Quite frankly, the twin cities of Sapele and Warri are two significantly important cities in Nigerian that needs no introduction.....CONTINUE READING
This two cities have so many things in common because they are two unique cities with unique similarities as a result of the proximateness of their inhabitants. This is evident in our pidgin language, way of life and other idiosyncrasies that easily distinguishes us everywhere we go outside Delta State.
By the mid-19th century, Sapele was established as a trading centre, occasionally visited by Europeans. Then after the British established a vice consulate in the city in 1892, Sapele grew in importance as a port; and in 1894 it came under British rule and served as a local administrative center.
The first and oldest course in Nigeria, Sapilo Golf course, later known as Sapele Athletic Golf Club, formed in 1898 by a coterie of European sailors and captains of ships who were said to have traversed the Atlantic Ocean from the United Kingdom down to River Ethiope, lends credence to the fact that Sapele was one of the epicenters of developments, as a result of the influx of the Europeans, aside Lagos and Calabar.
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Back then Sapele was the center of the Nigerian timber trade, with its Africa Timber and Plywood Industry, (AT&P), and a veneer factory where rubber was processed, thereby attracting lots of local and international business activities.
This historic ancient city of Sapele, has given birth to great and outstanding men and women who have risen from relative obscurity to conquer and dominate their contemporaries in different fields of human endeavour, both locally and internationally.
Though I was born in Sapele but traversed the tripod of Sapele, Warri and Ughelli Local Government Areas, respectively with my mum at different stages of my human evolution, Sapele in the seventies and eighties, based on my experiential knowledge, was the city to live in the then Midwestern Nigeria, just as Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt is to so many people today.
I remembered in 1985, when my civil servant mum told me she has been transferred back to Sapele – The home of timber, rubber and hospitality, I was simultaneously overwhelmed with the twin feelings of joy and excitement, knowing that I am going back to the city of my birth, more so, with beautiful prospects of greener pastures and better living, because Sapele was the happening place back then.
I can still remember vividly how we used to have foreigners and children from wealthy homes as classmates. Small me! From a very humble background. Sitting in the same classroom with children of the who-is-who in Sapele.
But today, the Sapele that I grew up in, a city that resounds with an endless run of infrastructural facilities that attracted people from all works of life and made life much more easy and interesting for inhabitants, is now a shadow of its former self.
Driving back then from Amukpe to Market Road, down to Ajogodo to Gana, Ogorode, stares you with shimmering infrastructures that made the ancient bubbling timber city a beautiful and interesting home away from home for both foreigners and locals alike.
Then surprisingly, the pace of development in Sapele started to experience gradual and steady decline. And it came to a point, where the once bubbling beautiful timber and rubber city that boasts of thriving businesses, institutions with qualitative education, and enduring infrastructural architectures, began to descend on a spiral downturn.
Organisations and business corporations began to evaporate just as foreigners and expatriates that once found Sapele a home of hospitality, away from home, began to disappear into thin air, leaving the town to become a ghost of its former self.
This gave rise to the oil city of Warri, one of the major hubs of the petroleum industry in Nigeria, with a modern seaport which serves as the cargo transit point between the Niger River and the Atlantic Ocean for import and export.
The loss of Sapele became the gain of Warri, in all ramifications, to the extent that many people from Sapele, readily claim to be from Warri, whenever they are outside Delta State.
Today, many people have forgotten the fact that Sapele used to be the hub of socioe-conomic activities in the Midwestern region of Nigeria. My opinion!