Saturday 30 November 2019

The Neighbourhood I Grew Up

The neighbourhood I grew up 
I was thinking this morning.... about the neighbourhood I grew up. As I drove along this earth road in a certain suburb of Lagos, I noticed this mango tree on top a waste dump site. Some will imagine that the fruit of this tree should be contaminated, but no, they are as succulent as any other mango fruit, evident by the number of kids throwing sticks at the tree. If there will be any difference, it will be that the fruit from this tree will be more nutritious. As I considered why the toxic environment the tree grew did not affect the quality of the fruits, I remembered the neighbourhood where I grew up.

I grew up in a neighbourhood in Warri in the 70s where the average number of children per 'Room and Parlour' (R&P) was six. With each compound (or yard) having an average of 6 R&Ps, you can imagine the number of children in the neighbourhood. Our compound, No. 6 Ogboru street, was strategically positioned like Abuja in the midst of Nigeria. Our compound, though in Ogboru street, is bounded to the east by another compound, 15b Father Healey street, while just over the fence at our backyard was Okandeji street. So, I can say that Ogboru, Father Healey and Okandeji streets were the neighbourhood were I grew up. 

Our neighbourhood in Warri was one in which violence was common. Fathers beat children routinely for misdemeanors. The boys 'set blows' and 'kpokpo' each other while the 'jagudas' and 'bomas' terrorise everyone else. To show how rife violence was, there was a saying in the neighbourhood 'Threathen na water, Action dey blood.' In this neighbourhood, when children in the same compound quarrel, the fight will be between the parents. In one instance, there was a big fight between a family in 15A Father Healey and another in 15B. The fight was so serious that one father used cutlass on the other father, almost killing him instantly but for God. Wow! We saw so many fights that I cannot but thank God I did not end up being a street fighter. 

In the neighbourhood where I grew up, during the holiday and at weekends after having breakfast, children are literally pushed out of the house to go play outside. This was the period when television stations resumed at 4pm and closed at 10pm. When outside, the good, bad and ugly children from within and without the 'yard' all come together to play. In the process, negative traits are freely distributed. On one occasion, my elder brother had a close shave with prison when two of the compound boys accompanied him on an errand to buy books at a bookshop at Robert road, Warri. Unknown to him, the boys had stolen from the shop. The security men gave them a chase and my brother was caught and roundly beaten for an offence he did not commit. Thank God that we did not end up as petty thieves.

I grew up in a neighbourhood in Warri where we visited 'oyibo dirty' to scavenge for old comic books and toys. Our parents didn't understand that we needed toys and love comic books. Our only access was to visit the waste bins in front of the large compounds with lush green gardens in the high brow area we called SS Quarters (Senior Staff quarters). Yes, we scavenged the bins of expatriates hoping to find broken toys and comic books no longer needed by their kids, but thank God, we did not end up feeling like the dregs of the society or having an inferiority complex.

The neighbourhood I grew up was not all bad news. There was lots of love, openness and laughter. We were active and did things in the innocency of our hearts. I cannot say that every child that grew up in my neighbourhood turned out great, but we believed that we can be what God created us to be. Truth is, yes the environment or neighbourhood you grow up influences how you turn out in future, but what is most important is nurturing the seed of success and greatness God put in you. Think about it, if the fruits of a mango tree that grows on a sewage dump site don't smell or taste like shit, then why should you reflect the negativity of your neighbourhood or environment? 1st John 3:9 says 'No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.' What I still do not understand though, is why so many good men and women get into government in Nigeria and come out smelling like filth.

Happy Sunday.

......Just the thoughts of a certain Wey Mey. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I can relate very well with this lovely piece, my mum spent a year in Warri during her nurse training.


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