“Let the Kite Perch, Let the Eagle Perch Too, if One Says No Let the Wings Break”: Wado City, Warri City, and the Abatian Proxies
By Uwa John
When I first read the catching axiom of “Kite” and “Eagle” in Things Fall Apart, a masterpiece of one of the greatest storytellers in history, Chinua Achebe, I didn’t quite give the proverb any metaphorical interpretation beyond the context of the novel until reactions started trailing the recent call for the renaming of a chunk of Warri city, occupied by Urhobo, as ‘Wado city’. When Achebe deploys the Kite and Eagle motif he alludes to the predatory nature of human preponderance to take advantage of one another; therefore advocates the need for tolerance, peaceful coexistence, negotiated coexistence and management of pluralism through the concept of “perch”.
In other words, Achebe dramatizes the interplay between pluralism, humanism and a finite space using predatory birds which, despite their killer instincts, must coexist based on unity, dignity, equity and fairness in space that none can sustain or legitimise its claim as natural owner beyond just saying so. So by yoking predatory birds’ of different ferocity, strength, and species together and not birds to other animals, with a proviso that all must be allowed to thrive or break wings, Achebe is suggesting that categories like ‘politics’, wealth, gender, ethnicity, strength, population and religion should not be determinants of peaceful coexistence in a shared space.
Rather, peaceful coexistence should be determined by the triad of fairness, justice, and equity. Where this triad is disequilibrated, there is bound to be conflict; where there is conflict there is bound to be a resolution; where the resolution smacks of sentiment there is bound to be a perennial quarrel; and where political will is lacking to solve the conflict, the conflict will eventually resolve itself through other means. The last is a natural given. This is the dilemma confronting the ethnicities and ethnic claims to Warri metropolis or city. And this is why the Achebean axiom of allowing the Eagle and Kite to perch in peace without polarising the air and land spaces become a critical reference point.
So when an Urhobo group muted, proposed and circulated the idea of Wado City as a panacea to the primordial land quarrel between the ethnic nationalities in Warri, I expected public commentators to ask critical questions about the validity or otherwise of such proposition, investigate the motivations behind such proposition or better still, keep quiet and watch how planks of events unfold; quiet, because even a fool is thought to be wise if he holds his peace. So while I was still enjoying the euphoria settling on this uncommon proposal for resolving a historical disquiet about the ownership of the contentious space called Warri City, naysayers and cynics went to town drumming war drums and fanning the embers of discord for a harmless proposition that should ordinarily provoke interesting conversation about the demarcations between peace, justice, fairness and prosperity of the conurbation called Warri.
Like a league of night-soil-men trying to clean up a trailing cloud of putrefaction in colonial Nigerian; these groups went to press with what has the appearance of an obsolete sense of history and idealism which has no place in logical thinking. With all due respect, leading this pack is Dr Reuben Abati; I have preceded the mention of Dr Rueben Abati with the phrase “due respect” because I consider the man a demigod in the realm of journalism who got away with so many things; however, when a god descends from the exclusive realm of the pantheons, to take dwelling among mortals, he loses his mysticism.
By the same token, when a god becomes too vindictive, we often remind it of the tree from which it was carved. Such in the dilemma Dr Ruben Abati and the rest must have to face for going to press with half-truth, falsehood and sentiments capable of misleading captive audiences. After reading Abati’s recent publication titled “The Brewing Crisis in Warri” I knew almost immediately that in his haste to go to press, for reasons best known to him, Abati relied on a history book titled A History of Warri, published in 1988 by a certain JOS Ayomike, a Civil Commissioner in Midwest State in the 1970s. Also, I realised that Dr Abati did not read the seminal research edited by Prof Peter Ekeh, a world-renowned scholar on the same subject titled: Warri City and British Rule in Western Niger Delta; nor did he bother to goggle its review by F.M.A Ukoli titled “I Can See Clearly Now…” which dented, very badly, whatever claims the Itsekiri has left of Warri City.
And this explains why an essay from such an astute social commentator is replete with such disinformation. While I would rather leave the subject of the ownership of Warri for other fora, I would leave our respected Dr Abati and other proxies with a few questions that may help them in presenting a more informed essay the next time they go to press. Who invented the name Warri? What were the areas of present Delta State referred to as Warri Province in colonial Nigeria? Why and when was Warri Province converted to Delta Province? Why and when was Olu of Itsekiri changed to Olu of Warri? Was there any place called Warri before colonialism? Why are there three recognised kings in the Warri kingdom? Why did Olu lose his litigation claiming overlordship of Okere Urhobo land to Okumagba? Why is the Olu’s palace built on leased land from Okumagba? Where is the place of overlordship in the Nigerian constitution on the Land Use Act? These begging questions will go on and on, but your truth lurks therein.
Anyone willing to interrogate these questions with an open mind is likely to discover that, while trying to use their socio-political advantage to outsmarts the other ethnic groups sharing the Warri space with them, the Itsekiri establishment ended up shooting itself on the foot by making unwholesome demands that calculated to make them owners of Warri City, when in reality the Urhobo people occupy the larger part of the city; a scary reality that has become the ‘Joker’. Also, successive governments of that era compounded the problem by accepting these unwholesome demands that have now returned to hunt everyone. But what is now playing out with the conversations around Wado City is just one of the many ways conflicts try to resolve themselves.
It is a call on the government to solve the problem it helped to create in the first place. It is like a people saying we want you to call us by our rightful name; especially when it is obvious that Warri was a colonial arrangement designed to conceal the doctrine of divide and rule and to distract the people from perceiving colonial exploitation and exploration going on in the province. So I ask Dr Abati, if the Urhobo people of Uvwie Kingdom or Local Government, for example, suddenly decide that they want the Warri Refinery and Petrochemical in Ekpan, of Uvwie LGA, changed to Ekpan Refinery and Petrochemical on account that they are not under Warri South Local Government, will they be said to be brewing crisis? The real question to ask is, what will anyone or the Itsekiri lose if the Urhobo enclaves and other adjoining Urhobo towns come to be addressed as Wado City? While we are waiting for the answers to the last two questions, let the warmongers hold their peace and let the conversation continue; or better still, let the Eagle perch, and let the Kite perch too.
Uwa is of the Department of the English University of Lagos. email@example.com GSM:08038815379