This week on Tribes and Culture, our voyage takes us more South as we cross so many rivers to reach the famous Obudu LGA in Crossriver state. Ubang is a little known rural community within the wider local government area of Obudu, in the northern region of the southeastern state of Crossriver. Muzzammilwrites brings to you their historical and socio-political profile. It was a wonderful experience from onset till finish. We were amazed not only at the sights and scenery but also at the tales and myth surrounding the creation of the wonderful community.
Do you know that God himself visited this place? Yes, you heard it. Find out more in the report below.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE PEOPLE OF UBANG.
As stated earlier, Ubang is a little known rural community within the wider local government area of Obudu, in the northern region of the southeastern state of Crossriver. One notable linguistic feature of this community is the presence of two separate speech varieties each of which is spoken distinctly by men and women. This simply means that the language of the men is quite different from that of the women in the community.
As at the time of this research, little effort has been made towards the documentation of historical antecedents of the origin of Ubang. Therefore, results gathered are based on comprehensive oral literature and mythical belief. Results claim that the people of Ubang have been existing for very long a time. Infact, one part of the myth has linked their origin to then biblical story of the Tower of Babel. According to this myth, the variation noticed in their language is as a result of the curse laid by God as covered in the story.
The sons of men were building a tower in their attempt to reach God’s abode, God frustrated the effort by waving them into confusion and misunderstanding. They were cursed to distinctly begin to speak different languages that they may not understand one another anymore. At the long run, the sons of man were not able to continue their mission; so the Tower collapsed. This story has been sighted for the differences in languages all over the world.
It was at this point of confusion that Ubang was allotted two languages. Some however claimed they were given two languages because they were the most stubborn sects amongst the sons of men at the time as they still route to continue the project.
Another myth surrounding the presence of two different forms of languages reads that after generally allotting one language each to every other community in the world, God was left with two different languages. He doesnt want to return (to Heaven) with leftover. So He gave Ubang the remaining two Instead of one each has he has done for the other communities. They also claim that God was standing on a high mountain (Okwe Asirikwe) within the community when He was sharing the languages. According to them this very very wide footpath seen on this Mountain is a clear sign that He once stood here. No theory or research has been able to unravel the source of the gigantic print. Therefore, it remains a mystery. Some villagers go to this location to bow their heads in praise and worship to God.
A village head at the time of this research, Chief Joseph Ale Iyiang, also narrates that the community was blessed with two languages because they were God’s first creation amongst men. He said “Ubang are the first creation of God by presumption because it is the only community, in the world, that has two languages”. He further related that they were more than the size they are at the moment. But due to some internal pressure, separation was necessary.
“…about 150 years ago, we were about 11 communities but today we are three communities because of inter-tribal squabbles’’.
In addition, he said the broke out communities disappeared and submerged into other neighboring communities. The communities that constitute the Ubang at present are Okweriseng, Ofambe and Okira.
The total population of the Ubang community is estimated to be 5400 (source: Joshuaproject.net) and the name of their language is Ubang.
SOCIO CULTURAL PROFILE
The Ubang people are distinguished from others in their own way of life. Their culture is very rich and they believe so much in it. The language serves as a means of communication in the society, in the market and even in the religious system and it is also aimed at being a medium of expression and instruction in schools.
Below is a Map of Cross River Showing the Various Local Governments and the location of Obudu where Ubang can be found.
One unique thing about their culture so far is the linguistically present variety of their language where the language of the female inhabitant is different from that of the male yet they understand and communicate with themselves perfectly. Neighboring villages, who know about the development look at the people with the feeling of awe. Not even with the ego, style and pride at which they use to tell different versions of their stories of existence in order to justify their wonderful talent.
They boast that God loves them most and that is why he gave them two varieties. And they have no plan to merge or fuse the two varieties except if God comes down again to the spot where He handed them the language and directs otherwise. There is a claim that God, himself came down to earth and stood on a very high mountain when He was doing the distribution. Infact, they say His footpaths are still visible on the top of the mountain.
Worthy of note is the fact that every child, right from birth, knows he or she will have to learn and speak the language of his or her sex. Therefore, any attempt by the child to learn the version of the opposite sex will end up futile.
“If a female tries to speak the language of the male or vice versa, she will not be able because she will be confused and make a lot of mistakes”
An elderly woman in the village, Mary Orim, said the words that form the different versions of the language were given by God. Therefore, no version is superior to the other and each gender speaks the words as allotted to their version with pride and confidence.
For example, men folks call;
- Water; ‘Amie’ while the female folks say ‘Banu’.
- Yam; is ‘ketung’ for men and ‘iri’ for women.
- Stone; is ‘okai’ for men and ‘koka’ for women.
Shirt; is ‘nki’ for men and ‘ariga’ for women.
She added that if a woman begins to speak like a man, no matter how hold she is, the women folk will laugh and ridicule her.
The name given to the men’s version is ‘ziebenche’ while that of the women’s is called ‘iziebenyinye’. In addition, speakers of the Ubang language are adjudged to be fast learners of other languages. They do understand the languages of even neighboring ethnic groups like Alege, Okpe, Bete, Boki, Ijagam, and Utugwang. Only that these neighboring villages might find it difficult understanding theirs.
Ubang people are proud of their culture and heritage. They are friendly and accommodating. They make a meal of their inheritance and guard it judiciously.
The Ubang people are mostly recognized with the Christianity religion. Based on statistics, about 65% of the community population is of the Christian faith while the remaining are traditionalist. The people of this community still depend more on herbal medicines for treatments. There is this nocturnal dreaded cult (ikwong) they operate which forbids non-indigenes and women from participating.
Language informants say that the people of Ubang still believe so much in traditional marriage even though they are majorly of the Christian faith. Thus, their marriage rites still have some elements of traditionalism and culture heritage.
The major occupation of the Ubang people is cocoa farming. They practice commercial farming in the Ubang community. Some of their farm products are; cocoa, rice, yam, e.t.c. The people of Ubang also practice trading. They trade with their smelt product such as Anklets, bracelets, local necklace, cutlasses, iron weapons, knives, plates, hoes and pot. They trade with the neigbouring community and all their products are involved in their trading. However, the community experience lack of transport-able roads which is more reason why travelers and tourists less visit the community.
We are glad you enjoyed it. More content will be uploaded about the general administrative style and language. Tribes and Culture (an initiative of Muzzammilwrites) will keep you informed and entertained with knowledge across the Nigerian tribes and community. Our voyage will be taking us through another tribe nextweek. Anticipate…
Goethe (Germanphilosopher) said “if you desire to be more knowledgeable than the others, then travel”.