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Nature, climate change and man

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By Denrele Animashaun

“I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of sceptically and dictatorially.” — E.B. White

On the 18th of  August,   what  should  have  been  a  day  out  with families and   friends for some  people celebrating the Eid el-Fitri at  Kuramo  Beach in  Lagos, according  to  eye  witnesses,  turned out to be a sorrowful experience as    ocean  waves   rose  to   engulf   those within  its  reach.  It swept away some people, including  11  passengers in a  boat and day  trippers  near the  shores.

As  the toll  of the  dead  and  the missing  totes  up ,  it slowly became   more  of  recovery  of  bodies than search  and  rescue  mission. At some point,it  should dawn on all, that  nature in  all its magnificence, will act  according  to  its cycle,  not ours. There has to be some reverence that the environment is given priority, maintenance and sustainability.  Only then, can fatalities be reduced as safety become a necessity and not an option.

This may sound contentious but time, and time again the number of   victims of flooding  has  become sadly, a common place. Already, about one hundred people have died in Jos, and six local government areas in Plateau State were affected. Also, parts of Bauchi, Benue and Nasiriya are facing loss of lives and property from flooding. Where   were  the   sea  rescue boats, helicopters, or  the  paramedics, no one  to  pick up  those  in  shock or  have   lost  their  loved   ones.

If  the  last  series  of disaster  is  anything to go  by, the Jos flooding,the  deluge  that  extended  to Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Ogun, Cross Rivers, Gombe, Kano and Jigawa,  it  was as predicted by Nigerian Meteorological Agency(NIMET). And  the  latest  must have   construction for the rich  that they  can   do  whatever they like; construction of   high  end   luxurious home  in  Eko  Atlantic city. I mean, Atlantic is the name!  that’s  an  ocean  and  we  know   what  happened  to  the   city  of  Atlantics,  don’t  we? This  development by  the  sea may  have  exacerbated  the   level of discharge  and  the   ferocity  of  the   tidal   wave  than  usual.

I   witnessed   the  power  of  nature and  its  devastating  effects, first hand, about  thirty five years ago, in  Ibadan, when the river  Ogunpa  broke  its  banks. The  morning  after,we returned (my grandmother had  a business  in  the  area)  and saw bloated  bodies,  properties strewn all  over  the  place.

One image  that   remained permanently  etched  in  my  memory  was  the  body of a  mother  with  her baby on  her   back. Everywhere you looked, building snapped to bits like matchsticks,vehicles washed up and in strange   places.  As  usual,  the  diviner  is  called  out and   he  proclaimed  that  indeed  the  River god, Ogunpa,  was  angry  and needed  appeasement. The divinities were a way of explaining natural   disasters. This happens a lot and the reality simply is  that nature  does   what  nature  does.

The NIMET recently predicted that several cities in Nigeria would be affected by flooding if ‘proper measures’ were not taken. But   who gets the warning and   does it permeate to the   appropriate areas and nearby  services. Do we have  early  warnings  in  place, is  there  an  educational  programme  in  schools,   faith  groups  where  such  education   can  be  filtered through  the   society?

Do  we have visual aids like flags to warn people of choppy   seas, leaflets  handed  out to  beach users warning  of dangers and  precautions. Where  were the life  guards, and is there  a  way  information of weather  forecast used to inform those in  the  know so  that affected  areas  can  be evacuated early? How do we evacuate in  such crisis?

Or should the National Emergency Management Agency be a stand-alone in time  of   such disasters and loss of human lives? Should the public be left to their   devises to fight for their lives?  What are the roles of the Federal Ministries of Environment and Water Resources?

Nigeria  must  value  its  people, there  should  be  some  joint  up  thinking  and  multi-agency working  and  it  be  given  equal  priority as  part  of the National security protection   plan.The Lagos State government did deploy Policemen to cordon off the Kuramo beach, executing the Lagos State Government’s order to forcefully eject people from the area. Lagos officials capitalised on the incidents to demolish several homes and small businesses owned by poor people by blaming them for the tragic ocean storm. That’s too little, too late to close the stable door long after the horse has bolted.

The Golden   Age of enlightenment.

“The people who live in a golden age usually go around complaining how yellow everything looks”- Randall Jarrell

When things  go wrong  as they usually  do, in  our  case, we  have  a  way  of  blaming   some  malevolent  forces.  So it  is no  surprise  that one traditional chief in Badagry Local Government Area in Lagos State, Possu Awarawuru, has identified the advent of foreign religions as the bane of the country’s social problems. Mr Awarawuru made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday before the last in Badagry during this year’s anniversary of the ancient town.

“Before the coming of Christianity and Islam, our fore-fathers worshipped in their traditions and the society was peaceful and crime-free,” he said at the festival with the theme “Reconnecting with the Root. ”

He explained that before the coming of the two religions, Nigerians had their traditional religions and were guided by the values, morals and various injunctions, laid down by the divinities.

According to him, without the two religions, the society will be crime-free, since traditional religious worshipers don’t chase materialism.

No  surprise  there  then, we  have  failed  to  act  in   a way  that will  help  our  society, exported religions  have nothing to with it.  When we   were growing up, it was instilled from an  early age how to distinguish  right from  wrong, to  act in a way  not   to  tarnish  your image  and  our  families. To tell the truth, help our communities, we were told that we had to work very hard and to  reap   rewards.

Education, training and trade had a purpose and pride of place in our culture. We have become morally vacuous, would do  anything  for money, prestige  and  adulation is misplaced, the undeserving can buy titles, officials, posts and academic achievements. Corruption and living  life  on  the  fast lanes seem  to  be  de riguer and  we  blame our  departure  from our  traditional religions on our social ills.

Some reality checks please.  We  have   failed  to  live  up  to   our  moral  codes  and values that was instilled  in  our  cultures.  We, the people are responsible and  it’s about  time  we  admitted  that  we  all  are  collectively culpable, responsible  for  the  state  that our country is  in . Let’s stop acting the victim here, this decline is self inflicted. It has nothing to do with traditional or foreign religions .

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