The Rains, The Floods, A Sinking Nation By Dele Agekameh

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Last week, Apapa, a high-brow Lagos suburb known for its ever-buzzing business environment and busy seaports, was a spectacle of horror. The rains had pounded the city continuously from Tuesday to Friday. On that Friday, Apapa roads were overtaken by flood. The traffic was hectic as the water level was so high that only a few vehicles, should I say high-rise vehicles – jeeps and trucks – could manoeuvre the roads. Many commuters had to roll up their trousers and skirts as they ‘swam’ through the furious water running to nowhere in particular.

It is a common knowledge that whenever it rains in Lagos, the traffic is shut down as gridlock is noticed almost in all axis of the city. The spectacle in Apapa has been particularly worrisome as big craters that dot the road also impede vehicular movements. Articulated vehicles which ply Apapa roads to take delivery at the ports easily get stuck in the big potholes. That, in itself, usually worsens the traffic situation.

In the last few weeks, the rains have intensified. So also is the flood that is ravaging almost half of the country. From whichever way you look at it, the country itself is sinking, not because of the floods that have wiped away many communities, but the burden of survival from all the vicissitude afflicting it. Remember fellow Nigerians who have been displaced in their thousands all over the country. Many have lost their homes, their means of livelihood, their property, their relations and even their humanness as they are cramped together in deplorable relief camps that are more or less ‘trauma camps’. Many communities have either been torn apart or balkanized into tiny islands by the floods.

If the news filtering out from the various camps across the affected areas is anything to go by, it is as if there is no respite for the victims of the flood which has continued to bare its fangs as the water level continues to rise due to heavy rains. Unfortunately, in many of the camps, rapists are on the prowl doing their own thing freely with little or no resistance from the weaker sex who are obviously the victims. After all, there has not been any reported case of women rapists in any of the camps. It is only the men who have gone ‘sex-amock’. Besides the ‘sex marauders’, the sanitary conditions of the camps are said to be very deplorable, thereby heightening the fear of imminent outbreak of epidemic.

One astonishing thing in this season of rains and flood is that the outside world is yet to look in Nigeria’s way. It is as if it has completely ignored Nigeria and abandoned Nigerians to their fate. I am not quite sure if the multi-national companies operating in the country have risen up to the occasion and provided any form of succour for the helpless victims of nature, yet,  the rage of the flood has been total. Nobody is left out as both the high and mighty have fallen victim. The other day, the country home of Mr. President was also overrun by flood. So also is the home of the Bayelsa State governor.

Since the East-west Road has been overrun by the floods and rendered impassable, a journey one hitherto makes in less than two hours now takes more than six hours. This is apart from the attendant high transport fares. For instance, a journey from Warri to Port Harcourt now takes as long as seven hours as against the previous three hours. Instead of going through Patani to Port Harcourt, vehicles now go through Onitsha and Owerri to access Port Harcourt from the axis of the International Airport. According to a recent report, “to even get to Patani, which is just 60 kilometers away from Warri, takes a good effort and money. It is a most complex transport chain as the vehicle from Warri can only get half-way to a village called Uwheru before surrendering its passengers to boat and motorbike operators who do the rest of the journey.”
“From whichever way you look at it, the country itself is sinking, not because of the floods that have wiped away many communities but the burden of survival from all the vicissitude afflicting it”

The other day, I listened, with keen interest, the assurance of AkinwumiAdesina, the agriculture minister, as he dismisses the imminence of famine in the country due to the flood disaster. I am sure the minister was only being theoretical in his argument that some arrangements would be made to take care of the anticipated shortfall of harvests in the affected areas.

There is no doubt that Adesina is one of the very few ministers who stand out in the present cabinet, but his present posture over the endless flood can only end up as mere theory that will defile any practical application. Whole farmlands in many agrarian communities that are reputed to be the food baskets of the nation have been washed away and are still being washed away, yet the minister is assuring the nation that there is nothing like famine in sight. Who will believe such a story? The earlier we wake up to the reality of our present circumstance the better for the entire nation.

From all indications, Nigeria is in the trajectory of a major catastrophe with devastating consequences. Almost all the schools in the affected areas have been rendered unusable while the pupils and students are clinging to their ‘nomadic’ parents. For how long will these children be out of school? The  economy of the affected areas is almost totally paralysed. Even artisans cannot go to work just like the farmers have no land to cultivate. Unfortunately, we are carrying on as a nation as if nothing precarious is happening.

Every passing day, the country is being battered on all fronts: Boko Haram, kidnappers, armed robbers and now floods. Besides, the rampant incidence of extra-judicial killings by security agents everywhere, lynching or mob attacks are also on the increase. While the commotion caused by the callous and brazen lynching of the innocent four University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) students is yet to die down, gunmen were, again, on the rampage in the vicinity of the university last Thursday.

In the latest orgy of bloodletting, a young graduate who had just completed his national youth service, his girlfriend and an undergraduate of UNIPORT were wasted by gunmen near the campus. Reports have it that the former corps member was celebrating with his friends when the car conveying them suddenly skidded off the road and ran into a shop. Although no life was lost in the crash, a group of men suddenly appeared on the scene and opened fire on the three persons who died on the spot. Mission accomplished, the gunmen quickly bolted away from the scene, leaving eyewitnesses wandering whether it was a Hollywood movie scene or a live orchestra.

Also last Thursday, heavy explosions and gunfire shook the city of Potiskum, capital of Yobe State, to its foundation as suspected Boko Haram hoodlums clashed with security agents. The same scenario played itself out in neighbouring Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, widely regarded as the operational headquarters of Boko Haram. By the time the dust from the two-pronged attacks settled, at least, five primary schools, including an Islamic seminary, a local government secretariat and several shops and houses were completely razed by fire.

The killings in Port Harcourt and the ceaseless attacks in Potiskum and Maiduguri coincided with the alarm raised by erudite scholar and Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, last Thursday at an event elsewhere in Port Harcourt. Soyinka said that forces of darkness and retrogression are waging war against humanity in Nigeria. According to him, “if we surrender to these forces, we cease to be human beings.” But for how long will the country continue on this path to perdition before it regains consciousness? Only time will tell!

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