Flowers were one of the plants that their usefulness cuts across the interest of all race from the day immemorial. Whites, yellow, black and red races were all in love with the plant.
It’s of many species and symbolizes a lot of things depending on which one you are familiar with.
When I was in primary school, I was living with a priest and the parish compound was almost the size of two football pitch. We were three boys then and there was division of labour. Watering the whole flowers that covered almost the whole parish compound beginning from the priest house to church building and behind every 5am was my duty, morning function as it was called.
There was no hose pipe, the duty has to be done with hand held irrigator and warrants oscillating between the water tank near the main gate and the flowers, I had only 15 minutes to do that before morning mass. I spent three and half years inside there doing the same thing.
Do I know the names of the Flowers I spent almost four years watering and trimming?
No, occasionally, I would hear in passing from the adults: Rose, hibiscus and whistling flower. But, I know that there were four types of flowers I touch every day. As one matured and began to reminisced, I realised that the adults then don’t know the names of the flowers. Even now, besides Rose and Hibiscus, other types are generally called flowers. In school, there was other species of flowers and no teacher had ever pointed any out to us pupils. It wasn’t in the curriculum and I doubt if any teacher then knew their individual names out their generic. When I changed school, the story was the same.
During my secondary School days, the same Rose, hibiscus and whistling were everywhere. Planted systematically in front of the staff building once you enter the main gate. The edges of the field were lined with the same rose and hibiscus. I suspected that it must be the one most friendly with the African climate or don’t need excess money to maintain. The one planted at the dormitories were dying off due to lack of attention. We spent six years in secondary level without any lecture on flowers for it wasn’t in the curriculum.
When I finally found myself in tertiary institution, the school compound was swarming with all kinds of flowers that serves for beautification and pictures taken purposes only. I spent five years inside there and for one day, there was never a single lecture on flowers even on passing level.
During my days there, I was living in the lodge named ‘Animal Kingdom'. The lodge is owned by one Biafra soldier that work as a security man in my school. There was all manners of trees, flowers, animals you can think of roaming around there. Of about twenty-something students living there and bantering every day, none ever centered on flowers but on girls, boys, money, fruits and chickens.
When I finished schooling, and mandatory one year service came around, I was posted to Sokoto northern Muslim state. I spent a year there and what was obtainable in the eastern side was also obtainable there not minding the change of whether. Hibiscus and Roses and one tree known as locally as ' dogonyaro' used in decorating the streets but it’s main purpose is to prevent cyclone coming from Sahara dessert. I was with graduates from all tribes and religions for three weeks in the camp and for day, there was never a talk about flowers that surrendered us there in the camp but squabbling on tribe, religion and food.
What were the reasons behind the oversight?
Man, flowers were what Nigerians grew up to know by sight that it doesn’t have any economic benefits and the people here don’t care for anything that’s common without economic benefits. People are poor and vanity in nature. They know that the plant has its own unique form, smell, colour and beauty. When they start blooming, the people usually stop to admire them and since most grow on their own, people don’t pay economic attention to it. The reasoning here as far as flowers are concerned is that it’s what’s planted in schools, churches, hospitals and other government buildings.
It never occurred to anyone that even those wild beautiful ones can be transplanted in the compounds in a systematic way. Recently, the trend was to call the flower firms to plant hibiscus and rose flowers in their compounds after building a new house. Other types, only the dealers know anything about them. Maybe, it’s because of durability and economic nature of this two flowers that made them popular. People here have not grasped the fact that flowers are living thing, they need food, air, water, medications and shelter to survive and be at their best. In China, we Africans would wonder at times during winter why the government would start using light tarpaulin to cover most of the flowers that stretched out to kilometers and some times, they will come to fix drips like the ones humans take in hospital to trees and flowers. It’s beyond our understanding. Most people in Nigeria failed to realised that it was the effort the dealers put into grooming the flowers that attracted them in the first place.
Them, I left the country to China. While in Guangzhou, I realised that flowers were essentially part of their lives. Many families sustain themselves through that sector only. We the Africans community there were trying to act like Chinese while in China. Lack of uses of flowers failed most of us.
I was in provision store near a florist shop in Guangzhou one day when two black guys entered the florist shop and it happened that the shop keeper can speak English and I was following their exchange. One bought a flower and was sharing it to the three ladies in the shop and murmuring with love, with love before he was put right by the shop keeper.
“ You can’t give me this flower, I am married”
“ No problem, just from my good heart”
“ No, it is not done that way. It is for your girl friend not for us, we are married”
“ Oh, I saw people doing the same somewhere that’s reason I bought this for you all”
“ No, the flowers should be for your girl friend or friends in hospital, not for us”
I wasn’t sure how that education ended for I didn’t stick around. One thing was clear on the guys side, outside decorations, he doesn’t know any other about flowers.
During the Nigerian civil war, people are a lot of things in the name of food and leaves just to stay alive. In China, most of what they eat there, we over look here, yet over here, bitter leaf sellers would mix hibiscus leafs with bitter leaf( their leaves looked alike) and people that are not observant enough had been buying it and eating without developing any health issue. In many percentage have eaten it without any problem. Who knows, maybe, hibiscus when eaten whole won’t even cause any health problems. Goats have been eating them without any problems. What don’t kill goats won’t kill humans.
It’s just the state of the mind.
Priorities: It is essential that government should know that flower sector is a billion dollars industry now, they modernize the school curriculum to reflect current realities.
Economy: Hungry man don’t know anything about love or flowers. It is arena of well feed man. You don’t spend your hard earn money to buy a girl flowers she would throw away with a mighty sigh at slightest opportunity. She need money not flowers.
Contentment: What did not kill you during the war, won’t kill you after that. It is just a case having choices that’s at play here.
In Holland, flower was once a national resources that generated foreign revenue. That particular flowers have since mid 20th century been staple food in that country. Why can’t hibiscus be staple food here too.