By Ibraheem Abdullateef
I will take the title of a 2020 song by Swedish R&B singer and songwriter Maher Zain to capture my thoughts today. It is a song of hope and a call to action for freedom, rehashing the man’s quest for change in his society. The deeply moving song was inspired, according to him, by the cold murder of George Floyd in America in May.
While #BlackLivesMatter became a global phenomenon, the losses can never be reversed. Like the other similar incidences, they make a chunk of memories we hold dear yet wish had never happened. This tempted me to attempt stroking a conversation I hope would lead to more actions on climate and natural disasters which once again visited untold hardship on many communities in Ilorin and across Kwara state last weekend. Ilorin must not become Beirut and Lebanon to make constant themes of sorrow and regrets in artistic and literary materials.
Yet the disaster that happened in Ilorin over the weekend has not gotten enough attention. The few who attempted a discourse tarred it with a political brush, painting blames for the various leaders and authority but never themselves. Our way. We are like flaming candles, never seeing the bottom is sticky. If we left whining now and rolled up the sleeves, it’d take tremendous years of planning and working to achieve a cleaner, safer community. But how?
When there is heavy rainfall, it is most certainly going to cause a destructive storm. The kind that carts away rooftops, wash away farmlands, roads and bridges, destroying a lot of valuables. The chief hazard is flooding. Flooding occurs most commonly from heavy rainfall when natural waterways i. e., rivers, drainages, do not have the capacity to carry excess water.
In Kwara communities, flooding could have been caused by a storm surge as a result of a tropical cyclone, or a high tide coinciding with higher than normal river levels. It could be all of these and our improper community planning and waste disposal and management system. The housing here is not planned. The waste management design by the authorities never gelled. There is little knowledge of climate change, environmental degradation, and the consequences they pose to a peaceful existence.
This is where we all have to break the chains. The solution to mitigating disasters of such magnitude is with the triumvirate; Government, law and people.
I was happy when Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq announced the preparation of new masterplans for Ilorin and eventually other districts. We still run the one from 50 years ago. It is wrong. We must realise that the construction of all kinds of infrastructures must be planned. A walk around the capital revealed that most houses affected by the latest rainstorm were old and not well planned. Some which would have ordinarily been free were getting hit by other frail, close ones when disaster struck. That is it.
Houses, roads, drainages, schools, airports, and all other landed structures must have marked locations. Unplanned development is a recipe for uneven growth. We have some work to do here in Ilorin.
As is the case with Arigun bridge, we have a problem at hand. The culture of abandoning projects. An abandoned project for whatever reasons will cost twice its cost upon resumption of work. Good that AbdulRazaq is reversing the trend. However, his and successive governments must imbibe never to leave projects incomplete as against the time frame.
Against the provisions of relief items, we need implementation of environmental and housing laws sternly. Kwara has a law forbidding the cutting and felling of trees. But do we not have deforestation? The developed countries are not advanced accidentally, they make plans and laws, following them to the letter. That hammer falls on the authority. It is high time they drew the blade to fight the war once and for all. Government can help victims now, but can they do so every time? Let’s take the hard decision before the hard times beckon.
Now we risk an increase in the rise of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and scarcity of food because many of us do not know how to take responsibility. Many farmlands were washed away. Lives were lost and some may never recover from the loss of valuables. It is so painful but the gods are not to blame. You don’t sow maize and make a harvest of sweet, sweet banana. We are all responsible. We do not have a history of taking waste management and disposal seriously. The time now is to break all the chains. Ignorance is not enough.
There is grave danger in the haphazard method of housing. Civil groups and organisations are trying. However, there is room for improvement. Community and religious leaders should get involved. Advocacy on climate change and environmental degradation must improve. Preach planting of trees. Proper disposal of waste. Freeing of waterways. And so on. Upon resumption of schools, Torchbearers Impact Network will take the lead with the young people. We must not weary until the message gets to every home.
The rainstorm and flooding across Kwara state should be an awakening for all and sundry. I sympathise dearly with the victims. But it is by far not the end. While I urge philanthropists to help with relief items, we will need more than sympathy and reactive measures to avert future occurrences. The cause needs everyone.
And we must start the race now. To break all the chains of climate and environmental disaster.