Nowhere to Run — Do we care about Hunger or just Hangars?
By Alexander O. Onukwue
The cheers that met the re-opening of the Abuja airport were absolutely in order.
For many, the six-week break brought more than a bearable dose of inconvenience, re-routing through Kaduna with the uncertainty of what is appropriate to tweet or not. Pictures of the refurbished runway look beautiful and really admirable. There are not many urban things that look quite as good like a road with a clean shave, thanks to the glories of asphalt and cement.
Hold on, not so glorious.
Not in Nanka, not in Oko, or the many kilometers of land ravaged by erosions and landslides in different parts of Nigeria. Not even in Lekki, one of the high-brow areas of the Lagos metropolis, where you would find it quite a challenge to rock your best loafers when it rains really hard, with a good number of the roads flooded.
For residents of most communities affected by these experiences, the feeling is literally that of seeking the next refuge, “where do we go from here?”
The answer? Not many wonderful options. Should you choose to move towards the Northern side of the country, the expanding desert immediately puts a restriction to the choices of places available for settling. In no time, you find yourself in a struggle with other members of that population for resources, as the approaching desert leaves the extinction of valuables in its wake. Trees are tumbled, rivers dry up, hunger strikes.
I will move again, you say, this time to tap into the “oil money” in the Niger Delta. With their typical good nature, the people of Calabar will welcome you “idi oko”. In your search for food, you will find out that the pollinators that are key players in the food chain are nowhere to be found. “Why?” Because the forests, their natural habitat, have been turned to sites for irresponsible ‘wild wood craze’ — wood that are mercilessly chopped without replanting and used for buildings that eventually collapse anyway.
While you are complaining about your experience in Cross-Rivers, take a moment to absorb the crisis happening in other parts of the region. There are traditionally agrarian communities in states like Bayelsa where farming is no longer possible, due to excessive spillage of fossil fuel. For many others, situated around refineries, the constant glow of the flames from flared gas has replaced the sun and moon as the celestial bodies to be seen and studied. Much worse is the acid rain that results from the gas flaring; a baggage of all possible health and humanitarian risks, from cancers and genetic mutations, to depreciating livelihoods due to the wrecking effect of the chemicals on their houses.
You are still convinced that there is indeed oil money, only that some select persons or groups of people are strategically benefitting from these tragedies. The indigent people who own these resources, get only but the curse of the spoils.
These should not go on. Something’s got to give. For all the good Elon Musk is doing about life on Mars, we are not quite ready to move. No, we cannot just pack up and leave in despair, leaving our environment as a heap of ravage.
Neither can we sulk and stick to the status quo. All our demands of Energy, Power, Urbanization must not go against the availability of basic life needs — food, water, and decent shelters. We must sustainably source for our resources and process them in renewable and ecologically-friendly ways. Our companies and manufacturing industries should now think beyond the digits on the balance sheet and factor in the dignity of the lives of members of their communities.
The same atmosphere covers us all. Hazardous waste dumped into the river of the community you visited last year, could end up in that juice pack you are about to zoom in on. We need to live, but we must remember that someday we would live; those coming after should have their own share of the fruits of the earth.
We don’t want to have the situation where we are hysterical, paranoid and unsafe, when there is Nowhere to Run to. Some already are on the brink of this. What are you doing to make a difference?