By Dele Sobowale
“The privilege of the great is to see catastrophes from the terrace” – Jean Girandoux, 1935
The President of any country is often referred to as the Father of the nation; and for good reason. He holds the lives and fates of most of the citizens in his hands. They expect him at all times to be there for them; but, particularly during major emergences. The year 2022 is already on course for our planet to record the largest number of emergencies. Floods, forest fires, mud slides, tornadoes and heavy rainfall, unprecedented in history, have occurred in virtually all nations. Never in modern history have people needed their Fathers as now. Many leaders have responded admirably. Nigeria, as usual under Buhari, is one of the few exceptions. Granted, the man is a lame duck President; but, responsible leaders discharge their duties until the last minute. Buhari has abdicated. He leads state Governors who, for the most part, have abandoned governance for politics. Fish invariably rots from the head.
I am no longer amazed that top Nigerian government officials, especially Federal and States, don’t read newspapers, watch television and gather information which would help them govern better. And, by governing better, I mean learning in advance the likely threats to the people they govern. They wait until a major disaster strikes, lives are lost, properties destroyed and then run around trying to repair the damage which might have been minimized or prevented. Right now, crocodile tears are flowing from Abia to Zamfara.
“The evil that men do lives after them…” – Shakespeare, 1564-1616.
In at least 30 states of Nigeria today, governments are faced with what to do about the ravages of floods. Ex-President Jonathan, Bayelsa, and ex-Senator Dino Melaye, Kogi, serve proxy for many top public officers who ignored the warnings of 2012; did nothing to improve on our national preparedness for another flood – because they were not involved in the 2012 disaster. Today, the whole world now knows that Jonathan and Melaye are major victims of the 2022 floods. They were both in government when the last major floods devastated millions of people. They escaped the disaster ten years ago. They are partly reaping the harvests of sorrow which they and others in power failed to prevent after that episode. Only God knows how many thousands of hectares of rice, maize, cassava, farms might have been saved if they acted.
BUHARI’ S RESPONSE TO NATIONAL CALAMITY
“Floods: Buhari gives minister 90 days ultimatum to draw up plan” – News Report, October 25, 2022.
Nothing demonstrates to people anywhere the quality of their leaders than how they respond to unexpected disasters. Nigeria is not alone in experiencing widespread destruction of lives and properties this year on account of the increasing impacts of climate change. Canada, Pakistan and USA, among others, were badly hit by tornadoes and flooding in different ways. As of the time of writing this article, Mexico and Bangladesh are devastated. But, all the good Presidents and governments have reacted the same way. First, they exhibited sympathy by going to see the extent of damages themselves; they issued statements to reassure the victims that government was already doing something to assist them; and they unveiled an action plan which had been developed before disaster struck.
By contrast, Buhari has not visited any of the areas devastated; issued no statement expressing empathy; and an action plan is just now being developed to be presented in 90 days. Four facts should strike any reasonable reader about that news report.
First, Buhari’s government has obviously ignored all the warnings, even by its own meteorological services and National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, concerning the imminent flooding of states this year. So, no preparation was made to minimize the extent of the disaster. Second, apparently with the “ultimatum” belatedly issued to a Minister, who should have been sacked, are those whose houses, farms, offices etc have been submerged supposed to wait 90 days under water for help? Three, from our national experience, a plan submitted in 90 days does not automatically mean implementation starts in 90 days. Obviously, the FG is playing for time. Four, the government has only seven months to go. The plan, certainly hastily drawn up, will have to go through the usual bureaucratic maze of approvals. It will involve several Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, and it might need approval by the National Assembly – especially those aspects long-term in nature. Clearly, what Buhari has done amounts to betrayal of the millions of people involved. His government will do nothing to help them. Yet, Nigerians, including FG, were warned in January that climate change, and floods in particular, present a major threat to our country. And, later, after reviewing the global situation with more forest fires, covering wider areas, the point was made that any catastrophe involving Nigeria’ s food supply will have a devastating impact on our people.
In the article NIGERIA: ONE STEP AWAY FROM CATASTROPHE, published on January 1, 2022, the point was made that this country is one step away from catastrophe. It matters very little if the disaster is man-made or natural; as long as it is widespread and beyond our capacity to handle. Reports from Bayelsa, Anambra and Kogi would indicate that we are already in that situation. The FG cannot help victims. Many have lost all they owned and don’t know how or where to start again. Farmers who were looking forward to this year’s harvest to generate the funds that would last them until next year are now destitute. Very soon, the prices of food stuffs will rise again – faster than before. Many children are now out of school because school buildings are under flood water. We have just started counting the costs – which will run into trillions. Given the fact that most Nigerians don’t insure their properties, the loss for each victim will be total – unless help comes from donors.
THE MOST PAINFUL CUT
“The President is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big [or small] a man as he can be” – US President Woodrow Wilson, 1856-1924.
Wilson obviously assumed that every President will understand and obey the law, as well as have a conscience. Among the attributes of a man with conscience are empathy and integrity. Empathy means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Integrity means upholding the oath of the office you hold.
President Trudeau of Canada was out of the country when disaster struck his country. He rushed back to provide leadership and succor to the afflicted. Buhari was in Nigeria when the flood disaster occurred. Apart from playing his usual blame game – accusing state governors of dereliction of duty – he did nothing else. He jetted out to South Korea. Trudeau is under 50; Buhari is nearing 80. Is it not obvious who is the Father of his people? What sort of Father abandons his “children” when in utmost need; only to go out for vain-glorious engagements? With seven months to go, it is unlikely that the South Koreans will discuss anything serious with him.
IGP: WHO WASTED THE LIVES OF THREE POLICEMEN ILLEGALLY?
“The death of every man diminishes me
So, go not to ask for whom the bell tolls
It tolls for thee [you]” – John Donne
I read the report with total disbelief; and would have dismissed it as fake news. Three police officers in the convoy of Apostle Suleman were killed when hoodlums opened fire on the convoy near Agenebode, Edo State. Altogether, seven people died. But, the ones that bother me most are those three police officers – whose lives were illegally wasted.
I am a Christian; but, the idea of policemen being hired out to celebrities has always been upsetting to me. Just recently, we read the report of a police woman who was allegedly battered on the orders of the woman to whom she was illegally assigned as an aide. Although, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, moved very quickly to save the force from embarrassment, it would appear that his Commissioners, DPOs etc, have still not got the message. Otherwise, it is difficult to understand what the policemen were doing in that convoy. As it turned out, they were unable to stop the attack on the convoy; and they lost their lives for nothing.
It is on occasions such as these that I regret not reading law. I would have been too glad to sue the Federal Government, the IGP, the Edo Commissioner of Police and the DPO on behalf of the families of those unfortunate officers. Only God knows how many lives have been ruined by this corrupt practice which is pervasive in the Nigeria Police.
Will the IGP now do all of us a favour and put a permanent stop to wasting the lives of officers this way?