After you’re done reading this article, you’d agree with me that if Nigeria as a nation were to adopt this principle of Warri Brotherhood, we’d have less and less to fight about; and more and more to build together.
The oil boom of the 70s saw Nigerians from different tribes and creeds migrate to Warri as the sudden gateway to wealth opened up job opportunities and a better condition of living. There were oil companies, oil servicing companies, technical companies to service and repair mechanical equipment and even maritime companies to provide services for offshore operations.In kindergarten, I knew little or nothing about who came from what tribe. However, from primary school, I began to understand which tribe my classmates came from by their unique names. Like I knew, Ogheneovo was from the Urhobo tribe, Ebisan was Itsekiri, Ebitimi was Ijaw, Eloho was Isoko, Folake was Yoruba, Itohan was Bini, Mayo was Esan, Kadiri was Afemai, Bunor was from Kwale, Ngozi was Igbo and yours truly was Ibibio. Even though at that time, there was no Akwa Ibom State and everyone from old Cross River State was known as a ‘Calabar’ person.
Despite the different tribes we came from, that faded away when we hung out together. A bond grew between us all and very soon, all tribes were narrowed down and we were known as ‘Warri girls’ or ‘Warri boys’ or better still, ‘Waffi’ in our local Warri lingo. If you introduced yourself as, “I be Waffi” then you had yourself a free ticket to be treated as a brother or sister by any other Waffi person. Of course, it also meant that people who lived around Warri environs like Effurun, Sapele, Ughelli and Agbaroh were all seen as ‘Waffi people.’When I got admission into the University of Calabar to study Banking/Finance, it was difficult for my Ibibio community there to believe I was actually one of them because I was really rugged compared to their calm sometimes almost timid disposition. There was already a Warri community on campus. As soon as I hooked up with some of my old classmates from Our Lady’s High School Effurun, word soon got round that I was Waffi. So they all came one by one to introduce themselves to me. I soon met a Waffi guy who was in third year Banking/Finance.
Guy: Sist, how far na? My name na Abednego. Whose side for Warri you dey stay?
Me: Shell Estate, Edjeba.
Abednego: Shuuuuu…you na aje na! No wonder, see as you fresh! Me na kpako. Na Iyara me dey stay. As you be Jambite so, you suppose relate with us, make we dey show you as e go be. Nor come do mumu for here. You sef know say we nor dey carry last for everywhere we enter. So anything wey you nor understand make you ask me. You dey hear? (pulling his ears) Wonyo? (speaking in Urhobo)
Me: Bros, I don hear. Doh!
Another guy soon walked up to me…
Guy: My name na Naps. I hear say you be Waffi?
Me: Yes o! Bros, how now?
Naps: I dey..I dey. O girl, na wah for all this your American dressing o! Naim good sef, I go dey take you blow guy. All these yeye boys for campus never see anything! Dem dey craze!!!
While Abednego put me through on how to succeed in my academics. Naps drilled me on how to spot cult boys, avoid them. What paths not to walk on campus at certain times of the night. When there were cult clashes on campus, all the Warri boys would move to the girls’ hostels to protect the Warri girls. If we needed to leave campus for our safety, they ensured we had free passage. So many guys and girls from Warri bonded together to make sure we were never broke in school or lacking in anything. It was always a pleasure to be of help to one another.
I enjoyed numerous favours from my Ibibio community, but I was awestruck by the loyalty from the Warri community because we were from different tribes but bound by an unwritten code of loyalty.If I were in a position of power today and had an opportunity to help just one person. If two people were in desperate need of that help; one Ibibio and the other Waffi, it would be very difficult for me to choose.
Warri may have been ravaged by tribal wars due to greed of some elders of crude oil producing communities, but the unwritten code of brotherhood has always prevailed. On Facebook and other social media, we are always excited to meet or know one another.
Maybe the Nigerian government should begin a study on what makes the unwritten Warri code of brotherhood so unbreakable. It might just be the answer we need to sustain national peace and unity.
Waffi people, I troway salute for una oooo…una dohhhhhh!!!