By Dr Paul John, firstname.lastname@example.org,08083658038
The people of Tombia cannot easily forget the medical outreach organised by the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) Rivers Province 10 on Saturday, 23rd December 2017. It was part of our own ‘Let’s Go A Fishing’, which is a programme designed by the church to ensure that the gospel is spread to the utmost parts of the earth. It is a time for the establishment of new RCCG parishes and consolidation of recently established ones. In view of this, we in the medical team of the province had to join our brethren, who had been in the town evangelising to the Tombians .
The RCCG Rivers province 10 medical team is co-headed by Dr E.N. Karibi of Paediatric Surgery unit of University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and Associate Professor Aprioku, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical sciences ,University of Port Harcourt ,Choba, Rivers state .It may interest us to know that RCCG Rivers province 10 seems to be leading other provinces in Region 5 health forum ,because the secretary of the RCCG Region 5 Health Forum ,our very own Dr Paul John, and the head of the regional pharmacy unit ,Pharmacist Promise, are all from RCCG Rivers province 10 when many provinces in Region 5 have no or only one leadership slot allocated to them in the Regional Health forum.
Iwofe Jetty Port Hracourt
Our journey on that fateful Saturday started when all members of the medical team assembled at Iwofe jetty in Port Harcourt where we hired two different boats to this ‘riverine’ community, which is about 10-15 minutes drive from the Iwofe Jetty. After hiring the two boats, we were stunned by the boat operators who told us there were no safety jackets, some of us who did not know how to swim wanted to disembarked from the boats but when we remembered the gospel according to St John 9:4 which says: ‘I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work’ ,we were ready to take the risk. We were further encouraged by the great commission our lord Jesus gave to His disciples, in the gospel according to St Matthew, to: ‘ Go and make disciples of all nations’. We immediately shared ourselves so that those who did not know how to swim could be in the same boats with those who were like ‘amphibians ‘ In view of this, our two heads ,Dr Karibi and Associate Professor Aprioku, both from ‘riverine’ communities of the state ,decided to share themselves between the two boats. As a writer, I took a vantage position behind Dr Karibi and I was very observant to make sure I picked everything in the journey.
On our journey, I discovered that there was oil spillage due to legal and illegal oil exploration in the region .I equally observed that the water was not Fresh water; pardon me for my distinction in O’level Biology where we classified water bodies into Fresh water, Marine and Estuary, according to their salt contents. I quickly confirmed that observation from Dr Karibi who upheld my observation. Immediately I confirmed that observation, I made up my mind not to expect fresh water plants and animals there. We saw the real mangrove forest we read back then in Biology as our journey continued.
On getting to the Tombia jetty, we were received by our brethren in the other boat who reached before us and our other brethren who hailed from the town and others who were there since the five day programme started. The media team of our province undoubtedly had done their work perfectly as the people of the town had been sensitized that medical team was coming to the town to render pro bono services. On getting to the venue of the medical outreach, we immediately organised ourselves into our different professions and specialties. The media team went out to remind the people that the medical people had arrived. We were first welcomed by our brethren there with vegetable-less yam porridge, some of us refused to eat but me and few others ate because dialectic I learnt from my father is that I should always accept whatever my host gives to me, that shows that my acceptance of my host’s hospitality .
I have decided to comment on the vegetable part of the porridge because in Biology, leafy vegetables should not be found around fresh water habitats hence I did not expect vegetables like Fluted pumpkin or any other green leafy vegetable in the town. After the welcome meal we started our work. I doubled as the announcer and a consulting physician. Dr Karibi started his specialist consultation for our paediatric patients while Dr Aprioku superintends the pharmacy section with other pharmacists in our crew, Matron Anyanwu manned both the nursing and kitchen sections. We started with about 50 patients in attendance but when they received their free medical treatments they went into the town to announce that it was really free and they showed the doubting Thomases the free drugs given to them .In a twinkle of an eye, we were overwhelmed by a teeming population that came to receive their own medical treatments. We thank God who gave us the strength to attend to more than 1000 patients with only five doctors, and about four nurses. It has to be noted that many of the residents who received the free medical treatments were not RCCG members but residents of Tombia town.
Our brethren in Tombia town along with our sisters from City of Joy ,RCCG province 10 entertained us again with jollof rice .Meanwhile ,the aroma emanating from the jollof rice while it was still being prepared from the improvised kitchen ,was rearranged my gustatory apparatus . I never wasted time to finish one plate of jollof rice when it was eventually presented to me and I humbly and ‘shamelessly’ demanded for a second plate which was immediately given to me and others that made same ‘Oliver-twist’ requests.
Please don’t call me ‘long-throat abeg’ because with the aroma and the palatability of the jollof rice ,I may not blame Esau for trading his birthright with the yam porridge .At the end of the programme ,prayer was said by the City of Joy parish pastor who heavily represented our Provincial pastor ,Pastor (Bar) Solomon Marega. Thereafter we headed to Tombia jetty to complete our journey back to Port Harcourt. On getting to the jetty, we discovered that the water level had excessively receded. It was then I better understood what Dr Karibi was telling us when we were at the venue of the outreach that fish could easily be caught when the water level had reduced .That was another practical experience for my elementary geography back then in the secondary school.
The nursing section on the outreach venue
At this juncture, I will like my readers to note that there is another Tombia town in Bayelsa state but the one we did our medical outreach is Tombia town in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers state . This Tombia is situated in northern part of Rivers state. Its geographical coordinates are 5° 0′ 0″ North, 6° 16′ 0″ East and it is about 483 km South of Abuja, the country’s capital city and it is part of Kalabari kingdom . The kalabari is a tribe of the Ijaw people of Rivers state living in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. They migrated from the Benin fringes of Ijaw land and became a large kingdom of about 35 communities/settlements including Buguma, Bakana, Tombia, ke, Soku, Bille, Bukuma, Degema, Obonoma, Sama, Abalama, Ilelema and others. The people were originally fishermen before the coming of the Portugese to the west African coastline. The Kalabari like most coastline tribes were wealthy as a result of interactions with Europeans.
The kalabaris share similar culture/language to the Okrikas, Bonny, Opobo, Bayelsa Ijaws (Nembe in particular as the language is almost the same), Delta Ijaws, Ondo Ijaws and some parts of Edo state. It was discovered that in the 1980s, that a nearly extinct Berbice Dutch/KALABARI LANGUAGE was spoken in Central America. Guyana to be precise.
The kalabaris do bear European names (Briggs, Horsfall, Jack, Harry, West, Braide etc) due to their inter- racial relations with their slave masters. Kalabari, Opobo and Bonny were the first to trade with the whites in Rivers state alongside Okrika and Andoni. Many of them do have light skin due to European mixtures.. They engaged in overland trade with the Portugese in the 1400s, later Dutch, then British whom arrived by sea for trade and missionary work. They also traded clothes from India. Since the early 1800s, The Europeans noted that the Kalabaris refused to trade their goods on credit. Their industrial prowess coupled with their lovable demenor has won the admirations from surrounding communities of the Niger delta.
The Kalabari constitute one of the largest ethnic groups in Rivers State with 3 LGAs and they are the largest Ijaws in terms of population in the state.. They constitute almost a million (90% of people based in Akulga, Asalga and Degema are indigenes, so the 2006 population census results states..(AKULGA:156,006 , ASALGA:220,110 , DEGEMA:249,773)..626000 altogether excluding the population of kalabaris based in Phalga LGA, Obioakpor LGA, LGAs in the state, indigenes outside Rivers State and diaspora.. Majority of Kalabari people stay at the PHALGA (Portharcourt old township, Borokiri, marine base, Dline, Diobu, Iwofe, Aggrey, Eagle island etc.) axis of Port Harcourt.
The kalabaris are highly educated and have the love for western education. They are known to have a high concentration of Professors, Lawyers and Doctors in Nigeria.. Because of their civilized and generally peaceful behavior, the kalabaris were called English men in the past..
NOTABLE PEOPLE IN KALABARI KINGDOM
Agbani Darego… First black African to win miss world
Jimi Rex Lawson… High life musician.
Dabota Lawson… Ex beauty queen(Miss Nigeria UK)
Asari Dokubo.. Human right activist
Tonye Graham Douglas… Politician
Albert Horsfall… Former SSS Boss
Dumo Lulu Briggs.. politician
Chief Dr Hutton.. Anthropologist
Taribo West… Ex footballer
Prof. Tam David West… politician
Dr I.K. Korubo…. and many others..
Meanwhile, The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) is a Pentecostal megachurch and denomination founded in Lagos, Nigeria. The General overseer (most senior pastor) is Enoch Adeboye, ordained in 1981. As of March, 2017, RCCG had a presence in 196 countries of the world. The church in Lagos has an average church attendance of 50,000. RCCG was founded in 1952 by Rev. Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi (1909–1980) after he had been involved in a number of other churches. Rev. Akindayomi chose Enoch Adeboye as the next General overseer. Enoch Adeboye was a lecturer in mathematics at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, as at the time he joined the church in 1973. Adeboye initially became one of the interpreters translating Akindayomi’s sermons from Yoruba to English. He was ordained a pastor of the church in 1975, and his appointment as leader(General overseer) of the church was formalized by the posthumous reading of Akindayomi’s sealed pronouncement. In 1990, Redeemed Christian Church of God Bible School is founded.
Andrew Rice, writing in The New York Times, calls the RCCG “one of [Africa’s] most vigorously expansionary religious movements, a homegrown Pentecostal denomination that is crusading to become a global faith”. The church’s leaders preach that in the future “In every household there will be at least one member of Redeemed Christian Church of God in the whole world.”
In 2016, the weekly worship attendance of the church in Lagos averaged 50,000. In Rivers state, province 10 headquarters is located at City of Joy parish Rumuagholu , Port Harcourt,very close to the popular Rumuokoro junction ,Port Harcourt and the provincial pastor is Pastor Solomon Marega. The province is under RCCG Region 5 which comprises provinces in Rivers and Bayelsa states and the pastor-in-charge of the Region is Pastor Obunge .
It has to be noted that this Tombia town we had our medical outreach is the ancestral home of former Rivers state NMA chairman and the current chairman of NMA national committee on Non-communicable diseases, Dr I.k. Korubo, my NMA political godfather.