Kula tribe (Rivers State)
The Kula tribe of the Ijaw people lives in Akuku Toru Local Government Area, southwestern Rivers State, Nigeria. The Kula people were not originally speaking Kalabari as their language but has lost their real language due to trade with the Kalabaris. The small Kalabari-speaking tribe is sometimes classified as a Kalabari community rather than as its own tribe. The tribal seat is the town of Kula (also known as Anyame-Kula or Anyaminama-Kula founded and established by King Sara 1).
Location and Geographical Setting
Kula is situated in the South Western axis of Rivers State of Nigeria - under the Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State. Its geographical coordinates are latitude 4.34139 and longitude 6.64611. It is a low-lying coastal area in the mangrove swamp region of the Niger Delta, with a few feet above the mean sea level, located very close to the Atlantic Ocean. The area is drained by a network of rivers such as San Batholomew (Aguda Toru), Santa Babara (Owanga Toru) etc. with their tributaries, creeks and tidal inlets.
Apart from the Kula main town, the Kula territory comprises many settlements in different locations that occupy a geographical space about two-third of the Akuku-Toru Local Government Area. Her expansive territories span to Opukiri in the North and extended to Owuanga-toru and Anwo-bio. Her physical environment is blessed with vast occurrence of natural resources including oil and gas accumulations. Kula is thus host to Shell and Chevron oil companies.
The origin of the people now known as Kula in the Eastern Niger Delta area dates back to many centuries ago with a long chequered history. The exact time of the movement from their remote ancestral homelands into the Eastern Niger Delta base to establish the Kula Kingdom is, however, not easy to come by for some prevalent reasons, being a pre-literate period. History has it that Kula is an amalgam of fourteen (14) ancient independent communities scattered around the present Kula territory. These include: Opu-Kula, Boro, Nangwo-ama, Kongo-ama, Kilama/Diaba/Offo, Isoma, Ingeje, Owuangaye, Ibiame(Agudame), Tubo, Eriame, etc. Today, these and other over 100 satellite villages/settlements (scattered within the 14 major communities) combine with the present Kula Town (Anyame-Kula) to make up the Kula Kingdom.
Oral traditions and recorded history portray the Kula people to be very old and well established for a long time in their present domain. Nembe traditions recall hostilities between Kula and Onyoma (one of the early seven settlements of Nembe) at a period in her early history before the reign of Kala-Ekule who regrouped together the remnants of the seven ancestor settlements (which were thitherto ravaged by either internal wars, plagues or external attacks) to form the nucleus of the present city-state or kingdom of Nembe. The period of this ruler (King Kala-Ekule of Nembe) has been estimated to about 1400. Judging from this tradition of the neighbouring Nembe Kingdom gives a relative age of Kula much earlier than 1400 CE. In a similar vein, early European records reported European explorers meeting the Kula people in their present site in 1472 before moving to the New Calabar river due to some unfavourable environmental conditions (According to accounts by Dr P.Armoury-Talbot, a colonial administrator at Degema ). More over, the report of the Justice G. G. Robinson's Commission of Inquiry into the Okrika-Kalabari dispute, in the then Degema Division, in 1950 maintained the fact that Kula (like Bille and Ke) was established before the arrival of the Kalabaris at the Old Shipping (Elem-Kalabari) despite being associated with the latter through administrative convenience, inter-marriage, neighbourliness etc.
Generally, the local political structure is organized around a monarchical system of government headed by the King (Amanyanabo) with a Council of Chiefs (Alapu or Ala-siri) that assists in the administration of the kingdom. The chiefs emerge from the prominent founding war canoe houses and other stools created within them.The Intelligence Report on the Kalabari Clan in the then Degema District in 1935 by the District Officer, Captain V. C. M. Kelsey, identified some of the chieftaincy stools existing in Kula at that time, though without an attempt at classification. The number of chieftaincy stools in Kula has since increased significantly.
Since the time of His Greatness, King Sara 1 (ADA-SARA or ADAYE-SARA, by some), the originator of the dynasty that bears his name, many kings have ruled and reigned who defended the expansive territories which spanned to Opukiri in the North and extended to Owuanga-toru and Anwo-bio thereby maintaining the growth and development of Kula to her present status. The incumbent Amanyanabo (King) is HRM King (Sir) Dr Kroma Amabibi Eleki from the famous Adaye-Sara dynasty of Kula. King Kroma Eleki was installed on January 31, 1982 but his reign could not materialize because of complex litigations and insurmountable hurdles he passed through until January 7, 2010 when the River State Government brokered peace.
The Kula monarchy has been flourishing as a powerful territorial entity for many centuries to its present surviving realities; within a sphere of influence of about two-third of the area occupied by the present Akuku Toru Local Government Area of River State. In line with modern political and administrative expectations, other functional bodies like Community Development Committee (CDC), Youths-oriented Organisations, Compound Leaders etc. have become important organs that work in tandem with the king and the Chiefs Council for the administration and development of the Kula Community.
In recent times, leadership has become a major challenge in Kula even as it has been enmeshed in various leadership crises that seem to be intractable. As far back as the early 1980s the position of the Amanyanabo of Kula was in dispute followed with series of intricate litigations up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The ugly state of affairs was worsened by the emergence of youth restiveness and militancy in the area in recent years. It was not until early 2010 that the Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi-led Rivers State government waded into the situation. After a scrutiny and critical analysis of the circumstances surrounding the kingship imbroglio as well as available documents/legal records relevant to the case in point, it endorsed the incumbent (King Kroma Eleki) as the rightful Amanyanbo of Kula Kingdom and accorded a third class status to the Kula kingship stool which was thitherto not recognised in the existing Chieftaincy Classification Scheme in the State.
As of December 2004, during the oil flowstations shut-down operations by the Community, Chief Daminabo Dan - Opusingi was the Chairman, Council of Chiefs (They held brief for the king) of Kula.
Chief Dan Opusingi took the chairmanship from Chief Anthony Opuari who also died in the attack alongside Chief Obaye Ojuka, Chief Telema Eferebo. With the developments of 2010, the leadership structure has the Amanyanabo-in-Council, HRM King (Sir) Dr Kroma Amabibi Eleki-Sara XIV at the helm of affairs.
- 1982: The dispute over the Amanyanabo (Kingship) stool started - between the "warring brothers" (Chief Iwarisoibiba Aaron Sukubo-Igbe and Chief Kroma Amabibi Eleki) of the Sara Royal House on one hand and between the latter and the Oko Chieftaincy House on the other hand.This led to a cobweb of legal battle and corresponding disaffection in the area.
- 7 January 1983: Kula suffered a great fire outbreak that caused destruction of houses and properties in Kula Town. This warranted the late sage and Nigerian statesman,Chief Obafemi Awolowo, to visit the Community.
- December 2004: Kula men and women shut down two Shell-operated flow stations (Ekulama 1, Ekulama 2) and Chevron-Texaco-operated Robertkiri flow station.
- 12 January 2007: Armed men attack and killed 4 Kula chiefs traveling by boat from Abonnema to Kula. Those killed were members of Kula Council of Chiefs, of a faction involved in an ongoing power struggle within the Kula tribe. In response to the unrest, 2 Amphibious Brigade in Port Harcourt deployed soldiers to the area.
- 15 January 2007: Armed men attacked Kula Town and killed several people. Resisted by opposing armed group.
- 22 January 2007: Fire disaster at Kula Town burning down several houses.
- Thursday, 7 January 2010: The Rivers State Government, under the administration of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as Governor, approved a second-class chief as the Amanyanabo of Kula in the person of HRM King (Sir) Dr Kroma Amabibi Eleki (from the Sara Royal House) after a prolonged, 28-year legal tussle over the kingship (Amanyanabo) stool.
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- "Villagers Hold Nigeria Oil Plants". BBC News. 6 December 2004.
- "Villagers Hold Nigeria Oil Plants". BBC News. 6 December 2004.
- "Army takes over community - After murder of 4 chiefs". This Day. 17 January 2007.