On 3 Quarks DailyTolu Ogunlesi writes about American Dan Hoyle’s Tings Dey Happen. Dan Hoyle was inspired to write a one man play about Nigeria and the oil industry after being a Fulbright scholar in at the University of Port Harcourt, in Nigeria’s oil and conflict rich Niger delta:
TINGS DEY HAPPEN is in Pidgin English. When I heard Hoyle was going to be performing in Nigeria, at the invitation of the State Department, I decided I had to see the show. More than anything, I was curious to see what Hoyle’s idea of pidgin amounted to. There is so much contrived stuff that passes for Pidgin English in popular culture, that I really didn’t have any significant expectations.
By the end of the 75 minute performance, which took place at the heavily guarded American Guest Quarters on the Ikoyi waterfront in Lagos, I was more than impressed. Hoyle’s pidgin is impressive, as authentic (I hesitate to use that word) as it gets.
Hoyle cuts right through to the occasionally dark, often comical heart of Nigerian society. Early on in the one-man show (Dan plays all the voices, and they are myriad), a Nigerian explains that in Nigeria there are “no friends, only associates.”
Gangs roam the delta, but in Hoyle’s world, criminal and crude are, quite refreshingly, not synonyms. Some of the militants speak good English. They even have a sense of humour. “There’s no sign that says ‘Welcome to Nembe Creek’, ‘cos if you haven’t noticed, you’re not welcome,” Hoyle’s white character is told. Not long after the militants add, perhaps tongue-in-cheek: “We are too intelligent to kidnap you.” Perhaps this is because they know that he is merely an academic, with little potential for generating a decent ransom.
Children play in the halo of a natural gas flare in Ebocha. The name means "Place of Light," after the flare at an Agip petroleum refinery that has burned there, night and day, since the 1970s. Photo by MICHAEL KAMBER from Foreign Policy
The Niger Delta, a region the size of England, is littered with violence and gas flares – the offshoot of oil extraction – whose roar and heat you can feel for hundreds of metres around.
The flares have become symbols of the region and the paradox that exists in an area where you find one of the world’s richest oil regions alongside some of the poorest people.
With unemployment at 90%, many people of the Delta are tempted to join the criminal gangs who terrorise the area, kidnapping foreign oil workers and launching raids on oil platforms.
Maintenance of the gangs, their boats and weapons is expensive and is funded by the theft of oil on a huge scale – up to 200,000 barrels a day.
The gangs are well-armed and the Joint Task Force is ill-equipped for the challenge.
They’ve managed to seize only a few of the barges used to ferry the stolen oil to huge tankers waiting offshore to take it on to the world’s refineries. It’s a huge and sophisticated operation on an international scale.
For more information on oil piracy see the Christian Science Monitor, PBS Newshour, and the BBC who write “Nigeria’s oil production has been cut by around a fifth since 2006, partly as a result of the violence by criminal gangs and militants. “