Globalisation of floods: The start of hundred years of change in Nigeria

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By Dele Sobowale

“Climate change is more threatening than people realize”- Dr Kim, CNN, October 12, 2012.

Another climatologist has gone further by stating that climate change and the advent of perennial floods are already reshaping civilization as we know it and very few countries will emerge intact from the impact of climate change. Nigeria is no exception. Countries with long coastal regions and many rivers, which hitherto had benefitted from water provided by rivers, seas and oceans will be the hardest hit.

It was in the 1980s that globalisation of markets became the mantra of the leading thinkers in management studies. “In today’s market you don’t have to go abroad to experience international competition. Sooner or later, the world comes to you”. “Harvard Business Review, March-April, 2002”. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p75). That explains why no sooner than a new product is released in America, Japan, China, etc, and it is available in Nigerian  markets.

Unfortunately, it is not products, services and ideas that are being globalised; the miseries of climate change brought about mainly by the economic and social activities in the leading economies, USA, China, Japan, Europe, Russia, Brazil, and Asian Tigers are being visited on rich and poor countries alike. Nigerians and other African countries, which account for less than three per cent of global output of goods will pay a disproportionate share of the penalties of globalization of floods.

The devastating floods Nigeria is experiencing in 2012 is not a one-off event; neither did it start a few years ago. The events leading to this year’s catastrophy began hundreds of years ago and will probably escalate in intensity for several decades beyond this year. Without realizing it, 2012 marks the end of economic, social and perhaps political life as we know it in Nigeria.

President Jonathan’s provision of N17.2 billion to the states most directly involved, as well as the administrators of the national response, is a step in the right direction. But, in reality, it amounts to pissing in the desert in order to provide water for irrigation systems. It does not even pay for the enormous challenges facing researchers who must very rapidly provide the master plan for our future survival as a nation under siege of water.

The announcement by Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the co-chairman of the Fund Raising Committee, that the committee will aim for NI00 billion is a step in the right direction – as long as it is realized by all the governments of Nigeria that this is only a small step in a journey of one hundred years or more.

One hundred billion naira does not even begin to address the fundamental problems which perpetual flooding might throw at this nation. To make matters worse, we are not even in total control of our fate. Many parts of Nigeria would have been flooded even without the release of water from two dams. The first was the Cameroonian dam which devastated further states along River Benue; the second was the dam in Guinea which added to the waters of the Niger and swelled its banks beyond areas hitherto reached by that river.

The two dams are still there and they have been constructed for maximum levels of rainfall far less than what we now experience in the region. So next year, if the rainfall is as heavy as what we now experience, the dams waters will be released again and our territory will be inundated once more. It is difficult to imagine how N17.2 billion or even N100 billion will solve the enormous problems we will have to face henceforth.

For once, President Jonathan enjoys my sympathies because he is confronted with this monster problem, relentless and ruinous floods, which no other leader had ever had to manage and which no leader worldwide was prepared to face so suddenly. At the same time, he can take comfort in the fact that the Chinese had long defined a “crisis” as a mixture of problems and opportunities.

The problems are here quite alright, in gargantuan dimensions; but, there is also a glimmer of hope that Goodluck Jonathan might have been provided with the opportunity to reshape Nigeria in a way no other leader has ever had to do. If Jonathan rises to the occasion, posterity will write his name in gold – irrespective of what the present generation of Nigerians say about his performance. If he fails; our civilsation, as we know it, might never recover from the calamity that will follow.

P.S. Welcome to a new series of articles, starting soon, which will be titled FLOODWATCH. It will be based on real site visits to flooded areas in many states of Nigeria. The government has a job to do; so do the media. Together the first and fourth estates of the realm must educate Nigerians about the novel challenge to our national survival. For once, we cannot start by blaming President Jonathan; even his people at Otuoke are victims.

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