An Elegy Written in a Niger Delta Village By Binaebi Miederi Oyeghe


Egberi o! 

Egberi o!
Stories have legs and can trek to the end of the desert. Tales have wings and can fly across the ocean. Legends have fins and swim in the deepest sea. Epics are winds that sweep across the world. History is a museum of pain and sweetness.
The ears of the world have heard our gloomy tales. The eyes of the sky have shed an ocean of tears. The heaven wails with the canons of thunder and frowns with the fires of lightening. Angry hurricanes flash through the creeks and furious typhoons wander the wasteland, waking up earthquakes of agitations to swallow the swamps.
How could nature’s groom shut his eyes to the senseless rape of his beautiful bride? The mangrove stands in naked dryness. Their broom-thin roots house in their veins sagas only the dead can tell. But here in the Niger Delta death is life and life is death. The swamp is the realm of the living dead. The river is our grave! The river is our latrine! The river is our refuse dump! The river is our drinking well! The river is our life! The river is our death! Our world is the river! The river is our world! Don’t cork your eyes to the haunting chant of the swamp dwellers.
From the quiet forest of Otuogidi began our journey of hope. Oloibiri became pregnant and beget billion barrels of black gold. Nature has a potent and powerful manhood! The whole of our swampland frolic with bulging stomachs and the nation swim in petro-dollars, singing sweet songs of oil boom: grumble the groundnut pyramids of the North, beetles and weevils feast on abandoned cocoa plantations.
From the ancient banks of Grand Bonny, Opobo, Okrika, Nembe, Brass and Akassa the creek stretched its fertile womb to the bragging beach of Bomadi and the boasting bush of Burutu. The oil birth-song flowed from swapping lips in rolling torrent like the tide Tereke, breaking on the sleeping banks of our golden creeks.
It was season of beatitude when songs of sweetness spread on the wings of the howling wind.
It was a season of drumming when the waves rolled in joyous ecstasy, caressing the whirling bottoms of the dancing creeks.
It was a season of laughter when the fertile fingers of nature touched the wombs of Forcados and Escravos.
It was a season of feasting when Ekeremor, Egbemo-Angalabiri and the people of the distant waters erupted like a volcano and robbed the dead of their quiet sleep as Bonga, Opukusi, Cloff-Creek, Ogbotobo, Tunu, Ageh and Agbamu oil fields vomited billions of barrels of oil between one sunset and the next.
It was a season of carnival when the womb of the raging ocean couldn’t guard it juicy thighs to the libido of nature, the Middleton pissed millions of barrels before the legs of the sun could walk across the sky and Foropa whirled in Angalapele dance, burying their ancient discord beneath the root of ancient songs.
It was a season of bliss and mirth when united Koluama bathed in visions of a brighter tomorrow in the flourishing black gold spring of Penniton, shaming its neighbouring rivers; the Nun, Brass, Sangana, St. Nicholas, Santa Barbara, St. Bartholomew, Ramos, Fishtown and their finger creeks; the Taylor Creek, Ikebiri Creek, Digatoro Creek, Apoi Creek, Igbedi Creek, Epie Creek, Dobo Creek, Ikoli Creek, kolo Creek and Nembe Creek.
It was a season of animated cheerfulness as Ogboinbiri and Oporoma natives drown in kegs of palm wine when the tongue of black gold licked the banks of their squalid villages.
Infinite glories of paradise, the countless baskets of treasures saturate the forest of ogoniland, scramble for space in the creeks of Ogoni and they sang and sacrificed to the goddess of fertility.
Danced the Delta with the nibbling feet of masquerades. Odi slaughtered a hundred bulls on the laughter of Ogori ba uge. Amassoma racked countless canoes of fishes when the spirit of Seigben Uge gripped the wake of their clan. Our village barns burst with harvest as we feasted in seasons of Buru fe Uge when we paddled canoes of songs down peaceful creeks.
The dead woke to the magic of our drum and dances. Bones of old waists grew young on the miracle of electrifying drums in village squares to the beckoning waves of prosperity.
The great oak tree is only a nut that holds its ground. Even the iroko will fall if you uproot the muscles that bind it the earth. When a river forgets it source it dries up. Beautiful things carry sorrows in their bosom.
Because we didn’t listen to those who saw beyond the walls of yesterday and failed to dance to the patriotic drums of the Delta when our woes were like a bucket of sand poured into the River Nun, now our songs of prosperity are broken into fragments by the cranes of crude oil. Our dirges whirl at the bottom oil wells.
Derricks drill our ogeles and gathers our uges to the bottom of oil wells and burns the hands of clapping natives in the flames of gas flare. Our ruptured drums are silent in the bottom of oil wells. Our dancing legs are chained high on the cranes of drilling derricks and the “Oil Lions” roar down nautical miles with the shackles of our dispirited solace.
Why is life so unkind to us? What wicked twist of fate? What a cruel murder of the sweetness of our land and creeks? Young tears are flowing freely on the face of old laughter.
Even the lucky dead buried beneath our aching feet now vigil in eternal torment. Their wretched bones scattered in the bottom of oil wells. At each fall of the flood instead of new fishes to enter the bowels of our creeks, mountainous debris of oil spillages lord the creeks.
Let us break the coconut and it will shed the blood of our history- our black blood. Human cargoes carted away and piled up in slave ships like bags of crayfish to sail across the Atlantic; blood still singing in the blue depths of the “Middle Passage”. Akassa Raid, Gunboat Diplomacy. Ha! Hail the Queen. The butchering of Africa in Berlin’s kitchen table: just an anticlimax of the vultures feast in Africa. Colonial subjugation- “Nigeria we hail thee! Tribes and tongues may differ but in brotherhood we stand.” The Royal Niger Company raided the Oil Rivers for palm oil like Caribbean pirates to fuel the industrial revolution in Europe. Our blind forefathers signed treaties of bondage under gunpoint with the Bible in the white man’s hand. Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord to shine the light of capitalism on their bread of darkness, not life, with the crude denial of our civilization. Lord Lugard forced the North and the South into a marriage of convenience. British Oil Rivers Protectorate, Niger Coast Protectorate: to protect who? King Jaja of Opobo had asked them. Say you are protecting your colonial interest. From British colonialism to indigenous colonialism- the baton changed hands!
The carnival of vultures only changed the coat of their skins like chameleons.
The carnival of vultures only changed their dance steps to the drumbeat of new the song of oppression.
The carnival of vultures only changed their costume in the drama of cruelty.
For the reckless rape of our land and creeks, THEIR BLOOD and OUR BLOOD will flow through this tireless season of holocaust because our land is our right. What is ours is ours. They have the federal might; they can send their warships and soldiers. We will fight for our rights, defend our land and creeks with the last drop of our blood; the fallen fears no fall. The dead fears not the darkness of the grave. To save the land of our fathers for the benefit of our children is a task that must be done!


—Culled from a work in progress. All Rights Reserved—