By Emma Amaize, South-South Editor and Chancel Sunday
W HAT immediately strikes a visitor at Canaan Ville, the magnificent residence of elder statesman and former Minister of Police Affairs, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, who just turned 80, at Effurun, Uvwie Local Government Area, Delta State, is the riverside surroundings, vegetation and quietude. Finding by Saturday Vanguard shows that the mansion is a tourist attraction of sort to lovers of nature and some affluent persons, mostly of Ijaw stock, in search of natural environment they left in the creek for city life. They find solace in the land mass. Alaowei Bozimo, who hails from Ezebiri community in Bomadi local government area of the state, told Saturday Vanguard that Canaan Ville is a fulfillment of his life dream to live at peace with nature.
That is it…what I have been looking for all my life
I grew up in Warri as a young person. I came to Warri in 1947/48 and I lived in Agbassa then. I stayed in Warri until I finished Primary and Secondary schools and I went to the UK. It is amazing there are many similarities between Ijaw land, Urhobo land and the UK. They all love nature, they all love water.
Yes, I have found home in Effurun in Urhobo land, but it will interest you to know that the people of Effurun are also from Ijaw because Effurun emanated from Tuomo. The founder of Effurun came from Tuomo, headquarters of Tuomo, an Ijaw clan in Burutu local government area of Delta state.
When I returned from the UK after qualifying as a lawyer in 1970, I decided that I would not stay in Lagos. I settled in Warri because my soul and my spirit agree with Warri. I have never left Warri and if I go out of it, I must come back to it.
When I decided to set up a home, my friend, the late Barrister Bright Niemogha, owner of the next premises invited me to this place and when I saw the stream, I exclaimed, that is it! This is what I have been looking for all my life, to settle by the shores of a stream or lake! I came in here 1974 and I was a young man in my early 30s.
My priority when I travel overseas is to buy plants
Bozimo met the place a forest with wild animals, including snakes, said the setting was what he desired. Looking back, he surmised in an interview last week, “I am 80 and I live on this land developing and re-establishing it to meet my natural and spiritual desires of living by a riverside. I designed and created what you see here, even the labour, my younger brother would come here and every year, we would start up a new project.”
“We have a glass house, suya bay and every single plant you see here, I brought from overseas. I love plants, so whenever I go to the UK, my priority is to see how I can buy plants and put them in a suitcase and bring them to Nigeria. If I go to Uganda and every other place, I must come back with plants,” he disclosed.
His words, “So you would see British plants, Ugandan plants and even weeping willows we used to have here. However, I think the climate is too harsh for them and they did not make it. Yet, I never gave up; if I go back to the UK, I will bring weeping willows again.”
What makes my day!
I must tell you, here in this environment, I am quite happy and I am at peace with myself, especially when I look around and see that we can do this in Nigeria and in Warri of all places.
My soul and my spirit are at peace with me when I sit down here and hear this fish we call “akôû” (heterotis niloticus) in Ijaw come out of the stream and splash on the surface, I would say oh, that makes my day!
He restated, “First, this place was a huge forest. You can see a sample of it across the stream; I decided to keep that portion to remind me always how this place was when I came in. However, I always had in my mind’s eye what I wanted this place to look like, that was the secret. If you do not dream it, you cannot achieve it.”
Briefly, I always knew the potential of this place. Since the day that I saw the stream, I always knew what I wanted it to look like in my dreams and in my thoughts; the spirit of God in me designed this place.
How does he communicate with the animals, including alligator, tortoise, fishes, birds in the domicile, Bozimo laughed, saying, “animals do not speak to me. If you are nature’s child, somehow your entire being becomes friendly with nature, animals and others. They do not have to speak as humans speak, but you are in agreement.”
“The idea kept recurring in my soul and I knew that I had to do it the hard way, not by contractor, but by family and myself,” he added.
Observing the Kingdom on earth
“He took Saturday Vanguard reporters to a fish pond in the compound, where be beckoned on one of his aides to bring feed and as soon as feed was splashed on edge of the pond, the fishes in the pond came out of the river to the surface to eat with the ducks from the nearby pen.
“You saw the demonstration when the fishes in the pond came out on land to feed together with the ducks. When you put the feed for the ducks on the side of the pond, the fishes would come out of the water to feed together with the ducks without attacking each other.
“This is reminiscent of what the Bible says that in the last days, lions and lambs will feed together in peace. When I saw it for the first time, I said God Almighty; I am beginning to experience the kingdom even before it arrives.”
“The only way I can explain it is this: if you love nature and nature loves you, you are always at peace with nature,” Bozimo said.
Scramble to establish homes
What informed the choice of Effurun for his home? The elder statesman said, “I have always loved Effurun in the sense that my senior wife is partly Effurun, and because of that, I have a special love for Effurun. As I told you earlier, we established this place through the inspiration from God. I am so happy that a lot of Ijaws and Urhobos see the potential of this stream. If you go along this stream, you will see everybody struggling to establish their homes and to me, that is amazing.”
“If you look across the stream, you see residential houses and hotels, one of them belongs to an Ijaw person, and because they love water, you will see them paddling and fishing, nobody thought it would be possible. If you dredge this stream and it gets wider, it will help irrigation in Effurun indirectly.
“I think that we have opened the eyes of many young men, who instead of building concrete jungles are establishing themselves by the stream.
“It is right to say that we have recreated the riverine creek in Effurun here. At a time, this stream was stagnant but we dredged part of it and our activities on the stream have made it to flow,” he added.
When Zik visited
The Niger Delta leader recalls what happened in 1979 when the former Governor of Nigeria, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, came for campaign and spent a night in Canaan Ville.
He asserted, “The great Zik of Africa spent a night in this very compound in 1979. I was then the chair of the defunct Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP, which fielded the great Zik of Africa. He refused to go and stay in the hotel but came here. Then he said Broderick, I like your little place. It was then just a bungalow and the stream here.”
“So, my wife Justice Bozimo and I left the bedroom and went to sleep at a corner of the sitting room. We did not know that he woke up around 5.30 am and had gone out when we went and knocked at the door without response. We opened the door, he was not in, we were surprised to see that the great Zik had already dressed the bed himself and had put some of the clothes in the wardrobe. I will never forget that act of humility.
What Zik told me!
“We later saw him and his aide strolling round the compound. Therefore, I came to him and marveled at what he was doing, but he said, ‘Broderick, you must do what I am doing; you must go round this your beautiful compound and communicate with the flowers, you know flowers react to human beings.’ I learnt that from him that day, we later went for that huge NPP rally at Warri Township Stadium,Warri.”
I support Atiku, Okowa; Buhari step aside
At 80 years, where do you see the country going politically, Saturday Vanguard further inquired. Alaowei Bozimo responded, “First of all my sympathies are with a political party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. I have been there from inception and former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, is my political boss. He made me Minister of Police Affairs. Therefore, my sympathies remain with the Peoples Democratic Party.
That is not the reason some of us are anxious about this country. I am not a very active participant in politics, which everybody knows. Everybody knows that the state of the nation is pathetic. Every honest Nigerian knows that.
I have taken this position long ago not because I am a follower of a political party, that Buhari has done so much for this country, even in the military days, he has done his best, but I think it is time for him to step aside. Somehow, he decided to carry-on.
“It is difficult for people like me to say he should be returned to seat of power because I believe that he has done his best and has exhausted his ideas. Let him give way to other people, I support the candidacy of Atiku Abubakar.
“I am also excited about the younger candidates that are emerging, the young former Minister of Power and the candidate of the Young Peoples Party, they excite me and I hope in due time if they remain in this struggle, their time will come.
”However, for now, I will stake my position with Atiku and of course, my governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, remains my candidate in Delta state. He is also the candidate of majority of Ijaws because we believe in power rotation,” he stated.