We can spare ourselves a lot of suffering and loss of valuable lives and property by paying more attention to our environment and also by taking seriously the often repeated warnings of weather monitoring agencies.
We do not seem to be paying much attention, but nothing has killed more Nigerians and wrecked as much havocs in the last four months as flooding. Perhaps the reason it has not been such a big issue is because the victims in most of the instances are the poor and the vulnerable in our society. From Lagos to Oyo and Ogun states, Kebbi to Borno and Kano, Enugu to Warri and now Jos, no part of the country has been spared what has become an harvest of tragic deaths occasioned by heavy downpours. On Monday night in Jos, the lives of Mr. Abdulhameed Hussaini and Mrs. Indo Abdulmumini were turned upside down while they were sleeping. Flood was the thief that came to kill, to steal and to destroy everything they held dear.
All over the country today, thousands of families have become refugees on account of the rains; yet there are also serious health hazards to the problem. In Jos on Monday, Mrs. Indo Abdulmumin narrated her tragic experience: “I was asleep when my husband woke me up and I saw water flowing into our compound. The water flowed into all our rooms. We went into the room to carry the young boys, but we couldn’t because the wall had already collapsed. When our husband tried to enter he discovered that the flood had gone with them. I have lost six of my children, four girls and two boys, the oldest being 13 and the smallest being 90 days old. I am now left with only two surviving children, a girl of 17 and a boy of two years.”
The story of Hussaini who lost seven children to the flood is as pathetic as the account of a 15-year-old boy by name Faisal who lamented: “We tried to rush home with my father; we couldn’t pass because all roads were flooded. My mother who was at home then called me on phone. I heard the voices of my younger ones screaming and crying. Suddenly the line went dead. That was all: our house was destroyed, and my mother Hajiya with my four younger ones have not been seen up till now.”
These heartrending stories of families being swept away by water right from inside their homes, it must be said, is not peculiar to Nigeria as the force of nature strikes all over the world. On Tuesday in China, about a hundred people died. Several thousands were rendered homeless, following what was recorded as the heaviest rainfall in 60 years. But what makes our situation worrisome is that most of the tragedies were actually preventable. Early this month, a midnight rainfall destroyed 40 houses and rendered 200 people homeless in Masera village in Fadama Zauro Development Area of Kebbi State; but that was due basically to the quality of the structures involved. Nasarawa, Borno, Sokoto and Kano have also been under the waters in recent weeks with several deaths recorded in similar circumstance. In April, some 29 worshippers at Christ the King Church, Adamgbe Parish, Vandeikya Local Government Area of Benue State, died during the Easter vigil mass when their church collapsed on them following a heavy rainstorm. The same weekend at Ilorin, Kwara State, a pastor and seven worshippers were also killed when the pillar of their church gave way at the retreat camp of Deeper Life Bible Church following a rain storm.
Instructively, beginning from February, THISDAY has done three editorials on flooding. The first editorial was to warm Nigerians to prepare for the 2012 rains, while the last two dwelt on the tragedy occasioned by the flooding. Using the experience of last year, as well as a”freak” rainfall in Lagos which came with very unusual and particularly alarming thunderstorms, we reminded Nigerians that the NIMET 2012 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction had already warned that the country should expect violent thunderstorm during this year’s rainy season. The agency also predicted than an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events in the coastal areas would cause flooding and erosion. Unfortunately, all the warnings were not heeded.
There have been many studies on flooding in Nigeria, but the one I find most fascinating is the paper by Mrs Angela Kesiena Etuonovbe. Titled “The Devastating Effect of Flooding in Nigeria”, the paper states that at least 20 per cent of our population is at risk from one form of flooding or another with statistics of the havoc that has been wrought by the phenomenon over the years. Flooding in our country, according to the author, “has shattered both the built-environment and undeveloped plan. It has claimed many lives, and millions of properties got lost due to its occurrences. One prominent feature about it is that flooding does not discriminate, but marginalizes whosoever refuses to prepare for its occurrence.”
That precisely is the point, because we hardly prepare for such eventualities. The recent tragedies are unfortunate and it is important to recognise that little is gained when resources that should be put into developmental initiatives are dissipated in dealing with avoidable catastrophe like flooding. We can spare ourselves a lot of suffering and loss of valuable lives and property by paying more attention to our environment and also by taking seriously the often repeated warnings of weather monitoring agencies. Conventional wisdom teaches that prevention is always better than cure.
Awoyinfa School of Journalism
Armed with my credentials, copies of some published opinion articles in the newspapers and a note from Mr. Segun Babatope introducing me, I walked briskly into the office of Mr. Mike Awoyinfa, the high-flying editor of Weekend Concord. This was in October 1990, just about a week after I had completed my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) primary assignment at then Zungeru College of Advanced Studies (ZUCAS), now Niger State Polytechnic.
Taking only the note, he read it and said, “Ah you are the young man from Mr Babatope who wants to be a reporter. Now, go and get me the jokes of John Chukwu.” Before I could ask any question, he was already attending to his reporters, many of whom have been celebrating him in the last one week. John Chukwu, by the way, was a very popular DJ and showbiz impresario of the time, who had died 24 hours before I walked into Awoyinfa’s office. But how could it be my business, or that of anybody for that matter, to be walking the streets of Lagos, asking for the jokes told by a dead man?
“The jokes of John Chukwu! Is that what journalism is all about?” I asked myself again and again, thinking that Mr Awoyinfa must be crazy. I didn’t go anywhere as I deluded myself to believe he would later give me something else to report but a few hours later, he sighted me in the newsroom and asked about the assignment he gave me. I picked some loose papers and I wrote down some jokes, handed it over to him before I went back to Mr Babatope who asked: “How did it go?”
Without recounting the John Chukwu experience, I told Mr Babatope I didn’t see any prospect with Mr Awoyinfa and there and then, he wrote another note, this time to Mr Eluem Emeka Izeze, the current Managing Director of The Guardian newspaper who was then editor of The Guardian on Sunday. It was Mr Izeze who gave me my break in journalism and taught me all the rudiments of the game. But I never forgot Awoyinfa as years later I would be back to Concord where I followed his writings and career path.
With a journalism centred around human interest, Awoyinfa has always had a fascination for people who accomplish big things, especially in fields of endeavour that were not given so much primacy within our society. But in elevating those people, he has helped in no small way to elevate our society. With Weekend Concord, Mr Awoyinfa redefined tabloid journalism in our country and in the process, turned many an obscure musician (and other artisans, including a lady automobile mechanic!) into celebrities and mega stars.
In a rather remarkable way, together with his “twin brother”, Dimgba Igwe, Awoyinfa was able to recreate that experience more than a decade later, with the Sun newspaper of which he was pioneer Managing Director. Given this rich experience, it is no surprise that since he clocked 60 on Monday, fitting accolades have been coming the way of Mr Awoyinfa from many of his several disciples in the newsrooms too numerous to mention. I cannot consider myself one of them, since I failed his John Chukwu test. But he is a man for whom I have tremendous respect for his legendary humility, generousity of spirit, and professionalism. I also remain an ardent follower and admirer of his passion and commitment to the upliftment of our society through his pen. Congratulations oga Mike!
Sharing the Money!
“P. P. P…”, the person holding the bottle of champagne would shout and as he pops the cork and spills the chilled wine, his fellow thieves in the room would complete the rest: “R. A!”. This was 2011 Nigeria and what those people were celebrating was a multibillion Naira “profit” made from paper allocations for petroleum products they did not supply but for which they were paid after greasing some official palms. The person telling the story of the monumental debauchery that went on in the name of fuel subsidy payments in 2010/2011 is himself a marketer. As he reeled out the names of some colleagues (and people not into oil business) who allegedly benefited from the scam and the official collaborators on the take, he claimed he did not participate because he knew the bubble would burst somehow. I didn’t argue with him…
When on April 26 this year I wrote the foregoing in my column titled, “The Trillion Naira Bazaar”, I received mails from some readers who said I made up the story to discredit the government. But following their investigation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday confirmed that a PPPRA official, a director with Akintola Wiliams Deloite accounting firm and 18 fuel subsidy merchants will face trial for collecting N13,403,504,083 without supplying anything! The 20 suspects belong to the first batch of those being investigated over the fuel subsidy scam.
I have for years queried the Fuel Subsidy Regime which is nothing but a cesspool of corruption though the fraud was taken to a new level in 2011 when some fat cats in the private sector and their collaborators in government merely sat down and shared among themselves hundreds of billions of Naira of public funds. We will never catch all the thieves but at least let us make examples of some people. The EFCC should be commended for taking their time to conduct a thorough investigation and we hope they will quickly tidy things up on the remaining 122 other people already identified as culprits in the monumental looting of our nation in the name of fuel subsidy.