I have always wanted to write something about the people of Warri with particular emphasis on their “habit” and style of toku toku. By the people of Warri, I mean all, irrespective of tribal affiliation, that may have lived or are still living in the place, largely influenced by both the place and the prevalent speaking style and capacity to seamlessly act out the “characteristics” of a true Waferian. My interest lies in unravelling the reason (s) for this, as well as the popular saying; “Warri no de kari last”. For the benefit of those who may not be familiar with the word toku toku, it is used to describe anyone that talks a lot. How come a people are widely known and liked for their “habit” and style of talking? Are they putting this act into positive uses or na jos to tok pra pra pra fo notin? What about the phrase; “Warri no de kari last?” that speaks of the confidence of the average Warri pesin; known for his/her unique efforts in confronting every situation no matter the odds, likened to the saying; “As the going gets tough, the Tough gets going.”
The lively disposition of the average Warri pesin commonly attracts comments like: evribodi fo Warri na Komedian because there’s never a dull moment with a Waferian. No wonder the town, also called kpangolo Wafi, is acclaimed for producing some of the finest Comedians in Nigeria e.g. Ali Baba; King of the comedy business in Nigeria, A.Y., I go Die, Gordons etc. This being the case, it has been a challenge for me to find out the major influence behind this interesting condition. My findings reveal that, wodin is central to the whole of this. Wetin bi wodin?
Wodin is derived from “word” as used in the English language. Another word for wodin is srokin or yabis, a form of game or slanging match where two or more people sometimes get involved in throwing expletives at one another in a lively and friendly manner. In other words, dem go de yab demsef as dem laik. In most cases, it starts spontaneously and laik jok laik jok, the supporters of those involved clap and enjoy themselves to releases from those wodin themselves. Although, if not well handled, it sometimes ends up in fisticuffs especially when a party to the game suddenly loses his/her capacity to manage the wodin/srokin power of the opponent. During a wodin/srokin match, every stroke of yabis is likened to a bomb. With srong srong words, anything can happen. To say toku toku an wodin na “food” fo Wafi, one is saying that it has become a way of life of the people. It is one thing that arms the Waferian with the capacity to absorb any form of wodin, yabis or srokin anywhere; one of the roots of “Warri no de kari last”. It is always baffling to others when they hear Waferians jokingly say; “Yo papa”, “Yu de kres” etc. Hardly would a Warri pesin get turned off by any form of yabis bikos fo Wafi, wodin na wota. Settling a very serious matter in Warri may commence by wodin/srokin.
Wodin, srokin or yabis offers an opportunity for the assessment of how those involved in it are grounded in the use of Naija. It is a platform for laundering words/phrases in Naija as well as a grooming ground for young Waferians desirous of tapping into di latest langwa fo taun. Such auspicious sessions are forums for people to openly tell the truth about anyone or issue in a lively manner.
In Warri, the unique usage of Naija and comedy lies in wodin or srokin meant to elicit fun and happiness. It could be used in drawing the attention of another to a flaw towards finding corrective measures to remedying whatever situation may be. Someone with a worn out shoe was once told by his friend; “Ol boi dis yo “shoe”jos de laf. Wai yu no chenj am.” Similarly, many years ago, my brother returned home from work to narrate how a srokin “event” was targeted at the shirt he wore to the office. According to him, after series of exchanges between him and a colleague, the guy landed him an “upper cut” by referring to his shirt as table cloth; Si yo “shirt!” Yu no nou se na table klot yu wie? It didn’t sink until he got home. After a careful look at what he wore, he agreed with his friend and ceased from wearing it thereafter. When next someone tells you that yo “head” bi laik ololo ogo; he is only telling you that you have a bottle-like head. Dis na koret wodin.
(Received 23/02/2011 – Published 02/03/2011)