Sunday Dec 04, 2022

The Garden City Series

When we landed at the Port Harcourt international airport, omagwa, my heart literally jumped. So much history here- the Sosoliso Airlines crash in which Pastor Bimbo Odukoya and scores of school children lost their lives AFTER landing. I walked past the fire hydrant that refused to give water to the fire engines and ultimately ended up killing the passengers on-board that (to use a Nigerian Cliché) “ill-fated” flight. As soon as I entered the arrival hall, i instantly asked myself what was “international” about that airport. There was so much heat, the doors were thrown open. The hall was drab with no pretty lighting. To think that this airport suspiciously caught fire some years back and was renovated is just…annoying!

As i stepped out into the parking lot, i Honestly wondered whether Boko Haram preceded my arrival. There were craters in the parking lot of an international airport! My surprise was greater maybe because the Port Harcourt I remember didn’t look THAT bad. The Airport Shuttle I boarded was guided and tailed by an armed escort. From the “safety” of the bus I kept peering out at the street, expecting that we would soon join the Igwuruta road, because we were “obviously” still within the airport the way the road was small. We drove through a thin one-lane road. on both sides of the road stood tiny cubes of things that purported to be shops, all in varying stages of rust. There were potholes literally every 30 seconds to 1 minute of the drive. I kept expecting that we must have taken a detour and would soon join the igwuruta road. To my greatest surprise, i beheld the popular “TANK” (A giant reservoir of water, or at least it was meant to be one) in all its mossy glory.

 The Igwuruta road which i once thought was free, smooth and wide had suddenly shrunk and magically sprouted shops trasnlocated from the 19th century. Traffic everywhere, everytime. Even the armed escort (with police sirens blaring half the time) took 1 hour 30 minutes from the airport. On a Wednesday afternoon!!!! Honestly, as i made that sad, sad drive i couldn’t help noticing the children running around in briefs, their huge belly buttons more prominent because of their bulging stomachs. They were playing barefoot in stagnant greenish water (spirogyra/moss/whatever it was there) with obviously no regard for their health. The houses were packed so close to each other that i wondered where the houseowners or guests would park their cars. It took me a very short time to realise that there were no parking spaces! The “landlords” could park on the road directly. Not to talk of guests.

 The taxi drivers were just unruly, making sudden u-turns in the middle of the road. Sometimes they stopped indiscriminately to pick-up or drop off fares. You would think that police presence on the road would make them “behave”, but the cops and traffic wardens were receiving “tips” from motorists as they drove by. How about the buildings? The buildings were obviously hurried. Standing close to each other with alleys hardly enough for a wheelbarrow to squeeze through. You would see bungalows being converted hastily into two-storey buildings.

  Honestly, I felt like I’d landed in a third world country! Everywhere you look, rumudara, rumukrushi, rumuodamalu, rumuibekwe, rumuigbo, rumuchukwu, rumuola, rumurola, rumuwokeh, rumumasi, rumuokoro, rumuogba, rumu-everything! Over here, the Ikwerre people start compounds and name them after themselves. So if your name is Ebele, your community would be named rumuebele. As i moved through the city, honestly i began to lose every feeling that i was in a city.

 Everything in port Harcourt is so tiny! The people here take being individualistic too far. In fact, the only thing that isn’t limited to every-man-for-himself is burials, which happen to be like inter-house sports. If your grandfather dies, masquerades from all the Rumus will descend on the burial for spirited dancing (by that i include drunk dancing). If it won’t be too disturbing to you, i would like to, in subsequent posts, take you round port Harcourt, the garden city many people are hustling to come over to. I will be using pictures- i take at least 4 every time i manage to beat the traffic and go out. Check this page regularly to see more


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