By Sunny Ikhioya
WHO would have thought that Warri, the old colonial, oil and bustling city will be on its knees, while its peers – Port Harcourt, Calabar, Benin and others – are trudging on? Who would have thought that Warri, with a very vocal, well informed and articulate populace can be without electricity and be in total darkness for one month and still counting? That is what this city has become – lifeless, drudgery and repulsive. Presently, Warri is only known by its reputation of old and the butt of jokes by comedians, the majority of whom are not Warri boys, some of whom do not even know where Warri is, yet, they talk about Warri as experts. What an irony!
Warri is now a city that has been pillaged, raped and abandoned. The ones who created this scenario, the international oil companies, have now retreated and left the city for the area boys and warlords to take over. Those doing business in the city are just exploiting the poor masses.
Check out the electricity bills in Warri and compare it with other cities. The unfortunate thing is that while these cities enjoy at least some amount of electricity supply, Warri gets nothing. And the people sit watching, covering their sufferings with jokes. Nothing works in Warri any more, apart from the politicians, their visibility reminding us everyday of the greed and arrogance of those we have put in charge to govern us. Warri is just not the city that everyone sees, it is much more than that, it is a commercial city and trading centre. It is the seat of the Olu of Iwere Kingdom, the Itsekiri race. It’s neighbour, the Uvwies are the landlords to the Warri refinery company, they also have an Ovie, who is the traditional King of the land.
The metropolitan city of Warri as it is presently, has expanded to neighbouring towns of Agbaro, Otokutu, Ovwian, Aladja, Ubeji, Ifie, Jeddo and other surrounding towns. It is a melting pot for people of all ethnic groups. Those who were born and nurtured in Warri, with the Warri culture in their blood, are known as wafarians. This has nothing to do with tribe. Warri has its own culture and language. If you live in Warri, you must imbibe this culture. It defies age. Everyone is on the same page as wafarians and they wave the banner with pride. There is a bonding that goes with it that is in a brotherly fashion, everyone is proud to wear the wafarian tag, even-though nowadays we do have fake wafarians, they are the noisiest in the pack and easily identifiable.
It is in Warri that you will find people of other ethnic groups – if you like call them strangers – dominating key positions in federal establishments like the NNPC and international oil companies, yet, the people are not complaining. During a conversation on the Warri situation with Tony Edo, an original Warri boy, he could not help but exclaim: “At last, Warri carry last.”
The sister was in the city recently with some of her friends, the visitors could not believe the level of degeneration that has occurred in the city that they have heard so much about for several years. There was just not one entertainment spot. But, this was the same city that people from all over the world troop in to visit in the seventies. In fact, the friends have ordered her not to talk about Warri again in any of their discussions. It is that bad.
Visitors to Calabar nowadays return with very beautiful tales of beauty, hospitality and fun. The same is said about Uyo in Akwa Ibom State. There is a deliberate policy by government to keep the standard of the place. A people gets the kind of leadership that it deserves, such is the situation in the metropolitan city of Warri that, nobody cares. Everybody is a law unto himself and when you see any government presence of any kind, it is just to extort, like the ubiquitous vehicle inspection officers running after innocent people going about their legitimate businesses.
Doing business in Warri has become a huge burden.The planless state of the city is now more obvious than ever due to the uncoordinated model of operations. To say that the city is in deep coma,is but an understatement. There is no gainsaying therefore that it needs to be jolted back to life.
Government must initiate a road map for Warri recovery, because it is in its own interest. Asaba might be the political capital but Warri is the business hub, like Lagos and Abuja. Warri must not be abandoned, we must begin by cleaning the streets of all miscreants. The city should be made inviting for businesses to thrive, thereafter, the state government must begin to demand for the relocation of the international companies to the base of their operations, that way, everyone will benefit.
Meanwhile, the government and people must call the electricity companies to order. It is a shame that Warri is without electricity for one month and still counting. “Warri no dey carry last, Warri no dey carry last but for this one, dem carry last o.” To allow the city of Warri to go comatose like is happening now is a crime against humanity. The forefathers of the land will actually be restless in their graves at the neglect that the city has become.
It is claimed that the people in control of the city of Warri presently are not bonafide wafarians and therefore do not have the interest of the people at heart. Even if this is the case, it is in the overall interest of the state government to see that the city of Warri thrives.