The Oasis Reporters
January 2, 2021
By Engr. Robinson Tombari Sibe
Let me start the year on a lighter note (but with serious lessons). I am hoping this will spark a healthy debate and cultural handshake between both cultures.
The Isiokpo bicycle Carnival has received a lot of attention and commendation. Deserving, I would say. I think it’s a brilliant concept. I like the way they played with a simple prop that was an essential symbol of the people.
Culture should not only be limited to excavating practices from 3 centuries ago. The Bicycle symbolism, is one of modern history, and so everyone could relate with it.
Bicycles were introduced in Nigeria by colonials. First, it was an exclusive symbol of transportation for only the rich, but with increased supplies, soon became a regular item in most homes in the 70s through the 90’s. Isiokpo, a prominent City of the Ikwerres, understandably led in the patronage of the two-wheels in that zone of the state.
Therefore, this attempt to recreate the immediate past through this Isiokpo Bicycle Carnival is not only creative, but also instructive. The sight of a man in his singlet and loosely fastened George wrapper, with his shorts protruding through the wrapper slits, chewing away his chewing stick as he pedals gently, could be very nostalgic for anyone that is 35 years and above, who grew up in this part.
While not indigenous, bicycles grew to become part of our modern history and culture, particularly in what is called upland settlements in the state. Good job, Isiokpo!
But this is where it ends. Thank you, Isiokpo for audaciously invoking the bicycle culture. You may now step aside for the home of bicycles in Sub-Saharan Africa – Bori.
In the 80’s through 90’s, bicycles were the most common item in Bori. It was the major means of transportation within Bori metropolis and neighbouring communities, and was a commercial success. There was even a bicycle park near the Bori Motor Park where you pay for a bicycle ride to your destination. The streets were filled with very fit men, pedaling away in an environmentally friendly bicycle, with their passenger fastened behind. Zero emission. They saw the future!
Then, the Rivers Polytechnic was sited in Bori. In the absence of any other intra-city transportation means, Bicycle transporters played a strategic role by faithfully transporting students and lecturers to and from the school. Indeed, the history of that Polytechnic cannot be complete without referring to the critical role played by the Bicycle transporters.
The business was booming, and the students and visitors who saw this means of transportation to be very strange, wore smiles as the riders cabled away in noiseless maneuvers. They would engage their passengers in friendly discussions laced with the vintage Ogoni humour as they pedaled to their destination.
It was the first time the world outside got to know of this environmentally friendly means of transportation from a commercial point of view. They could not process it, and saw it as backward. Soon, the Ogonis were labeled as uncivilized, and they became the butt of the jokes, and soon it became zoned out of class.
That’s how within a decade, they were “bullied” into abandoning this means of transportation they shared with nations such as China, India, etc. The Invasion of Okada riders finally ended the bicycle.
It’s noteworthy to mention that not only were they environmentally friendly, they also had very high safety records.
So, thank you, Isiokpo for bringing back our bicycle. With this post, I am hoping this message will get to Bori, the headquarters of Bicycles in Sub-Saharan Africa. The spirit of both the White Horse and Blackhorse is hovering in Bori, waiting to be summoned. Beyond designing a cultural program to celebrate the role of bicycles in the Bori urban culture, the Mayor of Bori should immediately send a trade delegation to the Rayleigh Bicycle Company in Nottingham, England, to come set up an assembly plant in Bori, the headquarters of Bicycles.
Entrepreneurs may also take advantage and come up with innovative schemes like “Hail-a-bicyle”, “Uber Bicycle”, with better bicyle and tricycle designs, etc. And who knows, help could come from different quarters, as there are lots of funding opportunities in promoting green transportation. The Ogoni environment is already battered, and we will embrace any green initiative.
Picture Credit: Africa Eye