“Twenty Gbororo” | Eriata Oribhabor

I am joyed beyond explanation seeing my everyday place value on tables across climes because in its chimes are bits and pieces of virtues and histories – neither nose-downed nor wave of hand attended. Here lies my point of resolve and deployment of same years back in Warri, Nigeria to leave marks in the sands of time promoting Nigerian pidgin – basically to guard and protect words that were heading extinction before my eyes. Reminiscences of past for future isn’t a calling preserve of historians alone but germane to any one in love with data, facts and figures, cultures and traditions and how they fair in open market of life. It is in light of the preceding that the term “twenty gbororo” comes to mind. What’s “twenty gbororo?”

A bus full of commuters was commuting from one point to another in the chaos and madness of Lagos, Nigeria. Its cacophonous entrapment wasn’t up with options. Everyone was meant to wait until the next bus stop miles away. Faces were brimming with lines of frustrations while curses against the authorities spilled from mouths itching to drop from a Godforsaken vehicle that should have been “butchered” into motor spares – selling at popular vehicle spare parts markets in a city, working hard to earn a mega-status title. The bus driver wasn’t expected to interfere in whatever discussion passengers were into. He listens out only to calls and shouts of his bus conductor who deals directly with passengers.

On this fateful day, a heated argument between passengers almost ripped off the roof of the bus – everyone at each other’s throat raving for attention and view acceptance. Notwithstanding, a woman who apprised the situation as the best to promote her herbal mixes went on reeling details of what her herbs could do. The usual “man power” constant was being reechoed but lots of passengers were busy doing “their own things.” At some point, a grey-haired man stood up asking on top of his voice in local Nigerian pidgin – “na who think sey today start today?”. All the while, he hadn’t commented on the beehive of passenger exchanges. Going by his look and guesses of his age, the bus went into temporary quiet. Albeit, in respect an honour to the man’s age. On the heels of this, he reechoed the question:

“na who think sey today start today?” None responded.

“Twenty gbororo” is a Nigerian pidgin slang that was popularly used in my growing up days in Warri, Nigeria. It simply means “several years back” – usually presumed to be years beyond human calculation. A perfect synonym for “twenty gbororo” is “from time Imo river” another slang whose popularity also wanes by the day. The appropriateness of the mentioned slangs come handy at situations like:

i ) Tactical avoidance of specifics on dating

ii) Stress of depth – reaching back in history

iii) Lending emphasis to age/quality

Bringing the term “twenty gbororo” to bear at this moment, is to amongst others (as earlier mentioned) acquaint us with a powerful term whose relevance in teaching pidgin as it were, cannons be overemphasized.

Secondly, it opens the eyes and senses of younger ones to words/phrases they may never know existed. Also, it is opportune stating that lots of adults may not have heard or read about it and many others.

Thirdly, to agitate the minds of many into imagining words/phrases that may have gone extinct or on their way to extinction.

Finally, to encourage everyone to accepting facts and realities of our pidgin as part and parcel of our daily living deserving promotion and development.

Situating “twenty gbororo”

Situating “twenty gbororo” takes me back to the grey haired one who asked the question “na who say today start today?” Apparently not given an answer by anyone in the bus wasn’t an affirmation of none having the answer. It may just be a temporary reprieve for many who were tired and wanted the journey to come to its last bus stop or just a time to enjoy a needed silence eaten up by uncoordinated arguments. The old man looked around as if peering into the eyes of everyone in the bus. It would not be out of place stating that, he may have had eye contact with everyone in the bus. His look around was studiously and painstakingly carried out thus frightening the hell out of some who were already imagining what they were heading for. So many things happen in buses and the popular ‘one chance’ was in vogue.

Situating “twenty gbororo” implies giving examples that would properly sound meanings and take homes for way forward. Thus, starting with the gray haired one would make a world of sense. Satisfied having undivided attention of passengers, his frown gave way to smile showing a sparkling dentition that belied his age. An easing shock took the better of everyone. He went on speaking in the local parlance. “Today no start today. Today don start since twenty gbororo. So, if you dey for bus or public transport, make you take note sey na difren-difren pipul dey dis world. Experience na difren-difren. Sense pass sense. But wetin pass everything na sense of respect. See how some of una dey shout, dey argue like sey na una go pay our transport money”. He was yet to round up when a young man politely cut in saying in Yoruba “daddy, e ma binu” – meaning, “dad, we are very sorry”. The grey haired one looked at him and heaved a sigh of acceptance saying, “God bless you my son.” While he was about having his seat, the smart boy added; “Daddy, wetin be twenty gbororo?”

Like a teacher passionate about impacting his pupils/students sound knowledge, the man rose to his feet and said, “My pikin, thank you. I like your question wel-wel”. After split second pause, he continued – “dat na why e good sey make old and new work togeda. By di time we dey use dis pidgin dem never born plenty of una. I go tell you wetin twenty gbororo mean. Twenty gbororo mean years wen don pass tay-tay so tay person sef fit no sabi di years. But depending wetin person dey talk, person fit say twenty gbororo to carry on without calling any date. Dat na to say, di time don tay. Dat na why I say, today no start today. Today no be today. Only di things wen my eye don see plenty. Twenty gbororo na plenty plenty years.

Nineteen Gbororo

Nineteen gbororo is a precursor of twenty gbororo – both means the same – many years gone by. This was used in the 90s. From the preceding, one could glean that words have power and dynamic. This is why some words are associated with periods.

My relationship with words dates back to my secondary school days when I used my dictionary as pillow.

Eriata Oribhabor

Lagos, Nigeria



Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: