The Niger Delta occupies 7.5% of the total land area of Nigeria and was historically a major producer of palm oil with traders living in the area using the Delta and the River Niger as a center for inland trade for oil and outward trade for slaves. Originally covering areas that were part of the ancient Benin and Calabar kingdoms the land determined as the Delta today occupies 70,000 square km and is home to thirty-one million, mainly impoverished people.
Portuguese explorers and traders began their activity the area in the fifteenth century after they reached the mouth of the River Niger in 1470 then from 1806 until the end of that century the British were busy exploring the area, charting its territory and rivers and preparing it for trade, mainly in palm oil which it was hoped would provide financial compensation for the loss of the slave trade that had seen millions of Nigerian slaves shipped to America during the 16-18th centuries.
As part of this exploration George Goldie (right) (1846 – 1925), a former Royal Engineer, had formed the United African Company with designs to resurrect a company modelled on the former East India Company to operate in what is now modern day Nigeria. He worked with others trading in the area and the trading company effectively took control of the Lower Niger River.
It was renamed as the National African Company in 1882 and within two years Goldie and his agents had signed treaties with tribal leaders including the emirs of Sokoto and Gandoalong along the Benue and Niger rivers and had forged deeper into the mainland much to the consternation of local tribes of the interior who understood they had an unwritten agreement that trade would be limited to coastal areas. In 1886 the company was once again renamed as the Royal Niger Company after receiving a charter from the British government authorizing it to administer the Niger Delta and the country on the banks of the Niger and Benue rivers. However this mandate by itself was insufficient to stop the growing role in the area of the state sponsored protectorates of France and Germany who were also jostling for hegemony as well as growing dissent from native tribes of the interior that often broke out into open conflict requiring use of gun boats deployed by the Royal Navy. As such, on 31st December 1899, the Royal Niger Company sold its interests to the British Government for ?865,000 and merged with the Niger Coast Protectorate (formerly the Oil Rivers Protectorate of Brass, Bonny, Opobo, Aobh, and Old Calabar excluding Lagos) to form the Southern Nigeria Protectorate under the control of the British Colonial Office.
As Nigeria began to prepare for independence, the search for oil began in the Delta in the 1950s and by 1956 it was discovered in commercial quantities. Less than two years later it was being commercially produced and sold on the international markets. Today around two million barrels of oil are extracted in the Niger Delta every day making it the world’s eight largest oil producer in a country that remains one of the world’s poorest as the oil revenues largely bypass those living and working outside that industry.
Foreign companies extract the oil and it has been alleged that they do so without regard for local cultures or the local environment which has been ravaged by oil spills, fires, pollution, deforestation and poor waste management. As such, much of the Niger Delta is increasingly uninhabitable with local groups being forced to leave the area. This video of the Niger Delta has some different facts and figures however describes what may happen to the area and its inhabitants should climate change continue to flood the area. After you’ve watch the video explore the Niger Delta using our interactive map below.
How delicate is the heart of a man? It throbs gently at every beat, yet it bears the burden of the man; from the things he loves best, and the things he loathes so dreadful.
Of the things he loves best, was the love of the one he loves so dearly. Her sight twinges a cord in his heart; vibrating in his soul like a fountain drip. Her voice reels echoes of passion in his heart.
She welcomes his homecomings with a blossoming beauty and warmest, cuddling and absorbing into his heart in adorable abundance. So immense, he could hear his heart throbs. Oh! What burdens the heart bears even in love.
So, what burden bears the heart in love? It ponders in jealous, on the one in love. It shirks from believing that this is real. It hears the unspoken words from her; and above all, she is the treasure in his heart.
But of the things the heart loathes most, are the thoughts of a broken love torn asunder by an invisible hand of pretty frail nerve. He can almost hear the echo of aa howling in his thoughts, “You ripped my love into shreds.”
The heart of man is so delicate, soft and tender, it hurt and throbs gently as the ticking of a clock: It tears and bleeds when hurt, yet it is a reservoir of a woman’s love.
IT IS A CHRISTMAS DAY: The green spiral tree in the corner of the sitting room blinked repeated at the old man sitting on a leather upholstery double settee, watching a late-night television program when he heard several gunshots from the neighborhood. He glanced at the ornament wall clock hanging just above the TV set; it was 12 midnight, 24th December.
These were not gunshots; they were firecrackers ushering in Christmas. He smiled to himself and looked at the flickering lights on the Christmas tree in the corner of the room.
He was just recalling what he had experienced a couple of years back. But tonight, another 24th of December, the night was just somber, and placid; just like every other night.
What is missing in the atmosphere tonight that was there at about this time then? He was still sitting in his sitting room as he was then, when the time chimed the midnight hour, yet he could hardly feel the excitement of Christmas.
He looked at the corner of his room and the Christmas tree he had remembered to set up was blinking at him, reminding him of the season he is in. but rather oddly, the tree itself was adding to the silence of the night as the ding-dong-ding musical note was conspicuously absent.
Last two years ago, when he was watching the tree, it was displaying an incendiary of multiple colors of light. He had some queries that he conjured up mentally, such as ‘a Christmas tree; what is the significance of this tree to the celebration of Christmas? What is the origin of this Christmas tree? He had asked himself and made a mental note to check it out on Wikipedia in the morning.
He did actually check it out on Wikipedia, and this is the explanation he found. That, ‘Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce.’
It looks to be an acceptable explanation of the origin of the Christmas tree; that was not his worries tonight. He is worried over what has happened to the Christmas Celebration he had known as a kid way back in his country home, and what is playing ou tonight.
He sat back on the chair and looked at the Christmas tree blinking at him. Is this what Christmas has been reduced to, he mused: Decorating our homes with Christmas tree with shining lights to mark the day of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world.
As he watched the tree, his mind went off to another time and place when as children; they had ushered in Christmas celebration with funfair of singing and dancing in the village.
He recalled how everybody in the village would be coming back home from their various fishing settlements latest two days before Christmas. How they would be lining the waterfront waiting for the new arrivals with shouting and waving of hands.
They would then swoop in on the canoe to help to offload it of its wares, with the owner sharing out fish to them. He could feel the air thick with the smell of the harmattan haze blowing at the trees and sky filled with white sheets of cotton bulbs blown from a giant cotton tree standing in the outskirt of the village.
Many years since he had been a child, he cold still feel nostalgic about the thickness of the aura of the Christmas celebration today
The river which is always in milky color during the rainy season would be a little brighter as the rain has stopped at the coming of the harmattan.
Then as children would gather together to cut palm fronds to decorate the church building for the Christmas. The whole atmosphere would be in a frenzy festive mood.
He stirred on his chair looking blankly at the TV screen. What has happened to our world these days? What is the meaning of the Christmas celebration?
What can the children of this generation tell you about the significance of the celebration? He could feel the emotion they had put up into the significant then, about Christmas.
There was a wooden manger in the church. At about midnight on the 24th of December, all the children would gather at the church, and bearing the manger, would go from house to house around the village, singing, and dancing, announcing to the people that the Savior is born.
He closed his eyes and stretched his hands above his head to relieve the tension in his vein, stood up, walked to the window, and looked outside at the display of the fireworks.
Things are not the same anymore in our world. These are difficult times in our society when suspicious and dread fills every action, and situations are not what they pertained to mean.
How many of these firecrackers are actually not guns shots by night marauders operating under the cover of the season to visit sorrows and pain on unsuspecting folks.
His thought wanders into the past when the celebration of Christmas was a time where families and friends become one. Food was cooked and shared and eaten together from house to house: yes from house to house.
How many people are now going around houses of their families and friends sharing and eating together without a forbearing or without serious casting and binding: yes, casting and binding the Devil in prayers while celebrating celebration of Christmas with their friend.
He closed his eyes again and seemed to see the faces of the children in the villages visiting one another, from house to house and village to village in the bond of Christ love.
Not anymore these days when various factors have conspired together to force the old barricading himself in his house with hardly being filled with the joy of the season.
Oh, God, he yawned and gathered his books together that were scattered on the table. He will not allow the depressed state of the night have the worst part of him.
He wondered how it is only the adherents of the Christian faith that portray a resemblance of joy when gathered together in their Cathedrals. So what is this malaise that is throwing out this Silence Night in a Christ eve?
That I will refused to tell you today, he said to himself, and smiled at the amusement.
“Jesus Christ, bring back your love again to your children so that they would be one with another, and with you and the father.” He prayed silently and turned to put off the Television set. HAPPY CHRISTMAS!
The eagle spread out its wings, gliding and sliding through the vast open sky effortlessly. Its graceful powerful strength concealed while manifesting the beauty of its flight across the sky; praising and worshiping The Almighty for a new day.
The ocean rolls gracefully in rumbling waves, foaming out ecstatically on its crest as it breaks along the coastal line and washes onshore the waters from its depth; even as the tempest rages over the vast ocean, tossing its waters high in a wavy crest: the awesomeness of the Master Craftsman.
Rolling in the ocean’s depth like the Himalayas, the whale gracefully swims against the tide; roaring like the thunder in a stormy gale, the lion declares its royalty in the jungle, while swaying gracefully like a Princess, the palm withstands the fury of the fiery gale, waving its leaves in adoration.
Perched like a marooned ship in the ocean, the oases stand glimmering in the scourging Desert sand; a lifeline to many wandering souls, even as the atoll stands out in the depth of the seas: a beacon of hope to many a wandering ship, thus, I rest like a peck, in the hollow of the arm of the Savior.
The image that imprinted in my memory of him the first day I saw him started floating back to me. How can I stand against myself? What would Vera think of me? But above all, what will Timi do about me? I was like someone floating on air as I went with the boy to pack my loads from our previous house.
It was about 6.30 pm when I came back to the house, dragging my bags with the assistance of the boy. Timi came out from the kitchen to help me with the loads. The kitchen was at the right-hand side of the porch as I came in. Timi helped me to arrange the things in the room and returned to the kitchen.
I came to join him there. “Can I help with some of the chores here, Sir?” I asked as I came to stand by him and watching him slicing an onion.
“I’m trying to boil some rice,” he said turning to look at me with a smile and whipping his forehead with the back of his left hand. “And you don’t have to ask me to do any chores in the house. You are here now; do whatever you think that needed to be done. And don’t act like a stranger, you’re part of the house; feel at home.”
“Loundah, can you tell me who Loundah is?” he asked, over our meal.
“Where do you want me to start telling you about myself?” I asked between mouthfuls.
“Whatever you considered safe to tell a friend. Please, I am not prying into your life, though, on the contrary, I’m just curious to see the spirit in you. A spirit that does not want to give up on life’s pursuit: a spirit that has a purpose.”
“Sir, is that what you noticed about me, or what you were told about me?”
“Please, I would be grateful if we could dispense of the ‘Sir” stuff while you are here, and continue just being Timi and Loundah.” He picked up a glass of water and took a long sip.
I wanted to reach out to touch him and let him know what I think about him, and the torture my heart is undergoing on account of him, but instead, I started telling the story of my life and my ambition.
“Why do you have the interest in becoming a lawyer?”
“It was a childhood ambition,” I told him. “ One day, I went to a court with my Mom when I was younger and saw this beautiful lady putting on that silvery wig and the black gown. That day, I told her that is what I’ll love to be.”
“So, you see when I said you’ve got a very determined spirit of holding onto what you want. I have been with you for a while to know what I see. And in you, I see a spirit of optimistic persistence. You know, life does not always present itself as gold splashed on a coat of wool.” He was looking at me over his plate of half-eaten rice.
“There is always the hard moment which ending is always the beginning of another page, What you have not been able to achieve is the beginning of another page in your life. However, no matter how hard the trial becomes, don’t shelve your dreams. Like a drowning man would hold onto a straw, your dream is your lifeline onto success and achievement, hold onto it.”
My Mom had a cat in our house when I was a child. It cat has this uncanny way of staring at you when you are eating and have not given it a portion. That was the way I was staring at Timi as he purred out his human life’s lesson to me.
Life, they say is a teacher; I’m learning mine here sitting with my friend’s boyfriend in his room.
“…I have some friends in town,” his voice cut into my consciousness. “I will make some arrangement for you to secure a room and complete your schooling. I will talk to your friend Vera when she comes to see me. I have not seen her since they went on the Xmas break. But don’t bother, we will find something for you.”
“Oh, Timi! I‘m so grateful to you for being here today, It would have been a disaster for me.” I reached out and touched his hand across the table.
“Everything has a purpose Loundah: every action of God has a reason,” he said pleasantly and stood up to clear the table.
We carried the plates together to the kitchen. He would not allow me alone to wash the dish but was collecting anyone I washed to clean them with a napkin.
“Do not think about where to sleep. Anyone of us can sleep on the bed or couch,” he said as we went back into the room to listen to the 9.00 pm network News. “You know, this’s a one-room apartment and we must manage it as such.” He was sitting on the only chair in the room while I was stretched out on the couch.
“You have been very grateful to me Uncle Timi,” I said and caught a frown on his face as he turned to regard me.
“When was the last time you heard from Alabo?” the question caught me by surprise.
“Mm… it was sometime before we went on break.”
“Would I be prying into your privacy if I ask you what the problem was about?”
“Well, I don’t think you are prying. Alabo is your friend, probably you can get him to tell you, but as far as I can tell, we don’t have any issue; we just sort of drifted away from ourselves. You know, we have a lot of school activities toward the end of the term and I was not quite disposed in going to Port Harcourt. I think that sort of thing can cause a strain to any relationship, and I think it did to ours.”
“Will it be okay if I step in to mediate as a friend of both parties?” From the dark single colored bulb in the center on the ceiling, I saw him looking at me.
“I will not mind if you can do that, but I am not ready to lay out a red carpet for him, though.”
“Feminine chauvinism is in the air,” he burst into laughter.
“Sir, it’s not, but he can’t discard me on the street and come back, because you intervened, and expects me to embrace him with open arms. Think, Sir, it’s just not that possible.”
“He is not here yet. I think when we get to that bridge we’ll find a way to cross.”
And so we talked on far into the night. I did not know when I fell asleep. I woke up with a start when the clock hanging on the wall started chiming the hour.
I checked the time: 02.00 A.M. I was still lying on the couch but with a pillow under my head and my body covered with a blanket. Timi!
I was not flaunting myself at him, but he knew my feelings toward him. He is too clever not to know, the reason I loved him more. I loved him pure and straight not a mere seductive kind of love, but something greater; something passionate and true: strong as my Mom’s love, but in a different way.
At the end of the first week, I was in the kitchen on a Friday evening when someone came knocking on the door. I opened the door and Vera was standing there with a handbag and her beautiful smile. It vanished the moment she saw me standing at the door.
“Loundah!” Her high pitched voice sounding like a whip in a cold night could be heard at the end of the street, her face transforming into a murderous fiend. “What are you doing here?” she was trying to control her voice but failing miserably on it.
“Will you come inside please, Vera?” I said forcing a smile.
She pushed past me into the room and looked around, searching. “Loundah,” her voice, now a little bit under control, was still very combative. I knew she is forcing herself doing that, and I was so grateful to her. “Loundah, what are you doing in this house?”
I was standing by the door, my back against the post, and looking at her. She was leaning on the chair with her right hand, and the other on her hip, standing on the right leg, the left barely touching the ground looking fiercely at me.
“Vera, I’m so sorry to be here in Timi house. I came to Abonnema as we arranged, at the resumption of class, and the door of our room was locked. The landlord told me that you were not coming back to the house. I was stranded that evening and had nowhere to go.” I walked up to her and held her left hand.
She looked into my eyes. I was not yet shedding tears, but I could feel them gathering up deep inside of me.
“But Loundah, why Timi’s place and you know that he lives alone?”
“Vera, you knew me very well, where else could I go in this town?”
“You should have somehow got a message to me. And you have been here staying with an unmarried man all this time.” She stopped suddenly, looked into my eyes. “Loundah did you, did he …?” And she trailed off.
“Ah, Vera! You are asking me if we were having an affair, right? So, if someone had told you that Timi was having an affair with me, you would have believed it?”
“I don’t know what I would have believed. I could vouch for Timi, but you Loundah; you knew he is a very handsome man any woman would have loved to have: and you have said that severally.”
My heart skipped a beat at that, how very close I had come to ruin my love for my two best friends.
I hugged her, “Vera if you could trust Timi, I am so happy for you. Then you knew I am safe with him.”
“Where is he by the way?” she asked at last.
“He had a message to come to their office. I think he will be back soon. By the way, Vera, do you think you love Timi the way he does to you?”
She looked at me her face glowing in the fading sunlight sipping through the window.
“Why did you ask that?”
“How can you leave him alone for so long here in Abonnema with so many predators swimming around?”
“Babe, I have you to thank for that,” she grinned at me.
“You don’t have me to thank for that. You should have to thank Timi for that. He is a perfect gentleman. Let’s go to the kitchen to have something to eat,” I said turning around, almost colliding against Timi who has just opened the door to come into the room.
He saw me and then caught sight of Vera behind me. “Hello, Vera?” He called and swept by me to her, with only a quick glance at me, but I caught a flash of a shadow on his face and a raised eyebrow at me. I left them in a hot embrace and went to the kitchen, my heart pounding against my chest.
Vera spent the weekend with us and left back for school. She will not be coming back to NGS Abonnema. Their father had got admission for them in another school in Warri. That was quite a long way from here and somehow I was seeing a light in the tunnel.
What’s the matter with you, Loundah, I heard my thought chastising me very loud; but who cares? Timi has got a bug in me and I am not in a hurry to pick it out.
I wonder how he could manage that long-distance relationship with Vera, with my hot breath over his shoulder. It was nothing any of us could help; I looked to him now as my elder brother and a friend: a confident and a counselor.
He helped me to get a room in town so that I could concentrate on my academic works. He comes thrice or twice a week to my house, teaching, encouraging and counseling me, and also seeing to my welfare. Spending hours with me each time he comes.
I began to look towards those visits with some expectations. I had tortured myself thinking he would someday change and to treat me differently, but he never did. He knew my feelings were hot toward him, but I think he was more in control of himself that I did.
Sometimes I think I was grateful that he did, but nonetheless, I needed him far more than just a friend.
31st December: It was on the evening of that day, he came to visit me at my house. We spent the normal time talking and joking till about 9.00 P.M. when he stood up to leave. I was standing by the window and watched him walk to the door.
He paused at the door and turned around. I thought he was going to wave me good night, but he came straight to me at the window and drew me to himself. I lost the will to resist.
After all these years, and all this longing, our kiss was long, passionate and warmly emotional.
Then he was gone. I have never set my eyes on him ever since. I was told they were sent on an emergency special operational duty and got transferred to Lagos afterward, and we lost contact with each other.
Through his encouragement, I pursued and achieved my life ambition; but without him to share my success story, there was a pulsating void created in my life.
Every 31st December evening, for twenty-eight years now, I have been coming outside of my house to catch one of those shooting-stars, shooting away into the Orion; and would imagine that it could be Timi, fading away into a distant mirage, but not from my memory.
In vain I sought after him over the years; for they say ‘what goes around comes around,’ but Timi has not come around these many years. I felt my life marooned in the emptiness of time. In the stillness of such solemn night, been the 31st December, I longed to see him, still feeling the warmth of his parting kiss.