Dear Port Harcourt,
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I was born in your heart. The first soil I set foot on when I came to earth was yours. I grew up right there in your heart. I played the ‘obiobios'(hide and seek), climbed ‘angala'(mangrove trees), swam in your salty waters and enjoyed your ‘atabala'(tilapia fish) dishes, as well as your cheerful warmth and promise of a continued future there.
The Port Harcourt I grew up in was indeed one to remember with nostalgia. It had a tourist beach, functional zoo, working biscuit company, successful and nationally recognized TV series like Hot Cash (Willy Willy), etc.
It had little or no concern about the line of divergence between indigenes and non-indigenes. The opportunities were surplus and we had companies like Panalpina, Elf, Shell, Michelin Tyres, etc spread all over the city with white men in their numbers. We had end-of-year parties hosted by these companies and we got ‘oyibo’ gifts and toys that tickled our childhood fancies. Port Harcourt was the dream city. People relocated from Lagos and other cities to be here.
What went wrong?
Now, before this post gets rejoinders from people pointing out how fabulous the city is and how I should not have done a post to throw it in an appalling beam, please be aware that I would never put any city down just for the heck of it. I love the city of my birth and it beats me that there is a generational slumber and intentional ‘pull-the other camp-down’ as well as ‘rise-and-rule-above-all’ tendencies becoming the pulse and direction of this city.
Needless to say, the aforementioned companies have left one by one and the attractions of old that the city had have become descant.
So, what went wrong, my PH?
Greed and insecurity first snatched away the companies. White men were chased and kidnapped and their investments were no longer secure in the state and it’s sister states. They left in droves with their support for the state’s economy, ideas, monies and companies.
Fast forward to today…What is going wrong with the city?
Individuality. Pride. Social and political gangs.
Invididuality has eaten and is still eating this city rotten. The collective communal living that served as a support framework for progress has been replaced by attempts by individuals and their political and social ‘gangs’ to reign supreme over the others. And this cuts across diverse and vital sectors – government, entertainment, business, media, religion, etc. The tussle for supremacy by these individuals and gangs is real and uncomforting.
Instead of looking for the second eye to make all complete and have more complete eyed residents, one eyed men are rising to claim kings over the blind…
My friends constitute the supposed light bearers for the city and they ought to be the ones running it…but so far, I have seen more of the triumph of competitive ‘run down’ than proper running even amongst them. I have also seen more of the pooling of persons to achieve individual gains instead of communal progress and the shrouding of the strength of purpose of these people.
Also, the city seems to have more rapid exports of her remarkable human resources and dwindling or no imports of such. It seem ‘suffocating’ for true talents so they become exports quicker than their platforms or skills can be supported/retained to attract the outside world to the city. So far, those who do well here do attract the outside world, yet sadly, they come to pick them and take them away to other cities or climes.
The likes of Perez Tigidam left the city and have become relevant in other cities and his story is not the only one. He left a framework that would ‘touch’ Port Harcourt and I pray it eventually does and doesn’t become another tossed vision to the debris of noble attempts. Eddie Izycs got closer to his true worth over in Lagos than he could get back in his base in PH. Excruciatingly, some of Port Harcourt’s noteworthy programmers and creatives have either moved on to another city or other things, lost their touch or get too underappreciated and go broke.
Today, I see a new crop of individuals eager to make their name and social gangs (musicians, comedians, entrepreneurs, church members etc) or political gangs known even more than to make the city progress collectively. They raise their kinds and empty pride is the imaginary throne they sit on yet live in squalor and pecuniary lack and are bereft of ideas that truly transform societies or are too busy trying to amass for themselves and their ilk first.
The city of my birth has seemed worst off than it was with every other year. Sadly, the people and government seem less visionary than their predecessors and leave the path ostensibly dimmer for their successors. While sirens blare over decaying infrastructure and ‘red zone’ watersides, pride sits in the heart of her residents and every other person seem to try to oust the other.
I sob for this city with all its potentials and yet limitied by the lack of foresight and lack of unity. Let’s never assume it is okay. We need to wake up and make it okay.
Dear Port Harcourt, there has to be a conscious effort to make the whole city progress, not a tribe, ‘gang’ or crew.
The people running Mould Break are doing a remarkable job at repositioning the mindset of the coming generation. Marketplace Apostles have done their bid too but do surely need a generational shift and handover. I know of a theatre troupe that was started and was doing a good job at social reorientation with live stage dramas at Hotel Presidential but I don’t know if they are still up and running.
A few years ago, I took a look at the ‘Greater Port Harcourt’ master plan in their office and couldn’t help but notice that it was indeed a great vision that only needed to be lifted off and generational input made to it as the people progress and handover to succeeding generations. Sadly, even its ‘overseer in chief’ seemingly abandoned it for other political pursuits.
We all need to collectively become aware of what needs to be done to become better and get committed to seeing it happen with the help of all who are willing to be part of it.
I never lost my love for Port Harcourt. I will always seek for the city’s progress.
The Elfs, Shells, Panalpinas and the likes that were in this city did not just wash over from the rivers or grow from its soil. They were attracted to the city and their presence helped build the socio-economic progress of the city. They are all gone today. There were indigenes and none indigenes that were instrumental to their being here as well.
Dear Port Harcourt resident/indigene, what have you attracted to the state that is adding value and wealth to it?
If the people of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s could attract the pulse of the economy (Oil & Gas) to the state back then, the people of now need to attract the pulse of the new economy (Tech and digital disruptions) to the state as well else they fail their generation. We can’t look back and try to bring back the companies that ran the city before. We need to look ahead and bring in the companies that will run the world from the city even as we create and build our own as well.
It’s a new year. The best we can do is to wake up to the truth and realize that it will take a committed vision and the efforts of all in key sectors to make Port Harcourt greater than it has ever been. It will take unity too.
Let the government be open to ideas that will transform the state. Let them make the state secure and conducive for investors.
Let the residents do away with disunity and strive for the collective progress of the state. Let them do their part by treating one another well and pursue communal peace and progress.
Let creatives and skilled persons come together and forge out solutions as well as support eachother in making them happen. Let them be the thriving alteration that will transcend the state.
Let Port Harcourt be great.
Let Rivers flow with ideas that will be established and elevate the state.
God bless Port Harcourt.
Philip Asuqotes is a strategy consultant, poimen and futurist. He studied Mass Communication in the University of Nigeria Nsukka and has been active in the sphere of branding and public relations. He is the convener of PAQ SESSION, a live intellectual and thought leadership summit.
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