Why Rivers State again for the wrong reason?
Since last Wednesday I've been nursing some sort of bodily dislocation after the ugly incident at Okrika during the attack on the campaign train of Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside, the All Progressives Congress, APC, Governorship candidate in Rivers State. So, for the greater number of the days between last Wednesday and Monday, I spent my time quarantined under the supervision of skilled hands and a dutiful wife. The Bible, my Sunday School Books and other godly literature kept me busy. I love to study Bible prophecies and global events connected thereat. I also visited my laptop not to keep off topical discourses. Somewhat, I did a few Facebook postings and comments that fetched me attacks and telephone calls made to either my wife or direct to me. Most were threats and others warning. I rummaged over the politically, ominous cloud over Rivers State. Several questions ran through my mind including why this season of transition has returned those inglorious days when the gun and macho men ruled both the day and night. That infamous season was so gluttonous of blood that the state was re-named “Rivers of blood”. Happily, since October 2007, it had fought to divorce that monstrous bridegroom.
While I feasted my memory on certain flashback, the present presented itself strong and bold. The past was dark; the present ominous, making the future bleak.
Why Rivers State? Why this land of endless opportunities and glorious possibilities? Why? Why? An endless boredom weaved in threads of uncertainty.
Then came Monday, the day after I'd enjoyed the Presence of the Holy Ghost at the Church Service. I attend the Apostolic Faith Church, where sweet music rendered by a trained pool of choir and orchestra, serenade an orderly line of service and worship. Would you want to enjoy Bible-type music and songs, tuned from old-time Gospel Hymnal, then, next Sunday, would Jesus delay His Second Coming, visit any branch of the Apostolic Faith closest to you.
Back to Monday. My nurse - that golden wife of mine - was attending to me. Then, my telephone rang. It was not a familiar number but since the job I do brings me to calls not from familiar routes, I did as usual - picked the call. "Hello! Good afternoon!" was my kick-off. A response followed. "Is that Bekee Anyalewechi?", came quickly. "How might we help you?" I asked the caller. The conversation settled down to more cordiality soon as I established that the caller was speaking from the West Africa Bureau of Voice of America, VOA. What would they want from me? The caller said, "The VOA is doing an exclusive story on election violence in Nigeria's South South region, and since Rivers State is the hotbed of election violence in the region, we shall be coming to speak with victims, stakeholders and others involved. We made earlier contacts in Port Harcourt and were directed by our source to speak with you. We hope you'll be willing to speak with us?" I was lost in thought."Why Rivers State again for the wrong reason?" Before that VOA's appointment, it was PREMIUM TIMES, an internationally-acclaimed investigative news portal based in Abuja, Nigeria. That prestigious online harbour of news and information desired a fluid account of events that Black Tuesday at Okrika. The burden, they had campaigned, fell on me. Poor me! Who would deliver me from this 'persecution'? Now VOA had come with its own 'persecution'! How would I begin to re-construct again the broken pieces and shrapnel of horror I told myself I should asap forget? VOA had become another 'enemy' but how do I refuse this? Why would it be I that would be 'summoned' by this respected medium of expression to further uncover the shame of our value?
I wished Rivers State spared me this agony! I wished her natives and sojourners were still living in the pristine state as it was in 1941, my father's memorable year, when there were no guns; when there were no war- and ex-warlords; when there were no militants and their ex-. I wished it was in the glorious days of that famous Kalabari warrior, Amachree the Great, who traded with the Portuguese and great Europeans when most other natives would see the white man afar and run farther into the forest. I wished it was the day of the fearless Obolo warrior and chief hunter, Ereforokuma, who traversed the great forests of Ngo and Agwut-Obolo in search of big game. Truly, I wished it was those glorious days of the whiz-kid merchant, warrior, European dread and founder of the Opobo ancestry, the great King Jaja, when peace flowed like the Igbani river and creeks. Endless wishes as hollow as they were. They added to my burden.
We settled for a day to meet, but the question would not leave me: "Why Rivers State again for the wrong reason?" Our conversation will be broadcast in far away America. Our voices heard. Yes, the timeline of the sad events that have mopped up the peace of Rivers State will be heard in lands far beyond Sombreiro and Okunu Rivers. The conversation may ring loud and moderated but the narrator's voice - my voice - will carry the burden and pain of this reason of anomie. It will carry the pain of a people trapped in spiritual abyss. I wished VOA did not add to my sorrow. I wished Rivers State did not create this theatre of infamy that everyone now wants to attend over a dredge of sarcasm and mockery.
Bekee Anyalewechi is a journalist based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria