By Muyiwa Adetiba

All is not well with Nigeria. All has not been well with the country of our birth for quite a while. In the recent past, when other countries in the world were grappling with natural disasters like volcanos, tornadoes and tsunamis, which God in His infinite mercy had largely insulated developing countries from, we had to go create our own man-made disasters.

We allowed ethnicity and religion to blind us from certain developments in the north-eastern part of the country. Leaders sided with kin rather than country and instead of nipping the growing menace in the north-east in the bud, they allowed it to fester by describing it as the usual seasonal farmer/herder clash for turf.

In doing this, our leaders took a malignant, cancerous growth for a benign one because it suited their narrative. Now, this growth has distorted the face of the entire eastern side of the country from Chad to Cameroun. And when the rest of the reasoning world was trying to find ways to reduce carbon emission, we ingeniously found ways to increase it. The result is that the entire south-south is now an ecological disaster.

Land, sea and air – everything that makes up a habitat – have been laid to environmental waste. The soot on the skin and in the lungs, tells its story. The death of fish and fauna tells its story. Governments, both at the centre and at the states, cannot claim to be unaware of the cause or causes of this inhuman degradation.

Oil Bunkering is the order of the day in Niger-delta involving officers and peasants. It has taken its toll. The leaders have allowed greed and lust for money and power to blind them. Meanwhile, the oil in the Niger-delta area has brought nothing but misery and poverty to the people in the region. Their pain and sorrow have further been compounded by their own leaders who have chosen to be complicit. 

The health hazards of years of ecological abuses will surely come – if they are not yet manifesting. They will be indiscriminate, affecting both the innocent and the guilty; both the rich and the poor. It will be pay-back time. The blood of the sick, the dying and the dead will of course be on those leaders who for money, destroyed the eco-system in that area.

A pay-back of sorts happened recently. The larger part of Niger-delta is submerged in water. Again, is it a coincidence that the same areas that have been battling terrorism and banditry are now battling flood? It is unfortunate, but they seem to have managed to combine rivers of blood with rivers of flood.

Both disasters – natural and man-made – have caused untold hardships which have led people to flee their homes. Farms have been deserted. Crops have been abandoned. The farming season is in disarray. Life itself is in disarray as many have lost all their belongings. The rich and connected are also affected as the fury of water is no respecter of persons. It is heart rending to see the quality of mansions that have been submerged in water.

One can only imagine what they contain and the cost. The quantifiable ones in soft and hard furnishing will cost billions of naira. But what about the unquantifiable ones in certificates, letters and mementoes? In many ways, the loss of a home is the loss of self. One can only hope that many of the victims will be able to salvage some valuables. But the real cost to the nation is yet to unfold. Some can be quantifiable. A lot will not be.

Could this natural disaster have been avoided? Maybe not. Global Warming is an encompassing phenomenon. Could it have been mitigated? Certainly. High rainfalls resulting in flooding have been with us now for a while. Over-flowing dams have been with us for a while. What lessons have we learnt from the previous ones?

We also heard enough advanced warnings that this year’s flooding would be consequential. How pro-active were we? The President gave a directive last week that the Minister of Water Resources should lead a committee that would submit its report on de-flooding the country in ninety days. Sir, that report, whatever it would contain, is at least ninety days too late. But it is an indication of the blame game which has already started.

People blaming their Governors; the Governors blaming the Presidency. Yet everybody is guilty. The people are guilty when they put up infrastructures on the natural flow of water. They are guilty when they dump waste inside drains. The governments are guilty when they neglect to clear the drains or channel the flow of water into flowing rivers or the ocean. They are guilty when they neglect to tackle erosion.

They are guilty of not being pro-active when they do not create new channels and canals for flow of water. Or create cavity for more volume through dredging. Artificial lakes can serve many purposes. Or dams which again can serve many purposes. This water will recede. And with it, the attendant sorrow and tears. Food scarcity will linger. But it will recede too albeit with casualties among the poor. The time to prepare for the next flood is now. It could be worse. 

A lot of foreign countries have commiserated with us. Some have made donations. Some pledges. Many individuals from the diaspora have shown concern. But the ‘chief mourner’, our President, has not, to the best of my knowledge, visited any of the more ravaged areas. Niger-delta, a region more ravaged than many others, is the nation’s cash cow. Bayelsa State in Niger-delta is the home of the former President.

I am not aware he has visited. But I am aware he travelled to Korea to attend a conference. So he can move around. Only his priorities are different. I find his choice in the circumstances strange. Whatever the importance of the conference, a leader should be home with his people at their hour of need and discomfort. A few hours of his precious time would have made some difference. I am also aware that only one of the three front liners to replace him immediately dropped everything to visit some of the ravaged zones. Some say Peter Obi was only playing politics. Well, if politics is about empathy and concern, then let the others play it too.  

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