Kaiama: The Little Rainforest That Houses 2000 Nigerian Graduates
In many ways, Kaiama is distinctly nuanced from other parts of riverine Nigeria. A little town in the suburban Bayelsa, it houses the NYSC camp of the state.
The town, which sits in the heart of a rainforest, is different from other south-southern riverine Ijaw towns. Kaiama, unlike Brass, Bakana, Abisa and other Ijaw adjustments, is not a white sand island. The floor is swampy and trees cover the entire town (except, of course, the road to the camp itself which is interlocked). One can easily mistake it for an uninhibited forest with her skyscraping palm trees and broad leaves on her plantain trees.
According to a few locals, Kaiama has never gone a month without a downpour of rain, even in the dry seasons.
“Kaiama has not had any real dry season in my five years here,” says an ex-corps member who has become a full-time local teacher in the community.
“The people are warm and hospitable.
“They are always quick to give out fresh fish and plantain to visitors.”
Their traditional ruler, who is in his twentieth year as the leader of the community, was warm as he taught the current NYSC members (who just left camp) a few of their traditions. The locals are mostly petty traders and fishermen.
“The people are very open to other traditions; it makes me almost ashamed”. Ola Keshinro, a current corps member from Abeokuta in Bayelsa, says about his experience so far in Kaiama.
“Certain cultural patterns that I would have ordinary laughed at out of ignorance are becoming less funny and more interesting to me.”
The community, which has also become a Local Government Development Area (LGDA), is only a thirty-minute drive to the capital town of Bayelsa- Yenagoa. It is the first “T” junction in Bayelsa coming through Ugheli in Delta marked by its sloppy hilly entrance. The air has just the right amount of chill and moisture.
In their culture, it is believed that when one sleeps, one dies, and when one wakes, one returns from the dead. This influences the salutation in their native dialect: “Izon- I seriidou waa?” When loosely translated into English, it would read, “Did you make it back from the dead?” We must take note, however, that just like other languages in Nigeria and abroad, salutation in Izon is not the same as “Good morning” in English, as it has been ironically perceived for years by many English users and bi-linguals of the languages. Salutation in Izon is more culturally and historically nuanced.
The hospitality of the indigenous Kaiama people cannot be overemphasised as they have members of the Ijaw ethnic group settled in the village and also some Isokos and Ibibios from Delta and Akwa-Ibom states. Kaiama has, for years, served as a home away from home to two thousand corps members with different potentials and skills, from different backgrounds and cultures, who are posted to Bayelsa in every stream.