By Bisi Lawrence
It is an old English adage that everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything bout it. That is not true. Since the Wright brothers pointed the way to the stars, around the beginning of the second decade in the last century, air travel, at least, has made the weather a compulsory topic in many ways.
It is indeed what has occupied the minds of many people, aside from strike notices in the clamour for the 18,000 Naira salary promise, (on which several governments are prepared to welsh,) and the boko haram, about which the Federal Government seems prepared to “dialogue.” The rains came and brought tears down too on many faces. It happened in various decrees of severity in several areas, but the Lagos State occurrence appears to have been the worst.
Streets were turned into swirling lakes; cars were turned to turtles, and tragedy visited several homes. There were areas that could have been designated “disaster areas”, and it would surprise no one if some people are singled out for relief assistance. A staggering amount of material losses was estimated, but human lives also perished in the raging floods. Through it all, Governor Fashola gave full meaning to the idea of being a pro-active leader by taking the initiative early to minimize the deprivation and discomfort incurred. That closure of schools and offices was a famous move.
First of all, let us clear our minds about the issue of “climate change”. That had very little to do with the rainfall that silenced many people last weekend, whilst other tongues were sent wagging like the behind of a restless dog at the sight of its owner. The global climate may be changing, as some experts claim, but then other experts have now stepped firmly forward to disagree. The proponent of the notion mentions the decrease of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which they claim has affected the ultra-violet rays to produce the “greenhouse effect”. All that sounds like hot air actually, when you consider the fact that this period is, and has always been, the rainy season in Nigeria. They claim further, in support of their stand, that the rainfall has been unusually heavy. That is true, but one unusually heavy rainfall does not make a climate change. It makes a difference in the weather pattern of a particular area, but climate change is the summary of consistent difference in the weather pattern over a considerable period, all over the globe. Even two or three tsunamis in a period of five years do not translate to climate change if the phenomenon disappears for another decade.
Weather sometimes exhibits quirks that are a part of its nature, which can only be described or characterized, after the event. The case of a flash flood is a good example of an occurrence which may be detected as having been caused by a particular circumstance, but only after it has run its course. It is often accountable to heavy rainfall. But a heavier rainfall might have fallen in the same area without giving rise to the same phenomenon.
The claim of many people about last weekend’s flood was that it was the heaviest rainfall ever witnessed or, at least, for some time. Unfortunately, no data have been provided by the meteorological office about the measured amount of rainfall that fell during the period. That should have been done, actually, considering the widespread interest and concern the floods caused. And it would not have surprised me if it was not as much as all that.
Floods may be static. Indeed that is what they are initially before they overflow. They overflow when the volume cannot be contained by the area of their situation. All that is basic. If then there is not much that is totally unusual about the rains last week-end, why was so much flooding experienced? That is precisely because of what we have just observed, i e., the volume could not be contained by the area on which the rains fell, and so the waters moved to a lower level.
Where there was no lower level, it remained in form of a pool. Mobile or static, it caused a dangerous disruption to life. But, you may further ask, why was there so much over flooding than in previous experiences? The answer is simply that the designated outlets have been mostly blocked and, in some cases, wrongly constructed.
The cases of blocked drains are very real and very easy for the government to cite. It would appear that the citizens find it difficult to break the old habit of dumping waste materials and rubbish into the municipal drains. The campaign to stop this nauseating practice goes on from day to day without any appreciable change. Government provides some mobile refuse disposal units which go round the city collecting garbage, but they are simply not enough. In many cases, the junk and trash collected, both by the “environment managers” and the people themselves and left by the roadside to wait for the refuse disposal trucks, are subsequently kicked into the open gutters by passers-by, after a long delay without the disposal vans showing up.
That is only one side of it. The other is that the open drains in the island are no longer maintained as they used to, before independence. It is shocking and disgraceful. They were scrupulously cleaned many years ago, as a daily routine. They were scrabbled with brushes by “environment managers” of the old Lagos Town Council, LTC, which was in charge of the entire municipal area. They started out very early in the morning – say around half-past-four – armed with brooms and brushes of various sizes, and made the gutters gleam. The drains were so clean that little children raced paper-boats in them over vast distances. Those drains are now solid with dirt. It has nothing to do with the Fashola administration, we must point out; it took several years in the past to compound the rot.
But, also in the same vein, some of the drains constructed in the past ten years or so, seem to have been mostly for show. They are made without any thought for the flow of water along gradient force. There seem to be fashioned, from the very beginning, to create a pool. Rain water just falls and congregates in them, and then garbage is dumped and kicked into them as though nobody cares – until it rains and the floods emerge. There are clear examples on Gaskiya College Road in Ifelodun Local Government Area. On that very road too, a canal that was clogged up went under some scheme for dredging it. After several months of headaches and heartaches for the citizens, it was abandoned halfway and is now worse for discharging its purpose than it ever was. Some other canals, we are told, were actually dredged and have successfully reduced the havoc of the annual floods in Lagos.
But for effective results, the old canals have to be re-established. Every causeway in Lagos, like the Denton Causeway was built over what was a natural or artificial drainage point. Every canal, like the Offin Canal, actually did serve as a canal years ago. They all need to be revived, or replaced. Government has to take the issue of flooding as a paramount and perennial concern. The official response so far, has been along the pattern of rising activity with the flood, and subsiding concern at the ebb – until next year. O yes, it will be back next year. Maybe in a much milder for, but who knows?
Echoes: In your usual cryptic mode, you would have your readers dig to the roots of your meaning, or uncover the veil spread over your “overlap” or “overlay” with regard to the “boko haram” issue. What exactly are you trying to convey? Frankly, I’m intrigued. Please make yourself more clear, or 1 shall never read your page any more .. (Olumide .. 07287987459)
No need to issue threats. That is the way of terrorists. And they normally strive to carry out their threats. Frankly, I too am intrigued. It seems we cannot see the wood for the trees in this boko haram matter. Firstly, they claim that their core concern is that young Muslims should not be allowed to go near Western education. Well, a lot of “brochure” material has been published about them in the past week by sources which would naturally be of the same mind with them. But these materials are crafted in classical English language. The writers have not grown up shunning Western education obviously. I cannot imagine any right-thinking group of people taking that line. Even the Chinese learn English. It has matured through the years to become the language of the Twenty-first Century. I doubt the genuineness of that as a reason for such a height of militancy. Then there is the sophisticated approach of this group in their weaponry, in their campaign and in their self-assuredness. What gives them such confidence? They sometimes seem to operate in the guise of herdsmen, and then erupt with consummate ease with bombs and AK-47. And the way these people thumb their noses at the government and our security agencies, speaks of an arrogance that is laced with intellectual competence. It is evident that they are highly devoted to their cause, whatever it is. The religious connection may be responsible for the zeal which attends the implacable execution of their exploits. It all points to “outside” involvement of a massive measure in financial terms. And while we are faced with all of that puzzle, we are also face-to-face with the rosy proposals of an Islamic Bank. I don’t know what is going on. How can I make it clear to you when I am in the dark myself? Don’t stop reading the page, anyway. You’ll break my heart.