By Adepoju Paul Olusegun
Offline and online, I’ve received volumes of messages from friends far and near inquiring about the flood that almost submerged my city and hometown, Ibadan. As someone rightly described the sharing formula of losses incurred, every resident of the city know at least two families that lost at least one person to the flood. Personally, I had more than my fair share and I’ve so far been silent, but if we don’t say something, or fail to learn from the gory incidence, then nature or God has every reason to be mad at us every now and then.
The Black Friday started innocently. The morning was typical and the Juma’at service went on smoothly without much drama. It was my day off hence I slept throughout the sunny morning. And after noon, I decided to use the wireless internet service at the hospital. Around 4pm, it began to drizzle which was not unusual. It stopped then switched to an annoyed tone.
Light showers became torrential with striking lightning and deafening thunders. My choice Wi-Fi location is the College of Medicine’s car park because of its relative quietness, tranquility and great internet connection as high as 100mbps. Hence it wasn’t unexpected that I was all alone at the park when the rainfall switched to a harsher tone. But I was busy enjoying a Dame Patience moment on Youtube that I didn’t realize the dry park had become waterlogged and I needed my umblerra more than ever.
When I finally came back to my immediate environment, it was already late. A pool had gathered around my seat that it wasn’t possible to walk without getting soaked to the knees.
In a matter of minutes, the entire park became a river with just me and my Profs’ cars. Via miraculous intervention, I paddled my way through before leaving the hospital which was when I realized I wasn’t the only one that narrowly survived being washed away by the turbulent unrelenting and evidently embittered excessive rainfall. But not everyone was lucky enough to come out unscathed like I did.
All around the city, rivers went beyond their banks. Ordinary gutters became dams and out of no where, destruction of unimaginable magnitude befell a city that is replete with history and mystery.
Who can forget the Omiyale incidence of the 80’s when lives and properties were similarly lost? And who can believe that the same city that had such an experience could be caught unawares again?
Sunday services after the sad event were characterized with prayers against future occurrences. Demonic spirits were cast out and the presence of the Lord was literally summoned to envelope the city.
While many agree that Ibadan residents have a lot to do to prevent future occurrences, very limited bold steps are being taken to address the environmental crises from their roots.
Just few days after the incidence that left many gnashing their teeth, sewage routes, gutters and drainage got blocked again with all kinds of dirt despite the fact that the state has commenced a weekly environmental exercise (every Thursday) in addition to the monthly sanitation exercise.
After light morning showers on a recent Tuesday, some roads were taken over by floods and it became evident that whenever there is another heavy downpour, Ibadan will be screwed again. Hence the citizenry lives in great trepidation, anxiety and fear of the unknown. This in no way belittles the efforts of the current administration, it only brings to the forefront the perennial, and now familiar practice where the government waits for crisis to happen before summoning its various post-crisis institutions.
Ibadan is not the only city in Nigeria that is sitting on an environmental time bomb, the entire nation is. In the Niger Delta region and most states in the south, the various governments frequently receive huge sums of money, usually in billions, to tackle the region’s ecology crisis – majorly erosion – in the affected areas. Yet times without number, there is often little or nothing to show apart from bogus claims on the pages of national dailies and photoshopped images on their web pages. Whether you are traveling from Owerri to Orlu, or from Onitsha to Enugu, you will surely see huge gullies that can swallow up buildings leaving only the chimneys at the surface. Even within the south eastern cities of Nigeria, gory gully erosion are already dividing communities.
Owerri is another Nigerian city with ecologic crises. In the sunny afternoon, the Hospital Road is crispy, glisters and glitters. But when the sun is replaced with clouds and rainfall, no matter how short the duration is, a large portion of the road becomes unmotorable since there is a blocked drainage system thus the road becomes full of water which often overflow into shops, houses and places of worship around.
Drivers, commuters and those living along the road rarely speak out since it has become a familiar annual incidence. Government officials that also ply the road often forget about the environmental eyesore once they alight at their air-conditioned offices. And instead of acting and demanding urgent resolution to avert the imminent environmental landmine explosion, opposition parties at all levels fold their hands and doing nothing with their opposition power by adding their strong voices to residents’ personal disasters. The reason is simple; they’ll also do nothing about the crisis when elected.
Nigeria has always been lucky and it now looks like the nation has exhausted its allotted amount of luck, or God has removed His luck subsidy since the president is intending to remove his.
But on a more serious note, more environmental laws need to be promulgated and enforced. And not only complex ones, but simple-to-understand laws and commonsense baby steps that Nigeria is yet to take or taking with levity. More than ever, we need to tighten the loose knot around the felling of trees, encourage tree planting by giving incentives to individuals and corporate organizations who are obeying environmental laws, and punishing (fining and jailing) defaulters. Furthermore, someone should be held responsible for the blocked gutters and poor drainage systems.
Even if they also don’t have any idea on how to tackle Nigeria’s environmental problems, the opposition can at least keep the incumbent at the edge of the seat by reverberating at high decibels, standing with those affected by environmental crisis and organizing rallies that will attract the attention of people who have the panacea to the crisis. This national silence on the looming environmental crisis is sickening and presents us an unserious nation.
October 27, 2011 was a black Wednesday in Accra. The Kwame Nkrumah Circle and several other places were covered in flood. According to Ghana’s Daily Tide, twelve people lost their lives thus creating enormous public health and humanitarian challenges for the various health professionals and facilities. In response, the striking health professionals immediately called off the three-week strike. Officials of the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) didn’t even wait for the rainfall to be over before springing into action and they were able to rescue many victims thus reducing the fatality.
The Assembly in less than 24 hours initiated procedures to enforce its environmental by-laws. The strongest opposition party – the New Patriotic Party (NPP), wasn’t quiet like ours. The flag bearer, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was everywhere and apart from personal efforts, he called on all Ghanaians to extend a helping hand to those in need. Unlike Goodluck Jonathan, it didn’t take President Mills seven days to visit the areas affected. He walked in the flood to console those affected and to monitor emergency rescue operations. Nigeria and Nigerians have a lot to learn, and unlearn.
We must agree to stop shifting the responsibilities for our environmental issues on the circadian cycle, God and metaphysics; the responsibilities are ours. Even when foreign organizations, institutions and individuals try to help; our various governments should be the ones shouldering the largest chunk. On individual basis, there is a lot we can do to help ourselves since the government is less interested.
Less than five hundred blocks are needed to construct gutters for an economical private residence, hence every landlord should endeavour to dig his/hers before erecting the familiar tall fences. Furthermore, emergency lessons are free online and for practical demonstration, the Red Cross is readily available to teach and verify what we have learnt. This becomes a sensible step to take considering the slow response of government’s emergency services. Until the Nigerian government decides to really act, Nigerians should learn how to take care of themselves and their environment. There is a lot we can do, and more to stop doing.