A Story Worth Sharing - Chopper Dey !

Before I start my story let me explain  what the term “chopper” means in pidgin English - For most people born and raised up in Warri, Delta state, especially those who were teenagers or young adults  in the 80's and early 90's. It might be a lot easier to understand what the word chopper connotes.

The word is a Pidgin English term coined in Warri and it simply means: someone has a lot of money or someone who spends a lot of money. For some reason obvious e.g. my money spending habit during my senior secondary school days a couple of my friends conferred that title on me. Thus the use of the term "chopper dey" whenever we would go out for lunch break or simply just want to buy something and they are counting on me to sort out the bill. Now, how I came about the cash that I was spending so lavishly at that time is a story not for another day (Divulging that may hurt my future political ambition, that’s if I ever have one anyway).

Now back to my story, the year was 1992 the month I can't remember very well but I can recall it was in our year of senior secondary education. For privacy sake, other than myself I have chosen to protect the identity of others in this story. Me,  Tee ,Vk and Sx (now of blessed memory) where all students of the ever popular, yet notorious college in Warri/ Effurun Delta State Nigeria, called Urhobo College (UCE).
Students of this boy’s only college are popularly referred to as UCERIANS - pronounced - Yocerians.  Urhobo College boys were famous for hooliganism and ironically at the same time its students excelled educationally and also top most other colleges/schools in sporting activities. Almost every yocerian has guts, 

I can remember way back then when chants of the word, Sokwe! will ring out just before a student protest and even the extremely quiet and churchy students like yours truly will be charged up almost to the point of responding hey! -  The appropriate response when this call to battle was sounded.

Today's UCERIANS holding forth


At UCE we always label the tough male teachers with funny names, some I can still remember are Alinco,Ozimba,Mr Alolo, and Pawpaw Yansh. However I have digressed, so let me get back to my story worth telling.

 Me and my 3 mates decided on a particular day to leave school a bit early, it was labour day (labour day is days set aside for clearing over grown fields and bushes within the school compound) and we didn’t want to be laboured. We got outside the school compound successfully and our mission once out was to head out to Udu River to swim.

Udu River

I can still picture the four of us walking to Enerhen  Hotel (now Wahassan Hotel) junction and board a bus heading to Udu road. We got to our stop at the foot of Udu bridge and when the bus conductor demanded for money from all four of us. The other 3 looked in my direction saying the words "chopper dey" unfortunately for us on this particular day(chopper no dey). I was just as broke as my mates, amongest the four of us not a single penny could drop. We starred at each other in disbelieve, exchanging words back and forth while the bus conductor, driver and other passengers looked on in disbelieve and anger. 

However because we were 4 Urhobo College boys, sporting the recognisable white shirt and brown shorts. The driver and conductor didn't make as much trouble as would be expected and left us alone.
We argued all the way blaming each other as we walked towards the shoreline of Udu River under the busy Udu Bridge. We might be student of UCE but we all came from good homes and certainly never planned entering a bus without paying for it, but  since we was on a roll after already committing one offence by running out of school. It seems the next offence just came to us naturally, well it still gets worse just keep reading.

We got to the river bank and it was time to take a plunge. The weather was hot and the water looked very inviting. Me and Tee dived in without any hesitation, to us both we have perfected our swimming skills at a range of swamps, creeks and swimming pools now we intend to add Udu River to that list. 
From Ogbogboro swamp in our nighboorhood (Agaga Layout) to 90feet creek located deep inside Bendel Estate,Me and Tee have explored and conquered those murky waters. But just so that you don't start thinking we were some kind of lowlife Warri boys, let me also mention that we also swam the best, cleanest and top-notch pools Warri had to offer at that time. 

The DSC staff club to the Shell club Warri Ramp, The Shell senior staff club Ogunu and even the Bush hut pool for residents of shell ogunu housing estate, me and Tee dabbled in all those swimming pools. We loved and still love swimming; however at that particular time in our life, we were young and restless swimmers having a fetish for a good swim as long as we can find water that’s good, bad or even ugly enough to swim in.

 Once more I digress, but now am back to my story. So Me and Tee started doing our thing in the warm, current riddle waters of Udu River as Vk and Sx(Rip) both watched us.

Vk in his usual competitive nature back then was amazed that Tee could swim and not just swim, he swims damm! too well. He was convinced that the rivers must be somewhat shallow otherwise how is it that both me and Tee could show him our hands and yet still say our feet’s are not touching the ground. We told him repeatedly but Vk a man with the lion heart never runs away from what he considers a challenge.

He took off his cloths and stepped into the water, he edged inch by inch and the water rises from his ankle to his waist line, and then his chest.We warned Vk to please go back to the edge. He probably felt he was still within safe limits and would prove that even as far off as we were in the River we must be up to some tricks trying to convince him that spot was as deep as we said it was.

Vk was not a swimmer, but have joined us to the River and now he is inside the water splashing away and having some fun. Sx knew his limits and stayed out completely from the water, he would rather just watch us 3 and the other folks inside the river doing our thing.

As we continued swimming, playing, splashing and having fun cause that's what we came to do anyway. The tide kept coming in gradually, the current kept increasing and the water level rose unnoticeably. Even I and Tee didn't notice this, because while we may be experienced swamp and pool swimmers, swimming in a flowing River is a different ball game. 

We however we still played it safe and never dared crossing the River to the other side as some expert Udu River swimmers were doing right before our eyes.

The persons who was feeling the effect of the tide and corresponding water currents the most without even having the slightest idea of what was even happening was Vk. 

The rising water level and current edged him gradually further into the deep until suddenly! He was struggling to keep his head above water. In a bid to start heading back to higher grounds he kept moving further inwards due to the current pull.

It was the most shocking and fearful moment of not just his own life, but all 3 other of us that had gone on this escapade. Me and Tee can swim, but we can't safe a drowning person, at least we know that much that it takes some amount of skills to save someone drowning otherwise both of you might end up drowning. In all this flash of event there was divine intervention .

One of the other guy’s we could refer to as expert Udu River swimmers came to the rescue.I remember him pushing Vk from behind while tactfully avoiding his arms that were flipping up, down left and right looking for anything to grab on to. He push, ducked and kept pushing until Vk was saved  from drowning but indeed we all was saved from the tragedy of a life time.

As I look back now and try to recount this story from my own perspective, typing this using my phone at 2.00am in the morning. I still say these words " God I really thank You for overriding our foolish days as youngsters" for all the unhealthy risk and near misses you always stepped in and saved us from looming adversity .

Lord Jesus, years on- words still can't contain my gratitude for so much grace you showed to us that day. 

Over the years we all moved on, moved apart but kept in touch. Me, Tee , Vk and Sx (who sadly passed on sometime last year 2011). To Sx we say, may you rest peacefully.

If you stumble on this story and you are a Ucerian, you should visit the website below.Take a nostalgic tour and also register while you at it. http://ucosaonline.com/


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