Written by Henry Chigozirim Ikpo
I arrived at the Coal Camp Enugu and I was shocked when I did not find the version that Cyprian Ekwensi describes in his book “Coal Camp”.
Taking A Walk
I walked around to have a thorough look at the place and was disappointed. I didn’t find the houses with trimmed flowers and beautiful lawns which I was expecting. Instead, all sorts of ancillary trades and traders were everywhere, at every turn.
Shops sprang out at every corner, brick houses left me amazed. Men bent over examining cars, women plaiting their hair and yelling at little children. The children hawking sachet waters-which I must add, saved me from Death by Dehydration. Churches, schools , houses, shops were all over the place.
The sun was unbearable and I had to find shade at one of the many mechanic shops in the area, I got talking with an elderly man about the intensity of the sun. We also discussed the electricity and Coal Camp.
His face fell when I told him to tell me of the place. Truthfully, I barely listened to him talk because I was checking Google Map for my way home. I realized that I was deep inside Coal Camp…and I was lost! I got bits and pieces of what he said; about how the place used to be really nice.
How the British colonialists made the quarters for the miners, and the government laid the miners off their jobs suddenly because of oil discovery.
The man was bitter; I could hear it in his voice and when I looked up from my phone at his face, I could see it in his eyes. Somehow, he blamed Obasanjo for everything; he resented our Ex-President badly. Along with his bitterness was admiration and hope.
I looked around and understood why there was admiration and hope in his eyes. Who wouldn’t admire the resilient inhabitants of the ‘new’ Coal Camp, ones who wouldn’t be deterred by getting laid off their jobs and instead started ancillary trade?
There is hope that sometime Coal Camp will, at the least relocate to 9thMile. The man said so.
The man advised me then to climb the hill close by and view the entire camp. He promised I was going to like it. So I thanked the man, greeted him and left.
I climbed the hill slowly but steadily though it was a backbreaking task! But when I got to the top and had the entire view of Coal Camp and probably beyond, I knew the stress was worth it. I sat there for a full hour, taking pictures and savouring the breath-taking view.
When I climbed down, I walked around and took three more pictures only. Not because of any other thing but because the houses are so old and still inhabited and I thought it would seem disrespectful if I were to be seen taking the pictures.
Visiting the Coal Camp was amazing and I sure would do it again sometime.