“Warri”

I want to take today to talk about Warri. This wonderful bat-shit crazy town I live in.

In my two decades plus on earth I’ve been privileged to have lived in quite a number of places in Nigeria. Virtually all the major geo political zones except the east; and I can honestly tell you that I have never, NEVER seen a town or people like this. It’s unique. For many reasons. Most of them somewhere between bad and insane, usually both.

Where other towns have accidents where cars just bash into each other or somersault or something along those lines, in warri things are taken further; accidents here deliberately and CONSISTENTLY defy the laws of physics. It’s like there’s a competition amongst the drivers on who is crazier. My pops told me of a an accident he saw where the car crashed into a palm tree. A PALM TREE! How did a car leave the road and head UP into a palm tree?!
As for streetlights? Meh, car drivers hug them regularly here like it’s nothing. You’ll just see a nice ride, early in the morning, totalled. Front end wrapped around a street light high up on a divider. How the driver left the road and headed up there is a mystery.
I once saw a tipper; not a car, not a pickup truck, not even a regular bus. A TIPPER hanging on a road divider, with front and back tyres suspended in the air. Like a crane had carefully lifted it and balanced it there. I kid you not. I wasn’t told. I saw it with my two bespectacled eyes. I couldn’t take a pic at the time because I was driving. As they say here “afraid catch me when I see am”.

It’s not just the accidents, even the design of the town itself speaks waffi. It’s so flawed it’s ridiculous. I have never driven on any road here and ever seen a u-turn where it’s meant to be. It’s like somebody woke up from sleep and just scribbled down a town plan and they ran with it.
Late last year and into this year the governor had a brainwave and decided to build a BRT lane on the main road that runs through the heart of warri. Effurun road for anyone who’s ever been here. Calling the project a disaster would be an understatement of epic proportions. He took a road that is four lanes on a good day and one and a half on a market day and managed to squeeze out a one lane BRT road which was never finished (because if he finished it, what project would the next governor do? His own words. Real talk) on market days now, that road is impassable. It’s like they sat down and watched lagos on tv and just decided to reproduce it without anything resembling a plan.
Runs in line with the general vibe of this town: chaos.

As for the people themselves? My goodness. Sometimes it’s like I’m living amongst aliens. A warri trader would rather watch her wares spoil AND throw them away than drop her price and sell even just to recoup her original investment.

They are the “rudest” set of human beings I have ever been unfortunate to come across; they have absolutely no regard for elders, something I find VERY discomfitting having had my formative years in yoruba land, regularly insulting old people with impunity.

And the women here drink. When I say drink, I mean D R I N K. In that one regard men are no match for them. You don’t believe me? Get into a proper bar and challenge one of them and see if you can distinguish between a car’s headlights and two okadas when you’re done. And she will still be sober.
Their promiscuity is epic and the place is flooded with baby mamas.

As for their reputation of being sharp, let me burst that bubble here and now. They aren’t. They are stunningly dull and easy to deceive. Especially in spiritual matters. They just hide this fact behind a LOT of gra gra and agidi so you can say “warri no dey carry last”.

The amount of charlatans and native-doctors-turned-pastors here is also very amusing. I could tell you stories but they’ll fall under the “stranger than fiction category”.
But I see you want examples right? Right. Two examples then without mentioning names;
Right here we have a man who claims to be, amongst other things; Jesus holiness, Jesus doctor, a demon destroyer, apple of God’s eye, a saint, world leader and wait for it…bishop of the whole wide world. A man so great that even Jesus saw him and BOWED to him (his own words, not mine). We also have another who claims to be a christian from his mother’s womb, he was born a christian so he didn’t have to give his life to Christ.
Even stark idolaters know nobody is a christian from his mother’s womb, but warri people? Na! Both men have HUGE followership.

Then there’s this thing called “Elocution”.
I didn’t know this word existed until I moved into Warri. I don’t know about other towns but right here? This is the in thing. Just let them get the idea that you speak proper english and if they where spouting pidgin before you arrived, they revert to elocuted english immediately with you.

Here’s the gist about this whole “elocution” business; it’s essentially speech therapy, getting people to speak “oyinbo”. So what we have is a set of people going around all the schools teaching the staff and the kids how to speak english. Emphasis here is on HOW to speak english. You know, phonics, intontantions and such.

The idea was to teach people the “queen’s english”; call me cynical but after listening to the end results of this elocution training these folks are about as far away from the queen’s english as heaven is from earth. Some warri guy has been laughing his ass off to the bank while we have adults and children alike speaking english like they’ve got hot coals beneath their tongues.

Oh you want examples? Of course you do, I can hear you clamouring for them all the way from here. Relax, I’ve got some for you; you remember the word “dedicated”? How did you pronounce that in your head just now? “Deh-dee-cay-ted” right? Apparently it’s “Deh-dee-cay-teed” with a hard “ee”. According to the “elocution instructor” any word ending with “ted” is not to be pronounced “tehd” but “teed”.
So here I am thinking wait, you mean “warranted” is now “warranteed”? Ok please for the love of all things holy how do I pronounce “warrantee” or “guarantee”? Hmm? I’m waiting…

There’s more; the first day I stepped into class to meet my kids, they greeted me good morning “seh”, we are happy to see you “seh”…. Not “sir”, but “seh”. With a hard “eh”. For the briefest time I thought what the hell is “seh”? Before it occurred to me these kids were saying “sir”. Damn!
“Culture” is now “Kal-tcha”, “Teacher” is “Teacheh” (remember the hard “eh” in “seh”? Yeah it makes an appearance here again.) “Success” is now “Sack-sess”, “Mother” is apparently “Ma-deh”.

Now try creating a sentence with all those words I’ve used as examples and tell me if you don’t sound like a cassette whose tape is stuck and warbling in a cassette tape player.

The highlight of my day at work is either when the “elocution” instructor is around to give classes or the english teacher is in my class teaching her (or this case “heh”) students. I just sit there in my seat looking all innocent, while I’m laughing my ass off in my head and obviously trying to cram these words so I can repeat them to you!
As if it couldn’t get any worse, they slaughter the english mercilessly in the process. Imagine all those weird sounds spoken in past tense where they should be spoken in present tense or in plural where they should be in singular.

For those who think I’m just bashing warri, you’re right. I am. Why don’t I just leave? Well that’s a bit complicated.
Over time though I’ve come to like warri, not love it like I love lagos, but like it. If not for anything but entertainment value.
So if you’re ever in town. Look around. Enjoy it and except you have major reason to, don’t stay. Lol

Ariel Ugorji

Y’all know already, its @arielugorji

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2 responses to ““Warri”

  1. Ariel, good work here lightening up my day. I enjoyed your write up. My recommendation for the menace is that you could make a brief summary of the important points you have highlighted here with possible solutions. Forward same to the state government and major news channels. Trust me this story can brake the web.. Great piece.

  2. Tnx man.
    Brov I’m not saying anything the authorities don’t know. Besides is it the same authorities who can’t tell a horse from a donkey that I’d be recommending solutions too? Nah, brov.
    Apart from that I’m describing a people’s way of life, THAT’s very difficult to change.

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