Historical Facts About Calabar
Calabar has been known to European sailors as far back as the 15th century and was recognised as an international sea port since the 16th century. Calabar was a major slave trade port from the late 17th to 19th centuries. Though lacking the impressive forts found in Ghana and Senegal, Calabar sits in the Bight of Biafra, a region from where approximately 25-30% of Africans transported to the new world as slaves left Africa. This percentage represents the largest single point of exit.
The city once served as the seat of Government of the Niger Coast Protectorate, Southern Protectorate and Oil River Protectorate (effectively the headquarters of modern day Nigeria). Due to her early role in international trade and colonial administration, Calabar hosts the earliest Military barracks, the first Presbyterian church (Church of Scotland Mission) in 1846, the first Monorail and the first modern road network in Nigeria. The city also boasts of the first public (general) Hospital in Nigeria – St. Margaret Hospital, the oldest Post Office and one of the first two Botanical Gardens in the country.
Prominent figures in the history of Calabar include King Archibong III – the first King in southern Nigeria to be crowned with regalia sent by Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, in 1878. Others include Eyo Ita, the first Nigerian Professor; Louis Edet, first Nigerian Inspector General of Police; Margaret Ekpo,, first woman special member in Nigeria’s Eastern House of Chiefs and later Eastern House of Assembly; Hogan “Kid” Bassey, first Nigeria’s World Boxing Champion; and Etubom Oyo Orok Oyo, premier football administrator, first and only Nigerian so far to be elected into Executive Committee of FIFA (1980 – 1988) and the first African to be made an Honorary Vice President of Confederation of African Football (CAF) (from 1988 for life).
As a social centre the city boasts of the first social club in Nigeria – The Africa Club – and also hosted the first competitive football, cricket and field hockey games in Nigeria. Among the city’s firsts include the first Roman Catholic mass (held at 19 Bocco Street, Calabar – 1903) and the oldest secondary school (Hope Waddell Training Institution – 1895) in eastern Nigeria. The school later produced the first President of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe.
The city boasts of an international museum, a botanical garden, a free trade zone and port, an international airport and seaport, an integrated sports stadium complex, a cultural centre, one of the most prominent universities in the country – the University of Calabar, a slave history park and several historical and cultural landmarks. It also boasts of several standard hotels, resorts and amusement parks. Calabar also plays host to TINAPA, one of the most recognised tourist centres.
The Cross River State annual Christmas festival held every year attracts thousands within and beyond Nigeria. The festival includes music performance from both local and international artists, the annual Calabar carnival, boat regatta, fashion shows, Christmas Village, traditional dances and the annual Ekpe Festival is a yearly events that bring in thousands of tourists at the time of the year. The official website of the Cross River Festival is http://www.crossriverfestival.com.
The Bakassi Territorial Dispute
Bakassi was founded around 1450 by the Efik of coastal south eastern Nigeria, and was incorporated within the political framework of Calabar Kingdom along with Southern Cameroons.
During the European scramble for Africa, Queen Victoria signed a Treaty of Protection with the King and Chiefs of Calabar on 10 September 1884. This enabled the United Kingdom to exercise control over the entire territory of Calabar, including Bakassi. The territory subsequently became de facto part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, although the border was never permanently delineated. Interestingly, even after Southern Cameroons voted in 1961 to leave Nigeria and became a part of Cameroon, Bakassi remained under Calabar administration in Nigeria until the International Court of Justice’s judgement of 2002 which ceded ownership of Bakassi to Cameroon.
For more detailed information about the Bakassi Peninsula dispute click here
Membership Newsletter is coming out soon.