From the very moment I landed in my home town- Warri, I was forced to drop my Queen’s English for Waffi. Waffi is the common partoi in Warri. I even dropped my regular pidgin. Waffi can aptly be defined as Warri Culture- that is anything and everything pertaining to Warri especially the Language and the general hustle. I learnt to communicate in slangs and broken English. Familiar words like “eat” became “chop”, “to meet” becomes “colide” or “jam” “Garri” is “Gaffi”, “Father” or “Pa” is “Paleh”, “Mother” or “Ma” is “Maleh”, “brother” is “bros” sister “Sist”, a Thief or “Robber” is “Omila” “Steal” or “Rob” is “Obtain”, “The Law” or “Law Enforcement” is “Kongo” “Arrest” is “Cramp”, “Warri is “Waffi”; I even had to adjust to Warri phonetics in which “Change” is pronounced “Shanje”. Every “ch” sound is pronounced “sh” and “g” sound sounds as “j”. Warri people will look at you disapprovingly if you append “s” or “es” to plural- you simply add “dem” e.g. the plural of “boy” is “boys dem”, – “girl” is “All The Girls Dem”.
While pidgin is not wholly a new experience for me, a Lagosian, I was finding out that Warri English (pidgin) is more expressive, and emphatic. Everybody, from school pupils to politicians, even pastors and Imams, and market women dem, speak the common pidgin. You also find that folks here are never timid, they talk at the top of their voices, even when whispering. Warri no dey dull. Warri is loud.
Everything I ever knew linguistically was being re-aligned. It is proper to describe my dilemma as a culture shock. For respite, I hooked up with Bros Eghosa author of “To Saint Patrick” and “Fine Boys”, who lives and work in this Oil City. That guy could as well be a Lagosian for his frequent visit there. But I came away with a conclusion that “blending” (fitting in) is the way to go. Bros Eghosa na full Waffirian, in fact Bros Dr. Eghosa Imasuen invented Pidgin, literarilly speaking. From literate indigents of The Oil City like my bros, you hear phrases like “all the whole”, “every-every”, “anyhow, anyhow”, “any which way”.
Ordinary word have different meanings in Warri parlance. “Jam” means “meet” e.g. “I met Eghosa at a Bookstore” in Waffi is “I jam Eghosa for one Bookstore”. “Collide” is yet another word which has been appropriated into Waffi “I go collide you for the club this night” is to say: I will meet you at the club tonight”.
Names like Warri, or Garri are simply recognised as “Waffi” and “Gaffi”. why this is so and how it come to be beats me. I didn’t bother to ask so as not to appear illiterate and silly. Waffi (Warri semantics) is a faculty in it’s own right.
Warri Boys dem walk the walk, all the Girls dem dress the part. The little Child can’t wait to grow up to become Big Bros or Big Sist. Every twilight you see boys and girls dem strolling the streets gaily in their Sunday Bests, running things and being fly.
One of the many nice things about this multi-layered City Of Warri is that everybody is everybody’s keeper. One hustler can buy a whole bar for all, and all can buy a whole bar for one. Even when they “obtain you” that is rob you, they do it nicely. And if you know who has robbed you, you will recover your stolen items if you can approach the thief or his relative within 24 hours.
Life is so easy in Warri that the people find the need to make it a little hard sometimes. But could you believe no one in The Oil City of Warri knows what a Point Of Sales (POS) is. Cashless, to waffi people has a different meaning from what the Lagosian think of it. Not the businessmen and women, not even the bankers are familiar with e-payment. Any thing outside of ATM, Warri no know. I know better than look for Ewa Agoin in Warri. What you get here is “oil beans” pronounced “oyel bins’ otherwise what you get is “dry beans” (beans cooked without oil- dry bins).
The more common street food in Warri is A kind of “unleaven bread” called Kpokpo Biskit in the Efurun, Uvwie, Udu, Ugborikoko areas; and “Madiga Biskit” in the Iyara, Pesu, McIver Ogbe-Ijoh Main Market and NPA areas; but Akpu Biskit in the Agbasa, GRA, and Enerhen areas. While this snack is very filling going in, it is very congesting going out. Discretion while snacking on this Biskit is virtue. Warri no be Lagos. I don’t expect the bole seller or mama put, or the bus conductor to wield a POS; Lagos has not even gotten to that. But I am sure Warri don carry last in that aspect. A banker even asked me to describe a POS, and I looked silly. So I kept my knowledge and Lagos concept of cashless to myself.
Okada here is Cheap and decent. For as low as fifty Naira one can enjoy a 20-30 minutes ride- in heavy or light traffic, despite the extra-high pump price of fuel in this Oil City. The Riders are adequately kitted and clean. Warri Okada riders are polite, though they also overtake on the wrong side, but they make a point of horning before overtake, and are apologetic about breaking traffic rules . But the taxis are different; the cabs are mostly decrepit, with parts falling off, and tattered interior. The taxis take only three passengers at the back and two at the front seat. A Taxi drop in Warri go for as low as N300. The drivers are honest, at least they have that ready genuine smile, are civil to passengers and are helpful to colleagues. Even the lunatics keep to their lanes in Warri.
Eating at restaurants is a little costlier in Warri. A plate of Fried Rice with Quarter Chicken could cost as much as N1,800, and a cup of Ice cream goes for as much as N300. Beers and soft drinks have Discretional Value Added Taxes, but a heavy drinker can still have a great time hanging out with friends and acquaintances. Eating at Mama Put is wise and pocket friendly. The banga Soup is a great delight.
On my first night and morning, I couldn’t find a mai shai till i discovered Hausa Quarter. I couldn’t find coffee to buy at Iyara, my area, not even sachet Nescafe instant Coffee. But before I got paranoid, searching for the Elixir of Life, one nice Warri Girl pointed me to the right path, pun intended. Her name was Anita but I know that was a “stage name I could have forgotten the name if I hadn’t associated it with Pink Panties. I never get to find out her real name. No need. Although I form “fairy” for her that evening, but I never again played that kind of a sucker afterwards. Warri Girls Dem, aren’t dull. They’re are sharp as they are kind and caring.
I am still here in The Oil City of Warri. I hope to become fully inducted into Wafirianism before I take off back to Lasgidi. I wonder if I wouldn’t get another culture-shock now that Fashola has banned Okada in Lagos State, and enforced other radical changes- those inimical changes. By the way, the Government of Delta State is also banning Okada in Warri as well as other cities in the state. The good people are welcoming the “shanje” because the people-oriented policy of gradually phasing out Okada by the introduction of Keke has not caused any unnecessary hardship to the citizenry nor create automatic unemployment for Okada Riders. Well, Lagos is a different story, and Warri is clearly in the Lead. The reason for this is not far-fetched.
While Lagosians say “Eko oni’ baje”, The Wafirians say “Warri No Dey Carry Last”.