By Maobuye Nangi Obu
I have not seen anyone joke with fire, not even the trained fire fighters. Even the lion tamers are scared of their lions how much more ‘fire’ and fire fighters. This is because, like water, fire has no friend or enemy. Instead, it finds its level like water by burning down any object it meets as much as it can, just to have its way. So, it would be foolhardy for anyone to neglect or ignore the shout of “fire” whether in water, land, air, confined space or the theatre. We do not need a “Magu of the EFCC or a Daura of the DSS” to certify and declare to us that “fires” can be dangerous and it kills.
Fire have engulfed homes, killed families and wiped out generations. In the Niger Delta, we have had our fair share of man-made conflagrations. It is either the oil companies have greatly contributed to causing fire on our land, or the ‘joint’ activities of the security agencies, the IOCs and the people have contributed to causing fires that has taken thousands of lives through oil bunkering, oil spill, illegal bombings etc. Those who have been victims of fire would do anything humanly possible to avoid fire. But the thing is, what causes fire and what is this fire even?
In as much as we may all have our different definitions and meanings of “fire”. However, I will also not stress on the conventional meaning of fire here. But in this episode, I will like to define fire as any of the following but not limited to; ‘hate speech, witch-hunt, lies (misinformation), selfishness, misrule, misappropriation, deceit, favouritism, nepotism, political exclusion, gerrymandering, tribal jingoism, chauvinism etc, the list is endless…
On the other hand, “fire” like hazard is anything that has the potential to cause harm; be it, bodily harm, emotional harm, social harm, economic harm and/or political harm. Therefore, one can comfortably say; “fire” is hazardous. So, anything that would cause economic sabotage is fire; playing politics with everything (even with the development of the state) is fire. Fighting over everything at the detriment of the general interest of your people is also ‘fire’. If you are an agent provocateur you are nothing but “fire”; in fact, the very destructive type of fire is who you are.
Similarly, we all know that theatres are for surgical operations (or delivery room etc), for movies, for other performances if you like and many more. It usually involves large number of people; like a market place or so. Therefore, it would be downright unprincipled and very risky to shout “fire” in a theatre.
Contextually, whether we see “theatre” here as a delivery room for the pregnant women; it is unsafe (for both mother and the unborn) and risky to shout “fire” during the time of delivery. Whether we see theatre as a cinema; it is unsafe to shout “fire” when everyone is glued to the screen in a lovey-dovey mood. Whether we see “theatre” as a market place, it is still unsafe to shout “fire” in the market place. You never can tell which of your loved one or family member is at the delivery room or present at the cinema, so it is unsafe to throw stones or knives at the market place.
Just for the records, bullfighters (matadors) do their bull runs in designated places and never in the market place. Bull runs usually involve the use of machetes and therefore, cannot be done in a crowded area like the market place. Likewise, gladiators do not fight in a nursing home, Children’s school or the market place; instead, they fight in the designated gladiator’s ring. If this is true, then why have we turned our homes, communities, and state (Rivers State) into a gladiator’s ring? Why have we consciously chosen to “de-market” our dear state (Rivers State) and tag it unsafe by always shouting “fire, fire, fire” year in and year out? Why do we like to spread our dirty linens outside? Who has bewitched us in Rivers State? What brand of the ‘mumu’ weed are we smoking?
Truth is, there is nothing as sickening and frustrating as seeing your people fighting petty and always going for each other’s jugular. In Rivers State every political campaign day and birthday celebration day is a holocaust day for the political parties to go caustic and vitriolic and in doing this, caution is thrown in the bin. I am still aghast at such yeyerity (in local parlance it means ‘nonsense’). Their action covertly demarkets the state both emotionally, socially and economically. In Rivers State, we’re in the era where we look forward to weekly ‘hate speeches’ in the name of playing partisan politics. In Rivers State, the politicians have turned the state into a state of “one week peace, one week trouble” since after the 2015 general elections.
But in saner climes, after every election, parties all come together to coalesce ideas and resources for the greater benefit of the state; reverse is always the case with Rivers politicians. Theirs is to fight, maim and even kill every opposition if possible. Only in Rivers State you would see politicians brag about how they would kill anyone or group that seeks to go against their ambition. This “fire” is burning too fast and has been constant in Rivers State. How do we put out this burning fire?
In recent times, our export commodity from Rivers State is nothing but “fire”. We so much hate ourselves that we have subtly helped even the search engines to trademark us with crime state, cultists’ state, violence etc. On the Internet, what the average Rivers Youth is seen to put out is nothing but gory pictures of the state that helps the IOCs and other ‘would-have-been’ investors to have cogent reason(s) not to invest in the state. We have helped to paint the picture that; only Rivers State is unsafe in Nigeria. At a time when ‘war-torn’ states like Borno, Yobe and Plateau are seriously rebranding their states to attract investors. In Rivers State even the government is overtly or covertly demarketing the state by their hate speeches and show of gangsterism in governance.
As if that is not enough, the politicians (the gladiators) on one hand have not helped the narrative. Instead, they have successfully turned Rivers State into a battleground by their constant shouts of “fire” which comes in their cheap, unrefined and crude campaign mantra. After 50years, we are still here chanting and shouting “fire” at each other whilst states like Lagos and Kano have risen up to the occasion by developing their states using the opportunities (resources) they have as a state and their connection with the centre. After 50years Rivers State is still celebrating and commissioning walkways and lying in the media just to deceive their gullible lot. After 50years, Rivers State is still that underdeveloped ‘one-dirty-city’ state. Even after 18years of uninterrupted indigenous rule, Rivers State cannot boast of any functional industry or beneficial partnerships that could create employment for the Youth. Indeed the bad politics of “fire” have taken the better part of us as a State.
Truthfully but sadly, we are our own problem in Rivers State. The dearth of good leadership and sane followership in Rivers State cannot be overemphasized. Instead of maximising our opportunities and privileges as ‘strong and respected’ members of the today’s ruling class, we resorted to fighting ourselves than attracting projects that will benefit our people now that we have the opportunity to do so. Instead of developing the state all-round with the available resources, we have resolved to spend the commonwealth on the media just to pull-down an individual and his political party even at the detriment of the people. For two years and still counting, there is no budget in the state. Nobody can account for how much we have invested in this and that except the Governor. Even the so-called contractors cannot tell how much they had charged for a job (whether ongoing or completed project). This “fire” republic called Rivers State will crash soon if we do not adjust our mind-sets to the reality of thinking straight and putting the interest of the state first in our politics.
It is obvious that Rivers State is in dire need of political, economic, social and spiritual cleansing. The question now is, who will salvage us? As the 2019 drama gradually unfolds, in Kalabari we say; “Tubo bo wa boroma ba” (who will salvage us)? Should we wait for more “fire” crooners to take the centre-stage at our own peril? Where is the Youth power? Who is that one (Youth) that believes in that utopian Rivers society for all? A Youth that can envision the egalitarian society where all humans are equal irrespective of tribe and colour. Time is now. Beyond party leanings or preferences, our common goal should be the “Development of Rivers State and her people” and nothing more.
Who will bell the cat amongst us? Time is now to rebuild Rivers State, the time is now to act.
To be continued…