By Sam Eyoboka, who was in Warri
NIGERIAN politicians, at every level, always try to justify their ineptitude each time the international media portrays any aspect of our national life in bad light by accusing them of imperialism. They(Nigerian leaders) never deny the existence of problems so portrayed but go out of their way to even charge the local media to fight their international counterparts who, they claim, specialise in reporting only the bad aspect of the continent.
It is always such a great delight to return to the oil city of Warri and so it was last Thursday night. It was even more delightful as Uncle Justus Esiri, who was also in town for the interment of Senator Fred Ayo Brume, reminisced about his times in the oil city.
He told me a story of their days in secondary school: While the late Brume was doing long jump for Government College, Ughelli, he was doing same for Urhobo College, Warri and he had an opportunity of defeating the late senator but something happened.
He took the long leap but landed on his butt and the Government College games master who just returned from a European training and was evidently respected, quickly asked that the young lad be disqualified. And he was disqualified and therefore lost an opportunity to shine over Brume.
As Uncle Jay, as he is popularly known in Nollywood circles, and I were returning from a dinner of starch and banga soup with smoked fish, when something drew his attention, as we made the curve into PTI Road and he screamed: “Sam, can you see what I am seeing here?”
When I turned to the direction of his gaze, I could see an amazing mountain of garbage on the stretch of median from the beautiful Jakpa Junction right through an imposing orthodox church, First Baptist Church, the Effurun Market—where all manner of foodstuff, including exposed raw meat, are displayed openly.
Also closeby are one of the most sacred institutions in the locale, Holy Land ru’Uvwie Kingdom—the Effurun Traditional Shrine and St. Paul’s African Church. And farther than the road is the premier Federal Government establishment in the state, the Petroleum Training Institute.
On a normal day, motorists and the ubiquitous motorcyclists popularly known as Okada battle with traders who display garri, plantain, yams, tomatoes, okro for the right of way on the dual carriage way. The situation is worse on traditional market days when traders come from different neighbouring towns, sometimes in very rickety vehicles and motorcycles for only one purpose: to sell several delectable and perishable food items that may not last beyond few days.
Shocked by the sight, the Nollywood impresario, one of the state’s 50 most influential persons, who is daily striving to re-orientate youths in the area to overcome the huge unemployment crisis in the Niger Delta through the television, asked rhetorically: “Is there a government in this local government?” Yes was the answer he got from our chaperon—his younger brother—who added though that the state government had dissolved all local councils. He was not making a case for the officials of the council.
The three of us in the car attempted to blame the development on the interim administration for want of a better understanding of what necessitated the filthy state of that stretch of the urban city of Warri because on both sides of the about 300-metre garbage mountain, are businesses and dwelling places.
The stench from the heap is better imagined and to think that innocent Nigerians, some of them who trooped out last April to queue in the sun to cast their ballots, can ply their trade in such an environment is, to say the least, most disturbing. Visitors are said to find this confounding, especially in a state that prides itself with the cardinal objectives of human capital development, health and infrastructure.
Presently, there is agitation that those concerned should immediately take steps to evacuate the heap of refuse after each market day in order to safeguard the people of Effurun from cholera and malaria. Not too long ago, there was an outbreak of cholera in different parts of the country and medical doctors have said such outbreaks are associated with drinking unhealthy water and exposure to filthy environment.