Monday, June 27, 2011

mauricearchibongtravels: Prof Ekpo Eyo’s funeral

mauricearchibongtravels: Prof Ekpo Eyo’s funeral

Prof Ekpo Eyo’s funeral

Disquiet in Calabar over burial plans

Four days to the 1 July burial date of the late Professor Ekpo Eyo, Nigeria’s first indigenous chief of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM); a row is brewing between the deceased’s widow, Augusta; and, her in-laws mauricearchibongtravels can authoritatively reveal.

Prof Ekpo Eyo passed on at his Maryland, USA home; on Sunday, 29 May, 2011. He was until 2006 a Professor of Archaeology at University of Maryland, USA; and, had earlier; from 1967 to 1986, served as Nigeria’s museum chief for a record 18 uninterrupted years.

Although the late Prof Ekpo Eyo hailed from Adak-uko in Creek Town, Calabar, Cross River State; he enjoyed decades of a happy married life with his Yoruba-born spouse as well as lived and worked in Lagos for dozens of years.

The burial of Professor Ekpo Eyo is billed to take place at Victoria Vaults and Gardens (VVG) in Lagos. According to plans, the interment will be preceded on 30 June by other activities, including a Service of Songs at National Museum Lagos as well as a Requiem Mass at Presbyterian Church in Yaba, Lagos about 11am on 1 July. The burial, slated for around 3pm, will be immediately followed by a Reception at Lagos Museum, Onikan.

However, there is growing disquiet in Calabar regarding this plan to bury him outside of his home area in Nigeria, on one hand; and, alleged attempt to completely occlude members of the deceased’s larger family from the funeral arrangements.

Moreover, critics of the currently unfolding plans believe the late Prof. Ekpo Eyo deserves better in terms of final farewell ceremonies leading to his interment. They submit, inter alia, that Ekpo Eyo’s body deserves to lie in state at National Museum Calabar; for example.

It could be recalled that National Museum Calabar inside the Old Residency was once billed for demolition, but that evil plan was scuttled because Efik natives on whose land the estate stands, rallied against the planned destruction of the historic building, which housed the offices and residence of the Consul, Oil Rivers (later Niger Coast and Southern) Protectorate; when Calabar served as capital of a section of the then emerging Nigeria until 1906.

Many observers reminded that Ekpo Eyo, as Director of the then Federal Department of Antiquities, lent support to the noble struggle to preserve this structure, which is today, one of Nigeria’s most visited National Monuments.

Additionally, the late professor of archaeology, anthropology as well as legendary museologist and museographer was Etie-ibot Ufok, head of his clan or olori-ebi as the Yoruba would say.

In Efik culture, that is a weighty position; which goes with much responsibility. Instance: The Obong of Calabar and Paramount Ruler of the Efik Nation is usually select by a conclave comprising the Etubom of each Maxima Family.

A Maxima Family consists of many an Ekpuk. Each Ekpuk is made of numerous houses (singular in Efik, Ufok). The foregoing and more, therefore, alludes to virtual taboo to bury Prof Ekpo Eyo outside his ancestral home, we were told. Could a Diokpa, an equivalent of Etie-ibot Ufok among our Delta Igbo brothers; be buried outside his home area?

Sources revealed that after several entreaties to Mrs. Ekpo Eyo to alter her plans yielded no fruit, the widow’s in-laws were left with no option than to solicit the intervention of Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke.

In deed, a passionate plea was sent to Governor Imoke last Thursday, 23 June; imploring him to interceed, and “kindly salvage us from this impunity and shame”.
This particular prayer, titled Open Letter to Sen. Imoke, Governor of Cross River State: Concerning the Burial of Prof Ekpo Eyo OFR, signed by Mr. Ekpe Esien Ita, an engineer and first-cousin of the late professor; states: “Prof Ekpo Eyo, a prominent son of Cross River State who died in Maryland, USA is about to be buried in Lagos on July 1 by his Yoruba-born wife in utter disregard to traditional norms and entreaty from the man’s family members. To worsen matters, this man was the family head of both his paternal and maternal families”.
Ekpe Ita again: “Along with other family members, we have tried our best to persuade Mrs. Eyo not to do this, to no avail. I am appealing to you as the father of this state to consider this matter and see how this embarrassment to the state and its people may yet be averted”.
In life, Prof Ekpo Eyo was mentor to countless students of archaeology, anthropology, museology and so on; now, even his passage has thrown up issues to engage scholars in these fields as well as sociology, journalism and much more.
Consider these
Where should a man be buried? Is it where he spent the better part of his life or closer to his roots?
Should a dead man be buried in his widow’s homestead; and, must a dead wife be buried among her widower’s ancestors?
Are you in a cross-ethnic wedlock? Where would you prefer to be buried?
We’d be delighted to hear from you…
Below, is full text of Eng. Ekpe Esien Ita’s Open Letter to Gov. Liyel Imoke:
Your Excellency,


Please permit me to brief you on a matter of urgent public importance and seek your intervention.

Prof Ekpo Eyo, a prominent son of Cross River State who died in Maryland, USA is about to be buried in Lagos on July 1 by his Yoruba-born wife in utter disregard to traditional norms and entreaty from the man’s family members. To worsen matters, this man was the family head of both his paternal and maternal families.
I am a first cousin of Prof. Along with other family members we have tried our best to persuade Mrs. Eyo not to do this, to no avail. I am appealing to you as the father of this state to consider this matter and see how this embarrassment to the state and its people may yet be averted.
Prof Eyo was the pioneer Chairman of the State Tourism Bureau, the body that coordinates and manages all aspects of our tourism industry, which Cross River State is the reference point. He was also one of the immortalized millennium personalities whose names are engraved on the obelisk in the Millennium Park. Apart from being the longest serving Director-General of National Commission for Museums and Monuments (18 years) he was an archeologist, anthropologist, art historian, museologist and museographer, all of international repute. In essence he was one of the products of this state that brought honour to the state. He was famous the world over and well respected as an authority in his chosen fields.

Your Excellency, is it fair or even right that such a son should be buried outside his state of origin? Other Nigerians who are aware of what is developing – Ibos and Yorubas alike, are swearing that this cannot happen in their places. Your Excellency, kindly salvage us from this impunity and shame.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am by no means saying that someone cannot be buried somewhere else outside his place of origin. Rather, I am saying that as a traditional norm of all Nigerians and indeed most Africans and other races, a man at death returns to his hometown and is “gathered to his people” just as Jacob in the bible was. (Gen 49: 29-33). The circumstances that can warrant a deviation from this age-long principle must be extreme and exceptional. Such circumstances are not manifest in Prof Eyo’s case. The man owned properties in Calabar and was a member of Hope Waddell Parish of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria in Calabar.

So the reason not to want to bury Prof Eyo in his hometown cannot be because the conditions or atmosphere are unfavourable here. It is simply a self-serving decision taken by Mrs Eyo in utter disdain of Prof Eyo’s family. Prof Eyo has an elder sister and a younger brother here in Calabar along with a host of other relations. If the body can be brought from United States to Nigeria one wonders what extra difficulty it is to convey it from Lagos to Calabar.

This is a man, I suspect; the Government will readily have granted permission for him to be buried in Old Residency Museum premises in Ekpo Eyo Drive (already so named after him) for Prof Eyo had become synonymous with museum in Nigeria.  

In final submission, I beg Your Excellency to kindly do something to arrest this situation.

Thank you

Yours sincerely,

Ekpe Esien Ita (Engr.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

mauricearchibongtravels: Finally, Ekene Ezeokenwa buried

mauricearchibongtravels: Finally, Ekene Ezeokenwa buried

Finally, Ekene Ezeokenwa buried

At last, Ekene Ezeokenwa buried, but another Ekene missing since Apr

The late Mr. Ekene Ezeokenwa, who died in Cotonou, Benin Republic on 23 May, 2011 was finally buried in his home town, Awka-Etiti in Anambra State on Friday, 24 June.

The late man’s survivors had to part with close to N250,000 as payment for sundry bills before collecting the body on Wednesday, 22 June; from Morgue de l’Hopital de la Mere et de l’Enfant, Lagune (HOMEL); the mortuary in the Tokpa Hoho neighbourhood, where the corpse was deposited since Ekene’s transition.

The Nigerian, earlier suspected to have been heavily drugged, died around 6pm on Monday, 23 May; while receiving treatment at Centre de Sante Al-Faycal (Al-Faycal Health Centre) in the economic capital of Nigeria’s next-door neighbour to the west.

It could be recalled that the local Nigerian community had sought logistic support from their country’s mission in Cotonou with a view to burying the victim in the Benin economic capital, in the event that no one came forward to collect the dead man’s remains. But, that plan was shelved; after someone turned up on 31 May and identified himself as the dead man’s sibling.

According to Mr. Tony Ezeokenwa, who identified himself as an elder brother of the deceased; Ekene Ezeokenwa died at age 25 and was one of only two sons of his parents. Sadly, too; he died childless as he was still single.

Tony went to Cotonou and contacted Chief Elendu, President, Cotonou Chapter of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), after reading our report of the tragedy in Daily Sun (Travels) and on

Tony revealed the late Ekene hailed from Ejinandu Village of Awka Etiti in Idemili South Local Government Area (LGA) of Anambra State. Tony, who said he is currently resident of Olisanuma Compound in Egbumunnam, Otolo-Nnewi; gave the names of their parents as Leonard and Cecilia.

A letter addressed to the Charge d’Affaires, Nigerian Embassy, Cotonou by the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), informed; inter alia: “On Monday, 23 May 2011, around 3pm, men of Benin Safeur Pompier came to our office that they picked an Igbo man who had an accident at La Roche roundabout in Akpakpa. The victim was only able to say he was from Awka Etiti, Anambra State, but he did not speak again”.

That same memo, dated 24 May, 2011 and signed by Cotonou’s NIDO Assistant General Secretary, Mr. Michael A. Orji; added: “In a bid to save his life, our President, Chief Emmanuel Uko Elendu, quickly doled out money and directed his personal assistant to take the sick man to a nearby hospital. The victim was taken to Centre de Sante Al-Faycal, Missebo. We called the Consular Officer of the embassy and notified him of the incident”.

Sadly, however, the patient died some three hours later, while undergoing treatment. After the victim breathed his last, Nigerian community members arranged to have his photograph taken before the body was deposited at the morgue. NIDO Cotonou members had subsequently circulated the deceased’s picture around Missebo Market and Sekandji Motor Garage for possible identification.

It is worth noting that mysteries shroud the final hours of this victim and the man’s eventual death. For example, if the man had suffered an accident; the local emergency service (Sapeur Pompier) operatives ought to have rushed him to a hospital for immediate medicare, instead of taking him to NIDO office.

In the same vein, respondents who spoke with us, wondered; if truly, any accident occurred at La Roche roundabout: for, no vehicle was mentioned in connection with the unidentified man’s predicament. Moreover, there is usually noticeable police presence at that roundabout; and, since no ID was found on him, how did Sapeur Pompier personnel determine his nationality?

If the man was identified as a Nigerian by the Igbo that accompanied Sapeur Pompier officials to NIDO office, then; why is the other man now at large? Additionally, it is highly unlikely that an Igbo trader would have no telephone; so what happened to this man’s onyenekwu?

Is it possible that his handset could provide some clue to unravelling this tragedy; then, what happened to his GSM set? Many questions in deed; sadly, all efforts to get to the root of this tragedy have thus far only drawn a blank.

Subsequent probes by mauricearchibongtravels confirmed that officials of the Nigerian Embassy in Cotonou had been informed and brief of ongoing developments. In response, the local Nigerian mission had drafted memos to be despatched to Abuja, and letters had also been written to be circulated to relevant police divisional officers, Interpol and so on.

Investigations carried out by the office of President, Cotonou Chapter of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) indicate an okada rider had phoned the local emergency services after he witnessed a man, earlier walking ahead of him; suddenly slump and lay on the ground convulsing. This was on Monday, 23 May; and, when emergency services personnel got to the scene, one of them had dialed the number from which a call was put to their office. The okada rider that had called Safeur Pompier was still in the crowd of onlookers gathered around the sick man; and, had stepped out to narrate what he had seen.

At the same spot, a member of the local congregation of a Celestial Church near La Roche roundabout had told Sapeur Pompier officials that the man had been seen in chains and bare-chested inside their house of worship the previous day. When contacted, church elders had confirmed the victim was on their premises Sunday till Monday, and that they had thought another member had brought the man there for spiritual healing.

They claimed that the man had kept mummuring, intermittently, uninteligible sentences in English and Igbo languages, while there. Aside his monologues, the man; they further alleged, had acted in ways that created fear. When, at the end of the evening’s service the bare-chested man was still roaming the premises; and, there was no sign that anybody was coming to take him away, he was consequently bound in chains to avoid a situation, where the perceived sick man could cause harm to other people.

Cele members further submitted that the victim had rejected a top to protect him from cold the previous night; and, that he had also turned down an offer of food from a female member that night. The following morning, seeing that nobody had come for the man and that his situation was worsening; and, fearful that they would be in trouble should the man die on their premises; church elders decided to send the fellow out of their compound.

It remains unclear how the sick man was ejected; and, questions would be asked why the Celestial Church leaders did not call in state health services since the man was ostensibly unwell. In any case, it is believed that the man slumped shortly after leaving the Celestial Church compound.

Curiously, too; instead of the rescuers taking the sick man to a health centre, they had carried him to Missebo Market in search of NIDO Cotonou office. There, after a search; they had found a French-speaking Igbo youth, who led them to the office of the NIDO president. Through immediate moral and financial support from Chief Elendu, the victim had been rushed to Centre de Sante Al-Faycal (Al-Faycal Health Centre).

Meanwhile, another Ekene missing
A 27-year-old female student of the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) has called to say her brother, Ekene Njoku (25), has been missing for over 3 months.

“Three months ago, Ekene told us he was travelling to Cotonou; but, nothing has been heard from him, again”; the caller (names withheld), who said she was speaking from Deeper Life Road, Enugu; lamented.

The caller said she was moved to seek clarifications from us after reading our report of the corpse of an unidentified Nigerian that is lying unclaimed in Cotonou, Benin Republic.

She was referring to an unknown dead man, later identified as Ekene Ezeokenwa; who died in Cotonou last 23 May. Her missing brother, she added, is not only namesake of the dead man; but, also looks like him, going by the picture of Ekene Ezeokenwa, which was web-posted on

According to this IMT student, who gave her parents’ residential neighbourhood as New Haven, Enugu; her missing brother claimed to be a trader doing business in Cotonou. It was, however, gathered that the exact nature of his enterprise was not known.
-         By MAURICE ARCHIBONG, just back from Cotonou.

Friday, June 24, 2011

mauricearchibongtravels: Ekpo Eyo: Burial in Lagos, 1 July

mauricearchibongtravels: Ekpo Eyo: Burial in Lagos, 1 July

Ekpo Eyo: Burial in Lagos, 1 July

Exit of Nigeria’s legendary museologist
The burial of Professor Ekpo Eyo, the first Nigerian-born head of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM); will take place on Friday, 1 July, at Victoria Vaults and Gardens (VVG) in Lekki, Lagos. The interment will be preceded by a Service of Songs at National Museum, Onikan, Lagos in the evening hours of Thursday, 30 June.

A Requiem Service has been slated for 11am on 1 July at Presbyterian Church, Yaba, after which the remains of the late professor of archaeology will be bruried at VVG. The burial will be followed by a reception at Lagos Museum. The reception is slated to start around 3pm on 1 July.

Prof Ekpo Eyo passed on at his home in Maryland, USA; on Sunday, 29 May, 2011; and, his body arrived in Nigeria on 19 June. Ekpo Eyo was until 2006, a Professor of Archaeology at University of Maryland in the US. He had earlier, from 1967 to 1986, served as Nigeria’s museum chief for a record 18 uninterrupted years.

The late Prof Eyo hailed from Adak-uko in Creek Town, Western Calabar; but, he lived and worked for decades in Lagos. He is survived by his Yoruba-born widow, Augusta; and, two sons, Eric and Etim as well as numerous other relations, including two sisters.

Prof Ekpo Eyo had his primary education at a Presbyterian elementary school in Creek Town, before enrolling for secondary education at Duke Town Secondary School both in Calabar. He later proceeded to Cambridge University for further studies, and after returning home worked at the then Department of Antiquities, later renamed National Commission for Museums and Monuments; until his retirement in 1986.

After his retirement from service in 1986, Ekpo Eyo worked as an anthropology lecturer at University of Maryland; where he was appointed a professor. He was also author of numerous papers and books, including the unique volume on antiquities; From Shrines to Showcases: Masterpieces of Nigerian Art; and, co-wrote The Terra cottas of Calabar with Dr. Christopher Slogar.

From shrines to showcases: Masterpieces of Nigerian Art is published by the Federal Ministry of Information and Communication. Issued in 2008, the 256-page book also features Letty Wilson Bonnell and Christopher Slogar as Contributing Editors. From Shrines to showcases: Masterpieces of Nigerian Art homes in on Historical Arts; which include Nok Terra cottas, Bakor (Ejagham) Monoliths, Calabar Terra cottas, Igbo Ukwu Bronzes, Ife Terra cottas and Bronzes, Esie Soap stone Figures, as well as Benin Bronzes and Ivories.

Despite its comparatively more ancient origins, not much has been written on the Calabar terra cottas. This is partly due to the fact that this piece of antiquity is something of a recent discovery, when compared to Ife’s Ori Olokun, found since 1910 and Igbo Ukwu artefacts, first unearthed around 1939. In comparison, the Calabar terra cottas were found in the 1980s.

Although little has been written on the Calabar Terra cottas, a few scholars have literally done justice to this aspect of Nigeria’s heritage; and, The Terracottas of Calabar, published by the Cultural Preservation Fund, is; arguably, the leading light on this subject. The Terracottas of Calabar is a joint project of the Old Residency Museum, Calabar; and the Cultural Preservation Fund, Washington DC, USA.

“Apart from his (Ekpo Eyo’s) knowledge of museology, museography et cetera, he has real and innate love of the museum. Such is his passion and commitment that I suspect he would love to be buried in a museum premises. There won’t be perfect rest for his soul, if after death, he ‘discovered’ that anyone saddled with museum work, failed to perform satisfactorily. As a worker, Ekpo Eyo was himself, like a priceless Museum piece”.
 - Mr. Akin Liasu, a former Director of Monuments, Heritage and Sites, who retired from the NCMM in 2006.

“Prof. Eyo rose through the ranks; obviously, he would know his onions. And he did. He was also helped by exposure. He knew his work, and knew how to put people through”.
 - Rosemary Bodam, former Curator National Museum Jos.

“Nigeria has lost a highly dedicated and foremost archaeologist and museologist; and, the vacuum would be hard to fill”. Mrs. Fatunsin, who retired from the NCMM in 2006, added: “He lived a very fulfilled life; but, it is sad that he is no more”. All the same, she declared; “thank God for Prof Ekpo Eyo’s life. May his soul rest in peace”.
-         Mrs. Anthonia Kehinde Fatunsin, Nigeria’s first female archaeologist and erstwhile NCMM Director, Educational and Training Services.