Appointment with Safi (Sapele) Boys’ Club
Saturday, December 8, this running year was a historic day for Sapele’s runaway son that Sapele (Safi) Boys’ Club was harbouring for a short while in a cool afternoon of rich memories. And what wonderful tricks were conjured up this exact afternoon of exact local dishes and delicacies and drinking-fountain and affective music that was evocatively affectionate. But am I not already jumping the gun?
Sapele is my home-city. In fact, I should urgently re-phrase what I have just uttered. Sapele and Warri are my home-cities. As an aboriginal Niger Deltan the two cities of Sapele and Warri are my gem-cities, my gem-homes no historical or political or cultural abortifacient can abort me from. The two cities are my homes of treasure and birth where my life’s project began and developed to the point where I now possess what I will call the abraxas of the Niger Delta. There is no abraxas more potent than Warri and Sapele abraxas.
Yet I “abandoned” Sapele, I “abandoned” “Safi” for as long as Safi Boys’ Club could remember. I must return to base, I, the runaway son, and other runaway Safarians, must return to reclaim our own. Many of the inhabitants, appealingly sophisticated or not, appealingly urbane or not, of Sapele (or Warri) will affirm that, like New York and Chicago in the United States of America, is both the best and worst place, if not in the world, but certainly in Nigeria. Confused? You better don’t be. The city is a city that fruitfully generates in one simultaneous emotions. It will remain so till sempiternity. In our growing up years Sapele was indeed our New York and Chicago rolled into one. No city, including Lagos, our Lasport, our Lasgidi, was like Safi, the dazzling city of the best and the best, the most beautiful and the most beautiful, and the ugliest and the ugliest. Anybody who could survive in Sapele of the then years could and would survive anywhere. Chamberlain Akarhue, president of Safi Boys’ Club, in his welcoming address, feelingly and distinctly recalled the years of glorious and inglorious Sapele that must be reclaimed.
But it was not an occasion for speech-making. The passing year of wonderful camaraderie must be perfectly and momentously celebrated not in a cock-tail party manner but in a positively insane manner which recalled the sweet potato years of truly cosmopolitan Sapele! Our yester-years callow youth devoid of ethnic and regional prejudices returned. We received well the attitude and the memory.
For me, in particular, my wet-cement-like memory did not disappoint. Occurrences, happenings that left impressions on it – impressions that are still stamped on it -and well glued to it, bright, transparent, pronounced – keenly sought me with pleasurable pleasure: ‘Awo, ‘Zik’ or ‘Zeek,’ ‘Omimi Ejoh,’ ‘SB Bakare,’ ‘Henry Fajemiirokun,’ ‘Asaboro,’ ‘Teslim Elias,’ ‘Dore Numa’, ‘Rex Lawson’, ‘Sally Young,’ ‘Aghoghovbia,’ ‘Esiri,’ ‘Arthur Prest,’ ‘Hubert Ogunde,’ ‘Victor Olaiya,’ ‘Bobby Benson,’ re-surfaced. These were respective nicknames of some of my playmates who dreamed of becoming these historical figures of our country. Did their dreams come true? Of course, many of them travelled out of our country, and are today Safarians in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Baltimore, Boston and other cities in the United States of America. Will they be patriotic enough to return to Sapele, Papa’s Land? Will they return and give to Safi, their one and only Papa’s Land, and give back to it a little of the much the nicely satanic coastal city gave them? Sapele, the coastal city of sophistication, urbanity, wit, compassion, ambitious strivers and lovers of all these and their demons yearns for the return of its runaways and prodigals. And Safi Boys’ Club of formidable prodigies in their respective endeavours of politics, business and the professions are in the forefront of those to re-glorify the alienated city – a task they are committed to with intense humility that will bring them solace shorn of any form of trichinosis.
Is this a fantasy in an era and age of real despair, deadly greed, horrid gulosity, grotesque hunger and crabby people in power, government and authority, nauseatingly crabby people who are driving Nigerians insane? Will the patriotic ethics of members of the Safi Boys’ Club, who abhor all forms of regional and ethnic prejudices and sentiments, drown in River Ethiope the demonic propensities of those who want Sapele dead and buried? Can the patriotism of the Sapele patriots bring back to Sapele God’s favour in this age of demons as political overlords? Will E.D. Line – that is, Elder Dumpster Line – return to River Ethiope and help to bring boom and boon to Sapele again? Will I see my “Negro Labourer in Liverpool” in the Hausa labourer in Sapele again? Will A.T. and P. – African Timber and Plywood, once-upon-a-time the largest timber company in the world – come back to life again in our city of cities? What of K. Chellarams and Kingsway, two fabulous stores that stocked essentials that tantalized our boyhood sights and minds – will they return? And our clubs of clubs – Eagle Club, Grand Hotel, Ferry Inn, Silver Triangle, Queen of Hearts – will they be re-born to return our city to the picnic and afternoon years of vogueing, hand gestures and steps of sensuous and sensual high life songs and beats that have disappeared from our music-scene horizon? These questions nagged me as I was enjoying my delicacy of starch-and-bangan-soup-and-fresh fish-and periwinkles.
And my keen mental pleasure vociferated. The gathering – a healthy mixture of diverse ethnic groups whose melodious vociferousness underscored our oneness as Safarians and Niger Delta “blood” brothers – must be a unique model for this age of curious political leaders whose ethnocentricism is destroying our country. But we must not allow them, these callous beings, to destroy a piece of any of our hearts – as Alexander Solzhenitsyn would tell us.
I enjoyed every bit of the time I spent with Safi Boys’ Club whose commitment will receive my commitment henceforth. And the story is worth telling; for it is the story of men committed to good deeds for their homeland. Let all of us do good deeds that our country demands of us – from the top to the bottom and from the bottom to the top.
Happy New Year!