Cultural legends of Obolo

Music, dance and masquerades of the Obolo people emanate from the very core of their geographical and physical environment.
Like its neighbours, Obolo Kingdom is a fully riverine community, whose culture and entire way of life is influenced by the sea,
rivers, creeks and estuaries that surround it. The people were predominantly fishermen and depended on this trade up until their
contact with white missionaries, traders and western culture. Their evolution into traders came about the time they took the
vantage position as middlemen for both the white traders and their suppliers from the hinterlands. The trade and commercial past
of the of the Obolo is famous with great men, great enterprises, wars fought to acquire and maintain sea routes and markets, and
to enforce territorial authority and sovereignty.
Legends can be both cultural and human. Human legends refer to exploits and identities of great men of old who walked the earth
in their time, led their people and built kingdoms and communities and at whose death were sometimes “ deitised ” by their people.
The Andoni (Obolo) deitised Obolo their founder and was subsequently reverence as god; Obolo also have the war lord Nnah Biget
who who fought to conquered the Atlantic trade routes; King John Ikuru who brought Christianity to his people and by extension
to the Niger Delta, among others, the war-lord Chief Mbira of Unyeada who fought to liberate his people, Chief Mbaja (Mgbogbo-
okwan) of Okorombokho, Chief Ngere, Chief Waribo Eneyok, Chief Ibifa who were all involved in the struggle for the emancipation
of Obolo from the domination of their neighbours. Also king Ido of Asarama, Otu Ogbolakong of Unyeada, Chief Ereforokuma of
Ngo, Nte-Ogwuija of Akaradi, Chief Ukafia of Okoroete, Ekong of Ibeno, Chief Ekoh, Chief Nde of Ekede, Chief Edeh, Chief Engogo,
Chief Ikut Efuya and others too numerous to mention also contributed to the liberation of Obolo people.
Then there are cultural legends without human elements passed down through generations buoyed by Oral traditions, folklore and
myth. These legends sometimes are the main components of the people’s traditional beliefs. Through these legends, the people get
to know the origins, characteristics and supernatural powers of the deities and marine spirits they serve, worship and make
sacrifices to.These deities and spirits are believed to be alive to the present day and are manifest during rituals and festivities when
they possess the priest (Obara-yok) representing them during divination. Among this gods are Ogbolodo of Agana, Ogbologbo of
Egwede, Adumu of Ichiama, Ewitaraba of Ekede, Otuburu of Ayamboko, Okurungo of Ngo, etc Obolos maintained relations with a
numbers of dietis. Each Lineage, whether ordinary or founding had a shrine (Isi-ebikan), even with all these deities the Obolo
people had knowledge of the Supreme being ( Awaji or Owaji ) who was believed to have created the world. This is seen during
divination, the Supreme God in heaven ( Awaji iyon ) is first called before the lesser ones. The names parents give to their children
also ascertain the idea that they had the knowledge of God before Christianity came to the region.
Culture of course includes a people’s craft, food, habitation, trade and means of livelihood, religion, rights of passage, music,
leisure and entertainment. They are the contents of tales by moonlight ( Urok ) by the village square and private homesteads. By
them are morals taught and they expose the vicissitudes and charms of life. Obolo cultural festivals include: Mgbegbemgbe, Ikini,
Oke, Ofiokpo, Nwaotam which is also common among the Ijaw communities. The origin of Nwaotam Masquerade in Ijaw Kingdom is
traced to Ndoki people of South-eastern Nigeria. Traditions indicate that the Ndoki people have had long time relationships with
the Ibani people of Bonny and Opobo. In fact, historical documents claim that the Ndoki founding fathers were migrants from Ijaw
as the founding fathers of Bonny. Apparently, since the founding of Bonny, the Ibani people have always travelled upstream
through the Imo river to the Azumini area for trades, cultural and social interactions.The Nwaotam cult emerged from the deity of
ancient Ibani people called the Ottam people. These people were brought in mostly to satisfy the Europeans’ quest for human
commodities in the 18th and 19th century.
The masquerades, regardless of their significance, whether they are big or small, before they step out from the shrine (Awa ), they
are committed to the spirits of the gods and deities for guidance, protection and dexterity in performance. Some greater
masquerades will require some sort of rites of passage . The performer will be isolated for seven days, avoiding contact with the
outside world, not eating food prepared by women and abstaining from sex. This ritual prepares him for the day of performance,
giving him strength and keeping him “sacred”. Often, this process makes him a worthy vessel for the possession of the deity.