong in our own way.”

Her-and her people’s attachment to the past also means that they are not turning their backs on their ties to British colonialists.

Drawn with the town council

James works with traditional Henshawtown leaders

The Efik acted as mediators of the Atlantic slave trade, and years of interaction between the Calabar people and British merchants brought about a high level of assimilation.

Much of the region has English names such as Duke, Henshaw, and James. Traditional men’s and women’s clothing seems to be associated with Victorian fashion.

People in some parts of Nigeria tried to eliminate similar signs of colonial existence and relevance by renaming names, streets, and towns, but Ms. James needed it. I haven’t seen it.

“The Efik do not feel the need for that replacement therapy.

“It’s not because we’re not enlightened or read about the colonial past, it’s just that it’s real and not embarrassing,” she says.

“It happened. It’s not that we don’t recognize the negative aspects of colonialism and slavery … it’s just that we don’t hold it against Britain.”

Instead, she believes that the focus of Nigerian ethnic groups should be on innovation that can sustain rather than destroy culture.

“How can we revive a traditional dance group? How can we save the language from extinction? How can we make the culture prosper to the next generation without dying?” Asks.

These are issues that she is discussing with people and wanting her to remember her tenure as Obon Anwan in Hensho Town.

More letters from Africa:

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