“Tami, are you not going to fish today? The sunshine must have penetrated the river and the fishes would be awake by now!” my mama called from inside the hut. “The day is still young mama, I will soon go.” I shouted back. I looked up and saw the sun high in the sky, yet I felt reluctant to go. I stared across the horizon and felt an invisible darkness creeping upon the land. Usually, I would wake up at the first stroke of dawn and rush to the river. Now, the joy that the first rays of the early morning sunshine brought had receded. It had been replaced by a vague feeling of emptiness that had refused to go ever since the oil wells were installed.
My name is Tamilore. I live in a small village in the Southernmost part of Nigeria, an area of land called the Niger Delta because that is where the River Niger flows into the Atlantic ocean, dividing into many rivulets or tributaries. One of these rivulets is very close to my home. We are predominantly fishermen and this river is our mainstay. When I was fifteen, oil was discovered in the village. As I grew up, I saw my environment change rapidly before my very eyes. For the first time, there was electricity, and government provided a school for the community. For a while, the tides of change were positive.
Then, gradually, the adverse effects of uncontrolled oil exploitation began to seep in. Now, five years later, I was twenty and my source of livelihood was being severely threatened. The river had been badly polluted due to oil spillage. The fishes were dying and the water had become unfit for drinking. Soon, I started slowly across the creeks towards the river. Usually, when I got to the river, I would stand for a while on the shores of the river, admiring the beauty of my habitat. Then, I would find a suitable spot around the river, where I would sit, watching lazily as the water shimmered and the fishes danced in it.
I could wait there for a long time, just staring at the water and dreaming, until I sighted Seigher. I would watch as she approached me, her big fetching bowl balanced on her head. She would smile at me, showing her small, white teeth. She had dimpled cheeks and hazel eyes. She would come to me and embrace me, then we would go fishing together. Today, I was so late that I didn’t need to wait there for Seigher. She was already there, sitting on a tree branch. I realized her face was solemn and grim.
“Tami!” she called as I walked towards her, “John is dead!” she cried. She ran to me and I held her in my arms. She sobbed on my shoulder, pouring out her grief. “What happened” I asked, not believing that my best friend, and Seigher’s brother was dead. “It was the soldiers. They thought he was a militant. Oh Tami, he’s gone!” I held her in my arms and comforted her. I felt a deep bore in my heart, so deep it penetrated into my core and made me feel the impending doom.
I stared at the river, the water used to be clear and colorless, but now it was glowing under the sunlight, various colors radiating from the oily face. I could see dead fishes under the water and the smell of oil was thick in the air Then I realized that everything we had was slipping away into oblivion.