Warri chronicles 1- Okumagba Layout
I grew up in Warri-Okumagba layout. It was neither a slum, nor a GRA. Everyone had their level, and respected it.
But there were interactions and jealousies across the divide.
Let me explain.
If you were living in a flat or bungalow that had its own toilets, kitchen etc, you were an object of envy from the neighbourhood kids.
To avoid being ‘waylaid’ and beaten up, you had to allow the neighbours watch TV in your living room. Your close friends would come in and sit on the carpet or on the arms of the chairs, (the chair itself was off limits), and the others who were neither friends nor foes would watch from the window.
Sometimes you had upwards of twenty kids between the living room floor and the window side.
And when they got very noisy you just had to say, ‘shhh!’ The message was well received.
You were hated/envied for speaking ‘simple and correct English.’ In Warri, pidgin is king. If you didn’t speak it you were suspect. Speaking your language was an offence though, pidgin was the thing. That was Okumagba Layout.
That was my ‘hood for a time. Soon, I shall make a literary journey back there, but not yet.
Some holidays, we travelled to Trofani (Rivers state then, Bayelsa now). I hear there’s a bridge that links somewhere to Trofani now. Back then, we made the trip by boat. It was terrifying, and fun too.
This time I returned to Trofani. Without going there.
That’s the beauty of the written word. You can go anywhere you like and be anyone you want.
MY WARRI CHRONICLES 1
The economy of Warri back then rested squarely on the oil exploration companies, and on the companies that served/ serviced them. Shell was the de facto government in Warri. NNPC followed a close second. They owned beautiful housing estates that had swimming pools, well-manicured lawns, clubhouses and an otherworldly ambience. If you had friends and family living in “Shell Estate” then you were a big man for sure.
You never went quietly to visit your relatives in those places. If you were a shy and quiet kid like me, you would whisper it in a few choice ears that you would not be around after church on Sunday because the family will be visiting that your uncle that resides in NNPC quarters. That was all. Your status went up several notches. And you were hated the more.
And then more kids would want to befriend you so they can come over to watch TV. And so on and so forth.
But there were other companies that gave you status, set you apart somewhat. I already mentioned the oil- servicing companies; they paid well and had “class.” I remember McDermott, although, for many years, I could not accept the idea of McDermott as a company; I think the street on which the company was situated was named after it, and McDermott road became more popular than McDermott company. But they were an okay company to work for.
There was NPA- Nigerian Ports Authority- they were high up there with the oil coys. My best friend, Toma, was an NPA kid, so I could flex some on her account.
Lower down the ladder were companies like Kingsway stores (Kingsway Rendezvous was the first fast food company of its kind in Warri, I believe it gave birth to present day Mr. Biggs. They had the best meat pies in the entire universe!)
And then there was AG Leventis, which was where we belonged. And we were alright too, in our own way. There were many other companies that made Warri the vibrant city it was back then; long before the militancy and the nyamanyama that followed.
Soon we shall make Warri great again. Who will blow the TRUMPet?
MY WARRI CHRONICLES 1
Someone asked why I did not talk about Delta Steel Company (DSC), in my last post.
Well, erm, in the Warri that I speak of, DSC had no place. DSC was a late entrant in the economy of Warri. It came riding on the success built by Shell and NNPC and the other oil exploration and servicing firms. DSC was a ‘80s company, and our story began in the seventies. Besides, it is doubtful if DSC had a direct impact on Okumagba Layout and environs, they were just too far away. Anyway, we will visit DSC soon.
Today, I want to make a slight detour and talk about the Warri mother.
The closest I have seen to the typical Warri mother is the character in AY’s movie that played the role of Ramsey Noah’s mother in “30 days in Atlanta.” The Warri mother is special. Strong, fearless, bold, sometimes very loud. Mostly cynical, and never ever lazy.
Oh, there were exceptions of course. There were some gossipy women who would never mind their business! Like our neighbor who was always shouting at me through the living room windows because I would lock the doors whenever our baby was crying.
The typical Warri woman feared nothing, not even armed robbers.
I recall my Aunt, Mama C and the incident with the armed robbers in 1978. Mama C was an accomplished woman in every sense of the word, and she was strict like the typical Warri mother.
She brooked no nonsense. And C was as stubborn as the typical Warri boy. He must have been about 10 years or so when this incident took place. On the night in question, robbers invaded the estate and were robbing from house to house. Then they came to Mama C’s house, but she would have none of it. They demanded money, and she said she did not have. Of course, they did not believe her. Everyone knew her as a wealthy woman but she was not moved by the repeated demands, and she was definitely not impressed by their weapons.
When it became apparent that the robbers would not leave empty handed, Mama C came up with an ingenious solution.
“I don tell una say I no get money, una no gree. Oya make una carry this pikin go take am do money, as e stubborn so im head suppose bring plenty money.”
And she was dead serious. The robbers burst into laughter. And they left. Without C.
That was an extreme case but very typical of the negotiating powers of the Warri woman. Nothing could defeat the spirit of the Warri mother; not armed robbers, and not stubborn little boys.
#warrichronicles #warrinodeycarrylast #mywarri #nostalgia #Elsiewrite #BornToWriteWell
end of MY WARRI CHRONICLES 1
…. To be continued
Give a kind shout out to Warri.
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