The writer draws his inspiration from all sorts of things and circumstances. The mere encounter with a scene, the innocuous remark/side-comment made by someone else etc, could trigger a writer into an outpouring of lines that ultimately baffles any reader. With mind made on a subject matter, a writer may change to writing on an issue that is completely different from what was originally intentioned. He may, if he wishes, reach out to both worlds without bringing them to a meeting point. Also, he may weave his lines in such a way that a capture of both the original subject and the one that suddenly overwhelmed him was achieved at a confluence. Only yesterday, the world marked or celebrated St. Valentine’s Day. Was it really necessary? If yes, how much of the history of St. Valentine do the celebrants know? These questions and many more gingered in my mind as thoughts of the popular Nigerian ‘‘iced-fish’’ entered a flow of thoughts. How possible is it to celebrate without a touch of fish? What about a gift of ‘‘iced-fish’’ as a way of appreciating someone on a Valentine’s Day?
The mention of ‘‘iced-fish’’ that we eat in Nigeria to some people, will attract their negative expressions or remarks because it’s being erroneously associated with the common man; people who feed from hand to mouth, those who eke a living hewing woods and toiling the earth. Someone will scream; Ais fish!!!! Fo Wetin! Haba! If people in this category decide to express their displeasure of the ‘‘iced-fish’’ using the ‘‘nose-talking’’ approach, you will likely hear something like; ‘‘what the heck is iced-fish?’’ In the contrary, they speak of foreign menus to the high heavens as if they provide the panacea for a strong and healthy living. They forget that this all-important protein-loaded item has been the backbone to millions of homes in Nigeria. They are oblivious of the fact that the ‘‘iced-fish’’ has tap roots in this country. Even though it is imported, it will be difficult for the ordinary man to believe that it is not a ’’home-grown’’ Made-in-Nigeria item.
As a people, we have tinkered with all sorts of prescriptions billed to take our nation into the promised land of political and economic stability of the status of a world power. While some of these postulations were completely alien, some were produced from a mixed-grill of concepts drawn from both local and foreign backgrounds. However, we have a few recommendations that are 100 per cent local-content flavoured. As nations add colourful appendages to their match towards their own Eldorados, they speak of going green, blue, or whatever colour they choose. Where is our green revolution? Why can’t we produce our own fertiliser? Why must we import fertiliser and boost the economies of other nations? What has fish got to do with fertiliser? Must ‘‘the iced-fish’’ continuously dry up fresh fishes from our rivers?
Despite the fact that the ‘‘iced-fish’’ has now become popular to all categories of people in the country, I won’t forget that, there was a time when peoples of the riverine areas form south to north of Nigeria, eat fresh fish only. Bai dat taim, rivarainpesin no sabi wetin bi frij. Dem no sabi se fu-ud de ste ovanait. Whenever I see or hear the mention of ’’iced-fish,’’ my mind flashes back to my growing up days in Warri-Nigeria and the various pains we went through whenever we hear negative talks about the ‘‘iced fish. Popular gossips which held in veiled and categorical terms stated that the ’’iced-fish’’ was not fit for consumption because it was capable of ’’draining’’ the blood of its consumers in peace meal. To put it in proper Naija Langwej perspective, ’’dem se ais fish de sok ’’suck’’ pesin blood.’’ In summation, it was not advisable health-wise to eat the ‘‘iced-fish.’’
Why is the ‘iced-fish’’ that was condemned many years ago still a major player in the fish business in Nigeria? Why should someone think that a day must be set aside to show love even though most of the celebrants of the said day cannot say how it all started? Why is it that those with warped conception of Valentine love presume that it is a day two persons, male and a female must jam themselves in the dark? Is this the Valentine love according to St. Valentine?
The Valentine Day may have come and gone. Until we know how to show love on a daily basis, there’s no way we could demonstrate it in a fell swoop. The one who choose to eat fishes from other lands will forget that he has a stream at his backyard. The one who imports fertilisers to drive an agricultural revolution will never see his potentials. Until a stop is put to the pollution of our lands and waters from spillages from other lands, crude oil pipelines and blood from the veins of the innocents, the poor and the rich will continue to eat ‘‘iced-fish’’ in Nigeria. If we fail to show patriotism in leadership with a focus for a Nigeria where religion will be totally downplayed, we shall continue to eat crumbs in midst of plenty. If you say the ‘‘iced-fish’’ is a blood-sucker, show me other types of fish and how to farm them. Stop feeding me with craps because I grew up eating big crabs from unpolluted waters of the Niger.