I holds B A Hons. degree in History/computer. Writing is a way for me to relax and release energy. I express my feelings in songs or poetry.
You give a person a fish to eat and he or she still gets hungry. You teach him to fish and they say he feeds himself and others. This can be true figuratively about any job, but not to a fisherman. He or she is at the mercy of the tides, the effects of the moon on the river, rainfall, and other unnatural phenomena. Fishing is a risky job.
I know of a man who ventures to the high seas for a fishing expenditure, but didn't return. His corps was found drifting down the coast with the rising tide! He was an old man, and had lost strength swimming to shore.
- The English connection.
- The fishing culture.
- Exchange economy.
- Inji kombo: The fisherman friend.
The English Connection
Okrika or Wakirike is my home town. It is an Island surround on all sides by water. It's washed by the Great Atlantic. Okrika, the story goes that in the distant past as the Englishman land on the Island, he had problems learning the Local Wakirike Ijaw dialect. So, Wakirike becomes Okirika, in the Englishman pronunciation, and later corrupted to Okrika. Wakirike, he’ll say Okirika. And so, the word Okrika sucks on maps and documents.
J. R. Wilson-Affenden in his historical essays wrote that he learned the local Hausa language for administrative works. But this is far from being perfect. Nevertheless, he still has problems saying the local words correctly. The reverse is also true of the local peoples pronouncing the English or foreign words correctly. The challenge is widespread in the Niger Delta among missionaries, traders, and explorers.
A Maritime English Vessel of the 16th Century
The Fishing Culture
The Wakirikenes’ or Okrikans are fishers by nature. Fishing is the first and foremost occupation, because 'wa ozu yanake' we had no large agrarian farmlands. Salt making and trade in goods and services follows. Any time a complete stranger meets an Okrika man, the stranger usually ask the later for fish to eat anywhere at any time.
But we had big fishing ports and fishing villages. Men and women, boys and girls above 10 years fish in the rivers, creeks, and promontory turn either alone, or with friends, parents, and relations.
My grandfather is foremost a fisher man. When the English Anglican missionaries bring the Bible with their point man the legendary Bishop Samuel Ajai Crowther, he embraced the Anglican Communion and learn woodwork.
At the age of 10, I learned to fish. I catch tilapia, sardines, and mullets. These are my pathways. Three of my boys like to go fishing with me. At odd moments, they are on their own.
: Fishing is risky. It depends on favorable, seasons, the influence of the moon on the rising and falling of the tides. In certain odd weeks fishes do not appear in the rivers, seas, and creeks, thought the fishes abound in the waters. So, if one is not well experienced, or ignored advice, he or she will be waiting all the time and efforts for venturing into the river will bring failure.. It also depends on the type of fishing net one uses. Sizes vary, and you will disappoint yourself with the wrong fishing net or gear.
Now, when this happens, the “Inji Kombo” or fisher man friend returned home empty hand. Sullen, angry, and hungry, he may lost his/her temper at the slightest provocation.
Hardship at Fishing
A Fishing Venture
Making a New Fishing Net
Okrika, before the arrival of the missionaries and explorers, seems like Japan where fish is mostly eaten. It is fish food for breakfast, launch, and supper. Farm products like plantains, yams, leafy vegetables and assorted fruits, legumes, and rice are hard to come by. The exchange economy is bartering as in all subsistent economy. Fresh or dried fish and seafood are exchanged for all these agrarian products with neighboring upland towns, villages, and communities. The Oginigba, the Ogonis, Abua, and Odual supplies the Okrikans with agrarian food items. I was told that my grandfather took his dried mudskippers to the Elelewo markets, and sold to these people who are big-time agrarian farmers.
My uncle J.A. Fiberesima (now late) wrote that without the exchange economy of fish foods with the agrarian foodstuffs, the Okrikan peoples would starve. There is no money to buy goods and service back then.
In a personal interview I had with a Pa Jonah Fiberesima (also late) during my University days for project work, he confirmed the issues. He further told me that the Abuloma peoples of Okrika as farmers only produced for self-subsistence. His words 'wa ozu yanake' that's being translated we have no big farmlands confirmed the subsistence agrarian economy.
The Poem: Inji Kombo: The Fisher Man Friend
Inji Kombo: The Fisher Man
Britain ruled the waves, for slaves and spices.
Wakirikenes brave the sea for fishes and food.
Okolo konbo: you the stubborn fisherman friend,
fishing in the rivers, creek, and the promontory turns.
Okolo konbo Tubo Lake:
ever fishing in the creeks but never reaching the end
Like intercourse between a man and a woman!
The snake could not further the end of the cave!
How deep it is!
Okolo Konbo: Stubborn fisherman
Ever fishing for seafood,
we will not eat if we had no fish.
And we starve.
Wa ozu yanake: we had no big agrarian farmlands.
We fish to barter
fish for yams and plantains.
We fish to barter crabs for cassava with the Ogonis.
We fish to eat.
We fish exchanging fish for all agrarian fruits and veggies more matter.
Okolo Konbo: stubborn fisherman
Ever fishing in the rivers, creeks, and the promontories,
like the mermaids that invade the waterfronts.
And you build a shanty to stay the day and night.
And its vast expanse,
that becomes a major fishing village.
Okrika fishing villages,
The Obumoto country.
Okolo Konbo: stubborn fisher man
Iyo Kuro me: my friend it is hard and risky!
Have you brought a handful?
To drink garri? Or soak with cassava flasks
Few sardines to garnish freshly roast corns in red palm oil?
Okolo kombo, iya inji idani:
stubborn fisher man where are the fishes?
Raiding the rivers, creeks, and far away seas.
Like the mermaids,
for three days and night
There is no bowl of fish!
I Go a Fishing
Plan for a Fishing Career
The fishing culture is still the predominant traditional subsistent economy of the Wakirikes (the Okrika peoples). It's a very risky job. But it has at the end supply the people with protein and plant products. I still engaged in fishing to keep fresh fish on my table. At the university, I based by project work partly on fishing economy.
- The Cultural Heritage of the Wakirikes (the Okrika) peoples, by E.D W. Opuogulaya, CSS Press, Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
- Okrika in Search of an Ancestry, by J.A. Fiberesima, Evans Bros. Nigeria Ltd.
- Secret Intelligence in the 20th Century, by C. Fitzgibbon, Har-Davis and MacGibbon, London.
- The Red Men of Nigeria, by J. R. Wilson-Haffenden, Frank CASS & CO LTD, London.
- The significance of The War Canoe House in Wakirike (Okrika) Society 1700 - 1900 A.D., by MiebakaGH Fiberesima, a project work, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
© 2019 Miebakagh Fiberesima