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NIGERIA: The Rebranding of the City of Warri – A Personal Experience

I left the shores of Nigeria in 1984 to “God’s own country”, the United States of America (USA) to seek greener pastures and for the actualization of self esteem, after a few years spell as a journalist with one of the country’s top tabloids, the Punch. Deep down in me, I still remember with nostalgia the feeling of the good old days, when as a young man in his twenties, what the oil city of Warri can offer an individual with self belief.
Night Clubs and hangouts were countless. Among the pack were Gogo Room, Paradisco, Pemmy, De-Rabbit, Lido and the Lords.  Others were Beach Combers, with an almost white or foreign patronage. Night life in “Waffi” as it was popularly known was super, as there was action and fun from Monday to Monday. There was never a dull moment.
The political evolution in Nigeria with its complexities brought to the fore, issues of marginalization, resource control, ethnic militancy, industrial unrest, religious extremism, kidnappings, assassination and a plethora of social maladies.
While in the United States, I swore (but not in the name of the ancestors) never to return to Nigeria, nay Warri, for fear of my life and those of my siblings living with me over there. But as an African with entrenched family ties, the lure and savvy of the West did not make my sojourn complete. I still dreamt of my country, my relations in Warri and even classmates of my alma mater, United College of Commerce (UCC) Warri.
An occasion presented itself when it became imperative, inevitable and a compulsion for me to travel home- the death and burial rites of my uncle’s wife and to see my younger brother who lost his wife.  The thought of having to visit Warri gave me, my wife and children goose pimples. I had sleepless nights as a lot of things were running through my mind, no thanks to the gory stories posted on the internet and other social media platforms.
As a typical ‘Warri boy’ with the perception of the local parlance of “all die na die”, I had no option than to book my flight to Nigeria.
While in Warri, I slept with one eye open for the first two nights while anticipating the much talked about gun shots rendering the air. I did not hear of one. Could that be a ruse? I asked within one. Three days and the fourth. No bomb blast, no kidnap story.
What looked like a semblance of peace and tranquility in Warri became a reality when on valentine day, I ventured into night life at a resort located in the old airport area.  What I saw was unbelievably true – couples and loved ones hanging out and enjoying themselves in the spirit of conviviality, exotic cars  in the parking lot, with ushers and protocol staff on hand.
To satisfy my curiosity, I asked a guy sitting close to me, if the location of the resort was outside the city of Warri. “This is Warri” he retorted. He volunteered further “why do you ask”… “Are you new in town”? He fired back. I told him of the negative impression I have about Warri. Immediately, he offered to take me to other event centre, where a Valentine carnival was equally holding.
The Brownhill Events Centre was organising a show tagged “Warri Again,” the Valentine edition as it is called, reminded me of the first class events in Hollywood and  the Grammy Award and Oscars. The red carpet setting was unimaginable. The Hall was packed full. It was reminiscent of the lovely evening of yester years. I wondered aloud and told my new found friends that I will relish this experience for a long time to come. I immediately put a call through to my wife. In our discussion, we struck a consensus to come back to Nigeria with our children for an Easter bash of Warri Again at the Brownhill centre, which I gathered has been fixed for April 18th which is the Good Friday of the Easter celebration.

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