18th July, 2011
As people begin to come to terms with the reality of the havocs inflicted by the heavy downpour that recently troubled Lagos and other parts of the country, it is important to reflect on some of the major fallouts of the tragic episode.
It is quite distressing and unbelievable that people will want to play politics with such a natural disaster that brought so much pains to the people of Lagos. It amounts to insensitivity and sheer ignorance on the part of any individual, group or organisation to attempt to score contemptible political points with an event like flooding which is a global phenomenon that has not spared even the most advanced nations of the world. For the education of those who are not aware, in the last two months, more than 36 million people are reported to have been affected by deadly floods in China while nearly 3,000 businesses were being disrupted and crops destroyed, pushing up food prices.
The China flooding, the worst the country has experienced since 1955, has already left about 170 people missing and over 239 dead. The flooding was caused by heavy rain that inundated portions of 12 provinces, leaving other provinces still suffering a prolonged drought, and with direct economic losses of nearly US$6.5 billion. By 9 June ,the floods were estimated to have destroyed nearly 7,500 houses and submerged 255,000 hectares (630,000 acres) of farmland, causing direct losses of 4.92 billion Yuan (US$760 million, â‚¬745 million)
In Australia, at least 72 people are missing after flash floods which have already claimed eight lives. The tropical storms began in November last year, triggering the worst flooding in the Australian state of Queensland in decades. Some 200,000 people have been affected across Queensland. The flooding has been so widespread that while some communities are still bracing themselves for the worst, in others the clean-up is well under way. The enduring floods in Queensland have washed away roads and railways, destroyed crops and brought the coal industry to a near standstill. The state premier has estimated that the price of rebuilding homes, businesses and infrastructure, coupled with economic losses, could exceed A$5bn (Â£3bn).
In the American State of Arkansans, more than a million acres of farmland was submerged by spring floods in early May 2011. Preliminary research by the Arkansas Farm Bureau indicated that the damage caused by the floods could exceed $500 million. Between Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi, a total of nearly 3 million acres had been inundated. Affected crops included wheat, corn, soybeans, and rice, the last crop likely to be the hardest hit.
The preceding breakdown is vital to our understanding of the global nature of flooding and why it is only a reckless and uninformed mind that will gamble to politicise the Lagos rain of terror. While attempting to explain the rain from a professional and more methodical perspective, an Assistant Director in the Nigeria Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research , Dr… Regina Folorunsho disclosed that the 264-millimetre rainfall recorded in Lagos is the volume expected for one full month. In other words, the exact amount of rain that fell on that fateful Sunday was the exact amount that was meant for one month. Consequently, she submitted that there was no way anyone could have prepared for such amount of rainfall in a day.
If not for the proactive measures which the Lagos State Government has been taking with regards to the environment in the last twelve years, it is apparent that we would have had on our hands a very overwhelming tragedy. It is not every city of the world that survives over seventeen hours torrential rainfall and still has its banks, industries and other institutions open for business the following day. This is the outcome of the amount of work that the state government has done in sanitizing the environment in recent time. Ironically, when the state government started its environmental regeneration programme, which led to strict enforcement of regulations that had been evaded for long, the same group of people that are now employing the flooding incidence to cause mischief were quite vocal in their condemnation of the programme. When the state government was converting hitherto abandoned loops into parks and gardens, they were the ones that thundered: â€˜is it flowers we will eatâ€™.
Moments of natural disasters like it was experienced in Lagos last Sunday offer unique opportunity for the people, irrespective of political and religious dissections, to bond together and collectively tackle the misery created by the force of nature. When the United States of America faced, perhaps, its darkest moment in the wake of the Al-Qaida air assault, its people were united in forging a common front against global terrorism. No wonder president Obama of the Democratic Party was able to finish what former President George Bush of the Republican Party started when he finally nailed Osama Bin Laden. This is a clear demonstration of the fact that human lives are too precious to play politics with.
At a time like this what we need in Lagos is constructive and intelligent inputs that will help the forward looking government that is in place to steer the stateâ€™s ship in the right direction. The Fashola administration has never derided itself of having the monopoly of knowledge with regards to finding the right solutions to the myriad of challenges confronting the State. It has therefore consistently thrown its doors open to divergent opinions and views from various sources. In fact, the telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of public functionaries including members of the State Executive Council, Local Government Chairmen, Permanent Secretaries, Police Commissioner, Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers ( DPOs), have become public properties in order to make them more accessible to members of the public who have meaningful contributions to make to governance in the state.
The most vital need of Lagos today is for it to be accorded a special status and everyone that genuinely love the state must stand up to be counted in the struggle to make this a reality.
â€¢Tayo Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.