Abasi refers to the Supreme Creator God in the language of the Efik people of Nigeria and Cameroon. The Efik people are a branch of the Ibibio, who are often called Calabar. The Efik have devised an elaborate narrative about the existence and function of the Almighty God, Abasi. Although there are variations to the account as given by the elders and priests of the people, the general contours of the account are the same. According to the belief of the Efiks, the wife of Abasi, whose name was Atai, convinced him to allow their adult children, one man and one woman, to settle on the Earth, but to prohibit them from reproducing or working the land. The idea, according to Efik understanding, was that the children should depend on their father and mother for shelter, food, and protection. However, the children resented these prohibitions and soon returned to heaven when Abasi called them to eat food when they became hungry.
While they were in the sky with Abasi and Atai, the children explored many things; they learned to create, sing, make musical instruments, and make food. This was not pleasing to Abasi, and wanting to protect him, Atai did everything to prevent the children from exceeding Abasi in wisdom, power, and strength. Atai believed that if the children exceeded their father in knowledge and wisdom, there would be great chaos in the universe. The children, of course, like other children, wanted to see how far they could go without being chastised or prevented from their activities. Atai was so disturbed by this that she set her mind on preventing a rebellion at all costs.
She loved the children but watched them carefully, yet the children eventually broke the rules that had been established by Abasi. They could not live in peace with Abasi and Atai and therefore were forced to leave the sky again.
The son and daughter returned to Earth with their limited knowledge and violated most of Abasi’s rules. They had many children and worked on the land creating many items for living. Soon they caused strife, heartbreak, tensions, jealousy, hatred, war, and death among their own children. Abasi and Atai were so disgusted with the happenings on Earth and with the affairs of their own children and their grandchildren that the two deities soon withdrew to the sky, leaving humans to deal with their own affairs.
This is why Abasi is not known to be involved in the ordinary lives of the people. He created the universe and all things that are in it and then, after failing to control his own human creation, retired to the far reaches of the sky. Therefore, for ordinary issues of taboos and rituals, the Efik people must rely on strong ancestral spirits, sometimes in societies of secrets, to assist them with the manifold problems and concerns of daily living. They have no possibility of coaxing Abasi to return to their society to give advice or wisdom; this is now the affair of lesser spirits.
Written by Molefi Kete Asante
See also Nkulunkulu; Nyame; Olorun
Quarcoopome, T. N. (1987). West African Traditional Religion. Ibadan: African Universities Press.
Scheub, H. (2000). A Dictionary of African Mythology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Smith, E. W. (Ed.). (1950). African Ideas of God: A Symposium. London: Edinburgh House