Having written this column for almost five years totaling over 250 publications and the exchange that we have had with critics and regular readers, there is that need to once again make reference to articles that have been published detailing and commenting on the difficult journey that we have made since independence, the many repeated mistakes, doing the same things all over and expecting different results. I cannot but take my readers back to some articles that I have written in this column, risking my life in carrying out various types of research so that I can fully share the education that has come to me with age and my explorations.
Most of the crises that are with us today started over five decades ago and I predicted them: the climate crisis, the food insecurity, the killing fields everywhere, unemployment and adverse poverty, the disappearing grazing fields and the crisis that goes with drying up of the Lake Chad, and the political rascality. All these could have been avoided with the much-anticipated leadership. It was, therefore, by chance that I shared my fears over the fragility of our nation with two past governors when they visited me on my 80th birthday and it led me to share more of my thoughts and concerns with the world. That was the best of this weekly column which provided me with an excellent opportunity to share my thoughts over this period and the period expanding to the beginning of my explorations.
What we do and don’t is important. Everything rises and falls on these; it all matters. The citizens’ attitude, the political players’ cunning, the economic ticking time bomb, the killing and kidnapping frenzy, and the dependence and dominance of oil. The interference with the elegance of nature, the warnings of the environment, and the dare of the Sahara and its shifting dunes have implications in real life. The dangers of the advancing beaches, the broken bridges and the collapsing federal and state infrastructures. The abuse of power, the difference between historical guilt and historical responsibility, loss of the monumental artefacts, and the follies of idle young minds. All these I have written about in the last five years.
In my previous article on the environment, pollution and climate change, “The Elephant in the Room”, I mentioned that Nigeria’s population has grown tremendously since independence. Our landmass, on the other hand, has remained relatively constant. With an increase in population, there is also a proportional increase in human activities within our country. Sadly, human activities aren’t always positive; thus numerous human activities are currently putting a strain on our environment and affecting it negatively.
With a projected headcount of about 200 million people, it is fair to argue that our environment will feel the impact severely if we don’t tame this wildfire before it spreads too far. We can already see the effects of environmental pollution and with no mitigating structure, the situation will worsen unless we act fast. When I think of environmental pollution, I think about a problem that has been overlooked for too long, crying for attention. Environmental pollution doesn’t just affect us; it affects our farmlands, our marine life, and all elements necessary for earth survival, such as water and air.
Plastics have maneuvered its way into our city and taken over our streets, our rivers and lakes, our lives. Our gutters are stagnant and home to various foreign elements. The foul smell given off by our gutters is so strong that one has no choice but to sacrifice breathing for a few seconds so as not to be impaled by the strong odor. Why have we made such close allies with filth? We clearly have a waste problem that needs to be tackled urgently. Improper management of our waste has tainted the aesthetic appeal of our beloved cities and is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other elements that are not beneficial to our health. With the constant flooding we are currently having in Nigeria at the moment, it is important to note that we need to act fast if we still want to have a place to lay our head in the coming years. There are displaced people all over Nigeria due to the activities of humans against nature.
The air we breathe is no stranger to pollution. Our cities are littered with tanker drivers who release thick black smoke from their exhaust into the atmosphere. Tanker drivers alone are not to blame for increased air pollution. Our factories and industries, burning of fossil fuels and indoor air pollution also contribute handsomely to a polluted atmosphere. Gas flares from oil operations are extremely harmful to our atmosphere and, sadly, policies have not been properly put in place to reduce these operations.
Even though we cannot see the effects of air pollution, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Our ozone layer, which protects ecosystems on our planet, is depleting due to the effect of air pollution. Global warming is also caused by a depletion of the ozone layer. Respiratory and heart problems can be directly traced to a polluted atmosphere and, unfortunately, we caused these problems for ourselves. Regardless of your social class, you are directly affected by the effects of air pollution. Air that is unsafe for breathing affects us equally.
Asides air and water pollution, another serious but often overlooked form of pollution is the noise. Noise pollution is equally as dangerous as the rest, but sadly Nigeria has become accustomed to noise. Every evening, in our homes, the sound of generators take over the whole street, and this has become so normalized that we don’t pay attention to how much noise the generators are producing until they are turned off. During the day, we are constantly assaulted by blaring horns from other cars and sirens from cars escorting our so called VIPs.
Summarily, I daresay we are overdue for a serious discussion with ourselves about our environment. We need to not only have this discussion but to make conscious efforts to change our lifestyle and do away with things that are affecting our environment negatively. The time is now before it is too late. In my younger days singing in a choir, we had a preacher who ended a sermon with the words, “Let those with ear, hear”. So how come though we all have ears, most don’t hear with them?