Port Harcourt & Insecurity: Challenging the Narrative! – A few days ago, a member of the Elanhub team alerted me to an event on Twitter. Someone was making an effort at uniting the emerging Port Harcourt Community on the platform. Considering I did not have much doing at the time owing in part to living amid COVID, I decided to engage with the budding Port Harcourt sub-group. I was captivated by the thought that someone or a group of persons had observed that the number of Port Harcourt people on Twitter had increased, and thought it wise to link them up.
On Twitter, it was easy to locate the addressivity marker/hashtag of the group, owing in part to the searchability affordance of the platform. I noticed that some very good-looking guys and girls were posting pictures of themselves. Most of the posts attracted likes, retweets and comments in keeping with the features Twitter avails. As I scrolled through, I said to myself: See market o! Ah, this community will be a good spot to market products o! Don’t mind me, I’m always thinking business.
I was still smiling ear to ear, really excited, when suddenly I noticed a thread of conversation. Someone in the group, lets call him Buba, was sharing his first Port Harcourt experience. He said, the first time he arrived, he enjoyed hospitable gestures from one of the members of the Port Harcourt Twitter Community. The member had bought him his first Bole and Fish.
Bole and Fish is a blend of roasted or grilled plantain with well-seasoned Mackerel fish. This signature Port Harcourt meal/snack, is often served with peppered palm oil sauce, uziza, ugba and other orishishi. It is available in most street corners in Port Harcourt and is largely inexpensive. This explains why most people in Nigeria regard Port Harcourt as the home of Bole and Fish.
Apart from his Bole and Fish experience, Buba also detailed how his previously held view about Port Harcourt has changed. Although he had been warned about safety concerns in Port Harcourt, his lived experience was different. He illustrated this point by stating that this was the first time he has used a phone for up to a year. According to him, in Lagos, his phone usually lasted a maximum of five months. I was really pleased about the positive testimony and decided to read the other tweets in the thread. While some welcomed and encouraged Buba, a few others proceeded to voice what I describe as very misguided opinions about Port Harcourt. I heard myself screaming in The Donald’s voice: FAKE NEWS!
I became instantly troubled. Why are these people insulting my city? Given what we know about Nigeria, how can anyone place Port Harcourt within the ranks of unsafe zones in the country? Boko Haram, the transnational terrorist organisation is ravaging the north. The sect’s unconventional warfare with Nigeria has led to the death of thousands and the displacement of millions. In addition to Boko Haram, the country is still dealing with the danger posed by killer herdsmen in different parts of the country. Mushin Boys and One Million Boys are imminent dangers in Lagos. This is just to mention a few.
Therefore, how can anyone living in Lagos consider Port Harcourt dangerous? Just how pervasive is this false media narrative about Port Harcourt? As a self-ascribed Port Harcourt ambassador, I immediately decided to engage all the “fake news agents”. I was tweeting out replies with the speed of light! Challenging them to provide evidence that suggests Port Harcourt is not safe.
Granted, every major city has challenges, but I am done with the recurring media narrative that Port Harcourt is synonymous with danger! How can a city that houses many oil companies and multinationals that generate a majority of Nigeria’s revenue on a regular basis, be deemed unsafe for everyday Nigerians? Is the predominant negative portrayal deliberate? This is because the negative characterisation of Port Harcourt has grave consequences in terms of foreign direct investment, tourism, and the need to appropriately address the Niger Delta question. While I passionately make the case for Port Harcourt, I think, we all should be ambassadors of our cities and countries. After all, no nation in the world today can claim to be completely devoid of danger.
When I had my fill replying them, I decided to respond to Buba’s tweet by welcoming him to Port Harcourt. I also encouraged him to explore other Rivers State delicacies. I suggested he tried the famous Native/Fisherman soup. He replied asking who will prepare the soup for him. I smiled and tweeted: Close your eyes. Let us take it to the Lord in prayer. He agreed. The Lord has answered! The below video contains a step-by-step process for preparing Rivers Native Soup and will be very useful to Buba. I intend to DM this article to him once it is published. You should try making this soup as well. You will truly relish it!
Meanwhile, to all those spreading false narratives about Port Harcourt, be warned. Elanhub is watching!!!
PS: Port Harcourt and Obio-Akpor local government areas are effectively on lockdown owing to COVID-19. Please stay indoors and be safe! – Port Harcourt & Insecurity: Challenging the Narrative!