I am right now, this very second by the creek (Toimbolo) in Ogriagbene Town, in Bomadi LGA of Delta State, listening to the members of a White Garment (Zion or Aladura) Church thrill me to the unique sound that only them can produce.
Yet as I listen to them, I still monitor this Fisherman, whose name I don’t know and may never know until I leave as he toils to earn his daily bread at the other end of the river. For the sake of this short piece, let’s call him Ebi.
Before Ebi’s enterprise caught my attention, I had wandered around the town while I waited for other members of my entourage. As I moved around with my phone in hand, looking at the many mud houses (huts in the true sense of the word) I saw, adorned with the insignia of White garment churches, chief among them, the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star (BCS) better known as Olumba Olumba Obu or simply OOO, I couldn’t help but admire what I considered the simplicity of the town. Now looking at the glaring presence of white garment and their preponderance in this town as against the Pentecostal denominations, it reinforces my belief about the nexus between religion and economics. My thesis is that the more well off a Community is, the more the number of modern churches you would find there. If this town was booming, you won’t even notice the White Garment churches because they will be drowned by many modern churches. But I am not here to detain you with my hypothesis about religion. Let’s return to the river where I met Ebi.
Before I met Ebi I saw a group of people, mostly children and women having their morning bath in the river. I could sense the innocence in the children from the carefree joy they express while doing what I am sure is their routine morning activity. It was while sneaking to take the photographs – I had to surreptitiously take the photos because of the presence of the grown women and the suspicion it would raise to spot a stranger taking pictures of women and children having their bath. No one would care that my intentions are pure – that my lenses spotted Ebi.
Another thing that have caught my attention while listening to the thrilling Church folks, watching the town’s people like Ebi and the bathing party by the riverside, have been the sheer number of marine vessels that have moved passed close to Ebi’s fishing spot.
Having taken you through my story of the activities I have observed thus far despite the noise around me, now allow me to tell you why the #RiseForBayelsa campaign is important to all Bayelsans and deserves the support of all Bayelsans even if you are not a fan of Dickson.
As you have been told already, Ebi is a Fisherman. But with the frequency with which those marine vessels transverse his fishing ground, even if we disregard the effects of Oil exploration on our aquatic life, I still doubt if there will be any fish brave enough to be within that vicinity to be ensnared by Ebi. The result therefore is that there is a strong likelihood that the obviously hardworking Ebi who set out early at dawn to find his daily bread might return home empty handed to perhaps a wife and children or an empty home necessitated by the fact that he has not being able to earn enough to raise a family.
At this point I implore you to pause and note that Ebi, the Fisherman has no business with and most probably knows nothing about the destination in Bayelsa those vessels are heading to. For the direction of the river the Self-propelled barges were headed leads to Bayelsa territorial waters. So Ebi does not have any business with the vessels and gains absolutely nothing from them, yet their activities endanger his main means of livelihood.
Note that I have not talked about the likely externalities of Oil and Gas related environmental pollution on the health of the Village people who rely on their river for their everyday existence. As you can see they bath, drink and bath from that same water they defecate and dispose refuse in.
And you still wonder why Timi Dakolo sang that there is a cry from a river?
Everyday from Okpoama to Opukuma, Ayama Ijaw to Ayama Ogbia, Agudama Epie to Agudama Ekpetiama, Azuzuama to Liama and many more towns in Bayelsa as is the case in Peretorugbene and Ogriagbene an Ebi returns home with nothing to show for his toil. This leads to frustration which leads to anger and in turn aggression. He might decide to be a freedom fighter or a Sea Pirate, Cultist, Armed, Political thug or another form of brigand. It would be easy to cast aspersions on him and to some extent even justified but Ebi’s social trajectory was determined by his environment and the opportunities created for him by an Oil industry he gains close to nothing from.
This is why we must all #RiseForBayelsa . When we #RiseForBaylsa we raise for the many farmers in Bayelsa State who put in so much efforts in their vocation but get so little or nothing in return. We make converted effort to save future generations of our people from acid rain and other carcinogenic environmental discharges that has made life nasty, brutish, vile and short in the Niger Delta, when we #RiseForBaylsa.
In my matured opinion, this campaign is beyond the current occupant of Creek Haven and his idiosyncrasies. It’s an attempt to make a change in the way our environment is being (mis)managed. The #RiseForBaylsa campaign is about our future as a people.
So to me we must ignore any politics that may be attached or ascribed to it and concentrate on the component that that is altruistic and anthropocentric.
Fortune God’sSon Alfred, Political Scientist writes from Ogriagbene, Delta State.