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 ‘waylayed’ 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.
Elsie Dennis-Oghenekaro is a successful Author, columnist, Traveling Consultant & a Warri person. She’s based in Abuja Nigeria with her lovely family.
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