Skip to content

Fishing for Change in the Niger Delta

2013 March 14

By John Lynch & Stephanie Fagan

We want to share a story with you from Nigeria’s Niger Delta.

It begins with Oyowe, a widowed fisherman from Kobe. Oyowe’s community knew him as a tireless worker whose sole purpose was to provide for his adopted daughter, Tosan. One day, while pulling up fish from the river, Oyowe noticed a gang of youth dumping toxic waste into the water. He confronted the group and reported their illegal activities to the police. Oyowe did what he had to in order to protect his livelihood and the community’s ecosystem. Sadly, this act of bravery cost Oyowe his life. In retribution for telling the police, the gang members murdered Oyowe and raped his daughter.

This tragic series of events leads us to Sissy Caro – Oyowe’s sister-in-law and now acting guardian of Tosan.  At first, Sissy wanted vengeance for the pain inflicted on her family. However, she realized that striking back against the gang would only escalate the violence.  So, she decided that real change happens when you address the root of a problem – why were boys in the community joining gangs? To find answers, Sissy brought people, families, and communities together to discuss illegal oil refining, rape, and the effects armed conflict on the Niger Delta. Kids listen to radio

The surprise ending to this story is that Sissy Caro doesn’t exist. Well, not exactly. While her struggle is one that Niger Deltans face every day, Sissy is actually a character from the Search radio drama, “Day Don Break ” through our Tomorrow is a New Day project.  We learned on World Radio Day that radio moves people in the same way as TV shows and movies. Story-telling, through any format, provides us with new ideas on how to address our own problems, and shows us that we do not struggle alone.

There is more to this show than just entertainment; it’s an outreach tool that helps facilitate constructive dialogues on painful issues. Although Sissy is a fictional character, she has practical ideas about how to bring change to conflict-laden Niger Delta communities. Each week, the fifteen-minute show is followed by an on-air discussion about relevant topics addressed in the latest episode. Popular on-air personalities and community leaders moderate the after show and use it as a tool to reconcile problems that affect the public. “Day Don Break” is only halfway through its twenty-six episodes, but it has the potential to transform the dynamic in the Niger Delta.

The Trauma Healing Assessment adviser, clinician and local research assistant plan their movements for the day

The Trauma Healing Assessment adviser, clinician and local research assistant plan their movements for the day

Another way Tomorrow is a New Day facilitates peace  is through trauma-healing activities. Search has sent psychology professionals into distressed communities to understand the conflict dynamics. This information will be used to start a productive dialogue. Tomorrow is a New Day tailors all of its outreach to each unique circumstance and enables the type of community healing that Sissy Caro demonstrates in “Day Don Break.” Franklin Moulin, a local participant of the Tomorrow is a New Day project said this:

If it were not for TND, I would have still been looking out for what my community could do for me rather than what I can do to develop my community.

Franklin’s experiences with the TND project have inspired him to run for local office in the Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area.

It turns out that life can imitate art just as much as art imitates life. Sissy’s problems are highly realistic and so are her solutions. The Niger Delta experienced unfathomable tragedies in the past decades. The hope is that programs like “Day Don Break” and Tomorrow is a New Day will help make positive, lasting change in the community. Click to read more about our programs in Nigeria or to listen to Day Don Break.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS